A Set of Rogues
Part 1 out of 6
A SET OF ROGUES
CHRISTOPHER SUTTON, JOHN DAWSON, THE SENOR DON SANCHEZ DEL CASTILLO DE
CASTELANA AND MOLL DAWSON
Their Wicked Conspiracy, and a True Account of their Travels and
THE MARRIAGE OF MOLL DAWSON BY SINFUL MEANS TO A WORTHY GENTLEMAN OF
MERIT; HER FALL, REMORSE AND GREAT SORROW; HER SECOND EXPEDITION WITH
HER FORMER ROGUISH COMPANIONS INTO STRANGE PLACES
HER ATONEMENT TO MR. RICHARD GODWIN (WHEREBY SHE RENDERS UP ALL SHE EVER
HAD OF HIM AND MORE) AND SELLING OF HERSELF TO ALGERINE PIRATES AND
GOING INTO BARBARY A SLAVE; TOGETHER WITH THE TRIBULATIONS OF THOSE WHO
LED HER TO WRONG DOING, AND MANY OTHER SURPRISING THINGS NOW DISCLOSED
FOR THE FIRST TIME AS THE FAITHFUL CONFESSION OF CHRISTOPHER SUTTON
[Illustration: "'GIVE ME THY HAND, CHILD,' SAYS HE."]
_Of my companions and our adversities, and in particular from our
getting into the stocks at Tottenham Cross to our being robbed at
There being no plays to be acted at the "Red Bull," because of the
Plague, and the players all cast adrift for want of employment, certain
of us, to wit, Jack Dawson and his daughter Moll, Ned Herring, and
myself, clubbed our monies together to buy a store of dresses, painted
cloths, and the like, with a cart and horse to carry them, and thus
provided set forth to travel the country and turn an honest penny, in
those parts where the terror of pestilence had not yet turned men's
stomachs against the pleasures of life. And here, at our setting out,
let me show what kind of company we were. First, then, for our master,
Jack Dawson, who on no occasion was to be given a second place; he was a
hale, jolly fellow, who would eat a pound of beef for his breakfast
(when he could get it), and make nothing of half a gallon of ale
therewith,--a very masterful man, but kindly withal, and pleasant to
look at when not contraried, with never a line of care in his face,
though turned of fifty. He played our humorous parts, but he had a sweet
voice for singing of ditties, and could fetch a tear as readily as a
laugh, and he was also exceeding nimble at a dance, which was the
strangest thing in the world, considering his great girth. Wife he had
none, but Moll Dawson was his daughter, who was a most sprightly, merry
little wench, but no miracle for beauty, being neither child nor woman
at this time; surprisingly thin, as if her frame had grown out of
proportion with her flesh, so that her body looked all arms and legs,
and her head all mouth and eyes, with a great towzled mass of chestnut
hair, which (off the stage) was as often as not half tumbled over her
shoulder. But a quicker little baggage at mimicry (she would play any
part, from an urchin of ten to a crone of fourscore), or a livelier at
dancing of Brantles or the single Coranto never was, I do think, and as
merry as a grig. Of Ned Herring I need only here say that he was the
most tearing villain imaginable on the stage, and off it the most
civil-spoken, honest-seeming young gentleman. Nor need I trouble to give
a very lengthy description of myself; what my character was will appear
hereafter, and as for my looks, the less I say about them, the better.
Being something of a scholar and a poet, I had nearly died of
starvation, when Jack Dawson gave me a footing on the stage, where I
would play the part of a hero in one act, a lacquey in the second, and a
merry Andrew in the third, scraping a tune on my fiddle to fill up the
We had designed to return to London as soon as the Plague abated, unless
we were favoured with extraordinary good fortune, and so, when we heard
that the sickness was certainly past, and the citizens recovering of
their panic, we (being by this time heartily sick of our venture, which
at the best gave us but beggarly recompense) set about to retrace our
steps with cheerful expectations of better times. But coming to Oxford,
we there learned that a prodigious fire had burnt all London down, from
the Tower to Ludgate, so that if we were there, we should find no house
to play in. This lay us flat in our hopes, and set us again to our
vagabond enterprise; and so for six months more we scoured the country
in a most miserable plight, the roads being exceedingly foul, and folks
more humoured of nights to drowse in their chimnies than to sit in a
draughty barn and witness our performances; and then, about the middle
of February we, in a kind of desperation, got back again to London, only
to find that we must go forth again, the town still lying in ruins, and
no one disposed to any kind of amusement, except in high places, where
such actors as we were held in contempt. So we, with our hearts in our
boots, as one may say, set out again to seek our fortunes on the
Cambridge road, and here, with no better luck than elsewhere, for at
Tottenham Cross we had the mischance to set fire to the barn wherein we
were playing, by a candle falling in some loose straw, whereby we did
injury to the extent of some shilling or two, for which the farmer would
have us pay a pound, and Jack Dawson stoutly refusing to satisfy his
demand he sends for the constable, who locks us all up in the cage that
night, to take us before the magistrate in the morning. And we found to
our cost that this magistrate had as little justice as mercy in his
composition; for though he lent a patient ear to the farmer's case, he
would not listen to Jack Dawson's argument, which was good enough, being
to the effect that we had not as much as a pound amongst us, and that he
would rather be hanged than pay it if he had; and when Ned Herring
(seeing the kind of Puritanical fellow he was) urged that, since the
damage was not done by any design of ours, it must be regarded as a
visitation of Providence, he says: "Very good. If it be the will of
Providence that one should be scourged, I take it as the Divine purpose
that I should finish the business by scourging the other"; and therewith
he orders the constable to take what money we have from our pockets and
clap us in the stocks till sundown for payment of the difference. So in
the stocks we three poor men were stuck for six mortal hours, which was
a wicked, cruel thing indeed, with the wind blowing a sort of rainy snow
about our ears; and there I do think we must have perished of cold and
vexation but that our little Moll brought us a sheet for a cover, and
tired not in giving us kind words of comfort.
At five o'clock the constable unlocked us from our vile confinement, and
I do believe we should have fallen upon him and done him a mischief for
his pains there and then, but that we were all frozen as stiff as stones
with sitting in the cold so long, and indeed it was some time ere we
could move our limbs at all. However, with much ado, we hobbled on at
the tail of our cart, all three very bitter, but especially Ned Herring,
who cursed most horridly and as I had never heard him curse off the
stage, saying he would rather have stayed in London to carry links for
the gentry than join us again in this damnable adventure, etc. And that
which incensed him the more was the merriment of our Moll, who, seated
on the side of the cart, could do nothing better than make sport of our
discontent. But there was no malice in her laughter, which, if it sprang
not from sheer love of mischief, arose maybe from overflowing joy at our
Coming at dusk to Edmonton, and finding a fine new inn there, called the
"Bell," Jack Dawson leads the cart into the yard, we following without a
word of demur, and, after putting up our trap, into the warm parlour we
go, and call for supper as boldly as you please. Then, when we had eaten
and drunk till we could no more, all to bed like princes, which, after a
night in the cage and a day in the stocks, did seem like a very
paradise. But how we were to pay for this entertainment not one of us
knew, nor did we greatly care, being made quite reckless by our
necessities. It was the next morning, when we met together at breakfast,
that our faces betrayed some compunctions; but these did not prevent us
eating prodigiously. "For," whispers Ned Herring, "if we are to be
hanged, it may as well be for a sheep as a lamb." However, Jack Dawson,
getting on the right side of the landlord, who seemed a very honest,
decent man for an innkeeper, agreed with him that we should give a
performance that night in a cart-shed very proper to our purpose, giving
him half of our taking in payment of our entertainment. This did Jack,
thinking from our late ill-luck we should get at the most a dozen people
in the sixpenny benches, and a score standing at twopence a head. But it
turned out, as the cunning landlord had foreseen, that our hanger was
packed close to the very door, in consequence of great numbers coming to
the town in the afternoon to see a bull baited, so that when Jack Dawson
closed the doors and came behind our scene to dress for his part, he
told us he had as good as five pounds in his pocket. With that to cheer
us we played our tragedy of "The Broken Heart" very merrily, and after
that, changing our dresses in a twinkling, Jack Dawson, disguised as a
wild man, and Moll as a wood nymph, came on to the stage to dance a
pastoral, whilst I, in the fashion of a satyr, stood on one side plying
the fiddle to their footing. Then, all being done, Jack thanks the
company for their indulgence, and bids 'em good-night.
And now, before all the company are yet out of the place, and while Jack
Dawson is wiping the sweat from his face, comes the landlord, and asks
pretty bluntly to be paid his share of our earnings.
"Well," says Jack, in a huff, "I see no reason for any such haste; but
if you will give me time to put on my breeches, you shall be paid all
the same." And therewith he takes down his trunks from the nail where
they hung. And first giving them a doubtful shake, as seeming lighter
than he expected, and hearing no chink of money, he thrusts his hand
into one pocket, and then into the other, and cries in dismay: "Heaven's
mercy upon us; we are robbed! Every penny of our money is gone!"
"Can you think of nothing better than such an idle story as that?" says
the landlord. "There hath been none behind this sheet but yourselves all
We could make no reply to this, but stood gaping at each other in a maze
for some seconds; then Jack Dawson, recovering his wits, turns him
round, and looking about, cries: "Why, where's Ned Herring?"
"If you mean him as was killed in your play," says the landlord, "I'll
answer for it he's not far off; for, to my knowledge, he was in the
house drinking with a man while you were a-dancing of your antics like a
fool. And I only hope you may be as honest a man as he, for he paid for
his liquor like a gentleman."
That settled the question, for we knew the constable had left never a
penny in his pocket when he clapt us in the stocks.
"Well," says Jack, "he has our money, as you may prove by searching us,
and if you have faith in him 'tis all as one, and you may rest easy for
your reckoning being paid against his return."
The landlord went off, vowing he would take the law of us if he were not
paid by the morning; and we, as soon as we had shuffled on our clothes,
away to hunt for Ned, thinking that maybe he had made off with the money
to avoid paying half to the landlord, and hoping always that, though he
might play the rogue with him, he would deal honestly by us. But we
could find no trace of him, though we visited every alehouse in the
town, and so back we go, crestfallen, to the Bell, to beg the innkeeper
to give us a night's lodging and a crust of bread on the speculation
that Ned would come back and settle our accounts; but he would not
listen to our prayers, and so, hungry and thirsty, and miserable beyond
expression, we were fain to make up with a loft over the stables, where,
thanks to a good store of sweet hay, we soon forgot our troubles in
sleep, but not before we had concerted to get away in the morning
betimes to escape another day in the stocks.
Accordingly, before the break of day, we were afoot, and after
noiselessly packing our effects in the cart in the misty grey light,
Jack Dawson goes in the stable to harness our nag, while I as silently
take down the heavy bar that fastened the yard gate. But while I was yet
fumbling at the bolts, and all of a shake for fear of being caught in
the act, Jack Dawson comes to me, with Moll holding of his hand, as she
would when our troubles were great, and says in a tone of despair:
"Give over, Kit. We are all undone again. For our harness is stole, and
there's never another I can take in its place."
While we were at this stumble, out comes our landlord to make sport of
us. "Have you found your money yet, friends?" says he, with a sneer.
"No," says Jack, savagely, "and our money is not all that we have lost,
for some villain has filched our nag's harness, and I warrant you know
who he is."
"Why, to be sure," returns the other, "the same friend may have taken it
who has gone astray with your other belongings; but, be that as it may,
I'll answer for it when your money is found your harness will be
forthcoming, and not before."
"Come, Master," says I, "have you no more heart than to make merry at
the mischances of three poor wretches such as we?"
"Aye," says he, "when you can show that you deserve better treatment."
"Done," says Jack. "I'll show you that as quickly as you please." With
that he whips off his cap, and flinging it on the ground, cries: "Off
with your jacket, man, and let us prove by such means as Heaven has
given all which is the honester of us two." And so he squares himself up
to fight; but the innkeeper, though as big a man as he, being of a
spongy constitution, showed no relish for this mode of argument, and
turning his back on us with a shake of the head, said he was very well
satisfied of his own honesty, and if we doubted it we could seek what
satisfaction the law would give us, adding slyly, as he turned at the
door, that he could recommend us a magistrate of his acquaintance,
naming him who had set us in the stocks at Tottenham Cross.
The very hint of this put us again in a quake, and now, the snow
beginning to fall pretty heavily, we went into the shed to cast about as
to what on earth we should do next. There we sat, glum and silent,
watching idly the big flakes of snow fluttering down from the leaden
sky, for not one of us could imagine a way out of this hobble.
"Holy Mother!" cries Jack at length, springing up in a passion, "we
cannot sit here and starve of cold and hunger. Cuddle up to my arm,
Moll, and do you bring your fiddle, Kit, and let us try our luck
a-begging in alehouses."
And so we trudged out into the driving snow, that blinded us as we
walked, bow our heads as we might, and tried one alehouse after the
other, but all to no purpose, the parlours being empty because of the
early hour, and the snow keeping folks within doors; only, about midday,
some carters, who had pulled up at an inn, took pity on us, and gave us
a mug of penny ale and half a loaf, and that was all the food we had the
whole miserable day. Then at dusk, wet-footed and fagged out in mind and
body, we trudged back to the Bell, thinking to get back into the loft
and bury ourselves in the sweet hay for warmth and comfort. But coming
hither, we found our nag turned out of the stable and the door locked,
so that we were thrown quite into despair by the loss of this last poor
hope, and poor Moll, turning her face away from us, burst out
a-crying--she who all day had set us a brave example by her cheerful
_Of our first acquaintance with the Senor Don Sanchez del Castillo de
Castelana, and his brave entertaining of us._
I was taking a turn or two outside the shed,--for the sight of Jack
Dawson hugging poor Moll to his breast and trying to soothe her bodily
misery with gentle words was more than I could bear,--when a drawer
coming across from the inn told me that a gentleman in the Cherry room
would have us come to him. I gave him a civil answer and carried this
message to my friends. Moll, who had staunched her tears and was smiling
piteously, though her sobs, like those of a child, still shook her thin
frame, and her father both looked at me in blank doubt as fearing some
trap for our further discomfiture.
"Nay," says Jack, stoutly. "Fate can serve us no worse within doors than
without, so let us in and face this gentleman, whoever he is."
So in we go, and all sodden and bedrabbled as we were, went to follow
the drawer upstairs, when the landlady cried out she would not have us
go into her Cherry room in that pickle, to soil her best furniture and
disgrace her house, and bade the fellow carry us into the kitchen to
take off our cloaks and change our boots for slip-shoes, adding that if
we had any respect for ourselves, we should trim our hair and wash the
grime off our faces. So we enter the kitchen, nothing loath, where a
couple of pullets browning on the spit, kettles bubbling on the fire,
and a pasty drawing from the oven, filled the air with delicious odours
that nearly drove us mad for envy; and to think that these good things
were to tempt the appetite of some one who never hungered, while we,
famishing for want, had not even a crust to appease our cravings! But it
was some comfort to plunge our blue, numbed fingers into a tub of hot
water and feel the life blood creeping back into our hearts. The paint
we had put on our cheeks the night before was streaked all over our
faces by the snow, so that we did look the veriest scarecrows
imaginable; but after washing our heads well and stroking our hair into
order with a comb Mistress Cook lent us, we looked not so bad. And thus
changed, and with dry shoes to our feet, we at length went upstairs, all
full of wondering expectation, and were led into the Cherry room, which
seemed to us a very palace, being lit with half a dozen candles (and
they of wax) and filled with a warm glow by the blazing logs on the
hearth reflected in the cherry hangings. And there in the midst was a
table laid for supper with a wondrous white cloth, glasses to drink
from, and silver forks all set out most bravely.
"His worship will be down ere long," says the drawer, and with that he
makes a pretence of building up the fire, being warned thereto very like
by the landlady, with an eye to the safety of her silver.
"Can you tell me his worship's name, friend?" I whispered, my mind
turning at once to his worship of Tottenham Cross.
"Not I, were you to pay me," says he. "'Tis that outlandish and
uncommon. But for sure he is some great foreign grandee."
He could tell us no more, so we stood there all together, wondering,
till presently the door opens, and a tall, lean gentleman enters, with a
high front, very finely dressed in linen stockings, a long-waisted coat,
and embroidered waistcoat, and rich lace at his cuffs and throat. He
wore no peruke, but his own hair, cut quite close to his head, with a
pointed beard and a pair of long moustachios twisting up almost to his
ears; but his appearance was the more striking by reason of his beard
and moustachios being quite black, while the hair on his head was white
as silver. He had dark brows also, that overhung very rich black eyes;
his nose was long and hooked, and his skin, which was of a very dark
complexion, was closely lined with wrinkles about the eyes, while a deep
furrow lay betwixt his brows. He carried his head very high, and was
majestic and gracious in all his movements, not one of which (as it
seemed to me) was made but of forethought and purpose. I should say his
age was about sixty, though his step and carriage were of a younger man.
To my eyes he appeared a very handsome and a pleasing, amiable
gentleman. But, Lord, what can you conclude of a man at a single glance,
when every line in his face (of which he had a score and more) has each
its history of varying passions, known only to himself, and secret
phases of his life!
He saluted us with a most noble bow, and dismissed the drawer with a
word in an undertone. Then turning again to us, he said: "I had the
pleasure of seeing you act last night, and dance," he adds with a slight
inclination of his head to Moll. "Naturally, I wish to be better
acquainted with you. Will it please you to dine with me?"
I could not have been more dumbfounded had an angel asked me to step
into heaven; but Dawson was quick enough to say something.
"That will we," cries he, "and God bless your worship for taking pity on
us, for I doubt not you have heard of our troubles."
The other bowed his head and set a chair at the end of the table for
Moll, which she took with a pretty curtsey, but saying never a word, for
glee did seem to choke us all. And being seated, she cast her eyes on
the bread hungrily, as if she would fain begin at once, but she had the
good manners to restrain herself. Then his worship (as we called him),
having shown us the chairs on either side, seated himself last of all,
at the head of the table, facing our Moll, whom whenever he might
without discourtesy, he regarded with most scrutinising glances from
first to last. Then the door flinging open, two drawers brought in those
same fat pullets we had seen browning before the fire, and also the
pasty, with abundance of other good cheer, at which Moll, with a little
cry of delight, whispers to me:
"'Tis like a dream. Do speak to me, Kit, or I must think 'twill all fade
away presently and leave us in the snow."
Then I, finding my tongue, begged his worship would pardon us if our
manners were more uncouth than the society to which he was accustomed.
"Nay," says Dawson, "Your worship will like us none the worse, I
warrant, for seeing what we are and aping none."
Finding himself thus beworshipped on both hands, our good friend says:
"You may call me Senor. I am a Spaniard. Don Sanchez del Castillo de
Castelana." And then to turn the subject, he adds: "I have seen you play
"Aye, Senor, and I should have known you again if by nothing but this
piece of generosity," replies Dawson, with his cheek full of pasty, "for
I remember both times you set down a piece and would take no change."
Don Sanchez hunched his shoulders cavalierly, as if such trifles were
nought to him; but indeed throughout his manner was most high and noble.
And now, being fairly settled down to our repast, we said no more of any
moment that I can recall to mind till we had done (which was not until
nought remained of the pullets and the pasty but a few bones and the
bare dish), and we were drawn round the fire at Don Sanchez's
invitation. Then the drawers, having cleared the tables, brought up a
huge bowl of hot spiced wine, a dish of tobacco, and some pipes. The Don
then offered us to smoke some cigarros, but we, not understanding them,
took instead our homely pipes, and each with a beaker of hot wine to his
hand sat roasting before the fire, scarce saying a word, the Don being
silent because his humour was of the reflective grave kind (with all his
courtesies he never smiled, as if such demonstrations were unbecoming to
his dignity), and we from repletion and a feeling of wondrous
contentment and repose. And another thing served to keep us still, which
was that our Moll, sitting beside her father, almost at once fell
asleep, her head lying against his shoulder as he sat with his arm about
her waist. As at the table, Don Sanchez had seated himself where he
could best observe her, and now he scarcely once took his eyes off her,
which were half closed as if in speculation. At length, taking the
cigarro from his lips, he says softly to Jack Dawson, so as not to
Jack nods for an answer, and looking down on her face with pride and
tenderness, he put back with the stem of his pipe a little curl that had
strayed over her eyes. She was not amiss for looks thus, with her long
eyelashes lying like a fringe upon her cheeks, her lips open, showing
her good white teeth, and the glow of the firelight upon her face; but
her attitude and the innocent, happy expression of her features made up
a picture which seemed to me mighty pretty.
"Where is her mother?" asks Don Sanchez, presently; and Dawson, without
taking his eyes from Moll's face, lifts his pipe upwards, while his big
thick lips fell a-trembling. Maybe, he was thinking of his poor Betty as
he looked at the child's face.
"Has she no other relatives?" asks the Don, in the same quiet tone; and
Jack shakes his head, still looking down, and answers lowly:
Then after another pause the Don asks:
"What will become of her?"
And that thought also must have been in Jack Dawson's mind; for without
seeming surprised by the question, which appeared a strange one, he
answers reverently, but with a shake in his hoarse voice, "Almighty God
This stilled us all for the moment, and then Don Sanchez, seeing that
these reflections threw a gloom upon us, turned to me, sitting next him,
and asked if I would give him some account of my history, whereupon I
briefly told him how three years ago Jack Dawson had lifted me out of
the mire, and how since then we had lived in brotherhood. "And," says I
in conclusion, "we will continue with the favour of Providence to live
so, sharing good and ill fortune alike to the end, so much we do love
To this Jack Dawson nods assent.
"And your other fellow,--what of him?" asked Don Sanchez.
I replied that Ned Herring was but a fair-weather friend, who had joined
fortunes with us to get out of London and escape the Plague, and how
having robbed us, we were like never to see his face again.
"And well for him if we do not," cries Dawson, rousing up; "for by the
Lord, if I clap eyes on him, though it be a score of years hence, he
shan't escape the most horrid beating ever man outlived!"
The Don nodded his satisfaction at this, and then Moll, awaking with the
sudden outburst of her father's voice, gives first a gape, then a
shiver, and looking about her with an air of wonder, smiles as her eye
fell on the Don. Whereon, still as solemn as any judge, he pulls the
bell, and the maid, coming to the room with a rushlight, he bids her
take the poor weary child to bed, and the best there is in the house,
which I think did delight Dawson not less than his Moll to hear.
Then Moll gives her father a kiss, and me another according to her wont,
and drops a civil curtsey to Don Sanchez.
"Give me thy hand, child," says he; and having it, he lifts it to his
lips and kisses it as if she had been the finest lady in the land.
She being gone, the Don calls for a second bowl of spiced wine, and we,
mightily pleased at the prospect of another half-hour of comfort,
stretch our legs out afresh before the fire. Then Don Sanchez, lighting
another cigarro, and setting his chair towards us, says as he takes his
knee up betwixt his long, thin fingers:
"Now let us come to the heart of this business and understand one
_Of that design which Don Sanchez opened to us at the Bell._
We pulled our pipes from our mouths, Dawson and I, and stretched our
ears very eager to know what this business was the Don had to propound,
and he, after drawing two or three mouthfuls of smoke, which he expelled
through his nostrils in a most surprising unnatural manner, says in
excellent good English, but speaking mighty slow and giving every letter
"What do you go to do to-morrow?"
"The Lord only knows," answers Jack, and Don Sanchez, lifting his
eyebrows as if he considers this no answer at all, he continues: "We
cannot go hence with none of our stage things; and if we could, I see
not how we are to act our play, now that our villain is gone, with a
plague to him! I doubt but we must sell all that we have for the few
shillings they will fetch to get us out of this hobble."
"With our landlord's permission," remarks Don Sanchez, dryly.
"Permission!" cries Dawson, in a passion. "I ask no man's permission to
do what I please with my own."
"Suppose he claims these things in payment of the money you owe him.
What then?" asks the Don.
"We never thought of that, Kit," says Dawson, turning to me in a pucker.
"But 'tis likely enough he has, for I observed he was mighty careless
whether we found our thief or not. That's it, sure enough. We have
nought to hope. All's lost!"
With that he drops his elbows on his knees, and stares into the fire
with a most desponding countenance, being in that stage of liquor when a
man must either laugh or weep.
"Come, Jack," says I. "You are not used to yield like this. Let us make
the best of a bad lot, and face the worst like men. Though we trudge
hence with nothing but the rags on our backs, we shall be no worse off
to-morrow than we were this morning."
"Why, that's true enough!" cries he, plucking up his courage. "Let the
thieving rascal take our poor nag and our things for his payment, and
much good may they do him. We will wipe this out of our memory the
moment we leave his cursed inn behind us."
It seemed to me that this would not greatly advance us, and maybe Don
Sanchez thought the same, for he presently asks:
"And what then?"
"Why, Senor," replies Dawson, "we will face each new buffet as it comes,
and make a good fight of it till we're beat. A man may die but once."
"You think only of yourselves," says the Don, very quietly.
"And pray, saving your Senor's presence, who else should we think of?"
"The child above," answers the Don, a little more sternly than he had
yet spoken. "Is a young creature like that to bear the buffets you are
so bold to meet? Can you offer her no shelter from the wind and rain but
such as chance offers? make no provision for the time when she is left
alone, to protect her against the evils that lie in the path of
"God forgive me," says Jack, humbly. And then we could say nothing, for
thinking what might befall Moll if we should be parted, but sat there
under the keen eye of Don Sanchez, looking helplessly into the fire. And
there was no sound until Jack's pipe, slipping from his hand, fell and
broke in pieces upon the hearth. Then rousing himself up and turning to
Don Sanchez, he says:
"The Lord help her, Senor, if we find no good friend to lend us a few
shillings for our present wants."
"Good friends are few," says the Don, "and they who lend need some
better security for repayment than chance. For my own part, I would as
soon fling straws to a drowning man as attempt to save you and that
child from ruin by setting you on your feet to-day only to fall again
"If that be so, Senor," says I, "you had some larger view in mind than
that of offering temporary relief to our misery when you gave us a
supper and Moll a bed for the night."
Don Sanchez assented with a grave inclination of his head, and going to
the door opened it sharply, listened awhile, and then closing it softly,
returned and stood before us with folded arms. Then, in a low voice, not
to be heard beyond the room, he questioned us very particularly as to
our relations with other men, the length of time we had been wandering
about the country, and especially about the tractability of Moll. And,
being satisfied with our replies,--above all, with Jack's saying that
Moll would jump out of window at his bidding, without a thought to the
"There's a comedy we might play to some advantage if you were minded to
take the parts I give you and act them as I direct."
"With all my heart," cries Dawson. "I'll play any part you choose; and
as to the directing, you're welcome to that, for I've had my fill of it.
If you can make terms with our landlord, those things in the yard shall
be yours, and for our payment I'm willing to trust to your honour's
"As regards payment," says the Don, "I can speak precisely. We shall
gain fifty thousand pounds by our performance."
"Fifty thousand pounds," says Jack, as if in doubt whether he had heard
aright. Don Sanchez bent his head, without stirring a line in his face.
Dawson took up his beaker slowly, and looked in it, to make sure that he
was none the worse for drink, then, after emptying it, to steady his
wits, he says again:
"Fifty thousand pounds."
"Fifty thousand pounds, if not more; and that there be no jealousies one
of the other, it shall be divided fairly amongst us,--as much for your
friend as for you, for the child as for me."
"Pray God, this part be no more than I can compass," says Jack,
"You may learn it in a few hours--at least, your first act."
"And mine?" says I, entering for the first time into the dialogue.
The Don hunched his shoulders, lifting his eyebrows, and sending two
streams of smoke from his nose.
"I scarce know what part to give you, yet," says he. "To be honest, you
are not wanted at all in the play."
"Nay, but you must write him a part," says Dawson, stoutly; "if it be
but to bring in a letter--that I am determined on. Kit stood by us in
ill fortune, and he shall share better, or I'll have none of it, nor
Moll neither. I'll answer for her."
"There must be no discontent among us," says the Don, meaning thereby,
as I think, that he had included me in his stratagem for fear I might
mar it from envy. "The girl's part is that which gives me most
concern--and had I not faith in my own judgment--"
"Set your mind at ease on that score," cried Jack. "I warrant our Moll
shall learn her part in a couple of days or so."
"If she learn it in a twelvemonth, 'twill be time enough."
"A twelvemonth," said Jack, going to his beaker again, for
understanding. "Well, all's as one, so that we can get something in
advance of our payment, to keep us through such a prodigious study."
"I will charge myself with your expenses," says Don Sanchez; and then,
turning to me, he asks if I have any objection to urge.
"I take it, Senor, that you speak in metaphor," says I; "and that this
'comedy' is nought but a stratagem for getting hold of a fortune that
doesn't belong to us."
Don Sanchez calmly assented, as if this had been the most innocent
design in the world.
"Hang me," cries Dawson, "if I thought it was anything but a whimsey of
"I should like to know if we may carry out this stratagem honestly,"
"Aye," cries Jack. "I'll not agree for cutting of throats or breaking of
bones, for any money."
"I can tell you no more than this," says the Don. "The fortune we may
take is now in the hands of a man who has no more right to it than we
"If that's so," says Jack, "I'm with you, Senor. For I'd as lief bustle
a thief out of his gains as say my prayers, any day, and liefer."
"Still," says I, "the money must of right belong to some one."
"We will say that the money belongs to a child of the same age as Moll."
"Then it comes to this, Senor," says I, bluntly. "We are to rob that
child of fifty thousand pounds."
"When you speak of robbing," says the Don, drawing himself up with much
dignity, "you forget that I am to play a part in this stratagem--I, Don
Sanchez del Castillo de Castelana."
"Fie, Kit, han't you any manners?" cries Dick. "What's all this talk of
a child? Hasn't the Senor told us we are but to bustle a cheat?"
"But I would know what is to become of this child, if we take her
fortune, though it be withheld from her by another," says I, being
exceeding obstinate and persistent in my liquor.
"I shall prove to your conviction," says the Don, "that the child will
be no worse off, if we take this money, than if we leave it in the hands
of that rascally steward. But I see," adds he, contemptuously, "that for
all your brotherly love, 'tis no such matter to you whether poor little
Molly comes to her ruin, as every maid must who goes to the stage, or is
set beyond the reach of temptation and the goading of want."
"Aye, and be hanged to you, Kit!" cries Dawson.
"Tell me, Mr. Poet," continues Don Sanchez, "do you consider this
steward who defrauds that child of a fortune is more unfeeling than you
who, for a sickly qualm of conscience, would let slip this chance of
making Molly an honest woman?"
"Aye, answer that, Kit," adds Jack, striking his mug on the table.
"I'll answer you to-morrow morning, Senor," says I. "And whether I fall
in with the scheme or not is all as one, since my help is not needed;
for if it be to Moll's good, I'll bid you farewell, and you shall see me
"Spoken like a man!" says Don Sanchez, "and a wise one to boot. An
enterprise of this nature is not to be undertaken without reflection,
like the smoking of a pipe. If you put your foot forward, it must be
with the understanding that you cannot go back. I must have that
assurance, for I shall be hundreds of pounds out of pocket ere I can get
any return for my venture."
"Have no fear of me or of Moll turning tail at a scarecrow," says Jack,
adding with a sneer, "we are no poets."
"Reflect upon it. Argue it out with your friend here, whose scruples do
not displease me, and let me know your determination when the last word
is said. Business carries me to London to-morrow; but you shall meet me
at night, and we will close the business--aye or nay--ere supper."
With that he opens the door and gives us our congee, the most noble in
the world; but not offering to give us a bed, we are forced to go out of
doors and grope our way through the snow to the cart-shed, and seek a
shelter there from the wind, which was all the keener and more bitter
for our leaving a good fire. And I believe the shrewd Spaniard had put
us to this pinch as a foretaste of the misery we must endure if we
rejected his design, and so to shape our inclinations to his.
Happily, the landlord, coming out with a lantern, and finding us by the
chattering of our teeth, was moved by the consideration shown us by Don
Sanchez to relax his severity; and so, unlocking the stable door, he
bade us get up into the loft, which we did, blessing him as if he had
been the best Christian in the world. And then, having buried ourselves
in hay, Jack Dawson and I fell to arguing the matter in question, I
sticking to my scruples (partly from vanity), and he stoutly holding
t'other side; and I, being warmed by my own eloquence, and he not less
heated by liquor (having taken best part of the last bowl to his share),
we ran it pretty high, so that at one point Jack was for lighting a
candle end he had in his pocket and fighting it out like men. But,
little by little, we cooled down, and towards morning, each giving way
something, we came to the conclusion that we would have Don Sanchez show
us the steward, that we might know the truth of his story (which I
misdoubted, seeing that it was but a roguish kind of game at best that
he would have us take part in), and that if we found all things as he
represented them, then we would accept his offer. And also we resolved
to be down betimes and let him know our determination before he set out
for London, to the end that we might not be left fasting all the day.
But herein we miscalculated the potency of liquor and a comfortable bed
of hay, for 'twas nine o'clock before either of us winked an eye, and
when we got down, we learnt that Don Sanchez had been gone a full hour,
and so no prospect of breaking our fast till nightfall.
Presently comes Moll, all fresh and pink from the house, and falls to
exclaiming upon the joy of sleeping betwixt clean sheets in a feather
bed, and could speak of nothing else, saying she would give all the
world to sleep so well every day of her life.
"Eh," whispers her father in my ear, "you see how luxuries do tempt the
poor child, and what kind of a bed she is like to lie in if our hopes
On which, still holding to my scruples, I says to Moll:
"'Tis easy to say you would give the world, Moll, but I know full well
you would give nothing for all the comfort possible that was not your
"Nay," says she, crossing her hands on her breast, and casting up her
eyes with the look of a saint, "what are all the fruits of the earth to
her who cannot take them with an easy conscience? Honesty is dearer to
me than the bread of life."
Then, as Jack and I are looking at each other ruefully in the face at
this dash to our knavish project, she bursts into a merry peal of
laughter, like a set of Christmas bells chiming, whereupon we, turning
about to find the cause of her merriment, she pulls another demure face,
and, slowly lifting her skirt, shows us a white napkin tied about her
waist, stuffed with a dozen delicacies she had filched from Don
Sanchez's table in coming down from her room.
_Of the several parts that we are appointed to play._
Finding a sheltered secret corner, we made a very hasty breakfast of
these stolen dainties, and since we had not the heart to restore them to
our innkeeper, so we had not the face to chide Moll for her larceny, but
made light of the business and ate with great content and some mirth.
A drizzly rain falling and turning the snow into slush, we kept under
the shelter of the shed, and this giving us scope for the reflection Don
Sanchez had counselled, my compunctions were greatly shaken by the
consideration of our present position and the prospect of worse. When I
thought of our breakfast that Moll had stolen, and how willingly we
would all have eaten a dinner got by the same means, I had to
acknowledge that certainly we were all thieves at heart; and this
conclusion, together with sitting all day doing nothing in the raw cold,
did make the design of Don Sanchez seem much less heinous to me than it
appeared the night before, when I was warm and not exceedingly sober,
and indeed towards dusk I came to regard it as no bad thing at all.
About six comes back our Don on a fine horse, and receives our
salutations with a cool nod--we standing there of a row, looking our
sweetest, like hungry dogs in expectation of a bone. Then in he goes to
the house without a word, and now my worst fear was that he had thought
better of his offer and would abandon it. So there we hang about the
best part of an hour, now thinking the Don would presently send for us,
and then growing to despair of everything but to be left in the cold
forgotten; but in the end comes Master Landlord to tell us his worship
in the Cherry room would see us. So, after the same formalities of
cleansing ourselves as the night afore, upstairs we go at the heels of a
drawer, carrying a roast pig, which to our senses was more delightful
than any bunch of flowers.
With a gesture of his hands, after saluting us with great dignity, Don
Sanchez bade us take our places at the table and with never a word of
question as to our decision; but that was scarce necessary, for it
needed no subtle observation to perceive that we would accept any
conditions to get our share of that roast pig. This supper differed not
greatly from the former, save that our Moll was taken with a kind of
tickling at the throat which presently attracted our notice.
"What ails you, Molly, my dear?" asks Jack. "Has a bit of crackling gone
down the wrong way?"
She put it off as if she would have us take no notice of it, but it grew
worse and worse towards the end of the meal, and became a most horrid,
tearing cough, which she did so natural as to deceive us all and put us
in great concern, and especially Don Sanchez, who declared she must have
taken a cold by being exposed all day to the damp weather.
"If I have," says she, very prettily, after wiping the tears from her
eyes upon another fit, "'tis surely a most ungrateful return for the
kindness with which you sheltered me last night, Senor."
"I shall take better care to shelter you in the future, my poor child,"
replies the Don, ringing the bell. Then, the maid coming, he bids her
warm a bed and prepare a hot posset against Moll was tucked up in the
blankets. "And," says he, turning to Moll, "you shall not rise till
noon, my dear; your breakfast shall be brought to you in your room,
where a fire shall be made, and such treatment shown you as if you were
my own child."
"Oh! what have I done that you should be so gentle to me?" exclaims
Moll, smothering another cough. And with that she reaches out her leg
under the table and fetches me a kick of the shin, looking all the while
as pitiful and innocent as any painted picture. "Would it be well to
fetch in a doctor?" says Don Sanchez, when Moll was gone barking
upstairs. "The child looks delicate, though she eats with a fairly good
"'Tis nothing serious," replies Jack, who had doubtless received the
same hint from Moll she had given me. "I warrant she will be mended in a
day or so, with proper care. 'Tis a kind of family complaint. I am taken
that way at times," and with that he rasps his throat as a hint that he
would be none the worse for sleeping a night between sheets.
This was carrying the matter too far, and I thought it had certainly
undone us; for stopping short, with a start, in crossing the room, he
turns and looks first at Dawson, then at me, with anything but a
pleasant look in his eyes as finding his dignity hurt, to be thus
bustled by a mere child. Then his dark eyebrows unbending with the
reflection, maybe, that it was so much the better to his purpose that
Moll could so act as to deceive him, he seats himself gravely, and
replies to Jack:
"Your family wit may get you a night's lodging, but I doubt if you will
ever merit it so well as your daughter."
"Well," says Jack, with a laugh, "what wit we have amongst us we are
resolved to employ in your honour's service, so that you show us this
steward-fellow is a rascal that deserves to be bounced, and we do no
great injury to any one else."
"Good," says Don Sanchez. "We will proceed to that without delay. And
now, as we have no matter to discuss, and must be afoot early to-morrow,
I will ring for a light to take you to bed."
So we up presently to a good snug room with a bed to each of us fit for
a prince. And there, with the blankets drawn up to our ears, we fell
blessing our stars that we were now fairly out of our straits, and after
that to discussing whether we should consult Moll's inclination to this
business. First, Dawson was for telling her plump out all about our
project, saying that being so young she had no conscience to speak of,
and would like nothing better than to take part in any piece of
mischief. But against this I protested, seeing that it would be
dangerous to our design to let her know so much (she having a woman's
tongue in her head), and also of a bad tendency to make her, as it were,
at the very beginning of her life, a knowing active party to what looked
like nothing more nor less than a piece of knavery. Therefore I proposed
we should, when necessary, tell her just so much of our plan as was
expedient, and no more. And this agreeing mightily with Jack's natural
turn for taking of short cuts out of difficulties, he fell in with my
views at once, and so, bidding God bless me, he lays the clothes over
his head and was snoring the next minute.
In the morning we found the Don just as kind to us as the day before he
had been careless, and so made us eat breakfast with him, to our great
content. Also, he sent a maid up to Moll to enquire of her health, and
if she could eat anything from our table, to which the baggage sends
reply that she feels a little easier this morning and could fancy a dish
of black puddings. These delicacies her father carried to her, being
charged by the Don to tell her that we should be gone for a couple of
days, and that in our absence she might command whatever she felt was
necessary to her complete recovery against our return. Then I told Don
Sanchez how we had resolved to tell Moll no more of our purpose than was
necessary for the moment, which pleased him, I thought, mightily, he
saying that our success or failure depended upon secrecy as much as
anything, for which reason he had kept us in the dark as much as ever it
About eight o'clock three saddle nags were brought to the door, and we,
mounting, set out for London, where we arrived about ten, the roads
being fairly passable save in the marshy parts about Shoreditch, where
the mire was knee-deep; so to Gracious Street, and there leaving our
nags at the Turk inn, we walked down to the Bridge stairs, and thence
with a pair of oars to Greenwich. Here, after our tedious chilly voyage,
we were not ill-pleased to see the inside of an inn once more, and Don
Sanchez, taking us to the King's posting-house, orders a fire to be
lighted in a private room, and the best there was in the larder to be
served us in the warm parlour. While we were at our trenchers Don
"At two o'clock two men are coming hither to see me. One is a master
mariner named Robert Evans, the other a merchant adventurer of his
acquaintance whom I have not yet seen. Now you are to mark these two men
well, note all they say and their manner of speaking, for to-morrow you
will have to personate these characters before one who would be only too
glad to find you at fault."
"Very good, Senor," says Dawson; "but which of these parts am I to
"That you may decide when you have seen the men, but I should say from
my knowledge of Robert Evans that you may best represent his character.
For in your parts to-day you are to be John and Christopher Knight, two
needy cousins of Lady Godwin, whose husband, Sir Richard Godwin, was
lost at sea seven years ago. I doubt if you will have to do anything in
these characters beyond looking eager and answering merely yes and no to
such questions as I may put."
Thus primed, we went presently to the sitting-room above, and the drawer
shortly after coming to say that two gentlemen desired to see Don
Sanchez, Jack and I seated ourselves side by side at a becoming distance
from the Don, holding our hats on our knees as humbly as may be. Then in
comes a rude, dirty fellow with a patch over one eye and a most peculiar
bearish gait, dressed in a tarred coat, with a wool shawl about his
neck, followed by a shrewd-visaged little gentleman in a plain cloth
suit, but of very good substance, he looking just as trim and
well-mannered as t'other was uncouth and rude.
"Well, here am I," says Evans (whom we knew at once for the master
mariner), flinging his hat and shawl in a corner. "There's his
excellency Don Sanchez, and here's Mr. Hopkins, the merchant I spoke on
yesterday; and who be these?" turning about to fix us with his one blue
"Two gentlemen related to Mrs. Godwin, and very anxious for her return,"
replies the Don.
"Then we being met friends all, let's have up a bottle and heave off on
this here business without more ado," says Evans; and with that he seats
himself in the Don's chair, pokes up the fire with his boots, and spits
on the hearth.
The Don graciously places a chair for Mr. Hopkins, rings the bell, and
seats himself. Then after a few civilities while the bottle was being
opened and our glasses filled, he says:
"You have doubtless heard from Robert Evans the purpose of our coming
hither, Mr. Hopkins."
"Roughly," replies Mr. Hopkins, with a dry little cough. "But I should
be glad to have the particulars from you, that I may judge more clearly
of my responsibilities in this undertaking."
"Oh, Lord!" exclaims Evans, in disgust. "Here give us a pipe of tobacco
if we're to warp out half a day ere we get a capful of wind."
_Don Sanchez puts us in the way of robbing with an easy conscience._
Promising to make his story as short as he possibly could, Don Sanchez
"On the coming of our present king to his throne, Sir Richard Godwin was
recalled from Italy, whither he had been sent as embassador by the
Protector. He sailed from Livorno with his wife and his daughter Judith,
a child of nine years old at that time, in the Seahawk."
"I remember her," says Evans, "as stout a ship as ever was put to sea."
"On the second night of her voyage the Seahawk became parted from her
convoy, and the next day she was pursued and overtaken by a pair of
Barbary pirates, to whom she gave battle."
"Aye, and I'd have done the same," cries Evans, "though they had been a
"After a long and bloody fight," continues Don Sanchez, "the corsairs
succeeded in boarding the Seahawk and overcoming the remnant of her
"Poor hearts! would I had been there to help 'em," says Evans.
"Exasperated by the obstinate resistance of these English and their own
losses, the pirates would grant no mercy, but tying the living to the
dead they cast all overboard save Mrs. Godwin and her daughter. Her lot
was even worse; for her wounded husband, Sir Richard, was snatched from
her arms and flung into the sea before her eyes, and he sank crying
farewell to her."
"These Turks have no hearts in their bellies, you must understand,"
explains Evans. "And nought but venom in their veins."
"The Seahawk was taken to Alger, and there Mrs. Godwin and her daughter
were sold for slaves in the public market-place."
"I have seen 'em sold by the score there," says Evans, "and fetch but an
onion a head."
"By good fortune the mother and daughter were bought by Sidi ben Moula,
a rich old merchant who was smitten by the pretty, delicate looks of
Judith, whom he thenceforth treated as if she had been his own child. In
this condition they lived with greater happiness than falls to the lot
of most slaves, until the beginning of last year, when Sidi died, and
his possessions fell to his brother, Bare ben Moula. Then Mrs. Godwin
appeals to Bare for her liberty and to be sent home to her country,
saying that what price (in reason) he chooses to set upon their heads
she will pay from her estate in England--a thing which she had proposed
before to Sidi, but he would not hear of it because of his love for
Judith and his needing no greater fortune than he had. But this Bare,
though he would be very well content, being also an old man, to have his
household managed by Mrs. Godwin and to adopt Judith as his child, being
of a more avaricious turn than his brother, at length consents to it, on
condition that her ransoms be paid before she quits Barbary. And so,
casting about how this may be done, Mrs. Godwin finds a captive whose
price has been paid, about to be taken to Palma in the Baleares, and to
him she entrusts two letters." Here Don Sanchez pulls two folded sheets
of vellum from his pocket, and presenting one to me, he says:
"Mayhap you recognise this hand, Mr. Knight."
And I, seeing the signature Elizabeth Godwin, answers quickly enough:
"Aye, 'tis my dear cousin Bess, her own hand."
"This," says the Don, handing the other to Evans, "you may understand."
"I can make out 'tis writ in the Moorish style," says Evans, "but the
meaning of it I know not, for I can't tell great A from a bull's foot
though it be in printed English."
"'Tis an undertaking on the part of Bare ben Moula," says the Don, "to
deliver up at Dellys in Barbary the persons of Mrs. Godwin and her
daughter against the payment of five thousand gold ducats within one
year. The other writing tells its own story."
Mr. Hopkins took the first sheet from me and read it aloud. It was
addressed to Mr. Richard Godwin, Hurst Court, Chislehurst in Kent, and
after giving such particulars of her past as we had already heard from
Don Sanchez, she writes thus: "And now, my dear nephew, as I doubt not
you (as the nearest of my kindred to my dear husband after us two poor
relicts) have taken possession of his estate in the belief we were all
lost in our voyage from Italy, I do pray you for the love of God and of
mercy to deliver us from our bondage by sending hither a ship with the
money for our ransoms forthwith, and be assured by this that I shall not
dispossess you of your fortune (more than my bitter circumstances do now
require), so that I but come home to die in a Christian country and have
my sweet Judith where she may be less exposed to harm than in this
infidel country. I count upon your love,--being ever a dear nephew,--and
am your most hopeful, trusting, and loving aunt, Elizabeth Godwin."
"Very well, sir," says Mr. Hopkins, returning the letter. "You have been
"I have," answers the Don, "and there I find the estate in the hands of
a most curious Puritanical steward, whose honesty is rather in the
letter than the spirit. For though I have reason to believe that not one
penny's value of the estate has been misemployed since it has been in
his hands, yet will he give nothing--no, not a maravedi to the
redemption of his mistress, saying that the letter is addressed to
Richard Godwin and not to him, etc., and that he hath no power to pay
out monies for this purpose, even though he believed the facts I have
laid before him--which for his own ends doubtless he fains to misdoubt."
"As a trader, sir," says Mr. Hopkins, "I cannot blame his conduct in
that respect. For should the venture fall through, the next heir might
call upon him to repay out of his own pocket all that he had put into
this enterprise. But this Mr. Richard Godwin, what of him?"
"He is nowhere to be found. The only relatives I have been able to
discover are these two gentlemen."
"Who," remarks Mr. Hopkins, with a shrewd glance at our soiled clothes,
"are not, I venture to think, in a position to pay their cousin's
"Alas, no, sir," says Jack. "We are but two poor shopkeepers of London
undone by the great fire."
"Well now, sir," says Mr. Hopkins, fetching an inkpot, a pen, and a
piece of paper from his pocket. "I may conclude that you wish me to
adventure upon the redemption of these two ladies in Barbary, upon the
hazard of being repaid by Mrs. Godwin when she recovers her estate." And
the Don making him a reverence, he continues, "We must first learn the
extent of our liabilities. What sum is to be paid to Bare ben Moula?"
"Five thousand gold ducats--about two thousand pounds English."
"Two thousand," says Mr. Hopkins, writing. "Then, Robert Evans, what
charge is yours for fetching the ladies from Dellys?"
"Master Hopkins, I have said fifteen hundred pounds," says he, "and I
won't go from my word though all laugh at me for a madman."
"That seems a great deal of money," says Mr. Hopkins.
"Well, if you think fifteen hundred pounds too much for my carcase and a
ship of twenty men, you can go seek a cheaper market elsewhere."
"You think there is very small likelihood of coming back alive?"
"Why, comrade, 'tis as if you should go into a den of lions and hope to
get out whole; for though I have the Duke's pass, these Moors are no
fitter to be trusted than a sackful of serpents. 'Tis ten to one our
ship be taken, and we fools all sold into slavery."
"Ten to one," says Mr. Hopkins; "that is to say, you would make this
voyage for the tenth part of what you ask were you sure of returning
"I would go as far anywhere outside the straits for an hundred pounds
with a lighter heart."
Mr. Hopkins nods his head, and setting down some figures on his paper,
"The bare outlay in hard money amounts to thirty-five hundred pounds.
Reckoning the risk at Robert Evans' own valuation (which I take to be a
very low one), I must see reasonable prospect of winning thirty-five
thousand pounds by my hazard."
"Mrs. Godwin's estate I know to be worth double that amount."
"But who will promise me that return?" asks Mr. Hopkins. "Not you?" (The
Don shook his head.) "Not you?" (turning to us, with the same result).
"Not Mrs. Godwin, for we have no means of communicating with her. Not
the steward--you have shown me that. Who then remains but this Richard
Godwin who cannot be found? If," adds he, getting up from his seat, "you
can find Richard Godwin, put him in possession of the estate, and obtain
from him a reasonable promise that this sum shall be paid on the return
of Mrs. Godwin, I may feel disposed to consider your proposal more
seriously. But till then I can do nothing."
"Likewise, masters all," says Evans, fetching his hat and shawl from the
corner, "I can't wait for a blue moon; and if so be we don't sign
articles in a week, I'm off of my bargain, and mighty glad to get out of
it so cheap."
"You see," says Don Sanchez, when they were gone out of the room, "how
impossible it is that Mrs. Godwin and her daughter shall be redeemed
from captivity. To-morrow I shall show you what kind of a fellow the
steward is that he should have the handling of this fortune rather than
Then presently, with an indifferent, careless air, as if 'twas nought,
he gives us a purse and bids us go out in the town to furnish ourselves
with what disguise was necessary to our purpose. Therewith Dawson gets
him some seaman's old clothes at a Jew's, and I a very neat, presentable
suit of cloth, etc., and the rest of the money we take back to Don
Sanchez without taking so much as a penny for our other uses; but he,
doing all things very magnificent, would have none of it, but bade us
keep it against our other necessities. And now having his money in our
pockets, we felt 'twould be more dishonest to go back from this business
than to go forward with it, lead us whither it might.
Next morning off we go betimes, Jack more like Robert Evans than his
mother's son, and I a most seeming substantial man (so that the very
stable lad took off his hat to me), and on very good horses a long ride
to Chislehurst And there coming to a monstrous fine park, Don Sanchez
stayed us before the gates, and bidding us look up a broad avenue of
great oaks to a most surprising brave house, he told us this was Hurst
Court, and we might have it for our own within a year if we were so
Hence, at no great distance we reach a square plain house, the windows
all barred with stout iron, and the most like a prison I did ever see.
Here Don Sanchez ringing a bell, a little grating in the door is opened,
and after some parley we are admitted by a sturdy fellow carrying a
cudgel in his hand. So we into a cold room, with not a spark of fire on
the hearth but a few ashes, no hangings to the windows, nor any ornament
or comfort at all, but only a table and half a dozen wooden stools, and
a number of shelves against the wall full of account books and papers
protected by a grating of stout wire secured with sundry padlocks. And
here, behind a tableful of papers, sat our steward, Simon
Stout-in-faith, a most withered, lean old man, clothed all in leather,
wearing no wig but his own rusty grey hair falling lank on his
shoulders, with a sour face of a very jaundiced complexion, and pale
eyes that seemed to swim in a yellowish rheum, which he was for ever
a-mopping with a rag.
"I am come, Mr. Steward," says Don Sanchez, "to conclude the business we
were upon last week."
"Aye," cries Dawson, for all the world in the manner of Evans, "but ere
we get to this dry matter let's have a bottle to ease the way, for this
riding of horseback has parched up my vitals confoundedly."
"If thou art athirst," says Simon, "Peter shall fetch thee a jug of
water from the well; but other liquor have we none in this house."
"Let Peter drown in your well," says Dawson, with an oath; "I'll have
none of it. Let's get this matter done and away, for I'd as lief sit in
a leaky hold as in this here place for comfort."
"Here," says Don Sanchez, "is a master mariner who is prepared to risk
his life, and here a merchant adventurer of London who will hazard his
money, to redeem your mistress and her daughter from slavery."
"Praise the Lord, Peter," says the steward. Whereupon the sturdy fellow
with the cudgel fell upon his knees, as likewise did Simon, and both in
a snuffling voice render thanks to Heaven in words which I do not think
it proper to write here. Then, being done, they get up, and the steward,
having dried his eyes, says:
"So far our prayers have been answered. Put me in mind, friend Peter,
that to-night we pray these worthy men prosper in their design."
"If they succeed," says Don Sanchez, "it will cost your mistress
five-and-thirty thousand pounds."
The steward clutched at the table as if at the fortune about to turn
from him; his jaw fell, and he stared at Don Sanchez in bewilderment,
then getting the face to speak, he gasps out, "Thirty-five thousand
pounds!" and still in a maze asks: "Art thou in thy right senses,
The Don hunches his shoulders and turns to me. Whereupon I lay forth in
pretty much the same words as Mr. Hopkins used, the risk of the venture,
etc., to all which this Simon listened with starting eyes and gaping
"Thirty-five thousand pounds!" he says again; "why, friend, 'tis half of
all I have made of the estate by a life of thrift and care and earnest
"'Tis in your power, Simon," says Don Sanchez, "to spare your mistress
this terrible charge, for which your fine park must be felled, your
farms cut up, and your economies be scattered. The master here will
fetch your mistress home for fifteen hundred pounds."
"Why, even that is an extortion."
"Nay," says Jack, "if you think fifteen hundred pounds too much for my
carcase and a ship of twenty men, you may seek a cheaper market and
welcome, for I've no stomach to risk my life and property for less."
"To the fifteen hundred pounds you must add the ransom of two thousand
pounds. Thus Mrs. Godwin and her daughter may be redeemed for
thirty-five hundred pounds to her saving of thirty-one thousand five
hundred pounds," says the Don.
And here Dawson and I were secretly struck by his honesty in not seeking
to affright the steward from an honest course, but rather tempting him
to it by playing upon his parsimony and avarice.
"Three thousand five hundred," says Simon, putting it down in writing,
that he might the better realise his position. "But you say, friend
merchant, that the risk is as ten to one against seeing thy money
"I will run the risk for thirty-one thousand pounds, and no less," says
"But if it may be done for a tenth part, how then?"
"Why, 'tis your risk, sir, and not mine," says I.
"Yea, yea, my risk. And you tell me, friend sailor, that you stand in
danger of being plundered by these infidels."
"Aye, more like than not."
"Why, then we may count half the estate gone; and the peril is to be run
again, and thus all cast away for nought."
In this manner did Simon halt betwixt two ways like one distracted, but
only he did mingle a mass of sacred words with his arguments which
seemed to me nought but profanity, his sole concern being the gain of
money. Then he falls to the old excuses Don Sanchez had told us of,
saying he had no money of his own, and offering to show his books that
we might see he had taken not one penny beyond his bare expenses from
the estate, save his yearly wage, and that no more than Sir Richard had
given him in his lifetime. And on Don Sanchez showing Mrs. Godwin's
letter as a fitting authority to draw out this money for her use, he
first feigns to doubt her hand, and then says he: "If an accident
befalls these two women ere they return to justify me, how shall I
answer to the next heir for this outlay? Verily" (clasping his hands) "I
am as one standing in darkness, and I dare not move until I am better
enlightened; so prithee, friend, give me time to commune with my
Don Sanchez hunches up his shoulders and turns to us.
"Why, look here, Master," says Dawson. "I can't see as you need much
enlightenment to answer yes or no to a fair offer, and as for me, I'm
not going to hang in a hedge for a blue moon. So if you won't clap hands
on the bargain without more ado, I throw this business overboard and
shall count I've done the best day's work of my life in getting out of
Then I made as if I would willingly draw out of my share in the project.
"My friends," says Simon, "there can be scarce any hope at all if thou
wilt not hazard thy money for such a prodigious advantage." Then turning
to Peter as his last hope, he asks in despair, "What shall we do, my
"We can keep on a-praying, friend Simon," replies Peter, in a snivelling
"A blessed thought!" exclaims the steward in glee. "Surely that is more
righteous than to lay faith in our own vain effort. So do thou, friend"
(turning to me), "put thy money to this use, for I will none."
"I cannot do that, sir," says I, "without an assurance that Mrs.
Godwin's estate will bear this charge."
With wondrous alacrity Simon fetches a book with a plan of the estate,
whereby he showed us that not a holding on the estate was untenanted,
not a single tenant in arrear with his rent, and that the value of the
property with all deductions made was sixty-five thousand pounds.
"Very good sir," says I. "Now you must give me a written note, stating
what you have shown, with your sanction to my making this venture on
Mrs. Godwin's behalf, that I may justify my claim hereafter."
But this Simon stoutly refused to do, saying his conscience would not
allow him to sign any bond (clearly with the hope that he might in the
end shuffle out of paying anything at all), until Don Sanchez, losing
patience, declared he would certainly hunt all London through to find
that Mr. Richard Godwin, who was the next of kin, hinting that he would
certainly give us such sanction as we required if only to prove his
right to the succession should our venture fail.
This put the steward to a new taking; but the Don holding firm, he at
length agreed to give us this note, upon Don Sanchez writing another
affirming that he had seen Mrs. Godwin and her daughter in Barbary, and
was going forth to fetch them, that should Mr. Richard Godwin come to
claim the estate he might be justly put off.
And so this business ended to our great satisfaction, we saying to
ourselves that we had done all that man could to redeem the captives,
and that it would be no harm at all to put a cheat upon the miserly
steward. Whether we were any way more honest than he in shaping our
conduct according to our inclinations is a question which troubled us
then very little.
_Moll is cast to play the part of a fine lady; doubtful promise for this
On our way back to Greenwich we stayed at an inn by the road to refresh
ourselves, and there, having a snug parlour to ourselves, and being
seated about a fine cheese with each a full measure of ale, Don Sanchez
asks us if we are satisfied with our undertaking.
"Aye, that we are," replies Dawson, mightily pleased as usual to be
a-feasting. "We desire nothing better than to serve your honour
faithfully in all ways, and are ready to put our hands to any bond you
may choose to draw up."
"Can you show me the man," asks the Don, lifting his eyebrows
contemptuously, "who ever kept a treaty he was minded to break? Men are
honest enough when nought's to be gained by breaking faith. Are you both
agreed to this course?"
"Yes, Senor," says I, "and my only compunction now is that I can do so
little to forward this business."
"Why, so far as I can see into it," says Dawson, "one of us must be cast
for old Mrs. Godwin, if Moll is to be her daughter, and you're fitter to
play the part than I, for I take it this old gentlewoman should be of a
more delicate, sickly composition than mine."
"We will suppose that Mrs. Godwin is dead," says the Don, gravely.
"Aye, to be sure; that simplifies the thing mightily. But pray, Senor,
what parts are we to play?"
"The parts you have played to-day. You go with me to fetch Judith Godwin
"This hangs together and ought to play well; eh, Kit?"
I asked Don Sanchez how long, in the ordinary course of things an
expedition of this kind would take.
"That depends upon accidents of many kinds," answers he. "We may very
well stretch it out best part of a year."
"A year," says Jack, scratching his ear ruefully, for I believe he had
counted upon coming to live like a lord in a few weeks. "And what on
earth are we to do in the meanwhile?"
"Teach Moll," answers the Don.
"She can read anything print or scrip," says Jack, proudly, "and write
her own name."
"Judith Godwin," says the Don, reflectively, "lived two years in Italy.
She would certainly remember some words of Italian. Consider this: it is
not sufficient merely to obtain possession of the Godwin estate; it must
be held against the jealous opposition of that shrewd steward and of the
presumptive heir, Mr. Richard Godwin, who may come forward at any time."
"You're in the right, Senor. Well, there's Kit knows the language and
can teach her a smattering of the Italian, I warrant, in no time."
"Judith would probably know something of music," pursues the Don.
"Why, Moll can play Kit's fiddle as well as he."
"But, above all," continues the Don, as taking no heed of this tribute
to Moll's abilities, "Judith Godwin must be able to read and write the
Moorish character and speak the tongue readily, answer aptly as to their
ways and habits, and to do these things beyond suspect. Moll must live
with these people for some months."
"God have mercy on us!" cries Jack. "Your honour is not for taking us to
"No," answers the Don, dryly, passing his long fingers with some
significance over the many seams in his long face, "but we must go where
the Moors are to be found, on the hither side of the straits."
"Well," says Dawson, "all's as one whither we go in safety if we're to
be out of our fortune for a year. There's nothing more for our Moll to
learn, I suppose, senor."
"It will not be amiss to teach her the manners of a lady," replies the
Don, rising and knitting his brows together unpleasantly, "and
especially to keep her feet under her chair at table."
With this he rings the bell for our reckoning, and so ends our
discussion, neither Dawson nor I having a word to say in answer to this
last hit, which showed us pretty plainly that in reaching round with her
long leg for our shins, Moll had caught the Don's shanks a kick that
night she was seized with a cough.
So to horse again and a long jog back to Greenwich, where Dawson and I
would fain have rested the night (being unused to the saddle and very
raw with our journey), but the Don would not for prudence, and
therefore, after changing our clothes, we make a shift to mount once
more, and thence another long horrid jolt to Edmonton very painfully.
Coming to the Bell (more dead than alive) about eight, and pitch dark,
we were greatly surprised that we could make no one hear to take our
horses, and further, having turned the brutes into the stable ourselves,
to find never a soul in the common room or parlour, so that the place
seemed quite forsaken. But hearing a loud guffaw of laughter from below,
we go downstairs to the kitchen, which we could scarce enter for the
crowd in the doorway. And here all darkness, save for a sheet hung at
the further end, and lit from behind, on which a kind of phantasmagory
play of Jack and the Giant was being acted by shadow characters cut out
of paper, the performer being hid by a board that served as a stage for
the puppets. And who should this performer be but our Moll, as we knew
by her voice, and most admirably she did it, setting all in a roar one
minute with some merry joke, and enchanting 'em the next with a pretty
song for the maid in distress.
We learnt afterwards that Moll, who could never rest still two minutes
together, but must for ever be a-doing something new, had cut out her
images and devised the show to entertain the servants in the kitchen,
and that the guests above hearing their merriment had come down in time
to get the fag end, which pleased them so vastly that they would have
her play it all over again.
"This may undo us," says Don Sanchez, in a low voice of displeasure,
drawing us away. "Here are a dozen visitors who will presently be
examining Moll as a marvel. Who can say but that one of them may know
her again hereafter to our confusion? We must be seen together no more
than is necessary, until we are out of this country. I shall leave here
in the morning, and you will meet me next at the Turk, in Gracious
Street, to-morrow afternoon." Therewith he goes up to his room, leaving
us to shift for ourselves; and we into the parlour to warm our feet at
the fire till we may be served with some victuals, both very silent and
surly, being still sore, and as tired as any dogs with our day's
While we are in this mood, Moll, having finished her play, comes to us
in amazing high spirits, and all aglow with pleasure shows us a handful
of silver given her by the gentry; then, pulling up a chair betwixt us,
she asks us a dozen questions of a string as to where we have been, what
we have done, etc., since we left her. Getting no answer, she presently
stops, looks first at one, then at the other, and bursting into a fit of
laughter, cries: "Why, what ails you both to be so grumpy?"
"In the first place, Moll," says Jack, "I'll have you to know that I am
your father, and will not be spoken to save with becoming respect."
"Why, I did but ask you where you have been."
"Children of your age should not ask questions, but do as they're bid,
and there's an end of it."
"La, I'm not to ask any questions. Is there nothing else I am not to
"Yes; I'll not have you playing of Galimaufray to cook wenches and such
stuff. I'll have you behave with more decency. Take your feet off the
hearth, and put 'em under your chair. Let me have no more of these
galanty-shows. Why, 'twill be said I cannot give you a basin of
porridge, that you must go a-begging of sixpences like this!"
"Oh, if you begrudge me a little pocket-money," cries she, springing up
with the tears in her eyes, "I'll have none of it."
And with that she empties her pocket on the chair, and out roll her
sixpences together with a couple of silver spoons.
"What," cries Jack, after glancing round to see we were alone. "You have
filched a couple of spoons, Moll?"
"And why not?" asks she, her little nose turning quite white with
passion. "If I am to ask no questions, how shall I know but we may have
never a spoon to-morrow for your precious basin of porridge?"
_Of our journey through France to a very horrid pass in the Pyraneans._
Skipping over many unimportant particulars of our leaving Edmonton, of
our finding Don Sanchez at the Turk in Gracious Street, of our going
thence (the next day) to Gravesend, of our preparation there for voyage,
I come now to our embarking, the 10th March, in the Rose, for Bordeaux
in France. Nor shall I dwell long on that journey, neither, which was
exceedingly long and painful, by reason of our nearing the equinoctials,
which dashed us from our course to that degree that it was the 26th
before we reached our port and cast anchor in still water. And all those
days we were prostrated with sickness, and especially Jack Dawson,
because of his full habit, so that he declared he would rather ride
a-horseback to the end of the earth than go another mile on sea.
We stayed in Bordeaux, which is a noble town, but dirty, four days to
refresh ourselves, and here the Don lodged us in a fine inn and fed us
on the best; and also he made us buy new clothes and linen (which we
sadly needed after the pickle we had lain in a fortnight) and cast away
our old; but no more than was necessary, saying 'twould be better to
furnish ourselves with fresh linen as we needed it, than carry baggage,
etc. "And let all you buy be good goods," says he, "for in this country
a man is valued at what he seems, and the innkeepers do go in such fear
of their seigneurs that they will charge him less for entertainment than
if he were a mean fellow who could ill afford to pay."
So not to displease him we dressed ourselves in the French fashion, more
richly than ever we had been clad in our lives, and especially Moll did
profit by this occasion to furnish herself like any duchess; so that
Dawson and I drew lots to decide which of us should present the bill to
Don Sanchez, thinking he would certainly take exception to our
extravagance; but he did not so much as raise his eyebrows at the total,
but paid it without ever a glance at the items. Nay, when Moll presents
herself in her new equipment, he makes her a low reverence and pays her
a most handsome compliment, but in his serious humour and without a
smile. He himself wore a new suit all of black, not so fine as ours, but
very noble and becoming, by reason of his easy, graceful manner and his
majestic, high carriage.
On the last day of March we set forth for Toulouse. At our starting Don
Sanchez bade Moll ride by his side, and so we, not being bid, fell
behind; and, feeling awkward in our new clothes, we might very well have
been taken for their servants, or a pair of ill-bred friends at the
best, for our Moll carried herself not a whit less magnificent than the
Don, to the admiration of all who looked at her.
To see these grand airs of hers charmed Jack Dawson.
"You see, Kit," whispers he, "what an apt scholar the minx is, and what
an obedient, dutiful, good girl. One word from me is as good as six
months' schooling, for all this comes of that lecture I gave her the
last night we were at Edmonton."
I would not deny him the satisfaction of this belief, but I felt pretty
sure that had she been riding betwixt us in her old gown, instead of
beside the Don as his daughter, all her father's preaching would not
have stayed her from behaving herself like an orange wench.
We journey by easy stages ten days through Toulouse, on the road to
Perpignan, and being favoured with remarkably fine weather, a blue sky,
and a bright sun above us, and at every turn something strange or
beautiful to admire, no pleasure jaunt in the world could have been more
delightful. At every inn (which here they call hotels) we found good
beds, good food, excellent wine, and were treated like princes, so that
Dawson and I would gladly have given up our promise of a fortune to have
lived in this manner to the end of our days. But Don Sanchez professed
to hold all on this side of the Pyrenese Mountains in great contempt,
saying these hotels were as nothing to the Spanish posadas, that the
people here would rob you if they dared, whereas, on t'other side, not a
Spaniard would take so much as the hair of your horse's tail, though he
were at the last extremity, that the food was not fit for aught but a
Frenchman, and so forth. And our Moll, catching this humour, did also
turn up her nose at everything she was offered, and would send away a
bottle of wine from the table because 'twas not ripe enough, though but
a few weeks before she had been drinking penny ale with a relish, and
that as sour as verjuice. And, indeed, she did carry it mighty high and
artificial, wherever respect and humility were to be commanded. But it
was pretty to see how she would unbend and become her natural self where
her heart was touched by some tender sentiment. How she would empty her
pockets to give to any one with a piteous tale, how she would get from
her horse to pluck wild-flowers by the roadside, and how, one day,
overtaking a poor woman carrying a child painfully on her back, she must
have the little one up on her lap and carry it till we reached the
hamlet where the woman lived, etc. On the fifteenth day we stayed at St.
Denys, and going thence the next morning, had travelled but a couple of
hours when we were caught in a violent storm of hailstones as big as
peas, that was swept with incredible force by a wind rushing through a
deep ravine in the mountains, so that 'twas as much as we could make
headway through it and gain a village which lay but a little distance
from us. And here we were forced to stay all day by another storm of
rain, that followed the hail and continued till nightfall. Many others
besides ourselves were compelled to seek refuge at our inn, and amongst
them a company of Spanish muleteers, for it seems we were come to a pass
leading through the mountains into Spain. These were the first Spaniards
we had yet seen (save the Don), and for all we had heard to their
credit, we could not admire them greatly, being a low-browed,
coarse-featured, ragged crew, and more picturesque than cleanly, besides
stinking intolerably of garlic. By nightfall there was more company than
the inn could accommodate; nevertheless, in respect to our quality, we
were given the best rooms in the house to ourselves.
About eight o'clock, as we were about to sit down to supper, our
innkeeper's wife comes in to tell us that a Spanish grandee is below,
who has been travelling for hours in the storm, and then she asked very
humbly if our excellencies will permit her to lay him a bed in our room
when we have done with it, as she can bestow him nowhere else (the
muleteers filling her house to the very cock loft), and has not the
heart to send him on to St. Denys in this pitiless driving rain. To this
Don Sanchez replies, that a Spanish gentleman is welcome to all we can
offer him, and therewith sends down a mighty civil message, begging his
company at our table.
Moll has just time to whip on a piece of finery, and we to put on our
best manners, when the landlady returns, followed by a stout, robust
Spaniard, in an old coat several times too small for him, whom she
introduced as Senor Don Lopez de Calvados.
Don Lopez makes us a reverence, and then, with his shoulders up to his
ears and like gestures, gives us an harangue at some length, but this
being in Spanish, is as heathen Greek to our ears. However, Don Sanchez
explains that our visitor is excusing his appearance as being forced to
change his wet clothes for what the innkeeper can lend him, and so we,
grinning to express our amiability, all sit down to table and set
to--Moll with her most finicking, delicate airs and graces, and Dawson
and I silent as frogs, with understanding nothing of the Dons'
conversation. This, we learn from Don Sanchez after supper, has turned
chiefly on the best means of crossing into Spain, from which it appears
there are two passes through the mountains, both leading to the same
town, but one more circuitous than the other. Don Lopez has come by the
latter, because the former is used by the muleteers, who are not always
the most pleasant companions one can have in a dangerous road; and for
this reason he recommends us to take his way, especially as we have a
young lady with us, which will be the more practicable, as the same
guides who conducted him will be only too glad to serve us on their
return the next morning. To this proposition we very readily agree, and
supper being ended, Don Sanchez sends for the guides, two hardy
mountaineers, who very readily agree to take us this way the next
morning, if the weather permits. And so we all, wishing Don Lopez a
good-night, to our several chambers.
I was awoke in the middle of the night, as it seemed to me, by a great
commotion below of Spanish shouting and roaring with much jingling of
bells; and looking out of window I perceived lanterns hanging here and
there in the courtyard, and the muleteers packing their goods to depart,
with a fine clear sky full of stars overhead. And scarce had I turned
into my warm bed again, thanking God I was no muleteer, when in comes
the Don with a candle, to say the guide will have us moving at once if
we would reach Ravellos (our Spanish town) before night. So I to
Dawson's chamber, and he to Moll's, and in a little while we all
shivering down to the great kitchen, where is never a muleteer left, but
only a great stench of garlic, to eat a mess of soup, very hot and
comforting. And after that out into the dark (there being as yet but a
faint flush of green and primrose colour over towards the east), where
four fresh mules (which Don Sanchez overnight had bargained to exchange
against our horses, as being the only kind of cattle fit for this
service) are waiting for us with other two mules, belonging to our
guides, all very curiously trapped out with a network of wool and little
jingling bells. Then when Don Sanchez had solemnly debated whether we
should not awake Don Lopez to say farewell, and we had persuaded him
that it would be kinder to let him sleep on, we mounted into our high,
fantastic saddles, and set out towards the mountains, our guides
leading, and we following close upon their heels as our mules could get,
but by no guidance of ours, though we held the reins, for these
creatures are very sagacious and so pertinacious and opiniastre that I
believe though you pulled their heads off they would yet go their own
Our road at first lay across a rising plain, very wild and scrubby, as I
imagine, by the frequent deviations of our beast, and then through a
forest of cork oaks, which keep their leaves all the year through, and
here, by reason of the great shade, we went, not knowing whither, as if
blindfold, only we were conscious of being on rough, rising ground, by
the jolting of our mules and the clatter of their hoofs upon stones; but
after a wearisome, long spell of this business, the trees growing more
scattered and a thin grey light creeping through, we could make out that
we were all together, which was some comfort. From these oaks, we passed
into a wood of chestnuts, and still going up and up, but by such
devious, unseen ways, that I think no man, stranger to these parts,
could pick it out for himself in broad daylight, we came thence into a
great stretch of pine trees, with great rocks scattered amongst them, as
if some mountain had been blown up and fallen in a huge shower of
And so, still for ever toiling and scambling upwards, we found ourselves
about seven o'clock, as I should judge by the light beyond the trees and
upon the side of the mountain, with the whole champaign laid out like a
carpet under us on one side, prodigious slopes of rock on either hand,
with only a shrub or a twisted fir here and there, and on the further
side a horrid stark ravine with a cascade of water thundering down in
its midst, and a peak rising beyond, covered with snow, which glittered
in the sunlight like a monstrous heap of white salt.
After resting at this point half an hour to breathe our mules, the
guides got into their saddles, and we did likewise, and so on again
along the side of the ravine, only not of a cluster as heretofore, but
one behind the other in a long line, the mules falling into this order
of themselves as if they had travelled the path an hundred times; but
there was no means of going otherwise, the path being atrociously narrow
and steep, and only fit for wild goats, there being no landrail, coping,
or anything in the world to stay one from being hurled down a thousand
feet, and the mountain sides so inclined that 'twas a miracle the mules
could find foothold and keep their balance. From the bottom of the
ravine came a constant roar of falling water, though we could spy it
only now and then leaping down from one chasm to another; and more than
once our guides would cry to us to stop (and that where our mules had to
keep shifting their feet to get a hold) while some huge boulder,
loosened by the night's rain, flew down across our path in terrific
bounds from the heights above, making the very mountain tremble with the
shock. Not a word spoke we; nay, we had scarce courage at times to draw
breath, for two hours and more of this fearful passage, with no
encouragement from our guides save that one of them did coolly take out
a knife and peel an onion as though he had been on a level, broad road;
and then, reaching a flat space, we came to a stand again before an
ascent that promised to be worse than that we had done. Here we got
down, Moll clinging to our hands and looking around her with large,
"Shall we soon be there?" she asked.
And the Don, putting this question in Spanish to the guides, they
pointed upwards to a gap filled with snow, and answered that was the
highest point. This was some consolation, though we could not regard the
rugged way that lay betwixt us and that without quaking. Indeed, I
thought that even Don Sanchez, despite the calm, unmoved countenance he
ever kept, did look about him with a certain kind of uneasiness.
However, taking example from our guides, we unloosed our saddle bags,
and laid out our store of victuals with a hogskin of wine which
rekindled our spirits prodigiously.
While we were at this repast, our guides, starting as if they had caught
a sound (though we heard none save the horrid bursting of water), looked
down, and one of them, clapping two dirty fingers in his mouth, made a
shrill whistle. Then we, looking down, presently spied two mules far
below on the path we had come, but at such a distance that we could
scarce make out whether they were mounted or not.
"Who are they?" asks Don Sanchez, sternly, as I managed to understand.
"Friends," replies one of the fellows, with a grin that seemed to lay
his face in two halves.
_How we were entertained in the mountains, and stand in a fair way to
have our throats cut._
"We will go on when you are ready," says Don Sanchez, turning to us.
"Aye," growled Jack in my ear, "with all my heart. For if these friends
be of the same kidney as Don Lopez, we may be persuaded to take a better
road, which God forbid if this be a sample of their preference."
So being in our saddles forth we set once more and on a path no easier
than before, but worse--like a very housetop for steepness, without a
tinge of any living thing for succour if one fell, but only sharp,
jagged rocks, and that which now added to our peril was here and there a
patch of snow, so that the mules must cock their ears and feel their way
before advancing a step, now halting for dread, and now scuttling on
with their tails betwixt their legs as the stones rolled under them.
But the longest road hath an end, and so at length reaching that gap we
had seen from below, to our great content we beheld through an angle in
the mountain a tract of open country below, looking mighty green and
sweet in the distance. And at the sight of this, Moll clapt her hands
and cried out with joy; indeed, we were all as mad as children with the
thought that our task was half done. Only the Don kept his gravity. But
turning to Moll, he stretches out his hand towards the plain and says
with prodigious pride, "My country!"
And now we began the descent, which was actually more perilous than the
ascent, but we made light of it, being very much enlivened by the high
mountain air and the relief from dread uncertainty, shouting out our
reflections one to another as we jolted down the rugged path.
"After all, Jack," says I to him at the top of my voice, being in
advance and next to Don Sanchez; "after all, Don Lopez was not such a
bad friend to us."
Upon which, the Don, stopping his mule at the risk of being cast down
the abyss, turns in his saddle, and says:
"Fellow, Don Lopez is a Spaniard. A Castilian of noble birth--" but here
his mule deciding that this was no fit place for halting, bundled onward
at a trot to overtake the guides, and obliged his rider to turn his
attention to other matters.
By the look of the sun it must have been about two in the afternoon
when, rounding a great bluff of rock, we came upon a kind of tableland
which commanded a wide view of the plain below, most dazzling to our
eyes after the gloomy recesses of the pass; and here we found trees
growing and some rude attempt at cultivation, but all very poor and
stunted, being still very high and exposed to the bleak winds issuing
from the gorges.
Our guides, throwing themselves on the ground, repaired once more to
their store of onions, and we, nothing loath to follow their examples,
opened our saddle bags, and with our cold meat and the hogskin of wine
made another good repast and very merry. And the Don, falling into
discourse with the guides, pointed out to us a little white patch on the
plain below, and told us that was Ravellos, where we should find one of
the best posadas in the world, which added to our satisfaction. "But"
says he, "'tis yet four hours' march ere we reach it, so we had best be
Thereupon we finished our meal in haste, the guides still lying on the
ground eating onions, and when we were prepared to start they still lay
there and would not budge. On this ensued another discussion, very
indignant and passionate on the part of Don Sanchez, and as cool and
phlegmatic on the side of the guides, the upshot of which was, as we
learned from Don, that these rascals maintained they had fulfilled their
bargain in bringing us over into Spain, but as to carrying us to
Ravellos they would by no means do that without the permission of their
zefe, who was one of those they had whistled to from our last halting
place, and whom they were now staying for.
Then, beginning to quake a bit at the strangeness of this treatment, we
looked about us to see if we might venture to continue our journey
alone. But Lord! one might as easily have found a needle in a bundle of
hay as a path amidst this labyrinth of rocks and horrid fissures that
environed us; and this was so obvious that the guides, though not yet
paid for their service, made no attempt to follow or to stay us, as
knowing full well we must come back in despair. So there was no choice
but to wait the coming up of the zefe, the Don standing with his legs
astride and his arms folded, with a very storm of passion in his face,
in readiness to confront the tardy zefe with his reproaches for this
delay and the affront offered to himself, we casting our eye longingly
down at Ravellos, and the guides silently munching their onions. Thus we
waited until the fine ear of our guides catching a sound, they rose to
their feet muttering the word "zefe," and pull off their hats as two men
mounted on mules tricked out like our own, came round the corner and
pulled up before us. But what was our surprise to see that the foremost
of these fellows was none other than the Don Lopez de Calvados we had
entertained to supper the night before, and of whose noble family Don
Sanchez had been prating so highly, and not a thread better dressed than
when we saw him last, and full as dirty. That which gave us most
uneasiness, however, was to observe that each of these "friends" carried
an ugly kind of musket slung across his back, and a most unpleasant long
sheath knife in his waist cloth.
Not a word says our Don Sanchez, but feigning still to believe him a man
of quality, he returns the other Don's salutation with all the ceremony
possible. Then Don Lopez, smiling from ear to ear, begs us (as I learnt
afterwards) to pardon him for keeping us waiting, which had not
happened, he assures us, if we had not suffered him to oversleep
himself. He then informs us that we are now upon his domain, and begs us
to accept such hospitality as his Castillo will furnish, in return for
our entertainment of last night. To this Don Sanchez replies with a
thousand thanks that we are anxious to reach Ravellos before nightfall,
and that, therefore, we will be going at once if it is all the same to
him. With more bowing and scraping Don Lopez amiably but firmly declines
to accept any refusal of his offer or to talk of business before his
debt of gratitude is paid. With that he gives a sign to our guides, who
at once lead off our mules at a brisk trot, leaving us to follow on foot
with Don Lopez and his companion, whom he introduces as Don Ruiz del
Puerto,--as arrant a cut-throat rascal to look at as ever I clapt eyes
So we with very dismal forebodings trudge on, having no other course to
take, Don Sanchez, to make the best of it, warranting that no harm shall
come to us while we are under the hospitable protection of a Spaniard,
but to no great effect--our faith being already shaken in his valuation
Quitting the tableland, ten minutes of leaping and scrambling brought us
to a collection of miserable huts built all higgledy-piggledy along the
edge of a torrent, overtopped by a square building of more consequence,
built of grey stone and roofed with slate shingles, but with nothing but
ill-shaped holes for windows; and this, Don Lopez with some pride told
us was his castillo. A ragged crew of women and children, apprised of
our coming by the guide, maybe, trooped out of the village to meet us
and hailed our approach with shouts of joy, "for all the world like a
pack of hounds at the sight of their keeper with a dish of bones,"
whispers Jack Dawson in my ear ominously. But it was curious to see how
they did all fall back in two lines, those that had hats taking them off
as Don Lopez passed, he bowing to them right and left, like any prince
in his progress.
So we up to the castillo, where all the men of the village are assembled
and all armed like Don Lopez, and they greet us with cries of "Hola!"
and throwing up of hats. They making way for us with salutations on both
sides, we enter the castillo, where we find one great ill-paved room
with a step-ladder on one side leading to the floor above, but no
furniture save a table and some benches of wood, all black and shining
with grease and dirt. But indeed the walls, the ceiling, and all else
about us was beyond everything for blackness, and this was easily to be
understood, for a wench coming in with a cauldron lights a faggot of
wood in a corner, where was no chimney to carry off the smoke, but only
a hole in the wall with a kind of eaves over it, so that presently the
place was so filled with the fumes 'twas difficult to see across it.
Don Lopez (always as gracious as a cat with a milkmaid) asks Moll
through Don Sanchez if she would like to make her toilette, while dinner
is preparing, and at this offer all of us jump--choosing anything for a
change; so he takes us up the step-ladder to the floor above, which
differs from that below in being cut up into half a dozen pieces by some
low partition of planks nailed loosely together like cribs for cattle,
with some litter of dry leaves and hay in each, but in other respects
being just as naked and grimy, with a cloud of smoke coming up through
the chinks in the floor.
"You will have the sole use of these chambers during your stay," says
Don Lopez, "and for your better assurance you can draw the ladder up
after you on retiring for the night."
But for the gravity of our situation and prospects I could have burst
out laughing when Don Sanchez gave us the translation of this promise,
for the idea of regarding these pens as chambers was not less ludicrous
than the air of pride with which Don Lopez bestowed the privilege of
using 'em upon us.
Don Lopez left us, promising to send a maid with the necessary
appointments for Moll's toilette.
"A plague of all this finery!" growled Dawson. "How long may it be,
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