H. Rider Haggard
Part 3 out of 6
About the time that Margaret and Betty were being rowed aboard the _San
Antonio_, Peter Brome and his servants, who had been delayed an hour or
more by the muddy state of the roads, pulled rein at the door of the
house in Holborn. For over a month he had been dreaming of this moment
of return, as a man does who expects such a welcome as he knew awaited
him, and who on the morrow was to be wed to a lovely and beloved bride.
He had thought how Margaret would be watching at the window, how, spying
him advancing down the street, she would speed to the door, how he would
leap from his horse and take her to his arms in front of every one if
need be--for why should they be ashamed who were to be wed upon
But there was no Margaret at the window, or at any rate he could not see
her, for it was dark. There was not even a light; indeed the whole face
of the old house seemed to frown at him through the gloom. Still, Peter
played his part according to the plan; that is, he leapt from his horse,
ran to the door and tried to enter, but could not for it was locked, so
he hammered on it with the handle of his sword, till at length some one
came and unbolted. It was the hired man with whom Margaret had left the
letter, and he held a lantern in his hand.
The sight of him frightened Peter, striking a chill to his heart.
"Who are you?" he asked; then, without waiting for an answer, went on,
"Where are Master Castell and Mistress Margaret?"
The man answered that the master was not yet back from his ship, and
that the Lady Margaret had gone out nearly three hours before with her
cousin Betty and a sailor--all of them on horseback.
"She must have ridden to meet me, and missed us in the dark," said Peter
aloud, whereon the man asked whether he spoke to Master Brome, since, if
so, he had a letter for him.
"Yes," answered Peter, and snatched it from his hand, bidding him close
the door and hold up the lantern while he read, for he could see that
the writing was that of Margaret.
"A strange story," he muttered, as he finished it. "Well, I must away,"
And he turned to the door again.
As he stretched out his hand to the key, it opened, and through it came
Castell, as sound as ever he had been.
"Welcome, Peter!" he cried in a jolly voice. "I knew you were here, for
I saw the horses; but why are you not with Margaret?"
"Because Margaret has gone to be with you, who should be hurt almost to
death, or so says this letter"
"To be with me--hurt to the death! Give it me--nay, read it, I cannot
So Peter read.
"I scent a plot," said Castell in a strained voice as he finished, "and
I think that hound of a Spaniard is at the bottom of it, or Betty, or
both. Here, you fellow, tell us what you know, and be swift if you would
keep a sound skin.
"That would I, why not?" answered the man, and told all the tale of the
coming of the sailor.
"Go, bid the men bring back the horses, all of them," said Castell
almost before he had done; "and, Peter, look not so dazed, but come,
drink a cup of wine. We shall need it, both of us, before this night is
over. What! is there never a fellow of all my servants in the house?" So
he shouted till his folk, who had returned with him from the ship, came
running from the kitchen.
He bade them bring food and liquor, and while they gulped down the wine,
for they could not eat, Castell told how their Mistress Margaret had
been tricked away, and must be followed. Then, hearing the horses being
led back from the stables, they ran to the door and mounted, and,
followed by their men, a dozen or more of them, in all, galloped off
into the darkness, taking another road for Tilbury, that by which
Margaret went, not because they were sure of this, but because it was
But the horses were tired, and the night was dark and rainy, so it came
about that the clock of some church struck three of the morning before
ever they drew near to Tilbury. Now they were passing the little quay
where Margaret and Betty had entered the boat, Castell and Peter riding
side by side ahead of the others in stern silence, for they had nothing
to say, when a familiar voice hailed them--that of Thomas the groom.
"I saw your horses' heads against the sky," he explained, "and knew
"Where is your mistress?" they asked both in a breath.
"Gone, gone with Betty Dene in a boat, from this quay, to be rowed to
the _Margaret_, or so I thought. Having stabled the horses as I was
bidden, I came back here to await them. But that was hours ago, and I
have seen no soul, and heard nothing except the wind and the water, till
I heard the galloping of your horses."
"On to Tilbury, and get boats," said Castell. "We must catch the
_Margaret_ ere she sails at dawn. Perhaps the women are aboard of her."
"If so, I think Spaniards took them there, for I am sure they were not
English in that craft," said Thomas, as he ran by the side of Castell's
horse, holding to the stirrup leather.
His master made no answer, only Peter groaned aloud, for he too was sure
that they were Spaniards.
An hour later, just as the dawn broke, they with their men climbed to
the deck of the _Margaret_ while she was hauling up her anchor. A few
words with her captain, Jacob Smith, told them the worst. No boat had
left the ship, no Margaret had come aboard her. But some six hours
before they had watched the Spanish vessel, _San Antonio_, that had been
berthed above them, pass down the river. Moreover, two watermen in a
skiff, who brought them fresh meat, had told them that while they were
delivering three sheep and some fowls to the _San Antonio_, just before
she sailed, they had seen two tall women helped up her ladder, and
heard one of them say in English, "Lead me to my father."
Now they knew all the awful truth, and stared at each other like dumb
It was Peter who found his tongue the first, and said slowly:
"I must away to Spain to find my bride, if she still lives, and to kill
that fox. Get you home, Master Castell."
"My home is where my daughter is," answered Castell fiercely. "I go
"There is danger for you in that land of Spaniards, if ever we get
yonder," said Peter meaningly.
"If it were the mouth of hell, still I would go," replied Castell. "Why
should I not who seek a devil?"
"That we do both," said Peter, and stretching out his hand he took that
of Castell. It was the pledge of the father and the lover to follow her
who was all to them, till death stayed their quest.
Castell thought a little while, then gave orders that all the crew
should be called together on deck in the waist of the ship, which was a
carack of about two hundred tons burden, round fashioned, and sitting
deep in the water, but very strongly built of oak, and a swift sailer.
When they were gathered, and with them the officers and their own
servants, accompanied by Peter, he went and addressed them just as the
sun was rising. In few and earnest words he told them of the great
outrage that had been done, and how it was his purpose and that of Peter
Brome who had been wickedly robbed of the maid who this day should have
become his wife, to follow the thieves across the sea to Spain, in the
hope that by the help of God, they might rescue Margaret and Betty. He
added that he knew well this was a service of danger, since it might
chance that there would be fighting, and he was loth to ask any man to
risk life or limb against his will, especially as they came out to trade
and not to fight. Still, to those who chose to accompany them, should
they win through safely, he promised double wage, and a present charged
upon his estate, and would give them writings to that effect. As for
those who did not, they could leave the ship now before she sailed.
When he had finished, the sailormen, of whom there were about thirty,
with the stout-hearted captain, Jacob Smith, a sturdy-built man of fifty
years of age, at the head of them, conferred together, and at last, with
one exception--that of a young new-married man, whose heart failed
him--they accepted the offer, swearing that they would see the thing
through to the end, were it good or ill, for they were all Englishmen,
and no lovers of the Spaniards. Moreover, so bitter a wrong stirred
their blood. Indeed, although for the most part they were not sailors,
six of the twelve men who had ridden with them from London prayed that
they might come too, for the love they had to Margaret, their master,
and Peter; and they took them. The other six they sent ashore again,
bearing letters to Castell's friends, agents, and reeves, as to the
transfer of his business and the care of his lands, houses, and other
properties during his absence. Also, they took a short will duly signed
by Castell and witnessed, wherein he left all his goods of whatever
sort that remained unsettled or undevised, to Margaret and Peter, or
the survivor of them, or their heirs, or failing these, for the purpose
of founding a hospital for the poor. Then these men bade them farewel
and departed, very heavy at heart, just as the anchor was hauled home,
and the sails began to draw in the stiff morning breeze.
About ten o'clock they rounded the Nore bank safely, and here spoke a
fishing-boat, who told them that more than six hours before they had
seen the _San Antonio_ sail past them down Channel, and noted two women
standing on her deck, holding each other's hands and gazing shorewards.
Then, knowing that there was no mistake, there being nothing more that
they could do, worn out with grief and journeying, they ate some food
and went to their cabin to sleep.
As he laid him down Peter remembered that at this very hour he should
have been in church taking Margaret as his bride--Margaret, who was now
in the power of the Spaniard--and swore a great and bitter oath that
d'Aguilar should pay him back for all this shame and agony. Indeed,
could his enemy have seen the look on Peter's face he might well have
been afraid, for this Peter was an ill man to cross, and had no
forgiving heart; also, his wrong was deep.
For four days the wind held, and they ran down Channel before it, hoping
to catch sight of the Spaniard; but the _San Antonio_ was a swift
caravel of 250 tons with much canvas, for she carried four masts, and
although the _Margaret_ was also a good sailer, she had but two masts,
and could not come up with her. Or, for anything they knew, they might
have missed her on the seas. On the afternoon of the fourth day, when
they were off the Lizard, and creeping along very slowly under a light
breeze, the look-out man reported a ship lying becalmed ahead. Peter,
who had the eyes of a hawk, climbed up the mast to look at her, and
presently called down that he believed from her shape and rig she must
be the caravel, though of this he could not be sure as he had never seen
her. Then the captain, Smith, went up also, and a few minutes later
returned saying that without doubt it was the _San Antonio._
Now there was a great and joyful stir on board the _Margaret_, every man
seeing to his sword and their long or cross bows, of which there were
plenty, although they had no bombards or cannon, that as yet were rare
on merchant ships. Their plan was to run alongside the _San Antonio_ and
board her, for thus they hoped to recover Margaret. As for the anger of
the king, which might well fall on them for this deed, since he would
think little of the stealing of a pair of Englishwomen, of that they
must take their chance.
Within half an hour everything was ready, and Peter, pacing to and fro,
looked happier than he had done since he rode away to Dedham. The light
breeze still held, although, if it reached the _San Antonio_, it did not
seem to move her, and, with the help of it, by degrees they came to
within half a mile of the caravel. Then the wind dropped altogether, and
there the two ships lay. Still the set of the tide, or some current,
seemed to be drawing them towards each other, so that when the night
closed in they were not more than four hundred paces apart, and the
Englishmen had great hopes that before morning they would close, and be
able to board by the light of the moon.
But this was not to be, since about nine o'clock thick clouds rose up
which covered the heavens, while with the clouds came strong winds
blowing off the land, and, when at length the dawn broke, all they could
see of the _San Antonio_ was her topmasts as she rose upon the seas,
flying southwards swiftly. This, indeed, was the last sight they had of
her for two long weeks.
From Ushant all across the Bay the airs were very light and variable,
but when at length they came off Finisterre a gale sprang up from the
north-east which drove them forward very fast. It was on the second
night of this gale, as the sun set, that, running out of some mist and
rain, suddenly they saw the _San Antonio_ not a mile away, and rejoiced,
for now they knew that she had not made for any port in the north of
Spain, as, although she was bound for Cadiz, they feared she might have
done to trick them. Then the rain came on again, and they saw her
All down the coast of Portugal the weather grew more heavy day by day,
and when they reached St. Vincent's Cape and bore round for Cadiz, it
blew a great gale. Now it was that for the third time they viewed the
_San Antonio_ labouring ahead of them, nor, except at night, did they
lose sight of her any more until the end of that voyage. Indeed, on the
next day they nearly came up with her, for she tried to beat in to
Cadiz, but, losing one of her masts in a fierce squall, and seeing that
the _Margaret_, which sailed better in this tempest, would soon be
aboard of her, abandoned her plan, and ran for the Straits of Gibraltar.
Past Tarifa Point they went, having the coast of Africa on their
right; past the bay of Algegiras, where the _San Antonio_ did not try to
harbour; past Gibraltar's grey old rock, where the signal fires were
burning, and so at nightfall, with not a mile between them, out into the
Here the gale was furious, so that they could scarcely carry a rag of
canvas, and before morning lost one of their topmasts. It was an anxious
night, for they knew not if they would live through it; moreover, the
hearts of Castell and of Peter were torn with fear lest the Spaniard
should founder and take Margaret with her to the bottom of the sea. When
at length the wild, stormy dawn broke, however, they saw her, apparently
in an evil case, labouring away upon their starboard bow, and by noon
came to within a furlong of her, so that they could see the sailors
crawling about on her high poop and stern. Yes, and they saw more than
this, for presently two women ran from some cabin waving a white cloth
to them; then were hustled back, whereby they learned that Margaret and
Betty still lived and knew that they followed, and thanked God.
Presently, also, there was a flash, and, before ever they heard the
report, a great iron bullet fell upon their decks and, rebounding,
struck a sailor, who stood by Peter, on the breast, and dashed him away
into the sea. The _San Antonio_ had fired the bombard which she carried,
but as no more shots came they judged that the cannon had broke its
lashings or burst.
A while after the _San Antonio_, two of whose masts were gone, tried to
put about and run for Malaga, which they could see far away beneath the
snow-capped mountains of the Sierra. But this the Spaniard could not
do, for while she hung in the wind the _Margaret_ came right atop of
her, and as her men laboured at the sails, every one of the Englishmen
who could be spared, under the command of Peter, let loose on them with
their long shafts and crossbows, and, though the heaving deck of the
_Margaret_ was no good platform, and the wind bent the arrows from their
line, they killed and wounded eight or ten of them, causing them to
loose the ropes so that the _San Antonio_ swung round into the gale
again. On the high tower of the caravel, his arm round the sternmost
mast, stood d'Aguilar, shouting commands to his crew. Peter fitted an
arrow to his string and, waiting until the _Margaret_ was poised for a
moment on the crest of a great sea, aimed and loosed, making allowance
for the wind.
True to line sped that shaft of his, yet, alas! a span too high, for
when a moment later d'Aguilar leapt from the mast, the arrow quivered in
its wood, and pinned to it was the velvet cap he wore. Peter ground his
teeth in rage and disappointment; almost he could have wept, for the
vessels swung apart again, and his chance was gone.
"Five times out of seven," he said bitterly, "can; I send a shaft
through a bull's ring at fifty paces to, win a village badge, and now I
cannot hit a man to save my love from shame. Surely God has
Through all that afternoon they held on, shooting with their bows
whenever a Spaniard showed himself, and being shot at in return, though
little damage was done to either side. But this they noted--that the
_San Antonio_ had sprung a leak in the gale, for she was sinking deeper
in the water. The Spaniards knew it also, and, being aware that they
must either run ashore or founder, for the second time put about, and,
under the rain of English arrows, came right across the bows of the
_Margaret_, heading for the little bay of Calahonda, that is the port of
Motril, for here the shore was not much more than a league away.
"Now," said Jacob Smith, the captain of the _Margaret_, who stood under
the shelter of the bulwarks with Castell and Peter, "up that bay lies a
Spanish town. I know it, for I have anchored there, and if once the _San
Antonio_ reaches it, good-bye to our lady, for they will take her to
Granada, not thirty miles away across the mountains, where this Marquis
of Morella is a mighty man, for there is his palace. Say then, master,
what shall we do? In five more minutes the Spaniard will be across our
bows again. Shall we run her down, which will be easy, and take our
chance of picking up the women, or shall we let them be taken captive to
Granada and give up the chase?"
"Never," said Peter. "There is another thing that we can do--follow them
into the bay, and attack them there on shore."
"To find ourselves among hundreds of the Spaniards, and have our throats
cut," answered Smith, the captain, coolly.
"If we ran them down," asked Castell, who had been thinking deeply all
this while, "should we not sink also?"
"It might be so," answered Smith; "but we are built of English oak, and
very stout forward, and I think not. But she would sink at once, being
near to it already, and the odds are that the women are locked in the
cabin or between decks out of reach of the arrows, and must go
"There is another plan," said Peter sternly, "and that is to grapple
with her and board her, and this I will do."
The captain, a stout man with a flat face that never changed, lifted his
eyebrows, which was his only way of showing surprise.
"What!" he said. "In this sea? I have fought in some wars, but never
have I known such a thing."
"Then, friend, you shall know it now, if I can but find a dozen men to
follow me," answered Peter with a savage laugh. "What? Shall I see my
mistress carried off before my eyes and strike no blow to save her?
Rather will I trust in God and do it, and if I die, then die I must, as
a man should. There is no other way."
Then he turned and called in a loud voice to those who stood around or
loosed arrows at the Spaniard:
"Who will come with me aboard yonder ship? Those who live shall spend
their days in ease thereafter, that I promise, and those who fall will
win great fame and Heaven's glory."
The crew looked at the waves running hill high, and the water-logged
Spaniard labouring in the trough of them as she came round slowly in a
wide circle, very doubtfully, as well they might, and made no answer.
Then Peter spoke again.
"There is no choice," he said. "If we give that ship our stem we can
sink her, but then how will the women be saved? If we leave her alone,
mayhap she will founder, and then how will the women be saved? Or she
may win ashore, and they will be carried away to Granada, and how can we
snatch them out of the hand of the Moors or of the power of Spain? But
if we can take the ship, we may rescue them before they go down or reach
land. Will none back me at this inch?"
"Aye, son," said old Castell, "I will."
Peter stared at him in surprise. "You--at your years!" he said.
"Yes, at my years. Why not? I have the fewer to risk."
Then, as though he were ashamed of his doubts, one brawny sailorman
stepped forward and said that he was ready for a cut at the Spanish
thieves in foul weather as in fair. Next all Castell's household
servants came out in a body for love of him and Peter and their lady,
and after them more sailors, till nearly half of those aboard, something
over twenty in all, declared that they were ready for the venture,
wherein Peter cried, "Enough." Smith would have come also; but Castell
said No, he must stop with the ship.
Then, while the carack's head was laid so as to cut the path of the _San
Antonio_ circling round them slowly like a wounded swan, and the
boarders made ready their swords and knives, for here archery would not
avail them, Castell gave some orders to the captain. He bade him, if
they were cut down or taken, to put about and run for Seville, and there
deliver over the ship and her cargo to his partners and correspondents,
praying them in his name to do their best by means of gold, for which
the sale value of the vessel and her goods should be chargeable, or
otherwise, to procure the release of Margaret and Betty, if they still
lived, and to bring d'Aguilar, the Marquis of Morella, to account for
his crime. This done, he called to one of his servants to buckle on him
a light steel breastplate from the ship's stores. But Peter would wear
no iron because it was too heavy, only an archer's jerkin of bull-hide,
stout enough to turn a sword-cut, such as the other boarders put on also
with steel caps, of both of which they had a plenty in the cabin.
Now the _San Antonio_, having come round, was steering for the mouth of
the bay in such fashion that she would pass them within fifty yards.
Hoisting a small sail to give his ship way, the captain, Smith, took the
helm of the _Margaret_ and steered straight at her so as to cut her
path, while the boarders, headed by Peter and Castell, gathered near the
bowsprit, lay down there under shelter of the bulwarks, and waited.
THE MEETING ON THE SEA
For another minute or more the _San Antonio_ held on until she divined
the desperate purpose of her foe. Then, seeing that soon the carack's
prow must crash into her frail side, she shifted her helm and came round
several points, so that in the end the _Margaret_ ran, not into her, but
alongside of her, grinding against her planking, and shearing away a
great length of her bulwark. For a few seconds they hung together thus,
and, before the seas bore them apart, grapnels were thrown from the
_Margaret_ whereof one forward got hold and brought them bow to bow.
Thus the end of the bowsprit of the _Margaret_ projected over the high
deck of the _San Antonio_.
"Now for it," said Peter. "Follow me, all." And springing up, he ran to
the bowsprit and began to swarm along it.
It was a fearful task. One moment the great seas lifted him high into
the air, and the next down he came again till the massive spar crashed
on to the deck of the _San Antonio_ with such a shock that he nearly
flew from it like a stone from a sling. Yet he hung on, and, biding his
chance, seized a broken stay-rope that dangled from the end of the
bowsprit like a lash from a whip, and began to slide down it. The gale
caught him and blew him to and fro; the vessel, pitching wildly, jerked
him into the air; the deck of the _San Antonio_ rose up and receded like
a thing alive. It was near--not a dozen feet beneath him--and loosing
his hold he fell upon the forward tower without being hurt then, gaining
his feet, ran to the broken mast and flinging his left arm about it,
with the other drew his sword.
Next instant--how, he never knew--Castell was at his side, and after him
came two more men, but one of these rolled from the deck into the sea
and was lost. As he vanished, the chain of the grappling iron parted,
and the _Margaret_ swung away from them, leaving those three alone in
the power of their foes, nor, do what she would, could she make fast
again. As yet, however, there were no Spaniards to be seen, for the
reason that none had dared to stand upon this high tower whereof the
bulwarks were all gone, while the bowsprit of the _Margaret_ crashed
down upon it like a giant's club, and, as she rolled, swept it with
So there they stood, clinging to the mast and waiting for the end, for
now their friends were a hundred yards away, and they knew that their
case was desperate. A shower of arrows came, loosed from other parts of
the ship, and one of these struck the man with them through the throat,
so that he fell to the deck clasping at it, and presently rolled into
the sea also. Another pierced Castell through his right forearm, causing
his sword to drop and slide away from him. Peter seized the arrow,
snapped it in two, and drew it out; but Castell's right arm was now
helpless, and with his left he could do no more than cling to the
"We have done our best, son," he said, "and failed. Margaret will learn
that we would have saved her if we could, but we shall not meet
Peter ground his teeth, and looked about him desperately, for he had no
words to say. What should he do? Leave Castell and rush for the waist of
the ship and so perish, or stay and die there? Nay, he would not be
butchered like a bird on a bough, he would fall fighting.
"Farewell," he called through the gale. "God rest our souls!" Then,
waiting till the ship steadied herself, he ran aft, and reaching the
ladder that led to her tower, staggered down it to the waist of the
vessel, and at its foot halted, holding to the rail.
The scene before him was strange enough, for there, ranged round the
bulwarks, were the Spanish men, who watched him curiously, whilst a few
paces away, resting against the mast, stood d'Aguilar, who lifted his
hand, in which there was no weapon, and addressed him.
"Seņor Brome," he shouted, "do not move another step or you are a dead
man. Listen to me first, and then do what you will. Am I safe from your
sword while I speak?"
Peter nodded his head in assent, and d'Aguilar drew nearer, for even in
that more sheltered place it was hard to hear because of the howling of
"Seņor," he said to Peter, "you are a very brave man, and have done a
deed such as none of us have seen before; therefore, I wish to spare you
if I may. Also, I have worked you bitter wrong, driven to it by the
might of love and jealousy, for which reason also I wish to spare you.
To set upon you now would be but murder, and, whatever else I do, I will
not murder. First, let me ease your mind. Your lady and mine is aboard
here; but fear not, she has come and will come to no harm from me, or
from any man while I live. If for no other reason, I do not desire to
affront one who, I hope, will be my wife by her own free will, and whom
I have brought to Spain that she might not make this impossible by
becoming yours. Seņor, believe me, I would no more force a woman's will
than I would do murder on her lover."
"What did you, then, when you snatched her from her home by some foul
trick?" asked Peter fiercely.
"Seņor, I did wrong to her and all of you, for which I would make
"What amends? Will you give her back to me?"
"No, that I cannot do, even if she should wish it, of which I am not
sure; no--never while I live."
"Bring her forth, and let us hear whether she wishes it or no," shouted
Peter, hoping that his words would reach Margaret.
But d'Aguilar only smiled and shook his head, then went on:
"That I cannot either, for it would give her pain. Still, Seņor, I will
repay the heavy debt that I owe to you, and to you also, Seņor." And he
bowed towards Castell who, unseen by Peter, had crept down the ladder,
and now stood behind him staring at d'Aguilar with cold rage and
indignation. "You have wrought us much damage, have you not? hunting us
across the seas, and killing sundry of us with your arrows, and now you
have striven to board our ship and put us to the sword, a design in
which God has frustrated you. Therefore your lives are justly forfeit,
and none would blame us if we slew you. Yet I spare you both. If it is
possible I will put you back aboard the _Margaret_, and if it is not
possible you shall be set free ashore to go unmolested whither you will.
Thus I will wipe out my debt and be free of all reproach."
"Do you take me for such a man as yourself?" asked Peter, with a bitter
laugh. "I do not leave this ship alive unless my affianced wife,
Mistress Margaret, goes with me."
"Then, Seņor Brome, I fear that you will leave it dead, as indeed we may
all of us, unless we make land soon, for the vessel is filling fast with
water. Still, knowing your metal, I looked for some such words from you,
and am prepared with another offer which I am sure you will not refuse.
Seņor, our swords are much of the same length, shall we measure them
against each other? I am a grandee of Spain, the Marquis of Morella, and
it will, therefore, be no dishonour for you to fight with me."
"I am not so sure," said Peter, "for I am more than that--an honest man
of England, who never practised woman-stealing. Still, I will fight you
gladly, at sea or on shore, wherever and whenever we meet, till one or
both are dead. But what is the stake, and how do I know that some of
these," and he pointed to the crew, who were listening intently, "will
not stab me from behind?"
"Seņor, I have told you that I do not murder, and that would be the
foulest murder. As for the stake, it is Margaret to the victor. If you
kill me, on behalf of all my company, I swear by our Saviour's Blood
that you shall depart with her and her father unharmed, and if I kill
you, then you both shall swear that she shall be left with me, and no
suit or question raised but to her woman I give liberty, who have seen
more than enough of her."
"Nay," broke in Castell, speaking for the first time "I demand the right
to fight with you also when my arm is healed."
"I refuse it," answered d'Aguilar haughtily. "I cannot lift my sword
against an old man who is the father of the maid who shall be my wife,
and, moreover, a merchant and a Jew. Nay, answer me not, lest all these
should remember your ill words. I will be generous, and leave you out of
the oath. Do your worst against me, Master Castell, and then leave me to
do my worst against you. Seņor Brome, the light grows bad, and the water
gains upon us. Say, are you ready?"
Peter nodded his head, and they stepped forward.
"One more word," said d'Aguilar, dropping his sword-point. "My friends,
you have heard our compact. Do you swear to abide by it, and, if I fall,
to set these two men and the two ladies free on their own ship or on the
land, for the honour of chivalry and of Spain?"
The captain of the _San Antonio_ and his lieutenants answered that they
swore on behalf of all the crew.
"You hear, Seņor Brome. Now these are the conditions--that we fight to
the death, but, if both of us should be hurt or wounded, so that we
cannot despatch each other, then no further harm shall be done to either
of us, who shall be tended till we recover or die by the will of God."
"You mean that we must die on each other's swords or not at all, and if
any foul chance should overtake either, other than by his adversary's
hand, that adversary shall not dispatch him?"
"Yes, Seņor, for in our case such things may happen," and he pointed to
the huge seas that towered over them, threatening to engulf the
water-logged caravel. "We will take no advantage of each other, who wish
to fight this quarrel out with our own right arms."
"So be it," said Peter, "and Master Castell here is the witness to our
D'Aguilar nodded, kissed the cross-hilt of his sword in confirmation of
the pact, bowed courteously, and put himself on his defence.
For a moment they stood facing each other, a well-matched pair--Peter,
lean, fierce-faced, long-armed, a terrible man to see in the fiery light
that broke upon him from beneath the edge of a black cloud; the Spaniard
tall also, and agile, but to all appearance as unconcerned as though
this were but a pleasure bout, and not a duel to the death with a
woman's fate hanging on the hazard. D'Aguilar wore a breastplate of
gold-inlaid black steel and a helmet, while Peter had but his tunic of
bull's hide and iron-lined cap, though his straight cut-and-thrust sword
was heavier and mayhap half an inch longer than that of his foe.
Thus, then, they stood while Castell and all the ship's company, save
the helmsman who steered her to the harbour's mouth, clung to the
bulwarks and the cordage of the mainmast, and, forgetful of their own
peril, watched in utter silence.
It was Peter who thrust the first, straight at the throat, but d'Aguilar
parried deftly, so that the sword point went past his neck, and before
it could be drawn back again, struck at Peter. The blow fell upon the
side of his steel cap, and glanced thence to his left shoulder, but,
being light, did him no harm. Swiftly came the answer, which was not
light, for it fell so heavily upon d'Aguilar's breastplate, that he
staggered back. After him sprang Peter, thinking that the game was his,
but at that moment the ship, which had entered the breakers of the
harbour bar, rolled terribly, and sent them both reeling to the
bulwarks. Nor did she cease her rolling, so that, smiting and thrusting
wildly, they staggered backwards and forwards across the deck, gripping
with their left hands at anything they could find to steady them, till
at length, bruised and breathless, they fell apart unwounded, and
"An ill field this to fight on, Seņor," gasped d'Aguilar.
"I think that it will serve our turn," said Peter grimly, and rushed at
him like a bull. It was just then that a great sea came aboard the ship,
a mass of green water which struck them both and washed them like straws
into the scuppers, where they rolled half drowned. Peter rose the first,
coughing out salt water, and rubbing it from his eyes, to see d'Aguilar
still upon the deck, his sword lying beside him, and holding his right
wrist with his left hand.
"Who gave you the hurt?" he asked, "I or your fall?"
"The fall, Seņor," answered d'Aguilar; "I think that it has broken my
wrist. But I have still my left hand. Suffer me to arise, and we will
finish this fray."
As the words passed his lips a gust of wind, more furious than any that
had gone before, concentrated as it was through a gorge in the
mountains, struck the caravel at the very mouth of the harbour, and laid
her over on her beam ends. For a while it seemed as though she must
capsize and sink, till suddenly her mainmast snapped like a stick and
went overboard, when, relieved of its weight, by slow degrees she
righted herself. Down upon the deck came the cross yard, one end of it
crashing through the roof of the cabin in which Margaret and Betty were
confined, splitting it in two, while a block attached to the other fell
upon the side of Peter's head and, glancing from the steel cap, struck
him on the neck and shoulder, hurling him senseless to the deck, where,
still grasping his sword, he lay with arms outstretched.
Out of the ruin of the cabin appeared Margaret and Betty, the former
very pale and frightened, and the latter muttering prayers, but, as it
chanced, both uninjured. Clinging to the tangled ropes they crept
forward, seeking refuge in the waist of the ship, for the heavy spar
still worked and rolled above them, resting on the wreck of the cabin
and the bulwarks, whence presently it slid into the sea. By the stump of
the broken mainmast they halted, their long locks streaming in the gale,
and here it was that Margaret caught sight of Peter lying upon his back,
his face red with blood, and sliding to and fro as the vessel rolled.
She could not speak, but in mute appeal pointed first to him and then to
d'Aguilar, who stood near, remembering as she did so her vision in the
house at Holborn, which was thus terribly fulfilled. Holding to a rope,
d'Aguilar drew near to her and spoke into her ear. "Lady," he said,
"this is no deed of mine. We were fighting a fair fight, for he had
boarded the ship when the mast fell and killed him. Blame me not for his
death, but seek comfort from God."
She heard, and, looking round her wildly, perceived her father
struggling towards her; then, with a bitter cry, fell senseless on
The night came down swiftly, for a great stormcloud, in which jagged
lightning played, blotted out the last rays of the sunk sun. Then, with
rolling thunder and torrents of rain, the tempest burst over the sinking
ship. The mariners could no longer see to steer, they knew not whither
they were going, only the lessened seas told them that they had entered
the harbour mouth. Presently the _San Antonio_ struck upon a rock, and
the shock of it threw Castell, who was bending over the senseless shape
of Margaret, against the bulwarks and dazed him.
There arose a great cry of "The vessel founders!" and water seemed to be
pouring on the deck, though whether this were from the sea or from the
deluge of the falling rain he did not know. Then came another cry of
"Get out the boat, or we perish!" and a sound of men working in the
darkness. The ship swung round and round and settled down. There was a
flash of lightning, and by it Castell saw Betty holding the unconscious
Margaret in her strong arms. She saw him also, and screamed to him to
come to the boat. He started to obey, then remembered Peter. Peter might
not be dead; what should he say to Margaret if he left him there to
drown? He crept to where he lay upon the deck, and called to a sailor
who rushed by to help him. The man answered with a curse, and vanished
into the deep gloom. So, unaided, Castell essayed the task of lifting
this heavy body, but his right arm being almost useless, could do no
more than drag it into a sitting posture, and thus, by slow degrees,
across the deck to where he imagined the boat to be.
But here there was no boat, and now the sound of voices came from the
other side of the ship, so he must drag it back again. By the time he
reached the starboard bulwarks all was silent, and another flash of
lightning showed him the boat, crowded with people, upon the crest of a
wave, fifty yards or more from him, whilst others, who had not been able
to enter, clung to its stern and gunwale. He shouted aloud, but no
answer came, either because none were left living on the ship, or
because in all that turmoil they could not hear him.
Then Castell, knowing that he had done everything that he could, dragged
Peter under the overhanging deck of the forward tower, which gave some
little shelter from the rain, and, laying his bleeding head upon his
knees so that it might be lifted above the wash of the waters, sat
himself down and began to say prayers after the Jewish fashion whilst
awaiting his end.
That he was about to die he had no doubt, for the waist of the ship, as
he could perceive by the lightning, was almost level with the sea,
which, however, here in the harbour was now much calmer than it had
been. This he knew, for although the rain still fell steadily and the
wind howled above, no spray broke over them deeper and deeper sank the
caravel as she drifted onwards, till at length the water washed over her
deck from side to side, so that Castell was obliged to seat himself on
the second step of the ladder down which Peter had charged up on the
Spaniards. A while passed, and he became aware that the _San Antonio_
had ceased to move, and wondered what this might mean. The storm had
rolled away now, and he could see the stars; also with it went the wind.
The night grew warmer, too, which was well for him, for otherwise, wet
as he was, he must have perished. Still it was a long night, the longest
that ever he had spent, nor did any sleep come to relieve his misery or
make his end easier, for the pain from the arrow wound in his arm kept
So there he sat, wondering if Margaret was dead, as Peter seemed to be
dead, and if so, whether their spirits were watching him now, watching
and waiting till he joined them. He thought, too, of the days of his
prosperity until he had seen the accursed face of d'Aguilar, and of all
the worthless wealth that was his, and what would become of it. He hoped
even that Margaret was gone; better that she should be dead than live on
in shame and misery. If there were a God, how came it that He could
allow such things to happen in the world? Then he remembered how, when
Job sat in just such an evil case, his wife had invited him to curse God
and die, and how the patriarch had answered to her, "What! shall we
receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?"
Remembered, too, after all his troubles, what had been the end of that
just man, and therefrom took some little comfort. After this a stupor
crept over him, and his last thought was that the vessel had sunk and
he was departing into the deeps of death.
* * * * *
Listen! A voice called, and Castell awoke to see that it was growing
light, and that before him supporting himself on the rail of the ladder,
stood the tall form of Peter--Peter with a ghastly, blood-stained
countenance, chattering teeth, and glazed, unnatural eyes.
"Do you live, John Castell?" said that hollow voice, "or are we both
dead and in hell?"
"Nay," he answered, "I live yet; we are still this side of doom."
"What has chanced?" asked Peter. "I have been lost in a great
Castell told him briefly.
Peter listened till he had done, then staggered to the bulwark rail and
looked about him, making no comment.
"I can see nothing," he said presently--"the mist is too deep; but I
think we must lie near the shore. Come, help me. Let us try to find
victuals; I am faint."
Castell rose, stretched his cramped limbs, and going to him, placed his
uninjured arm round Peter's middle, and thus supported him towards the
stern of the ship, where he guessed that the main cabin would be. They
found and entered it, a small place, but richly furnished, with a carved
crucifix screwed to its sternmost wall. A piece of pickled meat and some
of the hard wheaten cakes such as sailors use, lay upon the floor where
they had been cast from the table, while in a swinging rack above stood
flagons of wine and of water. Castell found a horn mug, and filling it
with wine gave it to Peter, who drank greedily, then handed it back to
him, who also drank. Afterwards they cut off portions of the meat with
their knives, and swallowed them, though Peter did this with great
difficulty because of the hurt to his head and neck. Then they drank
more wine, and, somewhat refreshed, left the place.
The mist was still so thick that they could see nothing, and therefore
they went into the wreck of that cabin which had been occupied by
Margaret and Betty, sat themselves down upon the bed wherein they had
slept, and waited. Resting thus, Peter noted that this cabin had been
fitted sumptuously as though for the occupation of a great lady, for
even the vessels were of silver, and in a wardrobe, whereof the doors
were open, hung beautiful gowns. Also, there were a few written books,
on the outer leaves of one of which Margaret had set down some notes and
a prayer of her own making, petitioning that Heaven would protect her;
that Peter and her father might be living and learn the truth of what
had befallen, and that it would please the saints to deliver her, and to
bring them together again. This book Peter thrust away within his jerkin
to study at his leisure.
Now the sun rose suddenly above the eastern range of the mountains
wherewith they were surrounded. Leaving the cabin, they climbed to the
forecastle tower and gazed about them, to find that they were in a
land-locked harbour, and stranded not more than a, hundred yards from
the shore. By tying a piece of iron to a rope and letting it down into
the sea, they discovered that they lay upon a ridge, and that there
were but four feet of water beneath their bow, and, having learned
this, determined to wade to the beach. First, however, they went back to
the cabin and filled a leather bag they found with food and wine. Then,
by an afterthought, they searched for the place where d'Aguilar slept,
and discovered it between decks; also a strong-box which they made shift
to break open with an iron bar.
In it was a great store of gold, placed there, no doubt, for the payment
of the crew, and with it some jewels. The jewels they left, but the
money they divided and stowed it about them to serve their needs should
they come safe ashore. Then they washed each other's wounds and bound
them up, and descending the ladder which had been thrown over the ship's
side when the Spaniards escaped in the boat, let themselves down into
the sea and bade farewell to the _San Antonio_.
By now the wind had fallen and the sun shone brightly, warming their
chilled blood; also the water, which was quite calm, did not rise much
above their middles, so that they were able--the bottom being smooth and
sandy--to wade without trouble to the shore. As they drew near to it
they saw people gathering there, and guessed that they came from the
little town of Motril, which lay up the river that here ran into the
bay. Also they saw other things--namely, the boat of the _San Antonio_
upon the shore, and rejoiced to know that it had come safe to land, for
it rested upon its keel with but little water in its bottom. Lying here
and there also were the corpses of drowned men, five or six of them: no
doubt those sailors who had swum after the boat or clung to its
gunwale, but among these bodies none were those of women.
When at length they reached the shore, very few people were left there,
for of the rest some had begun to wade out towards the ship to plunder
her, whilst others had gone to fetch boats for the same purpose.
Therefore, the company who awaited them consisted only of women,
children, three old men, and a priest. The last, a hungry-eyed,
smooth-faced, sly-looking man, advanced to greet them courteously,
bidding them thank God for their escape.
"That we do indeed," said Castell; "but tell us, Father, where are our
"There are some of them," answered the priest, pointing to the dead
bodies; "the rest, with the two seņoras, started two hours ago for
Granada. The Marquis of Morella, from whom I hold this cure, told us
that his ship had sunk, and that no one else was left alive, and, as the
mist hid everything, we believed him. That is why we were not here
before, for," he added significantly, "we are poor folk, to whom the
saints send few wrecks."
"How did they go to Granada, Father?" asked Castell. "On foot?"
"Nay, Seņor, they took all the horses and mules in the village by force,
though the marquis promised that he would return them and pay for their
hire later, and we trusted him because we must. The ladies wept much,
and prayed us to take them in and keep them; but this the marquis would
not allow, although they seemed so sad and weary. God send that we see
our good beasts back again," he added piously.
"Have you any left for us? We have a little money, and can pay for them
if they be not too dear."
"Not one, Seņor--not one; the place has been cleared even down to the
mares in foal. But, indeed you seem scarcely fit to ride at present, who
have undergone so much," and he pointed to Peter's wounded head and
Castell's bandaged arm. "Why do you not stay and rest awhile?"
"Because I am the father of one of the seņoras, and doubtless she thinks
me drowned, and this seņor is her affianced husband," answered
"Ah!" said the priest, looking at them with interest, "then what
relation to her is the marquis? Well, perhaps I had better not ask, for
this is no confessional, is it? I understand that you are anxious, for
that great grandee has the reputation of being gay--an excellent son of
the Church, but without doubt very gay," and he shook his shaven head
and smiled. "But come up to the village, Seņors, where you can rest and
have your hurts attended to; afterwards we will talk."
"We had best go," said Castell in English to Peter. "There are no horses
on this beach, and we cannot walk to Granada in our state."
Peter nodded, and, led by the priest, whose name they discovered to be
Henriques, they started.
On the crest of the hill a few hundred paces away they turned and looked
back, to see that every able-bodied inhabitant of the village seemed by
now to be engaged in plundering the stranded vessel.
"They are paying themselves for the mules and horses," said Fray
Henriques with a shrug. "So I see," answered Castell, "but you----"
and he stopped.
"Oh, do not be afraid for me," replied the priest with a cunning little
smile. "The Church does not loot; but in the end the Church gets her
share. These are a pious folk. Only when he learns that the caravel did
not sink after all, I fear the marquis will demand an account of us."
Then they limped on over the hill, and presently saw the white-walled
and red-roofed village beneath them on the banks of the river.
Five minutes later their guide stopped at a door in a roughly paved
street, which he opened with a key.
"My humble dwelling, when I am in residence here, and not at Granada,"
he said, "in which I shall be honoured to receive you. Look, near by is
Then they entered a patio, or courtyard, where some orange-trees grew
round a fountain of water, and a life-sized crucifix stood against the
wall. As he passed this sacred emblem Peter bowed and crossed himself,
an example that Castell did not follow. The priest looked at
"Surely, Seņor," he said, "you should do reverence to the symbol of our
Saviour, who, by His mercy, have just been saved from the death which
the marquis told me had overtaken both of you."
"My right arm is hurt," answered Castell readily, "so I must do that
reverence in my heart."
"I understand, Seņor; but if you are a stranger to this country, which
you do not seem to be, who speak its tongue so well, with your
permission I will warn you that here it is wise not to confine your
reverences to the heart. Of late the directors of the Inquisition have
become somewhat strict, and expect that the outward forms should be
observed as well. Indeed, when I was a familiar of the Holy Office at
Seville, I have seen men burned for the neglect of them. You have two
arms and a head, Seņor, also a knee that can be bent."
"Pardon me," answered Castell to this lecture. "I was thinking of other
matters. The carrying off of my daughter at the hands of your patron,
the Marquis of Morella, for instance."
Then, making no reply, the priest led them through his sitting-room to a
bed-chamber with high barred windows, that, although it was large and
lofty, reminded them somehow of a prison cell. Here he left them, saying
that he would go to find the local surgeon, who, it seemed, was a barber
also, if, indeed, he were not engaged in "lightening the ship,"
recommending them meanwhile to take off their wet clothes and lie
down to rest.
A woman having brought hot water and some loose garments in which to
wrap themselves while their own were drying, they undressed and washed
and afterwards, utterly worn out, threw themselves down and fell asleep
upon the beds, having first hidden away their gold in the food bag,
which Peter placed beneath his pillow. Two hours later or more they were
awakened by the arrival of Father Henriques and the barber-surgeon,
accompanied by the woman-servant, and who brought them back their
clothes cleaned and dried.
When the surgeon saw Peter's hurt to the left side of his neck and
shoulder, which now were black, swollen, and very stiff, he shook his
head, and said that time and rest alone could cure it, and that he must
have been born under a fortunate star to have escaped with his life,
which, save for his steel cap and leather jerkin, he would never have
done. As no bones were broken, however, all that he could do was to
dress the parts with some soothing ointment and cover them with clean
cloths. This finished, he turned to Castell's wound, that was through
the fleshy part of the right forearm, and, having syringed it out with
warm water and oil, bound it up, saying that he would be well in a week.
He added drily that the gale must have been fiercer even than he
thought, since it could blow an arrow through a man's arm--a saying at
which the priest pricked up his ears.
To this Castell made no answer, but producing a piece of Morella's gold,
offered it to him for his services, asking him at the same time to
procure them mules or horses, if he could. The barber promised to try to
do so, and being well pleased with his fee, which was a great one for
Motril, said that he would see them again in the evening, and if he
could hear of any beasts would tell them of it then. Also he promised to
bring them some clothes and cloaks of Spanish make, since those they had
were not fit to travel in through that country, being soiled and
After he had gone, and the priest with him, who was busy seeing to the
division of the spoils from the ship and making sure of his own share,
the servant, a good soul, brought them soup, which they drank. Then they
lay down again upon the beds and talked together as to what they
Castell was downhearted, pointing out that they were still as far from
Margaret as ever, who was now once more lost to them, and in the hand of
Morella, whence they could scarcely hope to snatch her. It would seem
also that she was being taken to the Moorish city of Granada, if she
were not already there, where Christian law and justice had no power.
When he had heard him out, Peter, whose heart was always stout,
"God has as much power in Granada as in London, or on the seas whence He
has saved us. I think, Sir, that we have great reason to be thankful to
God, seeing that we are both alive to-day, who might so well have been
dead, and that Margaret is alive also, and, as we believe, unharmed.
Further, this Spanish thief of women is, it would seem, a strange man,
that is, if there be any truth in his words, for although he could steal
her, it appears that he cannot find it in his heart to do her violence,
but is determined to win her only with her own consent, which I think
will not be had readily. Also, he shrinks from murder, who, when he
could have butchered us, did not do so."
"I have known such men before," said Castell, "who hold some sins
venial, but others deadly to their souls. It is a fruit of
"Then, Sir, let us pray that Morella's superstitions may remain strong,
and get us to Granada as quickly as we can, for there, remember, you
have friends, both among the Jews and Moors, who have traded with the
place for many years, and these may give us shelter. Therefore, though
things are bad, still they might be worse."
"That is so," answered Castell more cheerfully, if, indeed, she has
been taken to Granada; and as to this, we will try to learn something
from the barber or the Father Henriques."
"I put no faith in that priest, a sly fellow who is in the pay of
Morella," answered Peter.
Then they were silent, being still very weary, and having nothing more
to say, but much to think about.
About sundown the doctor came back and dressed their wounds. He brought
with him a stock of clothes of Spanish make, hats and two heavy cloaks
fit to travel in, which they bought from him at a good price. Also, he
said that he had two fine mules in the courtyard, and Castell went out
to look at them. They were sorry beasts enough, being poor and wayworn,
but as no others were to be had they returned to the room to talk as to
the price of them and their saddles. The chaffering was long, for he
asked twice their value, which Castell said poor shipwrecked men could
not pay; but in the end they struck a bargain, under which the barber
was to keep and feed the mules for the night, and bring them round next
morning with a guide who would show them the road to Granada. Meanwhile,
they paid him for the clothes, but not for the beasts.
Also they tried to learn something from him about the Marquis of
Morella, but, like the Fray Henriques, the man was cunning, and kept his
mouth shut, saying that it was ill for poor men like himself to chatter
of the great, and that at Granada they could hear everything. So he went
away, leaving some medicine for them to drink, and shortly afterwards
the priest appeared.
He was in high good-humour, having secured those jewels which they had
left behind in the iron coffer as his share of the spoil of the ship.
Taking note of him as he showed and fondled them, Castell added up the
man, and concluded that he was very avaricious; one who hated the
poverty in which he had been reared, and would do much for money.
Indeed, when he spoke bitterly of the thieves who had been at the ship's
strong-box and taken nearly all the gold, Castell determined that he
must never know who those thieves were, lest they should meet with some
accident on their journey.
At length the trinkets were put away, and the priest said that they must
sup with him, but lamented that he had no wine to give them, who was
forced to drink water; whereon Castell prayed him to procure a few
flasks of the best at their charges, which, nothing loth, he sent his
servant out to do.
So, dressed in their new Spanish clothes, and having all the gold hidden
about them in two money-belts that they had bought from the barber at
the same time, they went in to supper, which consisted of a Spanish dish
called _olla podrida_--a kind of rich stew--bread, cheese, and fruit.
Also the wine that they had bought was there, very good and strong, and,
whilst taking but little of it themselves for fear they should fever
their wounds, they persuaded Father Henriques to drink heartily, so that
in the end he forgot his cunning, and spoke with freedom. Then, seeing
that he was in a ripe humour, Castell asked him about the Marquis of
Morella, and how it happened that he had a house in the Moorish capital
"Because he is half a Moor," answered the priest. "His father, it is
said, was the Prince of Viana, and his mother a lady of royal Moorish
blood, from whom he inherited great wealth, and his lands and palace in
Granada. There, too, he loves to dwell, who, although he is so good a
Christian by faith, has many heathen tastes, and, like the Moors,
surrounds himself with a seraglio of beautiful women, as I know, for
often I act as his chaplain, as in Granada there are no priests.
Moreover, there is a purpose in all this, for, being partly of their
blood, he is accredited to the court of their sultan, Boabdil, by
Ferdinand and Isabella in whose interests he works in secret. For,
strangers, you should know, if you do not know it already, that their
Majesties have for long been at war against the Moor, and purpose to
take what remains of his kingdom from him, and make it Christian, as
they have already taken Malaga, and purified it by blood and fire from
the accursed stain of infidelity."
"Yes," said Castell, "we heard that in England, for I am a merchant who
have dealings with Granada, whither I am going on my affairs."
"On what affairs then goes the seņora, who you say is your daughter, and
what is that story that the sailors told of, about a fight between the
_San Antonio_ and an English ship, which indeed we saw in the offing
yesterday? And why did the wind blow an arrow through your arm, friend
Merchant? And how came it that you two were left aboard the caravel when
the marquis and his people escaped?"
"You ask many questions, holy Father. Peter, fill the glass of his
reverence; he drinks nothing who thinks that it is always Lent. Your
health, Father. Ah! well emptied. Fill it again, Peter, and pass me the
flask. Now I will begin to answer you with the story of the shipwreck."
And he commenced an endless tale of the winds and sails and rocks and
masts carried away, and of the English ship that tried to help the
Spanish ship, and so forth, till at length the priest, whose glass Peter
filled whenever his head was turned, fell back in his chair asleep.
"Now," whispered Peter in English across the table to Castell--"now I
think that we had best go to bed, for we have learned much from this
holy spy--as I take him to be--and told little."
So they crept away quietly to their chamber, and, having swallowed the
draught that the doctor had given them, said their prayers each in his
own fashion, locked the door, and lay down to rest as well as their
wounds and sore anxieties would allow them.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE INN
Peter did not sleep well, for, notwithstanding all the barber's
dressing, his hurt pained him much. Moreover, he was troubled by the
thought that Margaret must be sure that both he and her father were
dead, and of the sufferings of her sore heart. Whenever he dozed off he
seemed to see her awake and weeping, yes, and to hear her sobs and
murmurings of his name. When the first light of dawn crept through the
high-barred windows, he arose and called Castell, for they could not
dress without each other's help. Then they waited until they heard the
sound of men talking and of beasts stamping in the courtyard without.
Guessing that this was the barber with the mules, they unlocked their
door and, finding the servant yawning in the passage, persuaded her to
let them out of the house.
The barber it was, sure enough, and with him a one-eyed youth mounted on
a pony, who, he said, would guide them to Granada. So they returned with
him into the house, where he looked at their wounds, shaking his head
over that of Peter, who, he said, ought not to travel so soon. After
this came more haggling as to the price of the mules, saddlery,
saddle-bags in which they packed their few spare clothes, hire of the
guide and his horse, and so forth, since, anxious as they were to get
away, they did not dare to seem to have money to spare.
At length everything was settled, and as their host, Father Henriques,
had not yet appeared, they determined to depart without bidding him
farewell, leaving some money in acknowledgment of his hospitality and as
a gift to his church. Whilst they were handing it over to the servant,
however, together with a fee for herself, the priest joined them,
unshaven, and holding his hand to his tonsured head whilst he explained,
what was not true, that he had been celebrating some early Mass in the
church; then asked whither they were going.
They told him, and pressed their gift upon him, which he accepted,
nothing loth, though its liberality seemed to make him more urgent to
delay their departure. They were not fit to travel; the roads were most
unsafe; they would be taken captive by the Moors, and thrown into a
dungeon with the Christian prisoners; no one could enter Granada without
a passport, he declared, and so forth, to all of which they answered
that they must go.
Now he appeared to be much disturbed, and said finally that they would
bring him into trouble with the Marquis of Morella--how or why, he would
not explain, though Peter guessed that it might be lest the marquis
should learn from them that this priest, his chaplain, had been
plundering the ship which he thought sunk, and possessing himself of his
jewels. At length, seeing that the man meant mischief and would stop
them in some fashion if they delayed, they bade him farewell hastily,
and, pushing past him, mounted the mules that stood outside and rode
away with their guide.
As they went they heard the priest, who now was in a rage, abusing the
barber who had sold them the beasts, and caught the words "Spies,"
"English seņoras," and "Commands of the Marquis," so that they were glad
when at length they found themselves outside the town, where as yet few
were stirring, and riding unmolested on the road to Granada.
This road proved to be no good one, and very hilly; moreover, the mules
were even worse than they had thought, that which Peter rode stumbling
continually. Now they asked the youth, their guide, how long it would
take them to reach Granada; but all he answered them was:
"_Quien sabe_?" (Who knows?) "It depends upon the will of God."
An hour later they asked him again, whereon he replied:
Perhaps to-night, perhaps to-morrow, perhaps never, as there were many
thieves about, and if they escaped the thieves they would probably be
captured by the Moors.
"I think there is one thief very near to us," said Peter in English,
looking at this ill-favoured young man, then added in his broken
Spanish, "Friend, if we fall in with robbers or Moors, the first one who
dies will be yourself," and he tapped the hilt of his sword.
The lad uttered a Spanish curse, and turned the head of his pony round
as though he would ride back to Motril, then changed his mind and pushed
on a long way in front of them, nor could they come near him again for
hours. So hard was the road and so feeble were the mules that,
notwithstanding a midday halt to rest them, it was nightfall before they
reached the top of the Sierra, and in the last sunset glow, separated
from them by the rich _vega_ or plain, saw the minarets and palaces of
Granada. Now they wished to push on, but their guide swore that it was
impossible, as in the dark they would fall over precipices while
descending to the plain. There was a _venta_ or inn near by, he said,
where they could sleep, starting again at dawn.
When Castell said that they did not wish to go to an inn, he answered
that they must, since they had; eaten what food they had, and here on
the road there was no fodder for the beasts. So, reluctantly enough,
they consented, knowing that unless they were fed the mules would never
carry them to Granada, whereon the guide, pointing out the house to
them, a lonely place in a valley about a hundred yards from the road,
said that he would go on to make arrangements, and galloped off.
As they approached this hostelry, which was surrounded by a rough wall
for purposes of defence, they saw the one-eyed youth engaged in earnest
conversation with a fat, ill-favoured man who had a great knife stuck in
his girdle. Advancing to them, bowing, this man said that he was the
host, and, in reply to their request for food and a room, told them that
they could have both.
They rode into the courtyard, whereon the inn-keeper locked the door in
the wall behind them, explaining that it was to keep out robbers, and
adding that they were fortunate to be where they could sleep quite
safely. Then a Moor came and led away their mule to the stable, and
they accompanied the landlord into the sitting-room, a long, low
apartment furnished with tables and benches, on which sat several
rough-looking fellows, drinking wine. Here the host suddenly demanded
payment in advance, saying that he did not trust strangers. Peter would
have argued with him; but Castell, thinking it best to comply,
unbuttoned his garments to get at his money, for he had no loose coin in
his pocket, having paid away the last at Motril.
His right hand being still helpless, this he did with his left, and so
awkwardly that the small doubloon he took hold of slipped from his
fingers and fell on to the floor. Forgetting that he had not re-fastened
the belt, he bent down to pick it up, whereon a number of gold pieces of
various sorts, perhaps twenty of them, fell out and rolled hither and
thither on the ground. Peter, watching, saw the landlord and the other
men in the room exchange a quick and significant glance. They rose,
however, and assisted to find the money, which the host returned to
Castell, remarking with an unpleasant smile, that if he had known that
his guests were so rich he would have charged them more for their
"Of your good heart I pray you not," answered Castell, "for that is all
our worldly goods," and even as he spoke another gold piece, this time a
large doubloon, which had remained in his clothing, slipped to
"Of course, Seņor," the host replied as he picked this up also and
handed it back politely, "but shake yourself, there may still be a coin
or two in your doublet." Castell did so, whereon the gold in his belt,
loosened by what had fallen out, rattled audibly, and the audience
smiled again, while the host congratulated him on the fact that he was
in an honest house, and not wandering on the mountains, which were the
home of so many bad men.
Having pocketed his money with the best grace he could, and buckled his
belt beneath his robe, Castell and Peter sat down at a table a little
apart, and asked if they could have some supper. The host assented, and
called to the Moorish servant to bring food, then sat down also, and
began to put questions to them, of a sort which showed that their guide
had already told all their story.
"How did you learn of our shipwreck?" asked Castell by way of answer.
"How? Why, from the people of the marquis, who stopped here to drink a
cup of wine when he passed to Granada yesterday with his company and two
seņoras. He said that the _San Antonio_ had sunk, but told us nothing of
your being left aboard of her."
"Then forgive us, friend, if we, whose business is of no interest to
you, copy his discretion, as we are weary and would rest."
"Certainly, Seņors--certainly," replied the man; "I go to hasten your
supper, and to fetch you a flask of the wine of Granada worthy of your
degree," and he left them.
A while later their food came--good meat enough of its sort--and with it
the wine in an earthenware jug, which, as he filled their horn mugs, the
host said he had poured out of the flask himself that the crust of it
might not slip. Castell thanked him, and asked him to drink a cup to
their good journey; but he declined, answering that it was a fast day
with him, on which he was sworn to touch only water. Now Peter, who had
said nothing all this time, but noted much, just touched the wine with
his lips, and smacked them as though in approbation while he whispered
in English to Castell:
"Drink it not; it is drugged!"
"What says your son?" asked the host.
"He says that it is delicious, but suddenly he has remembered what I too
forgot, that the doctor at Motril forbade us to touch wine for fear lest
we should worsen the hurts that we had in the shipwreck. Well, let it
not be wasted. Give it to your friends. We must be content with thinner
stuff." And taking up a jug of water that stood upon the table, he
filled an empty cup with it and drank, then passed it to Peter, while
the host looked at them sourly.
Then, as though by an afterthought, Castell rose and politely presented
the jug of wine and the two filled mugs to the men who were sitting at a
table close by, saying that it was a pity that they should not have the
benefit of such fine liquor. One of these fellows, as it chanced, was
their own guide, who had come in from tending the mules. They took the
mugs readily enough, and two of them tossed off their contents, whereon,
with a smothered oath, the landlord snatched away the jug and
vanished with it.
Castell and Peter went on with their meal, for they saw their neighbours
eating of the same dish, as did the landlord also, who had returned,
and, it seemed to Peter, was watching the two men who had drunk the
wine with an anxious eye. Presently one of these rose from the table
and, going to a bench on the other side of the room, flung himself down
upon it and became quite silent, while their one-eyed guide stretched
out his arms and fell face forward so that his head rested on an empty
plate, where he remained apparently insensible. The host sprang up and
stood irresolute, and Castell, rising, said that evidently the poor lad
was sleepy after his long ride, and as they were the same, would he be
so courteous as to show them to their room?
He assented readily, indeed it was clear that he wished to be rid of
them, for the other men were staring at the guide and their companion,
and muttering amongst themselves.
"This way, Seņors," he said, and led them to the end of the place where
a broad step-ladder stood. Going up it, a lamp in his hand, he opened a
trap-door and called to them to follow him, which Castell did. Peter,
however, first turned and said good-night to the company who were
watching them; at the same moment, as though by accident or
thoughtlessly, half drawing his sword from its scabbard. Then he too
went up the ladder, and found himself with the others in an attic.
It was a bare place, the only furniture in it being two chairs and two
rough wooden bedsteads without heads to them, mere trestles indeed, that
stood about three feet apart against a boarded partition which appeared
to divide this room from some other attic beyond. Also, there was a hole
in the wall immediately beneath the eaves of the house that served the
purpose of a window, over which a sack was nailed. "We are poor folk,"
said the landlord as they glanced round this comfortless garret, "but
many great people have slept well here, as doubtless you will also," and
he turned to descend the ladder.
"It will serve," answered Castell; "but, friend, tell your men to leave
the stable open, as we start at dawn, and be so good as to give me
"I cannot spare the lamp," he grunted sulkily, with his foot already on
the first step.
Peter strode to him and grasped his arm with one hand, while with the
other he seized the lamp. The man cursed, and began to fumble at his
belt, as though for a knife, whereon Peter, putting out his strength,
twisted his arm so fiercely that in his pain he loosed the lamp, which
remained in Peter's hand. The inn-keeper made a grab at it, missed his
footing and rolled down the ladder, falling heavily on the floor below.
Watching from above, to their relief they saw him pick himself up, and
heard him begin to revile them, shaking his fist and vowing vengeance.
Then Peter shut down the trap-door. It was ill fitted, so that the edge
of it stood up above the flooring, also the bolt that fastened it had
been removed, although the staples in which it used to work remained.
Peter looked round for some stick or piece of wood to pass through these
staples, but could find nothing. Then he bethought him of a short length
of cord that he had in his pocket, which served to tie one of the
saddle-bags in its place on his mule. This he fastened from one staple
to the other, so that the trap-door could not be lifted more than an
inch or two.
Reflecting that this might be done, and the cord cut with a knife
passed through the opening, he took one of the chairs and stood it so
that two of its legs rested on the edge of the trap-door and the other
two upon the boarding of the floor. Then he said to Castell:
"We are snared birds; but they must get into the cage before they wring
our necks. That wine was poisoned, and, if they can, they will murder us
for our money--or because they have been told to do so by the guide. We
had best keep awake to-night."
"I think so," answered Castell anxiously. "Listen, they are talking down
Talking they were, as though they debated something, but after a while
the sound of voices died away. When all was silent they hunted round the
attic, but could find nothing that was unusual to such places. Peter
looked at the window-hole, and, as it was large enough for a man to pass
through, tried to drag one of the beds beneath it, thinking that if any
such attempt were made, he who lay thereon would have the thief at his
mercy, only to find, however, that these were screwed to the floor and
immovable. As there was nothing more that they could do, they went and
sat upon these beds, their bare swords in their hands, and waited a long
while, but nothing happened.
At length the lamp, which had been flickering feebly for some time, went
out, lacking oil, and except for the light which crept through the
window-place, for now they had torn away the sacking that hung over it,
they were in darkness.
A little while later they heard the sound of a horse's hoofs, and the
door of the house open and shut, after which there was more talking
below, and mingling with it a new voice which Peter seemed to remember.
"I have it," he whispered to Castell. "Here is our late host, Father
Henriques, come to see how his guests are faring."
Another half-hour and the waning moon rose, throwing a beam of light
into their chamber; also they heard horse's hoofs again. Going to the
window, Peter looked out of it and saw the horse, a fine beast, being
held by the landlord, then a man came and mounted it and, at some remark
of his, turned his face upwards towards their window. It was that of
The two whispered together for a while till the priest blessed the
landlord in Latin words and rode away, and again they heard the door of
the house close.
"He is off to Granada, to warn Morella his master of our coming," said
Castell, as they reseated themselves upon the beds.
"To warn Morella that we shall never come, perhaps; but we will beat him
yet," replied Peter.
The night wore on, and Castell, who was very weary, sank back upon the
bolster and began to doze, when suddenly the chair that was set upon the
trap-door fell over with a great clatter, and he sprang up, asking what
that noise might be.
"Only a rat," answered Peter, who saw no good in telling him the
truth--namely, that thieves or murderers had tried to open the
Then he crept down the room, felt the cord, to find that it was still
uncut, and replaced the chair where it had been. This done, Peter came
back to the bed and threw himself down upon it as though he would
slumber, though never was he more wide awake. The weariness of Castell
had overcome him again, however, for he snored at his side.
For a long while nothing further happened, although once the ray of
moonlight was cut off, and for an instant Peter thought that he saw a
face at the window. If so, it vanished and returned no more. Now from
behind their heads came faint sounds, like those of stifled breathing,
like those of naked feet; then a slight creaking and scratching in the
wall--a mouse's tooth might have caused it--and suddenly, right in that
ray of moonlight, a cruel-looking knife and a naked arm projected
through the panelling.
The knife flickered for a second over the breast of the sleeping Castell
as though it were a living thing that chose the spot where it would
strike. One second--only one--for the next Peter had drawn himself up,
and with a sweep of the sword which lay unscabbarded at his side, had
shorn that arm off above the elbow, just where it projected from the
"What was that?" asked Castell again, as something fell upon him.
"A snake," answered Peter, "a poisonous snake. Wake up now, and look."
Castell obeyed, staring in silence at the horrible arm which still
clasped the great knife, while from beyond the panelling there came a
stifled groan, then a sound as of a heavy body stumbling away.
"Come," said Peter, "let us be going, unless we would stop here for
ever. That fellow will soon be back to seek his arm."
"Going! How?" asked Castell.
"There seems to be but one road, and that a rough one, through the
window and over the wall," answered Peter. "Ah! there they come; I
thought so." And as he spoke they heard the sound of men scrambling up
They ran to the window-place and looked out, but there seemed to be no
one below, and it was not more than twelve feet from the ground. Peter
helped Castell through it, then, holding his sound arm with both his
own, lowered him as far as he could, and let go. He dropped on to his
feet, fell to the ground, then rose again, unhurt. Peter was about to
follow him when he heard the chair tumble over again, and, looking
round, saw the trap-door open, to fall back with a crash. They had
cut the cord!
The figure of a man holding a knife appeared in the faint light,
followed by the head of another man. Now it was too late for him to get
through the window-place safely; if he attempted it he would be stabbed
in the back. So, grasping his sword with both hands, Peter leapt at that
man, aiming a great stroke at his shadowy mass. It fell upon him
somewhere, for down he went and lay quite still. By now the second man
had his knee upon the edge of flooring. Peter thrust him through, and he
sank backwards on to the heads of others who were following him,
sweeping the ladder with his weight, so that all of them tumbled in a
heap at its foot, save one who hung to the edge of the trap frame by his
hands. Peter slammed its door to, crushing them so that he loosed his
grip, with a howl. Then, as he had nothing else, he dragged the body of
the dead man on to it and left him there.
Next he rushed to the window, sheathing his sword as he ran, scrambled
through it, and, hanging by his arms, let himself drop, coming to the
ground safely, for he was very agile, and in the excitement of the fray
forgot the hurt to his head and shoulder.
"Where now?" asked Castell, as he stood by him panting.
"To the stable for the mules. No, it is useless; we have no time to
saddle them, and the outer gate is locked. The wall--the wall--we must
climb it! They will be after us in a minute."
They ran thither and found that, though ten feet high, fortunately this
wall was built of rough stone, which gave an easy foothold. Peter
scrambled up first, then, lying across its top, stretched down his hand
to Castell, and with difficulty--for the man was heavy and
crippled--dragged him to his side. Just then they heard a voice from
their garret shout:
"The English devils have gone! Get to the door and cut them off."
"Come on," said Peter. So together they climbed, or rather fell, down
the wall on to a mass of prickly-pear bush, which broke the shock but
tore them so sorely in a score of places that they could have shrieked
with the pain. Somehow they freed themselves, and, bleeding all over,
broke from that accursed bush, struggling up the bank of the ditch in
which it grew, ran for the road, and along it towards Granada.
Before they had gone a hundred yards they heard shoutings, and guessed
that they were being followed. Just here the road crossed a ravine full
of boulders and rough scrubby growth, whereas beyond it was bare and
open. Peter seized Castell and dragged him up this ravine till they came
to a place where, behind a great stone, there was a kind of hole, filled
with bushes and tall, dead grass, into which they plunged and hid
"Draw your sword," he said to Castell. "If they find us, we will die as
well as we can."
He obeyed, holding it in his left hand.
They heard the robbers run along the road; then, seeing that they had
missed their victims, these returned again, five or six of them, and
fell to searching the ravine. But the light was very bad, for here the
rays of the moon did not penetrate, and they could find nothing.
Presently two of them halted within five paces of them and began to
talk, saying that the swine must still be hidden in the yard, or perhaps
had doubled back for Motril.
"I don't know where they are hidden," answered the other man; "but this
is a poor business. Fat Pedro's arm is cut clean off, and I expect he
will bleed to death, while two of the other fellows are dead or dying,
for that long-legged Englishman hits hard, to say nothing of those who
drank the drugged wine, and look as though they would never wake. Yes, a
poor business to get a few doubloons and please a priest, but oh! if I
had the hogs here I----" And he hissed out a horrible threat. "Meanwhile
we had best lie up at the mouth of this place in case they should still
be hidden here."
Peter heard him and listened. All the other men had gone, running back
along the road. His blood was up, and the thorn pricks stung him sorely.
Saying no word, out of his lair he came with that terrible sword of
The men caught sight of him, and gave a gasp of fear. It was the last
sound that one of them ever made. Then the other turned and ran like a
hare. This was he who had uttered the threat.
"Stop!" whispered Peter, as he overtook him--"stop, and do what you
The brute turned, and asked for mercy, but got none.
"It was needful," said Peter to Castell presently; "you heard--they were
going to wait for us."
"I do not think that they will try to murder any more Englishmen at that
inn," panted Castell, as he ran along beside him.
INEZ AND HER GARDEN
For two hours or more John Castell and Peter travelled on the Granada
road, running when it was smooth, walking when it was rough, and
stopping from time to time to get their breath and listen. But the night
was quite silent, no one seemed to be pursuing them. Evidently the
remaining cut-throats had either taken another way or, having their fill
of this adventure, wanted to see no more of Peter and his sword.
At length the dawn broke over the great misty plain, for now they were
crossing the _vega_. Then the sun rose and dispelled the vapours, and a
dozen miles or more away they saw Granada on its hill. They saw each
other also, and a sorry sight they were, torn by the sharp thorns, and
stained with blood from their scratches. Peter was bare-headed too, for
he had lost his cap, and almost beside himself now that the excitement
had left him, from lack of sleep, pain, and weariness. Moreover, as the
sun rose, it grew fearfully hot upon that plain, and its fierce rays,
striking full upon his head, seemed to stupefy him, so that at last they
were obliged to halt and weave a kind of hat out of corn and grasses,
which gave him so strange an appearance that some Moors, whom they met
going to their toil, thought that he must be a madman, and ran away.
Still they crawled forward, refreshing themselves with water whenever
they could find any in the irrigation ditches that these people used for
their crops, but covering little more than a mile an hour. Towards noon
the heat grew so dreadful that they were obliged to lie down to rest
under the shade of some palm-like trees, and here, absolutely outworn,
they sank into a kind of sleep.
They were awakened by a sound of voices, and staggered to their feet,
drawing their swords, for they thought that the thieves from the inn had
overtaken them. Instead of these ruffianly murderers, however, they saw
before them a body of eight Moors, beautifully mounted upon white
horses, and clad in turbans and flowing robes, the like of which Peter
had never yet beheld, who sat there regarding them gravely with their
quiet eyes, and, as it seemed, not without pity.
"Put up your swords, Seņors," said the leader of these Moors in
excellent Spanish--indeed, he seemed to be a Spaniard dressed in Eastern
garments--"for we are many and fresh; and you are but two and wounded."
They obeyed, who could do nothing else.
"Now tell us, though there is little need to ask," went on the captain,
"you are those men of England who boarded the _San Antonio_ and escaped
when she was sinking, are you not?"
Castell nodded, then answered:
"We boarded her to seek----"
"Never mind what you sought," the captain answered; "the names of
exalted ladies should not be mentioned before strange men. But you have
been in trouble again since then, at the inn yonder, where this tall
seņor bore himself very bravely. Oh! we have heard all the story, and
give him honour who can wield a sword so well in the dark."
"We thank you," said Castell, "but what is your business with us?"
"Seņor, we are sent by our master, his Excellency, the high Lord and
Marquis of Morella, to find you and bring you to be his guests
"So the priest has told. I thought as much," muttered Peter.
"We pray you to come without trouble, as we do not wish to do any
violence to such gallant men," went on the captain. "Be pleased to mount
two of these horses, and ride with us."
"I am a merchant, with friends of my own at Granada," answered Castell.
"Cannot we go to them, who do not seek the hospitality of the marquis?"
"Seņor, our orders are otherwise, and here the word of our master, the
marquis, is a law that may not be broken."
"I thought that Boabdil was king of Granada," said Castell.
"Without doubt he is king, Seņor, and by the grace of Allah will remain
so, but the marquis is allied to him in blood; also, while the truce
lasts, he is a representative of their Majesties of Spain in our city,"
and, at a sign, two of the Moors dismounted and led forward their
horses, holding the stirrups, and offering to help them to the saddle.
"There is nothing for it," said Peter; "we must go" So, awkwardly
enough, for they were very stiff, they climbed on to the beasts and rode
away with their captors.
The sun was sinking now, for they had slept long, and by the time they
reached the gates of Granada the muezzins were calling to the sunset
prayer from the minarets of the mosques.
It was but a very dim and confused idea that Peter gathered of the great
city of the Moors, as, surrounded by their white-robed escort, he rode
he knew not whither. Narrow winding streets, white houses, shuttered
windows, crowds of courteous, somewhat silent people, all men, and all
clad in those same strange, flowing dresses, who looked at them
curiously, and murmured words which afterwards he came to learn meant
"Christian prisoners," or sometimes "Christian dogs"; fretted and
pointed arches, and a vast fairy-like building set upon a hill. He was
dazed with pain and fatigue as, a long-legged, blood-stained figure,
crowned with his quaint hat of grasses, he rode through that wondrous
and imperial place.
Yet no man laughed at him, absurd as he must have seemed; but perhaps
this was because under the grotesqueness of his appearance they
recognised something of his quality. Or they might have heard rumours of
his sword-play at the inn and on the ship. At any rate, their attitude
was that of courteous dislike of the Christian, mingled with respect for
the brave man in misfortune.
At length, after mounting a long rise, they came to a palace on a mount,
facing the vast, red-walled fortress which seemed to dominate the place,
which he afterwards knew as the Alhambra, but separated from it by a
valley. This palace was a very great building, set on three sides of a
square, and surrounded by gardens, wherein tall cypress-trees pointed to
the tender sky. They rode through the gardens and sundry gateways till
they came to a courtyard where servants, with torches in their hands,
ran out to meet them. Somebody helped him off his horse, somebody
supported him up a flight of marble steps, beneath which a fountain
splashed, into a great, cool room with an ornamented roof. Then Peter
remembered no more.
* * * * *
A time went by, a long, long time--in fact it was nearly a month--before
Peter really opened his eyes to the world again. Not that he had been
insensible for all this while--that is, quite--for at intervals he had
become aware of that large, cool room, and of people talking about
him--especially of a dark-eyed, light-footed, and pretty woman with a
white wimple round her face, who appeared to be in charge of him.
Occasionally he thought that this must be Margaret, and yet knew that it
could not, for she was different. Also, he remembered that once or twice
he had seemed to see the haughty, handsome face of Morella bending over
him, as though he watched curiously to learn whether he would live or
not, and then had striven to rise to fight him, and been pressed back by
the soft, white hands of the woman that yet were so terribly strong.
Now, when he awoke at last, it was to see her sitting there with a ray
of sunlight from some upper window falling on her face, sitting with her
chin resting on her hand and her elbow on her knee, and contemplating
him with a pretty, puzzled look. She made a sweet picture thus, he
thought. Then he spoke to her in his slow Spanish, for somehow he knew
that she would not understand his own tongue.
"You are not Margaret," he said.
At once the dream went out of the woman's soft eyes; she became
intensely interested, and, rising, advanced towards him, a very gracious
figure, who seemed to sway as she walked.
"No, no," she said, bending over him and touching his forehead with her
taper fingers; "my name is Inez. You wander still, Seņor."
"Inez what?" he asked.
"Inez only," she answered, "Inez, a woman of Granada, the rest is lost.
Inez, the nurse of sick men, Seņor."
"Where then is Margaret--the English Margaret?"
A veil of secrecy seemed to fall over the woman's face, and her voice
changed as she answered, no longer ringing true, or so it struck his
senses made quick and subtle by the fires of fever:
"I know no English Margaret. Do you then love her--this English
"Aye," he answered, "she was stolen from me; I have followed her from
far, and suffered much. Is she dead or living?"
"I have told you, Seņor, I know nothing, although"--and again the voice
became natural--"it is true that I thought you loved somebody from your
talk in your illness."
Peter pondered a while, then he began to remember, and asked again:
"Where is Castell?"
"Castell? Was he your companion, the man with a hurt arm who looked like
a Jew? I do not know where he is. In another part of the city, perhaps.
I think that he was sent to his friends. Question me not of such
matters, who am but your sick-nurse. You have been very ill, Seņor.
Look!" And she handed him a little mirror made of polished silver, then,
seeing that he was too weak to take it, held it before him.
Peter saw his face, and groaned, for, except the red scar upon his
cheek, it was ivory white and wasted to nothing.
"I am glad Margaret did not see me like this," he said, with an attempt
at a smile, "bearded too, and what a beard! Lady, how could you have
nursed one so hideous?"
"I have not found you hideous," she answered softly; "besides, that is
my trade. But you must not talk, you must rest. Drink this, and rest,"
and she gave him soup in a silver bowl, which he swallowed readily
enough, and went to sleep again.
Some days afterwards, when Peter was well on the road to convalescence,
his beautiful nurse came and sat by him, a look of pity in her tender,
"What is it now, Inez?" he asked, noting her changed face.
"Seņor Pedro, you spoke to me a while ago, when you woke up from your
long sleep, of a certain Margaret, did you not? Well, I have been
inquiring of this Dona Margaret, and have no good news to tell of her."
Peter set his teeth, and said:
"Go on, tell me the worst."
"This Margaret was travelling with the Marquis of Morella, was she
"She had been stolen by him," answered Peter.
"Alas! it may be so; but here in Spain, and especially here in Granada,
that will scarcely screen the name of one who has been known to travel
with the Marquis of Morella."
"So much the worse for the Marquis of Morella when I meet him again,"
answered Peter sternly. "What is your story, Nurse Inez?"
She looked with interest at his grim, thin face, but, as it seemed to
him, with no displeasure.
"A sad one. As I have told you, a sad one. It seems that the other day
this seņora was found dead at the foot of the tallest tower of the
marquis's palace, though whether she fell from it, or was thrown from
it, none know."
Peter gasped, and was silent for a while; then asked:
"Did you see her dead?"
"No, Seņor; others saw her."
"And told you to tell me? Nurse Inez, I do not believe your tale. If the
Dona Margaret, my betrothed, were dead I should know it; but my heart
tells me that she is alive."
"You have great faith, Seņor," said the woman, with a note of admiration
in her voice which she could not suppress, but, as he observed, without
"I have faith," he answered. "Nothing else is left; but so far it has
been a good crutch."
Peter made no further allusion to the subject, only presently he asked:
"Tell me, where am I?"
"In a prison, Seņor."
"Oh! a prison, with a beautiful woman for jailer, and other beautiful
women"--and he pointed to a fair creature who had brought something into
the room--"as servants. A very fine prison also," and he looked about
him at the marbles and arches and lovely carving.
"There are men without the gate, not women," she replied, smiling.
"I daresay; captives can be tied with ropes of silk, can they not? Well,
whose is this prison?"
She shook her head.
"I do not know, Seņor. The Moorish king's perhaps--you yourself have
said that I am only the jailer."
"Then who pays you?"
"Perhaps I am not paid, Seņor; perhaps I work for love," and she glanced
at him swiftly, "or hate," and her face changed.
"Not hate of me, I think," said Peter.
"No, Seņor, not hate of you. Why should I hate you who have been so
helpless and so courteous to me?" and she bent the knee to him a little.
"Why indeed? especially as I am also grateful to you who have nursed me
back to life. But then, why hide the truth from a helpless man?"
Inez glanced about her; the room was empty now. She bent over him and
"Have you never been forced to hide the truth? No, I read it in your
face, and you are not a woman--an erring woman."
They looked into each other's eyes a while, then Peter asked: "Is the
Dona Margaret really dead?"
"I do not know," she answered; "I was told so." And as though she feared
lest she should betray herself, Inez turned and left him quickly.
The days went by, and through the slow degrees of convalescence Peter
grew strong again. But they brought him no added knowledge. He did not
know where he dwelt or why he was there. All he knew was that he lived a
prisoner in a sumptuous palace, or as he suspected, for of this he could
not be sure, since the arched windows of one side of the building were
walled up, in the wing of a palace. Nobody came near to him except the
fair Inez, and a Moor who either was deaf or could understand nothing
that he said to him in Spanish. There were other women about, it is
true, very pretty women all of them, who acted as servants, but none of
these were allowed to approach him; he only saw them at a distance.
Therefore Inez was his sole companion, and with her he grew very
intimate, to a certain extent, but no further. On the occasion that has
been described she had lifted a corner of her veil which hid her true
self, but a long while passed before she enlarged her confidence. The
veil was kept down very close indeed. Day by day he questioned her, and
day by day, without the slightest show of irritation, or even annoyance,
she parried his questions. They knew perfectly well that they were
matching their wits against each other; but as yet Inez had the best of
the game, which, indeed, she seemed to enjoy. He would talk to her also
of all sorts of things--the state of Spain, the Moorish court, the
danger that threatened Granada, whereof the great siege now drew near,
and so forth--and of these matters she would discourse most
intelligently, with the result that he learned much of the state of
politics in Castile and Granada, and greatly improved his knowledge of
the Spanish tongue.
But when of a sudden, as he did again and again, he sprang some question
on her about Morella, or Margaret, or John Castell, that same subtle
change would come over her face, and the same silence would seal
"Seņor," she said to him one day with a laugh, "you ask me of secrets
which I might reveal to you--perhaps--if you were my husband or my love,
but which you cannot expect a nurse, whose life hangs on it, to answer.
Not that I wish you to become my husband or my lover," she added, with a
little nervous laugh.
Peter looked at her with his grave eyes.
"I know that you do not wish that," he said, "for how could I attract
one so gay and beautiful as you are?"
"You seem to attract the English Margaret," she replied quickly in a
"To have attracted, you mean, as you tell me that she is dead," he
answered; and, seeing her mistake, Inez bit her lip. "But," he went on,
"I was going to add, though it may have no value for you, that you have
attracted me as your true friend."
"Friend!" she said, opening her large eyes, "what talk is this? Can the
woman Inez find a friend in a man who is under sixty?"
"It would appear so," he answered. And again with that graceful little
curtsey of hers she went away, leaving him very puzzled. Two days
later she appeared in his room, evidently much disturbed.
"I thought that you had left me altogether, and I am glad to see you,
for I tire of that deaf Moor and of this fine room. I want fresh air."
"I know it," she answered; "so I have come to take you to walk in a
He leapt for joy at her words, and snatching at his sword, which had
been left to him, buckled it on.
"You will not need that," she said.
"I thought that I should not need it in yonder inn, but I did," he
answered. Whereat she laughed, then turned, put her hand upon his
shoulder and spoke to him earnestly.
"See, friend," she whispered, "you want to walk in the fresh air--do you
not?--and to learn certain things--and I wish to tell you them. But I
dare not do it here, where we may at any moment be surrounded by spies,
for these walls have ears indeed. Well, when we walk in that garden,
would it be too great a penance for you to put your arm about my
waist--you who still need support?"
"No penance at all, I assure you," answered Peter with something like a
smile. For after all he was a man, and young; while the waist of Inez
was as pretty as all the rest of her. "But," he added, "it might be
"Quite so, I wish it to be misunderstood: not by me, who know that you
care nothing for me and would as soon place your arm round that
Peter opened his lips to speak, but she stopped him at once.
"Oh! do not waste falsehoods on me, in which of a truth you have no
art," she said with evident irritation. "Why, if you had the money, you
would offer to pay me for my nursing, and who knows, I might take it!
Understand, you must either do this, seeming to play the lover to me, or
we cannot walk together in that garden."
Peter hesitated a little, guessing a plot, while she bent forward till
her lips almost touched his ear and said in a still lower voice:
"And I cannot tell you how, perhaps--I say perhaps--you may come to see
the remains of the Dona Margaret, and certain other matters. Ah!" she
added after a pause, with a little bitter laugh, "now you will kiss me
from one end of the garden to the other, will you not? Foolish man!
Doubt no more; take your chance, it may be the last."
"Of what? Kissing you? Or the other things?"
"That you will find out," she said, with a shrug of her shoulders.
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