To Have and To Hold:
Part 4 out of 7
pillowed her head upon her arm and went to sleep in that blessed
warmth like a little child.
We who had no mind for sleep sat there beside the fire and
watched the sun sink behind the low black line of the mainland,
now plainly visible in the cleared air. It dyed the waves blood red,
and shot out one long ray to crimson a single floating cloud, no
larger than a man's hand, high in the blue. Sea birds, a countless
multitude, went to and fro with harsh cries from island to marsh,
and marsh to island. The marshes were still green; they lay, a half
moon of fantastic shapes, each parted from the other by pink
water. Beyond them was the inlet dividing us from the mainland,
and that inlet was three leagues in width. We turned and looked
seaward. Naught but leaping waves white-capped to the horizon.
"We touched here the time we went against the French at Port
Royal and St. Croix," I said. "We had heard a rumor that the
Bermuda pirates had hidden gold here. Argall and I went over
every foot of it."
"And found no water?" questioned the minister.
"And found no water."
The light died from the west and from the sea beneath, and the
night fell. When with the darkness the sea fowl ceased their
clamor, a dreadful silence suddenly enfolded us. The rush of the
surf made no difference; the ear heard it, but to the mind there was
no sound. The sky was thick with stars; every moment one shot,
and the trail of white fire it left behind melted into the night
silently like snowflakes. There was no wind. The moon rose out of
the sea, and lent the sandy isle her own pallor. Here and there,
back amongst the dunes, the branches of a low and leafless tree
writhed upward like dark fingers thrust from out the spectral earth.
The ocean, quiet now, dreamed beneath the moon and cared not
for the five lives it had cast upon that span of sand.
We piled driftwood and tangles of seaweed upon our fire, and it
flamed and roared and broke the silence. Diccon, going to the
landward side of the islet, found some oysters, which we roasted
and ate; but we had nor wine nor water with which to wash them
"At least there are here no foes to fear," quoth my lord. "We may
all sleep to-night; and zooks! we shall need it!" He spoke frankly,
with an open face.
"I will take one watch, if you will take the other," I said to the
He nodded. "I will watch until midnight."
It was long past that time when he roused me from where I lay at
Mistress Percy's feet.
"I should have relieved you long ago," I told him.
He smiled. The moon, now high in the heavens, shone upon and
softened his rugged features. I thought I had never seen a face so
filled with tenderness and hope and a sort of patient power. "I have
been with God," he said simply. "The starry skies and the great
ocean and the little shells beneath my hand, - how wonderful are
thy works, O Lord! What is man that thou art mindful of him? And
yet not a sparrow falleth"-
I rose and sat by the fire, and he laid himself down upon the sand
"Master Sparrow," I asked, "have you ever suffered thirst?"
"No," he answered. We spoke in low tones, lest we should wake
her. Diccon and my lord, upon the other side of the fire, were
"I have," I said. "Once I lay upon a field of battle throughout a
summer day, sore wounded and with my dead horse across my
body. I shall forget the horror of that lost field and the torment of
that weight before I forget the thirst."
"You think there is no hope?"
"What hope should there be?"
He was silent. Presently he turned and looked at the King's ward
where she lay in the rosy light; then his eyes came back to mine.
"If it comes to the worst I shall put her out of her torment," I said.
He bowed his head and we sat in silence, our gaze upon the ground
between us, listening to the low thunder of the surf and the
crackling of the fire. "I love her," I said at last. "God help me!"
He put his finger to his lips. She had stirred and opened her eyes. I
knelt beside her, and asked her how she did and if she wanted
"It is warm," she said wonderingly.
"You are no longer in the boat," I told her. "You are safe upon the
land. You have been sleeping here by the fire that we kindled."
An exquisite smile just lit her face, and her eyelids drooped again.
"I am so tired," she said drowsily, "that I will sleep a little longer.
Will you bring me some water, Captain Percy? I am very thirsty."
After a moment I said gently, "I will go get it, madam." She made
no answer; she was already asleep. Nor did Sparrow and I speak
again. He laid himself down with his face to the ocean, and I sat
with my head in my hands, and thought and thought, to no
CHAPTER XXI IN WHICH A GRAVE IS DIGGED
WHEN the stars had gone out and the moon begun to pale, I raised
my face from my hands. Only a few glowing embers remained of
the fire, and the driftwood that we had collected was exhausted. I
thought that I would gather more, and build up the fire against the
time when the others should awake. The driftwood lay in greatest
quantity some distance up the beach, against a low ridge of sand
dunes. Beyond these the islet tapered off to a long gray point of
sand and shell. Walking toward this point in the first pale light of
dawn, I chanced to raise my eyes, and beheld riding at anchor
beyond the spit of sand a ship.
I stopped short and rubbed my eyes. She lay there on the sleeping
ocean like a dream ship, her masts and rigging black against the
pallid sky, the mist that rested upon the sea enfolding half her hull.
She might have been of three hundred tons burthen; she was black
and two-decked, and very high at poop and forecastle, and she was
heavily armed. My eyes traveled from the ship to the shore, and
there dragged up on the point, the oars within it, was a boat.
At the head of the beach, beyond the line of shell and weed, the
sand lay piled in heaps. With these friendly hillocks between me
and the sea, I crept on as silently as I might, until I reached a point
just above the boat. Here I first heard voices. I went a little
further, then knelt, and, parting the long coarse grass that filled the
hollow between two hillocks, looked out upon two men who were
digging a grave.
They dug in a furious hurry, throwing the sand to left and right,
and cursing as they dug. They were powerful men, of a most
villainous cast of countenance, and dressed very oddly. One with a
shirt of coarsest dowlas, and a filthy rag tying up a broken head,
yet wore velvet breeches, and wiped the sweat from his face with a
wrought handkerchief; the other topped a suit of shreds and
patches with a fine bushy ruff, and swung from one ragged
shoulder a cloak of grogram lined with taffeta. On the ground, to
one side of them, lay something long and wrapped in white.
As they dug and cursed, the light strengthened. The east changed
from gray to pale rose, from rose to a splendid crimson shot with
gold. The mist lifted and the sea burned red. Two boats were
lowered from the ship, and came swiftly toward the point.
"Here they are at last," growled the gravedigger with the broken
head and velvet breeches.
"They've taken their time," snarled his companion, "and us two
here on this d-d island with a dead man the whole ghost's hour.
Boarding a ship's nothing, but to dig a grave on the land before
cockcrow, with the man you're to put in it looking at you! Why
could n't he be buried at sea, decent and respectable, like other
"It was his will, - that's all I know," said the first; "just as it was his
will, when he found he was a dying man, to come booming away
from the gold seas up here to a land where there is n't no gold, and
never will be. Belike he thought he'd find waiting for him at the
bottom of the sea, all along from the Lucayas to Cartagena, the
many he sent there afore he died. And Captain Paradise, he says,
says he: 'It's ill crossing a dead man. We'll obey him this once
more' " -
"Captain Paradise!" cried he of the ruff. "Who made him captain? -
His fellow straightened himself with a jerk. "Who made him
captain? The ship will make him captain. Who else should be
"Red Gil!" exclaimed the other. "I'd rather have the Spaniard!"
"The Spaniard would do well enough, if the rest of us were n't
English. If hating every other Spaniard would do it, he'd be English
The scoundrel with the broken head burst into a loud laugh. "D' ye
remember the bark we took off Porto Bello, with the priests
aboard? Oho! Oho!"
The rogue with the ruff grinned. "I reckon the padres remember it,
and find hell easy lying. This hole's deep enough, I'm thinking."
They both clambered out, and one squatted at the head of the grave
and mopped his face with his delicate handkerchief, while the
other swung his fine cloak with an air and dug his bare toes in the
The two boats now grated upon the beach, and several of their
occupants, springing out, dragged them up on the sand.
"We'll never get another like him that's gone," said the worthy at
the head of the grave, gloomily regarding the something wrapped
"That's gospel truth," assented the other, with a prodigious sigh.
"He was a man what was a man. He never stuck at nothing. Don
or priest, man or woman, good red gold or dirty silver, - it was all
one to him. But he's dead and gone!"
"Now, if we had a captain like Kirby," suggested the first.
"Kirby keeps to the Summer Isles," said the second. "'T is n't often
now that he swoops down as far as the Indies."
The man with the broken head laughed. "When he does, there's a
noise in that part of the world."
"And that's gospel truth, too," swore the other, with an oath of
By this the score or more who had come in the two boats were
halfway up the beach. In front, side by side, as each conceding no
inch of leadership, walked three men: a large man, with a
villainous face much scarred, and a huge, bushy, dark red beard; a
tall dark man, with a thin fierce face and bloodshot eyes, the
Spaniard by his looks; and a slight man, with the face and bearing
of an English gentleman. The men behind them differed no whit
from the two gravediggers, being as scoundrelly of face, as great of
strength, and as curiously attired. They came straight to the open
grave, and the dead man beside it. The three who seemed of most
importance disposed themselves, still side by side, at the head of
the grave, and their following took the foot.
"It's a dirty piece of work," said Red Gil in a voice like a raven's,
"and the sooner it's done with, and we are aboard again and
booming back to the Indies, the better I'll like it. Over with him,
"Is it yours to give the word?" asked the slight man, who was
dressed point-device, and with a finical nicety, in black and silver.
His voice was low and clear, and of a somewhat melancholy
cadence, going well with the pensiveness of fine, deeply fringed
"Why should n't I give the word?" growled the personage
addressed, adding with an oath, "I've as good a right to give it as
any man, - maybe a better right!"
"That would be scanned," said he of the pensive eyes. "Gentlemen,
we have here the pick of the ship. For the captain that these
choose, those on board will throw up their caps. Let us bury the
dead, and then let choice be made of one of us three, each of
whom has claims that might be put forward" - He broke off and
picking up a delicate shell began to study its pearly spirals with a
tender, thoughtful, half-pleased, half-melancholy countenance.
The gravedigger with the wrought handkerchief looked from him
to the rascal crew massed at the foot of the grave, and, seeing his
own sentiments mirrored in the countenances of not a few,
snatched the bloody clout from his head, waved it, and cried out,
"Paradise!" Whereupon arose a great confusion. Some bawled for
Paradise, some for Red Gil, a few for the Spaniard. The two
gravediggers locked horns, and a brawny devil with a woman's
mantle swathed about his naked shoulders drew a knife, and made
for a partisan of the Spaniard, who in his turn skillfully interposed
between himself and the attack the body of a bawling well-wisher
to Red Gil.
The man in black and silver tossed aside the shell, rose, and
entered the lists. With one hand he seized the gravedigger of the
ruff, and hurled him apart from him of the velvet breeches; with
the other he presented a dagger with a jeweled haft at the breast of
the ruffian with the woman's mantle, while in tones that would
have befitted Astrophel plaining of his love to rocks, woods, and
streams, he poured forth a flood of wild, singular, and filthy oaths,
such as would have disgraced a camp follower. His interference
was effectual. The combatants fell apart and the clamor was
stilled, whereupon the gentleman of contrarieties at once resumed
the gentle and indifferent melancholy of manner and address.
"Let us off with the old love before we are on with the new,
gentlemen," he said. "We'll bury the dead first, and choose his
successor afterward, - decently and in order, I trust, and with due
submission to the majority."
"I'll fight for my rights," growled Red Gil.
"And I for mine," cried the Spaniard.
"And each of us'll back his own man," muttered in an aside the
gravedigger with the broken head.
The one they called Paradise sighed. "It is a thousand pities that
there is not amongst us some one of merit so pre‰minent that
faction should hide its head before it. But to the work in hand,
They gathered closer around the yawning grave, and some began
to lift the corpse. As for me, I withdrew as noiselessly as an Indian
from my lair of grass, and, hidden by the heaped-up sand, made off
across the point and down the beach to where a light curl of smoke
showed that some one was mending the fire I had neglected. It was
Sparrow, who alternately threw on driftwood and seaweed and
spoke to madam, who sat at his feet in the blended warmth of fire
and sunshine. Diccon was roasting the remainder of the oysters he
had gathered the night before, and my lord stood and stared with a
frowning face at the nine-mile distant mainland. All turned their
eyes upon me as I came up to the fire.
"A little longer, Captain Percy, and we would have had out a
search warrant," began the minister cheerfully. "Have you been
building a bridge?"
"If I build one," I said, "it will be a perilous one enough. Have you
"We waked but a minute agone," he answered. As he spoke, he
straightened his great form and lifted his face from the fire to the
blue sea. Diccon, still on his knees at his task, looked too; and my
lord, turning from his contemplation of the distant kingdom of
Accomac; and Mistress Percy, one hand shading her eyes, the
slender fingers of the other still immeshed in her long dark hair
which she had been braiding. They stared at the ship in silence
until my lord laughed.
"Conjure us on board at once, captain," he cried. "We are thirsty."
I drew the minister aside. "I am going up the beach, beyond that
point, again; you will one and all stay here. If I do not come back,
do the best you can, and sell her life as dearly as you can. If I come
back, - you are quick of wit and have been a player; look that you
take the cue I give you!"
I returned to the fire, and he followed me, amazement in his face.
"My Lord Carnal," I said, "I must ask you for your sword."
He started, and his black brows drew together. "Though the
fortunes of war have made me in some sort your captive, sir," he
said at last, and not without dignity, "I do not see, upon this isle to
which we are all prisoners, the need of so strong testimony to the
abjectness of my condition, nor deem it generous" -
"We will speak of generosity another day, my lord," I interrupted.
"At present I am in a hurry. That you are my prisoner in verity is
enough for me, but not for others. I must have you so in seeming as
well as in truth. Moreover, Master Sparrow is weaponless, and I
must needs disarm an enemy to arm a friend. I beg that you will
give what else we must take."
He looked at Diccon, but Diccon stood with his face to the sea. I
thought we were to have a struggle, and I was sorry for it, but my
lord could and did add discretion to a valor that I never doubted.
He shrugged his shoulders, burst into a laugh, and turned to
"What can one do, lady, when one is doubly a prisoner, prisoner to
numbers and to beauty? E'en laugh at fate, and make the best of a
bad job. Here, sir! Some day it shall be the point!"
He drew his rapier from its sheath, and presented the hilt to me. I
took it with a bow, and handed it to Sparrow.
The King's ward had risen, and now leant against the bank of sand,
her long dark hair, half braided, drawn over either shoulder, her
face marble white between the waves of darkness.
"I do not know that I shall ever come back," I said, stopping before
her. "May I kiss your hand before I go?"
Her lips moved, but she did not speak. I knelt and kissed her
clasped hands. They were cold to my lips. "Where are you going?"
she whispered. "Into what danger are you going? I - I - take me
I rose, with a laugh at my own folly that could have rested brow
and lips on those hands, and let the world wag. "Another time," I
said. "Rest in the sunshine now, and think that all is well. All will
be well, I trust."
A few minutes later saw me almost upon the party gathered about
the grave. The grave had received that which it was to hold until
the crack of doom, and was now being rapidly filled with sand.
The crew of deep-dyed villains worked or stood or sat in silence,
but all looked at the grave, and saw me not. As the last handful of
sand made it level with the beach, I walked into their midst, and
found myself face to face with the three candidates for the now
"Give you good-day, gentlemen," I cried. "Is it your captain that
you bury or one of your crew, or is it only pezos and pieces of
CHAPTER XXII IN WHICH I CHANGE MY NAME AND OCCUPATION
"THE sun shining on so much bare steel hurts my eyes," I said.
"Put up, gentlemen, put up! Cannot one rover attend the funeral of
another without all this crowding and display of cutlery? If you
will take the trouble to look around you, you will see that I have
brought to the obsequies only myself."
One by one cutlass and sword were lowered, and those who had
drawn them, falling somewhat back, spat and swore and laughed.
The man in black and silver only smiled gently and sadly. "Did you
drop from the blue?" he asked. "Or did you come up from the sea?"
"I came out of it," I said. "My ship went down in the storm
yesterday. Your little cockboat yonder was more fortunate." I
waved my hand toward that ship of three hundred tons, then
twirled my mustaches and stood at gaze.
"Was your ship so large, then?" demanded Paradise, while a
murmur of admiration, larded with oaths, ran around the circle.
"She was a very great galleon," I replied, with a sigh for the good
ship that was gone.
A moment's silence, during which they all looked at me. "A
galleon," then said Paradise softly.
"They that sailed her yesterday are to-day at the bottom of the sea,"
I continued. "Alackaday! so are one hundred thousand pezos of
gold, three thousand bars of silver, ten frails of pearls, jewels
uncounted, cloth of gold and cloth of silver. She was a very rich
The circle sucked in their breath. "All at the bottom of the sea?"
queried Red Gil, with gloating eyes fixed upon the smiling water.
"Not one pezo left, not one little, little pearl?"
I shook my head and heaved a prodigious sigh. "The treasure is
gone," I said, "and the men with whom I took it are gone. I am a
captain with neither ship nor crew. I take you, my friends, for a
ship and crew without a captain. The inference is obvious."
The ring gaped with wonder, then strange oaths arose. Red Gil
broke into a bellow of angry laughter, while the Spaniard glared
like a catamount about to spring. "So you would be our captain?"
said Paradise, picking up another shell, and poising it upon a hand
as fine and small as a woman's.
"Faith, you might go farther and fare worse," I answered, and
began to hum a tune. When I had finished it, "I am Kirby," I said,
and waited to see if that shot should go wide or through the hull.
For two minutes the dash of the surf and the cries of the wheeling
sea fowl made the only sound in that part of the world; then from
those half-clad rapscallions arose a shout of "Kirby!" - a shout in
which the three leaders did not join. That one who looked a
gentleman rose from the sand and made me a low bow. "Well met,
noble captain," he cried in those his honey tones. "You will
doubtless remember me who was with you that time at Maracaibo
when you sunk the galleasses. Five years have passed since then,
and yet I see you ten years younger and three inches taller."
"I touched once at the Lucayas, and found the spring de Leon
sought," I said. "Sure the waters have a marvelous effect, and if
they give not eternal youth at least renew that which we have lost."
"Truly a potent aqua vit‘," he remarked, still with thoughtful
melancholy. "I see that it hath changed your eyes from black to
"It hath that peculiar virtue," I said, "that it can make black seem
The man with the woman's mantle drawn about him now thrust
himself from the rear to the front rank. "That's not Kirby!" he
bawled. "He's no more Kirby than I am Kirby! Did n't I sail with
Kirby from the Summer Isles to Cartagena and back again? He's a
cheat, and I am agoing to cut his heart out!" He was making at me
with a long knife, when I whipped out my rapier.
"Am I not Kirby, you dog?" I cried, and ran him through the
He dropped, and his fellows surged forward with a yell. "Yet a
little patience, my masters!" said Paradise in a raised voice and
with genuine amusement in his eyes. "It is true that that Kirby with
whom I and our friend there on the ground sailed was somewhat
short and as swart as a raven, besides having a cut across his face
that had taken away a part of his lip and the top of his ear, and that
this gentleman who announces himself as Kirby hath none of
Kirby's marks. But we are fair and generous and open to
"He'll have to convince my cutlass!" roared Red Gil.
I turned upon him. "If I do convince it, what then?" I demanded. "If
I convince your sword, you of Spain, and yours, Sir Black and
The Spaniard stared. "I was the best sword in Lima," he said
stiffly. "I and my Toledo will not change our minds."
"Let him try to convince Paradise; he's got no reputation as a
swordsman!" cried out the gravedigger with the broken head.
A roar of laughter followed this suggestion, and I gathered from it
and from the oaths and allusions to this or that time and place that
Paradise was not without reputation.
I turned to him. "If I fight you three, one by one, and win, am I
He regarded the shell with which he was toying with a thoughtful
smile, held it up that the light might strike through its rose and
pearl, then crushed it to dust between his fingers.
"Ay," he said with an oath. "If you win against the cutlass of Red
Gil, the best blade of Lima, and the sword of Paradise, you may
call yourself the devil an you please, and we will all subscribe to
I lifted my hand. "I am to have fair play?"
As one man that crew of desperate villains swore that the odds
should be only three to one. By this the whole matter had
presented itself to them as an entertainment more diverting than
bullfight or bearbaiting. They that follow the sea, whether honest
men or black-hearted knaves, have in their composition a certain
childlikeness that makes them easily turned, easily led, and easily
pleased. The wind of their passion shifts quickly from point to
point, one moment blowing a hurricane, the next sinking to a
happy-go-lucky summer breeze. I have seen a little thing convert a
crew on the point of mutiny into a set of rollicking, good-natured
souls who - until the wind veered again - would not hurt a fly. So
with these. They spread themselves into a circle, squatting or
kneeling or standing upon the white sand in the bright sunshine,
their sinewy hands that should have been ingrained red clasped
over their knees, or, arms akimbo, resting upon their hips, on their
scoundrel faces a broad smile, and in their eyes that had looked on
nameless horrors a pleasurable expectation as of spectators in a
playhouse awaiting the entrance of the players.
"There is really no good reason why we should gratify your whim,"
said Paradise, still amused. "But it will serve to pass the time. We
will fight you, one by one."
"And if I win?"
He laughed. "Then, on the honor of a gentleman, you are Kirby and
our captain. If you lose, we will leave you where you stand for the
gulls to bury."
"A bargain," I said, and drew my sword.
"I first!" roared Red Gil. "God's wounds! there will need no
As he spoke he swung his cutlass and made an arc of blue flame.
The weapon became in his hands a flail, terrible to look upon,
making lightnings and whistling in the air, but in reality not so
deadly as it seemed. The fury of his onslaught would have beaten
down the guard of any mere swordsman, but that I was not. A man,
knowing his weakness and insufficiency in many and many a
thing, may yet know his strength in one or two and his modesty
take no hurt. I was ever master of my sword, and it did the thing I
would have it do. Moreover, as I fought I saw her as I had last seen
her, standing against the bank of sand, her dark hair, half braided,
drawn over her bosom and hanging to her knees. Her eyes haunted
me, and my lips yet felt the touch of her hand. I fought well, - how
well the lapsing of oaths and laughter into breathless silence bore
The ruffian against whom I was pitted began to draw his breath in
gasps. He was a scoundrel not fit to die, less fit to live, unworthy
of a gentleman's steel. I presently ran him through with as little
compunction and as great a desire to be quit of a dirty job as if he
had been a mad dog. He fell, and a little later, while I was engaged
with the Spaniard, his soul went to that hell which had long gaped
for it. To those his companions his death was as slight a thing as
would theirs have been to him. In the eyes of the two remaining
would-be leaders he was a stumbling-block removed, and to the
squatting, open-mouthed commonality his taking off weighed not a
feather against the solid entertainment I was affording them. I was
now a better man than Red Gil, - that was all.
The Spaniard was a more formidable antagonist. The best blade of
Lima was by no means to be despised; but Lima is a small place,
and its blades can be numbered. The sword that for three years had
been counted the best in all the Low Countries was its better. But I
fought fasting and for the second time that morning, so maybe the
odds were not so great. I wounded him slightly, and presently
succeeded in disarming him. "Am I Kirby?" I demanded, with my
point at his breast.
"Kirby, of course, se¤or," he answered with a sour smile, his eyes
upon the gleaming blade.
I lowered my point and we bowed to each other, after which he sat
down upon the sand and applied himself to stanching the bleeding
from his wound. The pirate ring gave him no attention, but stared
at me instead. I was now a better man than the Spaniard.
The man in black and silver rose and removed his doublet, folding
it very carefully, inside out, that the sand might not injure the
velvet, then drew his rapier, looked at it lovingly, made it bend
until point and hilt well-nigh met, and faced me with a bow.
"You have fought twice, and must be weary," he said. "Will you
not take breath before we engage, or will your long rest afterward
"I will rest aboard my ship," I made reply. "And as I am in a hurry
to be gone we won't delay."
Our blades had no sooner crossed than I knew that in this last
encounter I should need every whit of my skill, all my wit,
audacity, and strength. I had met my equal, and he came to it fresh
and I jaded. I clenched my teeth and prayed with all my heart; I set
her face before me, and thought if I should fail her to what ghastly
fate she might come, and I fought as I had never fought before.
The sound of the surf became a roar in my ears, the sunshine an
intolerable blaze of light; the blue above and around seemed
suddenly beneath my feet as well. We were fighting high in the air,
and had fought thus for ages. I knew that he made no thrust I did
not parry, no feint I could not interpret. I knew that my eye was
more quick to see, my brain to conceive, and my hand to execute
than ever before; but it was as though I held that knowledge of
some other, and I myself was far away, at Weyanoke, in the
minister's garden, in the haunted wood, anywhere save on that
barren islet. I heard him swear under his breath, and in the face I
had set before me the eyes brightened. As if she had loved me I
fought for her with all my powers of body and mind. He swore
again, and my heart laughed within me. The sea now roared less
loudly, and I felt the good earth beneath my feet. Slowly but surely
I wore him out. His breath came short, the sweat stood upon his
forehead, and still I deferred my attack. He made the thrust of a
boy of fifteen, and I smiled as I put it by.
"Why don't you end it?" he breathed. "Finish and be d-d to you!"
For answer I sent his sword flying over the nearest hillock of sand.
"Am I Kirby?" I said. He fell back against the heaped-up sand and
leaned there, panting, with his hand to his side. "Kirby or devil," he
replied. "Have it your own way."
I turned to the now highly excited rabble. "Shove the boats off,
half a dozen of you!" I ordered. "Some of you others take up that
carrion there and throw it into the sea. The gold upon it is for your
pains. You there with the wounded shoulder you have no great
hurt. I'll salve it with ten pieces of eight from the captain's own
share, the next prize we take."
A shout of acclamation arose that scared the sea fowl. They who
so short a time before had been ready to tear me limb from limb
now with the greatest apparent delight hailed me as captain. How
soon they might revert to their former mood was a question that I
found not worth while to propound to myself.
By this the man in black and silver had recovered his breath and
his equanimity. "Have you no commission with which to honor
me, noble captain?" he asked in gently reproachful tones. "Have
you forgot how often you were wont to employ me in those sweet
days when your eyes were black?"
"By no means, Master Paradise," I said courteously. "I desire your
company and that of the gentleman from Lima. You will go with
me to bring up the rest of my party. The three gentlemen of the
broken head, the bushy ruff, which I protest is vastly becoming,
and the wounded shoulder will escort us."
"The rest of your party?" said Paradise softly.
"Ay," I answered nonchalantly. "They are down the beach and
around the point warming themselves by a fire which this piled-up
sand hides from you. Despite the sunshine it is a biting air. Let us
be going! This island wearies me, and I am anxious to be on board
ship and away."
"So small an escort scarce befits so great a captain," he said. "We
will all attend you." One and all started forward.
I called to mind and gave utterance to all the oaths I had heard in
the wars. "I entertain you for my subordinate whom I command,
and not who commands me!" I cried, when my memory failed me.
"As for you, you dogs, who would question your captain and his
doings, stay where you are, if you would not be lessoned in
Sheer audacity is at times the surest steed a man can bestride. Now
at least it did me good service. With oaths and grunts of
admiration the pirates stayed where they were, and went about
their business of launching the boats and stripping the body of Red
Gil, while the man in black and silver, the Spaniard, the two
gravediggers, the knave with the wounded shoulder, and myself
walked briskly up the beach.
With these five at my heels I strode up to the dying fire and to
those who had sprung to their feet at our approach. "Sparrow," I
said easily, "luck being with us as usual, I have fallen in with a
party of rovers. I have told them who I am, - that Kirby, to wit,
whom an injurious world calls the blackest pirate unhanged, - and
have recounted to them how the great galleon which I took some
months ago went down yesterday with all on board, you and I with
these others being the sole survivors. By dint of a little persuasion
they have elected me their captain, and we will go on board
directly and set sail for the Indies, a hunting ground which we
never should have left. You need not look so blank; you shall be
my mate and right hand still." I turned to the five who formed my
escort. "This, gentlemen, is my mate, Jeremy Sparrow by name,
who hath a taste for divinity that in no wise interferes with his
taste for a galleon or a guarda costa. This man, Diccon Demon by
name, was of my crew. The gentleman without a sword is my
prisoner, taken by me from the last ship I sunk. How he, an
Englishman, came to be upon a Spanish bark I have not found
leisure to inquire. The lady is my prisoner, also."
"Sure by rights she should be gaoler and hold all men's hearts in
ward," said Paradise, with a low bow to my unfortunate captive.
While he spoke a most remarkable transformation was going on.
The minister's grave, rugged, and deeply lined face smoothed itself
and shed ten years at least; in the eyes that I had seen wet with
noble tears a laughing devil now lurked, while his strong mouth
became a loose-lipped, devil-may-care one. His head with its
aureole of bushy, grizzled hair set itself jauntily upon one side,
and from it and from his face and his whole great frame breathed a
wicked jollity quite indescribable.
"Odsbodikins, captain!" he cried. "Kirby's luck! - 't will pass into a
saw! Adzooks! and so you're captain once more, and I'm mate once
more, and we've a ship once more, and we're off once more
sail the Spanish Main
give the Spaniard pain,
ho, bully boy, heave ho!
By 'r lakin! I'm too dry to sing. It will take all the wine of Xeres in
the next galleon to unparch my tongue!"
CHAPTER XXIII IN WHICH WE WRITE UPON THE SAND
DAY after day the wind filled our sails and sang in the rigging, and
day after day we sailed through blue seas toward the magic of the
south. Day after day a listless and voluptuous world seemed too
idle for any dream of wrong, and day after day we whom a strange
turn of Fortune's wheel had placed upon a pirate ship held our lives
in our hands, and walked so close with Death that at length that
very intimacy did breed contempt. It was not a time to think; it was
a time to act, to laugh and make others laugh, to bluster and brag,
to estrange sword and scabbard, to play one's hand with a fine
unconcern, but all the time to watch, watch, watch, day in and day
out, every minute of every hour. That ship became a stage, and we,
the actors, should have been applauded to the echo. How well we
played let witness the fact that the ship came to the Indies, with me
for captain and the minister for mate, and with the woman that was
on board unharmed; nay, reverenced like a queen. The great cabin
was hers, and the poop deck; we made for her a fantastic state with
doffing of hats and bowings and backward steps. We were her
guard, - the gentlemen of the Queen, - I and my Lord Carnal, the
minister and Diccon, and we kept between her and the rest of the
We did our best, and our best was very much. When I think of the
songs the minister sang; of the roars of laughter that went up from
the lounging pirates when, sitting astride one of the main-deck
guns, he made his voice call to them, now from the hold, now from
the stern gallery, now from the masthead, now from the gilt sea
maid upon the prow, I laugh too. Sometimes a space was cleared
for him, and he played to them as to the pit at Blackfriars. They
laughed and wept and swore with delight, - all save the Spaniard,
who was ever like a thundercloud, and Paradise, who only smiled
like some languid, side-box lord. There was wine on board, and
during the long, idle days, when the wind droned in the rigging
like a bagpipe, and there was never a cloud in the sky, and the
galleons were still far away, the pirates gambled and drank.
Diccon diced with them, and taught them all the oaths of a free
company. So much wine, and no more, should they have; when
they frowned, I let them see that their frowning and their
half-drawn knives mattered no doit to me. It was their whim - a
huge jest of which they could never have enough - still to make
believe that they sailed under Kirby. Lest it should spoil the jest,
and while the jest outranked all other entertainment, they obeyed
as though I had been indeed that fierce sea wolf.
Time passed, though it passed like a tortoise, and we came to the
Lucayas, to the outposts of the vast hunting ground of Spaniard
and pirate and buccaneer, the fringe of that zone of beauty and
villainy and fear, and sailed slowly past the islands, looking for our
The sea was blue as blue could be. Only in the morning and the
evening it glowed blood red, or spread upon its still bosom all the
gold of all the Indies, or became an endless mead of palest green
shot with amethyst. When night fell, it mirrored the stars, great
and small, or was caught in a net of gold flung across it from
horizon to horizon. The ship rent the net with a wake of white fire.
The air was balm; the islands were enchanted places, abandoned
by Spaniard and Indian, overgrown, serpent-haunted. The reef, the
still water, pink or gold, the gleaming beach, the green plume of
the palm, the scarlet birds, the cataracts of bloom, - the senses
swooned with the color, the steaming incense, the warmth, the
wonder of that fantastic world. Sometimes, in the crystal waters
near the land, we sailed over the gardens of the sea gods, and,
looking down, saw red and purple blooms and shadowy waving
forests, with rainbow fish for humming birds. Once we saw below
us a sunken ship. With how much gold she had endowed the
wealthy sea, how many long drowned would rise from her rotted
decks when the waves gave up their dead, no man could tell. Away
from the ship darted many-hued fish, gold-disked, or barred and
spotted with crimson, or silver and purple. The dolphin and the
tunny and the flying fish swam with us. Sometimes flights of small
birds came to us from the land. Sometimes the sea was thickly set
with full-blown pale red bloom, the jellyfish that was a flower to
the sight and a nettle to the touch. If a storm arose, a fury that
raged and threatened, it presently swept away, and the blue
laughed again. When the sun sank, there arose in the east such a
moon as might have been sole light to all the realms of faery. A
beauty languorous and seductive was most absolute empress of the
wonderful land and the wonderful sea.
We were in the hunting grounds, and men went not there to gather
flowers. Day after day we watched for Spanish sails; for the plate
fleets went that way, and some galleass or caravel or galleon might
stray aside. At last, in the clear green bay of a nameless island at
which we stopped for water, we found two carracks come upon the
same errand, took them, and with them some slight treasure in rich
cloths and gems. A week later, in a strait between two islands like
tinted clouds, we fought a very great galleon from sunrise to noon,
pierced her hull through and through and silenced her ordnance,
then boarded her and found a king's ransom in gold and silver.
When the fighting had ceased and the treasure was ours, then we
four stood side by side on the deck of the slowly sinking galleon,
in front of our prisoners, - of the men who had fought well, of the
ashen priests and the trembling women. Those whom we faced
were in high good humor: they had gold with which to gamble, and
wine to drink, and rich clothing with which to prank their
villainous bodies, and prisoners with whom to make merry. When
I ordered the Spaniards to lower their boats, and taking with them
their priests and women row off to one of those two islands, the
We outlived that storm, but how I scarcely know. As Kirby would
have done, so did I; rating my crew like hounds, turning my point
this way and that, daring them to come taste the red death upon it,
braving it out like some devil who knows he is invulnerable. My
lord, swinging the cutlass with which he was armed, stood beside
me, knee to knee, and Diccon cursed after me, making quarterstaff
play with his long pike. But it was the minister that won us
through. At length they laughed, and Paradise, standing forward,
swore that such a captain and such a mate were worth the lives of
a thousand Spaniards. To pleasure Kirby, they would depart this
once from their ancient usage and let the prisoners go, though it
was passing strange, - it being Kirby's wont to clap prisoners under
hatches and fire their ship above them. At the end of which speech
the Spaniard began to rave, and sprang at me like a catamount.
Paradise put forth a foot and tripped him up, whereat the pirates
laughed again, and held him back when he would have come at me
a second time.
From the deck of the shattered galleon I watched her boats, with
their heavy freight of cowering humanity, pull off toward the
island. Back upon my own poop, the grappling irons cast loose,
and a swiftly widening ribbon of blue between us and the sinking
ship, I looked at the pirates thronging the waist below me, and
knew that the play was nearly over. How many days, weeks, hours,
before the lights would go out, I could not tell: they might burn
until we took or lost another ship; the next hour might see that
brief tragedy consummated.
I turned, and going below met Sparrow at the foot of the poop
"I have sworn at these pirates until my hair stood on end," he said
ruefully. "God forgive me! And I have bent into circles three half
pikes in demonstration of the thing that would occur to them if
they tempted me overmuch. And I have sung them all the bloody
and lascivious songs that ever I knew in my unregenerate days. I
have played the bravo and buffoon until they gaped for wonder. I
have damned myself to all eternity, I fear, but there'll be no mutiny
this fair day. It may arrive by to-morrow, though."
"Likely enough," I said. "Come within. I have eaten nothing since
"I'll speak to Diccon first," he answered, and went on toward the
forecastle, while I entered the state cabin. Here I found Mistress
Percy kneeling beside the bench beneath the stern windows, her
face buried in her outstretched arms, her dark hair shadowing her
like a mantle. When I spoke to her she did not answer. With a
sudden fear I stooped and touched her clasped hands. A shudder
ran through her frame, and she slowly raised a colorless face.
"Are you come back?" she whispered. "I thought you would never
come back. I thought they had killed you. I was only praying
before I killed myself."
I took her hands and wrung them apart to rouse her, she was so
white and cold, and spoke so strangely. "God forbid that I should
die yet awhile, madam!" I said. "When I can no longer serve you,
then I shall not care how soon I die."
The eyes with which she gazed upon me were still wide and
unseeing. "The guns!" she cried, wresting her hands from mine and
putting them to her ears. "Oh, the guns! they shake the air. And the
screams and the trampling - the guns again! "
I brought her wine and made her drink it; then sat beside her, and
told her gently, over and over again, that there was no longer
thunder of the guns or screams or trampling. At last the long,
tearless sobs ceased, and she rose from her knees, and let me lead
her to the door of her cabin. There she thanked me softly, with
downcast eyes and lips that yet trembled; then vanished from my
sight, leaving me first to wonder at that terror and emotion in her
who seldom showed the thing she felt, and finally to conclude that
it was not so wonderful after all.
We sailed on, - southwards to Cuba, then north again to the
Lucayas and the Florida straits, looking for Spanish ships and their
gold. The lights yet burned, - now brightly, now so sunken that it
seemed as though the next hour they must flicker out. We, the
players, flagged not in that desperate masque; but we knew that, in
spite of all endeavor, the darkness was coming fast upon us.
Had it been possible, we would have escaped from the ship,
hazarding new fortunes on the Spanish Main, in an open boat, sans
food or water. But the pirates watched us very closely. They called
me "captain" and "Kirby," and for the jest's sake gave an
exaggerated obedience, with laughter and flourishes; but none the
less I was their prisoner, - I and those I had brought with me to that
An islet, shaped like the crescent moon, rose from out the sea
before us. We needed water, and so we felt our way between the
horns of the crescent into the blue crystal of a fairy harbor. One
low hill, rose-colored from base to summit, with scarce a hint of
the green world below that canopy of giant bloom, a little silver
beach with wonderful shells upon it, the sound of a waterfall and a
lazy surf, - we smelt the fruits and the flowers, and a longing for
the land came upon us. Six men were left on the ship, and all
besides went ashore. Some rolled the water casks toward the sound
of the cascade; others plunged into the forest, to return laden with
strange and luscious fruits, birds, guanas, conies, - whatever
eatable thing they could lay hands upon; others scattered along the
beach to find turtle eggs, or, if fortune favored them, the turtle
itself. They laughed, they sang, they swore, until the isle rang to
their merriment. Like wanton children, they called to each other, to
the screaming birds, to the echoing bloom-draped hill.
I spread a square of cloth upon the sand, in the shadow of a mighty
tree that stood at the edge of the forest, and the King's ward took
her seat upon it, and looked, in the golden light of the sinking sun,
the very spirit of the isle. By this we two were alone on the beach.
The hunters for eggs, led by Diccon, were out upon the farthest
gleaming horn; from the wood came the loud laughter of the fruit
gatherers, and a most rollicking song issuing from the mighty chest
of Master Jeremy Sparrow. With the woodsmen had gone my lord.
I walked a little way into the forest, and shouted a warning to
Sparrow against venturing too far. When I returned to the giant
tree and the cloth in the shadow of its outer branches, my wife was
writing on the sand with a pointed shell. She had not seen or heard
me, and I stood behind her and read what she wrote. It was my
name. She wrote it three times, slowly and carefully; then she felt
my presence, glanced swiftly up, smiled, rubbed out my name, and
wrote Sparrow's, Diccon's, and the King's in succession. "Lest I
should forget to make my letters," she explained.
I sat down at her feet, and for some time we said no word. The
light, falling between the heavy blooms, cast bright sequins upon
her dress and dark hair. The blooms were not more pink than her
cheeks, the recesses of the forest behind us not deeper or darker
than her eyes. The laughter and the song came faintly to us now.
The sun was low in the west, and a wonderful light slept upon the
"Last year we had a masque at court," she said at length, breaking
the long silence. "We had Calypso's island, and I was Calypso. The
island was built of boards covered with green velvet, and there was
a mound upon it of pink silk roses. There was a deep blue painted
sea below, and a deep blue painted sky above. My nymphs danced
around the mound of roses, while I sat upon a real rock beside the
painted sea and talked with Ulysses - to wit, my Lord of
Buckingham - in gold armor. That was a strange, bright, unreal,
and wearisome day, but not so strange and unreal as this."
She ceased to speak, and began again to write upon the sand. I
watched her white hand moving to and fro. She wrote, "How long
will it last?"
"I do not know. Not long."
She wrote again: "If there is time at the last, when you see that it is
best, will you kill me?"
I took the shell from her hand, and wrote my answer beneath her
The forest behind us sank into that pause and breathless hush
between the noises of the day and the noises of the night. The sun
dropped lower, and the water became as pink as the blooms above
"An you could, would you change?" I asked. "Would you return to
England and safety?"
She took a handful of the sand and let it slowly drift through her
white fingers. "You know that I would not," she said; "not if the
end were to come to-night. Only - only" - She turned from me and
looked far out to sea. I could not see her face, only the dusk of her
hair and her heaving bosom. "My blood may be upon your hands,"
she said in a whisper, "but yours will be upon my soul."
She turned yet further away, and covered her eyes with her hand. I
arose, and bent over her until I could have touched with my lips
that bowed head. "Jocelyn," I said.
A branch of yellow fruit fell beside us, and my Lord Carnal, a
mass of gaudy bloom in his hand, stepped from the wood. "I
returned to lay our first-fruits at madam's feet," he explained, his
darkly watchful eyes upon us both. "A gift from one poor prisoner
to another, madam." He dropped the flowers in her lap. "Will you
wear them, lady? They are as fair almost as I could wish."
She touched the blossoms with listless fingers, said they were fair;
then, rising, let them drop upon the sand. "I wear no flowers save
of my husband's gathering, my lord," she said.
There was a pathos and weariness in her voice, and a mist of
unshed tears in her eyes. She hated him; she loved me not, yet was
forced to turn to me for help at every point, and she had stood for
weeks upon the brink of death and looked unfalteringly into the
gulf beneath her.
"My lord," I said, "you know in what direction Master Sparrow led
the men. Will you re‰nter the wood and call them to return? The
sun is fast sinking, and darkness will be upon us."
He looked from her to me, with his brows drawn downwards and
his lips pressed together. Stooping, he took up the fallen flowers
and deliberately tore them to pieces, until the pink petals were all
scattered upon the sand.
"I am weary of requests that are but sugared commands," he said
thickly. "Go seek your own men, an you will. Here we are but man
to man, and I budge not. I stay, as the King would have me stay,
beside the unfortunate lady whom you have made the prisoner and
the plaything of a pirate ship."
"You wear no sword, my Lord Carnal," I said at last, "and so may
lie with impunity."
"But you can get me one!" he cried, with ill-concealed eagerness.
I laughed. "I am not zealous in mine enemy's cause, my lord. I
shall not deprive Master Sparrow of your lordship's sword."
Before I knew what he was about he crossed the yard of sand
between us and struck me in the face. "Will that quicken your
zeal?" he demanded between his teeth.
I seized him by the arm, and we stood so, both white with passion,
both breathing heavily. At length I flung his arm from me and
stepped back. "I fight not my prisoner," I said, "nor, while the lady
you have named abides upon that ship with the nobleman who,
more than myself, is answerable for her being there, do I put my
life in unnecessary hazard. I will endure the smart as best I may,
my lord, until a more convenient season, when I will salve it well."
I turned to Mistress Percy, and giving her my hand led her down to
the boats; for I heard the fruit gatherers breaking through the
wood, and the hunters for eggs, black figures against the crimson
sky, were hurrying down the beach. Before the night had quite
fallen we were out of the fairy harbor, and when the moon rose the
islet looked only a silver sail against the jeweled heavens.
CHAPTER XXIV IN WHICH WE CHOOSE THE LESSER OF TWO EVILS
THE luck that had been ours could not hold; when the tide turned,
it ebbed fast.
The weather changed. One hurricane followed upon the stride of
another, with only a blue day or two between. Ofttimes we thought
the ship was lost. All hands toiled like galley slaves; and as the
heavens darkened, there darkened also the mood of the pirates.
In sight of the great island of Cuba we gave chase to a bark. The
sun was shining and the sea fairly still when first she fled before
us; we gained upon her, and there was not a mile between us when
a cloud blotted out the sun. The next minute our own sails gave us
occupation enough. The storm, not we, was victor over the bark;
she sank with a shriek from her decks that rang above the roaring
wind. Two days later we fought a large caravel. With a fortunate
shot she brought down our foremast, and sailed away from us with
small damage of her own. All that day and night the wind blew,
driving us out of our course, and by dawn we were as a shuttlecock
between it and the sea. We weathered the gale, but when the wind
sank there fell on board that black ship a menacing silence.
In the state cabin I held a council of war. Mistress Percy sat beside
me, her arm upon the table, her hand shadowing her eyes; my
lord, opposite, never took his gaze from her, though he listened
gloomily to Sparrow's rueful assertion that the brazen game we had
been playing was well-nigh over. Diccon, standing behind him, bit
his nails and stared at the floor.
"For myself I care not overmuch," ended the minister. "I scorn not
life, but think it at its worst well worth the living; yet when my
God calls me, I will go as to a gala day and triumph. You are a
soldier, Captain Percy, you and Diccon here, and know how to die.
You too, my Lord Carnal, are a brave man, though a most wicked
one. For us four, we can drink the cup, bitter though it be, with
little trembling. But there is one among us" - His great voice broke,
and he sat staring at the table.
The King's ward uncovered her eyes. "If I be not a man and a
soldier, Master Sparrow," she said simply, "yet I am the daughter
of many valiant gentlemen. I will die as they died before me. And
for me, as for you four, it will be only death, - naught else." She
looked at me with a proud smile.
"Naught else," I said.
My lord started from his seat and strode over to the window, where
he stood drumming his fingers against the casing. I turned toward
him. "My Lord Carnal," I said, "you were overheard last night
when you plotted with the Spaniard."
He recoiled with a gasp, and his hand went to his side, where it
found no sword. I saw his eyes busy here and there through the
cabin, seeking something which he might convert into a weapon.
"I am yet captain of this ship," I continued. "Why I do not, even
though it be my last act of authority, have you flung to the sharks, I
He threw back his head, all his bravado returned to him. "It is not I
that stand in danger," he began loftily; "and I would have you
remember, sir, that you are my enemy, and that I owe you no
"I am content to be your enemy," I answered.
"You do not dare to set upon me now," he went on, with his old
insolent, boastful smile. "Let me cry out, make a certain signal,
and they without will be here in a twinkling, breaking in the door"
"The signal set?" I said. "The mine laid, the match burning? Then 't
is time that we were gone. When I bid the world good-night, my
lord, my wife goes with me."
His lips moved and his black eyes narrowed, but he did not speak.
"An my cheek did not burn so," I said, "I would be content to let
you live; live, captain in verity of this ship of devils, until, tired of
you, the devils cut your throat, or until some victorious Spaniard
hung you at his yardarm; live even to crawl back to England, by
hook or crook, to wait, hat in hand, in the antechamber of his
Grace of Buckingham. As it is, I will kill you here and now. I
restore you your sword, my lord, and there lies my challenge."
I flung my glove at his feet, and Sparrow unbuckled the keen blade
which he had worn since the day I had asked it of its owner, and
pushed it to me across the table. The King's ward leaned back in
her chair, very white, but with a proud, still face, and hands loosely
folded in her lap. My lord stood irresolute, his lip caught between
his teeth, his eyes upon the door.
"Cry out, my lord," I said. "You are in danger. Cry to your friends
without, who may come in time. Cry out loudly, like a soldier and
With a furious oath he stooped and caught up the glove at his feet;
then snatched out of my hand the sword that I offered him.
"Push back the settle, you; it is in the way!" he cried to Diccon;
then to me, in a voice thick with passion: "Come on, sir! Here
there are no meddling governors; this time let Death throw down
"He throws it," said the minister beneath his breath.
From without came a trampling and a sudden burst of excited
voices. The next instant the door was burst open, and a most
villainous, fiery-red face thrust itself inside. "A ship!" bawled the
apparition, and vanished. The clamor increased; voices cried for
captain and mate, and more pirates appeared at the door, swearing
out the good news, come in search of Kirby, and giving no choice
but to go with them at once.
"Until this interruption is over, sir," I said sternly, bowing to him
as I spoke. "No longer."
"Be sure, sir, that to my impatience the time will go heavily," he
answered as sternly.
We reached the poop to find the fog that had lain about us thick
and white suddenly lifted, and the hot sunshine streaming down
upon a rough blue sea. To the larboard, a league away, lay a low,
endless coast of sand, as dazzling white as the surf that broke upon
it, and running back to a matted growth of vivid green.
"That is Florida," said Paradise at my elbow, "and there are reefs
and shoals enough between us. It was Kirby's luck that the fog
lifted. Yonder tall ship hath a less fortunate star."
She lay between us and the white beach, evidently in shoal and
dangerous waters. She too had encountered a hurricane, and had
not come forth victorious. Foremast and forecastle were gone, and
her bowsprit was broken. She lay heavily, her ports but a few
inches above the water. Though we did not know it then, most of
her ordnance had been flung overboard to lighten her. Crippled as
she was, with what sail she could set, she was beating back to open
sea from that dangerous offing.
"Where she went we can follow!" sang out a voice from the throng
in our waist. "A d- d easy prize! And we'll give no quarter this
time!" There was a grimness in the applause of his fellows that
boded little good to some on either ship.
"Lord help all poor souls this day!" ejaculated the minister in
undertones; then aloud and more hopefully, "She hath not the look
of a don; maybe she's buccaneer."
"She is an English merchantman," said Paradise. "Look at her
colors. A Company ship, probably, bound for Virginia, with a
cargo of servants, gentlemen out at elbows, felons, children for
apprentices, traders, French vignerons, glasswork Italians,
returning Councilors and heads of hundreds, with their wives and
daughters, men servants and maid servants. I made the Virginia
voyage once myself, captain."
I did not answer. I too saw the two crosses, and I did not doubt that
the arms upon the flag beneath were those of the Company. The
vessel, which was of about two hundred tons, had mightily the
look of the George, a ship with which we at Jamestown were all
familiar. Sparrow spoke for me.
"An English ship!" he cried out of the simplicity of his heart.
"Then she's safe enough for us! Perhaps we might speak her and
show her that we are English, too! Perhaps" - He looked at me
"Perhaps you might be let to go off to her in one of the boats,"
finished Paradise dryly. "I think not, Master Sparrow."
"It's other guess messengers that they'll send," muttered Diccon.
"They're uncovering the guns, sir."
Every man of those villains, save one, was of English birth; every
man knew that the disabled ship was an English merchantman
filled with peaceful folk, but the knowledge changed their plans no
whit. There was a great hubbub; cries and oaths and brutal
laughter, the noise of the gunners with their guns, the clang of
cutlass and pike as they were dealt out, but not a voice raised
against the murder that was to be done. I looked from the doomed
ship, upon which there was now frantic haste and confusion, to the
excited throng below me, and knew that I had as well cry for
mercy to winter wolves.
The helmsman behind me had not waited for orders, and we were
bearing down upon the disabled bark. Ahead of us, upon our
larboard bow, was a patch of lighter green, and beyond it a slight
hurry and foam of the waters. Half a dozen voices cried warning to
the helmsman. It was he of the woman's mantle, whom I had run
through the shoulder on the island off Cape Charles, and he had
been Kirby's pilot from Maracaibo to Fort Caroline. Now he
answered with a burst of vaunting oaths: "We're in deep water, and
there's deep water beyond. I've passed this way before, and I'll
carry ye safe past that reef were 't hell's gate!"
The desperadoes who heard him swore applause, and thought no
more of the reef that lay in wait. Long since they had gone through
the gates of hell for the sake of the prize beyond. Knowing the
appeal to be hopeless, I yet made it.
"She is English, men!" I shouted. "We will fight the Spaniards
while they have a flag in the Indies, but our own people we will
The clamor of shouts and oaths suddenly fell, and the wind in the
rigging, the water at the keel, the surf on the shore, made
themselves heard. In the silence, the terror of the fated ship
became audible. Confused voices came to us, and the scream of a
On the faces of a very few of the pirates there was a look of
momentary doubt and wavering; it passed, and the most had never
worn it. They began to press forward toward the poop, cursing and
threatening, working themselves up into a rage that would not care
for my sword, the minister's cutlass, or Diccon's pike. One who
called himself a wit cried out something about Kirby and his
methods, and two or three laughed.
"I find that the r“le of Kirby wearies me," I said. "I am an English
gentleman, and I will not fire upon an English ship."
As if in answer there came from our forecastle a flame and thunder
of guns. The gunners there, intent upon their business, and now
within range of the merchantman, had fired the three forecastle
culverins. The shot cut her rigging and brought down the flag. The
pirates' shout of triumph was echoed by a cry from her decks and
the defiant roar of her few remaining guns.
I drew my sword. The minister and Diccon moved nearer to me,
and the King's ward, still and white and braver than a man, stood
beside me. From the pirates that we faced came one deep breath,
like the first sigh of the wind before the blast strikes. Suddenly the
Spaniard pushed himself to the front; with his gaunt figure and
sable dress he had the seeming of a raven come to croak over the
dead. He rested his gloomy eyes upon my lord. The latter, very
white, returned the look; then, with his head held high, crossed the
deck with a measured step and took his place among us. He was
followed a moment later by Paradise. "I never thought to die in my
bed, captain," said the latter nonchalantly. "Sooner or later, what
does it matter? And you must know that before I was a pirate I was
a gentleman." Turning, he doffed his hat with a flourish to those he
had quitted. "Hell litter!" he cried. "I have run with you long
enough. Now I have a mind to die an honest man."
At this defection a dead hush of amazement fell upon that crew.
One and all they stared at the man in black and silver, moistening
their lips, but saying no word. We were five armed and desperate
men; they were fourscore. We might send many to death before us,
but at the last we ourselves must die, - we and those aboard the
In the moment's respite I bowed my head and whispered to the
"I had rather it were your sword," she answered in a low voice, in
which there was neither dread nor sorrow. "You must not let it
grieve you; it will be added to your good deeds. And it is I that
should ask your forgiveness, not you mine."
Though there was scant time for such dalliance, I bent my knee
and rested my forehead upon her hand. As I rose, the minister's
hand touched my shoulder and the voice spoke in my ear. "There is
another way," he said. "There is God's death, and not man's. Look
and see what I mean."
I followed the pointing of his eyes, and saw how close we were to
those white and tumbling waters, the danger signal, the rattle of
the hidden snake. The eyes of the pirate at the helm, too, were
upon them; his brows were drawn downward, his lips pressed
together, the whole man bent upon the ship's safe passage. . . . The
low thunder of the surf, the cry of a wheeling sea bird, the
gleaming lonely shore, the cloudless sky, the ocean, and the white
sand far, far below, where one might sleep well, sleep well, with
other valiant dead, long drowned, long changed. "Of their bones
are coral made."
The storm broke with fury and outcries, and a blue radiance of
drawn steel. A pistol ball sang past my ear.
"Don't shoot!" roared the gravedigger to the man who had fired the
shot. "Don't cut them down! Take them and thrust them under
hatches until we've time to give them a slow death! And hands off
the woman until we've time to draw lots!"
He and the Spaniard led the rush. I turned my head and nodded to
Sparrow, then faced them again. "Then may the Lord have mercy
upon your souls!" I said.
As I spoke the minister sprang upon the helmsman, and, striking
him to the deck with one blow of his huge fist, himself seized the
wheel. Before the pirates could draw breath he had jammed the
helm to starboard, and the reef lay right across our bows.
A dreadful cry went up from that black ship to a deaf Heaven, - a
cry that was echoed by a wild shout of triumph from the
merchantman. The mass fronting us broke in terror and rage and
confusion. Some ran frantically up and down with shrieks and
curses; others sprang overboard. A few made a dash for the poop
and for us who stood to meet them. They were led by the Spaniard
and the gravedigger. The former I met and sent tumbling back into
the waist; the latter whirled past me, and rushing upon Paradise
thrust him through with a pike, then dashed on to the wheel, to be
met and hewn down by Diccon.
The ship struck. I put my arm around my wife, and my hand before
her eyes; and while I looked only at her, in that storm of terrible
cries, of flapping canvas, rushing water, and crashing timbers, the
Spaniard clambered like a catamount upon the poop, that was now
high above the broken forepart of the ship, and fired his pistol at
CHAPTER XXV IN WHICH MY LORD HATH HIS DAY
I AND Black Lamoral were leading a forlorn hope. With all my
old company behind us, we were thundering upon an enemy as
thick as ants, covering the face of the earth. Down came Black
Lamoral, and the hoofs of every mad charger went over me. For a
time I was dead; then I lived again, and was walking with the
forester's daughter in the green chase at home. The oaks stretched
broad sheltering arms above the young fern and the little wild
flowers, and the deer turned and looked at us. In the open spaces,
starring the lush grass, were all the yellow primroses that ever
bloomed. I gathered them for her, but when I would have given
them to her she was no longer the forester's daughter, but a proud
lady, heiress to lands and gold, the ward of the King. She would
not take the primroses from a poor gentleman, but shook her head
and laughed sweetly, and faded into a waterfall that leaped from a
pink hill into a waveless sea. Another darkness, and I was captive
to the Chickahominies, tied to the stake. My arm and shoulder
were on fire, and Opechancanough came and looked at me, with
his dark, still face and his burning eyes. The fierce pain died, and I
with it, and I lay in a grave and listened to the loud and deep
murmur of the forest above. I lay there for ages on ages before I
awoke to the fact that the darkness about me was the darkness of a
ship's hold, and the murmur of the forest the wash of the water
alongside. I put out an arm and touched, not the side of a grave,
but a ship's timbers. I stretched forth the other arm, then dropped it
with a groan. Some one bent over me and held water to my lips. I
drank, and my senses came fully to me. "Diccon!" I said.
"It's not Diccon," replied the figure, setting down a pitcher. "It is
Jeremy Sparrow. Thank God, you are yourself again!"
"Where are we?" I asked, when I had lain and listened to the water
a little longer.
"In the hold of the George," he answered. "The ship sank by the
bows, and well-nigh all were drowned. But when they upon the
George saw that there was a woman amongst us who clung to the
poop deck, they sent their longboat to take us off."
The light was too dim for me to read his face, so I touched his arm.
"She was saved," he said. "She is safe now. There are
gentlewomen aboard, and she is in their care."
I put my unhurt arm across my eyes.
"You are weak yet," said the minister gently. "The Spaniard's ball,
you know, went through your shoulder, and in some way your arm
was badly torn from shoulder to wrist. You have been out of your
head ever since we were brought here, three days ago. The
chirurgeon came and dressed your wound, and it is healing well.
Don't try to speak, - I'll tell you all. Diccon has been pressed into
service, as the ship is short of hands, having lost some by fever and
some overboard. Four of the pirates were picked up, and hung at
the yardarm next morning."
He moved as he spoke, and something clanked in the stillness.
"You are ironed!" I exclaimed.
"Only my ankles. My lord would have had me bound hand and
foot; but you were raving for water, and, taking you for a dying
man, they were so humane as to leave my hands free to attend
"My lord would have had you bound," I said slowly. "Then it's my
"High noon and blazing sunshine," he answered, with a rueful
laugh. "It seems that half the folk on board had gaped at him at
court. Lord! when he put his foot over the side of the ship, how the
women screeched and the men stared! He 's cock of the walk now,
my Lord Carnal, the King's favorite!"
"And we are pirates."
"That 's the case in a nutshell," he answered cheerfully.
"Do they know how the ship came to strike upon that reef?" I
"Probably not, unless madam has enlightened them. I did n't take
the trouble, - they would n't have believed me, - and I can take my
oath my lord has n't. He was only our helpless prisoner, you know;
and they would think madam mistaken or bewitched."
"It 's not a likely tale," I said grimly, "seeing that we had already
opened fire upon them."
"I trust in heaven the sharks got the men who fired the culverins!"
he cried, and then laughed at his own savagery.
I lay still and tried to think. "Who are they on board?" I asked at
"I don't know," he replied. "I was only on deck until my lord had
had his say in the poop cabin with the master and a gentleman who
appeared most in authority. Then the pirates were strung up, and
we were bundled down here in quick order. But there seems to be
more of quality than usual aboard."
"You do not know where we are?"
"We lay at anchor for a day, - whilst they patched her up, I
suppose, - and since then there has been rough weather. We must
be still off Florida, and that is all I know. Now go to sleep. You'll
get your strength best so, and there's nothing to be gotten by
He began to croon a many-versed psalm. I slept and waked, and
slept again, and was waked by the light of a torch against my eyes.
The torch was held by a much-betarred seaman, and by its light a
gentleman of a very meagre aspect, with a weazen face and small
black eyes, was busily examining my wounded shoulder and arm.
"It passeth belief," he said in a sing-song voice, "how often
wounds, with naught in the world done for them outside of fair
water and a clean rag, do turn to and heal out of sheer perversity.
Now, if I had been allowed to treat this one properly with scalding
oil and melted lead, and to have bled the patient as he should have
been bled, it is ten to one that by this time there would have been a
pirate the less in the world." He rose to his feet with a highly
"Then he's doing well?" asked Sparrow.
"So well that he could n't do better," replied the other. "The arm
was a trifling matter, though no doubt exquisitely painful. The
wound in the shoulder is miraculously healing, without either
blood-letting or cauteries. You'll have to hang after all, my friend."
He looked at me with his little beady eyes. "It must have been a
grand life," he said regretfully. "I never expected to see a pirate
chief in the flesh. When I was a boy, I used to dream of the black
ships and the gold and the fighting. By the serpent of Esculapius,
in my heart of hearts I would rather be such a world's thief,
uncaught, than Governor of Virginia!" He gathered up the tools of
his trade, and motioned to his torchbearer to go before. "I'll have to
report you rapidly recovering," he said warningly, as he turned to
follow the light.
"Very well," I made answer. "To whom am I indebted for so much
"I am Dr. John Pott, newly appointed physician general to the
colony of Virginia. It is little of my skill I could give you, but that
little I gladly bestow upon a real pirate. What a life it must have
been! And to have to part with it when you are yet young! And the
good red gold and the rich gems all at the bottom of the sea!"
He sighed heavily and went his way. The hatches were closed after
him, and the minister and I were left in darkness while the slow
hours dragged themselves past us. Through the chinks of the
hatches a very faint light streamed down, and made the darkness
gray instead of black. The minister and I saw each other dimly, as
spectres. Some one brought us mouldy biscuit that I wanted not,
and water for which I thirsted. Sparrow put the small pitcher to his
lips, kept it there a moment, then held it to mine. I drank, and with
that generous draught tasted pure bliss. It was not until five
minutes later that I raised myself upon my elbow and turned on
"The pitcher felt full to my lips!" I exclaimed. "Did you drink
when you said you did?"
He put out his great hand and pushed me gently down. "I have no
wound," he said, "and there was not enough for two."
The light that trembled through the cracks above died away, and
the darkness became gross. The air in the hold was stifling; our
souls panted for the wind and the stars outside. At the worst, when
the fetid blackness lay upon our chests like a nightmare, the hatch
was suddenly lifted, a rush of pure air came to us, and with it the
sound of men's voices speaking on the deck above. Said one, "True
the doctor pronounces him out of all danger, yet he is a wounded
"He is a desperate and dangerous man," broke in another harshly.
"I know not how you will answer to your Company for leaving him
unironed so long."
"I and the Company understand each other, my lord," rejoined the
first speaker, with some haughtiness. "I can keep my prisoner
without advice. If I now order irons to be put upon him and his
accomplice, it is because I see fit to do so, and not because of your
suggestion, my lord. You wish to take this opportunity to have
speech with him, - to that I can have no objection."
The speaker moved away. As his footsteps died in the distance my
lord laughed, and his merriment was echoed by three or four harsh
voices. Some one struck flint against steel, and there was a sudden
flare of torches and the steadier light of a lantern. A man with a
brutal, weather-beaten face - the master of the ship, we guessed -
came down the ladder, lantern in hand, turned when he had
reached the foot, aud held up the lantern to light my lord down. I
lay and watched the King's favorite as he descended. The torches
held slantingly above cast a fiery light over his stately figure and
the face which had raised him from the low estate of a doubtful
birth and a most lean purse to a pinnacle too near the sun for men
to gaze at with undazzled eyes. In his rich dress and the splendor
of his beauty, with the red glow enveloping him, he lit the darkness
like a baleful star.
The two torchbearers and a third man descended, closing the hatch
after them. When all were down, my lord, the master at his heels,
came and stood over me. I raised myself, though with difficulty,
for the fever had left me weak as a babe, and met his gaze. His was
a cruel look; if I had expected, as assuredly I did not expect, mercy
or generosity from this my dearest foe, his look would have struck
such a hope dead. Presently he beckoned to the men behind him.
"Put the manacles upon him first," he said, with a jerk of his thumb
The man who had come down last, and who carried irons enough
to fetter six pirates, started forward to do my lord's bidding. The
master glanced at Sparrow's great frame, and pulled out a pistol.
The minister laughed. "You'll not need it, friend. I know when the
odds are too great." He held out his arms, and the men fettered
them wrist to wrist. When they had finished he said calmly: " 'I
have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a
green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I
sought him, but he could not be found.' "
My lord turned from him, and pointed to me. He kept his eyes
upon my face while they shackled me hand and foot; then said
abruptly, "You have cords there: bind his arms to his sides." The
men wound the cords around me many times. "Draw them tight,"
commanded my lord.
There came a wrathful clank of the minister's chains. "The arm is
torn and inflamed from shoulder to wrist, as I make no doubt you
have been told!" he cried. "For very shame, man!"
"Draw them tighter," said my lord, between his teeth.
The men knotted the cords, and rose to their feet, to be dismissed
by my lord with a curt "You may go." They drew back to the foot
of the ladder, while the master of the ship went and perched
himself upon one of the rungs. "The air is fresher here beneath the
hatch," he remarked.
As for me, though I lay at my enemy's feet, I could yet set my teeth
and look him in the eyes. The cup was bitter, but I could drink it
with an unmoved face.
"Art paid?" he demanded. "Art paid for the tree in the red forest
without the haunted wood? Art paid, thou bridegroom?"
"No," I answered. "Bring her here to laugh at me as she laughed in
the twilight beneath the guesthouse window."
I thought he would murder me with the poniard he drew, but
presently he put it up.
"She is come to her senses," he said. "Up in the state cabin are
bright lights, and wine and laughter. There are gentlewomen
aboard, and I have been singing to the lute, to them - and to her.
She is saved from the peril into which you plunged her; she knows
that the King's Court of High Commission, to say nothing of the
hangman, will soon snap the fetters which she now shudders to
think of; that the King and one besides will condone her past short
madness. Her cheeks are roses, her eyes are stars. But now, when I
pressed her hand between the verses of my song, she smiled and
sighed and blushed. She is again the dutiful ward of the King, the
Lady Jocelyn Leigh - she hath asked to be so called" -
"You lie," I said. "She is my true and noble wife. She may sit in the
state cabin, in the air and warmth and light, she may even laugh
with her lips, but her heart is here with me in the hold."
As I spoke, I knew, and knew not how I knew, that the thing which
I had said was true. With that knowledge came a happiness so deep
and strong that it swept aside like straw the torment of those cords,
and the deeper hurt that I lay at his feet. I suppose my face altered,
and mirrored that blessed glow about my heart, for into his own
came a white fury, changing its beauty into something inhuman
and terrifying. He looked a devil baffled. For a minute he stood
there rigid, with hands clenched. "Embrace her heart, if thou
canst," he said, in a voice so low that it came like a whisper from
the realm he might have left. "I shall press my face against her
Another minute of a silence that I disdained to break; then he
turned and went up the ladder. The seamen and the master
followed. The hatch was clapped to and fastened, and we were left
to the darkness and the heavy air, and to a grim endurance of what
could not be cured.
During those hours of thirst and torment I came indeed to know
the man who sat beside me. His hands were so fastened that he
could not loosen the cords, and there was no water for him to give
me; but he could and did bestow a higher alms, - the tenderness of
a brother, the manly sympathy of a soldier, the balm of the priest
of God. I lay in silence, and he spoke not often; but when he did
so, there was that in the tone of his voice - Another cycle of pain,
and I awoke from a half swoon, in which there was water to drink
and no anguish, to hear him praying beside me. He ceased to
speak, and in the darkness I heard him draw his breath hard and his
great muscles crack. Suddenly there came a sharp sound of
breaking iron, and a low "Thank Thee, Lord!" Another moment,
and I felt his hands busy at the knotted cords. "I will have them off
thee in a twinkling, Ralph," he said, "thanks to Him who taught my
hands to war, and my arms to break in two a bow of steel." As he
spoke, the cords loosened beneath his fingers.
I raised my head and laid it on his knee, and he put his great arm,
with the broken chain dangling from it, around me, and, like a
mother with a babe, crooned me to sleep with the twenty-third
CHAPTER XXVI IN WHICH I AM BROUGHT TO TRIAL
MY lord came not again into the hold, and the untied cords and the
broken chain were not replaced. Morning and evening we were
brought a niggard allowance of bread and water; but the man who
carried it bore no light, and may not even have observed their
absence. We saw no one in authority. Hour by hour my wounds
healed and my strength returned. If it was a dark and noisome
prison, if there were hunger and thirst and inaction to be endured,
if we knew not how near to us might be a death of ignominy, yet
the minister and I found the jewel in the head of the toad; for in
that time of pain and heaviness we became as David and Jonathan.
At last some one came beside the brute who brought us food. A
quiet gentleman, with whitening hair and bright dark eyes, stood
before us. He had ordered the two men with him to leave open the
hatch, and he held in his hand a sponge soaked with vinegar.
"Which of you is - or rather was - Captain Ralph Percy?" he asked,
in a grave but pleasant voice.
"I am Captain Percy," I answered.
He looked at me with attention. "I have heard of you before," he
said. "I read the letter you wrote to Sir Edwyn Sandys, and thought
it an excellently conceived and manly epistle. What magic
transformed a gentleman and a soldier into a pirate?"
As he waited for me to speak, I gave him for answer, "Necessity."
"A sad metamorphosis," he said. "I had rather read of nymphs
changed into laurel and gushing springs. I am come to take you,
sir, before the officers of the Company aboard this ship, when, if
you have aught to say for yourself, you may say it. I need not tell
you, who saw so clearly some time ago the danger in which you
then stood, that your plight is now a thousandfold worse."
"I am perfectly aware of it," I said. "Am I to go in fetters?"
"No," he replied, with a smile. "I have no instructions on the
subject, but I will take it upon myself to free you from them, - even
for the sake of that excellently writ letter."
"Is not this gentleman to go too?" I asked.
He shook his head. "I have no orders to that effect."
While the men who were with him removed the irons from my
wrists and ankles he stood in silence, regarding me with a scrutiny
so close that it would have been offensive had I been in a position
to take offense. When they had finished I turned and held Jeremy's
hand in mine for an instant, then followed the new-comer to the
ladder and out of the hold; the two men coming after us, and
resolving themselves above into a guard. As we traversed the main
deck we came upon Diccon, busy with two or three others about
the ports. He saw me, and, dropping the bar that he held, started
forward, to be plucked back by an angry arm. The men who
guarded me pushed in between us, and there was no word spoken
by either. I walked on, the gentleman at my side, and presently
came to an open port, and saw, with an intake of my breath, the
sunshine, a dark blue heaven flecked with white, and a quiet
ocean. My companion glanced at me keenly.
"Doubtless it seems fair enough, after that Cimmerian darkness
below," he remarked. "Would you like to rest here a moment?"
"Yes," I said, and, leaning against the side of the port, looked out
at the beauty of the light.
"We are off Hatteras," he informed me, "but we have not met with
the stormy seas that vex poor mariners hereabouts. Those sails you
see on our quarter belong to our consort. We were separated by the
hurricane that nigh sunk us, and finally drove us, helpless as we
were, toward the Florida coast and across your path. For us that
was a fortunate reef upon which you dashed. The gods must have
made your helmsman blind, for he ran you into a destruction that
gaped not for you. Why did every wretch that we hung next
morning curse you before he died?"
"If I told you, you would not believe me," I replied.
I was dizzy with the bliss of the air and the light, and it seemed a
small thing that he would not believe me. The wind sounded in my
ears like a harp, and the sea beckoned. A white bird flashed down
into the crystal hollow between two waves, hung there a second,
then rose, a silver radiance against the blue. Suddenly I saw a
river, dark and ridged beneath thunderclouds, a boat, and in it, her
head pillowed upon her arm, a woman, who pretended that she
slept. With a shock my senses steadied, and I became myself
again. The sea was but the sea, the wind the wind; in the hold
below me lay my friend; somewhere in that ship was my wife; and
awaiting me in the state cabin were men who perhaps had the will,
as they had the right and the might, to hang me at the yardarm that
"I have had my fill of rest," I said. "Whom am I to stand before?"
"The newly appointed officers of the Company, bound in this ship
for Virginia," he answered. "The ship carries Sir Francis Wyatt, the
new Governor; Master Davison, the Secretary; young Clayborne,
the surveyor general; the knight marshal, the physician general,
and the Treasurer, with other gentlemen, and with fair ladies, their
wives and sisters. I am George Sandys, the Treasurer."
The blood rushed to my face, for it hurt me that the brother of Sir
Edwyn Sandys should believe that the firing of those guns had
been my act. His was the trained observation of the traveler and
writer, and he probably read the color aright. "I pity you, if I can
no longer esteem you," he said, after a pause. "I know no sorrier
sight than a brave man's shield reversed."
I bit my lip and kept back the angry word. The next minute saw us
at the door of the state cabin. It opened, and my companion
entered, and I after him, with my two guards at my back. Around a
large table were gathered a number of gentlemen, some seated,
some standing. There were but two among them whom I had seen
before, - the physician who had dressed my wound and my Lord
Carnal. The latter was seated in a great chair, beside a gentleman
with a pleasant active face and light brown curling hair, - the new
Governor, as I guessed. The Treasurer, nodding to the two men to
fall back to the window, glided to a seat upon my lord's other
hand, and I went and stood before the Governor of Virginia.
For some moments there was silence in the cabin, every man being
engaged in staring at me with all his eyes; then the Governor
spoke: "It should be upon your knees, sir."
"I am neither petitioner nor penitent," I said. "I know no reason
why I should kneel, your Honor."
"There 's reason, God wot, why you should be both!" he exclaimed.
"Did you not, now some months agone, defy the writ of the King
and Company, refusing to stand when called upon to do so in the
"Did you not, when he would have stayed your lawless flight, lay
violent hands upon a nobleman high in the King's favor, and,
overpowering him with numbers, carry him out of the King's
"Did you not seduce from her duty to the King, and force to fly
with you, his Majesty's ward, the Lady Jocelyn Leigh?"
"No," I said. "There was with me only my wife, who chose to
follow the fortunes of her husband."
He frowned, and my lord swore beneath his breath. "Did you not,
falling in with a pirate ship, cast in your lot with the scoundrels
upon it, and yourself turn pirate?"
"In some sort."
"And become their chief?"
"Since there was no other situation open, - yes."
"Taking with you as captives upon the pirate ship that lady and that
"You proceeded to ravage the dominions of the King of Spain,
with whom his Majesty is at peace" -
"Like Drake and Raleigh, - yes," I said.
He smiled, then frowned "Tempora mutantur," he said dryly. "And
I have never heard that Drake or Raleigh attacked an English
"Nor have I attacked one," I said.
He leaned back in his chair and stared at me. "We saw the flame
and heard the thunder of your guns, and our rigging was cut by the
shot. Did you expect me to believe that last assertion?"
"Then you might have spared yourself - and us - that lie," he said
The Treasurer moved restlessly in his seat, and began to whisper to
his neighbor the Secretary. A young man, with the eyes of a hawk
and an iron jaw, - Clayborne, the surveyor general, - who sat at the
end of the table beside the window, turned and gazed out upon the
clouds and the sea, as if, contempt having taken the place of
curiosity, he had no further interest in the proceedings. As for me,
I set my face like a flint, and looked past the man who might have
saved me that last speech of the Governor's as if he had never
There was a closed door in the cabin, opposite the one by which I
had entered. Suddenly from behind it came the sound of a short
struggle, followed by the quick turn of a key in the lock. The door
was flung open, and two women entered the cabin. One, a fair
young gentlewoman, with tears in her brown eyes, came forward
hurriedly with outspread hands.
"I did what I could, Frank!" she cried. "When she would not listen
to reason, I e'en locked the door; but she is strong, for all that she
has been ill, and she forced the key out of my hand!" She looked at
the red mark upon the white hand, and two tears fell from her long
lashes upon her wild-rose cheeks.
With a smile the Governor put out an arm and drew her down upon
a stool beside him, then rose and bowed low to the King's ward.
"You are not yet well enough to leave your cabin, as our worthy
physician general will assure you, lady," he said courteously, but
firmly. "Permit me to lead you back to it."
Still smiling he made as if to advance, when she stayed him with a
gesture of her raised hand, at once so majestic and so pleading that
it was as though a strain of music had passed through the stillness
of the cabin.
"Sir Francis Wyatt, as you are a gentleman, let me speak," she said.
It was the voice of that first night at Weyanoke, all pathos, all
sweetness, all entreating.
The Governor stopped short, the smile still upon his lips, his hand
still outstretched, - stood thus for a moment, then sat down.
Around the half circle of gentlemen went a little rustling sound,
like wind in dead leaves. My lord half rose from his seat. "She is
bewitched," he said, with dry lips. "She will say what she has been
told to say. Lest she speak to her shame, we should refuse to hear
She had been standing in the centre of the floor, her hands clasped,
her body bowed toward the Governor, but at my lord's words she
straightened like a bow unbent. "I may speak, your Honor?" she
The Governor, who had looked askance at the working face of the
man beside him, slightly bent his head and leaned back in his
great armchair. The King's favorite started to his feet. The King's
ward turned her eyes upon him. "Sit down, my lord," she said.
"Surely these gentlemen will think that you are afraid of what I, a
poor erring woman, rebellious to the King, traitress to mine own
honor, late the plaything of a pirate ship, may say or do. Truth, my
lord, should be more courageous." Her voice was gentle, even
plaintive, but it had in it the quality that lurks in the eyes of the
My lord sat down, one hand hiding his working mouth, the other
clenched on the arm of his chair as if it had been an arm of flesh.
CHAPTER XXVII IN WHICH I FIND AN ADVOCATE
SHE came slowly nearer the ring of now very quiet and attentive
faces until she stood beside me, but she neither looked at me nor
spoke to me. She was thinner and there were heavy shadows
beneath her eyes, but she was beautiful.
"I stand before gentlemen to whom, perhaps, I am not utterly
unknown," she said. "Some here, perchance, have been to court,
and have seen me there. Master Sandys, once, before the Queen
died, you came to Greenwich to kiss her Majesty's hands; and
while you waited in her antechamber you saw a young maid of
honor - scarce more than a child - curled in a window seat with a
book. You sat beside her, and told her wonderful tales of sunny
lands and gods and nymphs. I was that maid of honor. Master
Clayborne, once, hawking near Windsor, I dropped my glove.
There were a many out of their saddles before it touched the
ground, but a gentleman, not of our party, who had drawn his horse
to one side to let us pass, was quicker than they all. Did you not
think yourself well paid, sir, when you kissed the hand to which
you restored the glove? All here, I think, may have heard my name.
If any hath heard aught that ever I did in all my life to tarnish it, I
pray him to speak now and shame me before you all!"
Clayborne started up. "I remember that day at Windsor, lady!" he
cried. "The man of whom I afterward asked your name was a most
libertine courtier, and he raised his hat when he spoke of you,
calling you a lily which the mire of the court could not besmirch. I
will believe all good, but no harm of you, lady!"
He sat down, and Master Sandys said gravely: "Men need not be
courtiers to have known of a lady of great wealth and high birth, a
ward of the King's, and both beautiful and pure. I nor no man else,
I think, ever heard aught of the Lady Jocelyn Leigh but what
became a daughter of her line."
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