“When captains courageous, whom death could not daunt,
Did march to the siege of the city of Gaunt,
They muster’d their soldiers by two and by three,
But the foremost in battle was Mary Ambree.
When brave Sir John Major was slain in her sight,
Who was her true lover, her joy and delight,
Because he was murther’d most treacherouslie,
Then vow’d to avenge him fair Mary Ambree.”
Old Ballad, A. D. 1584.
One more glance at the golden tropic sea, and the golden tropic evenings, by the shore of New Granada, in the golden Spanish Main.
The bay of Santa Marta is rippling before the land-breeze one sheet of living flame. The mighty forests are sparkling with myriad fireflies. The lazy mist which lounges round the inner hills shines golden in the sunset rays; and, nineteen thousand feet aloft, the mighty peak of Horqueta cleaves the abyss of air, rose-red against the dark-blue vault of heaven. The rosy cone fades to a dull leaden hue; but only for awhile. The stars flash out one by one, and Venus, like another moon, tinges the eastern snows with gold, and sheds across the bay a long yellow line of rippling light. Everywhere is glory and richness. What wonder if the earth in that enchanted land be as rich to her inmost depths as she is upon the surface? The heaven, the hills, the sea, are one sparkling garland of jewels — what wonder if the soil be jewelled also? if every watercourse and bank of earth be spangled with emeralds and rubies, with grains of gold and feathered wreaths of native silver?
So thought, in a poetic mood, the Bishop of Cartagena, as he sat in the state cabin of that great galleon, The City of the True Cross, and looked pensively out of the window towards the shore. The good man was in a state of holy calm. His stout figure rested on one easy-chair, his stout ankles on another, beside a table spread with oranges and limes, guavas and pine-apples, and all the fruits of Ind.
An Indian girl, bedizened with scarfs and gold chains, kept off the flies with a fan of feathers; and by him, in a pail of ice from the Horqueta (the gift of some pious Spanish lady, who had “spent” an Indian or two in bringing down the precious offering), stood more than one flask of virtuous wine of Alicant. But he was not so selfish, good man, as to enjoy either ice or wine alone; Don Pedro, colonel of the soldiers on board, Don Alverez, intendant of his Catholic majesty’s customs at Santa Marta, and Don Paul, captain of mariners in The City of the True Cross, had, by his especial request, come to his assistance that evening, and with two friars, who sat at the lower end of the table, were doing their best to prevent the good man from taking too bitterly to heart the present unsatisfactory state of his cathedral town, which had just been sacked and burnt by an old friend of ours, Sir Francis Drake.
“We have been great sufferers, senors — ah, great sufferers,” snuffled the bishop, quoting Scripture, after the fashion of the day, glibly enough, but often much too irreverently for me to repeat, so boldly were his texts travestied, and so freely interlarded by grumblings at Tita and the mosquitoes. “Great sufferers, truly; but there shall be a remnant — ah, a remnant like the shaking of the olive tree and the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done. — Ah! Gold? Yes, I trust Our Lady’s mercies are not shut up, nor her arms shortened. — Look, senors!”— and he pointed majestically out of the window. “It looks gold! it smells of gold, as I may say, by a poetical license. Yea, the very waves, as they ripple past us, sing of gold, gold, gold!”
“It is a great privilege,” said the intendant, “to have comfort so gracefully administered at once by a churchman and a scholar.”
“A poet, too,” said Don Pedro. “You have no notion what sweet sonnets —”
“Hush, Don Pedro — hush! If I, a mateless bird, have spent an idle hour in teaching lovers how to sing, why, what of that? I am a churchman, senors; but I am a man and I can feel, senors; I can sympathize; I can palliate; I can excuse. Who knows better than I how much human nature lurks in us fallen sons of Adam? Tita!”
“Um?” said the trembling girl, with a true Indian grunt.
“Fill his excellency the intendant’s glass. Does much more treasure come down, illustrious senor? May the poor of Mary hope for a few more crumbs from their Mistress’s table?”
“Not a pezo, I fear. The big white cow up there”— and he pointed to the Horqueta —“has been milked dry for this year.”
“Ah!” And he looked up at the magnificent snow peak. “Only good to cool wine with, eh? and as safe for the time being as Solomon’s birds.”
“Solomon’s birds? Explain your recondite allusion, my lord.”
“Enlighten us, your excellency, enlighten us.”
“Ah! thereby hangs a tale. You know the holy birds who run up and down on the Prado at Seville among the ladies’ pretty feet — eh? with hooked noses and cinnamon crests? Of course. Hoopoes — Upupa, as the classics have it. Well, senors, once on a time, the story goes, these hoopoes all had golden crowns on their heads; and, senors, they took the consequences — eh? But it befell on a day that all the birds and beasts came to do homage at the court of his most Catholic majesty King Solomon, and among them came these same hoopoes; and they had a little request to make, the poor rogues. And what do you think it was? Why, that King Solomon would pray for them that they might wear any sort of crowns but these same golden ones; for — listen, Tita, and see the snare of riches — mankind so hunted, and shot, and trapped, and snared them, for the sake of these same golden crowns, that life was a burden to bear. So Solomon prayed, and instead of golden crowns, they all received crowns of feathers; and ever since, senors, they live as merrily as crickets in an oven, and also have the honor of bearing the name of his most Catholic majesty King Solomon. Tita! fill the senor commandant’s glass. Fray Gerundio, what are you whispering about down there, sir?”
Fray Gerundio had merely commented to his brother on the bishop’s story of Solomon’s birds with an —
“O si sic omnia! — would that all gold would turn to feathers in like wise!”
“Then, friend,” replied the other, a Dominican, like Gerundio, but of a darker and sterner complexion, “corrupt human nature would within a week discover some fresh bauble, for which to kill and be killed in vain.”
“What is that, Fray Gerundio?” asked the bishop again.
“I merely remarked, that it were well for the world if all mankind were to put up the same prayer as the hoopoes.”
“World, sir? What do you know about the world? Convert your Indians, sir, if you please, and leave affairs of state to your superiors. You will excuse him, senors” (turning to the Dons, and speaking in a lower tone). “A very worthy and pious man, but a poor peasant’s son; and beside — you understand. A little wrong here; too much fasting and watching, I fear, good man.” And the bishop touched his forehead knowingly, to signify that Fray Gerundio’s wits were in an unsatisfactory state.
The Fray heard and saw with a quiet smile. He was one of those excellent men whom the cruelties of his countrymen had stirred up (as the darkness, by mere contrast, makes the light more bright), as they did Las Casas, Gasca, and many another noble name which is written in the book of life, to deeds of love and pious daring worthy of any creed or age. True Protestants, they protested, even before kings, against the evil which lay nearest them, the sin which really beset them; true liberals, they did not disdain to call the dark-skinned heathen their brothers; and asserted in terms which astonish us, when we recollect the age in which they were spoken, the inherent freedom of every being who wore the flesh and blood which their Lord wore; true martyrs, they bore witness of Christ, and received too often the rewards of such, in slander and contempt. Such an one was Fray Gerundio; a poor, mean, clumsy-tongued peasant’s son, who never could put three sentences together, save when he waxed eloquent, crucifix in hand, amid some group of Indians or negroes. He was accustomed to such rebuffs as the bishop’s; he took them for what they were worth, and sipped his wine in silence; while the talk went on.
“They say,” observed the commandant, “that a very small Plate-fleet will go to Spain this year.”
“What else?” says the intendant. “What have we to send, in the name of all saints, since these accursed English Lutherans have swept us out clean?”
“And if we had anything to send,” says the sea-captain, “what have we to send it in? That fiend incarnate, Drake —”
“Ah!” said his holiness; “spare my ears! Don Pedro, you will oblige my weakness by not mentioning that man; — his name is Tartarean, unfit for polite lips. Draco — a dragon — serpent — the emblem of Diabolus himself — ah! And the guardian of the golden apples of the West, who would fain devour our new Hercules, his most Catholic majesty. Deceived Eve, too, with one of those same apples — a very evil name, senors — a Tartarean name — Tita!”
“Fill my glass.”
“Nay,” cried the colonel, with a great oath, “this English fellow is of another breed of serpent from that, I warrant.”
“Your reason, senor; your reason?”
“Because this one would have seen Eve at the bottom of the sea, before he let her, or any one but himself, taste aught which looked like gold.”
“Ah, ah! — very good! But — we laugh, valiant senors, while the Church weeps. Alas for my sheep!”
“And alas for their sheepfold! It will be four years before we can get Cartagena rebuilt again. And as for the blockhouse, when we shall get that rebuilt, Heaven only knows, while his majesty goes on draining the Indies for his English Armada. The town is as naked now as an Indian’s back.”
“Baptista Antonio, the surveyor, has sent home by me a relation to the king, setting forth our defenceless state. But to read a relation and to act on it are two cocks of very different hackles, bishop, as all statesmen know. Heaven grant we may have orders by the next fleet to fortify, or we shall be at the mercy of every English pirate!”
“Ah, that blockhouse!” sighed the bishop. “That was indeed a villainous trick. A hundred and ten thousand ducats for the ransom of the town! After having burned and plundered the one-half — and having made me dine with them too, ah! and sit between the — the serpent, and his lieutenant-general — and drunk my health in my own private wine — wine that I had from Xeres nine years ago, senors and offered, the shameless heretics, to take me to England, if I would turn Lutheran, and find me a wife, and make an honest man of me — ah! and then to demand fresh ransom for the priory and the fort — perfidious!”
“Well,” said the colonel, “they had the law of us, the cunning rascals, for we forgot to mention anything but the town, in the agreement. Who would have dreamed of such a fetch as that?”
“So I told my good friend the prior, when he came to me to borrow the thousand crowns. It was Heaven’s will. Unexpected like the thunderbolt, and to be borne as such. Every man must bear his own burden. How could I lend him aught?”
“Your holiness’s money had been all carried off by them before,” said the intendant, who knew, and none better, the exact contrary.
“Just so — all my scanty savings! desolate in my lone old age. Ah, senors, had we not had warning of the coming of these wretches from my dear friend the Marquess of Santa Cruz, whom I remember daily in my prayers, we had been like to them who go down quick into the pit. I too might have saved a trifle, had I been minded: but in thinking too much of others, I forgot myself, alas!”
“Warning or none, we had no right to be beaten by such a handful,” said the sea-captain; “and a shame it is, and a shame it will be, for many a day to come.”
“Do you mean to cast any slur, sir, upon the courage and conduct of his Catholic majesty’s soldiers?” asked the colonel.
“I? — No; but we were foully beaten, and that behind our barricades too, and there’s the plain truth.”
“Beaten, sir! Do you apply such a term to the fortunes of war? What more could our governor have done? Had we not the ways filled with poisoned caltrops, guarded by Indian archers, barred with butts full of earth, raked with culverins and arquebuses? What familiar spirit had we, sir, to tell us that these villains would come along the sea-beach, and not by the high-road, like Christian men?”
“Ah!” said the bishop, “it was by intuition diabolic, I doubt not, that they took that way. Satanas must need help those who serve him; and for my part, I can only attribute (I would the captain here had piety enough to do so) the misfortune which occurred to art-magic. I believe these men to have been possessed by all fiends whatsoever.”
“Well, your holiness,” said the colonel, “there may have been devilry in it; how else would men have dared to run right into the mouths of our cannon, fire their shot against our very noses, and tumble harmless over those huge butts of earth?”
“Doubtless by force of the fiends which raged with them,” interposed the bishop.
“And then, with their blasphemous cries, leap upon us with sword and pike? I myself saw that Lieutenant-General Carlisle hew down with one stroke that noble young gentleman the ensign-bearer, your excellency’s sister’s son’s nephew, though he was armed cap-a-pie. Was not art-magic here? And that most furious and blaspheming Lutheran Captain Young, I saw how he caught our general by the head, after the illustrious Don Alonzo had given him a grievous wound, threw him to the earth, and so took him. Was not art-magic here?”
“Well, I say,” said the captain, “if you are looking for art-magic, what say you to their marching through the flank fire of our galleys, with eleven pieces of ordnance, and two hundred shot playing on them, as if it had been a mosquito swarm? Some said my men fired too high: but that was the English rascals’ doing, for they got down on the tide beach. But, senor commandant, though Satan may have taught them that trick, was it he that taught them to carry pikes a foot longer than yours?”
“Ah, well,” said the bishop, “sacked are we; and San Domingo, as I hear, in worse case than we are; and St. Augustine in Florida likewise; and all that is left for a poor priest like me is to return to Spain, and see whether the pious clemency of his majesty, and of the universal Father, may not be willing to grant some small relief or bounty to the poor of Mary — perhaps —(for who knows?) to translate to a sphere of more peaceful labor one who is now old, senors, and weary with many toils — Tita! fill our glasses. I have saved somewhat — as you may have done, senors, from the general wreck; and for the flock, when I am no more, illustrious senors, Heaven’s mercies are infinite; new cities will rise from the ashes of the old, new mines pour forth their treasures into the sanctified laps of the faithful, and new Indians flock toward the life-giving standard of the Cross, to put on the easy yoke and light burden of the Church, and —”
“And where shall I be then? Ah, where? Fain would I rest, and fain depart. Tita! sling my hammock. Senors, you will excuse age and infirmities. Fray Gerundio, go to bed!”
And the Dons rose to depart, while the bishop went on maundering —
“Farewell! Life is short. Ah! we shall meet in heaven at last. And there are really no more pearls?”
“Not a frail; nor gold either,” said the intendant.
“Ah, well! Better a dinner of herbs where love is, than — Tita!”
“My breviary — ah! Man’s gratitude is short-lived, I had hoped — You have seen nothing of the Senora Bovadilla?”
“Ah! she promised:— but no matter — a little trifle as a keepsake — a gold cross, or an emerald ring, or what not — I forget. And what have I to do with worldly wealth! — Ah! Tita! bring me the casket.”
And when his guests were gone, the old man began mumbling prayers out of his breviary, and fingering over jewels and gold, with the dull greedy eyes of covetous old age.
“Ah! — it may buy the red hat yet! — Omnia Romae venalia! Put it by, Tita, and do not look at it too much, child. Enter not into temptation. The love of money is the root of all evil; and Heaven, in love for the Indian, has made him poor in this world, that he may be rich in faith. Ah! — Ugh! — So!”
And the old miser clambered into his hammock. Tita drew the mosquito net over him, wrapt another round her own head, and slept, or seemed to sleep; for she coiled herself up upon the floor, and master and slave soon snored a merry bass to the treble of the mosquitoes.
It was long past midnight, and the moon was down. The sentinels, who had tramped and challenged overhead till they thought their officers were sound asleep, had slipped out of the unwholesome rays of the planet to seek that health and peace which they considered their right, and slept as soundly as the bishop’s self.
Two long lines glided out from behind the isolated rocks of the Morro Grande, which bounded the bay some five hundred yards astern of the galleon. They were almost invisible on the glittering surface of the water, being perfectly white; and, had a sentinel been looking out, he could only have descried them by the phosphorescent flashes along their sides.
Now the bishop had awoke, and turned himself over uneasily; for the wine was dying out within him, and his shoulders had slipped down, and his heels up, and his head ached! so he sat upright in his hammock, looked out upon the bay, and called Tita.
“Put another pillow under my head, child! What is that? a fish?”
Tita looked. She did not think it was a fish: but she did not choose to say so; for it might have produced an argument, and she had her reasons for not keeping his holiness awake.
The bishop looked again; settled that it must be a white whale, or shark, or other monster of the deep; crossed himself, prayed for a safe voyage, and snored once more.
Presently the cabin-door opened gently, and the head of the senor intendant appeared.
Tita sat up; and then began crawling like a snake along the floor, among the chairs and tables, by the light of the cabin lamp.
“Is he asleep?”
“Yes: but the casket is under his head.”
“Curse him! How shall we take it?”
“I brought him a fresh pillow half-an-hour ago; I hung his hammock wrong on purpose that he might want one. I thought to slip the box away as I did it; but the old ox nursed it in both hands all the while.”
“What shall we do, in the name of all the fiends? She sails tomorrow morning, and then all is lost.”
Tita showed her white teeth, and touched the dagger which hung by the intendant’s side.
“I dare not!” said the rascal, with a shudder.
“I dare!” said she. “He whipt my mother, because she would not give me up to him to be taught in his schools, when she went to the mines. And she went to the mines, and died there in three months. I saw her go, with a chain round her neck; but she never came back again. Yes; I dare kill him! I will kill him! I will!”
The senor felt his mind much relieved. He had no wish, of course, to commit the murder himself; for he was a good Catholic, and feared the devil. But Tita was an Indian, and her being lost did not matter so much. Indians’ souls were cheap, like their bodies. So he answered, “But we shall be discovered!”
“I will leap out of the window with the casket, and swim ashore. They will never suspect you, and they will fancy I am drowned.”
“The sharks may seize you, Tita. You had better give me the casket.”
Tita smiled. “You would not like to lose that, eh? though you care little about losing me. And yet you told me that you loved me!”
“And I do love you, Tita! light of my eyes! life of my heart! I swear, by all the saints, I love you. I will marry you, I swear I will — I will swear on the crucifix, if you like!”
“Swear, then, or I do not give you the casket,” said she, holding out the little crucifix round her neck, and devouring him with the wild eyes of passionate unreasoning tropic love.
He swore, trembling, and deadly pale.
“Give me your dagger.”
“No, not mine. It may be found. I shall be suspected. What if my sheath were seen to be empty?”
“Your knife will do. His throat is soft enough.”
And she glided stealthily as a cat toward the hammock, while her cowardly companion stood shivering at the other end of the cabin, and turned his back to her, that he might not see the deed.
He stood waiting, one minute — two — five? Was it an hour, rather? A cold sweat bathed his limbs; the blood beat so fiercely within his temples, that his head rang again. Was that a death-bell tolling? No; it was the pulses of his brain. Impossible, surely, a death-bell. Whence could it come?
There was a struggle — ah! she was about it now; a stifled cry — Ah! he had dreaded that most of all, to hear the old man cry. Would there be much blood? He hoped not. Another struggle, and Tita’s voice, apparently muffled, called for help.
“I cannot help you. Mother of Mercies! I dare not help you!” hissed he. “She-devil! you have begun it, and you must finish it yourself!”
A heavy arm from behind clasped his throat. The bishop had broken loose from her and seized him! Or was it his ghost? or a fiend come to drag him down to the pit? And forgetting all but mere wild terror, he opened his lips for a scream, which would have wakened every soul on board. But a handkerchief was thrust into his mouth and in another minute he found himself bound hand and foot, and laid upon the table by a gigantic enemy. The cabin was full of armed men, two of whom were lashing up the bishop in his hammock; two more had seized Tita; and more were clambering up into the stern-gallery beyond, wild figures, with bright blades and armor gleaming in the starlight.
“Now, Will,” whispered the giant who had seized him, “forward and clap the fore-hatches on; and shout Fire! with all your might. Girl! murderess! your life is in my hands. Tell me where the commander sleeps, and I pardon you.”
Tita looked up at the huge speaker, and obeyed in silence. The intendant heard him enter the colonel’s cabin, and then a short scuffle, and silence for a moment.
But only for a moment; for already the alarm had been given, and mad confusion reigned through every deck. Amyas (for it was none other) had already gained the poop; the sentinels were gagged and bound; and every half-naked wretch who came trembling up on deck in his shirt by the main hatchway, calling one, “Fire!” another, “Wreck!” and another, “Treason!” was hurled into the scuppers, and there secured.
“Lower away that boat!” shouted Amyas in Spanish to his first batch of prisoners.
The men, unarmed and naked, could but obey.
“Now then, jump in. Here, hand them to the gangway as they come up.”
It was done; and as each appeared he was kicked to the scuppers, and bundled down over the side.
“She’s full. Cast loose now and off with you. If you try to board again we’ll sink you.”
“Fire! fire!” shouted Cary, forward. “Up the main hatchway for your lives!”
The ruse succeeded utterly; and before half-an-hour was over, all the ship’s boats which could be lowered were filled with Spaniards in their shirts, getting ashore as best they could.
“Here is a new sort of camisado,” quoth Cary. “The last Spanish one I saw was at the sortie from Smerwick: but this is somewhat more prosperous than that.”
“Get the main and foresail up, Will!” said Amyas, “cut the cable; and we will plume the quarry as we fly.”
“Spoken like a good falconer. Heaven grant that this big woodcock may carry a good trail inside!”
“I’ll warrant her for that,” said Jack Brimblecombe. “She floats so low.”
“Much of your build, too, Jack. By the by, where is the commander?”
Alas! Don Pedro, forgotten in the bustle, had been lying on the deck in his shirt, helplessly bound, exhausting that part of his vocabulary which related to the unseen world. Which most discourteous act seemed at first likely to be somewhat heavily avenged on Amyas; for as he spoke, a couple of caliver-shots, fired from under the poop, passed “ping” “ping” by his ears, and Cary clapped his hand to his side.
“A pinch, old lad — Look out, or we are ‘allen verloren’ after all, as the Flemings say.”
And as he spoke, a rush forward on the poop drove two of their best men down the ladder into the waist, where Amyas stood.
“Killed?” asked he, as he picked one up, who had fallen head over heels.
“Sound as a bell, sir: but they Gentiles has got hold of the firearms, and set the captain free.”
And rubbing the back of his head for a minute, he jumped up the ladder again, shouting —
“Have at ye, idolatrous pagans! Have at ye, Satan’s spawn!”
Amyas jumped up after him, shouting to all hands to follow; for there was no time to be lost.
Out of the windows of the poop, which looked on the main-deck, a galling fire had been opened, and he could not afford to lose men; for, as far as he knew, the Spaniards left on board might still far outnumber the English; so up he sprang on the poop, followed by a dozen men, and there began a very heavy fight between two parties of valiant warriors, who easily knew each other apart by the peculiar fashion of their armor. For the Spaniards fought in their shirts, and in no other garments: but the English in all other manner of garments, tag, rag, and bobtail; and yet had never a shirt between them.
The rest of the English made a rush, of course, to get upon the poop, seeing that the Spaniards could not shoot them through the deck; but the fire from the windows was so hot, that although they dodged behind masts, spars, and every possible shelter, one or two dropped; and Jack Brimblecombe and Yeo took on themselves to call a retreat, and with about a dozen men, got back, and held a council of war.
What was to be done? Their arquebuses were of little use; for the Spaniards were behind a strong bulkhead. There were cannon: but where was powder or shot? The boats, encouraged by the clamor on deck, were paddling alongside again. Yeo rushed round and round, probing every gun with his sword.
“Here’s a patararo loaded! Now for a match, lads.”
Luckily one of the English had kept his match alight during the scuffle.
“Thanks be! Help me to unship the gun — the mast’s in the way here.”
The patararo, or brass swivel, was unshipped.
“Steady, lads, and keep it level, or you’ll shake out the priming. Ship it here; turn out that one, and heave it into that boat, if they come alongside. Steady now — so! Rummage about, and find me a bolt or two, a marlin-spike, anything. Quick, or the captain will be over-mastered yet.”
Missiles were found — odds and ends — and crammed into the swivel up to the muzzle: and, in another minute, its “cargo of notions” was crashing into the poop-windows, silencing the fire from thence effectually enough for the time.
“Now, then, a rush forward, and right in along the deck!” shouted Yeo; and the whole party charged through the cabin-doors, which their shot had burst open, and hewed their way from room to room.
In the meanwhile, the Spaniards above had fought fiercely: but, in spite of superior numbers, they had gradually given back before the “demoniacal possession of those blasphemous heretics, who fought, not like men, but like furies from the pit.” And by the time that Brimblecombe and Yeo shouted from the stern-gallery below that the quarter-deck was won, few on either side but had their shrewd scratch to show.
“Yield, senor!” shouted Amyas to the commander, who had been fighting like a lion, back to back with the captain of mariners.
“Never! You have bound me, and insulted me! Your blood or mine must wipe out the stain!”
And he rushed on Amyas. There was a few moments’ heavy fence between them; and then Amyas cut right at his head. But as he raised his arm, the Spaniard’s blade slipped along his ribs, and snapped against the point of his shoulder-blade. An inch more to the left, and it would have been through his heart. The blow fell, nevertheless, and the commandant fell with it, stunned by the flat of the sword, but not wounded; for Amyas’s hand had turned, as he winced from his wound. But the sea-captain, seeing Amyas stagger, sprang at him, and, seizing him by the wrist, ere he could raise his sword again, shortened his weapon to run him through. Amyas made a grasp at his wrist in return, but, between his faintness and the darkness, missed it. — Another moment, and all would have been over!
A bright blade flashed close past Amyas’s ear; the sea-captain’s grasp loosened, and he dropped a corpse; while over him, like an angry lioness above her prey, stood Ayacanora, her long hair floating in the wind, her dagger raised aloft, as she looked round, challenging all and every one to approach.
“Are you hurt?” panted she.
“A scratch, child. — What do you do here? Go back, go back.”
Ayacanora slipped back like a scolded child, and vanished in the darkness.
The battle was over. The Spaniards, seeing their commanders fall, laid down their arms, and cried for quarter. It was given; the poor fellows were tied together, two and two, and seated in a row on the deck; the commandant, sorely bruised, yielded himself perforce; and the galleon was taken.
Amyas hurried forward to get the sails set. As he went down the poop-ladder, there was some one sitting on the lowest step.
“Who is here — wounded?”
“I am not wounded,” said a woman’s voice, low, and stifled with sobs.
It was Ayacanora. She rose, and let him pass. He saw that her face was bright with tears; but he hurried on, nevertheless.
“Perhaps I did speak a little hastily to her, considering she saved my life; but what a brimstone it is! Mary Ambree in a dark skin! Now then, lads! Get the Santa Fe gold up out of the canoes, and then we will put her head to the north-east, and away for Old England. Mr. Brimblecombe! don’t say that Eastward-ho don’t bring luck this time.”
It was impossible, till morning dawned, either to get matters into any order, or to overhaul the prize they had taken; and many of the men were so much exhausted that they fell fast asleep on the deck ere the surgeon had time to dress their wounds. However, Amyas contrived, when once the ship was leaping merrily, close-hauled against a fresh land-breeze, to count his little flock, and found out of the forty-four but six seriously wounded, and none killed. However, their working numbers were now reduced to thirty-eight, beside the four negroes, a scanty crew enough to take home such a ship to England.
After awhile, up came Jack Brimblecombe on deck, a bottle in his hand.
“Lads, a prize!”
“Well, we know that already.”
“Nay, but — look hither, and laid in ice, too, as I live, the luxurious dogs! But I had to fight for it, I had. For when I went down into the state cabin, after I had seen to the wounded; whom should I find loose but that Indian lass, who had just unbound the fellow you caught —”
“Ah! those two, I believe, were going to murder the old man in the hammock, if we had not come in the nick of time. What have you done with them?”
“Why, the Spaniard ran when he saw me, and got into a cabin; but the woman, instead of running, came at me with a knife, and chased me round the table like a very cat-a-mountain. So I ducked under the old man’s hammock, and out into the gallery; and when I thought the coast was clear, back again I came, and stumbled over this. So I just picked it up, and ran on deck with my tail between my legs, for I expected verily to have the black woman’s knife between my ribs out of some dark corner.”
“Well done, Jack! Let’s have the wine, nevertheless, and then down to set a guard on the cabin doors for fear of plundering.”
“Better go down, and see that nothing is thrown overboard by Spaniards. As for plundering, I will settle that.”
And Amyas walked forward among the men.
“Muster the men, boatswain, and count them.”
“All here, sir, but the six poor fellows who are laid forward.”
“Now, my men,” said Amyas, “for three years you and I have wandered on the face of the earth, seeking our fortune, and we have found it at last, thanks be to God! Now, what was our promise and vow which we made to God beneath the tree of Guayra, if He should grant us good fortune, and bring us home again with a prize? Was it not, that the dead should share with the living; and that every man’s portion, if he fell, should go to his widow or his orphans, or if he had none, to his parents?”
“It was, sir,” said Yeo, “and I trust that the Lord will give these men grace to keep their vow. They have seen enough of His providences by this time to fear Him.”
“I doubt them not; but I remind them of it. The Lord has put into our hands a rich prize; and what with the gold which we have already, we are well paid for all our labors. Let us thank Him with fervent hearts as soon as the sun rises; and in the meanwhile, remember all, that whosoever plunders on his private account, robs not the adventurers merely, but the orphan and the widow, which is to rob God; and makes himself partaker of Achan’s curse, who hid the wedge of gold, and brought down God’s anger on the whole army of Israel. For me, lest you should think me covetous, I could claim my brother’s share; but I hereby give it up freely into the common stock, for the use of the whole ship’s crew, who have stood by me through weal and woe, as men never stood before, as I believe, by any captain. So, now to prayers, lads, and then to eat our breakfast.”
So, to the Spaniards’ surprise (who most of them believed that the English were atheists), to prayers they went.
After which Brimblecombe contrived to inspire the black cook and the Portuguese steward with such energy that, by seven o’clock, the latter worthy appeared on deck, and, with profound reverences, announced to “The most excellent and heroical Senor Adelantado Captain Englishman,” that breakfast was ready in the state-cabin.
“You will do us the honor of accompanying us as our guest, sir, or our host, if you prefer the title,” said Amyas to the commandant, who stood by.
“Pardon, senor: but honor forbids me to eat with one who has offered to me the indelible insult of bonds.”
“Oh!” said Amyas, taking off his hat, “then pray accept on the spot my humble apologies for all which has passed, and my assurances that the indignities which you have unfortunately endured, were owing altogether to the necessities of war, and not to any wish to hurt the feelings of so valiant a soldier and gentleman.”
“It is enough, senor,” said the commandant, bowing and shrugging his shoulders — for, indeed, he too was very hungry; while Cary whispered to Amyas —
“You will make a courtier, yet, old lad.”
“I am not in jesting humor, Will: my mind sadly misgives me that we shall hear black news, and have, perhaps, to do a black deed yet, on board here. Senor, I follow you.”
So they went down, and found the bishop, who was by this time unbound, seated in a corner of the cabin, his hands fallen on his knees, his eyes staring on vacancy, while the two priests stood as close against the wall as they could squeeze themselves, keeping up a ceaseless mutter of prayers.
“Your holiness will breakfast with us, of course; and these two frocked gentlemen likewise. I see no reason for refusing them all hospitality, as yet.”
There was a marked emphasis on the last two words, which made both monks wince.
“Our chaplain will attend to you, gentlemen. His lordship the bishop will do me the honor of sitting next to me.”
The bishop seemed to revive slowly as he snuffed the savory steam; and at last, rising mechanically, subsided into the chair which Amyas offered him on his left, while the commandant sat on his right.
“A little of this kid, my lord? No — ah — Friday, I recollect. Some of that turtle-fin, then. Will, serve his lordship; pass the cassava-bread up, Jack! Senor commandant! a glass of wine? You need it after your valiant toils. To the health of all brave soldiers — and a toast from your own Spanish proverb, ‘To-day to me, tomorrow to thee!’”
“I drink it, brave senor. Your courtesy shows you the worthy countryman of General Drake, and his brave lieutenant.”
“Drake! Did you know him, senor?” asked all the Englishmen at once.
“Too well, too well —” and he would have continued; but the bishop burst out —
“Ah, senor commandant! that name again! Have you no mercy? To sit between another pair of — and my own wine, too! Ugh, ugh!”
The old gentleman, whose mouth had been full of turtle the whole time, burst into a violent fit of coughing, and was only saved from apoplexy by Cary’s patting him on the back.
“Ugh, ugh! The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel, and their precious balms. Ah, senor lieutenant Englishman! May I ask you to pass those limes? — Ah! what is turtle without lime? — Even as a fat old man without money! Nudus intravi, nudus exeo — ah!”
“But what of Drake?”
“Do you not know, sir, that he and his fleet, only last year, swept the whole of this coast, and took, with shame I confess it, Cartagena, San Domingo, St. Augustine, and — I see you are too courteous, senors, to express before me what you have a right to feel. But whence come you, sir? From the skies, or the depth of the sea?”
“Art-magic, art-magic!” moaned the bishop.
“Your holiness! It is scarcely prudent to speak thus here,” said the commandant, who was nevertheless much of the same opinion.
“Why, you said so yourself, last night, senor, about the taking of Cartagena.”
The commandant blushed, and stammered out somewhat —“That it was excusable in him, if he had said, in jest, that so prodigious and curious a valor had not sprung from mortal source.”
“No more it did, senor,” said Jack Brimblecombe, stoutly: “but from Him who taught our ‘hands to war, and our fingers to fight.’”
The commandant bowed stiffly. “You will excuse me, sir preacher: but I am a Catholic, and hold the cause of my king to be alone the cause of Heaven. But, senor captain, how came you thither, if I may ask? That you needed no art-magic after you came on board, I, alas! can testify but too well: but what spirit — whether good or evil, I ask not — brought you on board, and whence? Where is your ship? I thought that all Drake’s squadron had left six months ago.”
“Our ship, senor, has lain this three years rotting on the coast near Cape Codera.”
“Ah! we heard of that bold adventure — but we thought you all lost in the interior.”
“You did? Can you tell me, then, where the senor governor of La Guayra may be now?”
“The Senor Don Guzman de Soto,” said the commandant, in a somewhat constrained tone, “is said to be at present in Spain, having thrown up his office in consequence of domestic matters, of which I have not the honor of knowing anything.”
Amyas longed to ask more: but he knew that the well-bred Spaniard would tell him nothing which concerned another man’s wife; and went on.
“What befell us after, I tell you frankly.”
And Amyas told his story, from the landing at Guayra to the passage down the Magdalena. The commandant lifted up his hands.
“Were it not forbidden to me, as a Catholic, most invincible senor, I should say that the Divine protection has indeed —”
“Ah,” said one of the friars, “that you could be brought, senors, to render thanks for your miraculous preservation to her to whom alone it is due, Mary, the fount of mercies!”
“We have done well enough without her as yet,” said Amyas, bluntly.
“The Lord raised up Nebuchadnezzar of old to punish the sins of the Jewish Church; and He has raised up these men to punish ours!” said Fray Gerundio.
“But Nebuchadnezzar fell, and so may they,” growled the other to himself. Jack overheard him.
“I say, my lord bishop,” called he from the other end of the table. “It is our English custom to let our guests be as rude as they like; but perhaps your lordship will hint to these two friars, that if they wish to keep whole skins, they will keep civil tongues.”
“Be silent, asses! mules!” shouted the bishop, whose spirits were improving over the wine, “who are you, that you cannot eat dirt as well as your betters?”
“Well spoken, my lord. Here’s the health of our saintly and venerable guest,” said Cary: while the commandant whispered to Amyas, “Fat old tyrant! I hope you have found his money — for I am sure he has some on board, and I should be loath that you lost the advantage of it.”
“I shall have to say a few words to you about that money this morning, commandant: by the by, they had better be said now. My lord bishop, do you know that had we not taken this ship when we did, you had lost not merely money, as you have now, but life itself?”
“Money? I had none to lose! Life? — what do you mean?” asked the bishop, turning very pale.
“This, sir. That it ill befits one to lie, whose throat has been saved from the assassin’s knife but four hours since. When we entered the stern-gallery, we found two persons, now on board this ship, in the very act, sir, and article, of cutting your sinful throat, that they might rob you of the casket which lay beneath your pillow. A moment more, and you were dead. We seized and bound them, and so saved your life. Is that plain, sir?”
The bishop looked steadfastly and stupidly into Amyas’s face, heaved a deep sigh, and gradually sank back in his chair, dropping the glass from his hand.
“He is in a fit! Call in the surgeon! Run!” and up jumped kind-hearted Jack, and brought in the surgeon of the galleon.
“Is this possible, senor?” asked the commandant.
“It is true. Door, there! Evans! go and bring in that rascal whom we left bound in his cabin!”
Evans went, and the commandant continued —
“But the stern-gallery? How, in the name of all witches and miracles, came your valor thither?”
“Simply enough, and owing neither to witch nor miracle. The night before last we passed the mouth of the bay in our two canoes, which we had lashed together after the fashion I had seen in the Moluccas, to keep them afloat in the surf. We had scraped the canoes bright the day before, and rubbed them with white clay, that they might be invisible at night; and so we got safely to the Morro Grande, passing within half a mile of your ship.”
“Oh! my scoundrels of sentinels!”
“We landed at the back of the Morro, and lay there all day, being purposed to do that which, with your pardon, we have done. We took our sails of Indian cloth, whitened them likewise with clay which we had brought with us from the river (expecting to find a Spanish ship as we went along the coast, and determined to attempt her, or die with honor), and laid them over us on the canoes, paddling from underneath them. So that, had your sentinels been awake, they would have hardly made us out, till we were close on board. We had provided ourselves, instead of ladders, with bamboos rigged with cross-pieces, and a hook of strong wood at the top of each; they hang at your stern-gallery now. And the rest of the tale I need not tell you.”
The commandant rose in his courtly Spanish way —
“Your admirable story, senor, proves to me how truly your nation, while it has yet, and I trust will ever have, to dispute the palm of valor with our own, is famed throughout the world for ingenuity, and for daring beyond that of mortal man. You have succeeded, valiant captain, because you have deserved to succeed; and it is no shame to me to succumb to enemies who have united the cunning of the serpent with the valor of the lion. Senor, I feel as proud of becoming your guest as I should have been proud, under a happier star, of becoming your host.”
“You are, like your nation, only too generous, senor. But what noise is that outside? Cary, go and see.”
But ere Cary could reach the door, it was opened; and Evans presented himself with a terrified face.
“Here’s villainy, sir! The Don’s murdered, and cold; the Indian lass fled; and as we searched the ship for her, we found an Englishwoman, as I’m a sinful man! — and a shocking sight she is to see!”
“An Englishwoman?” cried all three, springing forward.
“Bring her in!” said Amyas, turning very pale; and as he spoke, Yeo and another led into the cabin a figure scarcely human.
An elderly woman, dressed in the yellow “San Benito” of the Inquisition, with ragged gray locks hanging about a countenance distorted by suffering and shrunk by famine. Painfully, as one unaccustomed to the light, she peered and blinked round her. Her fallen lip gave her a half-idiotic expression; and yet there was an uneasy twinkle in the eye, as of boundless terror and suspicion. She lifted up her fettered wrist to shade her face; and as she did so, disclosed a line of fearful scars upon her skinny arm.
“Look there, sirs!” said Yeo, pointing to them with a stern smile. “Here’s some of these Popish gentry’s handiwork. I know well enough how those marks came;” and he pointed to the similar scars on his own wrist.
The commandant, as well as the Englishmen, recoiled with horror.
“Holy Virgin! what wretch is this on board my ship? Bishop, is this the prisoner whom you sent on board?”
The bishop, who had been slowly recovering his senses, looked at her a moment; and then thrusting his chair back, crossed himself, and almost screamed, “Malefica! Malefica! Who brought her here? Turn her away, gentlemen; turn her eye away; she will bewitch, fascinate”— and he began muttering prayers.
Amyas seized him by the shoulder, and shook him on to his legs.
“Swine! who is this? Wake up, coward, and tell me, or I will cut you piecemeal!”
But ere the bishop could answer, the woman uttered a wild shriek, and pointing to the taller of the two monks, cowered behind Yeo.
“He here?” cried she, in broken Spanish. “Take me away! I will tell you no more. I have told you all, and lies enough beside. Oh! why is he come again? Did they not say that I should have no more torments?”
The monk turned pale: but like a wild beast at bay, glared firmly round on the whole company; and then, fixing his dark eyes full on the woman, he bade her be silent so sternly, that she shrank down like a beaten hound.
“Silence, dog!” said Will Cary, whose blood was up, and followed his words with a blow on the monk’s mouth, which silenced him effectually.
“Don’t be afraid, good woman, but speak English. We are all English here, and Protestants too. Tell us what they have done for you.”
“Another trap! another trap!” cried she, in a strong Devonshire accent. “You be no English! You want to make me lie again, and then torment me. Oh! wretched, wretched that I am!” cried she, bursting into tears. “Whom should I trust? Not myself: no, nor God; for I have denied Him! O Lord! O Lord!”
Amyas stood silent with fear and horror; some instinct told him that he was on the point of hearing news for which he feared to ask. But Jack spoke —
“My dear soul! my dear soul! don’t you be afraid; and the Lord will stand by you, if you will but tell the truth. We are all Englishmen, and men of Devon, as you seem to be by your speech; and this ship is ours; and the pope himself sha’n’t touch you.”
“Devon?” she said doubtingly; “Devon! Whence, then?”
“Bideford men. This is Mr. Will Cary, to Clovelly. If you are a Devon woman, you’ve heard tell of the Carys, to be sure.”
The woman made a rush forward, and threw her fettered arms round Will’s neck —
“Oh, Mr. Cary, my dear life! Mr. Cary! and so you be! Oh, dear soul alive! but you’re burnt so brown, and I be ‘most blind with misery. Oh, who ever sent you here, my dear Mr. Will, then, to save a poor wretch from the pit?”
“Who on earth are you?”
“Lucy Passmore, the white witch to Welcombe. Don’t you mind Lucy Passmore, as charmed your warts for you when you was a boy?”
“Lucy Passmore!” almost shrieked all three friends. “She that went off with —”
“Yes! she that sold her own soul, and persuaded that dear saint to sell hers; she that did the devil’s work, and has taken the devil’s wages; — after this fashion!” and she held up her scarred wrists wildly.
“Where is Dona de-Rose Salterne?” shouted Will and Jack.
“Where is my brother Frank?” shouted Amyas.
“Dead, dead, dead!”
“I knew it,” said Amyas, sitting down again calmly.
“How did she die?”
“The Inquisition — he!” pointing to the monk. “Ask him — he betrayed her to her death. And ask him!” pointing to the bishop; “he sat by her and saw her die.”
“Woman, you rave!” said the bishop, getting up with a terrified air, and moving as far as possible from Amyas.
“How did my brother die, Lucy?” asked Amyas, still calmly.
“Who be you, sir?”
A gleam of hope flashed across Amyas — she had not answered his question.
“I am Amyas Leigh of Burrough. Do you know aught of my brother Frank, who was lost at La Guayra?”
“Mr. Amyas! Heaven forgive me that I did not know the bigness of you. Your brother, sir, died like a gentleman as he was.”
“But how?” gasped Amyas.
“Burned with her, sir!”
“Is this true, sir?” said Amyas, turning to the bishop, with a very quiet voice.
“I, sir?” stammered he, in panting haste. “I had nothing to do — I was compelled in my office of bishop to be an unwilling spectator — the secular arm, sir; I could not interfere with that — any more than I can with the Holy Office. I do not belong to it — ask that gentleman — sir! Saints and angels, sir! what are you going to do?” shrieked he, as Amyas laid a heavy hand upon his shoulder, and began to lead him towards the door.
“Hang you!” said Amyas. “If I had been a Spaniard and a priest like yourself, I should have burnt you alive.”
“Hang me?” shrieked the wretched old Balaam; and burst into abject howls for mercy.
“Take the dark monk, Yeo, and hang him too. Lucy Passmore, do you know that fellow also?”
“No, sir,” said Lucy.
“Lucky for you, Fray Gerundio,” said Will Cary; while the good friar hid his face in his hands, and burst into tears. Lucky it was for him, indeed; for he had been a pitying spectator of the tragedy. “Ah!” thought he, “if life in this mad and sinful world be a reward, perhaps this escape is vouchsafed to me for having pleaded the cause of the poor Indian!”
But the bishop shrieked on.
“Oh! not yet. An hour, only an hour! I am not fit to die.”
“That is no concern of mine,” said Amyas. “I only know that you are not fit to live.”
“Let us at least make our peace with God,” said the dark monk.
“Hound! if your saints can really smuggle you up the back-stairs to heaven, they will do it without five minutes’ more coaxing and flattering.”
Fray Gerundio and the condemned man alike stopped their ears at the blasphemy.
“Oh, Fray Gerundio!” screamed the bishop, “pray for me. I have treated you like a beast. Oh, Fray, Fray!”
“Oh, my lord! my lord!” said the good man, as with tears streaming down his face he followed his shrieking and struggling diocesan up the stairs, “who am I? Ask no pardon of me. Ask pardon of God for all your sins against the poor innocent savages, when you saw your harmless sheep butchered year after year, and yet never lifted up your voice to save the flock which God had committed to you. Oh, confess that, my lord! confess it ere it be too late!”
“I will confess all about the Indians, and the gold, and Tita too, Fray; peccavi, peccavi — only five minutes, senors, five little minutes’ grace, while I confess to the good Fray!”— and he grovelled on the deck.
“I will have no such mummery where I command,” said Amyas, sternly. “I will be no accomplice in cheating Satan of his due.”
“If you will confess,” said Brimblecombe, whose heart was melting fast, “confess to the Lord, and He will forgive you. Even at the last moment mercy is open. Is it not, Fray Gerundio?”
“It is, senor; it is, my lord,” said Gerundio; but the bishop only clasped his hands over his head.
“Then I am undone! All my money is stolen! Not a farthing left to buy masses for my poor soul! And no absolution, no viaticum, nor anything! I die like a dog and am damned!”
“Clear away that running rigging!” said Amyas, while the dark Dominican stood perfectly collected, with something of a smile of pity at the miserable bishop. A man accustomed to cruelty, and firm in his fanaticism, he was as ready to endure suffering as to inflict it; repeating to himself the necessary prayers, he called Fray Gerundio to witness that he died, however unworthy, a martyr, in charity with all men, and in the communion of the Holy Catholic Church; and then, as he fitted the cord to his own neck, gave Fray Gerundio various petty commissions about his sister and her children, and a little vineyard far away upon the sunny slopes of Castile; and so died, with a “Domine, in manus tuas,” like a valiant man of Spain.
Amyas stood long in solemn silence, watching the two corpses dangling above his head. At last he drew a long breath, as if a load was taken off his heart.
Suddenly he looked round to his men, who were watching eagerly to know what he would have done next.
“Hearken to me, my masters all, and may God hearken too, and do so to me, and more also, if, as long as I have eyes to see a Spaniard, and hands to hew him down, I do any other thing than hunt down that accursed nation day and night, and avenge all the innocent blood which has been shed by them since the day in which King Ferdinand drove out the Moors!”
“Amen!” said Salvation Yeo. “I need not to swear that oath, for I have sworn it long ago, and kept it. Will your honor have us kill the rest of the idolaters?”
“God forbid!” said Cary. “You would not do that, Amyas?”
“No; we will spare them. God has shown us a great mercy this day, and we must be merciful in it. We will land them at Cabo Velo. But henceforth till I die no quarter to a Spaniard.”
“Amen!” said Yeo.
Amyas’s whole countenance had changed in the last half-hour. He seemed to have grown years older. His brow was wrinkled, his lip compressed, his eyes full of a terrible stony calm, as of one who had formed a great and dreadful purpose, and yet for that very reason could afford to be quiet under the burden of it, even cheerful; and when he returned to the cabin he bowed courteously to the commandant, begged pardon of him for having played the host so ill, and entreated him to finish his breakfast.
“But, senor — is it possible? Is his holiness dead?”
“He is hanged and dead, senor. I would have hanged, could I have caught them, every living thing which was present at my brother’s death, even to the very flies upon the wall. No more words, senor; your conscience tells you that I am just.”
“Senor,” said the commandant —“one word — I trust there are no listeners — none of my crew, I mean; but I must exculpate myself in your eyes.”
“Walk out, then, into the gallery with me.”
“To tell you the truth, senor — I trust in Heaven no one overhears. — You are just. This Inquisition is the curse of us, the weight which is crushing out the very life of Spain. No man dares speak. No man dares trust his neighbor, no, not his child, or the wife of his bosom. It avails nothing to be a good Catholic, as I trust I am,” and he crossed himself, “when any villain whom you may offend, any unnatural son or wife who wishes to be rid of you, has but to hint heresy against you, and you vanish into the Holy Office — and then God have mercy on you, for man has none. Noble ladies of my family, sir, have vanished thither, carried off by night, we know not why; we dare not ask why. To expostulate, even to inquire, would have been to share their fate. There is one now, senor — Heaven alone knows whether she is alive or dead! — It was nine years since, and we have never heard; and we shall never hear.”
And the commandant’s face worked frightfully.
“She was my sister, senor!”
“Heavens! sir, and have you not avenged her?”
“On churchmen, senor, and I a Catholic? To be burned at the stake in this life, and after that to all eternity beside? Even a Spaniard dare not face that. Beside, sir, the mob like this Inquisition, and an Auto-da-fe is even better sport to them than a bull-fight. They would be the first to tear a man in pieces who dare touch an Inquisitor. Sir, may all the saints in heaven obtain me forgiveness for my blasphemy, but when I saw you just now fearing those churchmen no more than you feared me, I longed, sinner that I am, to be a heretic like you.”
“It will not take long to make a brave and wise gentleman who has suffered such things as you have, a heretic, as you call it — a free Christian man, as we call it.”
“Tempt me not, sir!” said the poor man, crossing himself fervently. “Let us say no more. Obedience is my duty; and for the rest the Church must decide, according to her infallible authority — for I am a good Catholic, senor, the best of Catholics, though a great sinner. — I trust no one has overheard us!”
Amyas left him with a smile of pity, and went to look for Lucy Passmore, whom the sailors were nursing and feeding, while Ayacanora watched them with a puzzled face.
“I will talk to you when you are better, Lucy,” said he, taking her hand. “Now you must eat and drink, and forget all among us lads of Devon.”
“Oh, dear blessed sir, and you will send Sir John to pray with me? For I turned, sir, I turned: but I could not help it — I could not abear the torments: but she bore them, sweet angel — and more than I did. Oh, dear me!”
“Lucy, I am not fit now to hear more. You shall tell me all tomorrow;” and he turned away.
“Why do you take her hand?” said Ayacanora, half-scornfully. “She is old, and ugly, and dirty.”
“She is an Englishwoman, child, and a martyr, poor thing; and I would nurse her as I would my own mother.”
“Why don’t you make me an Englishwoman, and a martyr? I could learn how to do anything that that old hag could do!”
“Instead of calling her names, go and tend her; that would be much fitter work for a woman than fighting among men.”
Ayacanora darted from him, thrust the sailors aside, and took possession of Lucy Passmore.
“Where shall I put her?” asked she of Amyas, without looking up.
“In the best cabin; and let her be served like a queen, lads.”
“No one shall touch her but me;” and taking up the withered frame in her arms, as if it were a doll, Ayacanora walked off with her in triumph, telling the men to go and mind the ship.
“The girl is mad,” said one.
“Mad or not, she has an eye to our captain,” said another.
“And where’s the man that would behave to the poor wild thing as he does?”
“Sir Francis Drake would, from whom he got his lesson. Do you mind his putting the negro lass ashore after he found out about —”
“Hush! Bygones be bygones, and those that did it are in their graves long ago. But it was too hard of him on the poor thing.”
“If he had not got rid of her, there would have been more throats than one cut about the lass, that’s all I know,” said another; “and so there would have been about this one before now, if the captain wasn’t a born angel out of heaven, and the lieutenant no less.”
“Well, I suppose we may get a whet by now. I wonder if these Dons have any beer aboard.”
“Naught but grape vinegar, which fools call wine, I’ll warrant.”
“There was better than vinegar on the table in there just now.”
“Ah,” said one grumbler of true English breed, “but that’s not for poor fellows like we.”
“Don’t lie, Tom Evans; you never were given that way yet, and I don’t think the trade will suit a good fellow like you.”
The whole party stared; for the speaker of these words was none other than Amyas himself, who had rejoined them, a bottle in each hand.
“No, Tom Evans. It has been share and share alike for three years, and bravely you have all held up, and share alike it shall be now, and here’s the handsel of it. We’ll serve out the good wine fairly all round as long as it lasts, and then take to the bad: but mind you don’t get drunk, my sons, for we are much too short of hands to have any stout fellows lying about the scuppers.”
But what was the story of the intendant’s being murdered? Brimblecombe had seen him run into a neighboring cabin; and when the door of it was opened, there was the culprit, but dead and cold, with a deep knife-wound in his side. Who could have done the deed? It must have been Tita, whom Brimblecombe had seen loose, and trying to free her lover.
The ship was searched from stem to stern: but no Tita. The mystery was never explained. That she had leapt overboard, and tried to swim ashore, none doubted: but whether she had reached it, who could tell? One thing was strange; that not only had she carried off no treasure with her, but that the gold ornaments which she had worn the night before, lay together in a heap on the table, close by the murdered man. Had she wished to rid herself of everything which had belonged to her tyrants?
The commandant heard the whole story thoughtfully.
“Wretched man!” said he, “and he has a wife and children in Seville.”
“A wife and children?” said Amyas; “and I heard him promise marriage to the Indian girl.”
That was the only hint which gave a reason for his death. What if, in the terror of discovery and capture, the scoundrel had dropped any self-condemning words about his marriage, any prayer for those whom he had left behind, and the Indian had overheard them? It might be so; at least sin had brought its own punishment.
And so that wild night and day subsided. The prisoners were kindly used enough; for the Englishman, free from any petty love of tormenting, knows no mean between killing a foe outright, and treating him as a brother; and when, two days afterwards, they were sent ashore in the canoes off Cabo Velo, captives and captors shook hands all round; and Amyas, after returning the commandant his sword, and presenting him with a case of the bishop’s wine, bowed him courteously over the side.
“I trust that you will pay us another visit, valiant senor capitan,” said the Spaniard, bowing and smiling.
“I should most gladly accept your invitation, illustrious senor commandant; but as I have vowed henceforth, whenever I shall meet a Spaniard, neither to give nor take quarter, I trust that our paths to glory may lie in different directions.”
The commandant shrugged his shoulders; the ship was put again before the wind, and as the shores of the Main faded lower and dimmer behind her, a mighty cheer broke from all on board; and for once the cry from every mouth was Eastward-ho!
Scrap by scrap, as weakness and confusion of intellect permitted her, Lucy Passmore told her story. It was a simple one after all, and Amyas might almost have guessed it for himself. Rose had not yielded to the Spaniard without a struggle. He had visited her two or three times at Lucy’s house (how he found out Lucy’s existence she herself could never tell, unless from the Jesuits) before she agreed to go with him. He had gained Lucy to his side by huge promises of Indian gold; and, in fine, they had gone to Lundy, where the lovers were married by a priest, who was none other, Lucy would swear, than the shorter and stouter of the two who had carried off her husband and his boat — in a word, Father Parsons.
Amyas gnashed his teeth at the thought that he had had Parsons in his power at Brenttor down, and let him go. It was a fresh proof to him that Heaven’s vengeance was upon him for letting one of its enemies escape. Though what good to Rose or Frank the hanging of Parsons would have been, I, for my part, cannot see.
But when had Eustace been at Lundy? Lucy could throw no light on that matter. It was evidently some by-thread in the huge spider’s web of Jesuit intrigue, which was, perhaps, not worth knowing after all.
They sailed from Lundy in a Portugal ship, were at Lisbon a few days (during which Rose and Lucy remained on board), and then away for the West Indies; while all went merry as a marriage bell. “Sir, he would have kissed the dust off her dear feet, till that evil eye of Mr. Eustace’s came, no one knew how or whence.” And, from that time, all went wrong. Eustace got power over Don Guzman, whether by threatening that the marriage should be dissolved, whether by working on his superstitious scruples about leaving his wife still a heretic, or whether (and this last Lucy much suspected) by insinuations that her heart was still at home in England, and that she was longing for Amyas and his ship to come and take her home again; the house soon became a den of misery, and Eustace the presiding evil genius. Don Guzman had even commanded him to leave it — and he went; but, somehow, within a week he was there again, in greater favor than ever. Then came preparations to meet the English, and high words about it between Don Guzman and Rose; till a few days before Amyas’s arrival, the Don had dashed out of the house in a fury, saying openly that she preferred these Lutheran dogs to him, and that he would have their hearts’ blood first, and hers after.
The rest was soon told. Amyas knew but too much of it already. The very morning after he had gone up to the villa, Lucy and her mistress were taken (they knew not by whom) down to the quay, in the name of the Holy Office, and shipped off to Cartagena.
There they were examined, and confronted on a charge of witchcraft, which the wretched Lucy could not well deny. She was tortured to make her inculpate Rose; and what she said, or did not say, under the torture, the poor wretch could never tell. She recanted, and became a Romanist; Rose remained firm. Three weeks afterwards, they were brought out to an Auto-da-fe; and there, for the first time, Lucy saw Frank walking, dressed in a San Benito, in that ghastly procession. Lucy was adjudged to receive publicly two hundred stripes, and to be sent to “The Holy House” at Seville to perpetual prison. Frank and Rose, with a renegade Jew, and a negro who had been convicted of practising “Obi,” were sentenced to death as impenitent, and delivered over to the secular arm, with prayers that there might be no shedding of blood. In compliance with which request, the Jew and the negro were burnt at one stake, Frank and Rose at another. She thought they did not feel it more than twenty minutes. They were both very bold and steadfast, and held each other’s hand (that she would swear to) to the very last.
And so ended Lucy Passmore’s story. And if Amyas Leigh, after he had heard it, vowed afresh to give no quarter to Spaniards wherever he should find them, who can wonder, even if they blame?
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:56