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Black Bartlemy's Treasure(Chapter30)

2006-08-28 22:29

  Chapter XXX. Of My Sick Humours

  Next day I awoke early and my wound very painful and troublesome; this notwithstanding, I presently got me out into the early sunshine and, to my wonder, found the fire already lighted and no sign of my companion. Hereupon I fell to shouting and hallooing, but getting no answer, sat me down mighty doleful, and seeing her stool where it stood straddled on its three legs I cursed it for its unsightliness and turned my back on it. And now crouched in the sunlight I grew mightily sorry for myself thus solitary and deserted, and the hurt in my shoulder all on fire. And in a little, my self-love gave place to a fretful unease so that I must needs shout her name again and again, listening for sound of her voice, for some rustle to tell me she was nigh, but heard only the faint booming of the surf. So I arose and (albeit I found my legs mighty unwilling) came out upon the plateau, but look how and where I might, saw only a desolation of sea and beach, whereupon, being greatly disquieted, I set out minded to seek her. By the time I reached Deliverance the sun was well up, its heat causing my wound to throb and itch intolerably, and I very fretful and peevish. But as I tramped on and no trace of her I needs must remember how I had sought her hereabouts when I had thought her dead, whereupon a great and unreasoning panic seized me, and I began to run. And then, all at once, I spied her. She was sitting upon a rock, her head bowed wearily upon her hands, and seeing how her shoulders heaved I knew she was bitterly a-weeping. Therefore I stopped, and glancing from her desolate figure round about upon her desolate surroundings, knew this grim solitude for the reason of her tears. At this thought a wave of hot anger swept over me and a rage that, like my panic, reasoned not as, clenching my fists, I strode on. Suddenly she looked up and seeing me, rose at once, and lifting the great turtle-shell limped wearily towards me with this borne before her.

  "Ha," says I, viewing her tear-wet cheeks as she came, "must ye weep, madam, must ye weep?"

  "May I not weep, Martin?" says she, head pitifully a-droop. "Come, let us go back, you look very pale, 'twas wrong of you to come so far! Here is our breakfast, 'tis the best I can find." And she showed me a few poor shellfish.

  "Give me the turtle-shell!" says I.

  "Indeed I can bear it very easily, Martin. And you so white and haggard——your wound is troubling you. Come, let me bathe it——"

  "Give me the turtle-shell!"

  "No, Martin, be wise and let us——"

  "Will you gainsay me——d'ye defy me?"

  "O Martin, no, but you are so weak——"

  "Weak! Am I so?" And stooping, I caught her up in my arms, upsetting the turtle-shell and spilling the result of her labours. So with her crushed to me I turned and set off along the beach, and she, lying thus helpless, must needs fall to weeping again and I, in my selfish and blind folly, to plaguing the sweet soul therewith, as:

  "England is far away, my Lady Joan! Here be no courtly swains, no perfumed, mincing lovers, to sigh and bow and languish for you. Here is Solitude, lady. Desolation hath you fast and is not like to let you go——here mayhap shall you live——and die! An ill place this and, like nature, strong and cruel. An ill place and an ill rogue for company. You named me rogue once and rogue forsooth you find me. England is far away——but God——is farther——"

  Thus I babbled, scowling down on her, as I bore her on until my breath came in great gasps, until the sweat poured from me, until I sank to my knees and striving to rise found I might not, and glaring wildly up saw we were come 'neath Bartlemy's cursed pimento tree. Then she, loosing herself from my fainting arms, bent down to push the matted hair from my eyes, to support my failing strength in tender arms, and to lower my heavy head to her knee.

  "Foolish child!" she murmured, "Poor, foolish child! England is very far I know, but this I know also, Martin, God is all about us, and here in our loneliness within these great solitudes doth walk beside us."

  "Yet you weep!" says I.

  "Aye, I did, Martin."

  "Because——of the——loneliness?"

  "No, Martin."

  "Your——lost friends?"

  "No, Martin."

  "Then——wherefore?"

  "O trouble not for thing so small, a woman's tears come easily, they say."

  "Not yours, Joan. Yet you wept——"

  "Your wound bleeds afresh, lie you there and stir not till I bring water to bathe it." And away she hastes and I, burning in a fever of doubt and questioning, must needs lie there and watch her bring the turtle-shell to fill it at the little rill that bubbled in that rocky cleft as I have described before. While this was a-doing I stared up at the pimento tree, and bethinking me of Black Bartlemy and the poor Spanish lady and of my hateful dream, I felt sudden great shame, for here had I crushed my lady in arms as cruel well-nigh as his. This put me to such remorse that I might not lie still and strove to rise up, yet got no further than my knees; and 'twas thus she found me. And now when I would have sued her forgiveness for my roughness she soothed me with gentle words (though what she spake I knew not) and gave me to drink, and so fell to cherishing my hurt until, my strength coming back somewhat, I got to my feet and suffered her to bring me where she would, speaking no word, since in my fevered brain I was asking myself this question, viz.,

  "Why must she weep?"

  Now whether the Indian's knife was poisoned or no I cannot say, but for two days I lay direly sick and scarce able to crawl, conscious only of the soothing tones of her voice and touch of her hands. But upon the third day, opening my eyes I found myself greatly better though marvellous weak. And as I stirred she was beside me on her knees.

  "Drink this, Martin!" says she. And I obeying, found it was excellent broth. And when I had drunk all I closed my eyes mighty content, and so lay a while.

  "My Lady Joan," says I at last, "wherefore did you weep?"

  "O Martin!" she sighed, "'Twas because that morning I had sought so long and found so little to give you and you so sick!" Here was silence a while.

  "But whence cometh the broth?" quoth I at last.

  "I caught a young goat, Martin; in a noose of hide set among the rocks; and then——then I had to kill it——O Martin!"

  "You——caught and——killed a goat!"

  "Yes, Martin. You had to be fed——but O, the poor thing——!"

  "Surely," said I at last, "O surely never had man so brave a comrade as I! How may I ever show you all my gratitude?"

  "By going to sleep, Martin. "Your wound is well-nigh healed, sleep is all you need." And sleep I did; though at that time and for many nights to come my slumber was haunted by a fear that the Indian was back again, and others with him, all stealing upon us to our torment and destruction. But in this night I awoke parched with thirst and the night very hot and with the moon making pale glory all about me. So I got to my feet, albeit with much ado, being yet very feeble when her voice reached me:

  "What is it, Martin? Are you thirsty?"

  "Beyond enduring!" says I.

  "Bide you still!" she commanded, and next moment she flits soft- footed into the moonlight with one of our larger shells to bring me water from the rill near by; but seeing me on my feet, looks on me glad-eyed, then shakes reproving head.

  "Lie you down!" says she mighty serious, "Lie you down!"

  "Nay, I'll go myself——" But she was past me and out of the cave or ever I might stay her; but scarce had I seated myself upon my bed than she was back again, the shell brimming in her hands; so I drank eagerly enough but with my gaze on the sheen of white, rounded arm and dimpled shoulder. Having emptied the shell I stooped to set it by, and when I looked again she had vanished into her own small cave.

  "I am glad you are so greatly better, Martin," says she from the dark.

  "Indeed, I am well again!" quoth I. "To-morrow I make my bow and arrows. Had I done this before, the Indian should never have got away."

  "Think you he will return and with others, Martin?"

  "No," says I (albeit my mind misgave me). "Yet 'tis best to be prepared, so I will have a good stout pike also in place of my broken sword."

  "And strengthen our door, Martin?"

  "Aye, I will so, 'tis a mighty stout door, thank God."

  "Thank God!" says she mighty reverent. "And now go to sleep, Martin." So here was silence wherein I could hear the murmur of the breakers afar and the soft bubbling of the rill hard by, and yet sleep I could not.

  "And you caught and killed a goat!" says I.

  "Nay, Martin, 'tis a horror I would forget."

  "And you did it that I might eat?"

  "Yes, Martin. And now hush thee."

  "Though indeed," says I in a little, "thus much you would have done for any man, to be sure!"

  "To be sure, Martin——unless he were man like Black Bartlemy. Good-night and close your eyes. Are they shut?"

  "Yes," says I. "Good-night to thee, comrade."

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