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Martin Conisby's Vengeance(Chapter33)

2006-08-28 23:11

  Chapter XXXIII. Of Dreams

  I waked marvellous refreshed and full of a great joy to hear her sweet singing and the light tread of her foot going to and fro in the great cabin, where she was setting out a meal, as I guessed by the tinkle of platters, etc., the which homely sound reminded me that I was vastly hungry. Up I sprang to a glory of sun flooding in at shattered window and the jagged rent where a round-shot had pierced the stout timbering above; and having washed and bathed me as well as I might, found my lady had replaced my ragged, weather-stained garments by others chosen from the ship's stores. And so at last forth I stepped into the great cabin, eager for sight of my dear lady, albeit somewhat conscious of my new clothes and hampered by their tightness.

  "Indeed," said she, holding me off, the better to examine me, "I do find you something better-looking than you were!"

  "Nay, but I am burned browner than any Indian."

  "This but maketh your eyes the bluer, Martin. And then you are changed besides——so much more gentle——kindlier——the man I dreamed you might become——" Here I kissed her.

  "And you," said I, "my Damaris that I have ever loved and shall do, you are more beautiful than my dream of you——"

  "Am I, Martin——in spite of these things?" "Indeed," said I heartily, "they do but reveal to me so much of——"

  Here she kissed me and brought me to the table. Now, seeing her as she sat thus beside me, I started and stared, well-nigh open-mouthed.

  "What now?" she questioned.

  "Your hair!"

  "'Twill grow again, Martin. But why must you stare?"

  "Because when you look and turn so, and your hair short on your shoulders, you are marvellously like to Joanna." Now at this, seeing how my lady shrank and turned from me, I could have cursed my foolish tongue.

  "What of her, Martin?"

  "She is dead!" And here I described how bravely Joanna had met Death standing, and her arms outstretched to the infinite. When I had done, my lady was silent, as expecting more, and her head still averted.

  "And is this——all?" she questioned at last.

  "Yes!" said I. "Yes!"

  "Yet you do not tell me of the cruel wrong she did you——and me! You do not say she lied of you."

  "She is dead!" said I. "And very nobly, as I do think!"

  Hereupon my lady rose and going into her cabin, was back all in a moment and unfolding a paper, set it before me. "This," said she, "I found after you were fled the ship!" Opening this paper, I saw there, very boldly writ:

  "I lied about him and 'twas a notable lie, notably spoke. Martino is not like ordinary men and so it is I do most truly love him——yes——for always. So do I take him for mine now, so shall lie become truth, mayhap.

  "JOANNA."

  And even as I refolded this letter, my lady's arms were about me, her lovely head upon my shoulder:

  "Dear," said she, "'twas like you to speak no harsh thing of the dead. And she gave you back to me with her life——so needs must I love her memory for this."

  And so we presently got to our breakfast,——sweet, white bread new-baked, with divers fish she had caught that morning whiles I slept. And surely never was meal more joyous, the sun twinkling on Adam's silver and cut glass, and my lady sweeter and more radiant than the morn in all the vigour of her glowing beauty.

  Much we talked and much she said that I would fain set down, since there is nothing about her that is not a joy to me to dwell upon, yet lest I weary my readers with overmuch of lovers' talk, I will only set down all she now told me concerning Adam.

  "For here were we, Martin," said my lady, "our poor ship much wounded with her many battles and beset by a storm so that we all gave ourselves up for lost; even Adam confessed he could do no more, and I very woful because I must die away from you, yet the storm drove us by good hap into these waters, and next day, the wind moderating, we began to hope we might make this anchorage, though the ship was dreadfully a-leak, and all night and all day I would hear the dreadful clank of the pumps always at work. And thus at last, to our great rejoicing, we saw this land ahead of us that was to be our salvation. But as we drew nearer our rejoicing changed to dismay to behold three ships betwixt us and this refuge. So Sir Adam decided to fight his way through and sailed down upon these three ships accordingly. And presently we were among them and the battle began, and very dreadful, what with the smoke and shouting and noise of guns——"

  "Ah!" cried I. "And did not Adam see you safely below?"

  "To be sure, Martin, but I stole up again and found him something hurt by a splinter yet very happy because Godby had shot away one of the enemy's masts and nobody hurt but himself, and so we won past these ships for all their shooting, and I bound up Adam's hurt where he stood conning the ship, shouting orders and bidding me below, all in a breath. But now cometh Amos Marsh, the carpenter, running, to say the enemy's shot had widened our leaks and the water gaining upon the pumps beyond recovery and that we were sinking. 'How long will she last?' said Adam, staring at the two ships that were close behind, and still shooting at us now and then. 'An hour, Captain, maybe less!' said the carpenter. ''Twill serve,' said Adam, in his quiet voice. 'Do you and your lads stand to the pumps, and we will be safe ashore within the hour. But mark me, if any man turn laggard or faint-hearted, shoot that man, but pump your best, Amos——away wi' you!'"

  "Aye," quoth I, clasping tighter the hand I held, "that was like Adam; 'tis as I had heard him speak. And you in such dire peril of death, my beloved——"

  "Why, Martin, I did not fear or grieve very much, for methought you were lost to me forever in this life perchance, but in the next——"

  "This and the next I do pray God," quoth I, and kissed her till she bade me leave her breath for her story. The which she presently did something as followeth:

  "And now, whiles Godby and his chosen gunners plied our stern cannons, firing very fast and furious, Adam calls for volunteers to set more sail and himself was first aloft for all his wounded arm——"

  "And where were you?"

  "Giving water to Godby and his men, for they were parched. And presently back cometh Adam, panting with his exertions. 'God send no spars carry away,' quoth he, 'and we must lay alongside the nearest Spaniard and board.' ''Tis desperate venture,' said Godby, 'they be great ships and full o' Dons.' 'Aye,' said Adam, 'but we are Englishmen and desperate,' And so we stood on, Martin, and these great ships after us, and ever our own poor ship lying lower and lower in the water, until I looked to see it sink under us and go down altogether. But at last we reached this bay and none too soon, for to us cometh Amos Marsh, all wet and woebegone with labour, to say the ship was going. But nothing heeding, Adam took the helm, shouting to him to let fly braces, and with our sails all shivering we ran aground, just as she lies now, poor thing. While I lay half-stunned with the fall, for the shock of grounding had thrown me down, Adam commanded every one on shore with muskets and pistols, so I presently found myself running across the sands 'twixt Adam and Godby, nor stayed we till we reached the cliff yonder, where are many caves very wonderful, as I will show you, Martin. And then I saw the reason of this haste, for the greatest Spanish ship was turning to bring her whole broadside to bear, and so began to shoot off all their cannon, battering our poor ship as you see. Then came Spaniards in boats with fire to burn it, but our men shot so many of these that although they set the ship on fire, yet they did it so hastily because of our shooting that once they were gone, the fire was quickly put out. But the ship was beyond repair which greatly disheartened us all, save only Adam, who having walked around the wreck and examined her, chin in hand, summoned all men to a council on the beach. 'Look now, my comrades,' said he (as well as I remember, Martin), 'we have fought a sinking ship so long as we might, and here we lie driven ashore in a hostile country but we have only one killed and five injured, which is good; but we are Englishmen, which is better and bad to beat. Well, then, shall we stay here sucking our thumbs? Shall we set about building another vessel and the enemy come upon us before 'tis done? Shall we despair? Not us! We stand a hundred and thirty and two men, and every man a proved and seasoned fighter; so will we, being smitten thus, forthwith smite back, and smite where the enemy will least expect. We'll march overland on Carthagena——I know it well——fall on 'em in the dead hush o' night, surprise their fort, spike their guns and down to the harbour for a ship. Here's our vessel a wreck——we'll have one of theirs in place. So, comrades all, who's for Carthagena along with me; who's for a Spanish ship and Old England?'"

  "Why, then," cried I, amazed, "my dream was true. They have marched across country on Carthagena——"

  "Yes, Martin, but what dream——?"

  "With four guns, mounted on wheels?"

  "Yes, Martin; they built four gun-carriages to Adam's design. But what of your dream?"

  So I told her of Atlamatzin and the visions I had beheld; "and I saw you also, my loved Joan; aye, as I do remember, you knelt on the deck above, praying and with your arms reached out——"

  "Why, so I did often——one night in especial, I remember, weeping and calling to you, for I was very fearful and——lonely, dear Martin. And that night, I remember, I dreamed I saw you, your back leaned to a great rock as you were very weary, and staring into a fire, sad-eyed and desolate. Across your knees was your gun and all around you a dark and dismal forest, and I yearned to come to you and could not, and so watched and lay to weep anew.——Oh, dear, loved Martin!"

  Here she turned, her eyes dark with remembered sorrow, wherefore I took and lifted her to my knee, holding her thus close upon my heart.

  "Tell me," said I after some while, "when Adam marched on his desperate venture, did he name any day for his likely return?"

  "Yes, Martin!"

  "And when was that?"

  "'Twas the day you came."

  "Then he is already late," quoth I. "And he was ever mighty careful and exact in his calculations. 'Tis an adventure so daring as few would have attempted, saving only our 'timid' Adam. And how if he never returns, my Damaris——how then?"

  "Ah, then——we have each other!" said she.

  "And therein is vast comfort and——for me great joy!" quoth I.

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