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Black Bartlemy's Treasure(Chapter42)

2006-08-28 22:34

  Chapter XLII. Concerning the Song of a Dead Man

  Long after the singing was died away I (like one dazed) could think of nought but this accursed song, these words the which had haunted my sick-bed and methought no more than the outcome of my own fevered imagination; thus my mind running on this and very full of troubled perplexity, I suffered my lady to bring me within our refuge, but with my ears on the stretch as expectant to hear again that strange, deep voice sing these words I had heard chanted by a dead man in my dreams.

  Being come within our third cave (or kitchen) my lady shows me a small cord that dangled in certain shadowy corner, and pulling on this cord, down falls a rope-ladder and hangs suspended; and I knew this for Adam's "ladder of cords" whereby he had been wont to mount into his fourth (and secret) cavern, as mentioned in his chronicle.

  "Here lieth safety, Martin," says my lady, "for as Master Penfeather writes in his journal 'one resolute man lying upon the hidden ledge' (up yonder) 'may withstand a whole army so long as his shot last.' And you are very resolute and so am I!"

  "True!" says I, "True!" Yet, even as I spake, stood all tense and rigid, straining my ears to catch again the words of this hateful song. But now my dear lady catches my hand and, peering up at me in the dimness, presently draws me into the outer cave where the moon made a glory.

  "O Martin!" says she, looking up at me with troubled eyes, "Dear Martin, what is it?"

  "Aye——what?" quoth I, wiping sweat from me. "God knoweth. But you heard? That song? The words——"

  "I heard a man singing, Martin. But what of it——we are safe here! Ah——why are you so strange?"

  "Damaris," says I, joying in the comfort of her soft, strong arms about me, "dear love of mine, here is thing beyond my understanding, for these were words I dreamed sung to me by a dead man——the man Humphrey——out beyond the reef——"

  "Nay, but dear Martin, this was a real voice. 'Tis some shipwrecked mariner belike, some castaway——"

  "Aye——but did you——mark these words, Damaris?"

  "Nay——O my dear, how should I——at such a moment!"

  "They were all——of Black Bartlemy! And what should this mean, think you?"

  "Nay, dear love, never heed!" says she, clasping me the closer.

  "Aye, but I must, Damaris, for——in a while this singing shall come again mayhap and——if it doth——I know what 'twill be!"

  "O Martin——Martin, what do you mean?"

  "I mean 'twill be about the poor Spanish lady," says I, and catching up my belt where it hung, I buckled it about me.

  "Ah——what would you do, Martin?"

  "I'm for Deliverance."

  "Then will I come also."

  "No!" says I, catching her in fierce arms, "No! You are mine henceforth and more precious than life to me. So must you bide here——I charge you by our love. For look now, 'tis in my mind Tressady and his pirates are upon us at last, those same rogues that dogged the 'Faithful Friend' over seas. Howbeit I must find out who or what is it is that sings this hateful——" I stopped, all at once, for the voice was come again, nearer, louder than before, and singing the very words I had been hearkening for and dreading to hear:

  "There's a fine Spanish dame,And Joanna's her name,Shall follow wherever ye go:

  'Till your black heart shall feel Yow cursed steel:

  Black Bartlemy——Bartlemy ho!"

  "You heard!" says I, clapping hand on knife, "You heard?"

  "Yes——yes," she whispered, her embrace tightening until I might feel her soft body all a-tremble against mine. "But you are safe——here, Martin!"

  "So safe," says I, "that needs must I go and find out this thing ——nay, never fear, beloved, life hath become so infinite precious that I shall be a very coward——a craven for your sake. Here shall be no fighting, Damaris, but go I must. Meanwhile do you wait me in the secret cave and let down the ladder only to my whistle."

  But now, and lying all trembling in my embrace, she brake into passionate weeping, and I powerless to comfort her.

  "Farewell happiness!" she sobbed. "Only, Martin, dear Martin, whatsoever may chance, know and remember always that I loved and shall love you to the end of time."

  Then (and all suddenly) she was her sweet, calm self again, and bringing me my chain-shirt, insisted I must don it there and then beneath my fine doublet, the which (to please her) I did. Then she brought me one of the arquebuses, but this I put by as too cumbersome, taking one of the pistols in its stead. So, armed with this together with my hatchet and trusty knife, I stepped from the cave and she beside me. And now I saw she had dried her tears and the hand clasping mine was firm and resolute, so that my love and wonder grew.

  "Damaris," I cried, casting me on my knees before her, "O God, how I do love thee!" And, kneeling thus, I clasped her slender loveliness, kissing the robes that covered her; and so, rising to my feet I hasted away. Yet in a little I turned to see her watching me but with hands clasped as one in prayer. Now, beholding her thus, I was seized of a sudden great desire to go back to give her that promise and swear that oath she sought of me, viz., that I would forego my vengeance and all thought thereof, forgetting past wrongs in the wonder of her love. But, even as I stood hesitating, she waved her hand in farewell and was gone into the cave.

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