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Martin Conisby's Vengeance(Chapter35)

2006-08-28 23:11

  Chapter XXXV. The Coming of Adam and of Our Great Joy Therein

  The moon was paling to daybreak as, having climbed that rocky stair I have mentioned, we came upon the cliff and stood, hands tight-clasped, where we might behold the infinity of waters; and after some while, looming phantom-like upon the dawn, we descried the lofty sails of a great ship standing in towards the land and growing ever more distinct. And as we watched, and never a word, her towering canvas flushed rosy with coming day, a changing colour that grew ever brighter until it glowed all glorious, and up rose the sun.

  Suddenly, as we watched the proud oncoming of this ship of glory, my lady uttered a little, soft cry and nestled to me.

  "The sign, Martin!" cried she, "God hath sent us the sign, beloved; see what she beareth at the main!" And there, sure enough, stirring languid upon the gentle air was the Cross of St. George. And beholding this thing (that was no more than shred of bunting) and in these hostile seas, ship and sea swam upon my vision, and bowing my head lest my beloved behold this weakness, felt her warm lips on mine.

  "Dear Martin," said she, "hide not your tears from me, for yonder is England, a noble future——home, at last."

  "Home?" said I, "Aye, home and peace at last and, best of all——you!" Thus stood we, clean forgetting this great ship in each other until, roused by the thunder of another gun, we started and turned to see the ship so near that we could distinguish the glint of armour on her decks here and there, and presently up to us rose a cheer (though faint) and we saw them make a waft with the ensign, so that it seemed they had discovered us where we stood. Hereupon, seeing the ship already going about to fetch into the harbour, we descended the cliff and, reaching the sands below, stood there until the vessel hove into view round the headland that was like unto a lion's head, and, furling upper and lower courses, let go her anchor and brought up in fashion very seamanlike, and she indeed a great and noble vessel from whose lofty decks rose lusty shouts of welcome, drowned all at once in the silvery fanfare of trumpets and a prodigious rolling of drums. Presently, to this merry clamour, a boat was lowered and pulled towards us, and surely never was seen a wilder, more ragged company than this that manned her. In the stem-sheets sat Adam, one hand upon the tiller, the other slung about him by a scarf, his harness rusty and dinted, but his eyes very bright beneath the pent of his weather-beaten hat. Scarce had the boat touched shore than his legs (dight in prodigiously long Spanish boots) were over the side and he came wading ashore, first of any.

  "Praise God!" said he, halting suddenly to flourish off his battered hat and glance from one to other of us with his old, whimsical look. "Praise God I do see again two souls, the most wilful and unruly in all this world, yet here stand ye that should be most thoroughly dead (what with the peril consequent upon wilfulness) but for a most especial Providence——there stand ye fuller of life and the joy o' living than ever."

  "And you, Adam," reaching her hands to him in welcome, "you that must march 'gainst a mighty city with men so few! Death surely hath been very nigh you also, yet here are you come back to us unscathed save for your arm; surely God hath been to us infinitely kind and good!"

  "Amen!" said Adam and stooping, raised these slender hands to his lips. "Howbeit, my Lady Wilfulness," quoth he, shaking his head, "I vow you ha' caused me more carking care than any unhanged pirate or Spaniard on the Main! You that must bide here all alone, contemning alike my prayers and commands, nor suffering any to stay for your comfort and protection and all for sake of this hare-brained, most obstinate comrade o' mine, that must go running his poor sconce into a thousand dangers (which was bad) and upsetting all my schemes and calculations (which was worse, mark you!) and all to chase a will-o'-the-wisp, a mare's nest, a——oh, Lord love you, Martin——!" And so we clasped hands.

  In a little, my dear lady betwixt us, and Adam discoursing of his adventures and particularly of his men's resolution, endurance and discipline, we got us aboard the Deliverance which the men were already stripping of such stores as remained, filling the air with cheery shouts, and yo-ho-ing as they hove at this or hauled at that. Climbing to the quarter-deck we came at last to the great cabin, where Adam was pleased to commend the means I had taken to our defence, though more than once I noticed his quick glance flash here and there as if seeking somewhat. At last, my lady having left us awhile, he turns his sharp eyes on me:

  "Comrade, how goeth vengeance nowadays?" he questioned. "What of Sir Richard, your enemy?"

  "Dead; Adam!"

  "Aha!" said he, pinching his chin and eyeing me askance, "was it steel or did ye shoot him, comrade?"

  "God forgive you for saying such thing, Adam!" quoth I, scowling into his lean, brown face.

  "Aha," said he again, and viewing me with his furtive leer. "Do ye regret his murder then, Martin?"

  "Aye, I do from my heart——now and always!"

  "Hum!" said he, seating himself on my tumbled bed and glancing whimsically at me, "Martin," quoth he, "friend——brother——you that talked bloody murder and hell-fire with a heart inside you clean and gentle as a child's, thou'rt plaguey fool to think thy friend Adam be such fool as not to know thee better. Hark'ee now, here's your fashion: If you found the enemy you sought so long and him in a Spanish prison, first you cursed, then you comforted, then eased his pains, watched your chance, throttled your gaoler and away to freedom, bearing your enemy along wi' you——is't not something the way of it——come?"

  "Truly, Adam!" said I, all amazed, "though how you chance to know this——"

  "Tush!" said he. "'Tis writ plain all over thee, Martin, and yonder cometh our lady, as peerless a maid as ever blessed man's sight——for all of the which I do love thee, Martin. Come, now, I will take ye aboard the prize and hey for England——this night we sail!" So we joined my lady and coming down to the boat were presently rowed to the Spanish ship, a great vessel, her towering stem brave with gilding and her massy timbers enriched by all manner of carved work.

  "She had a name well-nigh long as herself, Martin," said Adam, "but Godby christened her The Joyous Hope instead, which shall serve well enough." So we came beneath her high, curving side, where leaned familiar figures——lean, bronzed fellows who welcomed us with cheer that waked many an echo. Upon the quarter-deck was Penruddock the surgeon, who bustled forward to greet us himself as loquacious as ever and very loud in praise of the cure he had once wrought in me; and here, too, was Godby, to make a leg to my lady and grasp my hand.

  "Why, Mart'n——why, pal, here's j'y, scorch me wi' a port-fire else!" quoth he, then, hearing a hail from the beach, rolled away to look to his many duties.

  "She's good enough vessel——to look at, Martin," said Adam, bringing us into the panelled splendour of the coach or roundhouse; "aye, she's roomy and handsome enough and rich-laden, though something heavy on her helm; of guns fifty and nine and well-found in all things save clothes, hence my scurvy rags; but we'll better 'em when our stores come aboard."

  And now, my lady being retired; he showed me over this great galleon, so massy built for all her gilding and carved finery, and so stout-timbered as made her well-nigh shot-proof.

  "She's a notable rich prize, Adam!" said I, as we came above deck again, where the crew were at work getting aboard us the stores from the Deliverance under Godby's watchful eye.

  "Aye, we were fortunate, Martin," pausing to view this busy scene, "and all with scarce a blow and but five men lost, and they mostly by sunstroke or snakebite; we could ha' taken the city also had I been so minded."

  "'Twas marvellous achievement for man so timid, Adam!" quoth I.

  "Nay, comrade, I did but smite the enemy unbeknown and where least expected; 'twas simple enough. See now, Martin," said he, pinching his chin and averting his head, "I am very fain to learn more of——to hear your adventures——you shall tell me of——of 'em if you will, but later, for we sail on the flood and I have much to do in consequence."

  So I presently fell to pacing the broad deck alone, dreaming on the future and in my heart a song of gratitude to God. Presently to me comes Godby:

  "Lord, Mart'n!" said he, hitching fiercely at the broad belt of his galligaskins. "Here's been doin's o' late, pal, doin's as outdoes all other doin's as ever was done! Talk o' glory? Talk o' fame? There's enough on't aboard this here ship t' last every man on us all his days and longer. And what's more to the p'int, Mart'n, there's gold! And silver! In bars! Aye, pal, shoot me if 'tisn't a-laying in the hold like so much ballast! Cap'n Adam hath give his share to be divided atwixt us, which is noble in him and doeth us a power o' good!"

  "Why, the men deserve it; 'twas a desperate business, Godby!"

  "Aye, pal, good lads every one, though we had Cap'n Adam to lead 'em. 'Twas ever 'Come' wi' him! Ten minutes arter our first salvo the fort was ours, their guns spiked, an' we running for the harbour, Sir Adam showing the way. And, Lord! To hear the folk in the tower, you'd ha' thought 'twas the last trump——such shrieks and howls, Mart'n. So, hard in Cap'n Adam's wake we scrambled aboard this ship, she laying nighest to shore and well under the guns o' the fort as we'd just spiked so mighty careful, d'ye see, and here was some small disputation wi' steel and pistol, and her people was very presently swimming or rowing for it. So 'twas hoist sail, up anchor and away, and though this galleon is no duck, being something lubberly on a wind, she should bear us home well enough. 'Tis long since I last clapped eye on old England, and never a day I ha'n't blessed that hour I met wi' you at the 'Hop-pole,' for I'm rich, pal, rich, though I'd give a lot for a glimpse o' the child I left a babe and a kiss from his bonny mother."

  Thus, walking the broad deck of this stout ship that was soon to bear us (and myself especially) to England and a new life, I hearkened to God-be-here Jenkins, who talked, his eyes now cocked aloft at spars or rigging, now observing the serene blue distances, now upon the boats plying busily to and fro, until one of the men came to say the last of our stores was aboard. And presently, being summoned, Adam appeared on the lofty poop in all the bravery of flowing periwig and 'broidered coat.

  "Ha, Mart'n," sighed Godby, hitching at his belt as we went to meet him, "I love him best in buff and steel, though he'll ever be my cap'n, pal. There aren't what you'd call a lot of him, neither, but what there is goeth a prodigious long way in steel or velvet. Talk o' glory! Talk o' fame! Pal, glory's a goblin and fame's a phantom compared wi' Cap'n Sir Adam Penfeather, and you can keel haul, burn and hang me else!"

  This night at moonrise we warped out from our anchorage and with drums beating and fifes sounding merrily, stood out into the great deep and never a heart that did not leap at thought of home and England. And now cometh my lady, dressed in gown I thought marvellous becoming, and herself beautiful beyond all women, as I told her, whereat she cast down her eyes and smoothed her dainty silks with her pretty hands.

  "Fie, Martin!" said she, mighty demure. "Is it well to be so extravagant in praise of your own?" Which last words put me to such ecstasy that I fell dumb forthwith; noting the which, she came a little nearer to slip her cool fingers into mine, "Though, indeed," quoth she, "I am glad to find you so observant! And my hair? Doth it please you, thus?" And now I saw her silky tresses (and for all their mutilation) right cunningly ordered, and amid their beauty that same wooden comb I had made for her on the island. "Well, dear sir?" said she, leaning nearer. At this, being ever a man scant of words (and the deck deserted hereabouts) I kissed her. And now, hand in hand, we stood silent awhile to watch this cruel land of Darien fade upon our sight. At last she turned and I also, to view that vast horizon that lay before us.

  "What see you, yonder in the distance, dear Martin?" she questioned.

  "Yourself!" said I. "You fill my world. God make me worthy! Aye, in the future——ever beside me henceforth, I do see you, my Damaris!"

  "Why, to be sure, loved man! But what more?"

  "I want for no more!"

  "Nay, do but look!" said she, soft cheek to mine. "There I do see happiness, fortune, honours——and——mayhap, if God is kind to us——" She stopped, with sound like a little sob.

  "What, my Joan?" I questioned, fool-like.

  "Greater blessings——"

  "But," said I, "what should be greater——"

  "Ah, Martin——dear——cannot you guess?"

  "Why, Joan——oh, my beloved!" But stepping out of my hold, she fled from me. "Nay," cried I, "do not leave me so soon."

  "I must, dear Martin. You——you will be wanting to speak with Adam——"

  "Not I——Lord, no!"

  "Why, then——you shall!" said she and vanished into the roundhouse forthwith, leaving me wondering like the dull fellow I was until (and all at once) I understood and my wonder changed to joy so great I might scarce contain myself; wherefore, beholding Adam coming, I hasted to meet him and had clapped him in my arms or ever he was aware.

  "Marry us, Adam!" said I. "Marry us, man!"

  "What, ha' ye just thought on't at last, Martin?"

  "Aye, I have!"

  "Tush!" said he. "'Twas all arranged by my lady and me hours agone. Come into the coach."

  And thus, upon the high seas, Adam (being both captain and magistrate) married us forthwith, and because I had no other, I wed my Damaris with my signet ring whereon was graven the motto of my house, viz: a couchant leopard and the words, "Rouse me not." And who so sweet and grave as my dear lady as she made the responses and hearkened to Adam, and he mighty impressive. For witnesses we had Master Penruddock the surgeon and Godby, and now, my lady retiring, we must crack a bottle, all four, though I know not what we drank.

  And presently Adam drew me out upon the quarter-deck, there to walk with me a while under a great moon.

  "Martin," said he suddenly, "you have come by rough seas and mighty roundabout course to your happiness, but there be some do never make this blessed haven all their days."

  "God comfort them, poor souls!" quoth I.

  "Amen!" said he; and then in changed voice, and his keen gaze aloft amid the swelling sail, "What o' the lady Joanna, shipmate?" So I told him all the best I remembered of her and described how nobly she had died; and he pacing beside me said never a word.

  "Martin," said he, when I had made an end, "I am a mighty rich man, yet for all this, I shall be something solitary, I guess."

  "Never in this world, Adam, so long as liveth my dear lady——"

  "Your wife, comrade——'tis a sweet word!"

  "Aye——my wife. And then, am I not your sworn brother? So like brothers will we live together in England, and friends always!" And hereupon I clasped an arm about him.

  "This is well, Martin," said he, gripping my hand. "Aye, 'tis mighty well, for nought under heaven is there to compare with true friendship, except it be the love of a noble woman. So now go, comrade, go to her who hath believed in you so faithfully, hath steadfastly endured so much for you——get you to your wife!"

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