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I seemed to wake up. “Your uncle the pirate!” I cried, and was amazed at my own words.
Tomas Castro sprang up, and placed his rough, hot hand over my lips.
“Be quiet, John Kemp, you fool!” he hissed with sudden energy.
He had spruced himself, but I seemed to see the rags still flutter about him. He had combed out his beard, but I could not forget the knots that had been in it.
“I told your worship how foolish and wrong-headed these English are,” he said sardonically to Carlos. And then to me, “If the señor speaks loudly again, I shall kill him."
He was evidently very frightened of something.
Carlos, silent as an apparition at the foot of the ladder, put a finger to his lips and glanced upwards.
Castro writhed his whole body, and I stepped backwards. “I know what Rio Medio is,” I said, not very loudly. “It is a nest of pirates.'
Castro crept towards me again on the points of his toes. “Señor Don Juan Kemp, child of the devil,” he hissed, looking very much frightened, “you must die!"
I smiled. He was trembling all over. I could hear the talking and laughing that went on under the break of the poop. Two women were kissing, with little cries, near the hatchway. I could hear them distinctly.
Tomas Castro dropped his ragged cloak with a grandiose gesture.
“By my hand!” he added with difficulty.
He was really very much alarmed. Carlos was gazing up the hatch. I was ready to laugh at the idea of dying by Tomas Castro's hand while, within five feet of me, people were laughing and kissing. I should have laughed had I not suddenly felt his hand on my throat. I kicked his shins hard, and fell backwards over a chest. He went back a step or two, flourished his arm, beat his chest, and turned furiously upon Carlos.
“He will get us murdered,” he said. “Do you think we are safe here? If these people here heard that name they wouldn't wait to ask who your worship is. They would tear us to pieces in an instant. I tell you—moi, Tomas Castro—he will ruin us, this white fool
Carlos began to cough, shaken speechless as if by an invisible devil. Castro's eyes ran furtively all round him, then he looked at me. He made an extraordinary swift motion with his right hand, and I saw that he was facing me with a long steel blade displayed. Carlos continued to cough. The thing seemed odd, laughable still. Castro began to parade round me: it was as if he were a cock performing its saltatory rites before attacking. There was the same tenseness of muscle. He stepped with extraordinary care on the points of his toes, and came to a stop about four feet from me. I began to wonder what Rooksby would have thought of this sort of thing, to wonder why Castro himself found it necessary to crouch for such a long time. Up above, the hum of many people, still laughing, still talking, faded a little out of mind. I understood, horribly, how possible it would be to die within those few feet of them. Castro's eyes were dusky yellow, the pupils a great deal inflated, the lines of his mouth very hard and drawn immensely tight. It seemed extraordinary that he should put so much emotion into such
ery easy killing. I had my back against the bulkhead, it felt very hard against my shoulder-blades. I had no dread, only a sort of shrinking from the actual contact of the point, as one shrinks from being tickled. I opened my mouth. I was going to shriek a last, despairing call, to the light and laughter of meetings above
when Carlos, still shaken, with one white hand pressed very hard upon his chest, started forward and gripped his hand round Castro's steel. He began to whisper in the other's hairy ear. I caught:
“You are a fool. He will not make us to be molested, he is my kinsman."
Castro made a reluctant gesture towards Barnes' chest that lay between us.
“We could cram him into that," he said.
“Oh, bloodthirsty fool,” Carlos answered, recovering his breath; "is it always necessary to wash your hands in blood? Are we not in enough danger? Up-up! Go see if the boat is yet there. We must go quickly; upup
He waved his hand towards the scuttle. “But still,” Castro said. He was reluctantly fitting his wooden hand upon the blue steel. He sent a baleful yellow glare into my eyes, and stooped to pick up his ragged cloak.
“Up-mount!” Carlos commanded.
Castro muttered, “Vamos," and began clumsily to climb the ladder, like a bale of rags being hauled from above. Carlos placed his foot on the steps, preparing to follow him. He turned his head round towards me, his hand extended, a smile upon his lips.
“Juan," he said, “let us not quarrel. You are very young; you cannot understand these things; you cannot weigh them; you have a foolish idea in your head. I wished you to come with us because I love you, Juan. Do you think I wish you evil? You are true and brave, and our families are united.” He sighed suddenly.
"I do not want to quarrel!” I said. "I don't.'
I did not want to quarrel; I wanted more to cry. I was very lonely, and he was going away. Romance was going out of my life.
He added musically, “You even do not understand. There is someone else who speaks for you to me, always
-someone else. But one day you will. I shall come back for you-one day.” He looked at me and smiled. It stirred unknown depths of emotion in me. I would have gone with him, then, had he asked me. “One day,” he repeated, with an extraordinary cadence of tone.
His hand was grasping mine; it thrilled me like a woman's; he stood shaking it very gently.
“One day,” he said, “I shall repay what I owe you. I wished you with me, because I go into some danger. I wanted you. Good-by. Hasta mas ver.”
He leaned over and kissed me lightly on the cheek, then climbed away. I felt that the light of Romance v was going out of my life. As we reached the top of the ladder, somebody began to call harshly, startlingly. I heard my own name and the words, “mahn ye were speerin' after.”
The light was obscured, the voice began clamouring insistently.
“John Kemp, Johnnie Kemp, noo. Here's the mahn ye were speerin' after. Here's Macdonald.”
It was the voice of Barnes, and the voice of the every day. I discovered that I had been tremendously upset. The pulses in my temples were throbbing, and I wanted to shut my eyes—to sleep! I was tired; Romance had departed. Barnes and the Macdonald he had found for me represented all the laborious insects of the world; all the ants who are forever hauling immensely heavy and immensely unimportant burdens up weary hillocks, down steep places, getting nowhere and doing nothing.
Nevertheless I hurried up, stumbling at the hatchway against a man who was looking down. He said nothing at all, and I was dazed by the light. Barnes remarked hurriedly, “This 'll be your Mr. Mac
donald”; and, turning his back on me, forgot my exist
I felt more alone than ever. The man in front of me held his head low, as if he wished to butt me.
I began breathlessly to tell him I had a letter from “my—my—Rooksby-brother-in-law-Ralph Rooksby”—I was panting as if I had run a long way. He said nothing at all. I fumbled for the letter in an inner pocket of my waistcoat, and felt very shy. Macdonald maintained a portentous silence; his enormous body was enveloped rather than clothed in a great volume of ill-fitting white stuff; he held in his hand a great umbrella with a vivid green lining. His face was very pale, and had the leaden transparency of a boiled artichoke; it was fringed by a red beard streaked with gray, as brown flood-water is with foam. I noticed at last that the reason for his presenting his forehead to me was an incredible squint-a squint that gave the idea that he was performing some tortuous and defiant feat with the muscles of his neck.
He maintained an air of distrustful inscrutability. The hand which took my letter was very large, very white, and looked as if it would feel horribly flabby. With the other he put on his nose a pair of enormous mother-of-pearl-framed spectacles—things exactly like those of a cobra's—and began to read. He had said precisely nothing at all. It was for him and what he represented that I had thrown over Carlos and what he represented. I felt that I deserved to be received with acclamation. I was not. He read the letter very deliberately, swaying, umbrella and all, with the slow movement of a dozing elephant. Once he crossed his eyes at me, meditatively, above the mother-of-pearl rims. He was so slow, so deliberate, that I own I began to wonder whether Carlos and Castro were still on board. It seemed to be at least half an hour before