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NE night I was riding alone towards Horton Pen. A large moon hung itself up above me like an enormous
white plate. Finally the sloping roof of the Ferry Inn, with one disheveled palm tree drooping over it, rose into the disk. The window lights were reflected like shaken torches in the river. A mass of objects, picked out with white globes, loomed in the high shadow of the inn, standing motionless. They resolved themselves into a barouche, with four horses steaming a great deal, and an army of negresses with bandboxes on their heads. A great lady was on the road; her querulous voice was calling to someone within the open door that let down a soft yellow light from the top of the precipitous steps. A nondescript object, with apparently two horns and a wheel, rested inert at the foot of the sign-post; two negroes were wiping their foreheads beside it. That resolved itself into a man slumbering in a wheelbarrow, his white face turned up to the moon. A sort of buzz of voices came from above; then a man in European clothes was silhouetted against the light in the doorway. He held a full glass very carefully and started to descend. Suddenly he stopped emotionally. Then he turned half-right and called back, “Sir Charles! Sir Charles! Here's the very man! I protest, the very man!” There was an interrogative roar from within. It was like being outside a lion's cage.
People appeared and disappeared in front of the lighted door; windows stood open, with heads craning out all along the inn face. I was hurrying off the back of my horse when the admiral came out on to the steps. Someone lit a torch, and the admiral becaine a dark, solid figure, with the flash of the gold lace on his coat. He stood very high in the leg; had small white-whiskers, and a large nose that threw a vast shadow on to his forehead in the upward light; his high collar was open, and a mass of white appeared under his chin; his head was uncovered. A third male face, very white,
bobbed up and down beside his shining left shoulder. He kept on saying:
“What? what? what? Hey, what? . . . That man?" He appeared to be halfway between supreme content and violent anger. At last he delivered himself. “Let's duck him... hey? ... Let's duck him!” He spoke with a sort of benevolent chuckle, then raised his voice and called, “Tinsley! Tinsley! Where the deuce is Tinsley?”
A high nasal sound came from the carriage window. “Sir Charles! Sir Charles! Let there be no scene in my presence, I beg.”
I suddenly saw, halfway up, laboriously ascending the steps, a black figure, indistinguishable at first on account of deformities. It was David Macdonald. Since his last, really terrible comments on the failure of the boat-attack, he had been lying hidden somewhere. It came upon me in a flash that he was making his way from one hiding place to another. In making his escape from Spanish Town, either to Kingston or the Vale, he had run against the admiral and his party returning from the Topnambos' ball. It was hardly a coincidence: everyone on the road met at the Ferry Inn. But that hardly made the thing more pleasant.
Sir Charles continued to clamor for Tinsley, his flag lieutenant, who, as a matter of fact, was the man drunk in the wheelbarrow. When this was explained by the shouts of the negroes, he grunted, “ Umph!” turned on the man at his side, and said, “ Here, Oldham; you lend a hand to duck the little toad.” It was the sort of thing that the thirsty climate of Jamaica rendered frequent enough. Oldham dropped his glass and protested. Macdonald continued silently and enigmatically to climb the steps; now he was in for it he showed plenty of pluck. No doubt he recognized that, if the admiral made a fool of himself, he would be afraid to issue warrants in soberness. I could not stand by and see them bully the wretched little creature. At the same time I didn't, most decidedly, want to identify myself with him.
I called out impulsively, “Sir Charles, surely you would not use violence to a cripple.”
Then, very suddenly, they all got to action, David Macdonald
reaching the top of the steps. Shrieks came from the interior of the carriage, and from the waiting negresses. I saw three men were falling upon a little thing like a damaged cat. I couldn't stand that, come what might of it.
I ran hastily up the steps, hoping to be able to make them recover their senses, a force of purely conventional emotion impelling me. It was no business of mine; I didn't want to interfere, and I felt like a man hastening to separate half a dozen fighting dogs too large to be pleasant.
When I reached the top, there was a sort of undignified scuffle, and in the end I found myself standing above a ghastly white gentleman who, from a sitting posture, was gasping out, “ I'll commit you! ... I swear I'll commit you! ..." I helped him to his feet rather apologetically, while the admiral behind me was asking insistently who the deuce I was. The man I had picked up retreated a little, and then turned back to look at me. The light was shining on my face, and he began to call out, “I know him. I know him perfectly well. He's John Kemp. I'll commit him at once. The papers are in the barouche.” After that he seemed to take it into his head that I was going to assault him again. He bolted out of sight, and I was left facing the admiral. He stared at me contemptuously. I was streaming with perspiration and upbraiding him for assaulting a cripple.
The admiral said, “Oh, that's what you think? I will settle with you presently. This is rank mutiny."
I looked at Oldham, who was the admiral's secretary. He was extremely disheveled about his neck, much as if a monkey had been clawing him thereabouts. Half of his roll collar Alapped on his heaving chest; his stock hung down behind like a cue. I had seen him kneeling on the ground with his head pinned down by the hunchback. I said loftily:
“What did you set him on a little beggar like that for? You were three to one. What did you expect?"
The Admiral swore. Oldham began to mop with a lace handkerchief at a damaged upper lip from which a stream of blood was running; he even seemed to be weeping a little. Finally, he vanished in at the door, very much bent together. The undaunted David hopped in after him coolly.
The admiral said, “I know your kind. You're a treasonous dog, sir. This is mutiny. You shall be made an example of.”
All the same he must have been ashamed of himself, for presently he and the two others went down the steps without even looking åt me, and their carriage rolled away.
Inside the inn I found a couple of merchant captains, one asleep with his head on the table and little rings shining in his great red ears; the other very spick and span-of what they called the new school then. His name was Williams-Captain Williams of the Lion, which he part owned ; a man of some note for the dinners he gave on board his ship. His eyes sparkled blue and very round in a round rosy face, and he clawed effusively at my arm.
“Well done!” he bubbled over. “You gave it them; strike me, you did! It did me good to see and hear. I wasn't going to poke my nose in, not I. But I admire you, my boy.”
He was a quite guileless man with a strong dislike for the admiral's blundering—a dislike that all the seamen shared—and for people of the Topnambo kidney who affected to be above his dinners. He assured me that I had burst upon those gentry roaring ..."like the Bull of Bashan. You should have seen! ” and he drank my health in a glass of punch.
David Macdonald joined us, looming through wreaths of tobacco smoke. He was always very nice in his dress, and had washed himself into a state of enviable coolness.
“They won't touch me now,” he said. “I wanted that assault and battery. ..." He suddenly turned vivid, sarcastic black eyes upon me. “But you,” he said—“my dear Kemp! You're in a devil of a scrape! They'll have a warrant out against you under the Black Act. I know the gentry.”
“Oh, he won't mind,” Williams struck in, “I know him; he's a trump. Afraid of nothing."
David Macdonald made a movement of his head that did duty for an ominous shake:
“It's a devil of a mess,” he said. “But I'll touch them up. Why did you hit Topnambo? He's the spitefullest beast in the island. They'll make it out high treason. They are capable of sending you home on this charge.”
“Oh, never say die.” Williams turned to me,“ Come dine with
me on board at Kingston to-morrow night. If there's any fuss I'll see what I can do. Or you can take a trip with me to Havana till it blows over. My old woman's on board.” His face fell. “But there, you'll get round her. I'll see you through.”
They drank some sangaree and became noisy. I wasn't very happy; there was much truth in what David Macdonald had said. Topnambo would certainly do his best to have me in jail—to make an example of me as a Separationist to please the admiral and the Duke of Manchester. Under the spell of his liquor Williams became more and more pressing with his offers of help.
" It's the devil that my missus should be on board, just this trip. But hang it! come and dine with me. I'll get some of the Kingston men—the regular hot men—to stand up for you. They will when they hear the tale."
There was a certain amount of sense in what he said. If warrants were out against me, he or some of the Kingston merchants whom he knew, and who had no cause to love the admiral, might help me a good deal.
Accordingly, I did go down to Kingston. It happened to be the day when the seven pirates were hanged at Port Royal Point. I had never seen a hanging, and a man who hadn't was rare in those days. I wanted to keep out of the way, but it was impossible to get a boatman to row me off to the Lion. They were all dying to see the show, and, half curious, half reluctant, I let myself drift with the crowd.
The gallows themselves stood high enough to be seen a long very stout beam supported by posts at each end. There was a blazing sun, and the crowd pushed and shouted and craned its thousands of heads every time one heard the cry of “Here they come,” for an hour or so. There was a very limpid sky, a very limpid sea, a scattering of shipping gliding up and down, and the very silent hills a long way away. There was a large flavor of Spaniards among the crowd. I got into the middle of a knot of them, jammed against the wheels of one of the carriages, standing, hands down, on tiptoe, staring at the long scaffold. There were a great many false alarms, sudden outcries, hushing again rather slowly. In between I could hear someone behind me talk Spanish to the occupants of the carriage. I thought the voice was
hal the off to the way, hadn't waoyal Poin