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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 flapped 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 at 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
Ramon's, but I could not turn, and the people in the carriage answered in French, I thought. A man was shouting “Cool Drinks ” on the other side of them.
Finally, there was a roar, an irresistible swaying, a rattle of musket ramrods, a rhythm of marching feet, and the grating of heavy iron-bound wheels. Seven men appeared in sight above the heads, clinging to each other for support, and being drawn slowly along. The little worsted balls on the infantry shakos bobbed all round their feet. They were a sorry-looking group, those pirates; very wild-eyed, very ragged, dust-stained, weather-beaten, begrimed till they had the color of unpolished mahogany. Clinging still to each other as they stood beneath the dangling ropes of the long beam, they had the appearance of a group of statuary to förlorn misery. Festoons of chains completed the “composition.”
One was a very old man with long yellow-white hair, one a negro whose skin had no luster at all. The rest were very darkskinned, peak-bearded, and had long hair falling round their necks. A soldier with a hammer and a small anvil climbed into the cart, and bent down out of sight. There was a ring of iron on iron, and the man next the very old man raised his arms and began to speak very slowly, very distinctly, and very mournfully. It was quite easy to understand him; he declared his perfect innocence. No one listened to him; his name was Pedro Nones. He ceased speaking, and someone on a horse, the High Sheriff, I think, galloped impatiently past the cart and shouted. Two men got into the cart, one pulled the rope, the other caught the pirate by the elbows. He jerked himself loose, and began to cry out; he seemed to be lost in amazement, and shrieked :
Adonde esta el padre? . . . Adonde esta el padre?” No one answered; there wasn't a priest of any denomination; I don't know whether the omission was purposed. The man's face grew convulsed with agony, his eyeballs stared out very white and vivid, as he struggled with the two men. He began to curse us epileptically for compassing his damnation. A hoarse patter of Spanish imprecations came from the crowd immediately round me. The man with the voice like Ramon's groaned in a lamentable way; someone else said, "What infamy . . . what infamy!”
An aged voice said tremulously in the carriage, "This shall be
a matter of official remonstrance.” Another said, Ah, these English heretics!”
There was a forward rush of the crowd, which carried me away. Someone in front began to shout orders, and the crowd swayed back again. The infantry muskets rattled. The commotion lasted some time. When it ceased, I saw that the man about to die had been kissing the very old man; tears were streaming down the gray, parchment-colored cheeks. Pedro Nones had the rope round his neck; it curved upwards loosely towards the beam, growing taut as the cart jolted away. He shouted: “Adios, viejo, para siempre adi"
V My whole body seemed to go dead all over. I happened to look downwards at my hands; they were extraordinarily white, with the veins standing out all over them. They felt as if they had been sodden in water, and it was quite a long time before they recovered their natural color. The rest of the men were hung after that, the cart jolting a little way backwards and forwards, and growing less crowded after every journey. One man, who was very largeframed and stout, had to go through it twice because the rope broke. He made a good deal of fuss. My head ached, and after the involuntary straining and craning to miss no details was over, I felt sick and dazed. The people talked a great deal as they streamed back, loosening over the broader stretch of pebbles; they seemed to wish to remind each other of details. I have an idea that one or two, in the sheer largeness of heart that seizes one after occasions of popular emotions, asked me in exulting voices if I had seen the nigger's tongue sticking out.
Others thought that there wasn't very much to be exultant over. We had not really captured the pirates; they had been handed over. to the admiral by the Havana authorities—as an international courtesy I suppose, or else because they were pirates of no account and short in funds, or because the admiral had been making a fuss in front of the Morro. It was even asserted by the anti-admiral faction that the seven weren't pirates at all, but merely Cuban mauvais sujets, hawkers of derogatory coplas, and known freethinkers.
In any case, excited people cheered the High Sheriff and the returning infantry, because it was pleasant to hang any kind of