« PreviousContinue »
when Carlos, still shaken, with one white hand pressed
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 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 burriedly, “This 'll be your Mr. Mac
donald”; and, turning his back on me, forgot my existence. 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
Macdonald cleared his throat, with a sound resembling the coughing of a defective pump, and a mere trickle of a voice asked:
“Hwhat evidence have ye of identitee?”
I hadn't any at all, and began to finger my buttonholes as shamefaced as a pauper before a Board. The certitude dawned upon me suddenly that Carlos, even if he would consent to swear to me, would prejudice my chances.
I cannot help thinking that I came very near to being cast adrift upon the streets of Kingston. To my asseverations Macdonald returned nothing but a series of minute “humphs.” I don't know what overcame his scruples; he had shown no signs of yielding, but suddenly turning on his heel made a motion with one of his flabby white hands. I understood it to mean that I was to follow him aft.
The decks were covered with a jabbering turmoil of negroes with muscular arms and brawny shoulders. All their shining black faces seemed to be momentarily gashed open to show rows of white, and were spotted with inlaid eyeballs. The sounds coming from them were a bewildering noise. They were hauling baggage about aimlessly. A large soft bundle of bedding nearly took me off my legs. There wasn't room for emotion. Macdonald laid about him with the handle of the umbrella a few inches from the deck; but the passage that he made for himself closed behind him.
Suddenly, in the pushing and hurrying, I came upon a little clear space beside a pile of boxes. Stooping over them was the angular figure of Nichols, the second mate. He looked up at me, screwing his yellow eyes together.
Going ashore,” he asked, “'long of that Puffing Billy?”