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"Can't he gabble!" remarked someone patiently.
His eyes were starting out of his head. He spoke with fearful rapidity.
"... There's no refuge from the anger of the Juez but the grave—the grave—the grave! . . . Hal ha! Go into thy grave, Domingo. But you, senor—listen to my supplications—where will you go? To Havana. The Juez is there, and I call the malediction of the priests on my head if you, too, are not doomed. Life I Liberty! Senor, let me go, and I shall run—I shall ride, senor— I shall throw myself at the feet of the Juez, and say ... I shall say I killed you. I am greatly trusted by the reason of my superior intelligence. I shall say, 'Domingo let him go—but he is dead. Think of him no more—of that Inglez who escaped—from Domingo. Do not look for him. I, your own Manuel, have killed him.' Give me my life for yours, senor. I shall swear I had killed you with this right hand! Ah!"
He hung on my lips breathless, with a face so distorted that, though it might have been death alone he hated, he looked, indeed, as if impatient to set to and tear me to pieces with his long teeth. Men clutching at straws must have faces thus convulsed by an eager and despairing hope. His silence removed the spell—the spell of his incredible loquacity. I heard the boatswain's hoarse tones:
"Hold on well, ma'am. Right! Walk away steady with that whip!"
I ran limping forward.
"High enough," he rumbled; and I received Seraphina into my arms.
I SAID, "This is home, at last. It is all over"; and she stood by me on the deck. She pushed the heavy black cloak from over her head, and her white face appeared above the dim black shadow of her mourning. She looked silently round her on the mist, the groups of rough men, the spatterings of light that were like violence, too. She said nothing, but rested her hand on my arm.
She had her immense griefs, and this was the home I offered her. She looked back at the side. I thought she would have liked to be in the boat again. I said:
"The people in this ship are my old friends. You can trust them—and me."
Tomas Castro, clambering leisurely over the side, followed. As soon as his feet touched the deck, he threw the corner of his cloak across his left shoulder, bent down half the rim of his hat, and assumed the appearance of a short, dark conspirator, overtopped by the stalwart sailors, who had abandoned Manuel to crowd, bare-armed, bare-chested, pushing, and craning their necks, round us.
She said, " I can trust you; it is my duty to trust you, and this is now my home."
It was like a definite pronouncement of faith—and of a line of policy. She seemed, for that moment, quite apart from my love, a thing very much above me and mine; closed up in an immense grief, but quite whole-souledly determined to go unflinchingly into a new life, breaking quietly with all her past for the sake of the traditions of all that past.
The sailors fell back to make way for us. It was only by the touch of her hand on my arm that I had any hope that she trusted me, me personally, and apart from the commands of the dead Carlos; the dead father, and the great weight of her dead traditions that could be never anything any more for her—except a memory. Ah, she stood it very well; her head was erect and proud. The cabin door opened, and a rigid female figure with dry outlines, and a smooth head, stood out with severe simplicity against the light of the cabin door. The light falling on Seraphina seemed to show her for the first time. A lamentable voice bellowed:
"Senorita! . . . Senorita! " and then, in an insinuating, heartbreaking tone, " Senorita! . . ."
She walked quietly past the figure of the woman, and disappeared in the brilliant light of the cabin. The door closed. I remained standing there. Manuel, at her disappearance, raised his voice to a tremendous, incessant yell of despair, as if he expected to make her hear.
"Senorita . . . protection del opprimido; oh, hija de piedad . . . Senorita."
His lamentable noise brought half the ship round us; the sailors fell back before the mate, Sebright, walking at the elbow of a stout man in loose trousers and jacket. They stopped.
"An unexpected meeting, Captain Williams," was all I found to say to him. He had a constrained air, and shook hands in awkward silence.
"How do you do?" he said hurriedly. After a moment he addded, with a sort of confused, as if official air, "I hope, Kemp, you'll be able to explain satisfactorily . . ."
I said, rather off-handedly, "Why, the two men I killed ought to be credentials enough for all immediate purposes!"
"That isn't what I meant," he said. He spoke rather with a mumble, and apologetically. It was difficult to see in him any trace of the roystering Williams who had roared toasts to my health in Jamaica, after the episode at the Ferry Inn with the admiral. It was as if, now, he had a weight on his mind. I was tired. I said:
"Two dead men is more than you or any of your crew can show. And, as far as I can judge, you did no more than hold your own till I came."
He positively stuttered, " Yes, yes. But . . ."
I got angry with what seemed stupid obstinacy.
"You'd be having a rope twisted tight round your head, or red-hot irons at the soles of your feet, at this very moment, if it had not been for us," I said indignantly.
He wiped his forehead perplexedly. "Phew, how you do talk!" he remonstrated. "What I mean is that my wife . , ." He stopped again, then went on. "She took it into her head to come with me this voyage. For the first time. . . . And you two coming alone in an open boat like this! It's what she isn't used to."
I simply couldn't get at what he meant; I couldn't even hear him very well, because Manuel-del-Popolo was still calling out to Seraphina in the cabin. Williams and I looked at each other '—he embarrassed, and I utterly confounded.
"Mrs. Williams thinks it's irregular," Sebright broke in, "you and your young lady being alone—in an open boat at night, and that sort of thing. It isn't what they approve of at Bristol."
Manuel suddenly bellowed out, " Senorita—save me from their barbarity. I am a victim. Behold their bloody knives ready— and their eyes which gloat."
He shrank convulsively from the fellow with the bundle of cutlasses under his arm, who innocently pushed his way close to him; he threw himself forward, the two sailors hung back on his arms, nearly sitting on the deck, and he strained dog-like in his intense fear of immediate death. Williams, however, really seemed to want an answer to his absurdity that I could not take very seriously. I said:
"What do you expect us to do? Go back to our boat, or what?"
It seemed to affect him a good deal. "Wait till you are caught by a good woman yourself," he mumbled wretchedly.
Was this the roystering Williams? The jolly good fellow? I wanted to laugh, a little hysterically, because of the worry after great fatigue. Was his wife such a terrifying virago? "A good woman," Williams insisted. I turned my eyes to Sebright, who looked on amusedly.
"It's all right," he answered my questioning look. "She's a good soul, but she doesn't see fellows like us in the congregation she worships with at home." Then he whispered in my ear, "Owner's niece. Older than the skipper. Married him for love Suspects every woman—every man, too, by George, except me, perhaps. She's learned life in some back chapel in Bristol. What can you expect? You go straight into the cabin," he added.
At that moment the cabin door opened again, and the figure of the woman I had seen before reappeared against the light.
"I was allowed to stand under the gate of the Casa, Excellency, I was in very truth. Oh, turn not the light of your face from me." Manuel, who had been silent for a minute, immediately recommenced his clamor in the hope, I suppose, that it would reach Seraphina's ears, now the door was opened.
"What is to be done, Owen?" the woman asked, with a serenity I thought very merciless.
She had precisely the air of having someone "in the house," someone rather questionable that you want, at home, to get rid of, as soon as a very small charity permitted.
"Madam," I said rather coldly, "I appeal to your woman's compassion. . . ."
"Even thus the arch-enemy sets his snares," she retorted on me a little tremulously.
"Senorita, I have seen you grow," Manuel called again. "Your father, who is with the saints, gave me alms when I was a boy. Will you let them kill a man to whom your father . . ."
"Snares. All snares. Can she be blessed in going away from her natural guardians at night, alone, with a young man? How can we, consistently with our duty . . ."
Her voice was cold and gentle. Even in the imperfect light her appearance suggested something cold and monachal. The thought of what she might have been saying, or, in the subtle way of women, making Seraphina feel, in there, made me violently angry, but lucid, too.
"She comes straight from the fresh grave of her father," I said. "I am her only guardian."
Manuel rose to the height of his appeal. "Senorita, I worshiped your childhood, I threw my hat in the air many times before your coach, when you drove out all in white, smiling, an angel from paradise. Excellency, help me. Excel . . ."
A hand was clapped on his mouth then, and we heard only a great scuffle going on behind us. The way to the cozy cabin re