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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
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 readyand 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
Williamsy, because of rage ?
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
mained barred. My heart was kindled by resentment, but by the power of love my soul was made tranquil, for come what absurdity might, I had Seraphina safe for the time. The woman in the doorway guarded the respectable ship's cuddy from the unwedded vagabondage of romance.
"What's to be done, Owen ?” she asked again, but this time a little irresolutely, I thought. "You know something of this but I. ..."
"My dear, what an idea," began Williams; and I heard his helpless mutters, " Like a hero—one evening—admiral—old Topnambonothing of her—on my soul—Lord's son ..."
Sebright spoke up from the side. "We could drive them overboard together, certainly, Mrs. Williams, but that wouldn't be quite proper, perhaps. Put them each in a bag, separately, and drown them one on each side of the ship, decently. ..."
"You will not put me off with your ungodly levity, Mr. Sebright."
"But I am perfectly serious, Mrs. Williams. It may raise a mutiny amongst these horrid, profane sailors, but I really don't see how we are to get rid of them else. The bo'sun has cut adrift their ramshackle, old sieve of a boat, and she's now a quarter of a mile astern, half-full of water. And we can't give them one of the ship's boats to go and get their throats cut ashore. J. Perkins, Esquire, wouldn't like it. He would swear something awful, if the boat got lost. Now, don't say no, Mrs. Williams. I've heard him myself swear a pound's worth of oaths for a matter of tenpence. You know very well what your uncle is. A perfect Turk in that way."
"Don't be scandalous, Mr. Sebright."
"But I didn't begin, Mrs. Williams. It's you who are raising all this trouble for nothing; because, as a matter of fact, they did not come alone. They had a man with them. An elderly, most respectable man. There he stands, yonder, with a feather in his hat. Hey! You! Senor caballero, hidalgo, Pedro—MiguelJose—what's your particular saint? Step this way a bit ..."
Manuel managed to jerk a half-choked "Excellency," and Castro, muffled up to the eyes, began to walk slowly aft, pausing after each solemn stride. The dark woman in the doorway was
as effectual as an angel with a flaming sword. She paralyzed me completely.
Sebright dropped his voice a little. "I don't see that's much worse than going off at six o'clock in the morning to get married on the quiet; all alone with a man in a hackney coach—you know you did—and being given away by a perfect stranger."
"Mr. Sebright! Be quiet! How dare you? ... Owen!"
Williams made a vague, growling noise, but Sebright, after muttering hurriedly, “ It's all right, sir," proceeded with the utmost coolness:
"Why, all Bristol knows it! There are those who said that you got out of the scullery window into the back street. I am only telling you ..."
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself to believe such tales," she cried in great agitation. "I walked out at the gate!"
"Yes. And the gardener's wife said you must have sneaked the key off the nail by the side of the cradle—coming to the lodge the evening before, to see her poor, ailing baby. You ought to know what love brings the best of us to. And your uncle isn't a bloodyhanded pirate either. He's only a good-hearted, hard-swearing old heathen. And you, too, are good-hearted. Come, Mrs. Williams. I know you're just longing to tuck this young lady up in bedpoor thing. Think what she has gone through! You ought to be fussing with sherry and biscuits and what not—making that good-for-nothing steward fly round. The beggar is hiding in the lazarette, I bet. Now then—allow me."
I got hold of the matter there again. I said—because I felt that the matter only needed making clear:
"This young lady is the daughter of a great Spanish noble. Her father was killed by these pirates. I am myself of noble family, and I am her appointed guardian, and am trying to save her from a very horrible fate."
She looked at me apprehensively.
"You would be committing a wicked act to try to interfere with this," I said.
I suppose I carried conviction.
"I must believe what you say," she said. She added suddenly, with a sort of tremulous, warm feeling, "There, there. I don't mean to be unkind. I knew nothing, and a married woman can't be too careful. For all I could have told, you might have been a—a libertine; one of the poor lost souls that Satan ..."
Manuel, as if struggling with the waves, managed to free his lips. "Excellency, help!” he spluttered, like a drowning man.
"I will give the young lady every care," Mrs. Williams said, "until light shall be vouchsafed."
She shut the door. "You will go too far, Sebright," Williams remonstrated; "and I'll have to give you the sack."
" It's all right, captain. I can turn her round my little finger," said the young man cheerily. "Somebody has to do it if you won't—or can't. What shall we do with that yelping Dago ? He's a distressful beast to have about the decks."
"Put him in the coal-hole, I suppose, as far as Havana. I won't rest till I see him on his way to the gallows. The CaptainGeneral shall be made sick of this business, or my name isn't Williams. I'll make a breeze over it at home. You shall help in that, Kemp. You aint afraid of big-wigs. Not you. You aint afraid of anything. ..."
"He's a devil of a fellow, and a dead shot," threw in Sebright. "And jolly lucky for us, too, sir. It's simply marvelous that you should turn up like this, Mr. Kemp. We hadn't a grain of powder that wasn't caked solid in the canisters. Nothing 'll take it out of my head that somebody had got at the magazine while we lay in Kingston. ..." . It did not occur to Williams to ask whether I was wounded, or tired, or hungry. And yet all through the West Indies the dinners you got on board the Lion were famous in shipping circles. But festive men of his stamp are often like that. They do it more for the glory and romance of the hospitality, and he could not, perhaps, under the circumstances, expect me to intone “ for he is a jolly good fellow ” over the wine. He was by no means a bad or unfeeling man; only he was not hungry himself, and another's mere necessity of that sort failed to excite his imagination. I know he was no worse than other men, and I have reason to remember him with gratitude; but, at the time, I was surprised and indignant at the extraordinary way he took my presence for granted,