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that had no precise object, for it was manifestly absurd and impossible to suspect my friend Carlos. Moreover, hanging was a danger so recondite, and an eventuality so extravagant, as to make the whole thing ridiculous. And yet I remembered how unhappy I felt, how inexplicably unhappy. Presently the reason was made clear. I was homesick. I gave no further thought to the second mate. I looked at the harbor we were entering, and thought of the home I had left so eagerly. After all, I was no more than a boy, and even younger in mind than in body.
Queer-looking boats crawled between the shores like tiny water beetles. One headed out towards us, then another. I did not want them to reach us. It was as if I did not wish my solitude to be disturbed, and I was not pleased with the idea of going ashore. A great ship, floating high on the water, black, and girt with the two broad yellow streaks of her double tier of guns, glided out slowly from beyond a cluster of shipping in the bay. She passed without a hail, going out under her topsails with a flag at the fore. Her lofty spars overtopped our masts immensely, and I saw the men in her rigging looking down on our decks. The only sounds that came out of her were the piping of boatswains' calls and the tramping of feet. Imagining her to be going home, I felt a great desire to be on board. Ultimately, as it turned out, I went home in that very ship, but then it was too late. I was another man by that time, with much queer knowledge and other desires. Whilst I was looking and longing I heard Carlos' voice behind me asking one of our sailors what ship it was.
"Don't you know a flagship when you see it? " a voice grumbled surlily. "Admiral Rowley's," it continued. Then it rumbled out some remarks about " pirates, vermin, coast of Cuba."
Carlos came to the side, and looked after the man-of-war in the distance.
"You could help us," I heard him mutter.
I was a lad called Barnes, a steerage passenger of about my own age, a raw, red-headed Northumbrian yokel, going out as a recruit to one of the West Indian regments. He was a serious, strenuous youth, and I had talked a Hale with him at odd moments. In my great loneliness I went to say good-by to him after I had definitely parted with Carlos.
I had been in our cabin. A great bustle of shore-going, of leave-taking had sprung up all over the ship. Carlos and Castro had entered with a tall, immobile, gold-spectacled Spaniard, dressed all in white, and with a certain air of noticing and attentive deference, bowing a little as he entered the cabin in earnest conference with Tomas Castro. Carlos had preceded them with a certain nonchalance, and the Spaniard—it was the Senor Ramon, the merchant I had heard of—regarded him as if with interested curiosity. With Tomas he seemed already familiar. He stood in the doorway, against the strong light, bowing a little.
With a certain courtesy, touched with indifference, Carlos made him acquainted with me. Ramon turned his searching, quietly analytic gaze upon me.
"But is the caballero going over, too?" he asked.
Carlos said, " No. I think not, now."
And at that moment the second mate, shouldering his way through a white-clothed crowd of shore people, made up behind Senor Ramon. He held a letter in his hand.
"I am going over," he said, in his high nasal voice, and with a certain ferocity.
Ramon looked round apprehensively.
Carlos said, "The senor, my cousin, wishes for a Mr. Macdonald. You know him, senor?"
Ramon made a dry gesture of perfect acquaintance. "I think I have seen him just now," he said. "I will make inquiries."
All three of them had followed him, and became lost in the crowd. It was then that, not knowing whether I should ever see Carlos again, and with a desperate, unhappy feeling of loneliness, that I had sought out Barnes in the dim immensity of the steerage.
In the square of wan light that came down the scuttle he was cording his hair-trunk—unemotional and very matter-of-fact. He began to talk in an everyday voice about his plans. An uncle was going to meet him, and to house him for a day or two before he went to the barracks.
"Mebbe we'll meet again," he said. "I'll be here many years, I think."
He shouldered his trunk and climbed unromantically up the ladder. He said he would look for Macdonald for me.
It was absurd to suppose that the strange ravings of the second mate had had an effect on me. "Hanged! Pirates!" Was Carlos really a pirate, or Castro, his humble friend? It was vile of me to suspect Carlos. A couple of men, meeting by the scuttle, began to talk loudly, every word coming plainly to my ears in the stillness of my misery, and the large deserted steerage. One of them, new from home, was asking questions. Another answered:
"Oh, I lost half a screen the last voyage—the old thing."
"Haven't they routed out the scoundrels yet?" the other asked.
The first man lowered his voice. I caught only that " the admiral was an old fool—no good for this job. He's found out the name of the place the pirates come from—Rio Medio. That's the place, only he can't get in at it with his three-deckers. You saw his flagship?"
Rio Medio was the name of the town to which Carlos was going—which his uncle owned. They moved away from above.
What was I to believe? What could this mean? But the second mate's, "Scoot, young man," seemed to come to my ears, like the blast of a trumpet. I became suddenly intensely anxious to find Macdonald—to see no more of Carlos.
From above came suddenly a gruff voice in Spanish. "Senor, it would be a great folly."
Tomas Castro was descending the ladder gingerly. He was coming to fetch his bundle. I went hastily into |he distance