« PreviousContinue »
As soon as the second man had recovered the breath knocked out of him by the irresistible charge, a scream of mad cursing issued from the stern-sheets. With a rigid, angular crooking of the elbow, the man at the tiller put his hand back to his hip. “Don’t shoot him, sir!” yelled the second man. “Wait! Let me have that tiller. I will teach him to shove himself in front of a caballero!” Martin Ricardo flourished the heavy piece of wood, leaped forward with astonishing vigour, and brought it down on Pedro's head with a crash that resounded all over the quiet sweep of Black Diamond Bay. A crimson patch appeared on the matted hair; red veins appeared in the water flowing all over his face, and it dripped in rosy drops off his head. But the man hung on. Not till a second blow descended did the paws let go their grip and the squirming body sink limply. Before it could touch the bottomboards, a tremendous kick in the ribs from Ricardo's foot shifted it forward out of sight, whence came the noise of a heavy thud, a clatter of spars, and a pitiful grunt. Ricardo stooped to look under the jetty. “Aha, dog! This will teach you to keep back where you belong, you murdering brute, you slaughtering savage, you! You infidel, you robber of urches! Next time I will rip you open from neck to heel, you carrionoater Esclavo!” +
He backed a little and straightened himself up. “I don’t mean it really,” he remarked to Heyst, whose steady eyes met his from above. He ran aft briskly. “Come along, sir. It’s your turn. I oughtn't to have drunk first. 'S truth, I forgot myself! A gentleman like you will overlook that, I know.” As he made these apologies, Ricardo extended his hand. “Let me steady you, sir.” Slowly Mr. Jones unfolded himself in all his slenderness, rocked, staggered, and caught Ricardo's shoulder. His henchman assisted him to the pipe, which went on gushing a clear stream of water, sparkling exceedingly against the black piles and the gloom under the jetty. “Catch hold, sir,” Ricardo advised solicitously. “All right P” He stepped back, and, while Mr. Jones revelled in the abundance of water, he addressed himself to Heyst with a sort of justificatory speech, the tone of which, reflecting his feelings, partook of purring and spitting. They had been thirty hours tugging at the oars, he explained, and they had been more than forty hours without water, except that the night before they had licked the dew off the gunwales. Ricardo did not explain to Heyst how it happened. At that precise moment he had no explanation ready for the man on the wharf, who, he guessed, must be wondering much more at the presence of his visitors than at their plight.
The explanation lay in the two simple facts that the light winds and strong currents of the Java Sea had drifted the boat about until they partly lost their bearings; and that by some extraordinary mistake one of the two jars put into the boat by Schomberg's man contained salt water.) Ricardo tried to put some pathos into his tones. Pulling for thirty hours with eighteen-foot oars! And the sun! Ricardo relieved his feelings by cursing the sun. They had felt their hearts and lungs shrivel within them. And then, as if all that hadn’t been trouble enough, he complained bitterly, he had had to waste his fainting strength in beating their servant about the head with a stretcher. The fool had wanted to drink sea water, and wouldn’t listen to reason. There was no stopping him otherwise. It was better to beat him into insensibility than to have him go crazy in the boat, and to be obliged to shoot him. The preventive, administered with enough force to brain an elephant, boasted
Ricardo, had to be applied on two occasions—the second time all but in sight of the jetty. “You have seen the beauty,” Ricardo went on expansively, hiding his lack of some sort of probable story under this loguacity. “I had to hammer him away from the spout. Opened afresh all the old broken spots on his head. You saw how hard I had to hit. He has no restraint, no restraint at all. If it wasn't that he can be made useful in one way or another, I would just as soon have let the governor shoot him.” He smiled up at Heyst in his peculiar lip-retracting manner, and added by way of afterthought: “That’s what will happen to him in the end, if he doesn't learn to restrain himself. But I’ve taught him to mind his manners for a while, anyhow!” And again he addressed his quick grin up to the man on the wharf. His round eyes had never left Heyst’s face ever since he began to deliver his account of the voyage. “So that's how he looks!” Ricardo was saying to himself. He had not expected Heyst to be like this. He had formed for himself a conception containing the helpful suggestion of a vulnerable point. These solitary men were often tipplers. But no-this was not a drinking man's face; nor could he detect the