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CHAPTER V

M

ANUEL'S escape was the last event of that memorable night. Nothing more happened, and nothing more

could be done; but there remained much talk and wonderment to get through. I did all the talking, of course, under the cuddy lamps. Williams, red and stout, sat staring at me across the table. His round eyes were perfectly motionless with astonishment—the story of what had happened in the Casa Riego was not what he had expected of the small, badly reputed Cuban town.

Sebright, who had all the duties of the soiled ship and chipped men to attend to, came in from the deck several times, and would stand listening for minutes with his fingers playing thoughtfully about his slight mustache. The dawn was not very far when he led me into his own cabin. I was half dead with fatigue, and troubled by an inward restlessness.

"Turn in into my berth," said Sebright.

I protested with a stiff tongue, but he gave me a friendly push, and I tumbled like a log on to the bed-clothes. As soon as my head felt the pillow the fresh coloring of his face appeared blurred, and an arm, mistily large, was extended to put out the light of the lamp screwed to the bulkhead.

"I suppose you know there are warrants out in Jamaica against you—for that row with the admiral," he said.

An irresistible and unexpected drowsiness had relaxed all my limbs.

"Hang Jamaica!" I said, with difficult animation. "We are going home."

"Hang Jamaica!” he agreed. Then, in the dark, as if coming after me across the obscure threshold of sleep, his voice meditated, "I am sorry, though, we are bound for Havana. Pity. Great pity! Has it occurred to you, Mr. Kemp, that .

It is very possible that he did not finish his sentence; no more

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penetrated, at least, into my drowsy ear. I awoke slowly from a trance-like sleep, with a confused notion of having to pick up the thread of a dropped hint. I went up on deck.

The sun shone, a faint breeze blew, the sea sparkled freshly, and the wet decks glistened. I stood still, touched by the new glory of light falling on me; it was a new world—new and familiar, yet disturbingly beautiful. I seemed to discover all sorts of secret charms that I had never seen in things I had seen a hundred times. The watch on deck were busy with brooms and buckets; a sailor, coiling a rope over a pin, paused in his work to point over the port-quarter, with a massive fore-arm like a billet of red mahogany.

I looked about, rubbing my eyes. The Lion, close-hauled, was heading straight away from the coast, which stood out, not very far yet, outlined heavily and flooded with light. Astern, and to leeward of us, against a headland of black and indigo, a dazzling white speck resembled a snowflake fallen upon the blue of the

sea.

"That's a schooner," said the seaman.

They were the first words I heard that morning, and their friendly hoarseness brushed away whatever of doubt might seem to mar the inexplicability of my new glow of my happiness. It was because we were safe—she and I—and because my undisturbed love let my heart open to the beauty of the young day and the joyousness of a splendid sea. I took deep breaths, and my eyes went all over the ship, embracing, like an affectionate contact, her elongated shape, the flashing brasses, the tall masts, the gentle curves of her sails soothed into perfect stillness by the wind. I felt that she was a shrine, for was not Seraphina sleeping in her, as safe as a child in its cradle? And presently the beauty, the serenity, the purity, and the splendor of the world would be reflected in her clear eyes, and made over to me by her glance.

There are times when an austere and just Providence, in its march along the inscrutable way, brings our hearts to the test of their own unreason. Which of us has not been tried by irrational awe, fear, pride, abasement, exultation ? And such moments remain marked by indelible physical impressions, standing out of the ghostly level of memory like rocks out of the sea, like towers on a plain. I had many of these unforgettable emotions—the profound horror of Don Balthasar's death; the first floating of the boat, like the opening of wings in space; the first fluttering of the flames in the fog—many others afterwards, more cruel, more terrible, with a terror worse than death, in which the very suffering was lost; and also this—this moment of elation in the clear morning, as if the universe had shed its glory upon my feelings as the sunshine glorifies the sea. I laughed in very lightness of heart, in a profound sense of success; I laughed, irresponsible and oblivious, as one laughs in the thrilling delight of a dream.

"Do I look so confoundedly silly?" asked Sebright, speaking as though he had a heavy cold. "I am stupid—tired. I've been on my feet this twenty-four hours—about the liveliest in my life, too. You haven't slept very long either—none of us have. I'm sure I hope your young lady has rested."

He put his hands in his pockets. He might have been very tired, but I had never seen a boy fresh out of bed with a rosier face. The black pin-points of his pupils seemed to bore through distance, exploring the horizon beyond my shoulder. The man called Mike, the one I had had the tussle with overnight, came up behind the indefatigable mate, and shyly offered me my pistol. His head was bound over the top, and under the chin, as if for toothache, and his bronzed, rough-hewn face looked out astonishingly through the snowy whiteness of the linen. Only a few hours before, we had been doing our best to kill each other. In my cordial glow, I bantered him light-heartedly about his ferocity and his strength.

He stood before me, patiently rubbing the brown instep of one thick foot with the horny sole of the other.

"You paid me off for that bit, sir," he said bashfully. "It was in the way of duty."

"I'm uncommon glad you didn't squeeze the ghost out of me." I said ; " a morning like this is enough to make you glad you can breathe."

To this day I remember the beauty of that rugged, grizzled, hairy seaman's eyelashes. They were long and thick, shadowing the eyes softly like the lashes of a young girl.

* I'm sure, sir, we wish you luck—to you and the young lady

all of us," he said shamefacedly; and his bass, half-concealed mutter was quite as sweet to my ears as a celestial melody; it was, after all, the sanction of simple earnestness to my desires and hopes— a witness that he and his like were on my side in the world of Romance.

"Well, go forward now, Mike," Sebright said, as I took the pistol.

"It's a blessing to talk to one's own people," I said, expansively, to him. He's a fine fellow." I stuck the pistol in my belt. "I trust I shall never need to use barrel or butt again, as long as I live."

"A very sensible wish," Sebright answered, with a sort of reserve of meaning in his tone; "especially as on board here we couldn't find you a single pinch of powder for a priming. Do you notice the consort we have this morning?"

What do I want with powder?" I asked. "Do you mean that?" I pointed to the white sail of the schooner. Sebright, looking hard at me, nodded several times.

"We sighted her as soon as day broke. D'you know what she means?"

I said I supposed she was a coaster.

“ It means, most likely, that the fellow with the curls that made me think of my maiden aunt, has managed to keep his horse-face above water." He meant Manuel-del-Popolo. "What mischief he may do yet before he runs his head into a noose, it's hard to say. The old Spaniard you brought with you thinks he has already been busy—for no good, you may be sure."

"You mean that's one of the Rio schooners?" I asked quickly. That, with all its consequent troubles for me, was what he did

He said I might take his word for it that, with the winds we had had, no craft working along the coast could be just there now unless she came out of Rio Medio. There was a calm almost up to sunrise, and it looked as if they had towed her out with boats before daylight.. Seems a rather unlikely bit of exertion for the lazy brutes; but if they are as much afraid of that confounded Irishman as you say they are, that would account for

mean.

their energy.

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They would steal and do murder simply for the love of God, but it would take the fear of a devil to make them do a bit of honest work—and pulling an oar was honest work, no matter why it was done. This was the combined wisdom of Sebright and of Tomas Castro, with whom he had been in consultation. As to the fear of the devil, O'Brien was very much like a devil, an efficient substitute. And there was certainly somebody or something to make them bestir themselves like this. Before

my

mind arose a scene: Manuel, the night before, pulled out of the water into a boat—raging, half-drowned, eloquent, inspired. The contemptible beast was inspired, as a politician is, a demagogue. He could sway his fellows, as I had heard enough to know. And I felt a slight chill on the warmth of my hope, because that bright sail, brilliantly and furtively dodging along in our wake, must be the product of Manuel's inspiration, urged to perseverance by the fear of O'Brien. The mate continued, staring knowingly at it:

"You know I am putting two and two together, like the old maids that come to see my aunt when they want to take away a woman's character. The Dagos are out, and no mistake. The question is, Why? You must know whether those schooners can sail anything; but don't forget the old Lion is pretty smart. Is it likely they'll attempt the ship again?"

I negatived that at once. I explained to Sebright that the store of ammunition in Rio Medio would not run to it; that the Lugarenos were cowardly, divided by faction, incapable, by themselves, of combining for any length of time, and still less of following a plan requiring perseverance and hardihood.

"They can't mean anything in the nature of open attack," I affirmed. “ They may have attempted something of the sort in Nichols' time, but it isn't in their nature."

Sebright said that was practically Castro's opinion, tooexcept that Castro had emphasized his remarks by spitting all the time, “ like an old tomcat. He seems a very spiteful man, with no great love for you, Mr. Kemp. Do you think it safe to have him about you? What are all these grievances of his ?

Castro seemed to have spouted his bile like a volcano, and had rather confused Sebright. He had said much about being a friend

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