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I heard a loud, “Alas," sighed out behind me. A distracted, stricken voice repeated twice in Spanish, “Oh, my greatness; oh, my greatness.” Then, shiveringly, in a tone of profound self-communion, “I have a greatly parched throat," it said. Harshly jovial voices answered:
“Stow your lingo and come before the captain. Step
A prisoner, conducted aft, stalked reluctantly into the light between two short, bustling sailors. Dishevelled black hair like a damaged peruke, mournful, yellow face, enormous stag's eyes straining down on me. I recognized Manuel-del-Popolo. At the same moment he sprang back, shrieking, “This is a miracle of the devil of the devil,”.
The sailors fell to tugging at his arms savagely, asking, “What's come to you?” and, after a short struggle that shook his tatters and his raven locks tempestuously like a gust of wind, he submitted to be walked up repeating:
“Is it you, Señor? Is it you? Is it you?”
One of his shoulders was bare from neck to elbow; at every step one of his knees and part of a lean thigh protruded their nakedness through a large rent; a strip of grimy, blood-stained linen, torn right down to the waist, dangled solemnly in front of his legs. There was a horrible raw patch amongst the roots of his hair just above his temple; there was blood in his nostrils, the stamp of excessive anguish on his features, a sort of guarded despair in his eye. His voice sank while he said again, twice:
“Is it you? Is it you?” And then, for the last time, "Is it you?” he repeated in a whisper.
The seamen formed a wide ring, and, looking at me, he talked to himself confidentially.
“Escaped—the Inglez! Then thou art doomed, Domingo. Domingo, thou art doomed. Dom ... Señor!”
The change of tone, his effort to extend his hands towards me, surprised us all. I looked away.
“Hold hard! Hold him, mate!”
“Señor, condescend to behold my downfall. I am led here to the slaughter, Señor! To the slaughter, Señor! Pity! Grace! Mercy! And only a short while ago-behold. Slaughter ...I... Manuel. Señor, I am universally admired—with a parched throat, Señor. I could compose a song that would make a priest weep. . . . A greatly parched throat, Señor,” he added piteously.
I could not help turning my head. I had not been used half as hard as he. It was enough to look at him to believe in the dryness of his throat. Under the matted mass of his hair, he was grinning in amiable agony, and his globular eyes yearned upon me with a motionless and glassy lustre.
“You have not forgotten me, Señor? Forget Manuel! Impossible! Manuel, Señor. For the love of God. Manuel. Manuel-del-Popolo. I did sing, deign to remember. I offered you my fidelity, Señor. As you are a caballero, I charge you to remember. Save me, Señor. Speak to those men. . . For the sake of your honour, Señor.”
His voice was extraordinarily harsh—not his own. Apparently, he believed that he was going to be cut to pieces there and then by the sailors. He seemed to read it in their faces, shuddering and shrinking whenever he raised his eyes. But all these faces gaped with good-natured wonder, except the faces of his two guardians, and these expressed a state of conscientious worry. They were ridiculously anxious to suppress his sudden
contortions, as one would some gross indecency. In the scuffle they hissed and swore under their breath. They were scandalized and made unhappy by his behaviour.
“Are you ready down there?” roared the bo’sun in the waist.
“Olla raight! Olla raight! Waita a leetle,” I heard Castro's voice coming, as if from under the ship. I said coldly a few words about the certain punishment awaiting a pirate in Havana, and got on to my feet stiffly. But Manuel was too terrified to understand what I meant. He attempted to snatch at me with his imprisoned hands, and got for his pains a severe jerking, which made his head roll about his shoulders weirdly.
“Pity, Señor!” he screamed. And then, with low fervour, “Don't go away. Listen! I am profound. Perhaps the señor did not know that? Mercy! I am a man of intrigue. A politico. You have escaped, and I rejoice at it.” . . . He bared his fangs, and frothed like a mad dog. . . . “Señor, I am made happy because of the love I bore you from the firstand Domingo, who let you slip out of the Casa, is doomed. He is doomed. Thou art doomed, Domingo! But the excessive affection for your noble person inspires my intellect with a salutary combination. Wait, Señor! A moment! An instant! . . . A combination!...”
He gasped as though his heart had burst. The seamen, open-mouthed, were slowly narrowing their circle.
“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! . . . Ha! ha! Go into thy grave, Domingo. But you, Señorlisten 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! Liberty! Señor, let me go, and I shall run-I shall ride, Señor–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 escapedfrom Domingo. Do not look for him. I, your own Manuel, have killed him.' Give me my life for yours, Señor. 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
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 wholesouledly determined to go unflinchingly into a new