WOLVES OF THE SEA
Being a Tale of the Colonies From the Manuscript of One Geoffry Carlyle, Seaman, Narrating Certain Strange Adventures Which Befell Him Aboard the Pirate Craft "Namur"
BY RANDALL PARRISH
Author of "When Wilderness Was King," "The Last Voyage of the Donna Isabel" "Beyond the Frontier" "Contraband" etc.
Frontispiece By FRANK E. SCHOONOVER
Anson Carlyle, aged twenty-three, the ninth in descent from Captain Geoffry Carlyle, of Glasgow, Scotland, was among the heroic Canadian dead at Vimy Ridge. Unmarried, and the last of his line, what few treasures he possessed fell into alien hands. Among these was a manuscript, apparently written in the year 1687, and which, through nine generations, had been carefully preserved, yet never made public. The paper was yellowed and discolored by years, occasionally a page was missing, and the writing itself had become almost indecipherable. Much indeed had to be traced by use of a microscope. The writer was evidently a man of some education, and clear thought, but exceedingly diffuse, in accordance with the style of his time, and possessing small conception of literary form. In editing this manuscript for modern readers I have therefore been compelled to practically rewrite it entirely, retaining merely the essential facts, with an occasional descriptive passage, although I have conscientiously followed the original development of the tale. In this reconstruction much quaintness of language, as well as appeal to probability, may have been lost, and for this my only excuse is the necessity of thus making the story readable. I have no doubt as to its essential truth, nor do I question the purpose which dominated this rover of the sea in his effort to record the adventures of his younger life. As a picture of those days of blood and courage, as well as a story of love and devotion, I deem it worthy preservation, regretting only the impossibility of now presenting it in print exactly as written by Geoffry Carlyle.
I Sent into Servitude
II The Prison Ship
III Dorothy Fairfax
IV The Shores of Virginia
V The Waters of the Chesapeake
VI Fairfax Speaks with Me
VII The Lieutenant Unmasked
VIII A Victory, and a Defeat
IX A Swim to the Namur
X On the Deck of the Namur
XI The Return of the Boat
XII A Friend in the Forecastle
XIII I Accept a Proposal
XIV I Warn Dorothy
XV The Cabin of the Namur
XVI In Dorothy's Stateroom
XVII A Murder on Board
XVIII A New Conspiracy
XIX Laying the Trap
XX The Deck Is Ours
XXI In Full Possession
XXII The Crew Decides
XXIII The Prisoners Escape
XXIV In Clasp of the Sea
XXV The Open Boat
XXVI A Floating Coffin
XXVII On Board the Slaver
XXVIII A New Plan of Escape
XXIX A Struggle in the Dark
XXX Opening the Treasure Chest
XXXI The Boat Attack
XXXII The Last of the Namur
XXXIII Before the Governor
WOLVES OF THE SEA
SENT INTO SERVITUDE
Knowing this to be a narrative of unusual adventure, and one which may never even be read until long after I have departed from this world, when it will be difficult to convince readers that such times as are herein depicted could ever have been reality, I shall endeavor to narrate each incident in the simplest manner possible. My only purpose is truth, and my only witness history. Yet, even now lately as this all happened it is more like the recollections of a dream, dimly remembered at awakening, and, perchance, might remain so, but for the scars upon my body, and the constant memory of a woman's face. These alone combine to bring back in vividness those days that were—days of youth and daring, of desperate, lawless war, of wide ocean peril, and the outstretched hands of love. So that here, where I am writing it all down, here amid quietness and peace, and forgetful of the past, I wander again along a deserted shore, and sail among those isles of a southern sea, the home for many a century of crime and unspeakable cruelty. I will recall the truth, and can do no more.
I can recall that far-away dawn now as the opening portals of a beautiful morning, although at the time my thought was so closely centered upon other things, the deep blue of the sky, and the glimmering gold of the sun scarcely left an impression on my mind. It was still early morning when we were brought out under heavy guard, and marched somberly forth through the opened gates of the gaol. There had been rain during the night, and the cobble-stones of the village street were dark with moisture, slipping under our hob-nailed shoes as we stumbled along down the sharp incline leading to the wharf. Ahead we could perceive a forest of masts, and what seemed like a vast crowd of waiting people. Only the murmur of voices greeting us as we emerged, told that this gathering was not a hostile one, and this truth was emphasized to our minds by the efforts of the guard to hasten our passage. That we had been sentenced to exile, to prolonged servitude in some foreign land, was all that any of us knew—to what special section of the world fate had allotted us remained unknown.
In spite of curses, and an occasional blow, we advanced slowly, marching four abreast, with feet dragging heavily, the chains binding us together clanking dismally with each step, and an armed guard between each file. Experiences have been many since then, yet I recall, as though it were but yesterday, the faces of those who walked in line with me. I was at the right end of my file, and at my shoulder was a boy from Morrownest, a slim, white-faced lad, his weak chin trembling from fear, and his eyes staring about so pleadingly I spoke a word of courage to him, whispering in his ear, lest the guard behind might strike. He glanced aside at me, but with no response in the depths of his eyes, in which I could perceive only a dumb anguish of despair. Beyond him marched Grover, one time butcher at Harwich, a stocky, big-fisted fellow, with a ghastly sword wound, yet red and unhealed on his face, extending from hair to chin, his little pig eyes glinting ugly, and his lips cursing. The man beyond was a soldier, a straight, athletic fellow, with crinkly black beard, who kept his eyes front, paying no heed to the cries. The guard pressed the people back as we shuffled along, but there was no way of keeping them still. I heard cries of encouragement, shouts of recognition, sobs of pity, and occasionally a roar of anger as we passed.
"Good lads! God be with yer!"
"Thet one thar is sore hurted—it's a damn shame."
"Thar's Teddy—poor laddie! Luck go with yer, Teddy."
"Ter hell with Black Jeffries, say I!"
"Hush, mon, er ye'll be next ter go—no, I don't know who sed it."
"See thet little chap, Joe; lots ther lad bed ter do with the war."
"They all look mighty peaked—poor devils, four months in gaol."
"Stand back there now. Stand back!"
The guards prodded them savagely with the butts of their musketoons, thus making scant room for us to shuffle through, out upon the far end of the wharf, where we were finally halted abreast of a lumping brig, apparently nearly ready for sea. There were more than forty of us as I counted the fellows, and we were rounded up at the extremity of the wharf in the full blaze of the sun, with a line of guards stretched across to hold back the crowd until preparations had been completed to admit us aboard. As those in front flung themselves down on the planks, I got view of the brig's gangway, along which men were still busily hauling belated boxes and barrels, and beyond these gained glimpse of the hooker's name—ROMPING BETSY OF PLYMOUTH. A moment later a sailor passed along the edge of the dock, dragging a coil of rope after him, and must have answered some hail on his way, for instantly a whisper passed swiftly from man to man.
"It's Virginia, mate; we're bound fer Virginia."
The ugly little pig eyes of the butcher met mine.
"Virginia, hey?" he grunted. "Ye're a sailorman, ain't ye, mate? Well, then, whar is this yere Virginia?"
The boy was looking at me also questioningly, the terror in his face by no means lessened at the sound of this strange word.
"Yes, sir, please; where is it, sir?"
I patted him on the shoulder, as others near by leaned forward to catch my answer.
"That's all right, mates," I returned cheerfully. "It's across the blue water, of course, but better than the Indies. We'll fall into the hands of Englishmen out there, and they'll be decent to us."
"But whar is the bloomin' hole?"
"In America. That is where all the tobacco comes from; likely that will be our job—raising tobacco."
"Have ever yer bin thar?"
"Ay, twice—and to a land beyond they call Maryland. Tis a country not so unlike England."
"Good luck that then; tell us about it, matie."
I endeavored to do so, dwelling upon what I remembered of the settlements, and the habits of the people, but saying little of the great wilderness of the interior, or how I had seen slaves toiling in the fields. The group of men within range of my voice leaned forward in breathless attention, one now and then asking a question, their chains rattling with each movement of a body. The deep interest shown in their faces caused me unconsciously to elevate, my voice, and I had spoken but a moment or two before a hard hand gripped my shoulder.
"Yer better stow that, my man," growled someone above me, and I looked up into the stern eyes of the captain of the guard "or it may be the 'cat' for ye. Yer heard the orders."
"Yes, sir; I was only answering questions."
"Questions! What the hell difference does it make to this scum whar they go? Do yer talkin' aboard, not here. So ye've been ter the Virginia plantation, hev ye?"
"As a sailor?"
"In command of vessels."
His eyes softened slightly, and a different tone seemed to creep into his voice.
"Then ye must be Master Carlyle, I take it. I heerd tell about ye at the trial, but supposed ye ter be an older man."
"I am twenty-six."
"Ye don't look even thet. It's my notion ye got an overly hard dose this time. The Judge was in ill humor thet day. Still thet's not fer me ter talk about. It's best fer both of us ter hold our tongues. Ay, they're ready fer ye now. Fall in there—all of yer. Step along, yer damn rebel scum."
We passed aboard over the narrow gang-plank, four abreast, dragging our feet, and were halted on the forward deck, while artificers removed our chains. As these were knocked off, the released prisoners disappeared one by one down the forward hatch, into the space between the decks which had been roughly fitted up for their confinement during the long voyage. As my position was in one of the last files, I had ample time in which to gaze about, and take note of my surroundings. Except for the presence of the prisoners the deck presented no unusual scene. The Romping Betsy was a large, full-rigged brig, not overly clean, and had evidently been in commission for some time. Not heavily loaded she rode high, and was a broad-nosed vessel, with comfortable beam. I knew her at once as a slow sailor, and bound to develop a decidedly disagreeable roll in any considerable sea. She was heavily sparred, and to my eye her canvas appeared unduly weather-beaten and rotten. Indeed there was unnecessary clutter aloft, and an amount of litter about the deck which evidenced lack of seamanship; nor did the general appearance of such stray members of the crew as met my notice add appreciably to my confidence in the voyage.
I stared aft at the poop deck, seeking to gain glimpse of the skipper, but was unable to determine his presence among the others. There were a number of persons gathered along the low rail, attracted by the unusual spectacle, and curiously watching us being herded aboard, and dispatched below, but, to judge from their appearance, these were probably all passengers—some of them adventurers seeking the new land on their first voyage, although among them I saw others, easily recognized as Virginians on their way home. Among these I picked out a planter or two, prosperous and noisy, men who had just disposed of their tobacco crop, well satisfied with the returns; some artisans sailing on contract, and a naval officer in uniform. Then my eyes encountered a strange group foregathered beside the lee rail.
There were four in the little party, but one of these was a negress, red-turbaned, and black as the ace of spades, a servant evidently, standing in silence behind the others. Another was clearly enough a Colonial proprietor, a heavily built man of middle age, purple faced, and wearing the broad hat with uplifted brim characteristic of Virginians. I passed these by with a glance, my attention concentrating upon the other two—a middle-aged young man, and a young woman standing side by side. The former was a dashing looking blade, of not more than forty, attired in blue, slashed coat, ornamented with gilt buttons, and bedecked at collar and cuffs with a profusion of lace. A saffron colored waist-coat failed to conceal his richly beruffled shirt, and the hilt of a rapier was rather prominently displayed. Such dandies were frequently enough seen, but it was this man's face which made marked contrast with his gay attire. He was dark, and hook-nosed, apparently of foreign birth, with black moustache tightly clipped, so as to reveal the thin firmness of his lips, and even at that distance I could perceive the lines of a scar across his chin. Altogether there was an audacity to his face, a daring, convincing me he was no mere lady's knight, but one to whom fighting was a trade. He was pointing us out to his companion, apparently joking over our appearance, in an endeavor to amuse. Seemingly she gave small heed to his words, for although her eyes followed where he pointed, they never once lighted with a smile, nor did I see her answer his sallies. She was scarcely more than a girl, dressed very simply in some clinging dark stuff, with a loose gray cloak draping her shoulders, and a small, neat bonnet of straw perched upon a mass of coiled hair. The face beneath was sweetly piquant, with dark eyes, and rounded cheeks flushed with health. She stood, both hands clasping the rail, watching us intently. I somehow felt as though her eyes were upon me, and within their depths, even at that distance, I seemed to read a message of sympathy and kindness. The one lasting impression her face left on my memory was that of innocent girlhood, dignified by a womanly tenderness.
What were those two to each other? I could not guess, for they seemed from two utterly different worlds. Not brother and sister surely; and not lovers. The last was unthinkable. Perhaps mere chance acquaintances, who had drifted together since coming aboard. It seems strange that at such a moment my attention should have thus centered on these two, yet I think now that either one would have awakened my interest wherever we had met. Instinctively I disliked the man, aware of an instant antagonism, realizing that he was evil; while his companion came to me as revealment of all that was true and worthy, in a degree I had never known before. I could not banish either from my mind. For months I had been in prison, expecting a death sentence, much of the time passed in solitary confinement, and now, with that cloud lifted, I had come forth into a fresh existence only to be confronted by this man and woman, representing exact opposites. Their peculiarities took immediate possession of a mind entirely unoccupied, nor did I make any effort to banish them from my thought. From the instant I looked upon these two I felt convinced that, through some strange vagary of fate, we were destined to know more of each other; that our life lines were ordained to touch, and become entangled, somewhere in that mystery of the Western World to which I had been condemned. I cannot analyze this conception, but merely record its presence; the thought took firm possession of me. Under the circumstances I was too far away to overhear conversation. The shuffling of feet, the rattling of chains, the harsh voices of the guard, made it impossible to distinguish any words passing between the two. I could only watch them, quickly assured that I had likewise attracted the girl's attention, and that her gaze occasionally sought mine. Then the guards came to me, and, with my limbs freed of fetters, I was passed down the steep ladder into the semi-darkness between decks, where we were to be confined. The haunting memory of her face accompanied me below, already so clearly defined as to be unforgettable.
It proved a dismal, crowded hole in which we were quartered like so many cattle, it being merely a small space forward, hastily boxed off by rough lumber, the sides and ends built up into tiers of bunks, the only ventilation and light furnished by the open hatch above. The place was clean enough, being newly fitted for the purpose, but was totally devoid of furnishings, the only concession to comfort visible was a handful of fresh straw in each bunk. The men, herded and driven down the ladder, were crowded into the central space, the majority still on their feet, but a few squatting dejectedly on the deck. In the dim twilight of that bare interior their faces scarcely appeared natural, and they conversed in undertones. Most of the fellows were sober and silent, not a bad lot to my judgment, with only here and there a countenance exhibiting viciousness, or a tongue given to ribaldry. I could remember seeing but few of them before, yet as I observed them more closely now, realized that these were not criminals being punished for crime, but men caught, as I had been, and condemned without fair trial, through the lies of paid informers. I could even read in their actions and words the simple stories of their former lives—the farm laborer, the sailor, the store-keeper, now all on one common level of misfortune and misery—condemned alike to exile, to servitude in a strange land, beyond seas.
The ticket given me called by number for a certain berth, and I sought until I found this, throwing within the small bundle I bore, and then finding a chance to sit down on the deck beneath. The last of the bunch of prisoners dribbled down the ladder, each in turn noisily greeted by those already huddled below. I began to recognize the increasing foulness of air, and to distinguish words of conversation from the groups about me. There was but little profanity but some rough horse-play, and a marked effort to pretend indifference. I could make out gray-beards and mere boys mingling together, and occasionally a man in some semblance of uniform. A few bore wounds, and the clothes of several were in rags; all alike exhibited marks of suffering and hardship. The butcher from Harwich, and the white-faced lad who had marched beside me down the wharf, were not to be seen from where I sat, although beyond doubt they were somewhere in the crowd. The hatch was not lowered, and gazing up through the square opening, I obtained glimpse of two soldiers on guard, the sunlight glinting on their guns. Almost immediately there was the sound of tramping feet on the deck above, and the creaking of blocks. Then a sudden movement of the hull told all we were under way. This was recognized by a roar of voices.
THE PRISON SHIP
The greater portion of that voyage I would blot entirely from memory if possible. I cannot hope to describe it in any detail—-the foul smells, the discomfort, the ceaseless horror of food, the close companionship of men turned into mere animals by suffering and distress, the wearisome days, the black, sleepless nights, the poisonous air, and the brutality of guards. I can never forget these things, for they have scarred my soul, yet surely I need not dwell upon them now, except as they may bear some direct reference to this tale I seek to tell. As such those weeks cannot be wholly ignored, for they form a part of the events to follow—events which might not be clearly understood without their proper picturing.
We were fifty-three days at sea, driven once so far to the southward by a severe storm, which struck us the second day out, as to sight the north coast of Africa before we were able to resume our westward course. To those of us who were tightly shut into those miserable quarters below these facts came only as floating rumors, yet the intense suffering involved was all real enough. For forty-two hours we were battened down in darkness, flung desperately about by every mad plunge of the vessel, stifled by poisoned air and noxious odors, and all that time without a particle of food. If I suffered less than some others it was simply because I was more accustomed to the sea. I was not nauseated by the motion, nor unduly frightened by the wild pitching of the brig. Lying quietly in my berth, braced to prevent being thrown out, amid a darkness so intense as to seem a weight, every sound from the deck above, every lift of the vessel, brought to my mind a sea message, convincing me of two things—that the Romping Betsy was a staunch craft, and well handled. Terrific as the gale became I only grew more confident that she would safely weather it.
Yet God knows it was horrible enough even to lie there and listen, to feel the hurling plunges downward, the dizzy upsweeping of the hull; to hear the cries, groans and prayers of frightened men, unseen and helpless in the darkness, the creaking timbers, the resounding blows of the waves against the sides, the horrid retching of the sick, the snarling, angry voices as the struggling mass was flung back and forth, the curses hurled madly into the darkness. They were no longer men, but infuriated brutes, so steeped in agony and fear as to have lost all human instincts. They snarled and snapped like so many beasts, their voices unrecognizable, the stronger treading the weaker to the deck. I could not see, I could only hear, yet I lay there, staring blindly about, conscious of every horror, and so weak and unnerved as to tremble like a child.
Yet the complete knowledge of what had actually occurred in that frightful hole was only revealed when the violence of the storm finally ceased, and the guards above again lifted the hatch. The gray light of dawn faintly illumined the inferno below, and the sweet breath of morning air swept down among us. Then I saw the haggard, uplifted faces, the arms tossed aloft, and heard the wild yell as the stronger charged forward struggling for the foot of the ladder. The place was a foul, reeking shambles, so filthy as to be positively sickening, with motionless bodies stretched here and there along the deck. Sailors and guards fought their way down among us, driving back the unarmed wretches who sought to oppose their progress, while others bore to the deck above those who were too helpless to rise. There were five dead among them, and twice as many more who had lost consciousness. These were all removed first and then, feeling helpless to resist the rush, the others were permitted to clamber up the ladder. Surging out upon the deck, we were hurdled against the lee rail, menaced by leveled guns, and thus finally fed, while the filthy quarters below were hastily cleansed.
It was a dark, lowering morning, the desolate sea still threateningly rough, the heavy clouds hanging low. The Romping Betsy was hove to, under bare poles, a bit of the jib alone showing, with decks and spars exhibiting evidence of the terrific struggle to keep afloat. I never witnessed wilder pitching on any vessel, but the fresh air brought new life to the wretches about me, and a species of cheerfulness was quickly manifested. Bad as the food was we ate it gladly, nor did the memory of the dead, already laid out on the main deck, long depress us. Why should we mourn for them? We scarcely knew any among them by name, and, facing the uncertainty of our own fate, each man secretly felt that these had possibly found the easier way. Our own misery was now greater than theirs. So we hung on to whatever would help us to keep erect, and ate the food given us like famished animals. Rough and threatening as the surroundings still were, I was seaman enough to realize that the backbone of the storm had broken, and so rejoiced when the skipper ordered sail set. In a few moments the brig was once again headed on a westerly course, and riding the heavy seas much more steadily.
We were permitted to remain on deck scarcely more than an hour, and during that time only a very few passengers made their appearance aft. Although watching eagerly I perceived no flutter of a skirt in the wind, but the Spanish looking man emerged from below, and clung to the rail for several minutes before we were ordered from deck. He spoke with the Captain, pointing and gesticulating, and the few detached words blown to me on the wind were sufficient to convince me that the fellow knew ships and the sea. I had thought him a mere dandy, but now saw in him harder stuff, even getting close enough to learn that he had visited America before, and possessed knowledge of its shores and currents. Ay, and he spoke English well, with never pause for a word, even to terms of seamanship a bit obscure.
The next few days, while uneventful, sufficed to make our discipline complete, obedience being roughly enforced by blows and oaths. At first a spirit of resistance flamed high, but the truly desperate among us were few, and without leadership, while the majority were already thoroughly cowed by months of imprisonment. Left to themselves the more reckless and criminal were soon obliged to yield to force, so that nothing more serious resulted than loud talk and threats. The hatch above remained open, but carefully guarded night and day, while we were permitted on deck for air and exercise only in squads of ten, two hours out of every twenty-four. This alone served to break the dread monotony of the voyage, for while we almost constantly encountered baffling head winds, no other storm of any magnitude obstructed our passage. The brig carried heavy canvas, and the skipper loaded her with all she could bear, but at that she was a slow sailor, dipping so deeply in a seaway as to ship considerable water even in quiet weather. From our exercise on deck we generally returned below drenched to the skin, but glad to even pay that price for two hours of fresh air, and an opportunity to gaze about at sea and sky. There was little else to witness, for in all the long voyage we encountered but one vessel in that desolate ocean, a French armed corvette, fairly bristling with guns, which ran in close enough to hail us, but seemed satisfied to permit us to pass unvisited. I clung to the rail and watched its white sails disappear until they resembled the wings of gulls, feeling more than ever conscious of our helplessness. There were few among the prisoners I had any desire to companion with—only two, as I recall now—a law clerk from Sussex, a rather bright young fellow, but full of strange notions, and an older man, who had seen service in Flanders. We messed together, and pledged mutual friendship in the new land, a pledge not destined to be fulfilled, as I never again saw nor heard of the former after we went ashore, and the last glimpse I had of the older man was as he was being loaded into a cart bound for some interior plantation. God grant they both lived, and became again free men.
How those sodden hours and days dragged! How long were those black nights, in which I lay sleepless, listening to indescribable noises, and breathing the rank, poisonous air. The short time passed on deck was my only solace, and yet even there I found little to interest, except a continuous new hope. We were herded well forward, a rope dividing us from the main deck, which space the passengers aft used as a promenade. Here, between the foremast and the cabin, someone was strolling idly about most of the time, or lounging along the rail out of the sun. In time I came to recognize them all by sight, and learned, in one way or another, something of their characteristics, and purpose in taking this voyage. They were not an unusual lot, the majority planters from the Colonies homeward bound, with occasionally a new emigrant about to try for fortune beyond seas, together with one or two naval officers. There were only three women aboard, a fat dowager, the young lady I had noticed at embarkation, and her colored maid. Many of the days were pleasant, with quiet sea and bright sunshine, and the younger woman must have passed hours on deck during so long and tedious a voyage. Yet it chanced I saw almost nothing of her. I heard her presence on board discussed several times by others of our company, but it somehow chanced that during my time in the open she was usually below. Indeed I gained but one glimpse of the lady in the first two weeks at sea, and then only as we were being ordered down to our quarters for the night. Just as I was approaching the hatch to descend, she appeared from within the cabin, accompanied by the middle-aged planter, and the two advanced toward the rail. The younger gallant, who was standing there alone, saw them the moment they emerged, and hastened forward, bowing low, hat in hand. She barely recognized him, her gaze traveling beyond the fellow toward the disappearing line of prisoners. It was an evening promising storm, with some motion to the sea, and a heavy bank of clouds visible off the port quarter, brightened by flashes of zigzag lightning. The brig rolled dizzily, so the cavalier sought to steady her steps, but she only laughed at the effort, waving him aside, as she moved easily forward. Once with hand on the rail, she ignored his presence entirely, looking first at the threatening cloud, and then permitting her gaze to rest once more upon the line of men descending through the hatch.
It had become my turn to go down, yet in that instant our eyes met fairly, and I instantly knew she saw and recognized me. For a single second our glances clung, as though some mysterious influence held us to each other—then the angry guard struck me with the stock of his piece.
"What er ye standin' thar fer?" he demanded savagely. "Go on down—lively now."
I saw her clasping fingers convulsively grip the rail, and, even at that distance, marked a sudden flame of color in her cheeks. That was all her message to me, yet quite enough. Although we had never spoken, although our names were yet unknown, I was no criminal to her mind, no unrecognized prisoner beneath contempt, but a human being in whom she already felt a personal interest, and to whom she extended thought and sympathy. The blow of the gun-stock bruised my back, yet it was with a smile and a light heart that I descended the ladder, deeply conscious of a friend on board—one totally unable to serve me, perhaps, yet nevertheless a friend. Even in our isolation, guarded in those narrow quarters, much of the ship gossip managed in some way to reach our ears. How it drifted in was often a mystery, yet there was little going on aboard we failed to hear. Much of it came to us through those detailed to serve food, while guards and sailors were not always averse to being talked with. We always knew the ship's course, and I managed to keep in my mind a very dear idea of how the voyage progressed. Not a great deal of this gossip, however, related to the passengers aft, who kept rather exclusively to themselves, nor did I feel inclined to question those who might have the information. I had no wish to reveal my interest to others, and so continued entirely ignorant of the identity of the young woman. She remained in my memory, in my thoughts nameless, a dream rather than a reality. I did learn quite by accident that the gay gallant was a wealthy Spaniard, supposedly of high birth, by name Sanchez, and at one time in the naval service, and likewise ascertained that the rotund planter, so evidently in the party, was a certain Roger Fairfax, of Saint Mary's in Maryland, homeward bound after a successful sale of his tobacco crop in London. It was during his visit to the great city that he had met Sanchez, and his praise of the Colonies had induced the latter to essay a voyage in his company to America. But strange enough no one so much as mentioned the girl in connection with either man.
Thus it was that the Romping Betsy drove steadily on her way into the west, either battered by storm, or idly drifting in calm, while life on board became a tiresome routine. The dullness and ill treatment led to trouble below, to dissatisfaction and angry outbreaks of temper. The prisoners grew quarrelsome among themselves, and mutinous toward their guards. I took no part in these affairs, which at one time became serious. Two men were shot dead, and twice afterwards bodies were carried up the ladder at dawn, and silently consigned to the sea. No doubt these tales, more or less exaggerated, traveled aft, and reached the eager ears of the passengers. They began to fear us, and consequently I noticed when on deck the promenade once so popular during the earlier days of the voyage, was almost totally deserted during our hours of recreation. So, with mutiny forward, and fear aft, the lumbering old brig, full of tragedy and hopeless hearts, ploughed steadily onward toward the sunset.
We were not far from two hundred miles east of the Capes, or at least so one of the mates told me, gruffly answering a question, and it was already growing twilight, the sun having disappeared a half hour before. There was but little air stirring, barely enough to keep the sails taut, while the swell of the sea was sufficient to be uncomfortable, making walking on the deck a task. We were wallowing along amid a waste of waters, the white-crested waves extending in every direction to the far horizons, which were already purpling with the approach of night. I had been closely confined to my bunk for two days with illness, but now, somewhat stronger, had been ordered on deck by the surgeon. The last batch of prisoners, after their short hour of recreation, had been returned to the quarters below, but I was permitted to remain alone undisturbed. I sat there quietly, perched on a coil of rope, with head just high enough to permit an unobstructed view over the side.
The deck aft was almost deserted, the passengers being at supper in the cabin. I could glimpse them through the unshaded windows, seated about a long table, while occasionally the sound of their voices reached me through the open companion-way. The mate was alone on the poop, tramping steadily back and forth, his glance wandering from the sea alongside to the flapping canvas above, but remained silent, as the brig was on her course. Once he clambered down the side ladder, and walked forward, shouting out some order to a group of sailors under the lee of the forecastle. It was on his return that I ventured to question him, and was gruffly answered. Something I said however, gave him knowledge that I was a seaman, and he paused a moment more civilly before resuming his watch, even pointing out what resembled the gleam of a distant sail far away on our starboard quarter. This was such a dim speck against the darkening horizon that I stood up to see better, shadowing my eyes, and forgetful of all else in aroused interest. Undoubtedly it was a sail, although appearing no larger than a gull's wing, and my imagination took me in spirit across the leagues of water. I was still standing there absorbed, unaware even that the mate had departed, when a voice, soft-spoken and feminine, broke the silence.
"May I speak with you?"
I turned instantly, so thoroughly surprised, my voice faltered as I gazed into the upturned face of the questioner. She stood directly beside me, with only the rope barrier stretched between us, her head uncovered, the contour of her face softened by the twilight. Instantly my cap was off, and I was bowing courteously.
"Most certainly," with a quick side glance toward the guard, "but I am a prisoner."
"Of course I know that," in smiling confidence. "Only you see I am rather a privileged character on board. No one expects me to obey rules. Still that does not apply to you, does it?" hesitating slightly. "Perhaps you may be punished if you talk with me—is that what you meant?"
"I am more than willing to assume the risk. Punishment is no new experience to me; besides just now I am on sick leave, and privileged. That accounts for my being still on deck."
"And I chanced to find you here alone. You have been ill?"
"Not seriously, but confined to the berth for a couple of days. And now the doctor prescribes fresh air. This meeting with you, I imagine, may prove even of greater benefit than that."
"With me? Oh, you mean as a relief from loneliness."
"Partly—yes. The voyage has certainly proven lonely enough. I have made few friends forward, and am even bold enough to say that I have longed for a word with you ever since I first saw you aboard."
"Why especially with me?"
"Rather a hard question to answer at the very beginning," I smiled back at her. "Yet not so difficult as the one I shall ask you. Except for a fat matron, and a colored maid, you chance to be the only woman on board. Can you consider it unnatural that I should feel an interest? On the other hand I am only one of fifty prisoners, scarcely cleaner or more reputable looking than any of my mates. Yet surely you have not sought speech with these others?"
"Then why especially with me?" Even in the growing dusk I could mark a red flush mount into the clear cheeks at this insistent question, and for an instant her eyes wavered. But she possessed the courage of pride, and her hesitancy was short.
"You imagine I cannot answer; indeed that I have no worthy reason," she exclaimed. "Oh, but I have; I know who you are; my uncle pointed you out to me."
"Your uncle—the planter in the gray coat?"
"Yes; I am traveling home with him to Maryland. I am Dorothy Fairfax."
"But even with that explanation I scarcely understand," I insisted rather stubbornly. "You say he pointed me out to you. Really I was not aware that I was a distinguished character of any kind. How did he happen to know me?"
"Because he was present at your trial before Lord Jeffries. He merely chanced to be there when you were first brought up, but became interested in the case, and so returned to hear you sentenced. You are Geoffry Carlyle, in command of the ship that brought Monmouth to England. I heard it all."
"All? What else, pray?"
Her eyes opened widely in sudden surprise and she clasped and unclasped her hands nervously.
"Do you really not know? Have you never been told what happened?"
"Only that I was roughly forbidden to speak, called every foul name the learned Judge could think of, and then sentenced to twenty years penal servitude beyond seas," I answered soberly. "Following that I was dragged from the dock, and flung into a cell. Was there anything else?"
"Why you should have known. Lord Jeffries sentenced you to death; the decree was signed, to be executed immediately. Then influence was brought to bear—some nobleman in Northumberland made direct appeal to the King. That was what angered Jeffries so."
"An appeal! For me? Good God! not Bucclough—was it he, the Duke?"
"Yes; it was whispered about that the King was in his debt—some word of honor, and dare not refuse. The word of mercy came just in time, ordering Jeffries to commute your sentence. At first he swore he'd hang you, King or no King, but his nerve failed. My uncle said he roared like a bull. This Bucclough; is he not your friend?"
I hesitated for an instant of indecision, looking into her face, but the truth would not be denied.
"Scarcely that," I said soberly. "Nor can I solve entirely his purpose. He is my brother, and I am the next in line. We are not even on speaking terms; yet he is childless, and may feel some measure of dislike to have the family end in a hangman's knot. I can think of no other reason for his interference. I knew nothing of his action."
"I am glad it became my privilege to tell you. Besides, Captain Carlyle," simply, "it may also help you to understand my interest. If you are of the Carlyles of Bucclough, how happened it that you went to sea?"
"Largely necessity, and to some extent no doubt sheer love of adventure. I was a younger son, with very little income. There were then two lives between me and the estate, and the old Duke, my father, treated me like a servant. I always loved the sea, and at fourteen—to get me out of his sight, I think largely—was apprenticed to the navy, but lost my grade in the service by a mere boyish prank. His influence then would have saved me, but he refused to even read my letter of explanation. I dare not return home in such disgrace, and consequently drifted into the merchant service. It is a story quickly told."
"Yet not so quickly lived."
"No, it meant many hard years, on all the oceans of the world. This is the first message reaching me from the old home."
"I have seen that home," she said quietly, "and shall never forget the impression it made on me. A beautiful place. I was there on a coaching party, the first summer I was in England. I was a mere girl then, and everything seemed wonderful. I have been away from Maryland now for three years."
"Of course; nothing else would satisfy father. Maryland is only a Colony, you know."
"Yes, I understand. A great many over there send back their sons and daughters to be educated. Your home is at Saint Mary's?"
"Lower down the Potomac. Have you ever been there?"
"Twice; once as mate, and the last time as master of a ship. My latest voyage in these waters was made nearly two years ago."
She was silent for several moments, her face turned away from me, her eyes gazing out across the waste of waters which were already growing dark. Her clear-cut profile against the yellow light of the cabin windows appeared most attractive.
"It is not so strange then, is it, that I should have felt interested in you?" she asked suddenly, as though justifying herself. "When Uncle Roger first told me who you were, and then explained what had occurred at your trial, naturally you became to me something entirely different from the others."
"Certainly I am not inclined to condemn."
"I never once thought of speaking to you—truly I did not," she went on simply. "But when I saw you sitting here all alone, the impulse came suddenly to tell you how sorry I was. You see," and she paused doubtfully, "girls brought up in the Colonies, as I have been, are—are not quite so careful about whom they talk with as in England—you know what I mean; we always have indentured servants, and become accustomed to them. It—it is quite different out there."
I laughed, thinking only to relieve her embarrassment.
"Believe me, Miss Dorothy, there is no thought in my mind that you have done wrong," I insisted swiftly. "That would be very ungrateful, for you have brought me new heart and hope."
"Then I am not sorry. Were you actually with Monmouth?"
"In sympathy, yes; but I had no hand in the actual fighting. I was not even ashore until it was all over with. Still I shall pay my share of the bill."
"And you know what that means, do you not? What will happen when we reach Virginia?"
"Perfectly; I have no illusions. I have seen just such ships as this come in. We are to be advertised, and sold to the highest bidder. A week from now I shall probably be out in the tobacco fields, under the whip of an overseer, who will call me Jeff. All I can hope for is a kind-hearted master, and an early opportunity to escape."
"Oh, no!" and in her eagerness her hands actually clasped mine, where they clung to the rope between us. "It is not going to be quite so bad as that. That is what I wanted to tell you. That is what gave me boldness to come across here to you tonight. It has all been arranged."
"Yes—everything. You are not going to be sold on the block with those others. Uncle Roger has already contracted with the Captain for your services. You are going north with us to Maryland."
I stared through the dusk into her animated face, scarcely comprehending.
"Do you not understand, yet?" she asked. "The Captain of this brig is the agent; he represents the government, and is obliged to find places for the prisoners."
"Yes; I know that. We are billed like so much livestock; he must account for every head."
"Well, Uncle Roger went to him yesterday, and made a bid for you. Finally they came to terms. That is one reason why you are left alone here on deck tonight. The officers are no longer responsible for you—you are already indentured."
I drew a deep breath, and in the sudden impulse of relief which swept over me, my own fingers closed tightly about her hands.
"You tell me I am to accompany your party up the Chesapeake?"
"I owe this to you; I am sure I must owe this to you—tell me?"
Her eyes drooped, and in the dim light I could mark the heaving of her bosom, as she caught her breath.
"Only—only the suggestion," she managed to say in a whisper. "He—he was glad of that. You see I—I knew he needed someone to take charge of his sloop, and—and so I brought you to his mind. We—we both thought you would be just the one, and—and he went right away to see the Captain. So please don't thank me."
"I shall never cease to thank you," I returned warmly, conscious suddenly that I was holding her hands, and as instantly releasing them. "Why, do you begin to understand what this actually means to me? It means the retention of manhood, of self-respect. It will save me the degradation which I dreaded most of all—the toiling in the fields beside negro slaves, and the sting of the lash. Ay, it means even more—"
I hesitated, instantly realizing that I must not utter those impetuous words leaping to my lips.
"More!" she exclaimed. "What more?"
"This," I went on, my thought shifting into a new channel. "A longer servitude. Up to this moment my one dream has been to escape, but I must give that up now. You have placed me under obligations to serve."
"You mean you feel personally bound?" "Yes; not quite so much to your uncle, perhaps, as to yourself. But between us this has become a debt of honor."
"But wait," she said earnestly "for I had even thought of that. I was sure you would feel that way—any gentleman would. Still there is a way out. You were sentenced as an indentured servant."
"I suppose so."
"It is true; you were so entered on the books of this ship. Uncle Roger had to be sure of all this before he paid his money, and I saw the entry myself. It read: 'Geoffry Carlyle, Master Mariner, indentured to the Colonies for the term of twenty years, unless sooner released; crime high treason.' Surely you must know the meaning of those words?"
"Servitude for twenty years."
"'Unless sooner released.'"
"That means pardoned; there is no hope of that."
"Perhaps not, but that is not all it means. Any indentured man, under our Maryland laws, can buy his freedom, after serving a certain proportion of his sentence. I think it is true in any of the Colonies. Did you not know that?"
I did know it, yet somehow had never connected the fact before directly with my own case. I had been sentenced to twenty years—twenty years of a living death—and that alone remained impressed on my mind. I could still see Black Jeffries sitting on the bench, glaring down at me in unconcealed anger, his eyes blazing with the fury of impotent hate, as he roared, that, by decree of the King, my sentence to be hung was commuted to twenty years of penal servitude beyond seas. It had never even seemed an act of mercy to me. But now it did, as the full truth suddenly came home, that I could buy my freedom. God! what a relief; I stood up straight once more in the stature of a man. I hardly know what wild words I might have spoken had the opportunity been mine; but at that instant the figure of a man crossed the deck toward us, emerging from the open cabin door. Against the gleam of yellow light I recognized the trim form advancing, and as instantly stepped back into shadow. My quick movement caused her to turn, and face him.
"What!" he exclaimed, and evidently surprised at his discovery. "It is indeed Mistress Dorothy—out here alone? 'Twas my thought you were safely in your cabin long since. But—prithee—I mistake; you are not alone."
He paused, slightly irresolute, staring forward beyond her at my dimmer outline, quite uncertain who I might be, yet already suspicious.
"I was preparing to go in," she answered, ignoring his latter words. "The night already looks stormy."
"But your friend?"
The tone in which he spoke was insistent, almost insolent in its demand, and she hesitated no longer in meeting the challenge.
"Your pardon, I am sure—Lieutenant Sanchez, this gentleman is Captain Geoffry Carlyle."
He stood there stiff and straight against the background of light, one hand in affected carelessness caressing the end of a waxed moustache. His face was in shadow, yet I was quite aware of the flash of his eyes.
"Ah, indeed—some passenger I have not chanced to observe before?"
"A prisoner," she returned distinctly. "You may perhaps remember my uncle pointed him out to us when he first came aboard."
"And you have been out here alone, talking with the fellow?"
"Why, the man is a felon, convicted of crime, sentenced to deportation."
"It is not necessary that we discuss this, sir," she interposed, rather proudly, "as my personal conduct is not a matter for your criticism. I shall retire now. No; thank you, you need not come."
He stopped still, staring blankly after her as she vanished; then wheeled about to vent his anger on me.
"Carlyle, hey!" he exclaimed sneeringly. "A familiar sound that name in my ears. One of the brood out of Bucclough?"
"A cadet of that line," I managed to admit, wonderingly. "You know of them?"
"Quite as much as I care to," his tone ugly and insulting. Then an idea suddenly occurred to his mind. "Saint Guise, but that would even up the score nicely. You are, as I understand it, sent to Virginia for sale?"
"For how long a term?"
"The sentence was twenty years."
"Hela! and you go to the highest bidder. I'll do it, fellow! To actually own a Carlyle of Bucclough will be a sweet revenge."
"You mean," I asked, dimly grasping his purpose, "that you propose buying me when we reach shore?"
"Why not? A most excellent plan; and I owe it all to a brat I met in London. Egad! it will be some joke to tell when next I visit England. 'Twill count for more than were I to tweak the Duke's nose."
I stopped his laughter, smiling myself grimly in the darkness.
"A very noble plan for revenge," I admitted, enjoying the swift check-mating of his game. "And one which I am not likely to forget. Unfortunately you come too late. It happens, Senor, that I am already safely indentured to Roger Fairfax."
"To Fairfax? She told you that?"
"Who told me can make no difference. At least I am out of your hands."
I turned away, but he called angrily after me:
"Do not feel so sure of that, Carlyle! I am in the game yet."
I made no answer, already despising the fellow so thoroughly as to ignore his threat. He still stood there, a mere shadow, as I disappeared down the ladder, and I could imagine the expression on his face.
THE SHORES OF VIRGINIA
I rested quietly in my berth for a long time, staring blankly up at the dark deck above, unable to sleep, and endeavoring to figure out the true meaning of all these occurrences. It began to rain, torrents sweeping the planks overhead, while vivid flashes of lightning illumined the open hatch, before it could be hastily closed, revealing the squalidness of the interior in which we were quartered. Then someone, growling and stumbling through the darkness, lit a slush lantern, dangling from a blackened beam, its faint flicker barely discernible. The hole became foul and sickening, men tossing and groaning in their uneasy sleep, or prowling about seeking some measure of comfort. There was no severe wind accompanying the storm, and the flurry of rain soon swept by, leaving an ugly swell behind, but enabling the guard to again uplift the hatches.
Immersed as I was in thought, all this left but small impress on me. I felt that I could understand the interest exhibited by Dorothy Fairfax, and, greatly as I already admired her, I was not egotist enough to even imagine that her effort to serve me had basis in any personal attraction. My connection with Bucclough, coupled with her uncle's report of my conviction, had very naturally aroused the girl's sympathy in my behalf. She felt a desire to lighten my sorrows as much as possible, and, under the existing circumstances, had found it comparatively easy to persuade the good-natured planter to acquiesce in her suggestion. In all probability he really had need of my services, and was therefore glad enough of this opportunity to secure them. This part of the affair I could dismiss without giving anyone undue credit, although I deeply appreciated the kindness of heart which had led her to interpose, and which later led her to tell me so quickly what had occurred. Her purpose, however, was fairly clear.
But what about Lieutenant Sanchez? Why was this unknown Spaniard already so openly my enemy? There was no doubting his position, and there surely must be some reason for it outside of anything which had occurred on board the Romping Betsy. His words had given me some inkling of the cause—a past quarrel with the Duke of Bucclough, in England, in which he must have been worsted, and which had left in his mind a lurking desire for revenge. He dreamed of striking his enemy through me, because of relationship, a cowardly blow. Yet this, by itself alone, was scarcely a reason why he should have thus sought me out for a victim. No sane man would deliberately visit the sins of my brother on me. Nor had this been deliberate; it was the mere outburst of sudden passion, arising through my intercourse with the young woman. Otherwise it might never have occurred to him. So there was seemingly but one answer—Sanchez used this merely as an excuse for the concealment of his real object. What could that object be? Could it be Dorothy Fairfax? I was a long while in actually convincing myself of this probability, and yet no other satisfactory explanation offered itself. She had exhibited an interest in me from the very first, and he had endeavored to win her attention elsewhere. Even that day when we first came aboard in chains, he had plainly evinced this desire, and, since then, the girl had never appeared on deck, without his immediately seeking her company. I felt finally that I had the clue—jealousy, the mad, unreasoning jealousy of his race. He fiercely resented her slightest interest in anyone—even a prisoner—as against his own attractions. He was incapable of appreciating friendly sympathy, and already held me a dangerous rival. Then, possibly, it had not been a mere idle desire to visit the Colonies, which had originally led to his prompt acceptance of Roger Fairfax's invitation to make one of their party; the real attraction was the charms of Dorothy—her girlish beauty, coupled, no doubt, with her father's wealth. The fellow was in love, impetuously in love, resenting blindly the slightest advance of any other.
The thought rather pleased me, largely because of its absurdity. It was, in my case at least, so utterly false, and unjustifiable. To the ordinary mind, indeed, any such connection would be practically unthinkable. Even had I been wild enough to dream of such a thing, the gulf existing between myself and Dorothy Fairfax was far too deep and wide ever to be spanned. I had before me twenty years of servitude, and an unknown future; nor could I even conceive the possibility of any such thought ever entering her mind. The very opposite was what gave her courage to serve me. I had no false conception as to this; no vagrant thought that her interest in me was any more than a passing fancy, born of sympathy, and a desire to aid. Nevertheless, as she had thus already served me, I now owed her service in return, and here was the first call. If conditions made it possible it was my plain duty to place myself between these two. I felt no hatred toward the man, no desire to do him a personal injury; but I did dislike and distrust him. This feeling was instinctive, and without the slightest reference to his seeking intimacy with the girl. From the first moment I had looked upon his face there had been antagonism between us, a feeling of enmity. Whether this arose from his appearance, or actions, I could not determine—but the fellow was not my kind.
In the intensity of my feelings I must have unconsciously spoken aloud, for a shaggy head suddenly popped out from the berth beneath where I lay, and an interested voice asked solicitously:
"Hy, thar; whut's up, mate? Sick agin?"
"No," I answered, grinning rather guiltily, "just thinking, and letting loose a bit. Did I disturb you?"
"Well, I reckon I wa'n't exactly asleep," he acknowledged, without withdrawing his head. "Ye wus mutterin' 'way thar an' not disturbin' me none, till ye got ter talkin' 'bout sum feller called Sanchez. Then I sorter got a bit interested. I know'd thet cuss onct," and he spat, as though to thus better express his feelings. "The damned ornary pirate."
I laughed, my whole mental mood changed by this remark.
"It is not very likely we have the same party in mind, Haley. You see Sanchez is a decidedly common name among Spaniards. I've known two or three of that name myself. You were not referring to anyone on board, were you?"
"I sure hope not," he scratched his head, staring up at me through the dim light, wakefulness encouraging him to talk. "They tell me ye are a sea-farin' man. Well, I wus a Deal fisher, but hev made a half dozen deep-sea v'y'ges. Thet's how I hed the damn luck ter meet up with this Sanchez I was a speakin' 'bout. He's the only one ever I know'd. I met up with him off the isle o' Cuba. Likely 'nough ye know the devil I mean?"
The question served to center my memory suddenly on a dim remembrance of the past.
"No, unless you refer to 'Black Sanchez.' I 've heard of him; were you ever in his hands?"
"Wus I!" he laughed grimly. "I hed eight months of it, mate, and a greater demon never sailed. The things I saw done ye 'd never believe no human bein' could do. If ever thar wus two people in one skin, sir, it's thet Black Sanchez. When he's playin' off fer good he's as soft an' sweet as a dandy in Picadilly, an' when he's real he's like a devil in hell."
"Was you a prisoner—or did you sail under him?"
"Both, fer the matter o' thet. He give me the choice ter serve, er walk the plank. I wus eighteen, an' hed an ol' mother at Deal."
"I see; but later you got away?"
"Ay, I did thet," chuckling over the recollection. "But I hed ter wait eight months fer the luck. Hev ye ever been sea-farin' down in them waters, off the West Indies?"
"Well, they're all studded over with little islands—cays, they call 'em down thare; an' it's in among them thet the buccaneers hide away, an' sorter rest up after a cruise. Thar's a lot o' 'em too; whole villages hid away on some o' them cays, with women an' children—every color ye ever saw. Sanchez he made his headquarters on a cay called Porto Grande. He hed three ships, an' maybe a hundred an' fifty men 'bout the time I got away. The last I saw o' him wus at sea. He'd overhauled an English ship, an' sunk her; an' then the next mornin' we took a Dutch bark in ballast. She wus such a trig sailor Sanchez decided to keep her afloat, an' sent a prize crew aboard ter sail her inter Porto Grande. I wus one o' the fellers picked fer thet job, an' we wus told off under a nigger mate, named LaGrasse—he wus a French nigger from Martinique, and a big devil—an' our orders wus ter meet Sanchez three days later. His vessel wus a three-masted schooner, the fastest thing ever I saw afloat, called the Vengeance, an' by that time she wus chock up with loot. Still at that she could sail 'bout three feet to our one. Afore night come we wus out o' sight astern. Thar wus eight o' us in the crew, beside the nigger, an' we had twelve Dutchmen under hatches below. I sorter looked 'round, an' sized up four o' that crew ter be good honest sailormen, who'd been shanghied same as I wus. So, long about midnight, I 'd got ter talk with all these fellers, an' when LaGrasse went down below ter take a snooze in the cabin, we hoisted them Dutchmen on deck, flung a couple o' hell-hounds overboard, an' just naturally took control. The mate wus a dead nigger afore he ever knew whut wus up. When daylight come we wus streakin' it eastward by compass, an' every damn sail set. Thet wus the easiest part of it. Them Dutchmen could n't talk nuthin' but their own lingo; an' thar wa'n't a navigator aboard, fer Sanchez hed kept all the offercers with him, an' the end wus about a week later, when we piled up against an island off the African coast, an' only one boat load of us got ashore. Thet's whut I know about Sanchez."
"I had a shipmate once," I observed, interested in his story, "who claimed to have seen the fellow; he described him as being a very large man, with intensely black hawklike eyes, and a heavy black beard almost hiding his face."
"Maybe he looked like that when he saw him, but he ain't no bigger man than I am; he won't weigh as much by fifteen pound. Fact is he mighty seldom looks the same, fer thet's part o' his game. Them whiskers is false, an' so is the saller look to his face. I 've seen him in all sorts o' disguises. It's only his eyes he can't hide, an' thar's been times when I thought they wus the ugliest eyes ever I saw. He's sure an ornary devil, an' when he gits mad, I'd rather be afront of a tiger. Besides fightin's his trade, an' no weaklin' ain't goin' ter control the sort o' chaps he's got ter handle. Most of 'em would murder him in a minute if they dared. Oh, he's bad all right, but yer wouldn't exactly think so, just ter look at him, I've run up agin a lot o' different men in my time, thet I 'd naturally sheer off from a blame sight quicker than I would from him."
"You mean that when he is not in disguise he does not appear dangerous. What then does he really look like?"
Haley spat again onto the deck, and scratched his shock of hair as though thus to stimulate his memory.
"Oh, a sorter swash-bucklin' Spanish don—the kind whut likes ter dress up, an' play the dandy. He's got a pink an' white complexion, the Castilian kind yer know, an' wears a little moustache, waxed up at the ends. He's about two inches taller than I am, with no extra flesh, but with a hell of a grip in his hands. As I said afore, if it wa'n't fer his eyes nobody'd ever look at him twice. All his devilishness shows thar, an' I've seen 'em laugh like he didn't have a care on earth."
"How old a man is he?"
"How old is the devil? I heard he wus about forty-five; I reckon he must be thet, but he don't look older than thirty. He ain't the kind yer can guess at."
We talked together for quite a while longer, our conversation gradually drifting to the recounting of various sea adventures, and my thoughts did not again recur to Sanchez until after I rested back once more in my berth, endeavoring to fall asleep. Haley must have dropped off immediately, for I could distinguish his heavy breathing among the others; but my mind continued to wander, until it conjured up once again this West India pirate. His name, and the story of his exploits, had been familiar to me ever since I first went to sea. While only one among many operating in those haunted waters, his resourcefulness, daring and cruelty had won him an infamous reputation, a name of horror. In those days, when the curse of piracy made the sea a terror, no ordinary man could ever have succeeded in attaining such supremacy in crime. No doubt much that had been reported was either false, or exaggerated, yet there flashed across my memory numberless tales of rapine, outrage and cold-blooded cruelty in which this demon of the sea had figured, causing me to shudder at the recollection. To my mind he had long been a fiend incarnate, his name a horror on the lips. Black Sanchez—and Haley pictured him as a dandified, ordinary appearing individual, with white and red complexion, a small moustache, and flashing dark eyes—a mere Spanish gallant, without special distinction. Why, that description, strangely enough, fitted almost exactly this fellow on board, this other Sanchez. I leaned over the edge of my bunk, and looked down on Haley, half resolved to ask if he had ever noticed this lieutenant, but the man was already sound asleep. The suspicion which had crept into my mind was so absurd, so unspeakably silly and impossible, that I laughed at myself, and dismissed the crazy thought. What, that fellow Black Sanchez! Bah, no! He had been at sea, of course; there was no denying that fact, for he knew ships, and spoke the lingo of blue water; but the very idea that that blood-stained buccaneer, whose hated name was on the lips of every sea-faring man of Britain, would ever dare openly to visit England, and then sail under his own name on board an English vessel for Virginia, was too preposterous for consideration. Why, it would be sheer madness. The knowledge that such a possibility ever had flashed into my mind became amusing, and chuckling over it, I finally fell asleep.
It was noon, the sky overcast, the wind blowing strong from the southeast, when the Virginia coast was first sighted from our mast-head. An hour later it became plainly visible from the deck below, and the prisoners were routed out from their quarters, and the shackles, removed from limbs when we first arrived on board, were again riveted in place, binding them together in fours, preparatory to landing. I, with one or two others, already disposed of, and in control of masters, were spared this indignity, and permitted to move about as we pleased within the narrow deck space reserved for our use. The last meal was served in the open, the men squatting on the deck planks, endeavoring to jest among themselves, and assuming a cheerfulness they were very far from feeling. The long hardships of the voyage had left indelible marks on the majority, and they were by now a woe-begone, miserable lot, who had largely abandoned themselves to despair.
The Monmouth campaign had been brief, but no less disastrous to the men engaged in it. Those who survived the one battle, wounded and fugitive, had been hunted down remorselessly like so many wild beasts. Escape from the pursuit of soldiers was almost impossible, and they had been brutally beaten and bruised by infuriated captors; and then, uncared for, nor shown the slightest mercy, had been thrust into loathsome gaols to helplessly await trial, and a certain conviction. No pen could adequately describe the suffering and horror of those months of waiting, while the unfortunate victims lived in crowded, dirty cells, subjected to every conceivable indignity and insult from brutal guards, half starved, and breathing foul, fetid air—the breath of sickness, the stench of unclean wounds. Dragged forth at last, one by one, into a court organized for condemnation, presided over by a foul-mouthed brute, whose every word was insult, denied all opportunity for defense, they had later been shackled together as felons, and driven aboard ship like so many head of cattle. Herded below deck, tossed about for weeks on a stormy sea, uncared for, and half starved, scarcely realizing their destination, or knowing their fate, seeing their dead dragged out from their midst with each dawn, and flung carelessly overboard, cursed at and struck by their guards, they now dragged their aching bodies about in half dead despair, the chains clanking to every movement of the limbs, their dull, lackluster eyes scarcely discerning the darkening line of coast toward which the Romping Betsy steered.
With what depth of pity I looked at them, my glance gladly straying from their downcast faces toward the group of passengers gathered eagerly along the poop rail to welcome joyfully the approach of land. These were all animation, excitement, talking eagerly to each other, and pointing out familiar headlands as they emerged through the thin mists. Their thoughts were all centered on home, or the promises of this new land they were approaching, and so deeply interested that scarcely an eye turned toward those miserable wretches grouped on the forward deck, being borne into slavery and disgrace. It was a contrast between hope and despair. As these passengers moved restlessly back and forth, from rail to rail, I easily recognized among them every face grown familiar to me during the course of the voyage, excepting the two I most eagerly sought; and became convinced that neither Roger Fairfax nor his niece had yet come upon deck. Sanchez was there, however, standing alone and silent, seldom lifting his eyes to the changing view ahead, but apparently buried in his own thoughts. Once our glances accidentally met, and I could but observe the sudden change in the man's expression—a change sinister and full of threat. Whatever the original cause might be, his personal feeling toward me was undoubtedly bitter and unforgiving, and he possessed no wish to disguise it. The new life in the new world had already brought me both friend and enemy before I had as yet touched foot on land.
THE WATERS OF THE CHESAPEAKE
The brig, with all sails set, and favored by a strong wind, drew rapidly in toward the point of landing. The great majority of the prisoners remained on deck, chained together and helpless, yet surrounded by armed guards, while the few who had already been purchased by passengers, humbly followed their new masters ashore the moment the gang-plank touched the soil of Virginia. There were five of us altogether thus favored, but I was the only one owing allegiance to Roger Fairfax. The rude landing wharf along which we lay was already densely crowded with men, their appearance and dress largely proclaiming them to be planters from the interior, either gathered to inspect the consignment of prisoners, or eager to purchase at low prices the stores hidden away in the vessel's hold. Some among the concourse, however, were undoubtedly present to welcome friends and relatives among the passengers. Altogether it was a bustling scene, full of change and color, the air noisy with shouting voices, the line of wharves filled with a number of vessels, either newly arrived, or preparing to depart. Servants both white and colored were busily at work, under the command of overseers, loading and unloading cargoes, while the high bank beyond was crowded with vehicles of various kinds. News of the arrival of the Romping Betsy had evidently spread widely, together with the rumor that she brought a number of prisoners to be auctioned off. It was a good-natured, restless crowd, especially anxious for any news from abroad, and eager to benefit from the sale. The majority of the men I judged to be landowners, hearty, wholesome looking fellows, whose lives were passed out-of-doors, dressed in their best in honor of the occasion. The prevailing fashion was a broad-leafed, felt hat with one side looped up to the crown by a brilliant metal button, a velvet coat with long, voluminous skirts, wide sleeves, metallic buttons as large as a Spanish dollar, short breeches, and long stockings with gold or silver knee and shoe buckles. Many wore swords, while those who did not bore about with them enormous gold or silver-headed canes. The smoking of pipes was common, and thoughtless profanity was to be heard on all sides as an ordinary part of speech. It was with no small difficulty we succeeded in forcing our way through this jostling throng until we attained to an open space ashore.
I followed closely behind the three composing our party, Roger Fairfax, and Sanchez, with the laughing girl between them for protection, pressing a passage forward. Even had I not been laden with packages my general appearance and dress would doubtless have proclaimed my position, and aroused passing interest. I heard voices calling attention to me, while curious eyes stared into my face. Fairfax was evidently well known to a number present, for he was being greeted on all sides with hearty hand-shakes, and words of welcome.
"Ah, back again, Roger; and what fortune in London?" "A fair price for the crop?"
"Is the lad trailing behind ye one o' Monmouth's men?"
"Any news, friend, in Parliament? What is the latest on the tax?"
"And pray who is this damsel, Roger; not Hugh Fairfax's girl? Ay, quite the woman now."
"Your men? They're over there, across the road. Of course I know; did I not come from the dock with them?"
There were two of them, both negroes, but one, addressed by Fairfax as Sam, was much the lighter in color, and far more intelligent of face. A few words of instruction dispatched these back to the Romping Betsy for the luggage yet remaining on board, while our own party continued to advance along the water front toward where Sam had designated the Fairfax boat would be found awaiting us, fully prepared to depart up the Chesapeake. When finally attained this vessel proved to be a goodly sized sloop, of a type familiar to those waters, containing a comfortable small cabin forward, a staunch, broad-beamed craft, but with lines indicating sailing qualities, while requiring only a small crew. Several similar vessels—doubtless owned and operated by planters residing along the shore of the Bay—were anchored in the basin, or fastened at the dock, but the Adele had been warped in against the bank, which at this point was high enough to enable us easily to step aboard over the low rail. A dingy looking white man, quite evidently from his appearance an indentured servant, was in charge, He greeted us rather surlily, staring at me with almost open hostility, yet responded swiftly enough to Fairfax's orders.
"Here, Carr, stow these packages away. Yes, you better help with them, Carlyle. The other bags will be along directly—Sam and John have gone after them. Put these forward, under cover. Has everything been seen to, so we can start at once?"
"Ay, ay, sorr," was the gruff response, in a strong Irish brogue. "Lord knows we've hid toime enough, fer we've bin waitin' here fer yer a wake, er more. It's a month since the lether came."
"We have had a slow voyage, Carr. So all I ordered is aboard?"
"She's full oop ter the hatches; bedad I hope thar ain't no more."
"Good; we ought to get as far as Travers' by dark then. Hurry along, and stow that stuff away; here come the others now."
The three found comfortable seats along the opposite rail, and sat there watching us hastily bring aboard the various articles which the two negroes, assisted by a boy and a cart, had transported from the brig. I worked along with the others, under the orders of Sam, who seemed to be in charge, already feeling somewhat deeply the humiliation of my position, but nevertheless realizing the necessity of prompt obedience. The knowledge that I was now a slave, on a level with these others, compelled to perform menial labor under the very eyes of Dorothy Fairfax and that sneering Spaniard, cut my pride to the quick. In my trips back and forth I kept my eyes averted, never once venturing to glance toward them, until this work had been accomplished. But when we stood idle, while Sam went aft for instructions, I had recovered sufficient nerve to turn my eyes in that direction, only to observe that the young woman sat with head turned away, gazing out over the rail at the shore, her chin cupped in her hands, her thoughts apparently far away. Strange as it may seem her obvious indifference hurt me oddly, my only comprehension being that she did not in the least care; that in fact she had already entirely dismissed me from her mind. This supposition, whether true or false, instantly hardened me to my fate, and I stared at Sanchez, meeting his eyes fairly, at once angered by the sneer on his lips and the open insult of his manner. He turned toward her, fingering a cheroot, and said something; but, though she answered, her head remained motionless, her eyes searching the shore indifferently. A figure or two appeared along the summit of the bank, voices calling to Fairfax, who stood up as he replied, ending the conversation with a wave of the hand to Sam, who had taken position at the wheel. The latter began shouting orders in a shrill voice. Carr cast off, and, with the negro and myself at the halliards, the mainsail rose to the caps, while we began gliding out from the shore into the deeper water. By the time we had hoisted the jib, and made all secure, we were out far enough to feel the full force of the stiff breeze, the Adele careening until her rail was awash, the white canvas soaring above us against the misty blue of the sky.
There was little to be done after the ropes had been coiled away, and we were fairly out into the broader reaches of the Bay. The wind held steady, requiring no shifting of canvas, so Sam, having dispatched the negro below to prepare lunch, and stationed Carr forward as lookout, called me aft to the wheel. He was a rather pleasant-faced fellow, yellow as saffron, with rings in his ears, and a wide mouth perpetually grinning.
"Massa Fairfax he say you real sailorman," he began, looking me over carefully, with a nod of his head toward the group at the rail. "Dat so?"
"Yes; I have been a number of years at sea."
"Dat what he say; dat he done bought yer fer dat reason mostly. Ah reckon den ye kin steer dis boat?"
"I certainly can."
"So? Den Ah's sure goin' fer ter let yer try right now. Yer take hol', while Ah stand by a bit."
I took his place, grasping the spokes firmly, and he stood aside, watching every movement closely, as I held the speeding sloop steadily up to the wind, the spray pouring in over the dipping rail forward. The grin on his lips broadened.
"What is the course?" I asked curiously.
"'Cross ter dat point yonder—see, whar de lone tree stan's; we done 'round dat 'bout tree hunder' yards out, an' then go straight 'way north."
"You use no chart?"
He burst into a guffaw, as though the question was a rare joke.
"No, sah; I nebber done saw one."
"But surely you must steer by compass?"
"Dar is a little one somewhar on board, and Ah done ain't seed it fer mor 'n a yare, Ah reckon. 'Tain't no use enyhow. Whut we steer by is landmarks. Ah sure does know de Chesapeake. Yer ever bin up de Bay?"
"Yes, twice, but out in the deep water. I suppose you hug along the west shore. How is the sloop—pretty heavily loaded?"
He nodded, still grinning cheerfully over the ease with which I manipulated the wheel.
"Chuck full ter de water line; we've done been shovin' things inter dat hold fer a week past, but she's sure a good sailor. Whut wus it Massa Roger say yer name wus?"
"So he did; don't ever recollect hearin' dat name afore. Ye's one of dem rebels ober in England?"
"I got mixed up in the affair."
"An' whut dey done give yer?"
"My sentence, you mean—twenty years."
"Lordy! dat's sure tough. Well, I reckon yer done know yer job all right, so I'll just leave yer here awhile, an' go forrard an' git a snack. Ain't eat nuthin' fer quite a spell. Ah'll be back afore yer 'round de point yonder."
I was alone at the wheel, the sloop in my control, and somehow as I stood there, grasping those spokes, the swift boat leaping forward through the water, leaning recklessly over before the force of the wind, the numbing sense of helpless servitude left me in a new return of manhood and responsibility. It was a scene of exhilaration, the sun, still partially obscured by misty clouds already well down in the western sky, with the tossing waves of the Bay foam-crested. The distant headlands appeared spectral and gray through the vapor, while the waters beyond took on the tint of purple shadows. The Adele responded to the helm gallantly, the spreading canvas above standing out like a board, a broad wake of white foam spreading far astern. Not another sail appeared across that troubled surface of waters, not even a fisherman's boat, the only other vessel visible along our course being a dim outline close in against that far-away headland toward which I had been instructed to steer. I stared at this indistinct object, at first believing it a wreck, but finally distinguishing the bare masts of a medium-sized bark, evidently riding at anchor only a few hundred yards off shore.
Satisfied as to this, my glance shifted to our own decks, feeling a seaman's admiration for the cleanliness of the little vessel, and the shipshape condition of everything aboard. The decks had more the appearance of a pleasure yacht, than that of a cargo carrier, although the broad beam, and commodious hatches bespoke ample storage room below. Apparently all this hold space had been reserved for the transportation of goods, the passenger quarters being forward, with the cook's galley at the foot of the mast. Where the crew slept I was unable to discern, but they were few in number, and as Sam had disappeared up a short ladder, and then across the roof of the cabin, it was highly probable there would be a compact forecastle nestled between the bows. The blacker negro was busily engaged in the galley, his figure occasionally visible at the open door, and a column of black smoke poured out through the tin funnel. The deck planks were scrubbed white, and the hand-rails had been polished until they shone.
The three passengers still remained seated together, the men conversing, and occasionally pointing forth at some object across the water, but, while I watched the little group, the girl made no movement, nor attempt at speech. None of them even so much as glanced toward me, and I felt that, already, I had been dismissed from their thought, had been relegated to my proper position, had sunken to my future place as a mere servant. Finally Mistress Dorothy arose to her feet, and, with a brief word of explanation to her uncle, started forward in the direction of the cabin. A sudden leap of the boat caused her to clutch the rail, and instantly Sanchez was at her side, proffering assistance. They crossed the dancing deck together, his hand upon her arm, and paused for a moment at the door to exchange a few sentences. When the Spaniard came back he pointed out to Fairfax the position of the still distant bark, which however was by this time plainly revealed off our port quarter. The planter stood up in order to see better, and then the two crossed the deck to a position only a few yards from where I stood at the wheel, and remained there, staring out across the intervening water.
"Surely a strange place in which to anchor, Lieutenant," said Fairfax at last, breaking the silence, his hand shading his eyes. "Bark rigged, and very heavily sparred. Seems to be all right. What do you make of the vessel?"
The Spaniard twisted his moustache, but exhibited little interest, although his gaze was upon the craft.
"Decidedly Dutch I should say," he answered slowly, "to judge from the shape of her lines, and the size of her spars. The beggars seem quite at home there, with all their washing out. Not a usual anchorage?"
"No, nor a particularly safe one. There are some very heavy seas off that point at times, and there is no plantation near by. Travers' place is beyond the bend. We'll put up with him tonight; he owns that land yonder, but his wharf is several miles up the coast. Damn me, Sanchez, I believe I 'll hail the fellow, and find out what he is doing in there."
Sanchez nodded, carelessly striking flint and steel in an effort to relight a cheroot, and Fairfax turned his head toward me.
"Oh, is that you, Carlyle? Where is Sam?"
"Gone forward, sir, half an hour ago. He decided I was safe."
The planter laughed, with a side glance toward Sanchez, who gave no sign that he overhead.
"No doubt he was right. Port your helm a little, and run down as close as seems safe to that fellow out yonder, until I hail him."
"Very well, sir."
We came about slowly, tossed a bit by the heavy swell, the ponderous boom swinging, and permitting the loosened canvas to flap against the ropes, until the sloop finally steadied onto the new tack. The distance to be covered was not great, and in less than ten minutes, we were drawing in toward the high stern of the anchored vessel. She was larger than I had thought, a lumping craft for those days, bark rigged, with lower spars the heaviest I had ever seen. No evidence of life appeared on board, although everything looked shipshape alow and aloft, and a rather extensive wash flapped in the wind forward, bespeaking a generous crew. There was no flag at the mizzen to signify nationality, yet there was a peculiar touch to the rig which confirmed in my mind the truth of Sanchez's guess that she was originally Dutch. A moment later this supposition was confirmed as my eyes made out the name painted across the stern—NAMUR OF ROTTERDAM.
Fairfax leaned far out across the rail, as we swept in closer, his eyes searching the stranger's side for some evidence of human presence aboard, but the Spaniard exhibited no particular interest in the proceedings, standing motionless, the smoke of the cheroot blown idly from his mouth, The fellow's face was turned from me, yet I could not help note the insolence of his attitude, in spite of my occupation at the wheel. A hundred feet distant, I held the dancing sloop to mere steerage-way, while Fairfax hailed in a voice which went roaring across the water like a gun.
"Ahoy, the bark!"
A red-faced man with a black beard thrust his head up above the after rail, and answered, using English, yet with a faint accent which was not Dutch. What he looked like below the shoulders could not be discerned.
"Veil, vat's vanted? Vos anyding wrong?"
"No, not aboard here," returned Fairfax, a bit puzzled at the reply, "We ran down to see if you were in any trouble. This is a strange place to anchor. What are you—Dutch?"
The fellow waved his hands in a gesture indicating disgust. "Dat's eet. Ve're out ov Rotterdam—you see ze name ov ze sheep. But ve not sail frum thar dis time—no. Ve cum here from ze Barbadoes," he explained brokenly "wiz cane-sugar, an' hides. Ve vait here for our agent."
"But why anchor in a place like this? Why not go on up to the wharfs?"
"Vye not? For ziz—I no trust my crew ashore. Zay Vest Indy niggers, an' vud run avay ven ze chance cum. I know vat zay do."
In spite of my efforts the two vessels were drifting rapidly apart, and this last explanation came to us over the water in a faint thread of sound barely discernible. I asked if I should tack back, but Fairfax shook his head, and in a moment more we were beyond reach of the voice. Dorothy appeared at the door of the cabin and stood there, gazing in surprise at the bark, while the moment he caught sight of her Sanchez went hastily forward, removing his hat with so peculiar a flourish as he approached as to cause me to notice the gesture. Fairfax remained beside the rail, staring out across the widening water, clearly dissatisfied, but finally waved his hand in a command to me to resume our course. Shortly after he crossed the deck to the wheel, and stood there beside me, still watchful of the dwindling vessel already far astern.
"What do you make of her, Carlyle?" he asked finally, turning slightly to glance at my face. "I believe that fellow lied."
"So do I, sir," I answered promptly. "Whatever else he may be, he's no peaceful Dutch trader. The bark is Dutch built all right, and no doubt once sailed out of Rotterdam; but that fellow got his accent from South Europe."
"Damn me, that's just what I thought."
"Nor is that all, sir. If he was loaded with cane-sugar and hides for market, he wouldn't be nearly so high out of water. That bark was in ballast, or I miss my guess. Besides, if he was a trader, where was his crew? There wasn't a single head popped over the rail while we were alongside; and that isn't natural. Even a West India nigger has curiosity. I tell you the men on board that hooker had orders to keep down."
Fairfax stroked his chin, his eyes shifting from the distant vessel to Dorothy and Sanchez who were now making their way slowly aft, the latter grasping the girl's arm, and smirking as he talked rapidly.
"By God! but I believe you are right," he admitted frankly, "although it had not occurred to me before. There is something wrong there. I'll tell Travers, and have him send a runner overland to give warning below."
FAIRFAX SPEAKS WITH ME
Sanchez drew a chair into the slight shade cast by the mainsail, and induced his reluctant companion to sit down. He remained bending over her, with his back turned toward us chattering away, although she only answered in monosyllables, seldom glancing up into his face. With hands gripping the spokes of the wheel, and my attention concentrated on the course ahead, I could yet notice how closely Fairfax was observing the two, with no pleasant expression in his eyes, and, forgetful that I was merely a servant, I ventured a question.
"You have known Senor Sanchez for some time, sir?"
He started in surprise, yet answered as though the unexpected query had been merely an echo of his own thoughts.
"No," he admitted frankly. "Indeed I hardly know how it happened that I invited him to join our party. It seemed natural enough then, but lately I confess to having taken a dislike to the fellow, and have begun to imagine that he even pushed his way on me. But," he stopped, suddenly realizing what he was saying, "why do you ask?"
I was not wholly prepared to say, yet as instantly comprehended the prompt necessity of advancing some reasonable explanation. There came to me swiftly, from the sharpness of his question, the paralyzing knowledge that I was a servant addressing my master.