List Of Contents | Contents of Black Bartlemy's Treasure by Jeffrey
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but he stayed not till he was come within striking distance, yet
was he sore wounded and so weak withal that he was fain to rest
him awhile.  And ever his impassive eyes looked up into mine the
while I nerved myself to meet the blow unflinching (an it might
be so).  Once more he raised himself, his arm lifted slowly, the
dagger gleamed and fell, its keen edge severing the cords that
bound me, and with a sudden effort I broke free and stood staring
down into those impassive eyes as one in a dream.  Then, lifting
a feeble hand, he pointed to the tattered sails of the English
ship hard by, and so, resting his head upon his arm as one that
is very weary, he sighed; and with the sigh I think the life
passed out of him.

Turning, I was upon the quarter-railing in a single leap, and,
without a glance at the red havoc behind me, I plunged over and

The sharp sting of the brine struck me like a myriad needle-
points, but the sweet cool of the waters was wondrous grateful to
my sun-scorched body as, coming to the surface, I struck out for
the English ship though sore hampered by my chain.

Presently coming beneath her lofty stern I found hanging
therefrom a tangle of ropes and cordage whereby I contrived to
clamber aboard, and so beheld a man in a red seaman's bonnet who
sat upon the wreckage of one of the quarter guns tying up a
splinter-gash in his arm with hand and teeth; perceiving me he
rolled a pair of blue eyes up at me and nodded:

"Welcome aboard, lad!" says he, having knotted the bandage to his
liking.  "Be ye one as can understand good English?"

"Aye!," says I, nodding.

"Why then bear witness as I be a patient soul and marciful.  Be
witness as I held my fire so long as any marciful soul might by
token that I knew what a broadside can do among crowded rowing-
benches--having rowed aboard one o' they Spanish hells afore now
--so I held my fire till yon devil's craft came nigh cutting me
asunder--and marcy hath its limits.  Timothy Spence o' the
"Tiger", master, is me, homeward bound for the Port of London,
and by this fight am short five good men.  But you're a proper
big 'un.  Go for'ard to the bo'sun, you shall know him by reason
that he lacketh his starboard yere.  Ask him for clothes to cover
thy nakedness, lad, and--Oho, there goeth yon devil's craft--!" 
Turning as he spoke I saw the sharp bows of the "Esmeralda" lift
and lift, high and higher, and, with a long-drawn gurgling roar,
the great galleass plunged down stern foremost, burying her shame
and misery from the eyes of man for evermore.

Thus then I sailed with Master Timothy Spence aboard the "Tiger,"
a free man after five years of anguish.



It was a night of tempest with rain and wind, a great wild wind
that shouted mightily near and far, filling the world with
halloo; while, ever and anon, thunder crashed and lightning
flamed athwart the muddy road that wound steeply up betwixt
grassy banks topped by swaying trees.  Broken twigs, whirling
down the wind, smote me in the dark, fallen branches reached out
arms that grappled me unseen, but I held on steadfastly, since
every stride carried me nearer to vengeance, that vengeance for
the which I prayed and lived.  So with bared head lifted exulting
to the tempest and grasping the stout hedge-stake that served me
for staff, I climbed the long ascent of Pembury Hill.

Reaching the summit at last I must needs stay awhile to catch my
breath and shelter me as well as I might 'neath the weather bank,
for upon this eminence the rain lashed and the wind smote me with
a fury redoubled.

And now, as I stood amid that howling darkness, my back propped
by the bank, my face lifted to the tempest, I was aware of a
strange sound, very shrill and fitful, that reached me 'twixt the
booming wind-gusts, a sound that came and went, now loud and
clear, anon faint and remote, and I wondered what it might be. 
Then the rushing dark was split asunder by a jagged lightning-
flash, and I saw.  Stark against the glare rose black shaft and
crossbeam, wherefrom swung a creaking shape of rusty chains and
iron bands that held together something shrivelled and black and
wet with rain, a grisly thing that leapt on the buffeting wind,
that strove and jerked as it would fain break free and hurl
itself down upon me.

Now hearkening to the dismal creak of this chained thing, I fell
to meditation.  This awful shape (thought I) had been a man once,
hale and strong,--even as I, but this man had contravened the law
(even as I purposed to do) and he had died a rogue's death and so
hung, rotting, in his chains, even as this my own body might do
some day.  And, hearkening to the shrill wail of his fetters, my
flesh crept with loathing and I shivered.  But the fit passed,
and in my vain pride I smote my staff into the mud at my feet and
vowed within myself that nought should baulk me of my just
vengeance, come what might; as my father had suffered death
untimely and hard, so should die the enemy of my race; for the
anguish he had made me endure so should he know anguish.  I
bethought me how long and deadly had been this feud of ours,
handed down from one generation to another, a dark, blood-
smirched record of bitter wrongs bitterly avenged.  "To hate like
a Brandon and revenge like a Conisby!"  This had been a saying in
our south country upon a time; and now--he was the last of his
race as I was the last of mine, and I had come back out of hell
that this saying might be fulfilled.  Soon--ha, yes, in a few
short hours the feud should be ended once and for all and the
house of Conisby avenged to the uttermost.  Thinking thus, I
heeded no more the raving tempest around me until, roused by the
plunge and rattle of the gibbet-chains, I raised my head and
shaking my staff up at that black and shrivelled thing, I laughed
loud and fierce, and, even as I did so, there leapt a great blaze
of crackling flame and thereafter a thunder-clap that seemed to
shake the very earth and smite the roaring wind to awed silence;
and in this silence, I heard a whisper:

"O mercy of God!"

Somewhere in the darkness hard by a woman had cried. 
Instinctively I turned thitherward, searching the night vainly
until the lightning flared again and I beheld a cloaked and
hooded figure huddled miserably against the bank of the road,
and, as darkness came, I spoke:

"Woman, doth the gibbet fright you, or is't I?  If 'tis the
gibbet go hence, if 'tis I rest assured."

"Who are you?" said a breathless voice.

"One of no more account than the poor thing that danceth aloft in
his chains and for you as harmless."

And now she was beside me, a dark, wind-blown shape, and above
the howling tempest her voice reached me in passionate pleading:

"Sir--sir, will you aid one in sore danger and distress?"

"Yourself?" I questioned.

"Nay--indeed nay," she panted, "'tis Marjorie, my poor, poor
brave Marjorie.  They stopped my coach--drunken men.  I know not
what came of Gregory and I leapt out and escaped them in the
dark, but Marjorie--they carried her off--there is a light down
the lane yonder.  I followed and saw--O sir, you will save
Marjorie--you are a man--"

A hand was upon my ragged sleeve, a hand that gripped and shook
at me in desperate supplication--"You will save her from--from
worse than death?  Speak--speak!"

"Lead on!" quoth I, answering this compelling voice.  The griping
fingers slipped down and clasped my hand in the dark, and with
never another word she led me away unseeing and unseen until we
came where we were more sheltered from rain and wind; and now I
took occasion to notice that the hand that gripped mine so
masterfully was small and soft, so that what with this and her
voice and speech I judged her one of condition.  But my curiosity
went no further nor did I question her, for in my world was no
place for women.  So she led me on at haste despite the dark--
like one that was sure of her whereabouts--until I suddenly
espied a dim light that shone out from the open lattice of what I
judged to be a small hedge-tavern.  Here my companion halted
suddenly and pointed to the light.

"Go!" she whispered.  "Go--nay, first take this!" and she thrust
a small pistol into my hand.  "Haste!" she panted, "O haste--and
I do pray God shield and bless you."  Then with never a word I
left her and strode towards the beam of light.

Being come nigh the casement I paused to cock the weapon and to
glance at the priming, then, creeping to the open lattice, I
looked into the room.

Three men scowled at each other across a table--desperate-looking
fellows, scarred and ill-featured, with clothes that smacked of
the sea; behind them in a corner crouched a maid, comely of
seeming but pallid of cheek and with cloak torn by rough hands,
and, as she crouched, her wide eyes stared at the dice-box that
one of the men was shaking vigorously--a tall, hairy fellow this,
with great rings in his ears; thus stood he rattling the dice and
smiling while his companions cursed him hoarsely.

With a twist of the hand the hairy man made his throw, and as the
three evil heads stooped above the dice, I clambered through the
window, levelled pistol in one hand, heavy staff in the other.

"What d'ye set?" quoth I.  The three sprang apart and stared at
me quite chapfallen.

"What's to do?" growled one.

"First your barking-irons--lay them here on the table and quick's
the word!"  One after another they drew the weapons from their
belts, and one by one I tossed them through the window.

"What!" quoth one, a lank rogue with a patch over one eye and
winking the other jovial-wise, "How now, mate o' mine, shall dog
bite dog then?"

"Aye," says I, "and with a will!"

"Nay, nay, shipmate," quoth another, a plump, small man with
round, bright eyes and but one ear, "easy now--easy.  We be three
lorn mariners d'ye see--jolly dogs, bully boys, shipmate--a
little fun wi' a pretty lass--nought to harm d'ye see, sink me! 
Join us and welcome, says I, share and share alike O!"

"Aye, I'll join you," quoth I, "but first--you wi' the rings--
open the door!"  Here the hairy fellow growled an oath and
reached for an empty tankard, and thereupon got the end of my
staff driven shrewdly into his midriff so that he sank to the
floor and lay gasping.

"Nay now, shipmate," quoth the plump man in wheedling tone but
round eyes snapping, "here's lubberly manners, sink and scuttle

"Open the door!" says I.

"Heartily--heartily!" says he, his eye upon my cudgel, and edging
to the door, drew the bolts and set it wide.

"Woman," quoth I, "run!"

With never a word the maid sprang erect, caught her torn cloak
about her and, speeding across the room, was gone; whereupon the
lank fellow sat him down and fell a-cursing viciously in Spanish
and English, the plump man clicked his teeth and grinned, while
'Rings,' leaning against the wall, clasped his belly and groaned.

"Well so, my bully roarer, and what now?" demanded the plump man,

"Why now," says I, "'twas share and share alike, I mind--"

"Aye, but she's off, slipped her moorings d'ye see, my good lad,
and be damned t' ye wi' all my heart," said the little plump man,
smiling, but with the devil peeping through his narrowed lids.

"Look'ee," says I, laying a groat upon the table, "there's my
all--come turn out your pockets--"

"Pockets!" murmured the plump man, "Lord love me, what's this? 
Here's us cheated of a bit of daintiness, here's Abner wi' all
the wind knocked out o' him and now here's you for thieving and
robbing three poor lorn sailor-men as never raised hand agin ye--
shame, shipmate."

"Od rot your bones!" snarled the one-eyed man and spat towards
me, whereat I raised my staff and he, lifting an arm, took the
blow on his elbow-joint and writhed, cursing; but while I laughed
at the fellow's contortions, the plump man sprang (marvellous
nimble) and dashed out the light and, as I stepped from before
the window, I heard the lattice go with a crash of glass. 
Followed a long, tense moment wherein we all (as I judge) held
our breath, for though the storm yet roared beyond the shattered
casement, within was a comparative quiet.  Thus, as I stood in
the dark listening for some rustle, some stealthy creeping step
to guide my next blow, I thrust away my pistol and changing my
staff to my right hand, drew forth the broad-bladed sailor's
knife I carried, and so waited mighty eager and alert, but heard
only the far-off booming of the wind.  Then a floorboard creaked
faintly to my left, and turning short, I whirled my staff, felt
it strike home and heard a fierce cry and the uneven tread of
staggering feet.

"Fight, rogues!" cried I.  "Here's meat and drink to me--fight!"
and setting my back to the wall I waited for their rush.  Instead
I heard a hoarse whispering, lost all at once in a woman's shrill
scream out beyond the casement, and thereafter a loud voice that

"House ho!  House ahoy!  Light ho!  Show a glim, ye drunken
dogs!" and here followed a rush of roaring sea-oaths, drowned in
a scream, louder, wilder than before.  Then, while this
distressful cry yet thrilled upon the air, pandemonium broke
loose about me, shouts, cries and a rush and trample of feet; the
table went over with a crash and the darkness about me rained
blows.  But as they struck random and fierce, so struck I and (as
I do think) made right goodly play with my hedge-stake until,
caught by a chance blow, I staggered, tripped and, falling
headlong, found myself rolling upon sodden grass outside the
shattered window.  For a moment I lay half-dazed and found in the
wind and rain vasty comfort and refreshment.

Then in the pitchy gloom hard by I heard that which brought me to
my feet--an evil scuffling, a close and desperate struggling--a
man's hoarse laugh and a woman's pitiful pleading and sobbing.  I
had lost my staff, but I yet grasped my knife, and with this held
point upwards and my left hand outstretched before me, I crept
forward guided by these sounds.  My fingers came upon hair, a
woman's long, soft tresses, and I remember marvelling at the
silky feel of them; from these my hand slipped to her waist and
found there an arm that grasped her close, then, drawing back my
hand, I smote with my knife well beneath this arm and drove in
the stout blade twice.  The fellow grunted and, loosing the maid,
leapt full at me, but I met him with clenched fist and he went
down headlong, and I, crouched above him and feeling him struggle
to his knees, kicked him back into the mud and thereafter leapt
on him with both feet as I had been wont to do when fighting my
fellow-slaves in some lazarette; then, seeing he stirred no more,
I left him, doubting nothing I had done his business.  Yet as I
went I felt myself shiver, for though I had been compelled to
fight the naked wretches who had been my fellow-slaves, I had
killed no man as yet.

Thus as I went, chancing to stumble against a tree, I leaned
there awhile; and now remembering those two blows under the
armpit, what with this stabbing and my fall and lack of food, for

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