List Of Contents | Contents of Black Bartlemy's Treasure by Jeffrey
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Now at this she turns to look at me and I saw their lips quiver
to a little smile that came but to vanish again.

"Something your sort, Martin, but without your gloom and evil
tempers and one who could laugh betimes."

"Sir Rupert?" quoth I.

"He was very gay and merry-hearted!" says she.

"Yet suffered you to be beguiled and cast adrift to your great

"But stayed to do his share of the fighting, Martin."

"Ha!" says I scowling, "'Tis great pity we may not change places,
he and I!"

"Would you change places with him--willingly, Martin?"

"Aye--I would so!"  At this she whipped her hand from my arm and
turned to frown up at me whiles I scowled sullenly on her.

"Why then, Master Conisby," says she, "I would you were anywhere
but here.  And know this--when you scowl so, all sullen-eyed, I
know you for the very image of Black Bartlemy!"

Now as she spake thus, we were standing almost in the very shadow
of that tall pimento tree beneath which Bartlemy had laughed and
died, and now from this gloomy shadow came something that whirred
by my ear and was gone.  But in that moment I had swept my
companion behind a rock and with sword advanced leapt straight
for the tree; and there, in the half-light, came on a fantastic
shape and closed with it in deadly grapple.  My rusty sword had
snapped short at the first onset, yet twice I smote with the
broken blade, while arm locked with arm we writhed and twisted. 
To and fro we staggered and so out into the moonlight, and I saw
my opponent for an Indian.  His long hair was bound by a fillet
that bore a feather, a feather cloak was about him, this much I
saw as we strove together.  Twice he broke my hold and twice I
grappled him, and ever we strove more fiercely, he with his knife
and I with my broken sword, and once I felt the searing pain of a
wound.  And now as we swayed, locked together thus, I saw, over
his bowed shoulder, my lady where she crouched against a rock to
watch us, and knowing myself hurt and my opponent very mighty and
strong, great fear seized me.

"Run, Joan!" cried I, gasping, "O Damaris--run back!"

"Never, Martin--never without you.  If you must die--I come with

Mightily heartened by her voice I strove desperately to secure
the hold I sought, but my antagonist was supple as any eel,
moreover his skin was greased after the manner of Indian
warriors, but in our struggling we had come nigh to the rock
where crouched my lady and, biding my time, I let go my broken
sword, and seizing him by a sort of collar he wore, I whirled him
backward against the rock, saw his knife fly from his hold at the
impact, felt his body relax and grow limp, and then, as my grasp
loosened, staggered back from a blow of his knee and saw him leap
for the lagoon.  But I (being greatly minded to make an end of
him and for good reasons) set after him hot-foot and so came
running hard behind him to the reef; here, the way being
difficult, I must needs slack my pace, but he, surer footed, ran
fleetly enough until he was gotten well-nigh to the middle of the
reef, there for a moment he paused and, looking back on me where
I held on in pursuit, I saw his dark face darker for a great
splash of blood; suddenly he raised one hand aloft, shaking it to
and fro, and so vanished down the rocks.  When I came there it
was to behold him paddling away in a long piragua.  Panting I
stood to watch (and yearning for a bow or firelock) until his
boat was hardly to be seen amid the moonlit ripples that furrowed
the placid waters, yet still I watched, but feeling at hand touch
me, turned to find my lady beside me.

"Martin," says she, looking up at me great-eyed, "O Martin, you
are wounded!  Come let me cherish your hurts!"

"Why, Damaris," says I, yet panting with my running, "You said
this to me when I fought the big village boy years agone."

"Come, Martin, you are bleeding--"

"Nought to matter...and I let him bring others like I will make my bow...nay...I can walk."  But
now indeed sea and rocks grew all blurred and misty on my sight,
and twice I must needs rest awhile ere we came on Deliverance
Sands.  And so homewards, a weary journey whereof I remember
nothing save that I fell a-grieving that I had suffered this
Indian to escape.

So came we to the plateau at last, her arm about me and mine upon
her shoulders; and, angered at my weakness, I strove to go alone
yet reeled in my gait like a drunken man, and so suffered her to
get me into our cave as she would.  Being upon my bed she brings
the lamp, and kneeling by me would examine my hurt whether I
would or no, and I being weak, off came my shirt.  And then I
heard her give a little, gasping cry.

"Is it so bad?" says I, finding my tongue more unready than

"Nay, 'tis not--not your--wound, Martin.

"Then what?"

"Your poor back--all these cruel scars!  O Martin!"

"Nought but the lash!  They whipped us well aboard the
'Esmeralda' galleass."  In a while I was aware of her soft,
gentle hands as she bathed me with water cool from the spring;
thereafter she made a compress of moss and leaves, and laying it
to my wound bound it there as well as she might, the which I
found very grateful and comforting.  This done she sits close
beside me to hush and soothe me to sleep as I had been a sick
child.  And I, lying 'twixt sleep and wake, knew I might not rest
until I told her what I had in mind.

"Damaris," says I, "this night I lied to you...I would not have
another man in my or...ever!" and so sank to sleep.



Next day I awoke early and my wound very painful and troublesome;
this notwithstanding, I presently got me out into the early
sunshine and, to my wonder, found the fire already lighted and no
sign of my companion.  Hereupon I fell to shouting and hallooing,
but getting no answer, sat me down mighty doleful, and seeing her
stool where it stood straddled on its three legs I cursed it for
its unsightliness and turned my back on it.  And now crouched in
the sunlight I grew mightily sorry for myself thus solitary and
deserted, and the hurt in my shoulder all on fire.  And in a
little, my self-love gave place to a fretful unease so that I
must needs shout her name again and again, listening for sound of
her voice, for some rustle to tell me she was nigh, but heard
only the faint booming of the surf.  So I arose and (albeit I
found my legs mighty unwilling) came out upon the plateau, but
look how and where I might, saw only a desolation of sea and
beach, whereupon, being greatly disquieted, I set out minded to
seek her.  By the time I reached Deliverance the sun was well up,
its heat causing my wound to throb and itch intolerably, and I
very fretful and peevish.  But as I tramped on and no trace of
her I needs must remember how I had sought her hereabouts when I
had thought her dead, whereupon a great and unreasoning panic
seized me, and I began to run.  And then, all at once, I spied
her.  She was sitting upon a rock, her head bowed wearily upon
her hands, and seeing how her shoulders heaved I knew she was
bitterly a-weeping.  Therefore I stopped, and glancing from her
desolate figure round about upon her desolate surroundings, knew
this grim solitude for the reason of her tears.  At this thought
a wave of hot anger swept over me and a rage that, like my panic,
reasoned not as, clenching my fists, I strode on.  Suddenly she
looked up and seeing me, rose at once, and lifting the great
turtle-shell limped wearily towards me with this borne before

"Ha," says I, viewing her tear-wet cheeks as she came, "must ye
weep, madam, must ye weep?"

"May I not weep, Martin?" says she, head pitifully a-droop. 
"Come, let us go back, you look very pale, 'twas wrong of you to
come so far!  Here is our breakfast, 'tis the best I can find." 
And she showed me a few poor shellfish.

"Give me the turtle-shell!" says I.

"Indeed I can bear it very easily, Martin.  And you so white and
haggard--your wound is troubling you.  Come, let me bathe it--"

"Give me the turtle-shell!"

"No, Martin, be wise and let us--"

"Will you gainsay me--d'ye defy me?"

"O Martin, no, but you are so weak--"

"Weak!  Am I so?"  And stooping, I caught her up in my arms,
upsetting the turtle-shell and spilling the result of her
labours.  So with her crushed to me I turned and set off along
the beach, and she, lying thus helpless, must needs fall to
weeping again and I, in my selfish and blind folly, to plaguing
the sweet soul therewith, as:

"England is far away, my Lady Joan!  Here be no courtly swains,
no perfumed, mincing lovers, to sigh and bow and languish for
you.  Here is Solitude, lady.  Desolation hath you fast and is
not like to let you go--here mayhap shall you live--and die!  An
ill place this and, like nature, strong and cruel.  An ill place
and an ill rogue for company.  You named me rogue once and rogue
forsooth you find me.  England is far away--but God--is

Thus I babbled, scowling down on her, as I bore her on until my
breath came in great gasps, until the sweat poured from me, until
I sank to my knees and striving to rise found I might not, and
glaring wildly up saw we were come 'neath Bartlemy's cursed
pimento tree.  Then she, loosing herself from my fainting arms,
bent down to push the matted hair from my eyes, to support my
failing strength in tender arms, and to lower my heavy head to
her knee.

"Foolish child!" she murmured, "Poor, foolish child!  England is
very far I know, but this I know also, Martin, God is all about
us, and here in our loneliness within these great solitudes doth
walk beside us."

"Yet you weep!" says I.

"Aye, I did, Martin."

"Because--of the--loneliness?"

"No, Martin."

"Your--lost friends?"

"No, Martin."


"O trouble not for thing so small, a woman's tears come easily,
they say."

"Not yours, Joan.  Yet you wept--"

"Your wound bleeds afresh, lie you there and stir not till I
bring water to bathe it."  And away she hastes and I, burning in
a fever of doubt and questioning, must needs lie there and watch
her bring the turtle-shell to fill it at the little rill that
bubbled in that rocky cleft as I have described before.  While
this was a-doing I stared up at the pimento tree, and bethinking
me of Black Bartlemy and the poor Spanish lady and of my hateful
dream, I felt sudden great shame, for here had I crushed my lady
in arms as cruel well-nigh as his.  This put me to such remorse
that I might not lie still and strove to rise up, yet got no
further than my knees; and 'twas thus she found me.  And now when
I would have sued her forgiveness for my roughness she soothed me
with gentle words (though what she spake I knew not) and gave me
to drink, and so fell to cherishing my hurt until, my strength
coming back somewhat, I got to my feet and suffered her to bring
me where she would, speaking no word, since in my fevered brain I
was asking myself this question, viz.,

"Why must she weep?"

Now whether the Indian's knife was poisoned or no I cannot say,
but for two days I lay direly sick and scarce able to crawl,
conscious only of the soothing tones of her voice and touch of
her hands.  But upon the third day, opening my eyes I found
myself greatly better though marvellous weak.  And as I stirred
she was beside me on her knees.

"Drink this, Martin!" says she.  And I obeying, found it was
excellent broth.  And when I had drunk all I closed my eyes
mighty content, and so lay a while.

"My Lady Joan," says I at last, "wherefore did you weep?"

"O Martin!" she sighed, "'Twas because that morning I had sought
so long and found so little to give you and you so sick!"  Here
was silence a while.

"But whence cometh the broth?" quoth I at last.

"I caught a young goat, Martin; in a noose of hide set among the
rocks; and then--then I had to kill it--O Martin!"

"You--caught and--killed a goat!"

"Yes, Martin.  You had to be fed--but O, the poor thing--!"

"Surely," said I at last, "O surely never had man so brave a
comrade as I!  How may I ever show you all my gratitude?"

"By going to sleep, Martin.  "Your wound is well-nigh healed,
sleep is all you need."  And sleep I did; though at that time and
for many nights to come my slumber was haunted by a fear that the
Indian was back again, and others with him, all stealing upon us
to our torment and destruction.  But in this night I awoke
parched with thirst and the night very hot and with the moon
making pale glory all about me.  So I got to my feet, albeit with
much ado, being yet very feeble when her voice reached me:

"What is it, Martin?  Are you thirsty?"

"Beyond enduring!" says I.

"Bide you still!" she commanded, and next moment she flits soft-
footed into the moonlight with one of our larger shells to bring
me water from the rill near by; but seeing me on my feet, looks
on me glad-eyed, then shakes reproving head.

"Lie you down!" says she mighty serious, "Lie you down!"

"Nay, I'll go myself--"  But she was past me and out of the cave
or ever I might stay her; but scarce had I seated myself upon my
bed than she was back again, the shell brimming in her hands; so
I drank eagerly enough but with my gaze on the sheen of white,
rounded arm and dimpled shoulder.  Having emptied the shell I
stooped to set it by, and when I looked again she had vanished
into her own small cave.

"I am glad you are so greatly better, Martin," says she from the

"Indeed, I am well again!" quoth I.  "To-morrow I make my bow and
arrows.  Had I done this before, the Indian should never have got

"Think you he will return and with others, Martin?"

"No," says I (albeit my mind misgave me).  "Yet 'tis best to be
prepared, so I will have a good stout pike also in place of my
broken sword."

"And strengthen our door, Martin?"

"Aye, I will so, 'tis a mighty stout door, thank God."

"Thank God!" says she mighty reverent.  "And now go to sleep,
Martin."  So here was silence wherein I could hear the murmur of
the breakers afar and the soft bubbling of the rill hard by, and
yet sleep I could not.

"And you caught and killed a goat!" says I.

"Nay, Martin, 'tis a horror I would forget."

"And you did it that I might eat?"

"Yes, Martin.  And now hush thee."

"Though indeed," says I in a little, "thus much you would have
done for any man, to be sure!"

"To be sure, Martin--unless he were man like Black Bartlemy. 
Good-night and close your eyes.  Are they shut?"

"Yes," says I.  "Good-night to thee, comrade."



Next morning, having bathed me in the pool, I descended thence to
find breakfast a-cooking, two noble steaks propped before the
fire on skewers stuck upright in the ground, a device methought
very ingenious, and told her so; the which did seem to please her

"Are you hungry, Martin?"

"'Tis a poor word for it!" says I, sniffing at the roasting

"Alas!  Our poor turtle-shell is all perished with the fire. 
Martin, if you could but contrive me a pan with handles!  I have

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: