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

I in divers other places, which done I returned to my labours on
the mast.  At the which occupation my lady, finding me, must
needs fall to work beside me, aiding as well as she might like
the true comrade she was.

Thus by late afternoon I had coiled and stowed safely away more
good hempen rope and cordage than I could ever want.  This
accomplished I found time to praise my companion's diligence; but
finding her all wearied out with such rough and arduous labour,
grew mighty vexed with my heedlessness, reproaching myself
therewith; but she (and all toilworn as she was) laughed her
weariness to scorn, as was ever her way:

"Why, Martin," says she, "labour is a good thing and noble since
it giveth health and strength to both mind and body.  And 'tis my
joy to share in your labours when I may and a delight to see how,
cast here destitute of all things, you have contrived so much
already.  The more I work and the harder, the more able am I for
work, so trouble not if I do grow a little weary sometimes!" 
This comforted me somewhat until, chancing to see her hands, I
caught them in mine and turning them saw these tender palms all
red and blistered with the ropes; and grieving over them I would
have kissed the poor little things had I dared (and indeed came
mighty nigh doing it) as she perceived, I think, for she flushed
and laughed and drew them from my hold.

"Nay, Martin," says she softly.  "I would have you forget my sex

"'Twere a thing impossible!" says I, whereat she, stealing a
glance at me, flushed all the hotter.

"Why then," says she, "You must not coddle and cosset me because
I am a woman--"

"Never, quoth I, "'tis not my nature to do so."

"And yet you do, Martin."

"As how?"

"O in many ways--these blisters now, why should your hands grow
rough and hard and not mine?  Nature hath formed me woman but
Fate hath made me your comrade, Martin.  And how may I be truly
your comrade except I share your toil?"

Now when I would have answered I could not, and turning from her
to stare away across the limitless ocean saw it a-gleam through a
mist as it were.

"Surely," says I at last, "O surely never had man so sweet and
true a comrade!  And I so rude and unlovely--and in all ways so

"But you are not, Martin, you are not!"

"Aye, but I am--beyond your guessing, you that are so pure, so

"Saintly?  O Martin!" and here she laughs albeit a little
tremulously.  "Surely I am a very human saint, for I do grow
mighty hungry and yearn for my supper.  So prithee let us go and

But on our way we turned aside to see if we had any fortune with
my snares; sure enough, coming nigh the place we heard a
shuffling and snorting, and presently discovered a goat fast by
the neck and half-choked, and beside her a little kid pitifully

"O Martin!" cries my lady, and falling on her knees began
caressing and fondling the little creature whiles I secured the
dam, and mighty joyful.  The goat, for all its strangling, strove
mightily, but lashing its fore and hind legs I contrived to get
it upon my shoulders and thus burdened set off homewards, my lady
carrying the kid clasped to her bosom, and it very content there
and small wonder.

"'Tis sweet, pretty thing," says my lady, stroking its silky
hair, "and shall soon grow tame."

"And here is the beginning of our flock:  our cheese and butter
shall not be long a-lacking now, comrade."

"You must fashion me a press, Martin."

"And a churn," says I.

"Nay I can manage well enough with one of our pipkins."

"But a churn would be easier for you, so a churn you shall have,
of sorts."

This evening after supper, sitting by our fire, my lady (and
despite her weariness) was merrier than her wont and very full of
plans for the future, deciding for me what furniture I must
construct next, as chairs (two) a cupboard with shelves, and
where these should stand when made:

"And, Martin," says she, "now that we own goats I must have a
dairy for my cheese-making, and my dairy shall be our larder,
aye, and stillroom too, for I have been tending our garden lately
and found growing many good herbs and simples.  In time, Martin,
these caves shall grow into a home indeed and all wrought by our
own hands, and this is a sweet thought."

"Why so it is," says I, "in very truth--but--"

"But what, sir?" she questioned, lifting admonishing finger.

"There may come a day when we may weary of it, how then?"

"Nay we are too busy--"

"Can it--could it be"--says I, beginning to stammer--"that you
might live here thus content to the end of your days?"

"The end of my days?" says she staring thoughtfully into the
fire.  "Why, Martin, this is a long way in the future I do pray,
and our future is in the hands of God, so wherefore trouble?"

"Because I who have been stranger to Happiness hitherto, dread
lest it may desert me and leave me the more woeful."

"Are you then happy at last--and so suddenly, Martin?"

Now this put me to no little heart-searching and perplexity, for
casting back over the time since our landing on the island I knew
that, despite my glooms and ill-humours, happiness had come to me
in that hour I had found her alive.

"Why, I am no longer the miserable wretch I was," quoth I at

"Because of late you have forgot to grieve for yourself and past
wrong and sorrows, Martin.  Mayhap you shall one day forget them

"Never!" quoth I.

"Yet so do I hope, Martin, with all my heart," says she and with
a great sigh.

"Why then, fain would I forget an I might, but 'tis beyond me. 
The agony of the rowing-bench, the shame of stripes--the blood
and bestiality of it all--these I may never forget."

"Why then, Martin--dear Martin," says she, all suddenly slipping
from her stool to kneel before me and reach out her two hands. 
"I do pray our Heavenly Father, here and now before you, that
you, remembering all this agony and shame, may make of it a crown
of glory ennobling your manhood--that you, forgetting nothing,
may yet put vengeance from you now and for ever and strive to
forget--to forgive, Martin, and win thereby your manhood and a
happiness undreamed--" here she stopped, her bosom heaving, her
eyes all tender pleading; and I (O deaf and purblind fool!)
hearing, heard not and seeing, saw nought but the witching beauty
of her; and now, having her hands in mine, beholding her so near,
I loosed her hands and turned away lest I should crush her to me.

"'Tis impossible!" I muttered.  "I am a man and no angel--'tis
impossible!"  Hereupon she rose and stood some while looking down
into the fire and never a word; suddenly she turned as to leave
me, then, sitting on her stool, drew out her hairpins and shook
down her shining hair that showed bronze-red where the light
caught it.  And beholding her thus, her lovely face offset by the
curtain of her hair, her deep, long-lashed eyes, the vivid
scarlet of her mouth, I knew the world might nowhere show me a
maid so perfect in beauty nor so vitally a woman.

"Martin!" says she very softly, as she began braiding a thick
tress of hair.  "Have you ever truly loved any woman?"

"No," says I, "No!"

"Could you so love, I wonder?"

"No!" says I again and clenching my hands.  "No--never!"

"Why, true," says she, more softly, "methinks in your heart is no
room for poor Love, 'tis over-full of Hate, and hate is a disease
incurable with you.  Is't not so, Martin?"

"Yes--no!  Nay, how should I know?" quoth I.

"Yet should love befall you upon a day, 'twould be love unworthy
any good woman, Martin!"

"Why then," says I, "God keep me from the folly of love."

"Pray rather that Love, of its infinite wisdom, teach you the
folly of hate, Martin!"

"'Tis a truth," says I bitterly, "a truth that hath become part
of me!  It hath been my companion in solitude, my comfort in my
shameful misery, my hope, my very life or I had died else!  And
now--now you bid me forget it--as 'twere some mere whimsy, some
idle fancy--this thought that hath made me strong to endure such
shames and tribulations as few have been forced to suffer!"

"Aye, I do, I do!" she cried.  "For your own sake, Martin, and
for mine."

"No!" quoth I, "A thousand times!  This thought hath been life to
me, and only with life may I forego it!"

At this, the busy fingers faltered in their pretty labour, and,
bowing her head upon her hand, she sat, her face hid from me,
until I, not doubting that she wept, grew uneasy and questioned
her at last.

"Nay, my lady--since this must be so--wherefore grieve?"

"Grieve?" says she lifting her head, and I saw her eyes all
radiant and her red lips up-curving in a smile.  "Nay, Martin, I
do marvel how eloquent you grow upon your wrongs, indeed 'tis as
though you feared you might forget them.  Thus do you spur up
slothful memory, which giveth me sure hope that one day 'twill
sleep to wake no more."

And now, or ever I might find answer, she rose and giving me
"Good-night" was gone, singing, to her bed; and I full of
bewilderment.  But suddenly as I sat thus, staring into the dying
fire, she was back again.

"What now?" I questioned.

"Our goat, Martin!  I may not sleep until I know her safe--come
let us go look!" and speaking, she reached me her hand.  So I
arose, and thus with her soft, warm fingers in mine we went amid
the shadows where I had tethered the goat to a tree hard beside
the murmurous rill and found the animal lying secure and placidly
enough, the kid beside her.  The which sight seemed to please my
lady mightily.

"But 'tis shame the poor mother should go tied always thus. 
Could you not make a picket fence, Martin?  And she should have
some refuge against the storms," to the which I agreed.  Thus as
we went back we fell to making plans, one project begetting
another, and we very blithe about it.



And now followed a season of much hard work, each day bringing
its varied tasks and we right joyous in our labour, so that
ofttimes I would hear her singing away in her sweet voice merry
as any grig, or find myself whistling lustily to the tap of my
hammer.  And now indeed my saw (and all rusty though it was)
served me faithfully and well, and my carpentry went forward
apace.  During this time also we added four goats and six kids to
our flock, so that we had good store of milk, and having with my
lady's help made our net with strands of cord knotted crosswise,
we caught therewith great plenty of fish.

Remembering my adventure with the Indian I furnished myself with
a good stout pike and a couple of javelins; moreover I set up
divers marks, like rovers, and every day I would shoot at these
with my bow, so that I soon became so dexterous I could bring
down a bird on the wing six times out of seven, though in
teaching myself this proficiency I lost four of my Indian arrows
beyond recovery.

Thus sped the time all too quickly, but with each day came a
greater understanding and a deeper amity betwixt my lady and me.

Now much and very much might I set down here concerning this my
sweet comrade, her many noble qualities, and how, as our
fellowship lengthened, I (that was a man selfish beyond thought)
finding her unselfish always and uncomplaining, seeing her so
brave in the face of adversity, and indomitable to overcome all
difficulty, yet ever and always a woman gracious and tender, I,
by my very reverence for her sweet womanhood, became in some
sense a better man.

I might tell how, when my black moods took me, the mere sight of
her, the sound of her voice, the touch of her hand, nay her very
nearness was enough to dispel them.

I might paint to your imagination the way her hair curled at her
temples, the trick she had of biting her nether lip when at all
put out, of the jut of her pretty chin when angered.  Then the
sweet, vibrant softness of her voice, her laughter, the wonder of
her changing moods--all these I would dilate upon if I might,
since 'tis joy to me, but lest I prove wearisome I will hasten on
to the finding of Black Bartlemy's Treasure, of all that led up
to it and all those evils that followed after it.  And this
bringeth me to a time whenas we sat, she and I, eating our
breakfast and the world all radiant with a young sun.

"To-night," says she, "if my calculations be right, should be a
new moon.  And I am glad, for I do love the moon."

"Aye, but how should you judge this?" says I, wondering.

"Because I have kept a record, Martin.  A stroke for each day and
a cross for every Sunday."

"Excellent!" quoth I.  "Then you will know how long we have lived

"Two months and five days, Martin."

"So long a time?" says I amazed.

"Hath it seemed so very long?" she questioned.

"No indeed!" says I.  "No, and there's the marvel!"

"'Tis no marvel, Martin, you have been too full of business to
heed time.  Let us reckon up what we have achieved thus far. 
First of all a three-legged stool for me--"

"Hairpins!" says I.

"A spoon, Martin, and shoes for me--"

"Lamps and candles!" quoth I.

"A table, Martin--"

"A fishing line and two hooks."

"Two armchairs, Martin, a cupboard and a press."

"A churn!" says I.

"You are forgetting our five pipkins, Martin."

"True," says I, "and clumsy things they are!"

"But very useful, sir!  Next a fishing-net, and a bed for me. 
Here is fine achievement, Martin!  Are you not proud to have
wrought so much and with so little?"

"But there is much yet to do!" quoth I.

"So much the better!" says she.  "Thus far I am well content."

"And happy?" I demanded.

"Aye, Martin--are you?"

"Now at this I fell to profound reverie and she also, and this
the subject of my musings, viz.,

In every man and woman born into this world (as it doth seem to
me) God putteth some of His infinite self whereby all things are
possible in degree greater or smaller; for to the God within us
all things are possible, 'tis our very humanity that limits our
potentialities.  Confidence in this power within us is a mighty
aid to all endeavour whereby we, our coward flesh
notwithstanding, may attempt great things, and though, being
human, we ofttimes fail, yet this very effort strengthens and
ennobles us.

"Who art thou," cries Flesh, "to adventure thing so great and
above thy puny strength to perform?  Who art thou?"  "I am God!"
answers Man-soul, "Since finite man am I only by reason of thee,
base, coward Flesh."  Thus (to my thinking) in every man is angel
and demon, each striving 'gainst each for the soul of him;
whereby he doeth evil or good according to the which of these
twain he aideth to victory.  Howbeit, thus it is with me, I
being, despite my seeming slowness, of quick and passionate
temper and of such desperate determination that once set on a
course needs would I pursue it though it led to my own
confounding and destruction.  For now, indeed, I wrought that the
which brought on my lady great sorrow and grievous peril, and on
myself shame, bloodshed and a black despair, and this the manner
of it.

"Are you not happy, Martin?" says she, 'Happy and proud to have

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: