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

accomplished so much with so little?"

"No!" says I, and so bitterly-fierce that she blenched from me. 
"For look now," says I, clenching my fist, "here have we wrought
and slaved together day in and day out--and to what end?"

"That we may live--to our comfort--" says she a little

"And to what end?" I demanded.  "To what purpose have you cozened
me to labour thus?"

"I?  I don't understand you, Martin!" says she unsteadily.

"Here's you cast alone with me on this island.  'He is a man,'
says you to yourself, 'and I a lonely woman.  So must I keep him
busy, his mind ever employed on some labour, no matter what, lest
peradventure he make love to me--'"

"Stop!" cries she angrily, leaping up to her feet all in a
moment.  "For shame, Martin Conisby!  You wrong me and yourself--
I am your comrade--"

"Nay, you are a woman, very subtle, and quick-witted as you are
beautiful.  So have you kept me in ploy thus, yearning meanwhile
for some ship--anything to bear you safe away from me!  Often
have I seen you staring seaward and praying for a sail."

"O you lie, Martin, you lie!  Ah, have I not trusted you?"

"Aye, as one might a tiger, by humouring me and distracting my
attention!  All these weeks I have scarce touched you and kissed
you never, nor had I thought to--but now by God--"

"Martin--O Martin, what would you--"

"Kiss you!" says I savagely, and caught her wrists.

"Nay, that you shall never do--with that look on your face!"
cries she, and twisted so strongly as nigh broke my hold; but
despite all her desperate striving, struggle how she might, I
dragged her to me, pinning her arms in my cruel embrace; but
still she withstood me and with such fury of strength that twice
we staggered and came near falling, until all at once she yielded
and lay all soft, her breath coming in little, pitiful, panting
groans.  So I kissed her as I would, her hair, her eyes, her
parted lips, her cool, soft throat, until sun and trees and green
grass seemed to spin and whirl dizzily about me, until my lips
were wet with her salt tears.

"O God--O God!" she whispered, "O Martin that I trusted so, will
you kill my faith and trust?  Will you shame your comrade?  You
that I loved--"

"Loved!" says I, catching my breath and staring down at her tear-
wet lashes, "Loved me--O Damaris--"

"Aye loved, and honoured you above all men until the beast broke

"And now?" cried I hoarsely, "And now--what?  Speak!"

"God's pity--loose me, Martin!"

"And now what--tell me.  Is't hate now, scorn and contempt--as
'twas aboard ship?"

"O Martin--let me go!" she sobbed.

"Answer me, is it hate henceforth?"

"Yes!" she panted, "Yes!" and tore herself from my hold.  But, as
she turned to fly me, I caught her back to me and, madman that I
was, bent her backward across my knee that I might look down into
her eyes; and, meeting my look, she folded her hands upon her
bosom and closing her eyes, spoke broken and humbled:

"Take--take your will of me--Black Bartlemy--I am not--brave
enough to stab you as--she did--"

Now at this I shivered and must needs cast my gaze towards that
great pimento tree that towered afar off.  So, then, my hateful
dream had come true, and now I knew myself for black a rogue as
ever Bartlemy had been.  So I loosed her and starting up, stood
staring across the desolation of ocean.

"O Damaris!" says I at last, "Here in my belt was my knife to
your hand, 'twere better you had stabbed me indeed and I, dying,
would have kissed your feet after the manner of yon dead rogue. 
As it is I must live hating myself for having destroyed the best,
the sweetest thing life could offer me and that, your trust. 
But, O my lady," says I, looking down where she knelt, her face
bowed upon her hands, "I do love you reverently and beyond my

"Even greatly enough to forego your vengeance?" she questioned
softly, and without glancing up.

"God help me!" cried I, "How may I forget the oath I swore on my
father's grave?"

"You broke your oath to me!" says she, never stirring, "So do I
know that true love hath not touched you."

"Think of me as you will," quoth I, "but--"

"I know!" says she, raising her head at last and looking up at
me, "I am sure, Martin.  Where hate is, true love can never be,
and love howsoever vehement is gentle and reverent and, being of
God, a very holy thing!  But you have made of it a thing of
passion, merciless and cruel--'tis love debased."

"So will I get hence," says I, "for since I have destroyed your
faith how shall you ever sleep again and know yourself secure and
such rogue as I near you.  I'll go, Damaris, I'll away and take
your fears along with me."

Then, the while she watched me dumbly, I slung my bow and quiver
of arrows about me, set the hatchet in my girdle and, taking my
pike, turned to go; but, checking my haste, went into the cave
(she following me silent always) and taking the pistol from where
it hung, examined flint and priming and charge and laid it on the

"Should you need me at any time, shoot off this pistol and I will
come" says I, "so good-bye, my lady!"  But scarce was I without
the cave than she comes to me with my chain-shirt in her hands,
and when I would have none of it, grew the more insistent.

"Put it on," says she gently, "who can tell what may befall you,
so put it on I pray!"  Thus in the end I donned it, though with
ill grace; which done, I took my pike across my shoulder and
strode away.  And when I had gone some distance I glanced back
and saw her standing where I had left her, watching me and with
her hands clasped tight together.

"Good-bye, Martin!" says she.  "O good-bye!" and vanished into
the gloom of the cave.

As for me I strode on at speed and careless of direction, for my
mind was a whirl of conflicting thoughts and a bitter rage
against myself.  Thus went I a goodish while and all-unheeding,
and so at last found myself lost amidst mazy thickets and my
eight-foot pike very troublesome.  Howbeit I presently gained
more open ways and went at speed, though whither, I cared not. 
The sun was westering when, coming out from the denser woods, I
saw before me that high hill whose rocky summit dominated the
island, and bent my steps thitherward; and then all in a moment
my heart gave a great leap and I stood still, for borne to me on
the soft air came a sudden, sharp sound, and though faint with
distance I knew it for the report of a firearm.  At this thrice-
blessed sound an overwhelming great joy and gratitude surged
within me since thus, of her infinite mercy my lady had summoned
me back; and now as I retraced my steps full of thankfulness, I
marvelled to find my eyes a-watering and myself all trembling
eagerness to behold her loveliness again, to hear her voice,
mayhap to touch her hand; indeed I felt as we had been parted a
year rather than a brief hour.  And now I got me to dreaming how
I should meet her and how she would greet me.  She should find a
new Martin, I told myself.  Suddenly these deluding dreams were
shivered to horrible fear and myself brought, sweating, to a
standstill by another sound that smote me like a blow, for I knew
this for the deep-toned report of a musket.  For a moment I stood
leaning on my pike as one dazed, then the hateful truth of it
seized me and I began to run like any madman.  Headlong I went,
bursting my way through tangled vines and undergrowth, heedless
of the thorns that gashed me, cursing such obstacles as stayed
me; now o'erleaping thorny tangles, now pausing to beat me a way
with my pikestaff, running at breathless speed whenever I might
until (having taken a wrong direction in my frenzy) I came out
amid those vines and bushes that bordered the lake of the
waterfall, and right over against the great rock I have
mentioned.  But from where I was (the place being high) I could
see over and beyond this rock; and as I stood panting and well-
nigh spent, mighty distraught and my gaze bent thitherward, I
shivered (despite the sweat that streamed from me) with sudden
awful chill, for from those greeny depths I heard a scream, wild
and heartrending, and knowing this voice grew sick and faint and
sank weakly to my knees; and now I heard vile laughter, then
hoarse shouts, and forth of the underbrush opposite broke a wild,
piteous figure all rent and torn yet running very fleetly; as I
watched, cursing my helplessness, she tripped and fell, but was
up again all in a moment, yet too late, for then I saw her
struggling in the clasp of a ragged, black-bearded fellow and
with divers other men running towards them.

And now madness seized me indeed, for between us was the lake,
and, though my bow was strung and ready, I dared not shoot lest I
harm her.  Thus as I watched in an agony at my impotence, my lady
broke her captor's hold and came running, and he and his fellows
hard after her.  Straight for the rock she came, and being there
stood a moment to stare about her like the piteous, hunted
creature she was:

"Martin!" she cried, "O Martin!" and uttering this dolorous cry
(and or ever I might answer) she tossed wild arms to heaven and
plunged over and down.  I saw her body strike the water in a
clean dive and vanish into those dark and troubled deeps, and
with breath in check and glaring eyes, waited for her to
reappear; I heard vague shouts and cries where her pursuers
watched for her likewise, but I heeded them nothing, staring ever
and waiting--waiting.  But these gloomy waters gave no sign, and
so at last my breath burst from me in a bitter, sobbing groan. 
One by one the minutes dragged by until I thought my brain must
crack, for nowhere was sign of that beloved shape.  And then--all
at once, I knew she must be dead; this sweet innocent slain thus
before my eyes, snatched out of life and lost forever to me for
all time, lost to me beyond recovery.

At last I turned my haggard, burning eyes upon her murderers--
four of them there were and all staring into those cruel, black
waters below and not a word betwixt them.  Suddenly the black-
bearded man snapped his fingers and laughed even as my bowstring
twanged; then I saw him leap backwards, screaming with pain, his
shoulder transfixed by my arrow.  Immediately (and ere I might
shoot again) his fellows dragged him down, and lying prone on
their bellies let fly wildly in my direction with petronel and
musquetoon.  And now, had I been near enough, I would have leaped
upon them to slay and be slain, since life was become a hateful
thing.  As it was, crouched there 'mid the leaves, I watched them
crawl from the rock dragging their hurt comrade with them.  Then,
seeing them stealing off thus, a mighty rage filled me, ousting
all other emotion, and (my bow in one hand and pike in the other)
I started running in pursuit.  But my great pike proving over-
cumbersome, I cast it away that I might go the faster, trusting
rather to my five arrows and the long-bladed knife in my girdle,
and the thought of this knife and its deadly work at close
quarters heartened me mightily as I ran; yet in a while, the
passion of my anger subsiding, grief took its place again and a
hopeless desolation beyond words.  So ran I, blinded by scalding
tears and my heart breaking within me, and thus came I to a place
of rocks, and looking not to my feet it chanced that I fell and,
striking my head against a rock, knew no more; and lost in a
blessed unconsciousness, forgot awhile the anguish of my breaking



When at last I opened my eyes I found myself in a place of gloom
and very stiff and sore; therefore I lay where I was nor sought
to move.  Little by little, as I lay thus 'twixt sleep and wake,
I was aware of a pallid glow all about me, and lifting heavy
head, saw the moon low down in the sky like a great golden
sickle.  And staring up at this, of a sudden back rushed memory
(and with it my hopeless misery) for now I remembered how, but a
few short hours since, my dear lady had prophesied this new moon. 
Hereupon, crouching there, my aching head bowed upon my hands, I
gave myself up to my despair and a corroding grief beyond all

From where I crouched I might look down upon this accursed lake,
a misty horror of gloomy waters, and beholding this, I knew that
my gentle, patient comrade was gone from me, that somewhere
within those black and awful depths her tender body was lying. 
She was dead, her sweet voice for ever hushed, she that had been
so vitally alive!  And remembering all her pretty ways I grew
suddenly all blind with tears and, casting myself down, lay a
great while sobbing and groaning until I could weep no more.

At last, sitting up, I wondered to find my head so painful, and
putting up my hand found my face all wet and sticky with blood
that flowed from a gash in my hair.  And remembering how I had
fallen and the reason of my haste I started up and forthwith
began seeking my knife and hatchet, and presently found them hard
by where I had tripped.  Now standing thus, knife in one hand and
hatchet in the other, I turned to look down upon these dark and
evil waters.

"Goodbye, my lady!" says I, "Fare thee well, sweet comrade! 
Before to-morrow dawn we will meet again, I pray, and shalt know
me for truer man and better than I seemed!"  So, turning my back
on the lake I went to seek my vengeance on her destroyers and
death at their hands an it might be so.

In a while I came to that torrent where the water flowed out from
the lake, its bed strewn with tumbled rocks and easy enough to
cross, the water being less in volume by reason of the dry
weather.  All at once I stopped, for amid these rocks and
boulders I saw caught all manner of drift, as sticks and bushes,
branches and the like, washed down by the current and which, all
tangled and twisted together, choked this narrow defile, forming
a kind of barrier against the current.  Now as I gazed at this,
my eyes (as if directed by the finger of God) beheld something
caught in this barrier, something small and piteous to see but
which set me all a-trembling and sent me clambering down these
rocks; and reaching out shaking hand I took up that same three-
pronged pin I had carved and wrought for her hair.  Thus stood I
to view this through my blinding tears and to kiss and kiss it
many times over because it had known her better than I.  But all
at once I thrust this precious relic into my bosom and stared
about me with new and awful expectation, for the current which
had brought this thing would bring more.  So I began to seek
among these rocks where the stream ran fast and in each pool and
shallow, and once, sweating and shivering, stooped to peer at
something that gleamed white from a watery hollow, and gasped my
relief to find it was no more than a stone.  None the less sought
I with a prayer on my lips, dreading to find that white and
tender body mangled by the cruel rocks, yet searching feverishly
none the less.  Long I stayed there, until the moon, high-risen,
sent down her tender beam as though to aid me.  But of this time
I will write no more, since even now it is a misery to recall.

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: