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 breathlessly. "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 loose." "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 life." "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 table. "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 heart. CHAPTER XXXVI TELLETH SOME PART OF A NIGHT OF AGONY 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 comforting. 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.
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