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- The Splendid Spur - 44/44 -


straw: and there, till far into the afternoon, I lay betwixt swooning and trembling, while Delia bath'd my head in water from the sea, for no other was to be had. And about four in the afternoon the horror left me, so that I sat up and told my story pretty steadily.

"What of the house?" I ask'd, when the tale was done, and a company sent to search the east cliff from the beach.

"All perish'd!" said Delia, and then smiling, "I am houseless as ever, Jack."

"And have the same good friends."

"That's true. But listen--for while you have lain here, Billy and I have put our heads together. He is bound for Brest, he says, and has agreed to take me and such poor chattels as are saved, to Brittany, where I know my mother's kin will have a welcome for me, until these troubles be pass'd. Already the half of my goods is aboard the _Godsend_, and a letter writ to Sir Bevill, begging him to appoint an honest man as my steward. What think you of the plan?"

"It seems a good plan," I answer'd slowly: "the England that now is, is no place for a woman. When do you sail?"

"As soon as you are recovered, Jack."

"Then that's now." I got on my feet, and drew on my boots (that Matt. Soames had found in the laurel bushes and brought). My knees trembled a bit, but nothing to matter.

"Art looking downcast, Jack."

Said I: "How else should I look, that am to lose thee in an hour or more?"

She made no reply to this, but turned away to give an order to the sailors.

The last of Delia's furniture was hardly aboard, when we heard great shouts of joy, and saw the men returning that had gone to search the cliff. They bore between them three large oak coffers: which being broke, we came on an immense deal of old plate and jewels, besides over L300 in coined money. There were two more left behind, they said, besides several small bags of gold. The path up the cliff was hard to climb, and would have been impossible, but for the iron ladder they found ready fix'd for Master Tingcomb's descent. In the hole (that could not be seen from the beach, the shelf hiding it) was tackle for lowering the chest: and below a boat moor'd, and now left high and dry by the tide. Doubtless, the arch-rascal had waited for his comrades to return, whom Matt. Soames and I had scar'd out of all stomach to do so. His body was nowhere found.

The sea had wash'd it off: but the sack they recover'd, and found to hold the choicest of Delia's heirlooms. Within an hour the remaining coffers and the money bags were safe in the vessel's hold.

* * * * *

The sun was setting, as Delia and I stood on the beach, beside the boat that was to take her from me. Aboard the _Godsend_ I could hear the anchor lifting, and the men singing, as, holding Molly's bridle, I held out my hand to the dear maid who with me had shar'd so many a peril.

"Is there any more to come?" she ask'd.

"No," said I, and God knows my heart was heavy: "nothing to come but 'Farewell!'"

She laid her small hand in my big palm, and glancing up, said very pretty and demur--

"_And shall I leave my best? Wilt not come, too, dear Jack?_"

"Delia!" I stammer'd. "What is this? I thought you lov'd me not."

"And so did I, Jack: and thinking so, I found I loved thee better than ever. Fie on thee, now! May not a maid change her mind without being forced to such unseemly, brazen words?" And she heav'd a mock sigh.

But as I stood and held that little hand, I seem'd across the very mist of happiness to read a sentence written, and spoke it, perforce and slow, as with another man's mouth--

"Delia, you only have I lov'd, and will love! Blithe would I be to live with you, and to serve you would blithely die. In sorrow, then, call for me, or in trust abide me. But go with you now--I may not."

She lifted her eyes, and looking full into mine, repeated slowly the verse we had read at our first meeting--

"'In a wife's lap, as in a grave, Man's airy notions mix with earth--'

--thou hast found it, sweetheart--thou has found the Splendid Spur!"

She broke off, and clapp'd her hands together very merrily; and then, as a tear started--

"But thou'lt come for me, ere long, Jack? Else I am sure to blame some other woman. Stay--"

She drew off her ring, and slipp'd it on my little finger.

"There's my token! Now give me one to weep and be glad over."

Having no trinkets, I gave my glove: and she kiss'd it twice, and put it in her bosom.

"I have no need of this ring," said I: "for look!" and I drew forth the lock I had cut from her dear head, that morning among the alders by Kennet side, and worn ever since over my heart.

"Wilt marry no man till I come?"

"Now, that's too hard a promise," said she, laughing, and shaking her curls.

"Too hard!"

"Why, of course. Listen, sweetheart--a true woman will not change her mind: but, oh! she dearly loves to be able to! So, bating this, here's my hand upon it--now, fie, Jack! and before all these mariners!--well, then if thou _must_--"

* * * * *

I watch'd her standing in the stern and waving, till she was under the _Godsend's_ side: then turn'd, and mounting Molly, rode inland to the wars.

THE END.


The Splendid Spur - 44/44

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