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- No Defense, Volume 2. - 3/10 -


All America is ready for "the likes of you." Think it over, and meanwhile please know there has been placed with the firm in Dublin money enough to bring you here with comfort. You must not refuse it. Take it as a loan, for I know you will not take it as a gift.

I do not know the story of the killing, even as it was told in court. Well, some one killed the man, but not you, and the truth will out in time. If one should come to me out of the courts of heaven, and say that there it was declared you were a rogue, I should say heaven was no place for me. No, of one thing I am sure-- you never killed an undefended man. Wayward, wanton, reckless, dissipated you may have been, but you were never depraved--never!

When you are free, lift up your shoulders to all the threats of time, then go straight to the old firm where the money is, draw it, take ship, and come here. If you let me know you are coming, I will be there to meet you when you step ashore, to give you a firm hand- clasp; to tell you that in this land there is a good place for you, if you will win it.

Here there is little crime, though the perils of life are many. There is Indian fighting; there are Indian depredations; and not a dozen miles from where I sit men have been shot for crimes committed. The woods are full of fighters, and pirates harry the coast. On the wall of the room where I write there are carbines that have done service in Indian wars and in the Revolutionary War; and here out of the window I can see hundreds of black heads-slaves, brought from Africa and the Indies, slaves whose devotion to my uncle is very great. I hear them singing now; over the white-tipped cotton-fields there flows the sound of it.

This plantation has none of the vices that belong to slavery. Here life is complete. The plantation is one great workshop where trades are learned and carried out-shoeing, blacksmithing, building, working in wood and metal.

I am learning here--you see I am quite old, for I am twenty-one now --the art of management. They tell me that when my uncle's day is done--I grieve to think it is not far off--I must take the rod of control. I work very, very hard. I have to learn figures and finance; I have to see how all the work is done, so that I shall know it is done right. I have had to discipline the supervisors and bookkeepers, inspect and check the output, superintend the packing, and arrange for the sale of the crop-yes, I arranged for the sale of this year's crop myself. So I live the practical life, and when I say that you could make your home here and win success, I do it with some knowledge.

I beg you take ship for the Virginian coast. Enter upon the new life here with faith and courage. Have no fear. Heaven that has thus far helped you will guide you to the end.

I write without my mother's permission, but my uncle knows, and though he does not approve, he does not condemn.

Once more good-bye, my dear friend, and God be with you.

SHEILA LLYN.

P. S.--I wonder where you will read this letter. I hope it will find you before your release. Please remember that she who wrote it summons you from the darkness where you are to light and freedom here.

Slowly Dyck folded up the letter, when he had read it, and put it in his pocket. Then he turned with pale face and gaunt look to Michael Clones.

"Michael," said he, "that letter is from a lady. It comes from her new home in Virginia."

Michael nodded.

"Aye, aye, sir, I understand you," he said. "Then she doesn't know the truth about her father?" Dyck sighed heavily. "No, Michael, she doesn't know the truth."

"I don't believe it would make any difference to her if she did know."

"It would make all the difference to me, Michael. She says she wishes to help me. She tells me that money's been sent to the big firm in Dublin- money to take me across the sea to Virginia."

Michael's face clouded.

"Yes, sir. To Virginia--and what then?"

"Michael, we haven't a penny in the world, you and I, but if I took one farthing of that money I should hope you would kill me. I'm hungry; we've had nothing to eat since yesterday; but if I could put my hands upon that money here and now I wouldn't touch it. Michael, it looks as if we shall have to take to the trade of the footpad."

CHAPTER XII

THE HOUR BEFORE THE MUTINY

In the days when Dyck Calhoun was on the verge of starvation in London, evil naval rumours were abroad. Newspapers reported, one with apprehension, another with tyrannous comment, mutinous troubles in the fleet.

At first the only demand at Spithead and the Nore had been for an increase of pay, which had not been made since the days of Charles II. Then the sailors' wages were enough for comfortable support; but in 1797 through the rise in the cost of living, and with an advance of thirty per cent. on slops, their families could barely maintain themselves. It was said in the streets, and with truth, that seamen who had fought with unconquerable gallantry under Howe, Collingwood, Nelson, and the other big sea-captains, who had borne suffering and wounds, and had been in the shadow of death--that even these men damned a system which, in its stern withdrawal of their class for long spaces of time from their own womenfolk, brought evil results to the forecastle.

The soldier was always in touch with his own social world, and he had leave sufficient to enable him to break the back of monotony. He drank, gambled, and orated; but his indulgences were little compared with the debauches of able-bodied seamen when, after months of sea-life, they reached port again. A ship in port at such a time was not a scene of evangelical habits. Women of loose class, flower-girls, fruit-sellers, and costermongers turned the forecastle into a pleasure-house where the pleasures were not always secret; where native modesty suffered no affright, and physical good cheer, with ribald paraphrase, was notable everywhere.

"How did it happen, Michael?"

As he spoke, Dyck looked round the forecastle of the Ariadne with a restless and inquisitive expression. Michael was seated a few feet away, his head bent forward, his hands clasped around his knees.

"Well, it don't matter one way or 'nother," he replied; "but it was like this. The night you got a letter from Virginia we was penniless; so at last I went with my watch to the pawnbroker's. You said you'd wait till I got back, though you knew not where I was goin'. When I got back, you were still broodin'. You were seated on a horse-block by the chemist's lamp where you had read the letter. It's not for me to say of what you were thinkin'; but I could guess. You'd been struck hard, and there had come to you a letter from one who meant more to you than all the rest of the world; and you couldn't answer it because things weren't right. As I stood lookin' at you, wonderin' what to do, though, I had twelve shillin's in my pocket from the watch I'd pawned, there came four men, and I knew from their looks they were recruitin' officers of the navy. I saw what was in their eyes. They knew--as why shouldn't they, when they saw a gentleman like you in peasant clothes?--that luck had been agin' us.

"What the end would have been I don't know. It was you that solved the problem, not them. You looked at the first man of them hard. Then you got to your feet.

"'Michael,' says you quietly, 'I'm goin' to sea. England's at war, and there's work to do. So let's make for a king's ship, and have done with misery and poverty.'

"Then you waved a hand to the man in command of the recruitin' gang, and presently stepped up to him and his friends.

"'Sir,' I said to you, 'I'm not going to be pressed into the navy.'

"'There's no pressin', Michael,' you answered. 'We'll be quota men. We'll do it for cash--for forty pounds each, and no other. You let them have you as you are. But if you don't want to come,' you added, 'it's all the same to me.'

"Faith, I knew that was only talk. I knew you wanted me. Also I knew the king's navy needed me, for men are hard to get. So, when they'd paid us the cash--forty pounds apiece--I stepped in behind you, and here we are--here we are! Forty pounds apiece--equal to three years' wages of an ordinary recruit of the army. It ain't bad, but we're here for three years, and no escape from it. Yes, here we are!"

Dyck laughed.

"Aye, here we're likely to remain, Michael. There's only this to be said--we'll be fighting the French soon, and it's easy to die in the midst of a great fight. If we don't die, Michael, something else will turn up, maybe."

"That's true, sir! They'll make an officer of you, once they see you fight. This is no place for you, among the common herd. It's the dregs o' the world that comes to the ship's bottom in time of peace or war."

"Well, I'm the dregs of the world, Michael. I'm the supreme dregs."

Somehow the letter from Virginia had decided Dyck Calhoun's fate for him. Here he was--at sea, a common sailor in the navy. He and Michael Clones had eaten and drunk as sailors do, and they had realized that, as they ate and drank on the River Thames, they would not eat and drink on the watery fairway. They had seen the tank foul with age, from which water was drawn for men who could not live without it, and the smell of it had revolted Dyck's senses. They had seen the kegs of pickled meat, and they had been told of the evil rations given to the sailors at sea.

The Ariadne had been a flag-ship in her day, the home of an admiral and his staff. She carried seventy-four guns, was easily obedient to her swift sail, and had a reputation for gallantry. From the first hour on


No Defense, Volume 2. - 3/10

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