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- No Defense, Volume 3. - 20/23 -
know that your love and affection could not make me forget him-- no, never. I realize that now. He and I can never come together, but I owe him so much--I owe him my life, for he saved it; he must ever have a place in my heart, be to me more than any one else can be. I want you to do something for him."
"What do you wish?"
"I want you to have removed from him the sentence of the British Government. I want him to be free to come and go anywhere in the world --to return to England if he wishes it, to be a free man, and not a victim Off Outlawry. I want that, and you ought to give it to him."
Indignation filled her eyes. "You ask why. He has saved your administration and the island from defeat and horrible loss. He has prevented most of the slaves from revolting, and he conquered the Maroons. The empire is his debtor. Will you do this for one who has done so much for you?"
Lord Mallow was disconcerted, but he did not show it. "I can do no more than I have done. I have not confined him to his plantation as the Government commanded; I cannot go beyond that."
"You can put his case from the standpoint of a patriot."
For a moment the governor hesitated, then he said: "Because you ask me--"
"I want it done for his sake, not for mine," she returned with decision. "You owe it to yourself to see that it is done. Gratitude is not dead in you, is it?"
Lord Mallow flushed. "You press his case too hard. You forget what he is--a mutineer and a murderer, and no one should remember that as you should."
"He has atoned for both, and you know it well. Besides, he was not a murderer. Even the courts did not say he was. They only said he was guilty of manslaughter. Oh, your honour, be as gallant as your name and place warrant."
He looked at her for a moment with strange feelings in his heart. Then he said: "I will give you an answer in twenty-four hours. Will that do, sweet persuader?"
"It might do," she answered, and, strange to say, she had a sure feeling that he would say yes, in spite of her knowledge that, in his heart of hearts, he hated Calhoun.
As she left the room, Lord Mallow stood for a moment looking after her.
"She loves the rogue in spite of all!" he said bitterly. "But she must come with me. They are apart as the poles. Yet I shall do as she wishes if I am to win her."
THE COMING OF NOREEN
The next day came a new element in the situation: a ship arrived from England. On it was one who had come to Jamaica to act as governess to two children of the officer commanding the regular troops in the island. She had been ill for a week before nearing Kingston, and when the Regent reached the harbour she was in a bad way. The ship's doctor was despondent about her; but he was a second-rate man, and felt that perhaps an island doctor might give her some hope. When she was carried ashore she was at once removed to the home of the general commanding at Spanish Town, and there a local doctor saw her.
"What is her history?" he asked, after he had seen the haggard face of the woman.
The ship's doctor did not know; and the general commanding was in the interior at the head of his troops. There was no wife in the general's house, as he was a widower; and his daughters, of twelve and fourteen, under a faithful old housekeeper, had no knowledge of the woman's life.
When she was taken to the general's house she was in great dejection, and her face had a look of ennui and despair. She was thin and worn, and her eyes only told of the struggle going on between life and death.
"What is her name?" asked the resident doctor. "Noreen Balfe," was the reply of the ship's doctor.
"A good old Irish name, though you can see she comes of the lower ranks of life."
The ship's doctor pointed to her hand which had a wedding-ring. "Ah, yes, certainly . . . what hope have you of her?"
"I don't know what to say. The fever is high. She isn't trying to live; she's got some mental trouble, I believe. But you and I would be of no use in that kind of thing."
"I don't take to new-fangled ideas of mental cure," said the ship's doctor. "Cure the body and the mind will cure itself."
A cold smile stole to the lips of the resident doctor. Those were days of little scientific medical skill, and no West Indian doctor had knowledge enough to control a discussion of the kind. "But I'd like to see some one with brains take an interest in her," he remarked.
"I leave her in your hands," was the reply. "I'm a ship's medico, and she's now ashore."
"It's a pity," said the resident doctor reflectively, as he watched a servant doing necessary work at the bedside. "She hasn't long to go as she is, yet I've seen such cases recover."
As they left the room together they met Sheila and one of the daughters of the house. "I've come to see the sick woman from the ship, if I may," Sheila said. "I've just heard about her, and I'd like to be of use."
The resident doctor looked at her with admiration. She was the most conspicuous figure in the island, and her beauty was a fine support to her wealth and reputation. It was like her to be kind in this frank way.
"You can be of great use if you will," he said. "The fever is not infectious, I'm glad to say. So you need have no fear of being with her --on account of others."
"I have no fear," responded Sheila with a friendly smile, "and I will go to her now--no, if you don't mind, I'd prefer to go alone," she added as she saw the doctor was coming with her.
The other bowed and nodded approvingly. "The fewer the better," he said. "I think you ought to go in alone--quite alone," he said with gentle firmness, for he saw the girl with Sheila was also going with her.
So it was that Sheila entered alone, and came to the bed and looked at the woman in the extreme depression of fever. "Prepare some lime-juice, please," she said to the servant on the other side of the bed. "Keep it always beside the bed--I know what these cases are."
The servant disappeared, and the eyes of the sick woman opened and looked at Sheila. There shot into them a look of horror and relief in one, if such a thing might be. A sudden energy inspired her, and she drew herself up in bed, her face gone ghastly.
"You are Sheila Boyne, aren't you?" she asked in a low half-guttural note.
"I am Sheila Llyn," was the astonished reply. "It's the same thing," came the response. "You are the daughter of Erris Boyne."
Sheila turned pale. Who was this woman that knew her and her history?
"What is your name?" she asked--"your real name--what is it?"
"My name is Noreen Balfe; it was Noreen Boyne." For a moment Sheila could not get her bearings. The heavy scent of the flowers coming in at the window almost suffocated her. She seemed to lose a grip of herself. Presently she made an effort at composure. "Noreen Boyne! You were then the second wife of Erris Boyne?"
"I was his second wife. His first wife was your mother--you are like your mother!" Noreen said in agitation.
The meaning was clear. Sheila laid a sharp hand on herself. "Don't get excited," she urged with kindly feeling. "He is dead and gone."
"Yes, he is dead and gone."
For a moment Noreen seemed to fight for mastery of her emotion, and Sheila said: "Lie still. It is all over. He cannot hurt us now."
The other shook her head in protest. "I came here to forget, and I find you--his daughter."
"You find more than his daughter; you find his first wife, and you find the one that killed him."
"The one that killed him!" said the woman greatly troubled. "How did you know that?"
"All the world knows it. He was in prison four years, and since then he has been a mutineer, a treasure-hunter, a planter, and a saviour of these islands!"
The sick woman fell back in exhaustion. At that moment the servant entered with a pitcher of lime-juice. Sheila took it from her and motioned her out of the room; then she held a glass of the liquid to the stark lips.
"Drink," she said in a low, kind voice, and she poured slowly into the patient's mouth the cooling draught. A moment later Noreen raised herself up again.
"Mr. Dyck Calhoun is here?" she asked.
"He is here, and none to-day holds so high a place in the minds of all who live here. He has saved the island."
"All are here that matter," said Noreen. "And I came to forget!"
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