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- No Defense, Volume 3. - 5/23 -
charge of Salem; her own estate in Virginia bein' in such good runnin' order, and her mind bein' active. Word had come of the trouble with the manager here, and one of the provost-marshal's deputies had written accounts of the flogging and ill-treatment of slaves, and that's why she come--to put things right at Salem!"
"To put things wrong in Jamaica, Michael, that's why she's come. To loose the ball of confusion and free the flood of tragedy--that's why she's come! Man, Michael, you know her history--who she was and what happened to her father. Well, do you think there's no tragedy in her coming here? I killed her father, they say, Michael. I was punished for it. I came here to be free of all those things--lifted out and away from them all. I longed to forget the past, which is only shame and torture; and here it is all spread out at my door again like a mat, which I must see as I go in and out. Essex Valley--why, it's less than a day's ride from here, far less than a day's ride! It can be ridden in four or five hours at a trot. Michael, it's all a damnable business. And here she is in Jamaica with her Darius Boland! There was no talk on Boland's part of their coming here, was there Michael?"
"None at all, sir, but there was that in the man's eye, and that in his tone, which made me sure he thought Miss Llyn and you would meet."
"That would be strange, wouldn't it, in this immense continent!" Dyck remarked cynically.
"She knew I was here before she came?"
"Aye, she knew. She had seen your name in the papers--English and Jamaican. She knew you had regained your life and place, and was a man of mark here."
"A marked man, you mean, Michael--a man whom the king has had to pardon of a crime because of an act done that served the State. I am forbidden to return to the British Isles or to the land of my birth, forbidden free traffic as a citizen, hammered out of recognition by the strokes of enmity. A man of mark, indeed! Aye, with the broad arrow on me, with the shame of prison and mutiny on my name!"
"But if she don't believe?"
"If she don't believe! Well, she must be told the truth at last. I wonder her mother let her come here. Her mother knew part of the truth. She hid it all from the girl--and now they are here! I must see it through, but it's a wretched fate, Michael."
"Perhaps her mother didn't know you were here, sir."
Dyck laughed grimly. "Michael, you've a lawyer's mind. Perhaps you're right. The girl may have hid from her mother all newspapers referring to me. That may well be; but it's not the way that will bring understanding."
"I think it's the truth, sir, for Darius Boland spoke naught of the mother--indeed, he said only what would make me think the girl came with her own ends in view. Faith, I'm sure the mother did not know."
"She will know now. Your Darius Boland will tell her."
"By St. Peter, it doesn't matter who tells her, sir. The business must be faced."
"Michael, order my horse, and I will go to Spanish Town. This matter must be brought to a head. The truth must be told. Order my horse!" "It is the very heat of the day, sir."
"Then at five o'clock, after dinner, have my horse here."
"Am I to ride with you, sir?"
Dyck nodded. "Yes, Michael. There's only one thing to do--face all the facts with all the evidence, and you are fact and evidence too. You know more of the truth than any one else."
Several hours later, when the sun was abating its force a little, after travelling the burning roads through yams and cocoa, grenadillas and all kinds of herbs and roots and vagrant trees, Dyck Calhoun and Michael Clones came into Spanish Town. Dyck rode the unpaved streets on his horse with its high demipicque Spanish saddle, with its silver stirrups and heavy bit, and made his way towards Charlotte Bedford's lodgings.
Dyck looked round upon the town with new eyes. He saw it like one for the first time visiting it. He saw the people passing through the wide verandahs of the houses, like a vast colonnade, down the street, to be happily sheltered from the fierce sun. As he had come down from the hills he thought he had never seen the houses look more beautiful in their gardens of wild tamarinds, kennips, cocoa-nuts, pimentos, and palms, backed by negro huts. He had seen all sorts of people at the draw-wells of the houses-British, Spanish, French, South American, Creoles, and here and there a Maroon, and the everlasting negro who sang as he worked:
"Come along o' me, my buccra brave, You see de shild de Lord he gave: You drink de sangaree, I make de frichassee--"
Here a face peeped out from the glazed sash of the jalousies of the balconies above--a face that could never be said to be white, though it had only a tinge of black in its coaxing beauty. There a workman with long hair and shag trousers painted the prevailing two-storied house the prevailing colour, white and green. There was a young naval officer in full dress, gold-buckled shoes, white trousers, short jacket with gold swab on shoulders, dress-sword and smart gait making for supper at King's House.
A long-legged "son of a gun" of a Yankee had a "clapper-claw," or handshake, with a planting attorney in a kind of four-posted gig, canopied in leather and curtained clumsily. The Yankee laughed at the heavy straight shafts and the mule that drew the volante, as the gig was called, and the vehicle creaked and cried as it rolled along over the road, which was like a dry river-bed. There a French officer in Hessian boots, white trousers, blue uniform, and much-embroidered scarlet cuffs watched with amusement a slave carrying a goglet, or earthen jar, upon his head like an Egyptian, untouched by the hand, so adding dignity to carriage. He was holding a "round-aboutation" with an old hag who was telling his fortune.
As they passed King's House, they saw troops of the viceroy's guests issuing from the palace-officers of the king's navy and army, officers and men of the Jamaica militia, pale-faced, big-eyed men of the Creole class, mulattoes, quadroons and octoroons, Samboes with their wives in loose skirts, white stockings, and pinnacle hats. There also passed, in the streets, black servants with tin cases on their heads, or carrying parcels in their arms, and here and there processions of servants, each with something that belonged to their mistresses, who would presently be attending the king's ball.
Snatches of song were heard, and voices of men who had had a full meal and had "taken observations"--as looking through the bottom of a glass of liquor was called by people with naval spirit--were mixed in careless carousal.
All this jarred on Dyck Calhoun and gave revolt to his senses. Yet he was only half-conscious of the great sensuousness of the scene as he passed through it. Now and then some one doffed a hat to him, and very occasionally some half-drunken citizen tossed at him a remark meant to wound; but he took no notice, and let things pleasant and provocative pass down the long ranges of indifference.
All was brought to focus at last, however, by their arrival at Charlotte Bedford's lodgings, which, like most houses in the town, had a lookout or belfry fitted with green blinds and a telescope, and had a green-painted wooden railing round it.
At the very entrance, inside the gate, in the garden, they saw Sheila Llyn, her mother, and Darius Boland, who seemed to be enduring from the mother some sharp reprimand, to the amusement of the daughter. As the gate closed behind Dyck and Michael, the three from Virginia turned round and faced them. As Dyck came forward, Sheila flushed and trembled. She was no longer a young girl, but her slim straightness and the soft lines of her figure, gave her a dignity and charm which made her young womanhood distinguished--for she was now twenty-five, and had a carriage of which a princess might have been proud. Yet it was plain that the entrance of Dyck at this moment was disturbing. It was not what she had foreseen.
She showed no hesitation, however, but came forward to meet her visitor, while Michael fell back, as also did Darius Boland. Both these seemed to realize that the less they saw and heard the better; and they presently got together in another part of the garden, as Dyck Calhoun came near enough almost to touch Sheila.
Surely, he thought, she was supreme in appearance and design. She was like some rare flower of the field, alert, gentle, strong, intrepid, with buoyant face, brown hair, blue eyes and cream-like skin. She was touched by a rose on each cheek and made womanly by firm and yet generous breasts, tenderly imprisoned by the white chiffon of her blouse in which was one bright sprig of the buds of a cherry-tree-a touch of modest luxuriance on a person sparsely ornamented. It was not tropical, this picture of Sheila Llyn; it was a flick of northern life in a summer sky. It was at once cheerful and apart. It had no August in it; no oil and wine. It was the little twig that grew by a running spring. It was fresh, dominant and serene. It was Connemara on the Amazon! It was Sheila herself, whom time had enriched with far more than years and experience. It was a personality which would anywhere have taken place and held it. It was undefeatable, persistent and permanent; it was the spirit of Ireland loose in a world that was as far apart from Ireland as she was from her dead, dishonoured father.
And Dyck? At first she felt she must fly to him--yes, in spite of the fact that he had suffered prison for manslaughter. But a nearer look at him stopped the impulse at its birth. Here was the Dyck Calhoun she had known in days gone by, but not the Dyck she had looked to see; for this man was like one who had come from a hanging, who had seen his dearest swinging at the end of a rope. His face was set in coldness; his hair was streaked with grey; his forehead had a line in the middle; his manner was rigid, almost frigid, indeed. Only in his eyes was there that which denied all that his face and manner said--a hungry, absorbing, hopeless look, the look of one who searches for a friend in the denying desert.
Somehow, when he bowed low to her, and looked her in the eyes as no one in all her life had ever done, she had an almost agonized understanding of what a man feels who has been imprisoned--that is, never the same again. He was an ex-convict, and yet she did not feel repelled by him. She did not believe he had killed Erris Boyne. As for the later crime of mutiny, that did not concern her much. She was Irish; but, more than that, she was in sympathy with the mutineers. She understood why Dyck Calhoun, enlisting as a common sailor, should take up their cause and run risk to advance it. That he had advanced it was known to all the world;
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