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- No Defense, Volume 3. - 6/23 -
that he had paid the price of his mutiny by saving the king's navy with a stolen ship had brought him pardon for his theft of a ship and mutiny; and that he had won wealth was but another proof of the man's power.
"You would not come to America, so I came here, and--" She paused, her voice trembling slightly. "There is much to do at Salem," he added calmly, and yet with his heart beating, as it had not beaten since the day he had first met her at Playmore.
"You would not take the money I sent to Dublin for you--the gift of a believing friend, and you would not come to America!"
"I shall have to tell you why one day," he answered slowly, "but I'll pay my respects to your mother now." So saying he went forward and bowed low to Mrs. Llyn. Unlike her daughter, Mrs. Llyn did not offer her hand. She was pale, distraught, troubled--and vexed. She, however, murmured his name and bowed. "You did not expect to see me here in Jamaica," he said boldly.
"Frankly, I did not, Mr. Calhoun," she said.
"You resent my coming here to see you? You think it bold, at least."
She looked at him closely and firmly. "You know why I cannot welcome you."
"Yet I have paid the account demanded by the law. And you had no regard for him. You divorced him."
Sheila had drawn near, and Dyck made a gesture in her direction. "She does not know," he said, "and she should not hear what we say now?"
Mrs. Llyn nodded, and in a low tone told Sheila that she wished to be alone with Dyck for a little while. In Dyck's eyes, as he watched Sheila go, was a thing deeper than he had ever known or shown before. In her white gown, and with her light step, Sheila seemed to float away--a picture graceful, stately, buoyant, "keen and small." As she was about to pass beyond a clump of pimento bushes, she turned her head towards the two, and there was that in her eyes which few ever see and seeing are afterwards the same. It was a look of inquiry, or revelation, of emotion which went to Dyck's heart.
"No, she does not know the truth," Mrs. Llyn said. "But it has been hard hiding it from her. One never knew whether some chance remark, some allusion in the papers, would tell her you had killed her father."
"Did I kill her father?" asked Dyck helplessly. "Did I? I was found guilty of it, but on my honour, Mrs. Llyn, I do not know, and I do not think I did. I have no memory of it. We quarrelled. I drew my sword on him, then he made an explanation and I madly, stupidly drank drugged wine in reconciliation with him, and then I remember nothing more--nothing at all."
"What was the cause of your quarrel?"
Dyck looked at her long before answering. "I hid that from my father even, and hid it from the world--did not even mention it in court at the trial. If I had, perhaps I should not have gone to jail. If I had, perhaps I should not be here in Jamaica. If I had--" He paused, a flood of reflection drowning his face, making his eyes shine with black sorrow.
"Well, if you had! . . . Why did you not? Wasn't it your duty to save yourself and save your friends, if you could? Wasn't that your plain duty?"
"Yes, and that was why I did not tell what the quarrel was. If I had, even had I killed Erris Boyne, the jury would not have convicted me. Of that I am sure. It was a loyalist jury."
"Then why did you not?"
"Isn't it strange that now after all these years, when I have settled the account with judge and jury, with state and law--that now I feel I must tell you the truth. Madam, your ex-husband, Erris Boyne, was a traitor. He was an officer in the French army, and he offered to make me an officer also and pay me well in French Government money, if I would break my allegiance and serve the French cause--Ah, don't start! He knew I was on my last legs financially. He knew I had acquaintance with young rebel leaders like Emmet, and he felt I could be won. So he made his proposal. Because of your daughter I held my peace, for she could bear it less than you. I did not tell the cause of the quarrel. If I had, there would have been for her the double shame. That was why I held my peace--a fool, but so it was!"
The woman seemed almost robbed of understanding. His story overwhelmed her. Yet what the man had done was so quixotic, so Celtic, that her senses were almost paralysed.
"So mad--so mad and bad and wild you were," she said. "Could you not see it was your duty to tell all, no matter what the consequences. The man was a villain. But what madness you were guilty of, what cruel madness! Only you could have done a thing like that. Erris Boyne deserved death --I care not who killed him--you or another. He deserved death, and it was right he should die. But that you should kill him, apart from all else--why, indeed, oh, indeed, it is a tragedy, for you loved my daughter, and the killing made a gulf between you! There could be no marriage in such a case. She could not bear it, nor could you. But please know this, Mr. Calhoun, that she never believed you killed Erris Boyne. She has said so again and again. You are the only man who has ever touched her mind or her senses, though many have sought her. Wherever she goes men try to win her, but she has no thought for any. Her mind goes back to you. Just when you entered the garden I learned-- and only then-that you were here. She hid it from me, but Darius Boland knew, and he had seen your man, Michael Clones, and she had then made him tell me. I was incensed. I was her mother, and yet she had hid the thing from me. I thought she came to this island for the sake of Salem, and I found that she came not for Salem, but for you. . . . Ah, Mr. Calhoun, she deserves what you did to save her, but you should not have done it."
"She deserves all that any better man might do. Why don't you marry her to some great man in your Republic? It would settle my trouble for me and free her mind from anxiety. Mrs. Llyn, we are not children, you and I. You know life, and so do I, and--"
She interrupted him. "Be sure of this, Mr. Calhoun, she knows life even better than either of us. She is, and has always been, a girl of sense and judgment. When she was a child she was my master, even in Ireland. Yet she was obedient and faithful, and kept her head in all vexed things. She will have her way, and she will have it as she wants it, and in no other manner. She is one of the world's great women. She is unique. Child as she is, she still understands all that men do, and does it. Under her hands the estates in Virginia have developed even more than under the hands of my brother. She controls like another Elizabeth. She has made those estates run like a spool of thread, and she will do the same here with Salem. Be sure of that."
"Why does she not marry? Is there no man she can bear? She could have the highest, that's sure." He spoke with passion and insistence. If she were married his trouble would be over. The worst would have come to him--like death. His eyes were only two dark fires in a face that was as near to tragic pain crystallized as any the world has seen. Yet there was in it some big commanding thing, that gave it a ghastly handsomeness almost; that bathed his look in dignity and power, albeit a reckless power, a thing that would not be stayed by any blandishments. He had the look of a lost angel, one who fell with Belial in the first days of sin.
"There is no man she can bear--except here in Jamaica. It is no use. Your governor, Lord Mallow, whom she knew in Ireland, who is distant kin of mine, he has already made advances here to her, as he did in Ireland --you did not know that. Even before we left for Virginia he came to see us, and brought her books and flowers, and here, on our arrival, he brought her choicest blooms of his garden. She is rich, and he would be glad of an estate that brings in scores of thousands of pounds yearly. He has asked us to stay at King's House, but we have declined. We start for Salem in a few hours. She wants her hand on the wheel."
"Lord Mallow--he courts her, does he?" His face grew grimmer. "Well, she might do worse, though if she were one of my family I would rather see her in her grave than wedded to him. For he is selfish--aye, as few men are! He would eat and keep his apple too. His theory is that life is but a game, and it must be played with steel. He would squeeze the life out of a flower, and give the flower to his dog to eat. He thinks first and always of himself. He would--but there, he would make a good husband as husbands go for some women, but not for this woman! It is not because he is my enemy I say this. It is because there is only one woman like your daughter, and that is herself; and I would rather see her married to a hedger that really loved her than to Lord Mallow, who loves only one being on earth--himself. But see, Mrs. Llyn, now that you know all, now that we three have met again, and this island is small and tragedy is at our doors, don't you think your daughter should be told the truth. It will end everything for me. But it would be better so. It is now only cruelty to hide the truth, harsh to continue a friendship which will only appal her in the end. If we had not met again like this, then silence might have been best; but as she is not cured of her tender friendship made upon the hills at Playmore, isn't it well to end it all? Your conscience will be clearer, and so will mine. We shall have done the right thing at last. Why did you not tell her who her father was? Then why blame me! You held your peace to save your daughter, as you thought. I held my tongue for the same reason; but she is so much a woman now, that she will understand, as she could not have understood years ago in Limerick. In God's name, let us speak. One of us should tell her, and I think it should be you. And see, though I know I did right in withholding the facts about the quarrel with Erris Boyne, yet I favour telling her that he was a traitor. The whole truth now, or nothing. That is my view."
He saw how lined and sunken was her face, he noted the weakness of her carriage, he realized the task he was putting on her, and his heart relented. "No, I will do it," he added, with sudden will, "and I will do it now, if I may."
"Oh, not to-day-not to-day!" she said with a piteous look. "Let it not be to-day. It is our first day here, and we are due at King's House to-night, even in an hour from now."
"You want her at her glorious best, is that it?" It seemed too strange that the pure feminine should show at a time of crisis like this, but there it was. It was this woman's way. But he added presently: "When she asks you what we have talked about, what will you say?"
"Is it not easy? I am a mother," she said meaningly.
"And I am an ex-convict, and a mutineer--is that it?"
She inclined her head. "It should not be difficult to explain. When you came I was speaking as I felt, and she will not think it strange if I give that as my reason."
"But is it wise? Isn't it better to end it all now? Suppose Lord Mallow
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