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   Chapter 2 STRANGERS ARRIVE

No Defense, Volume 3_ By Gilbert Parker Characters: 27707

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:02


Dyck Calhoun's letter was never ended. It was only a relic of the years spent in Jamaica, only a sign of his well-being, though it gave no real picture of himself. He did not know how like a tyrant he had become in some small ways, while in the large things he remained generous, urbane, and resourceful. He was in appearance thin, dark-favoured, buoyant in manner, and stern of face, with splendid eyes. Had he dwelt on Olympus, he might have been summoned to judge and chastise the sons of men.

When Michael Clones came to the doorway, Dyck laid down his quill-pen and eyed the flushed servant in disapproval.

"What is it, Michael? Wherefore this starkness? Is some one come from heaven?"

"Not precisely from heaven, y'r honour, but-"

"But-yes, Michael! Have done with but-ing, and come to the real matter."

"Well, sir, they've come from Virginia."

Dyck Calhoun slowly got to his feet, his face paling, his body stiffening. From Virginia! Who should be come from Virginia, save she to whom he had just been writing?

"Who has come from Virginia?" He knew, but he wanted it said.

"Sure, you knew a vessel came from America last night. Well, in her was one that was called the Queen of Ireland long ago."

"Queen of Ireland-well, what then?" Dyck's voice was tuneless, his manner rigid, his eyes burning. "Well, she-Miss Sheila Llyn and her mother are going to the Salem Plantation, down by the Essex Valley Mountain. It is her plantation now. It belonged to her uncle, Bryan Llyn. He got it in payment of a debt. He's dead now, and all his lands and wealth have come to her. Her mother, Mrs. Llyn, is with her, and they start to-morrow or the next day for Salem. There'll be different doings at Salem henceforward, y'r honour. She's not the woman to see slaves treated as the manager at Salem treated 'em."

Dyck Calhoun made an impatient gesture at this last remark.

"Yes, yes, Michael. Where are they now?"

"They're at Charlotte Bedford's lodgings in Spanish Town. The governor waited on them this morning. The governor sent them flowers and-"

"Flowers-Lord Mallow sent them flowers! Hell's fiend, man, suppose he did?"

"There are better flowers here than in any Spanish Town."

"Well, take them, Michael; but if you do, come here again no more while you live, for I'll have none of you. Do you think I'm entering the lists against the king's governor?"

"You've done it before, sir, and there's no harm in doing it again. One good turn deserves another. I've also to tell you, sir, that Lord Mallow has asked them to stay at King's House."

"Lord Mallow has asked Americans to stay at King's House!"

"But they're Irish, and he knew them in Ireland, y 'r honour."

"Well, he knew me in Ireland, and I'm proscribed!"

"Ah, that's different, as you know. There's no war on now, and they're only good American citizens who own land in this dominion of the king; so why shouldn't he give them courtesy?"

"From whom do you get your information?" asked Dyck Calhoun with an air of suspicion.

"From Darius Boland, y'r honour," answered Michael, with a smile. "Who is Darius Boland, you're askin' in y'r mind? Well, he's the new manager come from the Llyn plantations in Virginia; and right good stuff he is, with a tongue that's as dry as cut-wheat in August. And there's humour in him, plenty-aye, plenty. When did I see him, and how? Well, I saw him this mornin', on the quay at Kingston. He was orderin' the porters about with an air-oh, bedad, an air! I saw the name upon the parcels- Miss Sheila Llyn, of Moira, Virginia, and so I spoke to him. The rest was aisy. He looked me up and down in a flash, like a searchlight playin' on an enemy ship, and then he smiled. 'Well,' said he, 'who might you be? For there's queer folks in Jamaica, I'm told.' So I said I was Michael Clones, and at that he doffed his hat and held out a hand. 'Well, here's luck,' said he. 'Luck at the very start! I've heard of you from my mistress. You're servant to Mr. Dyck Calhoun-ain't that it?' And I nodded, and he smiled again-a smile that'd cost money annywhere else than in Jamaica. He smiled again, and give a slow hitch to his breeches as though they was fallin' down. Why, sir, he's the longest bit of man you ever saw, with a pointed beard, and a nose that's as long as a midshipman's tongue-dry, lean, and elastic. He's quick and slow all at once. His small eyes twinkle like stars beatin' up against bad weather, and his skin's the colour of Scots grass in the dead of summer-yaller, he'd call it if he called it anything, and yaller was what he called the look of the sky above the hills. Queer way of talk he has, that man, as queer as-"

"I understand, Michael. But what else? How did you come to talk about the affairs of Mrs. and Miss Llyn? He didn't just spit it out, did he?"

"Sure, not so quick and free as spittin', y'r honour; but when he'd sorted me out, as it were, he said Miss Llyn had come out here to take 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; 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 tells her."

"He did not before. He is not likely now," was the vexed reply. "Is it a thing a gentleman will speak of to a lady?"

"But you do not know Mallow. If he thought she had seen me to-day, he would not hesitate. What would you do if you were Lord Mallow?"

"No, not to-day," she persisted. "It is all so many years ago. It can hurt naught to wait a little longer."

"When and where shall it be?" he asked gloomily. "At Salem-at Salem. We shall be settled then-and steady. There is every reason why you should consider me. I have suffered as few women have suffered, and I do not hate you. I am only sorry."

Far down at the other end of the garden he saw Sheila. Her face was in profile-an exquisite silhouette. She moved slowly among the pimento bushes.

"As you wish," he said with a heavy sigh. The sight of the girl anguished his soul.

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