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   Chapter 19 No.19

The Queen's Cup By G. A. Henty Characters: 29401

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


As Frank stood gazing at the scene, George Lechmere touched him. Frank, looking round, saw that he wished to speak to him privately.

"What is it, George?" he asked, when he had stepped a few paces from Bertha.

"Look there, Major," George said, handing him a field glass. "I thought I had settled old scores with him, but the devil has looked after his own."

"You don't mean to say, George, that it is Carthew again."

"It is he, sure enough, sir. I would have sworn that I had done for him. If I had thought there had been the slightest doubt about it, I would have put a pistol ball through his head."

Frank raised the glass to his eyes. Just where the torches were thickest, he could make out a man's figure raised above the heads of the rest. He was supported on a litter. His head was swathed with bandages. He had raised himself into a sitting position, supported by one arm, while he waved the other passionately. He was evidently haranguing the crowd.

As Frank looked, he saw the figure sink down. Then there was a deep roll of the drum, and a fantastic-looking figure, daubed as it seemed with paint and wearing a huge mask, appeared in his place. The drum and the horns were silent, and the shouting of the negroes was at once hushed. This man, too, harangued the crowd, and when he ceased there was a loud yell and a general movement among the throng. At that moment, Hawkins came up.

"The chain is up and down, sir. Shall I make sail? The wind is very light, but I think that it is enough to take her out."

"Yes, make sail, Hawkins, as quickly as you can. I am afraid that those fellows are coming out to attack us, and I don't want to kill any of the poor devils. There is a small boat coming out from the shore towards that craft. The white sailors are on board, and we shall have them on us, too."

"Up with the anchor," Hawkins shouted. "Make sail at once. Look sharp, my hearties, work with a will, or we shall have those niggers on us again."

Never was sail made on the Osprey more quickly, and by the time that the anchor was apeak all the lower sails were set.

"Shall I tell the blacks to tow their boat behind us?" Hawkins asked Frank, as the yacht began to steal through the water.

"No; let them tow alongside, Hawkins. I don't suppose the people ashore know that we have a native boat with us. If they did, they would be sure that it came from Nipes, and it might set up a feud and cost them their lives, especially as that Obi scoundrel is concerned in the affair."

Then he moved away to George Lechmere.

"Don't say a word about that fellow Carthew," he said. "Miss Greendale thinks he is killed; and it is just as well that she should continue to think that she is safe from him in the future."

"So far as she is concerned, I think that is true; but I would not answer for you, Major. You have ruined his plans, and burned his yacht, and as long as he lives he will never forgive you."

"Well, it is of no use to worry about it now, George; but I expect that we shall hear more about him someday."

"What are they doing, Frank?" Bertha asked, as he rejoined her. "I think that they are getting into the boats again."

"Yes. I fancy they are going to try to take us, but they have no more chance of doing so than they have of flying. The Obi man has worked them up to a state of frenzy, but it will evaporate pretty quickly when they get within range of our muskets."

"But we have got the cannon on board, have we not?"

"Yes; but we did not bring off any ammunition with us. It was the men's idea to bring them as a trophy. However, I have plenty of powder and can load them with bullets; but I certainly won't use them if it can be possibly avoided. I have no grudge against the poor fellows who have been told that we are desperate pirates, and who are only doing what they believe to be a meritorious action in trying to capture us."

In a few minutes six boats put out from the shore. The Osprey was not going through the water more than two miles an hour, though she had every stitch of canvas spread. Frank had the guns taken aft and loaded. As the boats came within the circle of the light of the burning yacht, it could be seen that they were crowded with men, who encouraged themselves with defiant yells and shouts, which excited the derision of the Osprey's crew. When they got within a quarter of a mile they opened a fusillade of musketry, but the balls dropped in the water some distance astern of the yacht. As the boats came nearer, however, they began to drop round her.

"Sit down behind the bulwarks," Frank said. "They are not good shots, but a stray ball might come on board, and there is no use running risks."

By this time he had persuaded Bertha to go below. The boats rowed on until some seventy or eighty yards off the Osprey. The shouting had gradually died away, for the silence on board the yacht oppressed them. There was something unnatural about it, and their superstitious fear of the Obi man disappeared before their dread of the unknown.

As if affected simultaneously by the disquietude of their companions, the rowers all stopped work at the same moment. Dominique had already received instructions, and at once hailed them in French.

"If you value your lives, turn back. We have the guns of the brigantine. They are crammed with bullets and are pointed at you. The owner has but to give the word, and you will all be blown to pieces. He is a good man, and wishes you no harm. We have come here not to quarrel with you poor ignorant black fellows, but to rescue two ladies the villain that ship belongs to had carried off. Therefore, go away back to your wives and families while you are able to, for if you come but one foot nearer not one of you will live to return."

The news, that the Osprey had the cannon from the brigantine on board, came like a thunderbolt upon the negroes. The prospect of a fight with the men who had so easily captured the brigantine was unpleasant enough, but that they were also to encounter cannon was altogether too much for them, and a general shout of "Don't fire; we go back!" rose from the boats.

For a minute or two they lay motionless, afraid even to dip an oar in the water lest it should bring down a storm upon them, but as the Osprey glided slowly away the rearmost boat began to turn round, the others followed her example, and they were soon rowing back even more rapidly than they had come.

"You can cast off that boat, Hawkins, as soon as we are out into the bay," Frank said, and then went down below.

"Our troubles are all over at last, dear, and we can have a quiet talk," he said. "As I expected, the negroes lost heart as soon as they came near, and the threat of a round of grape from the guns finally settled them. They are off for home, and we shall hear no more of them. Now you had best be off to bed at once. You have had a terrible day of it, and it is just two o'clock.

"Ah! that is right," he broke off, as the steward entered carrying a tray with tea things. "I had forgotten all about that necessity. You had better call Anna in; she must want a cup too, poor girl."

"Yes, I should like a cup of tea," Bertha said, as she sat down to the tray, "but I really don't feel so tired as you would think."

"You will feel it all the more afterwards, I am afraid," Frank replied. "The excitement has kept you up."

"Yes, we felt dreadfully tired, didn't we, Anna, before we gave up? But the two hours' row in the boat, and all this excitement here, have made me almost forget it. It seems to me now quite impossible that it can be only about nine hours since you rushed out so suddenly with your men. It seems to me quite far off; further than many things do that happened a week ago. And please to remember that your advice to go to bed is quite as seasonable in your case as in mine."

When he had seen them leave the saloon, Frank went on deck for a last look round.

"I don't think that there is a chance of anything happening before morning, Hawkins, but you will, of course, keep a sharp lookout and let me know."

"I will look out, sir. I have sent the four hands who were with you down to their berths, as soon as the niggers turned back. Lechmere has turned in, too."

"Is the wind freshening at all?"

"Not yet, sir. I don't suppose that we shall get more than we have now till day begins to break. Still, we are crawling on and shall be out in the bay in another quarter of an hour."

When Frank got up at sunrise he found that the yacht was just rounding the point of the bay. He looked behind. No boat was in view.

"Nothing moving, I see," he said as the first mate, who was in charge, came up.

"We have not seen a thing on the water, sir."

"I hardly expected that there would be. It is probable that, as soon as the boats got back, Carthew sent his skipper or mate off with a couple of the men to Port au Prince, to lay a complaint for piracy against me. But, even if they got horses, it would take them a couple of days to get there; that is, if they are not much better riders than the majority of sailors are. Then it is likely that there would be some time lost in formalities, and even if there was a Government steamer lying in the port, it would take her a long time to get up steam. Moreover, I am by no means sure that even Carthew would venture on such an impudent thing as that. It is certain that we should get into a bad scrape for boarding and burning a vessel in Haytian waters, but that is all the harm he could do us. The British Consul would certainly be more likely to believe the story of the owner of a Royal Squadron yacht, backed by that of her captain, mates and crew, and by Miss Greendale and her maid; than the tale of the owner of a vessel that could give no satisfactory explanation for being here. Besides, he will know that before a steamer could start in chase we should be certainly two, or perhaps three, days away, and whether we should make for Jamaica or Bermuda, or round the northwestern point of the bay, and then for England, he could have no clue whatever."

"How shall I lay her course, sir? The wind has freshened already, and we are slipping through the water at a good four knots now."

"We will keep along this side, as far as the Point at any rate. If Carthew has sent for a steamer, he is likely to have ordered a man down to this headland to see which course we are taking. When we have got so far that we cannot be made out from there, we will sail north for Cape la Mole. I think it would be safe enough to lay our course at once, but I do not wish to run the slightest risk that can be avoided."

The wind continued to freshen, and to Frank's satisfaction they were, when Bertha came on deck at eight o'clock, running along the coast at seven knots an hour.

"Have you slept well?" he asked, as he took her hand.

"Yes. I thought when I lay down that it would be impossible for me to sleep at all-it had been such a wonderful day, it was all so strange, so sudden, and so happy-and just as I was thinking so, I suppose I dropped off and slept till Anna woke me three quarters of an hour ago, and told me what time it was.

"Frank, I did not say anything yesterday, not even a single word of thanks, for all that you have done for me; but you know very well that it was not because I did not feel it, but because if I had said anything at all I should have broken down, and that was the very thing that I knew I ought not to do. But you know, don't you, that I shall have all my life to prove how thankful I am."

"I know, dear, and between us surely nothing need be said. I am as thankful that I have been the means of saving you, as you can be that I was almost miraculously enabled to follow your track so successfully."

"Breakfast is ready, sir," the steward announced from the companion.

"Coming, steward.

"I have told them, Bertha, to lay for three. I thought that it would be pleasanter for you to have Anna with you at meals, as I suppose she has taken them with you since you were carried off."

"Thank you," she said, gratefully. "It won't be quite so nice for you, I know, but perhaps it will be better."

"Well, Anna, you are looking very well," Frank said as he sat down.

"You must officiate with the coffee, Bertha. I will see after the eatables."

"Yes, Anna does look well," Bertha said. "She has borne up capitally, ever since the first two days. We have had all our meals together in our cabin."

"Miss Greendale has been a great deal braver than I have, sir," Anna said, quietly. "She has been wonderfully brave, and though she is very good to say that I have borne up well, I know very well that I have not been as brave as I ought; and I could not help breaking down and crying sometimes, for I did think that we should never get home again."

"Except carrying you away, Carthew did not behave altogether so badly, Bertha?"

"No. The first day that we got on board he told me that I was to stay there until I consented to marry him. I told him that in that case I should become a permanent resident on board, but that sooner or later I should be rescued. He only said then, that he hoped that I should change my mind in time. He admitted that his conduct had been inexcusable, but that his love for me had driven him to it, and that he had only won me as many a knight had won a bride before now.

"At first I made sure that, when we put into a port, I should be able somehow to make my condition known; but I realised for the first time what it was going to be, when I saw us stand off the Lizard and lay her head for the south. Up to that time I had scarcely exchanged a word with him. I had said at once that unless I had my meals in my own cabin with Anna, I would eat nothing at all, and he said, quite courteously, I must confess, that I should in all respects do as I pleased, consistent with safety.

"From that time he said 'Good morning,' gravely when I came up on deck with Anna, and made a remark about the weather. I made no reply, and did not speak until he came to me in the morning, and said quietly, 'That is the Lizard astern of us, Miss Greendale. We are bound for the West Indies, the finest cruising ground in the world, full of quiet little bays where we can anchor for weeks.'

"'It is monstrous,' I said desperately, for I own that for the first time I was really frightened. 'Some day you will be punished for this.'

"'I must risk that,' he said, quietly. 'Of course, at present you are angry. It is natural that you should be so, but in time you will forgive me, and will make allowance for the length to which my af

fection for you has driven me. It may be six months, it may be ten years, but however long it may be, I can promise you that, save for this initial offence, you will have no cause to complain of me. I am possessed of boundless patience, and can wait for an indefinite time. In the end I feel sure that your heart will soften towards me.'

"That was his tone all along. He was perfectly respectful, perfectly polite. Sometimes for days not a word would be exchanged between us; sometimes he would come up and talk, or rather, try to talk, for it was seldom that he got any answer from me. As a rule I sat in my deck chair with Anna beside me, and he sat on the other side of the deck, or walked up and down, smoking or talking with that man who was with him.

"So it went on till the afternoon when we saw you. As I told you, he made us go down at once. I could see that he was furiously angry and excited. The steward came to our cabin early in the morning, and said that Mr. Carthew requested that we would dress and come up at once. As I was anxious to know what was going on, I did so; and he said when we came on deck, 'I am very sorry, Miss Greendale, but I have to ask you to go on shore with us at once.'

"I had no idea where we were, save that it was somewhere in the island of San Domingo; but I was ready enough to go ashore, thinking that I might see some white people that I could appeal to.

"I did speak to some negroes as we landed, but he said, 'It is of no use your speaking to them, Miss Greendale, for none of them understands any language but his own.'

"I saw that they did not understand me, at any rate. I was frightened when I saw that four of the sailors were going with us, and that a dozen of the blacks, armed with muskets, also formed round us. I said that I would not go afoot, but Carthew answered:

"'It would pain me greatly were I obliged to take such a step; but if you will not go, there is no course open to me but to have you carried. I am sorry that it should be so, but for various reasons it is imperative that you should take up your abode on shore for the present.'

"Seeing that it was useless to resist, I started with him. A short distance on, two blacks came up with the horses, which had evidently been sent for. We mounted, and were taken up among the hills to the place where you found us. Every mile that we went I grew more frightened, for it seemed to me that it was infinitely worse being in his power up in those hills, than on board his yacht, where something might happen by which I might be released from him. Those huts you saw had been built beforehand, so that he had evidently been preparing to take us there if there should be any reason for leaving the yacht. There was bedding and a couple of chairs and a table in ours.

"In the morning, while still speaking politely, he made it evident to me that he considered he could take a stronger tone than before.

"'I assure you, Miss Greendale,' he said, 'that this poor hut is but a temporary affair. I will shortly have a more comfortable one erected for you. You see, your residence here is likely to be a long one, unless you change your mind. Pray do not nourish any idea that you can someday escape me. It is out of the question; and certainly no white man is ever likely to come to this valley, nor is any negro, except those who live in this village. Its head is an Obi man, whose will is law to the negroes. Their belief in his power is unlimited, and I believe that they imagine that he could slay them with the look of his eye, or turn them into frogs or toads by his magic power. I pray you to think the matter over seriously. Why should you waste your life here You did not always regard me as so hateful; and the love that I bear you is unchangeable. Even could you, months or years hence, make your escape, which I regard as impossible, what would your position be if you returned to England? What story would you have to tell? It might be a true one, but would it be believed?'

"'I have my maid, sir,' I said, passionately, 'who would confirm my report of what I have suffered.'

"'No doubt she would,' he said quietly, 'but a maid's testimony as to her mistress's doings does not go for very much. I endeavoured to make the voyage, which I foresaw might be a long one, pleasant to you by requesting you to bring her with you, and I believe that ladies who elope not unfrequently take their maids with them. But we need not discuss that. This valley will be your home, Miss Greendale, until you consent to leave it as my wife. I do not say that I shall always share your solitude here. I shall cruise about, and may even for a time return to England, but that will in no way alter your position. I have been in communication with the Obi gentleman since I first put into the bay, and he has arranged to take charge of your safety while I am away. He is not a pleasant man to look at, and I have no doubt that he is an unmitigated scoundrel-but his powers are unlimited. If he ordered his followers to offer you and your maid as sacrifices to his fetish, they would carry out his orders, not only willingly, but joyfully. He is a gentleman who, like his class, has a keen eye to the main chance, and will, I doubt not, take every precaution to prevent a source of considerable income from escaping him.'

"'You understand,' he went on, in a different manner, 'I do not wish to threaten you-very far from it. I have endeavoured from the time that you set foot on board to make you as comfortable as possible, and to abstain from thrusting myself upon you in the slightest degree, and I shall always pursue the same course. But please understand that nothing will shake my resolution. It will pain me deeply to have to keep you in a place like this, but keep you I must until you consent to be mine. You must see yourself the hopelessness, as well as the folly, of holding out. On the one side is a life wasted here, on the other you will be the wife of a man who loves you above all things; who has risked everything by the step that he has taken, and who, when you consent, will devote his life to your happiness. You will be restored to your friends and to your position, and nought will be known, except that we made a runaway match, as many have done before us. Do not answer now. At any rate I will remain here for a couple of months, and by the end of that time you may see that the alternative is not so terrible a one.'

"Then, without another word, he turned and walked away; and nothing further passed between us until in the afternoon, when you so suddenly arrived."

"Thank God, he behaved better than I should have given him credit for," Frank said, when she had finished. "He must have felt absolutely certain that there was no chance whatever of your rescue, and that in time you would be forced to accept him, or he would hardly have refrained from pushing his suit more urgently. His calculations were well made, and if we had not noticed that brigantine at Cowes, and I had not had the luck to come upon some of his crew and pick up his track, he might have been successful."

"You don't think that I should ever have consented to marry him?" Bertha said, indignantly.

"I am sure that such a thought never entered your head, Bertha; but you cannot tell what the effect of a hopeless captivity would have had upon you. The fellow had judged you well, and he saw that the attitude of respect he adopted would afford him a far better chance of winning you, than roughness or threats would do. But he might have resorted to them afterwards, and you were so wholly and absolutely in his power, that you would almost have been driven to accept the alternative and become his wife."

She shook her head decidedly.

"I would have killed him first," she said. "I suppose some girls would say, 'I would have killed myself;' but I should not have thought of that-at any rate not until I had failed to kill him. Every woman has the same right to defend herself that a man has, and I should have no more felt that I was to blame, if I had killed him, than you would do when you killed a man who had done you no individual harm, in battle."

"We only want mamma here," she said a little later, as she took her seat in a deck chair, "to complete the illusion that we are sailing along somewhere on the Devonshire coast. The hills are higher and more wooded, but the general idea is the same. I suppose I ought to feel it very shocking, cruising about with you, without anyone but Anna with me; but somehow it does not feel so."

"No wonder, dear. You see, we have been looking forward to doing exactly the same thing in the spring."

"I think we had better not talk about that now," she said, flushing. "I intend to make believe, till we get to England, that mamma is down below, and that I may be called at any moment. How long shall we be before we are there?"

"I cannot say, Bertha. I shall have a talk with Hawkins, presently, as to what course we had better take. It may be best to sail to Bermuda. If we find a mail steamer about to start from there, we might go home in it, and get there a fortnight earlier than we should do in the yacht, perhaps more. However, that we can talk over. I can see there may be difficulties, but undoubtedly the sooner you are home the better. You see, we are well in November now.

"What day is it?" he reflected.

"I have lost all count, Frank."

He consulted a pocketbook.

"Today is the twenty-first of November. I should think that if we get favourable winds, we might make Bermuda in a week-ten days at the outside; and if we could catch a steamer a day or two after getting there, you might be able to spend your Christmas at Greendale."

"That would be very nice. The difficulty would be, that I might afterwards meet some of the people who were with us on the steamer."

"It would not be likely," he said. "Still, we can talk it over. At any rate, from the Bermudas we can send a letter to your mother, and set her mind at rest."

The captain and Purvis, consulting the book of sailing directions, came to the conclusion that the passage via the Bermudas would be distinctly the best and shortest. The wind was abeam and steady, and with all sail set the Osprey maintained a speed of nine knots an hour until Bermuda was in sight. They were still undecided as to whether they had better go home by the mail, but it was settled for them by their finding, on entering the port, that the steamer had touched there the day before and gone on the same evening, and that it was not probable that any other steamer would be sailing for England for another ten days.

They stopped only long enough to lay in a store of fresh provisions and water, of which the supply was now beginning to run very short. Indeed, had not the wind been so steady, all hands would have been placed on half rations of water.

Bertha did not land. She was nervously afraid of meeting anyone who might recognise her afterwards, and six hours after entering the port the Osprey was again under way. The wind, as is usual at Barbadoes, was blowing from the southwest; and it held with them the whole way home, so that after a remarkably quick run they dropped anchor off Southampton on the fifteenth of December. Frank had already made all arrangements with the captain to lay up the Osprey at once.

"I shall want her out again in the first week in April, so that she will not be long in winter quarters."

On landing, Frank despatched a telegram to Lady Greendale:

"Returned all safe and well. Just starting for town. Shall be with you about six o'clock."

The train was punctual, and five minutes before six Frank arrived with Bertha at Lady Greendale's. He had already told Bertha that he should not come in.

"It is much better that you should be alone with her for a time. She will have innumerable questions to ask, and would, of course, prefer to have you to herself. I will come round tomorrow morning after breakfast."

Anna had been instructed very carefully, by her mistress, not to say anything of what had happened, and in order that she might avoid questions, George Lechmere had seen her into a cab for Liverpool Street, as she wished to spend a week with some friends at Chelmsford. Then she was to join Bertha at Greendale.

Frank went to his chambers, where George Lechmere had driven with the luggage. The next morning he went early to Lady Greendale's, so early that he found her and Bertha at breakfast.

"My dear Frank," the former said, embracing him warmly, "how can I ever thank you for all that you have done for us! Bertha has been telling me all about how you rescued her. I hear that you were wounded, too."

"The wound was of no great importance, and, as you see, I have thrown aside my sling this morning. Yes, we went through some exciting adventures, which will furnish us with a store of memories all our lives.

"How have you been, Lady Greendale? I am glad to see that, at any rate, you are looking well."

"I have had a terribly anxious time of it, as you may suppose; but your letters were always so bright and hopeful that they helped me wonderfully. The first fortnight was the worst. Your letter from Gibraltar was a great relief, and of course the next, saying that you had heard that the yacht really did touch at Madeira, showed that you were on the right track. When you wrote from Madeira, I sent to Wild's for the largest map of the West Indies that they had, and thus when I got your letters, I was able to follow your course and understand all about it. You are looking better than when I saw you last."

"You should have seen him when I first met him, mamma. I hardly knew him, he looked so thin and worn; but during the last three weeks he has filled out again, and he seems to me to be looking quite himself."

"And Bertha is looking well, too."

"So I ought to do, mamma. I don't think I ever looked very bad, in spite of my troubles, and the splendid voyage we have had would have set anyone up."

"It has been a wonderful comfort to me," Lady Greendale said, "that I have met hardly anyone that I know. The last three weeks or so I have met two or three people, but I only said that I was up in town for a short time. Of course, they asked after you, and I said that you were not with me, as you were spending a short time with some people whom you knew. We intend to go down home tomorrow."

"The best thing that you can do, Lady Greendale. I shall be down for Christmas, and the first week in April, you know, I am to carry her off. So, you see, this excursion of ours has not altered any of our plans."

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