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“Has he been drinking ?" shouted I to Rorie.
“ He will aye be drunk when the wind blaws," returned Rorie in the same high key, and it was all that I could do to hear him.
“ Then-was he so—in February ?” I enquired.
Rorie's “Ay” was a cause of joy to me. The murder, then, had not sprung in cold blood from calculation ; it was an act of madness no more to be condemned than to be pardoned. My uncle was a dangerous madman, if you will, but he was not cruel and base as I had feared. Yet what a scene for a carouse, what an incredible vice was this that the poor man had chosen! I have always thought drunkenness a wild and almost fearful pleasure, rather demoniacal than human; but drunkenness, out here in the roaring blackness, on the edge of a cliff above that hell of waters, the man's head spinning like the Roost, his feet tottering on the edge of death, his ear watching for the signs of shipwieck, surely that, if it were credible in any one, was morally impossible in a m like my uncle, whose mind was set upon a damnatory creed and haunted by the darkest superstitions. Yet so it was; and, as we reached the bight of shelter and could breathe again, I saw the man's eyes shining in the night with an unholy glimmer.
“Eh, Charlie, man, it's grand !” he cried. “See to them !” he continued, dragging me to the edge of the abyss from whence arose that deafening clamour and those clouds of spray ; “ see to them dancin', man! Is that no wicked ?"
He pronounced the word with gusto, and I thought it suited with the scene.
“ They're yowlin' for thon schooner,” he went on, his thin, insano voice clearly audible in the shelter of the bank, "an? she's comin' aye nearer, aye nearer, aye nearer, an' nearer, an' nearer, an' they ken't, the folk kens it, they ken weel it's by wi' them. Charlie, lad, they're a' drunk in yon schooner, a' dozened wi' drink. They were a' drunk in the Christ-Anna, at the hinder end. There's nane could droon at sea wantin' the brandy. Hoot awa, what do you ken ?” with a sudden blast of anger. “I tell ye, it cannae be; they daurnae droon without it. Ha'e," holding out the bottle, “tak'a sowp."
I was about to refuse, but Rorie touched me as if in warning; and indeed I had already thought better of the movement, I took the bottle, therefore, and not only drank freely myself, but contrived to spill even more as I was doing so. It was pure spirit, and almost strangled me to swallow. My kinsman did not observe the loss, but, once more throwing back his head, drained the remainder to the dregs. Then, with a loud laugh, he cast the bottle forth among the Merry Men, who seemed to leap up, shouting to receive it.
“Ha'e, bairns !” he cried, “there's your han’sel. Ye'll get bonnier nor that, or morning."
Suddenly, out in the black night before us, and not two hundred yards away, we heard, at a moment when the wind was silent, the clear note of a human voice. Instantly the wind swept howling down upon the Head, and the Roost bellowed, and churned, and danced with a new fury. But we had heard the sound, and we knew, with agony, that this was the doomed ship now close on ruin, and that what we had heard was the voice of her master issuing his last command. Crouching together on the edge, we waited, straining every sense, for the inevitable end. It was long, however, and to us it seemed like ages, ere the schooner suddenly appeared for one brief instant, relieved against a tower of glimmering foam. I still see her reefed mainsail flapping loose, as the boom fell heavily across the deck; I still see the black outline of the huil, and still think I can distinguish the figure of a man stretched upon the tiller. Yet the whole sight we had of her passed swifter than lightning; the very wave that disclosed her fell burying her for ever; the mingled cry of many voices at the point of death rose and was quenched in the roaring of the Merry Men. And with that the tragedy was at an end. The strong ship, with all her gear, and the lamp perhaps still burning in the cabin, the lives of so many men, precious surely to others, dear, at least, as heaven to themselves, had all, in that one moment, gone down into the surging waters. They were gone like a dream. And the wind still ran and shouted, and the senseless waters in the Roost still leaped and tumbled as before.
How Amyas Throw His Sword into the Sea
(From " Westward Ho!" by Chas. Kingsley.) It was now the sixteenth day of the chase. They had seen, the evening before, St. David's Head, and then the Welsh coast round Milford Haven, looming out black and sharp before the blaze of the inland thunder-storm ; and it had lightened all round them during the fore part of the night, upon a light south-western breeze.
Amyas paced the sloppy deck fretfully and fiercely. He knew that the Spaniard could not escape ;
but he cursed
every moment which lingered between him and that one great revenge which blackened all his soul. The men sate sulkily about the deck, and whistled for a wind; the sails flapped idly against the masts; and the ship rolled in the long troughs of the sea, till her yard-arms almost dipped right and left.
“Take care of those guns. You will have something loose next," growled Amyas.
“We will take care of the guns, if the Lord will take care of the wind," said Yeo.
“We shall have plenty before night,” said Cary, “and thunder too.”
“ So much the better," said Amyas. “It may roar till it splits the heavens, if it does but let me get my work done.”
“He's not far off, I warrant,” said Cary. " One lift of the cloud, and we should see him."
“ To windward of us, as likely as not,” said Aymas. “The devil fights for him, I believe. To have been on his heels sixteen days, and not sent this through him yet!” And he shook his sword impatiently.
So the morning wore away, without a sign of living thing, not even a passing gull; and the black melancholy of the heaven reflected itself in the black melancholy of Amyas. Was he to lose his prey after all ? The thought made him shudder with rage and disappointment. It was intolerable. Anything but that.
"No, God !” he cried, “let me but once feel this in his accursed heart, and then,-strike me dead, if Thou wilt !”
“The Lord have mercy on us,” cried John Brimbleoombe. “What have you said ?”
“What is that to you, sir? There, they are piping to dinner. Go down. I shall not come.”
And Jack went down, and talked in a half-terrified whisper of Amyas's ominous words.
All thought that they portended some bad luck, except old Yeo.
“Well, Sir John,” said he, “and why not? What better can the Lord do for a man, then take him home when he has done his work ? Our captain is wilful and spiteful, and must needs kill his man himself; while for me, I don't care how the Don goes, provided he does go. I owe him no grudge, nor any man. May the Lord give him repentance, and forgive him all his sins; but if I could but see him once safe ashore, as he may be ere nightfall, on the Mortestone or the back of Lundy, I would say, 'Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace,' even if it were the lightning which was sent to fetch me.”
"But, Master Yeo, a sudden death ?”
“And why not a sudden death, Sir John? Even fools long for a short life and a merry one, and shall nos the Lord's people pray for a short death and a merry one? Let it come as it will to old Yeo. Hark! there's the captain's voice ! ”
“Here she is !” thundered Aymas from the deck; and in an instant all were scrambling up the hatchway as fast as the frantic rolling of the ship would let them,
Yes. There she was, The cloud had lifted suddenly, and to the south a ragged bore of blue sky let a long stream of sunshine down on her tall masts and stately hull, as she lay rolling some four or five miles to the eastward : but as for land, none was to be seen.
“There she is ; and here we are,” said Cary ; “but where is here? and where is there? How is the tide, master ? "
“Running up Channel by this time, sir."
“What matters the tide ?” said Amyas, devouring the ship with terrible and cold blue eyes. “Can't we get at her ? ”
“Not unless some one jumps out and shoves behind,” said Cary. “I shall go down again and finish that mackerel, if
this roll has not chucked it to the cockroaches under the table.”
“Don't jest, Will! I can't stand it,” said Amyas, in a voice which quivered so much that Cary looked at him. His whole frame was trembling like an aspen. Cary took his arm, and drew him aside.
“Dear old lad,” said he, as they leaned over the bulwarks, "what is this? You are not yourself, and have not been these four days.” “No.
I am not Amyas Leigh. I am my brother's avenger. Do not reason with me, Will: when it is over I shall be merry old Amyas again,” and he passed his hand over his brow.
“Do you believe,” said he, after a moment, “that men can be possessed by devils ?” " The Bible
says so “ If my cause were not a just one, I should fancy I had a devil in me. My throat and heart are as hot as the pit. Would to God it were done, for done it must be ! Now go.”
Cary went away with a shudder. As he passed down the hatchway he looked back. Amyas had got the hone out of his pocket, and was whetting away again at his sword-edge, as if there was some dreadful doom on him, to whet, and whet for ever,
The weary day wore on. The strip of blue sky was curtained over again, and all was dismal as before, though it grew sultrier every moment; and now and then a distant mutter shook the air to westward. Nothing could be done to lessen the distance between the ships, for the Vengeance had had all her boats carried away but one, and that was much too small to tow her: and while the men went down again to finish dinner, Amyas worked on at his sword, looking up every now and then suddenly at the Spaniard, as if to satisfy himself that it was not a vision which had vanished.
About two Yeo came up to him.
“He is ours safely now, sir. The tide has been running to the eastward for this two hours."