Книга Captain Blood. Содержание - Chapter VII PIRATES
They met at the gate of the luxuriant garden of Government House, and Miss Bishop, herself mounted, stared to see Peter Blood on horseback. It happened that he was in good spirits. The fact that the Governor's condition had so far improved as to restore him his freedom of movement had sufficed to remove the depression under which he had been labouring for the past twelve hours and more. In its rebound the mercury of his mood had shot higher far than present circumstances warranted. He was disposed to be optimistic. What had failed last night would certainly not fail again to-night. What was a day, after all? The Secretary's office might be troublesome, but not really troublesome for another twenty-four hours at least; and by then they would be well away.
This joyous confidence of his was his first misfortune. The next was that his good spirits were also shared by Miss Bishop, and that she bore no rancour. The two things conjoined to make the delay that in its consequences was so deplorable.
"Good-morning, sir," she hailed him pleasantly. "It's close upon a month since last I saw you."
"Twenty-one days to the hour," said he. "I've counted them."
"I vow I was beginning to believe you dead."
"I have to thank you for the wreath."
"To deck my grave," he explained.
"Must you ever be rallying?" she wondered, and looked at him gravely, remembering that it was his rallying on the last occasion had driven her away in dudgeon.
"A man must sometimes laugh at himself or go mad," said he. "Few realize it. That is why there are so many madmen in the world."
"You may laugh at yourself all you will, sir. But sometimes I think you laugh at me, which is not civil."
"Then, faith, you're wrong. I laugh only at the comic, and you are not comic at all."
"What am I, then?" she asked him, laughing.
A moment he pondered her, so fair and fresh to behold, so entirely maidenly and yet so entirely frank and unabashed.
"You are," he said, "the niece of the man who owns me his slave." But he spoke lightly. So lightly that she was encouraged to insistence.
"Nay, sir, that is an evasion. You shall answer me truthfully this morning."
"Truthfully? To answer you at all is a labour. But to answer truthfully! Oh, well, now, I should say of you that he'll be lucky who counts you his friend." It was in his mind to add more. But he left it there.
"That's mighty civil," said she. "You've a nice taste in compliments, Mr. Blood. Another in your place..."
"Faith, now, don't I know what another would have said? Don't I know my fellow-man at all?"
"Sometimes I think you do, and sometimes I think you don't. Anyway, you don't know your fellow-woman. There was that affair of the Spaniards."
"Will ye never forget it?"
"Bad cess to your memory. Is there no good in me at all that you could be dwelling on instead?"
"Oh, several things."
"For instance, now?" He was almost eager.
"You speak excellent Spanish."
"Is that all?" He sank back into dismay.
"Where did you learn it? Have you been in Spain?"
"That I have. I was two years in a Spanish prison."
"In prison?" Her tone suggested apprehensions in which he had no desire to leave her.
"As a prisoner of war," he explained. "I was taken fighting with the French — in French service, that is."
"But you're a doctor!" she cried.
"That's merely a diversion, I think. By trade I am a soldier — at least, it's a trade I followed for ten years. It brought me no great gear, but it served me better than medicine, which, as you may observe, has brought me into slavery. I'm thinking it's more pleasing in the sight of Heaven to kill men than to heal them. Sure it must be."
"But how came you to be a soldier, and to serve the French?"
"I am Irish, you see, and I studied medicine. Therefore — since it's a perverse nation we are — ... Oh, but it's a long story, and the Colonel will be expecting my return." She was not in that way to be defrauded of her entertainment. If he would wait a moment they would ride back together. She had but come to enquire of the Governor's health at her uncle's request.
So he waited, and so they rode back together to Colonel Bishop's house. They rode very slowly, at a walking pace, and some whom they passed marvelled to see the doctor-slave on such apparently intimate terms with his owner's niece. One or two may have promised themselves that they would drop a hint to the Colonel. But the two rode oblivious of all others in the world that morning. He was telling her the story of his early turbulent days, and at the end of it he dwelt more fully than hitherto upon the manner of his arrest and trial.
The tale was barely done when they drew up at the Colonel's door, and dismounted, Peter Blood surrendering his nag to one of the negro grooms, who informed them that the Colonel was from home at the moment.
Even then they lingered a moment, she detaining him.
"I am sorry, Mr. Blood, that I did not know before," she said, and there was a suspicion of moisture in those clear hazel eyes. With a compelling friendliness she held out her hand to him.
"Why, what difference could it have made?" he asked.
"Some, I think. You have been very hardly used by Fate."
"Och, now..." He paused. His keen sapphire eyes considered her steadily a moment from under his level black brows. "It might have been worse," he said, with a significance which brought a tinge of colour to her cheeks and a flutter to her eyelids.
He stooped to kiss her hand before releasing it, and she did not deny him. Then he turned and strode off towards the stockade a half-mile away, and a vision of her face went with him, tinted with a rising blush and a sudden unusual shyness. He forgot in that little moment that he was a rebel-convict with ten years of slavery before him; he forgot that he had planned an escape, which was to be carried into effect that night; forgot even the peril of discovery which as a result of the Governor's gout now overhung him.
Mr. James Nuttall made all speed, regardless of the heat, in his journey from Bridgetown to Colonel Bishop's plantation, and if ever man was built for speed in a hot climate that man was Mr. James Nuttall, with his short, thin body, and his long, fleshless legs. So withered was he that it was hard to believe there were any juices left in him, yet juices there must have been, for he was sweating violently by the time he reached the stockade.
At the entrance he almost ran into the overseer Kent, a squat, bow-legged animal with the arms of a Hercules and the jowl of a bulldog.
"I am seeking Doctor Blood," he announced breathlessly.
"You are in a rare haste," growled Kent. "What the devil is it? Twins?"
"Eh? Oh! Nay, nay. I'm not married, sir. It's a cousin of mine, sir."
"He is taken bad, sir," Nuttall lied promptly upon the cue that Kent himself had afforded him. "Is the doctor here?"
"That's his hut yonder." Kent pointed carelessly. "If he's not there, he'll be somewhere else." And he took himself off. He was a surly, ungracious beast at all times, readier with the lash of his whip than with his tongue.
Nuttall watched him go with satisfaction, and even noted the direction that he took. Then he plunged into the enclosure, to verify in mortification that Dr. Blood was not at home. A man of sense might have sat down and waited, judging that to be the quickest and surest way in the end. But Nuttall had no sense. He flung out of the stockade again, hesitated a moment as to which direction he should take, and finally decided to go any way but the way that Kent had gone. He sped across the parched savannah towards the sugar plantation which stood solid as a rampart and gleaming golden in the dazzling June sunshine. Avenues intersected the great blocks of ripening amber cane. In the distance down one of these he espied some slaves at work. Nuttall entered the avenue and advanced upon them. They eyed him dully, as he passed them. Pitt was not of their number, and he dared not ask for him. He continued his search for best part of an hour, up one of those lanes and then down another. Once an overseer challenged him, demanding to know his business. He was looking, he said, for Dr. Blood. His cousin was taken ill. The overseer bade him go to the devil, and get out of the plantation. Blood was not there. If he was anywhere he would be in his hut in the stockade.