The Dynamiter

Page 76

Then suddenly he raised both hands to his temples, cried out, 'My head, my head!' and reeled and fell against the wall.

I knew too well what it must be. I turned and begged the servants to relieve him. But they, with one accord, denied the possibility of hope; the master had gone into the swamp, they said, the master must die; all help was idle. Why should I dwell upon his sufferings? I had him carried to a bed, and watched beside him. He lay still, and at times ground his teeth, and talked at times unintelligibly, only that one word of hurry, hurry, coming distinctly to my ears, and telling me that, even in the last struggle with the powers of death, his mind was still tortured by his daughter's peril. The sun had gone down, the darkness had fallen, when I perceived that I was alone on this unhappy earth. What thought had I of flight, of safety, of the impending dangers of my situation? Beside the body of my last friend, I had forgotten all except the natural pangs of my bereavement.

The sun was some four hours above the eastern line, when I was recalled to a knowledge of the things of earth, by the entrance of the slave-girl to whom I have already referred. The poor soul was indeed devotedly attached to me; and it was with streaming tears that she broke to me the import of her coming. With the first light of dawn a boat had reached our landing-place, and set on shore upon our isle (till now so fortunate) a party of officers bearing a warrant to arrest my father's person, and a man of a gross body and low manners, who declared the island, the plantation, and all its human chattels, to be now his own. 'I think,' said my slave-girl, 'he must be a politician or some very powerful sorcerer; for Madam Mendizabal had no sooner seen them coming, than she took to the woods.'

'Fool,' said I, 'it was the officers she feared; and at any rate why does that beldam still dare to pollute the island with her presence? And O Cora,' I exclaimed, remembering my grief, 'what matter all these troubles to an orphan?'

'Mistress,' said she, 'I must remind you of two things. Never speak as you do now of Madam Mendizabal; or never to a person of colour; for she is the most powerful woman in this world, and her real name even, if one durst pronounce it, were a spell to raise the dead. And whatever you do, speak no more of her to your unhappy Cora; for though it is possible she may be afraid of the police (and indeed I think that I have heard she is in hiding), and though I know that you will laugh and not believe, yet it is true, and proved, and known that she hears every word that people utter in this whole vast world; and your poor Cora is already deep enough in her black books. She looks at me, mistress, till my blood turns ice. That is the first I had to say; and now for the second: do, pray, for Heaven's sake, bear in mind that you are no longer the poor Senor's daughter. He is gone, dear gentleman; and now you are no more than a common slave-girl like myself. The man to whom you belong calls for you; oh, my dear mistress, go at once! With your youth and beauty, you may still, if you are winning and obedient, secure yourself an easy life.'

For a moment I looked on the creature with the indignation you may conceive; the next, it was gone: she did but speak after her kind, as the bird sings or cattle bellow. 'Go,' said I. 'Go, Cora. I thank you for your kind intentions. Leave me alone one moment with my dead father; and tell this man that I will come at once.'

She went: and I, turning to the bed of death, addressed to those deaf ears the last appeal and defence of my beleaguered innocence. 'Father,' I said, 'it was your last thought, even in the pangs of dissolution, that your daughter should escape disgrace. Here, at your side, I swear to you that purpose shall be carried out; by what means, I know not; by crime, if need be; and Heaven forgive both you and me and our oppressors, and Heaven help my helplessness!' Thereupon I felt strengthened as by long repose; stepped to the mirror, ay, even in that chamber of the dead; hastily arranged my hair, refreshed my tear-worn eyes, breathed a dumb farewell to the originator of my days and sorrows; and composing my features to a smile, went forth to meet my master.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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