The Dynamiter

Page 83

About all the coast, the surf, roused by the tornado of the night, beat with a particular fury and made a fringe of snow. Close at my feet, I saw a haven, set in precipitous and palm- crowned bluffs of rock. Just outside, a ship was heaving on the surge, so trimly sparred, so glossily painted, so elegant and point-device in every feature, that my heart was seized with admiration. The English colours blew from her masthead; and from my high station, I caught glimpses of her snowy planking, as she rolled on the uneven deep, and saw the sun glitter on the brass of her deck furniture. There, then, was my ship of refuge; and of all my difficulties only one remained: to get on board of her.

Half an hour later, I issued at last out of the woods on the margin of a cove, into whose jaws the tossing and blue billows entered, and along whose shores they broke with a surprising loudness. A wooded promontory hid the yacht; and I had walked some distance round the beach, in what appeared to be a virgin solitude, when my eye fell on a boat, drawn into a natural harbour, where it rocked in safety, but deserted. I looked about for those who should have manned her; and presently, in the immediate entrance of the wood, spied the red embers of a fire, and, stretched around in various attitudes, a party of slumbering mariners. To these I drew near: most were black, a few white; but all were dressed with the conspicuous decency of yachtsmen; and one, from his peaked cap and glittering buttons, I rightly divined to be an officer. Him, then, I touched upon the shoulder. He started up; the sharpness of his movement woke the rest; and they all stared upon me in surprise.

'What do you want?' inquired the officer.

'To go on board the yacht,' I answered.

I thought they all seemed disconcerted at this; and the officer, with something of sharpness, asked me who I was. Now I had determined to conceal my name until I met Sir George; and the first name that rose to my lips was that of the Senora Mendizabal. At the word, there went a shock about the little party of seamen; the negroes stared at me with indescribable eagerness, the whites themselves with something of a scared surprise; and instantly the spirit of mischief prompted me to add, 'And if the name is new to your ears, call me Metamnbogu.'

I had never seen an effect so wonderful. The negroes threw their hands into the air, with the same gesture I remarked the night before about the Hoodoo camp-fire; first one, and then another, ran forward and kneeled down and kissed the skirts of my torn dress; and when the white officer broke out swearing and calling to know if they were mad, the coloured seamen took him by the shoulders, dragged him on one side till they were out of hearing, and surrounded him with open mouths and extravagant pantomime. The officer seemed to struggle hard; he laughed aloud, and I saw him make gestures of dissent and protest; but in the end, whether overcome by reason or simply weary of resistance, he gave in-- approached me civilly enough, but with something of a sneering manner underneath--and touching his cap, 'My lady,' said he, 'if that is what you are, the boat is ready.'

My reception on board the Nemorosa (for so the yacht was named) partook of the same mingled nature. We were scarcely within hail of that great and elegant fabric, where she lay rolling gunwale under and churning the blue sea to snow, before the bulwarks were lined with the heads of a great crowd of seamen, black, white, and yellow; and these and the few who manned the boat began exchanging shouts in some lingua franca incomprehensible to me. All eyes were directed on the passenger; and once more I saw the negroes toss up their hands to heaven, but now as if with passionate wonder and delight.

At the head of the gangway, I was received by another officer, a gentlemanly man with blond and bushy whiskers; and to him I addressed my demand to see Sir George.

'But this is not--' he cried, and paused.

'I know it,' returned the other officer, who had brought me from the shore.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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