Oh, bring me to Sir George!' And, my terror fairly mastering my courage, I fell upon my knees and began to pray to all the saints.
'Lordy!' cried the negro, 'here they come!' And his black head was instantly withdrawn from the window.
'I never heard such nonsense in my life,' exclaimed a voice.
'Why, so we all say, Sir George,' replied the voice of Mr. Kentish. 'But put yourself in our place. The niggers were near two to one. And upon my word, if you'll excuse me, sir, considering the notion they have taken in their heads, I regard it as precious fortunate for all of us that the mistake occurred.'
'This is no question of fortune, sir,' returned Sir George. 'It is a question of my orders, and you may take my word for it, Kentish, either Harland, or yourself, or Parker--or, by George, all three of you!--shall swing for this affair. These are my sentiments. Give me the key and be off.'
Immediately after, the key turned in the lock; and there appeared upon the threshold a gentleman, between forty and fifty, with a very open countenance, and of a stout and personable figure.
'My dear young lady,' said he, 'who the devil may you be?'
I told him all my story in one rush of words. He heard me, from the first, with an amazement you can scarcely picture, but when I came to the death of the Senora Mendizabal in the tornado, he fairly leaped into the air.
'My dear child,' he cried, clasping me in his arms, 'excuse a man who might be your father! This is the best news I ever had since I was born; for that hag of a mulatto was no less a person than my wife.' He sat down upon a tar-barrel, as if unmanned by joy. 'Dear me,' said he, 'I declare this tempts me to believe in Providence. And what,' he added, 'can I do for you?'
'Sir George,' said I, 'I am already rich: all that I ask is your protection.'
'Understand one thing,' he said, with great energy. 'I will never marry.'
'I had not ventured to propose it,' I exclaimed, unable to restrain my mirth; 'I only seek to be conveyed to England, the natural home of the escaped slave.'
'Well,' returned Sir George, 'frankly I owe you something for this exhilarating news; besides, your father was of use to me. Now, I have made a small competence in business--a jewel mine, a sort of naval agency, et caetera, and I am on the point of breaking up my company, and retiring to my place in Devonshire to pass a plain old age, unmarried. One good turn deserves another: if you swear to hold your tongue about this island, these little bonfire arrangements, and the whole episode of my unfortunate marriage, why, I'll carry you home aboard the Nemorosa.' I eagerly accepted his conditions.
'One thing more,' said he. 'My late wife was some sort of a sorceress among the blacks; and they are all persuaded she has come alive again in your agreeable person. Now, you will have the goodness to keep up that fancy, if you please; and to swear to them, on the authority of Hoodoo or whatever his name may be, that I am from this moment quite a sacred character.'
'I swear it,' said I, 'by my father's memory; and that is a vow that I will never break.'
'I have considerably better hold on you than any oath,' returned Sir George, with a chuckle; 'for you are not only an escaped slave, but have, by your own account, a considerable amount of stolen property.'
I was struck dumb; I saw it was too true; in a glance, I recognised that these jewels were no longer mine; with similar quickness, I decided they should be restored, ay, if it cost me the liberty that I had just regained. Forgetful of all else, forgetful of Sir George, who sat and watched me with a smile, I drew out Mr. Caulder's pocket-book and turned to the page on which the dying man had scrawled his testament. How shall I describe the agony of happiness and remorse with which I read it! for my victim had not only set me free, but bequeathed to me the bag of jewels.
My plain tale draws towards a close. Sir George and I, in my character of his rejuvenated wife, displayed ourselves arm-in-arm among the negroes, and were cheered and followed to the place of embarkation.