Martin Conisby (Chapter 8, page 1 of 4)


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Chapter 8

Our fresh meat being nearly all gone, I set out next morning with my bow and arrows (in the management of which I had made myself extreme dexterous); I set out, I say, minded to shoot me a young goat or, failing this, one of those great birds whose flesh I had found ere now to be very tender and delicate eating.

Hardly had I waved adieu to the Don (him sitting in the shade propped in one of my great elbow chairs) than I started a goat and immediately gave chase, not troubling to use my bow, for what with my open-air life and constant exercise I had become so long-winded and fleet of foot that I would frequently run these wild creatures down.

Away sped the goat and I after it, along perilous tracks and leaping from rock to rock, joying in the chase, since of late I had been abroad very little by reason of Don Federigo's sickness; on I ran after my quarry, the animal making ever for higher ground and more difficult ways until we were come to a rocky height whence I might behold a wide expanse of ocean.

Now, as had become my wont, I cast a look around about this vast horizon and stopped all at once, clean forgetting my goat and all else in the world excepting that which had caught my lonely glance, that for which I had looked and waited and prayed for so long. For there, dim-seen 'twixt the immensity of sea and sky, was a speck I knew for the topsails of a ship. Long stood I staring as one entranced, my hands tight clasped, and all a-sweat with fear lest this glimmering speck should fade and vanish utterly away. At last, dreading this be but my fancy or a trick of the light, I summoned enough resolution to close my eyes and, bowing my head between my hands, remained thus as long as I might endure. Then, opening my eyes, I uttered a cry of joy to see this speck loom more distinct and plainer than before. Thereupon I turned and began to hasten back with some wild notion of putting off in Don Federigo's boat (the which lay securely afloat in the lagoon) and of standing away for this ship lest peradventure she miss the island. Full of this dreadful possibility I took to running like any madman, staying for nothing, leaping, scrambling, slipping and stumbling down sheer declivities, breasting precipitous cliffs until I reached and began to descend Skeleton Cove.

I was half-way down the cliff when I heard the clash of steel, and presently coming where I might look down into the cove I saw this: with his back to a rock and a smear of blood on his cheek stood Don Federigo, armed with my cut-and-thrust, defending himself against Joanna; and as I watched the flash of their whirling, clashing blades, it did not take me long to see that the Don was no match for her devilish skill and cunning, and beholding her swift play of foot and wrist, her lightning volts and passes, I read death in every supple line of her. Even as I hasted towards them, I saw the dart of her long blade, followed by a vivid, ever-widening stain on the shoulder of the Don's tattered shirt.

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