Martin Conisby (Chapter 1, page 1 of 4)


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Chapter 1

"Justice, O God, upon mine enemy. For the pain I suffer, may I see him suffer; for the anguish that is mine, so may I watch his agony! Thou art a just God, so, God of Justice, give to me vengeance!"

And having spoken this, which had been my prayer for three weary years, I composed myself to slumber. But even so, I started up broad awake and my every nerve a-tingle, only to see the moonlight flooding my solitude and nought to hear save the rustle of the soft night wind beyond the open door of the cave that was my habitation and the far-off, never-ceasing murmur that was the voice of those great waters that hemmed me in,--a desolate ocean where no ships ever sailed, a trackless waste that stretched away to the infinite blue.

Crouched upon my bed I fell vaguely a-wondering what should have roused me, hearkening to the distant roar of the surf that seemed to me now plaintive and despairing, now full of an ominous menace that banished gentle sleep.

Thereupon I must needs bethink me how often I had waked thus during my long and weary sojourn on this lonely island; how many times I had leapt from slumber, fancying I heard a sound of oars or voices hailing cheerily beyond the reef, or again (and this most often and bitterest phantasy of all) a voice, soft and low yet with a wondrous sweet and vital ring, the which as I knew must needs sound within my dreams henceforth,--a voice out of the past that called upon my name: "Martin--Oh, Martin!"

And this a voice that came to me in the blazing heat of tropic day, in the cool of eve, in the calm serenity of night, a voice calling, calling infinite pitiful and sweet, yet mocking me with my loneliness.

"Martin, dear love! Oh, Martin!"

"Joan!" I whispered and reached out yearning arms to the empty air. "Damaris--beloved!"

Beyond the open door I heard the sighing of the wind and the roar of the surf, soft with distance, infinite plaintive and despairing. Then, because sleep was not for me, I arose and came groping within my inner cave where stood a coffer and, lifting the lid, drew forth that I sought and went and sat me on my bed where the moon made a glory. And sitting there, I unfolded this my treasure that was no more than a woman's gown and fell to smoothing its folds with reverent hand; very tattered it was and worn by much hard usage, its bravery all tarnished and faded, yet for me it seemed yet to compass something of the vivid grace and beauty of that loved and vanished presence.

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