Martin Conisby (Chapter 6, page 1 of 5)

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Chapter 6

I was out upon the reef, waving my arms like any madman and shouting to the vague figure huddled in the stern sheets. As the boat drew nearer, I discovered this figure to be a man in Spanish half-armour, and the head of this man was bowed meekly upon steel-clad breast like one overcome with great weariness. But presently as I watched he looked up, like one awaking from sleep, and gestured feebly with his arm, whiles I, beholding here the means to my deliverance, babbled prayers of thankfulness to God.

After some while, the boat being within hail, I began to call out to this solitary voyager (for companion had he none, it seemed) how he must steer to avoid the rocks and shoals. At last, the boat being come near enough and the sea very smooth, I waded out and, watching my chance, clambered aboard over the bows and came, all dripping, eager to welcome this heavensent stranger and thus beheld the boat very foul of blood and him pale and hollow-cheeked, his eyes dim and sunken; moreover his rich armour was battered and dinted, whiles about one leg was knotted a bloody scarf.

"SeƱor," said I, in my best Spanish, "a lonely man, giveth you right hearty greeting!"

"I thank you, sir," he answered and in very excellent English, "though I do much fear you shall abide solitary, for as I do think I am a-dying. Could you--bring me--water--"

The words ended in a sigh and his head drooped so that I feared he was already gone. But, finding he yet breathed, I made haste to lower the sail and, shipping oars, paddled towards that opening in the reef that gave upon the lagoon. Being opposite this narrow channel I felt the boat caught by some tide and current and swept forward ever more rapidly, insomuch that I unshipped the oars and hasting into the bow, caught up a stout spar wherewith to fend us off from the rocks. Yet more than once, despite all my exertions, we came near striking ere, having passed through this perilous gut, we floated into the placid waters of the lagoon beyond.

Very soon I had beached the boat as securely as I might on that spit of sand opposite Skeleton Cove, and finding the Spaniard yet a-swoon I lifted him, albeit with much ado, and setting him across my shoulder, bore him thus into the cool shade of the cave. There I laid him down beside the little rill to bathe his head and wrists with the sweet water and moisten his parched lips. At this he revived somewhat and, lifting his head, eagerly drank so much as I would allow, his sunken eyes uplift to mine in an ecstasy.

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