Martin Conisby (Chapter 6, page 2 of 5)


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Chapter 6

"Young sir," said he in stronger voice, "for your kind charity and this good water may the Saints requite thee. 'Tis three nights and two days since I drank--"

A shadow fell betwixt us and looking up I beheld Joanna. Now in one hand she grasped the Spaniard's sword she had stolen out of his boat and her other hand was hid behind her, wherefore I watched her narrowly, as she stood gazing down at this wounded man; and at first she scowled at him, but slowly her look changed and I saw her vivid lips curl in her baleful smile.

"Oh," said she very softly, "Oh, marvel of marvels! Oh, wonder of wonders, even and in very truth it is Don Federigo de Rosalva y Maldonada, wafted hither by wind and tide to Joanna and judgment. Oh, most wonderful!"

Now hereupon this poor wounded wretch lifted himself to peer up into her smiling face with hanging jaw, like one amazed beyond all speech, whiles she, slim and shapely in her 'broidered gown, nodded her handsome head. "Verily," quoth she, "'tis the hanging, bloody governor of Nombre de Dios come to Justice! I pray you, Señor, how many of our company ha' you strung aloft since last we met?"

Here, though with much painful ado, the Don got to his feet and made her a prodigious fine bow.

"The Señorita Joanna honours me by her notice," said he. "I should have doubtless known her at once but for her change of habit. And I am happy to inform the Señorita I have been so fortunate as to take and hang no less than five and twenty of her pirate fellowship since last I had the gratification of meeting her."

"Ha, you lie!" cried she passionately. "You lie!"

"They swing in their chains along the mole outside Nombre de Dios to witness for my truth, Señorita. And now," said he, propping himself against the rock behind him, "it is my turn to die, as I think? Well, strike, lady--here, above my gorget--"

"Die then!" cried she and whipped a pistol from behind her, but as she levelled I struck up the weapon and it exploded harmless in the air. Uttering a scream of bitter rage, she thrust with the sword, but I put up the stroke (thereby taking a gash in the arm) and gripping the rapier by the guards I twisted it from her hold. And now she turned on me in a very frenzy: "Kill me then!" she panted, striving to impale herself on the sword in my hand. "If this man is to come betwixt us now, kill me in mercy and free me from this hateful woman's flesh--" But here, spying my arm bloody, she forgot her anger all in a moment. "Are ye hurt?" said she. "Are ye hurt and all to save this miserable fool!" And suddenly (or ever I might prevent) she caught my arm, kissing the wound, heedless of the blood that bedabbled her cheek in horrid fashion.

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