Martin Conisby (Chapter 5, page 2 of 5)


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Chapter 5

"True!" said I. "So will I win free of you so soon as I may--"

"Free of me?" cried she, and throwing herself on the sands, sat crouched there, her head upon her knees and sobbing miserably. "So you will abandon me then?" said she at last.

"Aye."

"Even though I--vow myself your slave?"

"I want no slave."

"Even though I beseech you on my knees?"

"'Twere vain, I sail hence alone."

"You were wiser to seek my love than my hate."

"But I was ever a fool."

"Aye, verily!" she cried passionately. "So do you yearn ever for your light-o'-love, for your vanished Joan--your Damaris that left you--"

"Now I pray you go!" said I.

"I wonder," sighed she, never stirring, "I wonder why I do not kill you? I hate you--despise you and yet--"

Slowly she got to her feet and moved away with dragging step but paused anon and spake again with head a-droop: "Living or dead, you shall not leave the island except I go with you!" Then she went her way and something in her attitude methought infinitely desolate.

Left alone, I stood awhile in gloomy thought, but rousing presently, I betook me into my cave, and lying down, fell at last to uneasy slumber. But waking suddenly, I started up on elbow full of an indefinable fear, and glancing without the cave, I saw a strange thing, for sand and rock and bush-girt cliff had on an unfamiliar aspect, the which I was wholly unable to account for; rocks and trees and flowering vines shone throbbing upon my vision with a palpitant glow that came and went, the like of which I had never seen before.

Then, all at once, I was up and running along Skeleton Cove, filled with a dreadful apprehension, and coming out upon Deliverance Beach, stood quaking like one smitten with a palsy; for there, lapped about in writhing flame and crackling sparks, was all that remained of my boat, and crouched upon the sands, watching me by the light of this fire, was she who called herself Joanna.

And now, perceiving all the wanton cruelty of this thing, a cold and merciless rage took me and staring on this woman as she stared on me, I began to creep towards her.

"I warned you, fool, I warned you!" cried she, never moving. "'Tis a brave fire I've made and burns well. And now you shall kill me an you will--but your boat is lost to you for ever, and so is--your Damaris!"

Now at sound of this loved name I stopped and stood a great while staring at the fire, then suddenly I cast myself on my knees, and lifting up my eyes to the stars already paling to dawn, I prayed God to keep me from the sin of murder.

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