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“Give him more wine, Will; his eyes are opening.”
“Hey day?” said Amyas, faintly, “not past the Shutter yet! How long she hangs in the wind!”
“We are long past the Shutter, Sir Amyas,” said Brimblecombe.
“Are you mad? Cannot I trust my own eyes?”
There was no answer for awhile.
“We are past the Shutter, indeed,” said Cary, very gently, “and lying in the cove at Lundy.”
“Will you tell me that that is not the Shutter, and that the Devil's-limekiln, and that the cliff — that villain Spaniard only gone — and that Yeo is not standing here by me, and Cary there forward, and — why, by the by, where are you, Jack Brimblecombe, who were talking to me this minute?”
“Oh, Sir Amyas Leigh, dear Sir Amyas Leigh,” blubbered poor Jack, “put out your hand, and feel where you are, and pray the Lord to forgive you for your wilfulness!”
A great trembling fell upon Amyas Leigh; half fearfully he put out his hand; he felt that he was in his hammock, with the deck beams close above his head. The vision which had been left upon his eye-balls vanished like a dream.
“What is this? I must be asleep? What has happened? Where am I?”
“In your cabin, Amyas,” said Cary.
“What? And where is Yeo?”
“Yeo is gone where he longed to go, and as he longed to go. The same flash which struck you down, struck him dead.”
“Dead? Lightning? Any more hurt? I must go and see. Why, what is this?” and Amyas passed his hand across his eyes. “It is all dark — dark, as I live!” And he passed his hand over his eyes again.
There was another dead silence. Amyas broke it.
“Oh, God!” shrieked the great proud sea-captain, “Oh, God, I am blind! blind! blind!” And writhing in his great horror, he called to Cary to kill him and put him out of his misery, and then wailed for his mother to come and help him, as if he had been a boy once more; while Brimblecombe and Cary, and the sailors who crowded round the cabin-door, wept as if they too had been boys once more.
Soon his fit of frenzy passed off, and he sank back exhausted.
They lifted him into their remaining boat, rowed him ashore, carried him painfully up the hill to the old castle, and made a bed for him on the floor, in the very room in which Don Guzman and Rose Salterne had plighted their troth to each other, five wild years before.
Three miserable days were passed within that lonely tower. Amyas, utterly unnerved by the horror of his misfortune, and by the over-excitement of the last few weeks, was incessantly delirious; while Cary, and Brimblecombe, and the men nursed him by turns, as sailors and wives only can nurse; and listened with awe to his piteous self-reproaches and entreaties to Heaven to remove that woe, which, as he shrieked again and again, was a just judgment on him for his wilfulness and ferocity. The surgeon talked, of course, learnedly about melancholic humors, and his liver's being “adust by the over-pungency of the animal spirits,” and then fell back on the universal panacea of blood-letting, which he effected with fear and trembling during a short interval of prostration; encouraged by which he attempted to administer a large bolus of aloes, was knocked down for his pains, and then thought it better to leave Nature to her own work. In the meanwhile, Cary had sent off one of the island skiffs to Clovelly, with letters to his father, and to Mrs. Leigh, entreating the latter to come off to the island: but the heavy westerly winds made that as impossible as it was to move Amyas on board, and the men had to do their best, and did it well enough.
On the fourth day his raving ceased: but he was still too weak to be moved. Toward noon, however, he called for food, ate a little, and seemed revived.
“Will,” he said, after awhile, “this room is as stifling as it is dark. I feel as if I should be a sound man once more if I could but get one snuff of the sea-breeze.”
The surgeon shook his head at the notion of moving him: but Amyas was peremptory.
“I am captain still, Tom Surgeon, and will sail for the Indies, if I choose. Will Cary, Jack Brimblecombe, will you obey a blind general?”
“What you will in reason,” said they both at once.
“Then lead me out, my masters, and over the down to the south end. To the point at the south end I must go; there is no other place will suit.”
And he rose firmly to his feet, and held out his hands for theirs.
“Let him have his humor,” whispered Cary. “It may be the working off of his madness.”
“This sudden strength is a note of fresh fever, Mr. Lieutenant,” said the surgeon, “and the rules of the art prescribe rather a fresh blood-letting.”
Amyas overheard the last word, and broke out:
“Thou pig-sticking Philistine, wilt thou make sport with blind Samson? Come near me to let blood from my arm, and see if I do not let blood from thy coxcomb. Catch him, Will, and bring him me here!”
The surgeon vanished as the blind giant made a step forward; and they set forth, Amyas walking slowly, but firmly, between his two friends.
“Whither?” asked Cary.
“To the south end. The crag above the Devil's-limekiln. No other place will suit.”
Jack gave a murmur, and half-stopped, as a frightful suspicion crossed him.
“That is a dangerous place!”
“What of that?” said Amyas, who caught his meaning in his tone. “Dost think I am going to leap over cliff? I have not heart enough for that. On, lads, and set me safe among the rocks.”
So slowly, and painfully, they went on, while Amyas murmured to himself:
“No, no other place will suit; I can see all thence.”
So on they went to the point, where the cyclopean wall of granite cliff which forms the western side of Lundy, ends sheer in a precipice of some three hundred feet, topped by a pile of snow-white rock, bespangled with golden lichens. As they approached, a raven, who sat upon the topmost stone, black against the bright blue sky, flapped lazily away, and sank down the abysses of the cliff, as if he scented the corpses underneath the surge. Below them from the Gull-rock rose a thousand birds, and filled the air with sound; the choughs cackled, the hacklets wailed, the great blackbacks laughed querulous defiance at the intruders, and a single falcon, with an angry bark, dashed out from beneath their feet, and hung poised high aloft, watching the sea-fowl which swung slowly round and round below.
It was a glorious sight upon a glorious day. To the northward the glens rushed down toward the cliff, crowned with gray crags, and carpeted with purple heather and green fern; and from their feet stretched away to the westward the sapphire rollers of the vast Atlantic, crowned with a thousand crests of flying foam. On their left hand, some ten miles to the south, stood out against the sky the purple wall of Hartland cliffs, sinking lower and lower as they trended away to the southward along the lonely ironbound shores of Cornwall, until they faded, dim and blue, into the blue horizon forty miles away.
The sky was flecked with clouds, which rushed toward them fast upon the roaring south-west wind; and the warm ocean-breeze swept up the cliffs, and whistled through the heather-bells, and howled in cranny and in crag,
“Till the pillars and clefts of the granite
while Amyas, a proud smile upon his lips, stood breasting that genial stream of airy wine with swelling nostrils and fast-heaving chest, and seemed to drink in life from every gust. All three were silent for awhile; and Jack and Cary, gazing downward with delight upon the glory and the grandeur of the sight, forgot for awhile that their companion saw it not. Yet when they started sadly, and looked into his face, did he not see it? So wide and eager were his eyes, so bright and calm his face, that they fancied for an instant that he was once more even as they.
A deep sigh undeceived them. “I know it is all here — the dear old sea, where I would live and die. And my eyes feel for it; feel for it — and cannot find it; never, never will find it again forever! God's will be done!”
“Do you say that?” asked Brimblecombe, eagerly.
“Why should I not? Why have I been raving in hell-fire for I know not how many days, but to find out that, John Brimblecombe, thou better man than I?”
“Not that last: but Amen! Amen! and the Lord has indeed had mercy upon thee!” said Jack, through his honest tears.
“Amen!” said Amyas. “Now set me where I can rest among the rocks without fear of falling — for life is sweet still, even without eyes, friends — and leave me to myself awhile.”
It was no easy matter to find a safe place; for from the foot of the crag the heathery turf slopes down all but upright, on one side to a cliff which overhangs a shoreless cove of deep dark sea, and on the other to an abyss even more hideous, where the solid rock has sunk away, and opened inland in the hillside a smooth-walled pit, some sixty feet square and some hundred and fifty in depth, aptly known then as now, as the Devil's-limekiln; the mouth of which, as old wives say, was once closed by the Shutter-rock itself, till the fiend in malice hurled it into the sea, to be a pest to mariners. A narrow and untrodden cavern at the bottom connects it with the outer sea; they could even then hear the mysterious thunder and gurgle of the surge in the subterranean adit, as it rolled huge boulders to and fro in darkness, and forced before it gusts of pent-up air. It was a spot to curdle weak blood, and to make weak heads reel: but all the fitter on that account for Amyas and his fancy.
“You can sit here as in an arm-chair,” said Cary, helping him down to one of those square natural seats so common in the granite tors.
“Good; now turn my face to the Shutter. Be sure and exact. So. Do I face it full?”
“Full,” said Cary.
“Then I need no eyes wherewith to see what is before me,” said he, with a sad smile. “I know every stone and every headland, and every wave too, I may say, far beyond aught that eye can reach. Now go, and leave me alone with God and with the dead!”
They retired a little space and watched him. He never stirred for many minutes; then leaned his elbows on his knees, and his head upon his hands, and so was still again. He remained so long thus, that the pair became anxious, and went towards him. He was asleep, and breathing quick and heavily.
“He will take a fever,” said Brimblecombe, “if he sleeps much longer with his head down in the sunshine.”
“We must wake him gently if we wake him at all.” And Cary moved forward to him.
As he did so, Amyas lifted his head, and turning it to right and left, felt round him with his sightless eyes.
“You have been asleep, Amyas.”
“Have I? I have not slept back my eyes, then. Take up this great useless carcase of mine, and lead me home. I shall buy me a dog when I get to Burrough, I think, and make him tow me in a string, eh? So! Give me your hand. Now march!”
His guides heard with surprise this new cheerfulness.
“Thank God, sir, that your heart is so light already,” said good Jack; “it makes me feel quite upraised myself, like.”
“I have reason to be cheerful, Sir John; I have left a heavy load behind me. I have been wilful, and proud, and a blasphemer, and swollen with cruelty and pride; and God has brought me low for it, and cut me off from my evil delight. No more Spaniard-hunting for me now, my masters. God will send no such fools as I upon His errands.”
“You do not repent of fighting the Spaniards.”
“Not I: but of hating even the worst of them. Listen to me, Will and Jack. If that man wronged me, I wronged him likewise. I have been a fiend when I thought myself the grandest of men, yea, a very avenging angel out of heaven. But God has shown me my sin, and we have made up our quarrel forever.”
“Made it up?”
“Made it up, thank God. But I am weary. Set me down awhile, and I will tell you how it befell.”
Wondering, they set him down upon the heather, while the bees hummed round them in the sun; and Amyas felt for a hand of each, and clasped it in his own hand, and began:
“When you left me there upon the rock, lads, I looked away and out to sea, to get one last snuff of the merry sea-breeze, which will never sail me again. And as I looked, I tell you truth, I could see the water and the sky; as plain as ever I saw them, till I thought my sight was come again. But soon I knew it was not so; for I saw more than man could see; right over the ocean, as I live, and away to the Spanish Main. And I saw Barbados, and Grenada, and all the isles that we ever sailed by; and La Guayra in Caracas, and the Silla, and the house beneath it where she lived. And I saw him walking with her on the barbecue, and he loved her then. I saw what I saw; and he loved her; and I say he loves her still.
“Then I saw the cliffs beneath me, and the Gull-rock, and the Shutter, and the Ledge; I saw them, William Cary, and the weeds beneath the merry blue sea. And I saw the grand old galleon, Will; she has righted with the sweeping of the tide. She lies in fifteen fathoms, at the edge of the rocks, upon the sand; and her men are all lying around her, asleep until the judgment-day.”
Cary and Jack looked at him, and then at each other. His eyes were clear, and bright, and full of meaning; and yet they knew that he was blind. His voice was shaping itself into a song. Was he inspired? Insane? What was it? And they listened with awe-struck faces, as the giant pointed down into the blue depths far below, and went on.
“And I saw him sitting in his cabin, like a valiant gentleman of Spain; and his officers were sitting round him, with their swords upon the table at the wine. And the prawns and the crayfish and the rockling, they swam in and out above their heads: but Don Guzman he never heeded, but sat still, and drank his wine. Then he took a locket from his bosom; and I heard him speak, Will, and he said: 'Here's the picture of my fair and true lady; drink to her, senors all.' Then he spoke to me, Will, and called me, right up through the oar-weed and the sea: 'We have had a fair quarrel, senor; it is time to be friends once more. My wife and your brother have forgiven me; so your honor takes no stain.' And I answered, 'We are friends, Don Guzman; God has judged our quarrel and not we.' Then he said, 'I sinned, and I am punished.' And I said, 'And, senor, so am I.' Then he held out his hand to me, Cary; and I stooped to take it, and awoke.”
He ceased: and they looked in his face again. It was exhausted, but clear and gentle, like the face of a new-born babe. Gradually his head dropped upon his breast again; he was either swooning or sleeping, and they had much ado to get him home. There he lay for eight-and-forty hours, in a quiet doze; then arose suddenly, called for food, ate heartily, and seemed, saving his eyesight, as whole and sound as ever. The surgeon bade them get him home to Northam as soon as possible, and he was willing enough to go. So the next day the Vengeance sailed, leaving behind a dozen men to seize and keep in the queen's name any goods which should be washed up from the wreck.