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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesNo Defense - Chapter 22. Sheila Has Her Say
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No Defense - Chapter 22. Sheila Has Her Say Post by :websioux Category :Long Stories Author :Gilbert Parker Date :May 2012 Read :1326

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No Defense - Chapter 22. Sheila Has Her Say

CHAPTER XXII. SHEILA HAS HER SAY

"Then, tell me please, what you know of the story," said the governor to Sheila at King's House one afternoon two weeks later. "I only get meagre reports from the general commanding. But you close to the intimate source of the events must know all."

Sheila shrank at the suggestion in the governor's voice, but she did not resent it. She had purposes which she must carry out, and she steeled herself. She wanted to get from Lord Mallow a pledge concerning Dyck Calhoun, and she must be patient.

"I know nothing direct from Mr. Calhoun, your honour!" she said, "but only through his servant, Michael Clones, who is a friend of my Darius Boland, and they have met often since the first outbreak. You know, of course, what happened at Port Louise--how the Maroons seized and murdered the garrison, how families were butchered when they armed first, how barbarism broke loose and made all men combine to fight the rebels. Even before Mr. Calhoun came they had had record of a sack of human ears, cut from the dead rebel-slaves, when they had been killed by faithful slaves, and good progress was made. But the revolters fixed their camps on high rocks, and by blowing of shells brought many fresh recruits to the struggle. It was only when Mr. Calhoun came with his hounds that anything decisive was done. For the rebels--Maroons and slaves--were hid, well entrenched and cautious, and the danger was becoming greater every day. On Mr. Calhoun's arrival, he was almost caught in ambush, being misled, and saved himself only by splendid markmanship. He was attacked by six rebels of whom he killed four, and riding his wounded horse over the other two he escaped. Then he set the hounds to work and the rebellion in that district was soon over."

"It was gathering strength with increasing tragedy elsewhere," remarked the governor. "Some took refuge in hidden places, and came out only to steal, rob, and murder--and worse. In one place, after a noted slave, well known for his treachery, had been killed--Khoftet was his name--his head was cut off by slaves friendly to us and his heart roasted and eaten. There is but one way to deal with these people. No gaming or drinking must be allowed, blowing of shells or beating of drums must be forbidden, and every free negro or mulatto must wear on his arm a sign--perhaps a cross in blue or red."

"Slavery is doomed," said Sheila firmly. "Its end is not far off."

"Well, they still keep slaves in the land of Washington and Alexander Hamilton. They are better off here at any rate than in their own country, where they were like animals among whom they lived. Here they are safe from poverty, cared for in sickness, and have no fear of being handed over to the keepers of carrion, or being the food of the gallinaso. They can feed their fill on fricasees of macaca worms and steal without punishment teal or ring-tailed pigeons and black crabs from the massa."

"But they are not free. They are atoms in heaps of dust. They have no rights--no liberties."

Sheila was agitated, but she showed no excitement.

She seemed to Lord Mallow like one who had perfect control of herself, and was not the victim of anticipation. She seemed, save for her dark searching eyes, like one who had gone through experience which had disciplined her to control. Only her hands were demonstrative--yet quietly so. Any one watching her closely would have seen that her hands were sensitive, expressed even more markedly than her eyes or lips what were her feelings. Her tragedy had altered her in one sense. She was paler and thinner than ever she had been, but there was enough of her, and that delicately made, which gave the governor a thrill of desire to make her his own for the rest of his life or hers. He had also gone through much since they had last met, and he had seen his own position in the balance--uncertain, troubled, insecure. He realized that he had lost reputation, which had scarcely been regained by his consent to the use of the hounds and giving Dyck Calhoun a free hand, as temporary head of the militia. He could not put him over the regular troops, but as the general commanding was, in effect, the slave of Dyck Calhoun, there was no need for anxiety.

Dyck Calhoun had smashed the rebellion, had quieted the island, had risen above all the dark disturbances of revolt like a master. He had established barracks and forts at many points in the island, and had stationed troops in them; he had subdued Maroons and slaves by the hounds. Yet he had punished only the chief of those who had been in actual rebellion, and had repressed the violent punishments of the earlier part of the conflict. He had forbidden any one to be burned alive, and had ordered that no one should be executed without his first judging--with the consent of the governor!--the facts of the case.

Dyck had built up for himself a reputation as no one in all the history of the island had been able to do. He commanded by more than official authority--by personality and achievement. There was no one in the island but knew they had been saved by his prudence, foresight and skill. It was to their minds stupendous and romantic. Fortunately they showed no strong feeling against Lord Mallow. By placing King's House at disposal as a hospital, and by gifts of food and money to wives and children of soldiers and civilians, the governor had a little eradicated his record of neglect.

Lord Mallow had a way with him when he chose to use it. He was not without the gift for popularity, and he saw now that he could best attain it by treating Dyck Calhoun well. He saw troops come and go, he listened to grievances, he corrected abuses, he devised a scheme for nursing, he planned security for the future, he gave permission for buccaneer trading with the United States, he had by legislative order given the Creoles a better place in the civic organism. This was a time for broad policy--for distribution of cassavi bread, yams and papaws, for big, and maybe rough, display of power and generosity. He was not blind to the fact that he might by discreet courses impress favourably his visitor. All he did was affected by that thought. He could not but think that Sheila would judge of him by what he did as much as by what he said.

He looked at her now with interest and longing. He loved to hear her talk, and she had information which was no doubt truer than most he received--was closer to the brine, as it were.

"What more can you tell me of Mr. Calhoun and his doings?" he asked presently. "He is lucky in having so perfect a narrator of his histories--yet so unexpected a narrator."

A flush stole slowly up Sheila's face, and gave a glow even to the roots of her hair. She could not endure these references to the dark gulf between her and Dyck Calhoun.

"My lord," she said sharply, "it is not meet that you should say such things. Mr. Calhoun was jailed for killing my father--let it be at that. The last time you saw me you offered me your hand and heart. Well, do you know I had almost made up my mind to accept your hand, when the news of this trouble was brought to you, and you left us--to ourselves and our dangers!"

The governor started. "You are as unfriendly as a 'terral garamighty,' you make me draw my breath thick as the blackamoors, as they say. I did what I thought best," he said. "I did not think you would be in any danger. I had not heard of the Maroons being so far south as Salem."

"Yet it is the man who foresees chances that succeeds, as you should know by now, your honour. I was greatly touched by the offer you made me--indeed, yes," she added, seeing the rapt eager look in his face. "I had been told what had upset me, that Dyck Calhoun was guilty of killing my father, and all the world seemed dreadful. Yes, in the reaction, it was almost on my tongue to say yes to you, for you are a good talker, you had skill in much that you did, and with honest advice from a wife might do much more. So I was in a mind to say yes. I had had much to try me, indeed, so very much. Ever since I first saw Dyck Calhoun he had been the one man who had ever influenced me. He was for ever in my mind even when he was in prison--oh, what is prison, what is guilt even to a girl when she loves! Yes, I loved him. There it was. He was ever in my mind, and I came here to Jamaica--he was here--for what else? Salem could have been restored by Darius Boland or others, or I could have sold it. I came to Jamaica to find him here--unwomanly, perhaps, you will say."

"Unusual only with a genius--like you."

"Then you do not speak what is in your mind, your honour. You say what you feel is the right thing to say--the slave of circumstances. I will be wholly frank with you. I came here to see Dyck Calhoun, for I knew he would not come to see me. Yes, there it was, a real thing in his heart. If he had been a lesser man than he is, he would have come to America when he was freed from prison. But he did not, would not, come. He knew he had been found guilty of killing my father, and that for him and me there could be no marriage--indeed he never asked me to marry him.

"Yet I know he would have done so if he could. When I came to know what he was jailed for doing, I felt there was no place for him and me together in the world. Yet my heart kept crying out to him, and I felt there was but one thing left for me to do, and that was to make it impossible for me to think of him even, or for him to think of me. Then you came and offered me your hand. It was a hand most women might have been glad to accept from the standpoint of material things. And you were Irish like myself, and like the boy I loved. I was sick of the robberies of life and time, and I wanted to be out of it all in some secure place. What place so secure from the sorrow that was eating at my heart as marriage! It said no to every stir of feeling that was vexing me, to every show of love or remembrance. So I listened to you. It was not because you were a governor or a peer--no, not that! For even in Virginia I had offers from one higher than yourself--and younger, and a peer also. No, it was not material things that influenced me, but your own intellectual eminence; for you have more brains than most men, as you know so well."

The governor interrupted her with a gesture. "No, no, I am not so vain as you think. If I were I should have seen at Salem that you meant to say yes."

"Yet you know well you have gifts, though you have made sad mistakes here. Do not think it was your personality, your looks that induced me to think of you, to listen to you. When Mr. Calhoun told me the truth, and gave me a letter he had written to me--"

"A letter--to you?"

There was surprise in the governor's voice--surprise and chagrin, for the thing had moved him powerfully. "Yes, a letter to me which he never meant me to have. It was a kind of diary of his heart, and it was written even while I was landing on the island on Christmas Day. It was the most terribly truthful thing, opening his whole soul to the girl whom he had always loved, but from whom he was separated by a thing not the less tragical because it was merely technical. He gave it me to read, and when I read it I saw there was no place for me in the world except a convent or marriage. The convent could not be, for I was no Catholic, and marriage seemed the only thing possible. That day you came I saw only one thing to do--one mad, hopeless thing to do."

"Mad and hopeless!" burst out Lord Mallow. "How so? Your very reason shows that it was sane, well founded in the philosophy of the heart."

He was eager to win her yet, and he did not see the end at which she aimed. He felt he must tell her all the passion and love he felt. But her look gave no encouragement, her eyes were uninviting.

Sheila smiled painfully. "Yes, mad and hopeless, for be sure of this: we cannot kill in one day the growth of years. I could not cure myself of loving him by marrying you. There had to be some other cure for that. I never knew and never loved my father. But he was my father, and if Mr. Calhoun killed him, I could not marry him. But at last I came to know that your love and affection could not make me forget him--no, never. I realize that now. He and I can never come together, but I owe him so much--I owe him my life, for he saved it; he must ever have a place in my heart, be to me more than any one else can be. I want you to do something for him."

"What do you wish?"

"I want you to have removed from him the sentence of the British Government. I want him to be free to come and go anywhere in the world--to return to England if he wishes it, to be a free man, and not a victim Off Outlawry. I want that, and you ought to give it to him."

"Why?"

Indignation filled her eyes. "You ask why. He has saved your administration and the island from defeat and horrible loss. He has prevented most of the slaves from revolting, and he conquered the Maroons. The empire is his debtor. Will you do this for one who has done so much for you?"

Lord Mallow was disconcerted, but he did not show it. "I can do no more than I have done. I have not confined him to his plantation as the Government commanded; I cannot go beyond that."

"You can put his case from the standpoint of a patriot."

For a moment the governor hesitated, then he said: "Because you ask me--"

"I want it done for his sake, not for mine," she returned with decision. "You owe it to yourself to see that it is done. Gratitude is not dead in you, is it?"

Lord Mallow flushed. "You press his case too hard. You forget what he is--a mutineer and a murderer, and no one should remember that as you should."

"He has atoned for both, and you know it well. Besides, he was not a murderer. Even the courts did not say he was. They only said he was guilty of manslaughter. Oh, your honour, be as gallant as your name and place warrant."

He looked at her for a moment with strange feelings in his heart. Then he said: "I will give you an answer in twenty-four hours. Will that do, sweet persuader?"

"It might do," she answered, and, strange to say, she had a sure feeling that he would say yes, in spite of her knowledge that, in his heart of hearts, he hated Calhoun.

As she left the room, Lord Mallow stood for a moment looking after her.

"She loves the rogue in spite of all!" he said bitterly. "But she must come with me. They are apart as the poles. Yet I shall do as she wishes if I am to win her."

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