Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

18 erthygl ar y dudalen hon



[ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.] flis ISLAND PRINCESS. FROM THE NOTES OF RUPERT DE LA TOUCHE (1825), BY W. CLARK RUSSELL (AUTHOR OF THE WRECK OF THE GROSVENOR," "OYERDUE," &c.) CHAPTER XIV. ( y THE MURDER. c<>ntinued to blow a pleasant, gallant aU the evening-, and -when I woke in ^'?ht I heard the wind fresh and steady *ea tree?- 1 slept welL In truth' 1 WJVS tije ry through not having closed my eyes on enight, and the day's labour in 5q the man to get away had been heavy Sun" wo'te- as I sajr> *n trees, and found Lil I asked if she was watching. Sho gho could not help looking and listening t?linkin?; could not sleep; she did aDd Wish to watch. I bade her close her eyes „j sleep, as there was nothing to fear. th lJast night Mr. Cotton lay close beside niats, but this night a wide space of tjje us, and hark to the wind among boughg! Every hour speeds him further." Ity v8 sayin& I fell asleep again, and when I; *^e ^S^t of the morning was shining £ ui i-'y thronsb the open windows, and 31ie jja{j rjseT1 aTlf[ was clothing herself. that day nothing happened proper to «iv« ^ere. I seemed to find something pen- ih Eulalie's manner. She was not quick tw **er smiles, she laughed seldom, a.nd then ^hi tllat rich' heartiness tlian Ina^e her laughter melody. I put this H."ner jn her down to the loss of the boat, I thought elie would not complain of, of knew my views, but felt as a removal e one chance that remained to us to taijf16 ourselves if no ship came. I had to her eo much of London, and of the cod?S visited, and of such gaieties as I fa<«v re*ca^- the dresses of the quality, Qf n!°n.aMe gatherings in the parks, bands }aJjt,asic and dances by the light of coloured JiPj.11-8' that there had naturally grown in ijj great wistfulness and plaintive yearn- £ to eot>, as it were, behind the back of the where the plate reflected Jier n existence and things. In ten years .Maiden's heart was weary of the voic-e t}j surf and the cataract, and the view of to ^lcano and the valley, and I had come y. €ach her love, to make her know that she beautiful, and to sigh in vain for those nn ."ties of civilised life which I had again j again figured for her. Vf Was two mornings after the departure of t0 *^°tton from our island that I went down d Catch fish from some rocks on the north of the mouth of the creek. I was so used Jjer ee'ng the boat in the creek that I missed ii&aJ^th something like a sigh and a pang of a'oh ^'h?n I looked at the old canoe floating g]a Whilst I fished I happened to send a •ft}, Ce into the north-east recess, and saw- Of a I so veritably believed to be the gleam p- 8ai^ that I sprang to my feet and stood low *'ke on'e a trance. My eyes were brojf^^d, and the horizon, therefore, was Vpjjj.^ht, close, and the distant fragment of e hovered and came and went in a -r so exasperating to my imagination thnging down the line, I ran to the %iwe ^or the glass, and discovered, sure 0r| ? £ by the steadiness by which it rested that the white speck was a sail. ^as I)rove °t no nse to us, for in jft a quarter of an hour it melted out. was indoors, and I had no heart to Jl0 ^Point her by reporting a sail that -was re £ °0(* than the phantom ship. So I itjq j1 hack to the rock, and fell a-fishing again, t, and marvelling over this eecond Is]acail appearing in sight of the tCrUlr) ^'tbin a couple of days or so. For I ba.d d. not but remember tbat Captain Scott tltat assured me—and I fully believed him— fovjr ln ten yoara he had only seen three or ij0Vf vessel?. and one of those two were hnll q,aj r- The sight of the sail, however, that my spirits. I could not conceive ts]a seas, which teemed with fruitful I f6it should sleep year after year unvieited. convinced that a day would come, and bo 8Peedily than I dared allow myself to hov6' ^'hen I should look and behold a vessel tor +1^° the island, with a boat making &5d • sh°re. And such was the poignancy Ijjijj *lvidness of this day-dream that it deter- of tne to stack ever in readiness a mass nd that would send up a great smoke, <Ja,jrs also resolved to occupy eome coming stitching pieces of white and coloured MwL into flags, and fixing them to trees, they would blow clear, on bold and liel lellotis parts of the coast. att(} caught as many fish as I needed, j-fy haprien.^d to be a small, sweet white our whiting, but bigger, I strung ])])1" and departed for the house. As I %ar(j_a°hed I saw Eulalie standing in the in a posture of expectancy, a« though I .Waited me. And, indeed, when she saw .■'having the trees she comes running to me, ^somewhat brea.thless cries: Rupert, there is a man in this island." jn nliere?" says 1, standing stock still, for t) an instant I understood it was ridiculous associate that distant ship, whose glimmer 1iio^nvas had melted out' T'ith the arrival of ther man. 0 to the garden." says she, "and I will ■yyj On where I saw him." 11d en, we came near the graves she stopped, ft into the south-west. There was S13erable growth of trees there, which distance from the east coast into 0 of the island, where the land lay 0n, t_ open. But still trees abounded, si?ht iy in one cr two Places could you catch th ° clear savanna. said that my wife's eyesight was mar- •+ searching and far-seeking. I might 1H(J au It was Nature's gift, reconcilable with the dewy, Vr p't softness of the pupils. She had seen *H-h n when I could only make him out th?r^a ?lass> and now when sho told me that to ij^tWas a man on the island I was willing Va-3tlv ancl helieve, thoueh I confess I was ^ch She asked me if I observed ,an<i such a group of trees, I told her a. little to the left, half-way between the cluMP of trees and the hillock where ftjjj ^oanut trees are. I saw the figure of 'TUn? pass through that place." says I. I « twenty minutes ago," she answered. t:ntered the house, put down the fish, and It with the glass. se^rng to me impossible," eaid I, "that eee the figmre of a man all that dis- b off." pouted, and said she was sure she was ■Retaken. he clothed? Was he a savage?" I tQtoe could not tell that. It was something *>o ^^oved. It was not a shadow; there were *iot to throw moving shadows. It was the)r hush, either; bushes do not glide from Places. What she saw was alive, and a I'ledgred the whole area of the country to "It she had pointed, but could see nothing. It) tIt :may be," says I, "that a canoe arrived night. Did you see only one man?" t Illy one," she answered. (tiatnOW told her that I had caught sight of a it nt sail, which had disappeared, and that aLd Igh have been the sail of a canoe which b'1 fitted the island in the night, leaving i*c'tei? raore behind. I was greatly hy this news, a.nd as much at a loss bt act as when Cotton was ashore. I had *>or ,ets and pistols in plenty, but no powder 4 sav man that my saw was he had companions—for why fel^A one savage be set ashore on this *cCOp 7-I might suppose they would be armed thjit • g .to the custom of their country— JJ' with sizars and bows and arrows— out Q case, even though there should be han?' mnst be at a heavy disadvantage, tajj no weapon I could use at a die- Jift j For the bows and arrows which hung > M?r dinin^-room ^ere of no more good than had they been children's toys, and «Uri{^ no match with a savage at •a sp?ar- °ur little house was no *t in which we oould fortify ourselves. ,a shed, and when the mate, which TV- ,e windows, were raised it looked one. ,a-Hrt re' if had enemies to fear in the JtJrsJ had no house in which to barricade r- CV8' and' indeed' after our experience of ^Org ^ton I scarce knew which to dread rl'O' the arrival of a white man or a visit III 4.11 eetvages. r^-el t morning I kept a look-out with a liel8' and often came to my side "eith with her penetrating gaze. But ns Baw the least signs of anything *0 ^?hling a man. It would have been idle 'Vj^'ore for him in that island, for there thousand secret places in which a man hide himeelf as securely as though he U she Eulalie with passionate earnestness sure that what she saw was a man. her desire not to increase my "<>t g made lier reluctant, but she could »v shay "no-" She painted aguin as vividly could the image of the moving thing "^h«ld. Then said I: »x 0^ a C'U'5 and go along the coast, and t there is any boat oome ashore, and :°f jyhile keep yon a bright look-out here, ^thjn meet with nothing, and you see ^^}"|^m°ving throughout the day, I shall °i^,yoa were deceived and that we are ^(J, ^hat I took down a small native clnb. » hoirf1?Pill!? a wide 8traw hat on my head JrM the telescope, I set out in the sun, ka,rebd away to the coast on the west, er gating vigilantly inland as I went to I J Ve^ea'nst a surprise. Ki8 1^1 ^own on the beach, where the traot fc|, an^ level- I paced to the end of this fc|, an^ level- I paced to the end of this ^Owpeweoioe rooka cak-wMch. the sea, waa breaking prevented me from going further. This brought me to a. bend, which furnished a view of the coast for nearly a mile. But I saw nothing-nothing, I mean, to alarm me. The heat was excessive, the distance great, and I was fairly exhausted when I got back to the house The east side of the island remained to be explored, but I could not attempt it on foot that day, nor would I venture it in the canoe, not being used to the handling of that sort of craft. Eulalie had seen nothing The afternoon was now far advanced, and in all the hours since the early morning- no signs of a man had beon visible. I could not imagine that if a boat's crew of savages or white men had come ashore, or even one man, whether black or white, they would remain in hiding all day. They could not fail to see the house, and, as they would find no inhabi- ¡ tants in that part of the island where Eulalie had seen the figure moving, they would natu- rally make for the house. For, though my fears had painted the figure that Eulalie saw as an enemy, there was no reason why he should prove one. Nay, if the figure was not a phantasy of my wife's eight, he might be some poor forlorn creature like to the wretch whose dead body had been found in the canoe, thankful to fall in with strangers and hospi- tality. So, though I meant not to relax my vigilance that night, I dismissed my fears, and did my best to re-assure Eulalie, who, however, continued very pensive and watch- ful, often stepping out to send a look over the land, and, when sitting out with me, dart- ing such searching, tireless glances in all directions as very well persuaded me without further assurance from her that the convic- tion of her heart was that what she saw was a man. We kept watch and watch that night. Eulalie's dagger was at her hand, and I had my native truncheon. My short slumbers were broken. I was constantly starting up and listening, and asking Eulalie what noise that was. The murmur of the wind in the trees sounded something like the crunching of dead leaves under stealthy naked feet. My brave girl's rest was equally disturbed. Onoe she started into a sitting posture, sprang from the bed, and, grasping her dagger, stood breathing hard with her weapon in her hand, poised as if to stab, as though she saw a man. The reflection of the oil-lamp in the dining- room came through the uprights where the mats were raised, a,nd we could see easily. I was so amazed and alarmed by her sudden action, and her posture was so to the life like that of confronting and defying an enemy, that I believed she saw a man, and, taking a good grasp of my club, I made a step to the window towards which she looked, which was "Stood breathing hard, with her weapon poised as if to stab." I black with the trees beyond, though the stars shone above them. "What is it, Lil?" I exclaimed in a loud whisper. She turned her head slowly, the hand that grasped the dagger fell to her side, and, with a sigh and a shudder, she said: "It was a dream." 'Twas one of those dreams which make the sleeper glad when the sun awakes him. When the morning came we found that the alarms of the night were of our imagining, and that nothing woroo had happened than Eulalie's dream. But I could not help think- ing as I stepped forth with my spy-glass that life would become perfectly intolerable on this island if we were to be visited and haunted and worried and held sleepless by such fears as had come to us, first with Mr. Cotton, and next the thing which Eulalie believed she saw glide from the body of the trees to the hillock where the cocoanut trees stood. I said to Eulalie that I would rather take my chance with her in that old canoe than go on enduring such a state of life, hearing an assassin in every midnight rustle of leaves that sounded like a footfall. I pointed the glass with diligent scrutiny into every part of the island, and Eulalie also directed her keen gaze everywhere, but no hint of human life was revealed to us. "Well, dear," says I, "what do you think now?" "I may have been mistaken," she answered. "If there is a man, why should he hide?" "But we may aJso say if there is a man why should he be an enemy?" said I. "After breakfast, to satisfy my mind, I'll explore the eastern side of the island." All the while that my wife prepared the meal I kept a look-out with my spy-glass. Then, after breakfast, I did as on the pre- ceding day. I took a club, and searched, this time, the east coast of the island, which was more accessible than the other. I got upon the coral strand south of the creek. This strand was continuous and winding. It went round the base of the cliff like a serpent, till it vanished at a point which corresponded with the situation of the littie forest above. Hero were no gullies nor creeks, nor did I expect to see any, but I knew that if a man was arrived in this island he must have come in a boat of some sort, and if that boat was not on the west side, nor on the east, as I now perceived, where was she? Unless, indeed, the gleam of canvas I had caught sight of the day before was the sail of some- thing—canoe, boat, or ship-that, as in the case of Cotton, but this time at night, had left a man on the island My second exploration satisfied me that Eulalie had been deceived, and that the island held no other inhabitants than our- selves. I came back mighty weary and half roasted. "Have you seen anything move whilst I have been away?" I asked, the hour then being about noon. No. she had seen nothing. "Burt have you looked, Lil?" "Yea, again and again," she replied. "And you are now satisfied, as I am, that we are alone!" "I wish I could feel sure," she exclaimed, "bUlt I am not." This apprehension I put down to nervous- ness, which I knew would presently wear off when nothing more should nMet her eye to betoken a human presence. But, though she had slept but little in the night, she did not go to her bower for her afternoon nap, as was her custom. A spirit of restlessness was upon her. She was too perfectly natural in character to conceal it. If we were within doors I would observe her sending unwonted glances through the windows on either hand, and when out of doors her eyes were cease- lessly exploring the prospect. Another evening came, another night. I had made up my mind to dismiss all alarm, persuaded that if a stranger had come into this island he would have arrived at the house or shown himself in some part of th-e land during the long day. We sat in the garden in the evening, and I smoked my pipe I and talked with Lil. The young moon was cow making a stronger light. The ooean lay in a magic calm. I could scarce hear a ripple Trpon the beach. Ktever aoigh of wind passed through the trees, and the only noise that broke into this majestic peace was the hooting of a night bird, which Eulalie described as a sort of owl. Our conversation this evening was coloured 'insensibly by melancholy. The delicate moon- shine gave us a sight of the graves, and I spoke of Captain Scott, and Lil of her mother, and she told me 6ome more tales of her child- hood in Lima and the voyages she took with her father in his schooner. But we were both weary, and a little before nine vre went to rest. As on the night before, so now, the mats in rest. As on the night before, so now, the mats in the windows of our room were raised, and the scene of black, rising grove or wood lay out- side, with the stars over it. Two of the mats betwixt our room and the dining-room were also raised, and the oil lamp made a little light, for now what lustre the moon shed was in front of the house, and by this hour she was sailing ov-ec the sea. We both lay armed, Eulalie with the dagger, and I •with my club. The room was so unpro- tected, a-s. indeed, was the whole house, that sleeping in it was the same thing as lying out of doors, unless the window mats were lowered, but these were a sort of shutters that cozened the sight only; they might serve against the driving wet, but could not keep out a man. Eulalie rested very quiet; she breathed so regula.rly that I fancied she slept. After I had been lying down half an hour I thought I heard the noise of a footstep, and, rising and taking up my club, went to one of the spaces that looked into the dining-room, and watched and hearkened. Eulalie lay quiet, with her eyes closed. I was sure she slept. I had never before thought the figure-head which had decorated the prow of the New Zealand canoe, in a hideous presentment of a man's head, looked more grim and ghostly than now as it stared down in that dim light from where it was hung. It seemed to mop and mow up there, as though it were alive. To satisfy myself, I crossed the room and passed out of doors. The night scene was a picture of heavenly tranquility, the moon wa-s sparkling in the midst of the stars, and the ocean lay as smooth as a shield of polished steel. But I was weary of this sort of vigil, and heartily tired withal, and, returning to the bedroom, lay me down by Eulalie, who still seemed to sleep, and in about ten minutes' time, exhausted by the heat of the day and the la-ck of sleep the night before, I sank into a profound slumber. I afterwards came to know that it was about three o'clock in the morning, when I was awakened by a. cry or deep groain and the sound of a heavy fall. I sprang up and saw the body of a man stretched upon the floor, and Eulalie in the act of reeling and falling. I caught her in my am as she was sinking, crying in my bewilderment and horror, "Oh, my God! what is this?" and laid her upon the bed. She breathed fast and spoke brokenly: "I was sure he was in the island. I have killed him-he has stabbed me—I am dying, Rupert." I now perceived that the white tappa that she wore as bed attire was dark with blood over and about the right bosom. I sprang like a madman into the dining-room for the oil-lamp, and, snatching at another, lighted it, and brought them both in and set them down, and by their illumination I saw that the man who lay upon the floor, evidently stabbed to the heart, was Silas Cotton. I was so thunderstruck that for an instant I stood as one petrified, for.I had supposed this ma.n to be hundreds of leagues away from the island by this time, instead of which the villain must have sneaked back in the mid- night darkness, and moored his boat in some secret creek, waiting till we should be off our guard to steal to the house and murder me and seize my wife and our property. I broke from the wild fit of amazement that transfixed me, and knelt by Eulalie. She had been stabbed through the breast and the lung, and it was manifest that she bled inter- nalLy and was dying. I have no words to express the agony of my mind, the language to acquaint you with the awful, desolate sense of loneliness and helplessness that crushed my heart as I knelt by my dying princess, my queen, yet again the preserver of my life, this time at the sacrifice of her own precious blood, with the miscreant Cotton's corpse stretched along the floor behind me. She whispered with faultering breath; she asked for water, for cold water, and begged me to fan her. Oh, the misery of it was that I could not staunoh tub bleeding, that I knew not what to do, that there was no help, though even then I felt as I looked upon her face that had the first surgeon in the world been in that room he would pronounce her past all human aid. I gathered from her broken speech in intervals after I had given her drink and whilst I fanned her that she was sure Cotton was in the island, and that, though she pre- tended to be asleep, she was keeping watch for him. She saw him come into the room armed with a long knife, which he had found in the dining-room, on which she sprang up, and, as I knew well her marvellous alertness, having been a spectator of her agility in the water, I could well understand the deadly skill with which she had played her terrible dagger, and easily judged, when she told me she had jumped up, that Cotton then was a dead man. Nor do I believe that he designed to kill her, but that in protecting himself from the lightning dart of her steel he jumped round and, so revolving, drove his knife into her breast. I could do nothing but watch her, fan her, kiss her, weep such scalding tears as visit men's eyes, put water to her lips, and watch my darling die. She grew delirious, she ceased to know me, and she passed away in' unconsciousness, at which hour the dawn had broken, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and I knelt alone by my dead island princess. The sequel to this simple, but romantic and tragic, story must be briefly related. With a broken heart de la Touche set about the I sad and solemn task of burying the remains of a girl whose picture, with its hundred subtleties of mood, natural passion, arch humour, incomparable beauty in form, gesture, and motion, and so on, demands such skill in the artist as shall not be found in these pages. In that climate interment must needs be swift. He toiled all day, and by the evening, and before the moon a,gain shone, Eulalie was sleeping in her grave, alongside her father's. And now there were three where there had been but one on la Touche's coming; and whilst the lonely man stood looking down upon his work, and thinking of the jewel that had been ruthlessly torn 'from the casket of his heart, Captain Scott's pas- sionate clinging to the island for the love of her who rested in it grew intelligible to him. He scarcely regarded it as a madness; his heart was buried in the grave he had made, and he would leave it there when he quitted the island: He denied decent interment to the corpse of the murderer. He took a rope and attached it to the body, and dragged the thing, villainous even in death, with its scowl of brow and its tusk of tooth, to the edge of the cliff, and hurled it over to lie and rot. His business was then to find out where the boat was hidden. Guessing that Cotton had come ashore on the southern side of the island, he made his way in that direction, and found a little creek in the south-west corner, opposite the pla-oe where the scoundrel had been marooned. This creek was so richly sheltered and hidden by palms, cocoa trees, and a tall undergrowth of luxuriant vegeta- tion that the boat lay, as it were, in a sort of green tunnel, and it waa merely by the accident of detectiult the gleam of water through the trees that he discovered the creek and the boat in her. He brought the boat round to the other creek where the canoe was. She contained the cask of water which he had helped Cotton to put into her. In her, too, were the musket and ball the fellow had been put ashore with. She was ready for &ea. La Touche had but to add to the stock of pro- visons, which he did. When he had done with his boat, he went to the house, and made a little parcel of his wife's property—the diamonds, the Spanish pieces in gold, the twenty-eight- guineas, the silver dollars, the gold crucifix, the watch and chain, and ear-rings, but the wedding ring was on his wife's finger. As he looked at these things the tears ran down his cheeks. Surely, a cruel, needless murder! She was so young, so fresh, so fitted for the life he had hoped to carry her to. Four times had she preserved him from death. Why had it not been God's will that He should have requited her by averting the blow of the assassin? Before he quitted the island he constructed on his wife's grave such, another crops as lay on the other two. He likewise planted the mound richly with flowers. When his task was ended, he removed his hat, and stooped and kissed tho grave, and bade Eulalie fare- well, uttering the words aloud, even as Cap- tain Scott used to speak aloud to his wife, though la Touche was no madman. He then went down to the creek, entered the boat, hoisted the sail, and put out to sea. This was on the third day after the murder, and the hour of his sailing was about seven in the evening. He headed north-east, and continued to steer that course, and for three daya was without a sight of land. On the morning of the fourth day after leaving the island, when day broke, on looking over the bow, he saw a ship right ahead. He signalled to her, and was seen, and she backed her topsail to enable him to approach. She proved to be the whaler Johanna, bound to Valpa- raiso, at which port Mr. de la Touche was landed. It does not appear that he made any attempt to recover the rest of the property, consisting of the ca-rgo of the wreck left on tho island. These brief particulars are coUected from his notes, but five times the length of this tale would not contain his adventures after his arrival at Valparaiso. [THE END.]

















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