Infomotions, Inc.The Ruby of Kishmoor / Pyle, Howard, 1853-1911



Author: Pyle, Howard, 1853-1911
Title: The Ruby of Kishmoor
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): jonathan; ivory ball; hero; captain; ball; extraordinary
Contributor(s): Bell, Clara, 1834-1927 [Translator]
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Rights: GNU General Public License
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Identifier: etext3687
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Title: The Ruby of Kishmoor

Author: Howard Pyle

Official Release Date: January, 2003  [Etext #3687]
[Yes, we are about one year ahead of schedule]
[The actual date this file first posted = 07/16/01]

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The Ruby of Kishmoor

By Howard Pyle




CONTENTS

Prologue

I. Jonathan Rugg

II. The Mysterious Lady with the Silver Veil

III. The Terrific Encounter with the One-eyed Little Gentleman in
     Black

IV. The Momentous Adventure with the Stranger with the Silver
     Ear-rings

V. The Unexpected Encounter with the Sea-captain with the
     Broken Nose

VI. The Conclusion of the Adventure with the Lady with the
     Silver Veil

Epilogue




Prologue



A very famous pirate of his day was Captain Robertson Keitt.

Before embarking upon his later career of infamy, he was, in the
beginning, very well known as a reputable merchant in the island
of Jamaica.  Thence entering, first of all, upon the business of
the African trade, he presently, by regular degrees, became a
pirate, and finally ended his career as one of the most renowned
freebooters of history.

The remarkable adventure through which he at once reached the
pinnacle of success, and became in his profession the most famous
figure of his day, was the capture of the Rajah of Kishmoor's
great ship, The Sun of the East.  In this vessel was the Rajah's
favorite Queen, who, together with her attendants, were set upon
a pilgrimage to Mecca.  The court of this great Oriental potentate
was, as may be readily supposed, fairly a-glitter with gold and
jewels, so that, what with such personal adornments that the
Queen and her attendants had fetched with them, besides an ample
treasury for the expenses of the expedition, an incredible prize
of gold and jewels rewarded the freebooters for their successful
adventure.

Among the precious stones taken in this great purchase was the
splendid ruby of Kishmoor.  This, as may be known to the reader,
was one of the world's greatest gems, and was unique alike both
for its prodigious size and the splendor of its color.  This
precious jewel the Rajah of Kishmoor had, upon a certain
occasion, bestowed upon his Queen, and at the time of her capture
she wore it as the centre-piece of a sort of a coronet which
encircled her forehead and brow.

The seizure by the pirate of so considerable a person as that of
the Queen of Kishmoor, and of the enormous treasure that he found
aboard her ship, would alone have been sufficient to have
established his fame.  But the capture of so extraordinary a prize
as that of the ruby--which was, in itself, worth the value of an
entire Oriental kingdom--exalted him at once to the very highest
pinnacle of renown.

Having achieved the capture of this incredible prize, our captain
scuttled the great ship and left her to sink with all on board.
Three Lascars of the crew alone escaped to bear the news of this
tremendous disaster to an astounded world.

As may readily be supposed, it was now no longer possible for
Captain Keitt to hope to live in such comparative obscurity as he
had before enjoyed.  His was now too remarkable a figure in the
eyes of the world.  Several expeditions from various parts were
immediately fitted out against him, and it presently became no
longer compatible with his safety to remain thus clearly outlined
before the eyes of the world.  Accordingly, he immediately set
about seeking such security as he might now hope to find, which
he did the more readily since he had now, and at one cast, so
entirely fulfilled his most sanguine expectations of good-fortune
and of fame.

Thereafter, accordingly, the adventures of our captain became of
a more apocryphal sort.  It was known that he reached the West
Indies in safety, for he was once seen at Port Royal and twice at
Spanish Town, in the island of Jamaica.  Thereafter, however, he
disappeared; nor was it until several years later that the world
heard anything concerning him.

One day a certain Nicholas Duckworthy, who had once been gunner
aboard the pirate captain's own ship, The Good Fortune, was
arrested in the town of Bristol in the very act of attempting to
sell to a merchant of that place several valuable gems from a
quantity which he carried with him tied up in a red bandanna
handkerchief.

In the confession of which Duckworthy afterward delivered himself
he declared that Captain Keitt, after his great adventure, having
sailed from Africa in safety, and so reached the shores of the
New World, had wrecked The Good Fortune on a coral reef off the
Windward Islands; that he then immediately deserted the ship, and
together with Duckworthy himself, the sailing-master (who was a
Portuguese), the captain of a brig The Bloody Hand (a consort of
Keitt's), and a villainous rascal named Hunt (who, occupying no
precise position among the pirates, was at once the instigator of
and the partaker in the greatest part of Captain Keitt's
wickednesses), made his way to the nearest port of safety.  These
five worthies at last fetched the island of Jamaica, bringing
with them all of the jewels and some of the gold that had been
captured from The Sun of the East.

But, upon coming to a division of their booty, it was presently
discovered that the Rajah's ruby had mysteriously disappeared
from the collection of jewels to be divided.  The other pirates
immediately suspected their captain of having secretly purloined
it, and, indeed, so certain were they of his turpitude that they
immediately set about taking means to force a confession from
him.

In this, however, they were so far unsuccessful that the captain,
refusing to yield to their importunities, had suffered himself to
die under their hands, and had so carried the secret of the
hiding-place of the great ruby--if he possessed such a
secret--along with him.

Duckworthy concluded his confession by declaring that in his
opinion he himself, the Portuguese sailing-master, the captain of
The Bloody Hand, and Hunt were the only ones of Captain Keitt's
crew who were now alive; for that The Good Fortune must have
broken up in a storm, which immediately followed their desertion
of her; in which event the entire crew must inevitably have
perished.

It may be added that Duckworthy himself was shortly hanged, so
that, if his surmise was true, there was now only three left
alive of all that wicked crew that had successfully carried to
its completion the greatest adventure which any pirate in the
world had ever, perhaps, embarked upon.




I. Jonathan Rugg



You may never know what romantic aspirations may lie hidden
beneath the most sedate and sober demeanor.

To have observed Jonathan Rugg, who was a tall, lean,
loose-jointed young Quaker of a somewhat forbidding aspect, with
straight, dark hair and a bony, overhanging forehead set into a
frown, a pair of small, deep-set eyes, and a square jaw, no one
would for a moment have suspected that he concealed beneath so
serious an exterior any appetite for romantic adventure.

Nevertheless, finding himself suddenly transported, as it were,
from the quiet of so sober a town as that of Philadelphia to the
tropical enchantment of Kingston, in the island of Jamaica, the
night brilliant with a full moon that swung in an opal sky, the
warm and luminous darkness replete with the mysteries of a
tropical night, and burdened with the odors of a land breeze, he
suddenly discovered himself to be overtaken with so vehement a
desire for some unwonted excitement that, had the opportunity
presented itself, he felt himself ready to embrace any adventure
with the utmost eagerness, no matter whither it would have
conducted him.

At home (where he was a clerk in the counting-house of a leading
merchant, by name Jeremiah Doolittle), should such idle fancies
have come to him, he would have looked upon himself as little
better than a fool, but now that he found himself for the first
time in a foreign country, surrounded by such strange and unusual
sights and sounds, all conducive to extravagant imaginations, the
wish for some extraordinary and altogether unusual experience
took possession of him with a singular vehemence to which he had
heretofore been altogether a stranger.

In the street where he stood, which was of a shining whiteness
and which reflected the effulgence of the moonlight with an
incredible distinction, he observed, stretching before him, long
lines of white garden walls, overtopped by a prodigious
luxuriance of tropical foliage.

In these gardens, and set close to the street, stood several
pretentious villas and mansions, the slatted blinds and curtains
of the windows of which were raised to admit of the freer
entrance of the cool and balmy air of the night.  From within
there issued forth bright lights, together with the exhilarating
sound of merry voices laughing and talking, or perhaps a song
accompanied by the tinkling music of a spinet or of a guitar.  An
occasional group of figures, clad in light and summer-like
garments, and adorned with gay and startling colors, passed him
through the moonlight; so that what with the brightness and
warmth of the night, together with all these unusual sights and
sounds, it appeared to Jonathan Rugg that he was rather the
inhabitant of some extraordinary land of enchantment and
unreality than a dweller upon that sober and solid world in which
he had heretofore passed his entire existence.

Before continuing this narrative the reader may here be informed
that our hero had come into this enchanted world as the
supercargo of the ship SUSANNA HAYES, of Philadelphia; that he
had for several years proved himself so honest and industrious a
servant to the merchant house of the worthy Jeremiah Doolittle
that that benevolent man had given to his well-deserving clerk
this opportunity at once of gratifying an inclination for foreign
travel and of filling a position of trust that should redound to
his individual profit.  The SUSANNA HAYES had entered Kingston
Harbor that afternoon, and this was Jonathan's first night spent
in those tropical latitudes, whither his fancy and his
imagination had so often carried him while he stood over the desk
filing the accounts of invoices from foreign parts.

It might be finally added that, had he at all conceived how soon
and to what a degree his sudden inclination for adventure was to
be gratified, his romantic aspirations might have been somewhat
dashed at the prospect that lay before him.




II. The Mysterious Lady with the Silver Veil



At that moment our hero suddenly became conscious of the fact
that a small wicket in a wooden gate near which he stood had been
opened, and that the eyes of an otherwise concealed countenance
were observing him with the utmost closeness of scrutiny.

He had hardly time to become aware of this observation of his
person when the gate itself was opened, and there appeared before
him, in the moonlight, the bent and crooked figure of an aged
negress.  She was clad in a calamanco raiment, and was further
adorned with a variety of gaudily colored trimmings, vastly
suggestive of the tropical world of which she was an inhabitant.
Her woolly head was enveloped, after the fashion of her people,
in the folds of a gigantic and flaming red turban constructed of
an entire pocket-handkerchief.  Her face was pock-pitted to an
incredible degree, so that what with this deformity, emphasized
by the pouting of her prodigious and shapeless lips, and the
rolling of a pair of eyes as yellow as saffron, Jonathan Rugg
thought that he had never beheld a figure at once so
extraordinary and so repulsive.

It occurred to our hero that here, maybe, was to overtake him
such an adventure as that which he had just a moment before been
desiring so ardently.  Nor was he mistaken; for the negress, first
looking this way and then that, with an extremely wary and
cunning expression, and apparently having satisfied herself that
the street, for the moment, was pretty empty of passers, beckoned
to him to draw nearer.  When he had approached close enough to her
she caught him by the sleeve, and, instantly drawing him into the
garden beyond, shut and bolted the gate with a quickness and a
silence suggestive of the most extravagant secrecy.

At the same moment a huge negro suddenly appeared from the shadow
of the gatepost, and so placed himself between Jonathan and the
gate that any attempt to escape would inevitably have entailed a
conflict, upon our hero's part, with the sable and giant
guardian.

Says the negress, looking very intently at our hero: "Be you
afeard, Buckra?"

"Why, no," quothed Jonathan; "for to tell thee the truth, friend,
though I am a man of peace, being of that religious order known
as the Society of Friends, I am not so weak in person nor so
timid in disposition as to warrant me in being afraid of any one.
Indeed, were I of a mind to escape, I might, without boasting,
declare my belief that I should be able to push my way past even
a better man than thy large friend who stands so threateningly in
front of yonder gate."

At these words the negress broke into so prodigious a grin that,
in the moonlight, it appeared as though the whole lower part of
her face had been transformed into shining teeth.  "You be a brave
Buckra," says she, in her gibbering English.  "You come wid
Melina, and Melina take you to pretty lady, who want you to eat
supper wid her."

Thereupon, and allowing our hero no opportunity to decline this
extraordinary invitation, even had he been of a mind to do so,
she took him by the hand, and led him toward the large and
imposing house which commanded the garden.  "Indeed," says
Jonathan to himself, as he followed his sable guide--himself
followed in turn by the gigantic negro--"indeed, I am like to
have my fill of adventure, if anything is to be judged from such
a beginning as this."

Nor did the interior sumptuousness of the mansion at all belie
the imposing character of its exterior, for, entering by way of
an illuminated veranda, and so coming into a brilliantly lighted
hallway beyond, Jonathan beheld himself to be surrounded by such
a wealth of exquisite and well-appointed tastefulness as it had
never before been his good-fortune to behold.

Candles of clarified wax sparkled like stars in chandeliers of
crystal.  These in turn, catching the illumination, glittered in
prismatic fragments with all the varied colors of the rainbow, so
that a mellow yet brilliant radiance filled the entire apartment.
Polished mirrors of a spotless clearness, framed in golden frames
and built into the walls, reflected the waxed floors, the rich
Oriental carpets, and the sumptuous paintings that hung against
the ivory-tinted paneling, so that in appearance the beauties of
the apartment were continued in bewildering vistas upon every
side toward which the beholder directed his gaze.

Bidding our hero to be seated, which he did with no small degree
of embarrassment and constraint, and upon the extreme edge of the
gilt and satin-covered chair, the negress who had been his
conductor left him for the time being to his own contemplation.

Almost before he had an opportunity to compose himself into
anything more than a part of his ordinary sedateness of demeanor,
the silken curtains at the doorway at the other end of the
apartment were suddenly divided, and Jonathan beheld before him a
female figure displaying the most exquisite contour of mould and
of proportion.  She was clad entirely in white, and was enveloped
from head to foot in the folds of a veil of delicate silver
gauze, which, though hiding her countenance from recognition,
nevertheless permitted sufficient of her beauties to be discerned
to suggest the extreme elegance and loveliness of her lineaments.
Advancing toward our hero, and extending to him a tapering hand
as white as alabaster, the fingers encircled with a multitude of
jewelled rings, she addressed him thus:

"Sir," she said, speaking in accents of the most silvery and
musical cadence, "you are no doubt vastly surprised to find
yourself thus unexpectedly, and almost as by violence, introduced
into the house of one who is such an entire stranger to you as
myself.  But though I am unknown to you, I must inform you that I
am better acquainted with my visitor, for my agents have been
observing you ever since you landed this afternoon at the dock,
and they have followed you ever since, until a little while ago,
when you stopped immediately opposite my garden gate.  These
agents have observed you with a closeness of scrutiny of which
you are doubtless entirely unaware.  They have even informed me
that, owing doubtless to your extreme interest in your new
surroundings, you have not as yet supped.  Knowing this, and that
you must now be enjoying a very hearty appetite, I have to ask
you if you will do me the extreme favor of sitting at table with
me at a repast which you will doubtless be surprised to learn has
been hastily prepared entirely in your honor."

So saying, and giving Jonathan no time for reply, she offered him
her hand, and with the most polite insistence conducted him into
an exquisitely appointed dining room adjoining.

Here stood a table covered with a snow-white cloth, and
embellished with silver and crystal ornaments of every
description.  Having seated herself and having indicated to
Jonathan to take the chair opposite to her, the two were
presently served with a repast such as our hero had not thought
could have existed out of the pages of certain extraordinary
Oriental tales which one time had fallen to his lot to read.

This supper (which in itself might successfully have tempted the
taste of a Sybarite) was further enhanced by several wines and
cordials which, filling the room with the aroma of the sunlit
grapes from which they had been expressed, stimulated the
appetite, which without them needed no such spur.  The lady, who
ate but sparingly herself, possessed herself with patience until
Jonathan's hunger had been appeased.  When, however, she beheld
that he weakened in his attacks upon the dessert of sweets with
which the banquet was concluded, she addressed him upon the
business which was evidently entirely occupying her mind.

"Sir," said she, "you are doubtless aware that every one, whether
man or woman, is possessed of an enemy.  In my own case I must
inform you that I have no less than three who, to compass their
ends, would gladly sacrifice my life itself to their purposes.  At
no time am I safe from their machinations, nor have I any one,"
cried she, exhibiting a great emotion, "to whom I may turn in my
need.  It was this that led me to hope to find in you a friend in
my perils, for, having observed through my agents that you are
not only honest in disposition and strong in person, but that you
are possessed of a considerable degree of energy and
determination, I am most desirous of imposing upon your
good-nature a trust of which you cannot for a moment suspect the
magnitude.  Tell me, are you willing to assist a poor, defenceless
female in her hour of trial?"

"Indeed, friend," quoth Jonathan, with more vivacity than he
usually exhibited, with a lenity to which he had heretofore in
his lifetime been a stranger--being warmed into such a spirit,
doubtless, by the generous wines of which he had
partaken--"indeed, friend, if I could but see thy face it would
doubtless make my decision in such a matter the more favorable,
since I am inclined to think from the little I can behold of it,
that thy appearance must be extremely comely to the eye."

"Sir," said the lady, exhibiting some amusement at this
unexpected sally, "I am, you must know, as God made me.  Sometime,
perhaps, I may be very glad to satisfy your curiosity, and
exhibit to you my poor countenance such as it is.  But now"--and
here she reverted to her more serious mood--"I must again put it
to you: are you willing to help an unprotected woman in a period
of very great danger to herself?  Should you decline the
assistance which I solicit, my slaves shall conduct you to the
gate through which you entered, and suffer you to depart in
peace.  Should you, upon the other hand, accept the trust, you are
to receive no reward therefor, except the gratitude of one who
thus appeals to you in her helplessness."

For a few moments Jonathan fell silent, for here, indeed, was he
entering into an adventure which infinitely surpassed any
anticipation that he could have formed.  He was, besides, of a
cautious nature, and was entirely disinclined to embark into any
affair so obscure and tangled as that in which he now found
himself becoming involved.

"Friend," said he, at last, "I may tell thee that thy story has
so far moved me as to give me every inclination to help thee in
thy difficulties, but I must also inform thee that I am a man of
caution, having never before entered into any business of this
sort.  Therefore, before giving any promise that may bind my
future actions, I must, in common wisdom, demand to know what are
the conditions that thou hast in mind to impose upon me."

"Indeed, sir," cried the lady, with great vivacity and with more
cheerful accents--as though her mind had been relieved of a
burden of fear that her companion might at once have declined
even a consideration of her request--"indeed, sir, you will find
that the trust which I would impose upon you is in appearance no
such great matter as my words may have led you to suppose.

"You must know that I am possessed of a little trinket which, in
the hands of any one who, like yourself, is a stranger in these
parts, would possess no significance, but which while in my
keeping is fraught with infinite menace to me."

Hereupon, and having so spoken, she clapped her hands, and an
attendant immediately entered, disclosing the person of the same
negress who had first introduced Jonathan into the strange
adventure in which he now found himself involved.  This creature,
who appeared still more deformed and repulsive in the brilliantly
lighted room than she had in the moonlight, carried in her hands
a white napkin, which she handed to her mistress.  This being
opened, disclosed a small ivory ball of about the bigness of a
lime.  Nodding to the negress to withdraw, the lady handed him the
ivory ball, and Jonathan took it with no small degree of
curiosity and examined it carefully.  It appeared to be of an
exceeding antiquity, and of so deep a yellow as to be almost
brown in color.  It was covered over with strange figures and
characters of an Oriental sort, which appeared to our hero to be
of Chinese workmanship.

"I must tell you, sir," said the lady, after she had permitted
her guest to examine this for a while in silence, "that though
this appears to you to be of little worth, it is yet of extreme
value.  After all, however, it is nothing but a curiosity that any
one who is interested in such matters might possess.  What I have
to ask you is this: Will you be willing to take this into your
charge, to guard it with the utmost care and fidelity--yes, even
as the apple of your eye--during your continuance in these parts,
and to return it to me in safety the day before your departure.
By so doing you will render me a service which you may neither
understand nor comprehend, but which shall make me your debtor
for my entire life."

By this time Jonathan had pretty well composed his mind for a
reply.

"Friend," said he, "such a matter as this is entirely out of my
knowledge of business, which is, indeed, that of a clerk in the
mercantile profession.  Nevertheless, I have every inclination to
help thee, though I trust thou mayest have magnified the dangers
that beset thee.  This appears to me to be a little trifle for
such an ado; nevertheless, I will do as thou dost request.  I will
keep it in safety and will return it to thee upon this day a week
hence, by which time I hope to have discharged my cargo and be
ready to continue my voyage to Demerara."

At these words the lady, who had been watching him all the time
with a most unaccountable eagerness, burst forth into words of
such heart-felt gratitude as to entirely overwhelm our hero.  When
her transports had been somewhat assuaged she permitted him to
depart, and the negress conducted him back through the garden,
whence she presently showed him through the gate whither he had
entered and out into the street.




III. The Terrific Encounter with the One-eyed Little Gentleman in
Black



Finding himself once more in the open street, Jonathan Rugg stood
for a while in the moonlight, endeavoring to compose his mind
into somewhat of that sobriety that was habitual with him; for,
indeed, he was not a little excited by the unexpected incidents
that had just befallen him.  From this effort at composure he was
aroused by observing that a little gentleman clad all in black
had stopped at a little distance away and was looking very
intently at him.  In the brightness of the moonlight our hero
could see that the little gentleman possessed but a single eye,
and that he carried a gold-headed cane in his hand.  He had hardly
time to observe these particulars, when the other approached him
with every appearance of politeness and cordiality.

"Sir," said he, "surely I am not mistaken in recognizing in you
the supercargo of the ship SUSANNA HAYES, which arrived this
afternoon at this port?"

"Indeed," said Jonathan, "thou art right, friend.  That is my
occupation, and that is whence I came."

"To be sure!"  said the little gentleman.  "To be sure!  To be sure!
The SUSANNA HAYES, with a cargo of Indian-corn meal, and from
dear good friend Jeremiah Doolittle, of Philadelphia.  I know your
good master very well--very well indeed.  And have you never heard
him speak of his friend Mr. Abner Greenway, of Kingston,
Jamaica?"

"Why, no," replied Jonathan, "I have no such recollection of the
name nor do I know that any such name hath ever appeared upon our
books."

"To be sure!  To be sure!"  repeated the little gentleman, briskly,
and with exceeding good-nature.  "Indeed, my name is not likely to
have ever appeared upon his books, for I am not a business
correspondent, but one who, in times past, was his extremely
intimate friend.  There is much I would like to ask about him,
and, indeed, I was in hopes that you would have been the bearer
of a letter from him.  But I have lodgings at a little distance
from here, so that if it is not requesting too much of you maybe
you will accompany me thither, so that we may talk at our
leisure.  I would gladly accompany you to your ship instead of
urging you to come to my apartments, but I must tell you I am
possessed of a devil of a fever, so that my physician hath
forbidden me to be out of nights."

"Indeed," said Jonathan, whom, you may have observed, was of a
very easy disposition--"indeed, I shall be very glad to accompany
thee to thy lodgings.  There is nothing I would like better than
to serve any friend of good Jeremiah Doolittle's."

And thereupon, and with great amity, the two walked off together,
the little one-eyed gentleman in black linking his arm
confidingly into that of Jonathan's, and tapping the pavement
continually with his cane as he trotted on at a great pace.  He
was very well acquainted with the town (of which he was a
citizen), and so interesting was his discourse that they had gone
a considerable distance before Jonathan observed they were
entering into a quarter darker and less frequented than that
which they had quitted.  Tall brick houses stood upon either side,
between which stretched a narrow, crooked roadway, with a kennel
running down the centre.

In front of one of these houses--a tall and gloomy structure--our
hero's conductor stopped and, opening the door with a key,
beckoned for him to enter.  Jonathan having complied, his
new-found friend led the way up a flight of steps, against which
Jonathan's feet beat noisily in the darkness, and at length,
having ascended two stairways and having reached a landing, he
opened a door at the end of the passage and ushered Jonathan into
an apartment, unlighted, except for the Moonshine, which, coming
in through a partly open shutter, lay in a brilliant patch of
light upon the floor.

His conductor having struck a light with a flint and steel, our
hero by the illumination of a single candle presently discovered
himself to be in a bedchamber furnished with no small degree of
comfort, and even elegance, and having every appearance of a
bachelor's chamber.

"You will pardon me," said his new acquaintance, "if I shut these
shutters and the window, for that devilish fever of which I spoke
is of such a sort that I must keep the night air even out from my
room, or else I shall be shaking the bones out of my joints and
chattering the teeth out of my head by to-morrow morning."

So saying he was as good as his word, and not only drew the
shutters to, but shot the heavy iron bolt into its place.  Having
accomplished this he bade our hero to be seated, and placing
before him some exceedingly superior rum, together with some
equally excellent tobacco, they presently fell into the
friendliest discourse imaginable.  In the course of their talk,
which after awhile became exceedingly confidential, Jonathan
confided to his new friend the circumstances of the adventure
into which he had been led by the beautiful stranger, and to all
that he said concerning his adventure his interlocutor listened
with the closest and most scrupulously riveted attention.

"Upon my word," said he, when Jonathan had concluded, "I hope
that you may not have been made the victim of some foolish hoax.
Let me see what it is she has confided to you."

"That I will," replied Jonathan.  And thereupon he thrust his hand
into his breeches-pocket and brought forth the ivory ball.

No sooner did the one eye of the little gentleman in black light
upon the object than a most singular and extraordinary convulsion
appeared to seize upon him.  Had a bullet penetrated his heart he
could not have started more violently, nor have sat more rigidly
and breathlessly staring.

Mastering his emotion with the utmost difficulty as Jonathan
replaced the ball in his pocket, he drew a deep and profound
breath and wiped the palm of his hand across his forehead as
though arousing himself from a dream.

"And you," he said, of a sudden, "are, I understand it, a Quaker.
Do you, then, never carry a weapon, even in such a place as this,
where at any moment in the dark a Spanish knife may be stuck
betwixt your ribs?"

"Why, no," said Jonathan, somewhat surprised that so foreign a
topic should have been so suddenly introduced into the discourse.
"I am a man of peace and not of blood.  The people of the Society
of Friends never carry weapons, either of offence or defence."

As Jonathan concluded his reply the little gentleman suddenly
arose from his chair and moved briskly around to the other side
of the room.  Our hero, watching him with some surprise, beheld
him clap to the door and with a single movement shoot the bolt
and turn the key therein.  The next instant he turned to Jonathan
a visage transformed as suddenly as though he had dropped a mask
from his face.  The gossiping and polite little old bachelor was
there no longer, but in his stead a man with a countenance
convulsed with some furious and nameless passion.

"That ball!" he cried, in a hoarse and raucous voice.  "That ivory
ball!  Give it to me upon the instant!"

As he spoke he whipped out from his bosom a long, keen Spanish
knife that in its every appearance spoke without equivocation of
the most murderous possibilities.

The malignant passions that distorted every lineament of the
countenance of the little old gentleman in black filled our hero
with such astonishment that he knew not whether he were asleep or
awake; but when he beheld the other advancing with the naked and
shining knife in his hand his reason returned to him like a
flash.  Leaping to his feet, he lost no time in putting the table
between himself and his sudden enemy.

"Indeed, friend," he cried, in a voice penetrated with
terror--"indeed, friend, thou hadst best keep thy distance from
me, for though I am a man of peace and a shunner of bloodshed, I
promise thee that I will not stand still to be murdered without
outcry or without endeavoring to defend my life!"

"Cry as loud as you please!" exclaimed the other.  "No one is near
this place to hear you!  Cry until you are hoarse; no one in this
neighborhood will stop to ask what is the matter with you.  I tell
you I am determined to possess myself of that ivory ball, and
have it I shall, even though I am obliged to cut out your heart
to get it!"  As he spoke he grinned with so extraordinary and
devilish a distortion of his countenance, and with such an
appearance of every intention of carrying out his threat as to
send the goose-flesh creeping like icy fingers up and down our
hero's spine with the most incredible rapidity and acuteness.

Nevertheless, mastering his fears, Jonathan contrived to speak up
with a pretty good appearance of spirit.  "Indeed, friend," he
said, "thou appearest to forget that I am a man of twice thy bulk
and half thy years, and that though thou hast a knife I am
determined to defend myself to the last extremity.  I am not going
to give thee that which thou demandest of me, and for thy sake I
advise thee to open the door and let me go free as I entered, or
else harm may befall thee."

"Fool!" cried the other, hardly giving him time to end.  "Do you,
then, think that I have time to chatter with you while two
villains are lying in wait for me, perhaps at the very door?
Blame your own self for your death!"  And, gnashing his teeth with
an indescribable menace, and resting his hand upon the table, he
vaulted with incredible agility clean across it and upon our
hero, who, entirely unprepared for such an extraordinary attack,
was flung back against the wall, with an arm as strong as steel
clutching his throat and a knife flashing in his very eyes with
dreadful portent of instant death.

With an instinct to preserve his life, he caught his assailant by
the wrist, and, bending it away from himself, set every fibre of
his body in a superhuman effort to guard and protect himself.  The
other, though so much older and smaller, seemed to be composed
entirely of fibres of steel, and, in his murderous endeavors, put
forth a strength so extraordinary that for a moment our hero felt
his heart melt within him with terror for his life.  The spittal
appeared to dry up within his mouth, and his hair to creep and
rise upon his head.  With a vehement cry of despair and anguish,
he put forth one stupendous effort for defence, and, clapping his
heel behind the other's leg, and throwing his whole weight
forward, he fairly tripped his antagonist backward as he stood.
Together they fell upon the floor, locked in the most desperate
embrace, and overturning a chair with a prodigious clatter in
their descent--our hero upon the top and the little gentleman in
black beneath him.

As they struck the floor the little man in black emitted a most
piercing and terrible scream, and instantly relaxing his efforts
of attack, fell to beating the floor with the back of his hands
and drubbing with his heels upon the rug in which he had become
entangled.

Our hero leaped to his feet, and with dilating eyes and expanding
brain and swimming sight stared down upon the other like one
turned to a stone.

He beheld instantly what had occurred, and that he had, without
so intending, killed a fellow-man.  The knife, turned away from
his own person, had in their fall been plunged into the bosom of
the other, and he now lay quivering in the last throes of death.
As Jonathan gazed he beheld a thin red stream trickle out from
the parted and grinning lips; he beheld the eyes turn inward; he
beheld the eyelids contract; he beheld the figure stretch itself;
he beheld it become still in death.




IV. The Momentous Adventure with the Stranger with the Silver
Ear-rings



So our hero stood stunned and bedazed, gazing down upon his
victim, like a man turned into a stone.  His brain appeared to him
to expand like a bubble, the blood surged and bummed in his ears
with every gigantic beat of his heart, his vision swam, and his
trembling hands were bedewed with a cold and repugnant sweat.  The
dead figure upon the floor at his feet gazed at him with a wide,
glassy stare, and in the confusion of his mind it appeared to
Jonathan that he was, indeed, a murderer.

What monstrous thing was this that had befallen him who, but a
moment before, had been so entirely innocent of the guilt of
blood?  What was he now to do in such an extremity as this, with
his victim lying dead at his feet, a poniard in his heart?  Who
would believe him to be guiltless of crime with such a dreadful
evidence as this presented against him?  How was he, a stranger in
a foreign land, to totally defend himself against an accusing of
mistaken justice?  At these thoughts a developed terror gripped at
his vitals and a sweat as cold as ice bedewed his entire body.
No, he must tarry for no explanation or defense!  He must
immediately fly from this terrible place, or else, should he be
discovered, his doom would certainly be sealed!

At that moment, and in the very extremity of his apprehensions,
there fell of a sudden a knock upon the door, sounding so loud
and so startling upon the silence of the room that every
shattered nerve in our hero's frame tingled and thrilled in
answer to it.  He stood petrified, scarcely so much as daring to
breathe; and then, observing that his mouth was agape, he
moistened his dry and parching lips, and drew his jaws together
with a snap.

Again there fell the same loud, insistent knock upon the panel,
followed by the imperative words: "Open within!"

The wretched Jonathan flung about him a glance at once of terror
and of despair, but there was for him no possible escape.  He was
shut tight in the room with his dead victim, like a rat in a
trap.  Nothing remained for him but to obey the summons from
without.  Indeed, in the very extremity of his distraction, he
possessed reason enough to perceive that the longer he delayed
opening the door the less innocent he might hope to appear in the
eyes of whoever stood without.

With the uncertain and spasmodic movements of an ill-constructed
automaton, he crossed the room, and stepping very carefully over
the prostrate body upon the floor, and with a hesitating
reluctance that he could in no degree master, he unlocked,
unbolted, and opened the door.

The figure that outlined itself in the light of the candle,
against the blackness of the passageway without was of such a
singular and foreign aspect as to fit extremely well into the
extraordinary tragedy of which Jonathan was at once the victim
and the cause.

It was that of a lean, tall man with a thin, yellow countenance,
embellished with a long, black mustache, and having a pair of
forbidding, deeply set, and extremely restless black eyes.  A
crimson handkerchief beneath a lace cocked hat was tied tightly
around the head, and a pair of silver earrings, which caught the
light of the candle, gleamed and twinkled against the inky
darkness of the passageway beyond.

This extraordinary being, without favoring our hero with any word
of apology for his intrusion, immediately thrust himself forward
into the room, and stretching his long, lean, bird-like neck so
as to direct his gaze over the intervening table, fixed a gaping
and concentrated stare upon the figure lying still and motionless
in the centre of the room.

"Vat you do dare," said he, with a guttural and foreign accent,
and thereupon, without waiting for a reply, came forward and
knelt down beside the dead man.  After thrusting his hand into the
silent and shrunken bosom, he presently looked up and fixed his
penetrating eyes upon our hero's countenance, who, benumbed and
bedazed with his despair, still stood like one enchained in the
bonds of a nightmare.  "He vas dead!" said the stranger, and
Jonathan nodded his head in reply.

"Vy you keel ze man?" inquired his interlocutor.

"Indeed," cried Jonathan, finding a voice at last, but one so
hoarse that he could hardly recognize it for his own, "I know not
what to make of the affair!  But, indeed, I do assure thee,
friend, that I am entirely innocent of what thou seest."

The stranger still kept his piercing gaze fixed upon our hero's
countenance, and Jonathan, feeling that something further was
demanded of him, continued: "I am, indeed, a victim of a most
extravagant and extraordinary adventure.  This evening, coming an
entire stranger to this country, I was introduced into the house
of a beautiful female, who bestowed upon me a charge that
appeared to me to be at once insignificant and absurd.  Behold
this little ivory ball," said he, drawing the globe from his
pocket, and displaying it between his thumb and finger.  "It is
this that appears to have brought all this disaster upon me; for,
coming from the house of the young woman, the man whom thou now
beholdest lying dead upon the floor induced me to come to this
place.  Having inveigled me hither, he demanded of me to give him
at once this insignificant trifle.  Upon my refusing to do so, he
assaulted me with every appearance of a mad and furious
inclination to deprive me of my life!"

At the sight of the ivory ball the stranger quickly arose from
his kneeling posture and fixed upon our hero a gaze the most
extraordinary that he had ever encountered.  His eyes dilated like
those of a cat, the breath expelled itself from his bosom in so
deep and profound an expiration that it appeared as though it
might never return again.  Nor was it until Jonathan had replaced
the ball in his pocket that he appeared to awaken from the trance
that the sight of the object had sent him into.  But no sooner had
the cause of this strange demeanor disappeared into our hero's
breeches-pocket than he arose as with an electric shock.  In an
instant he became transformed as by the touch of magic.  A sudden
and baleful light flamed into his eyes, his face grew as red as
blood, and he clapped his hand to his pocket with a sudden and
violent motion.  "Ze ball!" he cried, in a hoarse and strident
voice.  "Ze ball!  Give me ze ball!"  And upon the next instant our
hero beheld the round and shining nozzle of a pistol pointed
directly against his forehead.

For a moment he stood as though transfixed; then in the mortal
peril that faced him, he uttered a roar that sounded in his own
ears like the outcry of a wild beast, and thereupon flung himself
bodily upon the other with the violence and the fury of a madman.

The stranger drew the trigger, and the powder flashed in the pan.
He dropped the weapon, clattering, and in an instant tried to
draw another from his other pocket.  Before he could direct his
aim, however, our hero had caught him by both wrists, and,
bending his hand backward, prevented the chance of any shot from
taking immediate effect upon his person.  Then followed a struggle
of extraordinary ferocity and frenzy--the stranger endeavoring to
free his hand, and Jonathan striving with all the energy of
despair to prevent him from effecting his murderous purpose.

In the struggle our hero became thrust against the edge of the
table.  He felt as though his back were breaking, and became
conscious that in such a situation he could hope to defend
himself only a few moments longer.  The stranger's face was
pressed close to his own.  His hot breath, strong with the odor of
garlic, fanned our hero's cheek, while his lips, distended into a
ferocious and ferine grin, displayed his sharp teeth shining in
the candlelight.

"Give me ze ball!" he said, in a harsh and furious whisper.

At the moment there rang in Jonathan's ears the sudden and
astounding detonation of a pistol-shot, and for a moment he
wondered whether he had received a mortal wound without being
aware of it.  Then suddenly he beheld an extraordinary and
dreadful transformation take place in the countenance thrust so
close to his own; the eyes winked several times with incredible
rapidity, and then rolled upward and inward; the jaws gaped into
a dreadful and cavernous yawn; the pistol fell with a clatter to
the floor, and the next moment the muscles, so rigid but an
instant before, relaxed into a limp and listless flaccidity.  The
joints collapsed, and the entire man fell into an
indistinguishable heap upon and across the dead figure stretched
out upon the floor, while at the same time a pungent and blinding
cloud of gunpowder smoke filled the apartment.  For a few moments
the hands twitched convulsively; the neck stretched itself to an
abominable length; the long, lean legs slowly and gradually
relaxed, and every fibre of the body gradually collapsed into the
lassitude of death.  A spot of blood appeared and grew upon the
collar at the throat, and in the same degree the color ebbed from
the face leaving it of a dull and leaden pallor.

All these terrible and formidable changes of aspect our hero
stood watching with a motionless and riveted attention, and as
though they were to him matters of the utmost consequence and
importance; and only when the last flicker of life had departed
from his second victim did he lift his gaze from this terrible
scene of dissolution to stare about him, this way and that, his
eyes blinded, and his breath stifled by the thick cloud of
sulphurous smoke that obscured the objects about him in a pungent
cloud.




V. The Unexpected Encounter with the Sea-captain with the Broken
Nose



If our hero had been distracted and bedazed by the first
catastrophe that had befallen, this second and even more dreadful
and violent occurrence appeared to take away from him, for the
moment, every power of thought and of sensation.  All that
perturbation of emotion that had before convulsed him he
discovered to have disappeared, and in its stead a benumbed and
blinded intelligence alone remained to him.  As he stood in the
presence of this second death, of which he had been as innocent
and as unwilling an instrument as he had of the first, he could
observe no signs either of remorse or of horror within him.  He
picked up his hat, which had fallen upon the floor in the first
encounter, and, brushing away the dust with the cuff of his coat
sleeve with extraordinary care, adjusted the beaver upon his head
with the utmost nicety.  Then turning, still stupefied as with the
fumes of some powerful drug, he prepared to quit the scene of
tragic terrors that had thus unexpectedly accumulated upon him.

But ere he could put his design into execution his ears were
startled by the sound of loud and hurried footsteps which, coming
from below, ascended the stairs with a prodigious clatter and
bustle of speed.  At the landing these footsteps paused for a
while, and then approached, more cautious and deliberate, toward
the room where the double tragedy had been enacted, and where our
hero yet stood silent and inert.

All this while Jonathan made no endeavor to escape, but stood
passive and submissive to what might occur.  He felt himself the
victim of circumstances over which he himself had no control.
Gazing at the partly opened door, he awaited for whatever
adventure might next befall him.  Once again the footsteps paused,
this time at the very threshold, and then the door was slowly
pushed open from without.

As our hero gazed at the aperture there presently became
disclosed to his view the strong and robust figure of one who was
evidently of a seafaring habit.  From the gold braid upon his hat,
the seals dangling from the ribbon at his fob, and a certain
particularity of custom, he was evidently one of no small
consideration in his profession.  He was of a strong and powerful
build, with a head set close to his shoulders, and upon a round,
short bull neck.  He wore a black cravat, loosely tied into a
knot, and a red waistcoat elaborately trimmed with gold braid; a
leather belt with a brass buckle and hanger, and huge sea-boots
completed a costume singularly suggestive of his occupation in
life.  His face was round and broad, like that of a cat, and a
complexion stained, by constant exposure to the sun and wind, to
a color of newly polished mahogany.  But a countenance which
otherwise might have been humorous, in this case was rendered
singularly repulsive by the fact that his nose had been broken so
flat to his face that all that remained to distinguish that
feature were two circular orifices where the nostrils should have
been.  His eyes were by no means so sinister as the rest of his
visage, being of a light-gray color and exceedingly
vivacious--even good-natured in the merry restlessness of their
glance--albeit they were well-nigh hidden beneath a black bush of
overhanging eyebrows.  When he spoke, his voice was so deep and
resonant that it was as though it issued from a barrel rather
than from the breast of a human being.

"How now, my hearty!" cried he, in stentorian tones, so loud that
they seemed to stun the tensely drawn drums of our hero's ears.
"How now, my hearty!  What's to-do here?  Who is shooting pistols
at this hour of the night?"  Then, catching sight of the figures
lying in a huddle upon the floor, his great, thick lips parted
into a gape of wonder and his gray eyes rolled in his head like
two balls, so that what with his flat face and the round holes of
his nostrils he presented an appearance which, under other
circumstances, would have been at once ludicrous and grotesque.

"By the blood!" cried he, "to be sure it is murder that has
happened here."

"Not murder!" cried Jonathan, in a shrill and panting voice.  "Not
murder!  It was all an accident, and I am as innocent as a baby."

The new-comer looked at him and then at the two figures upon the
floor, and then back at him again with eyes at once quizzical and
cunning.  Then his face broke into a grin that might hardly be
called of drollery.  "Accident!"  quoth he.  "By the blood! d'ye see
'tis a strange accident, indeed, that lays two men by the heels
and lets the third go without a scratch!"  Delivering himself
thus, he came forward into the room, and, taking the last victim
of Jonathan's adventure by the arm, with as little compunction as
he would have handled a sack of grain he dragged the limp and
helpless figure from where it lay to the floor beside the first
victim.  Then, lifting the lighted candle, he bent over the two
prostrate bodies, holding the illumination close to the
lineaments first of one and then of the other.  He looked at them
very carefully for a long while, with the closest and most intent
scrutiny, and in perfect silence.  "They are both as dead," says
he, "as Davy Jones, and, whoever you be, I protest that you have
done your business the most completest that I ever saw in all of
my life."

Indeed," cried Jonathan, in the same shrill and panting voice,
"it was themselves who did it.  First one of them attacked me and
then the other, and I did but try to keep them from murdering me.
This one fell on his knife, and that one shot himself in his
efforts to destroy me."

"That," says the seaman, "you may very well tell to a dry-lander,
and maybe he will believe you; but you cannot so easily pull the
wool over the eyes of Captain Benny Willitts.  And what, if I may
be so bold as for to ask you, was the reason for their attacking
so harmless a man as you proclaim yourself to be?"

"That I know not," cried Jonathan; "but I am entirely willing to
tell thee all the circumstances.  Thou must know that I am a
member of the Society of Friends.  This day I landed here in
Kingston, and met a young woman of very comely appearance, who
intrusted me with this little ivory ball, which she requested me
to keep for her a few days.  The sight of this ball--in which I
can detect nothing that could be likely to arouse any feelings of
violence--appears to have driven these two men entirely mad, so
that they instantly made the most ferocious and murderous assault
upon me.  See! wouldst thou have believed that so small a thing as
this would have caused so much trouble?"  And as he spoke he held
up to the gaze of the other the cause of the double tragedy that
had befallen.  But no sooner had Captain Willitts's eyes lighted
upon the ball than the most singular change passed over his
countenance.  The color appeared to grow dull and yellow in his
ruddy cheeks, his fat lips dropped apart, and his eyes stared
with a fixed and glassy glare.  He arose to his feet and, still
with the expression of astonishment and wonder upon his face,
gazed first at our hero and then at the ivory ball in his hands,
as though he were deprived both of reason and of speech.  At last,
as our hero slipped the trifle back in his pocket again, the
mariner slowly recovered himself, though with a prodigious
effort, and drew a deep and profound breath as to the very bottom
of his lungs.  He wiped, with the corner of his black silk cravat,
his brow, upon which the sweat appeared to have gathered.  "Well,
messmate," says he, at last, with a sudden change of voice, "you
have, indeed, had a most wonderful adventure."  Then with another
deep breath: "Well, by the blood!  I may tell you plainly that I
am no poor hand at the reading of faces.  Well, I think you to be
honest, and I am inclined to believe every word you tell me.  By
the blood!  I am prodigiously sorry for you, and am inclined to
help you out of your scrape.

"The first thing to do," he continued, "is to get rid of these
two dead men, and that is an affair I believe we shall have no
trouble in handling.  One of them we will wrap up in the carpet
here, and t'other we can roll into yonder bed-curtain.  You shall
carry the one and I the other, and, the harbor being at no great
distance, we can easily bring them thither and tumble them
overboard, and no one will be the wiser of what has happened.  For
your own safety, as you may easily see, you can hardly go away
and leave these objects here to be found by the first-comer, and
to arise up in evidence against you."

This reasoning, in our hero's present bewildered state, appeared
to him to be so extremely just that he raised not the least
objection to it.  Accordingly, each of the two silent, voiceless
victims of the evening's occurrences were wrapped into a bundle
that from without appeared to be neither portentous nor terrible
in appearance.

Thereupon, Jonathan shouldering the rug containing the little
gentleman in black, and the sea-captain doing the like for the
other, they presently made their way down the stairs through the
darkness, and so out into the street.  Here the sea-captain became
the conductor of the expedition, and leading the way down several
alleys and along certain by-streets--now and then stopping to
rest, for the burdens were both heavy and clumsy to carry--they
both came out at last to the harbor front, without any one having
questioned them or having appeared to suspect them of anything
wrong.  At the water-side was an open wharf extending a pretty
good distance out into the harbor.  Thither the captain led the
way and Jonathan followed.  So they made their way out along the
wharf or pier, stumbling now and then over loose boards, until
they came at last to where the water was of a sufficient depth
for their purpose.  Here the captain, bending his shoulders, shot
his burden out into the dark, mysterious waters, and Jonathan,
following his example, did the same.  Each body sank with a sullen
and leaden splash into the element where, the casings which
swathed them becoming loosened, the rug and the curtain rose to
the surface and drifted slowly away with the tide.

As Jonathan stood gazing dully at the disappearance of these last
evidences of his two inadvertent murders, he was suddenly and
vehemently aroused by feeling a pair of arms of enormous strength
flung about him from behind.  In their embrace his elbows were
instantly pinned tight to his side, and he stood for a moment
helpless and astounded, while the voice of the sea-captain,
rumbling in his very ear, exclaimed: "Ye bloody, murthering
Quaker, I'll have that ivory ball, or I'll have your life!"

These words produced the same effect upon Jonathan as though a
douche of cold water had suddenly been flung over him.  He began
instantly to struggle to free himself, and that with a frantic
and vehement violence begotten at once of terror and despair.  So
prodigious were his efforts that more than once he had nearly
torn himself free, but still the powerful arms of his captor held
him as in a vise of iron.  Meantime, our hero's assailant made
frequent though ineffectual attempts to thrust a hand into the
breeches-pocket where the ivory ball was hidden, swearing the
while under his breath with a terrifying and monstrous string of
oaths.  At last, finding himself foiled in every such attempt, and
losing all patience at the struggles of his victim, he endeavored
to lift Jonathan off of his feet, as though to dash him bodily
upon the ground.  In this he would doubtless have succeeded had he
not caught his heel in the crack of a loose board of the wharf.
Instantly they both fell, violently prostrate, the captain
beneath and Jonathan above him, though still encircled in his
iron embrace.  Our hero felt the back of his head strike violently
upon the flat face of the other, and he heard the captain's skull
sound with a terrific crack like that of a breaking egg upon some
post or billet of wood, against which he must have struck.  In
their frantic struggles they had approached extremely near the
edge of the wharf, so that the next instant, with an enormous and
thunderous splash, Jonathan found himself plunged into the waters
of the harbor, and the arms of his assailant loosened from about
his body.

The shock of the water brought him instantly to his senses, and,
being a fairly good swimmer, he had not the least difficulty in
reaching and clutching the cross-piece of a wooden ladder that,
coated with slimy sea-moss, led from the water-level to the wharf
above.

After reaching the safety of the dry land once more, Jonathan
gazed about him as though to discern whence the next attack might
be delivered upon him.  But he stood entirely alone upon the
dock--not another living soul was in sight.  The surface of the
water exhibited some commotion, as though disturbed by something
struggling beneath; but the sea-captain, who had doubtless been
stunned by the tremendous crack upon his head, never arose again
out of the element that had engulfed him.

The moonlight shone with a peaceful and resplendent illumination,
and, excepting certain remote noises from the distant town not a
sound broke the silence and the peacefulness of the balmy,
tropical night.  The limpid water, illuminated by the resplendent
moonlight, lapped against the wharf.  All the world was calm,
serene, and enveloped in a profound and entire repose.

Jonathan looked up at the round and brilliant globe of light
floating in the sky above his head, and wondered whether it were,
indeed, possible that all that had befallen him was a reality and
not some tremendous hallucination.  Then suddenly arousing himself
to a renewed realization of that which had occurred, he turned
and ran like one possessed, up along the wharf, and so into the
moonlit town once more.




VI. The Conclusion of the Adventure with the Lady with the Silver
Veil



Nor did he check his precipitous flight until suddenly, being led
perhaps by some strange influence of which he was not at all the
master, he discovered himself to be standing before the
garden-gate where not more than an hour before he had first
entered upon the series of monstrous adventures that had led to
such tremendous conclusions.

People were still passing and repassing, and one of these
groups--a party of young ladies and gentlemen--paused upon the
opposite side of the street to observe, with no small curiosity
and amusement, his dripping and bedraggled aspect.  But only one
thought and one intention possessed our hero--to relieve himself
as quickly as possible of that trust which he had taken up so
thoughtlessly, and with such monstrous results to himself and to
his victims.  He ran to the gate of the garden and began beating
and kicking upon it with a vehemence that he could neither master
nor control.  He was aware that the entire neighborhood was
becoming aroused, for he beheld lights moving and loud voices of
inquiry; yet he gave not the least thought to the disturbance he
was creating, but continued without intermission his uproarious
pounding upon the gate.

At length, in answer to the sound of his vehement blows, the
little wicket was opened and a pair of eyes appeared thereat.  The
next instant the gate was cast ajar very hastily, and the
pock-pitted negress appeared.  She caught him by the sleeve of his
coat and drew him quickly into the garden.  "Buckra, Buckra!" she
cried.  "What you doing?  You wake de whole town!"  Then, observing
his dripping garments: "You been in de water.  You catch de fever
and shake till you die."

"Thy mistress!" cried Jonathan, almost sobbing in the excess of
his emotion; "take me to her upon the instant, or I cannot answer
for my not going entirely mad!"

When our hero was again introduced to the lady, he found her clad
in a loose and an elegant negligee, infinitely becoming to her
graceful figure, and still covered with the veil of silver gauze
that had before enveloped her.

"Friend," he cried, vehemently, approaching her and holding out
toward her the little ivory ball, "take again this which thou
gavest me!  It has brought death to three men, and I know not what
terrible fate may befall me if I keep it longer in my possession.

"What is it you say?" cried she, in a piercing voice.  "Did you
say it hath caused the death of three men?  Quick!  Tell me what
has happened, for I feel somehow a presage that you bring me news
of safety and release from all my dangers."

"I know not what thou meanest!" cried Jonathan, still panting
with agitation.  "But this I do know: that when I went away from
thee I departed an innocent man, and now I come back to thee
burdened with the weight of three lives, which, though innocent I
have been instrumental in taking."

"Explain!"  exclaimed the lady, tapping the floor with her foot.
"Explain! explain! explain!"

"That I will," cried Jonathan, "and as soon as I am able!  When
I left thee and went out into the street I was accosted by a
little gentleman clad in black."

"Indeed!" cried the lady; "and had he but one eye, and did he
carry a gold-headed cane?"

"Exactly," said Jonathan; "and he claimed acquaintance with
friend Jeremiah Doolittle."

"He never knew him!" cried the lady, vehemently; "and I must tell
you that he was a villain named Hunt, who at one time was the
intimate consort of the pirate Keitt.  He it was who plunged a
deadly knife into his captain's bosom, and so murdered him in
this very house.  He himself or his agents, must have been
watching my gate when you went forth."

"I know not how that may be," said Jonathan, "but he took me to
his apartment, and there, obtaining a knowledge of the trust thou
didst burden me with, he demanded it of me, and upon my refusing
to deliver it to him he presently fell to attacking me with a
dagger.  In my efforts to protect my life I inadvertently caused
him to plunge the knife into his own bosom and to kill himself."

"And what then?"  cried the lady, who appeared well-nigh
distracted with her emotions.

"Then," said Jonathan, "there came a strange man--a
foreigner--who upon his part assaulted me with a pistol, with
every intention of murdering me and thus obtaining possession of
that same little trifle."

And did he," exclaimed the lady, "have long, black mustachios,
and did he have silver ear-rings in his ears?"

"Yes," said Jonathan, "he did."

"That," cried the lady, could have been none other than Captain
Keitt's Portuguese sailing-master, who must have been spying upon
Hunt!  Tell me what happened next!"

"He would have taken my life," said Jonathan, "but in the
struggle that followed he shot himself accidentally with his own
pistol, and died at my very feet.  I do not know what would have
happened to me if a sea-captain had not come and proffered his
assistance."

"A sea-captain!" she exclaimed; "and had he a flat face and a
broken nose?"

"Indeed he had," replied Jonathan.

"That," said the lady, "must have been Captain Keitt's pirate
partner--Captain Willitts, of The Bloody Hand.  He was doubtless
spying upon the Portuguese."

"He induced me," said Jonathan, "to carry the two bodies down to
the wharf.  Having inveigled me there--where, I suppose, he
thought no one could interfere--he assaulted me, and endeavored
to take the ivory ball away from me.  In my efforts to escape we
both fell into the water, and he, striking his head upon the edge
of the wharf, was first stunned and then drowned."

"Thank God!" cried the lady, with a transport of fervor, and
clasping her jewelled hands together.  "At last I am free of those
who have heretofore persecuted me and threatened my very life
itself!  You have asked to behold my face; I will now show it to
you!  Heretofore I have been obliged to keep it concealed lest,
recognizing me, my enemies should have slain me."  As she spoke
she drew aside her veil, and disclosed to the vision of our hero
a countenance of the most extraordinary and striking beauty.  Her
luminous eyes were like those of a Jawa, and set beneath
exquisitely arched and pencilled brows.  Her forehead was like
lustrous ivory and her lips like rose-leaves.  Her hair, which was
as soft as the finest silk, was fastened up in masses of
ravishing abundance.  "I am," said she, "the daughter of that
unfortunate Captain Keitt, who, though weak and a pirate, was not
so wicked, I would have you know, as he has been painted.  He
would, doubtless, have been an honest man had he not been led
astray by the villain Hunt, who so nearly compassed your own
destruction.  He returned to this island before his death, and
made me the sole heir of all that great fortune which he had
gathered--perhaps not by the most honest means--in the waters of
the Indian Ocean.  But the greatest treasure of all that fortune
bequeathed to me was a single jewel which you yourself have just
now defended with a courage and a fidelity that I cannot
sufficiently extol.  It is that priceless gem known as the Ruby of
Kishmoor.  I will show it to you."  Hereupon she took the little
ivory ball in her hand, and, with a turn of her beautiful wrists,
unscrewed a lid so nicely and cunningly adjusted that no eye
could have detected where it was joined to the parent globe.
Within was a fleece of raw silk containing an object which she
presently displayed before the astonished gaze of our hero.  It
was a red stone of about the bigness of a plover's egg, and which
glowed and flamed with such an exquisite and ruddy brilliancy as
to dazzle even Jonathan's inexperienced eyes.  Indeed, he did not
need to be informed of the priceless value of the treasure, which
he beheld in the rosy palm extended toward him.  How long he gazed
at this extraordinary jewel he knew not, but he was aroused from
his contemplation by the sound of the lady's voice addressing
him.  "The three villains," said she, "who have this day met their
deserts in a violent and bloody death, had by an accident
obtained knowledge that this jewel was in my possession.  Since
then my life has hung upon a thread, and every step that I have
taken has been watched by these enemies, the most cruel and
relentless that it was ever the lot of any unfortunate to
possess.  From the mortal dangers of their machinations you have
saved me, exhibiting a courage and a determination that cannot be
sufficiently applauded.  In this you have earned my deepest
admiration and regard.  I would rather," she cried, "intrust my
life and my happiness to you than into the keeping of any man
whom I have ever known!  I cannot hope to reward you in such a way
as to recompense you for the perils into which my necessities
have thrust you; but yet"--and here she hesitated, as though
seeking for words in which to express herself--"but yet if you
are willing to accept of this jewel, and all of the fortune that
belongs to me, together with the person of poor Evaline Keitt
herself, not only the stone and the wealth, but the woman also,
are yours to dispose of as you see fit!"

Our hero was so struck aback at this unexpected turn that he knew
not upon the instant what reply to make.  "Friend," said he, at
last, "I thank thee extremely for thy offer, and, though I would
not be ungracious, it is yet borne in upon me to testify to thee
that as to the stone itself and the fortune--of which thou
speakest, and of which I very well know the history--I have no
inclination to receive either the one or the other, both the
fruits of theft, rapine, and murder.  The jewel I have myself
beheld three times stained, as it were, with the blood of my
fellow-man, so that it now has so little value in my sight that I
would not give a peppercorn to possess it.  Indeed, there is no
inducement in the world that could persuade me to accept it, or
even to take it again into my hand.  As to the rest of thy
generous offer, I have only to say that I am, four months hence,
to be married to a very comely young woman of Kensington, in
Pennsylvania, by name Martha Dobbs, and therefore I am not at all
at liberty to consider my inclinations in any other direction."

Having so delivered himself, Jonathan bowed with such ease as his
stiff and awkward joints might command, and thereupon withdrew
from the presence of the charmer, who, with cheeks suffused with
blushes and with eyes averted, made no endeavor to detain him.

So ended the only adventure of moment that ever happened to him
in all his life.  For thereafter he contented himself with such
excitement as his mercantile profession and his extremely
peaceful existence might afford.




Epilogue



In conclusion it may be said that when the worthy Jonathan Rugg
was married to Martha Dobbs, upon the following June, some
mysterious friend presented to the bride a rope of pearls of such
considerable value that when they were realized into money our
hero was enabled to enter into partnership with his former patron
the worthy Jeremiah Doolittle, and that, having made such a
beginning, he by-and-by arose to become, in his day, one of the
leading merchants of his native town of Philadelphia.





End of The Project Gutenberg etext of The Ruby of Kishmoor, by Howard Pyle


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