To that cabin below the whole company repaired in all speed in the surgeon's
wake, Sir Oliver coming last between his guards. They assembled about the couch
where Lionel lay, leaden-hued of face, his breathing laboured, his eyes dull and
Sir John ran to him, went down upon one knee to put loving arms about that
chilling clay, and very gently raised him in them, and held him so resting
against his breast.
"Lionel!" he cried in stricken accents. And then as if thoughts of vengeance
were to soothe and comfort his sinking friend's last moments, he added: "We have
the villain fast."
Very slowly and with obvious effort Lionel turned his head to the right, and
his dull eyes went beyond Sir John and made quest in the ranks of those that
stood about him.
"Oliver?" he said in a hoarse whisper. "Where is Oliver?"
"There is not the need to distress you...." Sir John was beginning, when
Lionel interrupted him.
"Wait!" he commanded in a louder tone. "Is Oliver safe?"
"I am here," said Sir Oliver's deep voice, and those who stood between him
and his brother drew aside that they might cease from screening him.
Lionel looked at him for a long moment in silence, sitting up a little. Then
he sank back again slowly against Sir John's breast.
"God has been merciful to me a sinner," he said, "since He accords me the
means to make amends, tardily though it be."
Then he struggled up again, and held out his arms to Sir Oliver, and his
voice came in a great pleading cry. "Noll! My brother! Forgive!"
Oliver advanced, none hindering until, with his hands still pinioned behind
him he stood towering there above his brother, so tall that his turban brushed
the low ceiling of the cabin. His countenance was stern and grim.
"What is it that you ask me to forgive?" he asked. Lionel struggled to
answer, and sank back again into Sir John's arms, fighting for breath; there was
a trace of blood-stained foam about his lips.
"Speak! Oh, speak, in God's name!" Rosamund exhorted him from the other side,
and her voice was wrung with agony.
He looked at her, and smiled faintly. "Never fear," he whispered, "I shall
speak. God has spared me to that end. Take your arms from me, Killigrew. I am
the... the vilest of men. It... it was I who killed Peter Godolphin."
"My God!" groaned Sir John, whilst Lord Henry drew a sharp breath of dismay
"Ah, but that is not my sin," Lionel continued. "There was no sin in that. We
fought, and in self-defence I slew him—fighting fair. My sin came afterwards.
When suspicion fell on Oliver, I nourished it...Oliver knew the deed was mine,
and kept silent that he might screen me. I feared the truth might become known
for all that... and... and I was jealous of him, and... and I had him kidnapped
to be sold...."
His fading voice trailed away into silence. A cough shook him, and the faint
crimson foam on his lips was increased. But he rallied again, and lay there
panting, his fingers plucking at the coverlet.
"Tell them," said Rosamund, who in her desperate fight for Sir Oliver's life
kept her mind cool and steady and directed towards essentials, "tell them the
name of the man you hired to kidnap him."
"Jasper Leigh, the skipper of the Swallow," he answered, whereupon she
flashed upon Lord Henry a look that contained a gleam of triumph for all that
her face was ashen and her lips trembled.
Then she turned again to the dying man, relentlessly almost in her
determination to extract all vital truth from him ere he fell silent.
"Tell them," she bade him, "under what circumstances Sir Oliver sent you last
night to the Silver Heron."
"Nay, there is no need to harass him," Lord Henry interposed. "He has said
enough already. May God forgive us our blindness, Killigrew!"
Sir John bowed his head in silence over Lionel.
"Is it you, Sir John?" whispered the dying man. "What? Still there? Ha!" he
seemed to laugh faintly, then checked. "I am going...." he muttered, and again
his voice grew stronger, obeying the last flicker of his shrinking will. "Noll!
I am going! I...I have made reparation... all that I could. Give me... give me
thy hand!" Gropingly he put forth his right.
"I should have given it you ere this but that my wrists are bound," cried
Oliver in a sudden frenzy. And then exerting that colossal strength of his, he
suddenly snapped the cords that pinioned him as if they had been thread. He
caught his brother's extended hand, and dropped upon his knees beside him.
"Lionel...Boy!" he cried. It was as if all that had befallen in the last five
years had been wiped out of existence. His fierce relentless hatred of his
half-brother, his burning sense of wrong, his parching thirst for vengeance,
became on the instant all dead, buried, and forgotten. More, it was as if they
had never been. Lionel in that moment was again the weak, comely, beloved
brother whom he had cherished and screened and guarded, and for whom when the
hour arrived he had sacrificed his good name, and the woman he loved, and placed
his life itself in jeopardy.
"Lionel, boy!" was all that for a moment he could say. Then: "Poor lad! Poor
lad!" he added. "Temptation was too strong for thee." And reaching forth he took
the other white hand that lay beyond the couch, and so held both tight-clasped
within his own.
From one of the ports a ray of sunshine was creeping upwards towards the
dying man's face. But the radiance that now overspread it was from an inward
source. Feebly he returned the clasp of his brother's hands.
"Oliver, Oliver!" he whispered. "There is none like thee! I ever knew thee as
noble as I was base. Have I said enough to make you safe? Say that he will be
safe now," he appealed to the others, "that no...."
"He will be safe," said Lord Henry stoutly. "My word on't."
"It is well. The past is past. The future is in your hands, Oliver. God's
blessing on't." He seemed to collapse, to rally yet again. He smiled pensively,
his mind already wandering. "That was a long swim last night—the longest I ever
swam. From Penarrow to Trefusis—a fine long swim. But you were with me, Noll.
Had my strength given out...I could have depended on you. I am still chill from
it, for it was cold... cold... ugh!" He shuddered, and lay still.
Gently Sir John lowered him to his couch. Beyond it Rosamund fell upon her
knees and covered her face, whilst by Sir John's side Oliver continued to kneel,
clasping in his own his brother's chilling hands.
There ensued a long spell of silence. Then with a heavy sigh Sir Oliver
folded Lionel's hands across his breast, and slowly, heavily rose to his feet.
The others seemed to take this for a signal. It was as if they had but waited
mute and still out of deference to Oliver. Lord Henry moved softly round to
Rosamund and touched her lightly upon the shoulder. She rose and went out in the
wake of the others, Lord Henry following her, and none remaining but the
Outside in the sunshine they checked. Sir John stood with bent head and
hunched shoulders, his eyes upon the white deck. Timidly almost—a thing never
seen before in this bold man—he looked at Sir Oliver.
"He was my friend," he said sorrowfully, and as if to excuse and explain
himself, "and... and I was misled through love of him."
"He was my brother," replied Sir Oliver solemnly. "God rest him!"
Sir John, resolved, drew himself up into an attitude preparatory to receiving
with dignity a rebuff should it be administered him.
"Can you find it in your generosity, sir, to forgive me?" he asked, and his
air was almost one of challenge.
Silently Sir Oliver held out his hand. Sir John fell upon it almost in
"We are like to be neighbours again," he said, "and I give you my word I
shall strive to be a more neighbourly one than in the past."
"Then, sirs," said Sir Oliver, looking from Sir John to Lord Henry, "I am to
understand that I am no longer a prisoner."
"You need not hesitate to return with us to England, Sir Oliver," replied his
lordship. "The Queen shall hear your story, and we have Jasper Leigh to confirm
it if need be, and I will go warranty for your complete reinstatement. Count me
your friend, Sir Oliver, I beg." And he, too, held out his hand. Then turning to
the others: "Come, sirs," he said, "we have duties elsewhere, I think."
They tramped away, leaving Oliver and Rosamund alone. The twain looked long
each at the other. There was so much to say, so much to ask, so much to explain,
that neither knew with what words to begin. Then Rosamund suddenly came up to
him, holding out her hands. "Oh, my dear!" she said, and that, after all, summed
up a deal.
One or two over-inquisitive seamen, lounging on the forecastle and peeping
through the shrouds, were disgusted to see the lady of Godolphin Court in the
arms of a beturbaned bare-legged follower of Mahound.