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Chapter 7 WE ESCAPE THE SPANIARDS.

  • Now that I knew his real sentiments towards me, it was very difficult t_reserve my composure and indifference in the presence of Captain Manue_unez. As I sat at table with him, or talked with him on deck or in his cabin,
  • I had hard work to keep from telling him my real thoughts of his wicke_ature. Nay, sometimes I was sore put to it to keep my hands from his throat.
  • Nothing would have pleased me better than to find either him or my cousi_asper in some lonely spot where no odds could have favored them or me. The_y wrongs should have received full vengeance, and none would have blamed m_or meting it out to these two villains. Judge how hard it was for me to hav_o associate, week after week, with one of the men who had so deeply wronge_e, and, moreover, to have to preserve towards him a certain degree o_ordiality. Try as I would, however, I could not give Nunez as much in the wa_f politeness as Nunez gave me. My manners were surly at the best, and I ha_uch ado to preserve them at all.
  • Getting in the way of fair winds, we sighted the Bahamas, and passed th_orth-west coast of Cuba somewhere about the beginning of September. We wer_hen some five hundred miles from Vera Cruz, but it was not until Christma_eek that we bore down upon the Mexican coast. It was, I think, on Christma_orning that I first saw the shores of that beautiful land, whose natura_oveliness served but to make more evident the horrible cruelties of the me_ho had seized and possessed it. Fair and wonderful it was as the mists lifte_nder the sun’s warmth to see the giant peak of Orizaba lifting its head,
  • snow-white and awful, into the clear air, while full seventeen thousand fee_elow it the land lay dim and indistinct, nothing more than a bank of gra_loud.
  • “You would think a country with such a mountain as that would be a place o_uch delight, master, would you not?” said Pharaoh Nanjulian, pointing to th_reat white peak. “It looks fair and innocent enough, but it is a very devil’_and, this Mexico, since the Spaniards overran it; and yonder peak is a_mblem of nothing in it, except it be the innocence of those who are murdere_n God’s name.”
  • “What mountain is that?” I inquired.
  • “Orizaba, master. It lies some sixty miles beyond Vera Cruz, and is of _eight scarcely credible to us Englishmen. God be thanked that there is s_ittle wind to-day! With a fair breeze we should have been in port er_ightfall. As it is, we must take our chance to-night, master, or fall int_he hands of the Inquisition.”
  • “I am ready for aught,” said I. “But have you thought of a plan?”
  • “Aye, trust me for that. Marry! I have thought of naught else since we cam_hrough the Bahamas. Certainly our chances are exceedingly small, for we mus_eeds land in a country that is infested with our enemies, but we will do ou_est.”
  • “Tell me your plan, Pharaoh.”
  • “’Tis simplicity itself, master. To-night it is my watch. When the captain i_sleep in his cabin, do you come on deck and go aft. You will find a boa_longside, and into it you must contrive to get as you best can. Hide yoursel_here so that no one can see you from the deck. When the watch is changed,
  • instead of going forward I shall make for the boat. No one will see me, _romise you. When I am with you we shall cut the boat adrift and let th_essel outsail us. Then we must make for the coast in the direction of Tuxtla.
  • We shall know which way to steer because of the volcano. But after that—why, _now not what we shall do.”
  • “Have you no plan?”
  • “Marry, I have ideas. We might go across country to Acapulco, hoping to fin_here an English ship; but ’tis a long and weary way, and what with Indian_nd wild beasts I fear we should never get there. Howbeit let us tackle on_anger at a time.”
  • Being then called to dinner I went below, and was perforce once more oblige_o sit at meat with my jailer, who, now that his charge of me was coming to a_nd, was more polite than ever, and treated me with exceeding great courtesy.
  • “You have been on deck, Master Salkeld,” said he, “and have doubtles_erceived that we are in sight of land.”
  • “I have seen the great mountain, Senor,” I answered.
  • “True, the land is yet little more than a line. If the wind had been fair w_hould have dropped anchor ere midnight. Your voyage has been a long one, bu_ trust you have not been inconvenienced.”
  • “Only as a man may be by the loss of his liberty, Senor.”
  • “You will soon be free,” he answered, giving me one of his strange, mockin_miles. “And I trust that when we part it will be with a full recognition o_our side of the way in which I have carried out our bargain.”
  • “As I do not remember our bargain, Senor, I am afraid that is hardl_ossible,” I made answer.
  • “Chut! your memory is certainly at fault. However, the facts will probabl_ccur to you—later.”
  • “Part of the bargain, if I remember your first mention of it, Senor, was tha_ou should carry me to the West Indies.”
  • “You are right in that,” said he.
  • “Are we approaching the West Indies?”
  • “The West Indies is a wide term, Master Salkeld. We are certainly no_pproaching the West India islands. We are, in fact, off the coast of Mexico,
  • and the mountain you see in the distance is the famed peak of Orizaba. To-
  • morrow morning we shall drop anchor in the port of Vera Cruz.”
  • “And what shall I do there, Senor?”
  • He smiled at the question—a mysterious smile, which had a grim meaning behin_t.
  • “Who knows, Senor? There are many occupations for a young and activ_entleman.”
  • Now, for the life of me I could not help asking him a very pertinent questio_efore I left the cabin to return on deck.
  • “Senor,” I said, “seeing that we are to part so soon you will perhaps no_bject to giving me some information. How much did my cousin, Master Jaspe_tapleton, pay you for your share in this matter?”
  • He gave me a curious glance out of his eye corners.
  • “The amount of your passage-money, Master Salkeld, was two hundred Englis_uineas. I hope you consider the poor accommodation which I have been able t_ive you in accordance with that sum.”
  • “I have no fault to find with the accommodation, Senor,” I replied. “So far a_he bodily comfort of your prisoner was concerned you have proved yourself _ood jailer.”
  • “Let us hope you will never find a worse, Master Salkeld,” he answered, wit_nother mocking smile. “But, indeed, you wrong me in speaking of me as _ailer. Say rather a kind and considerate host.”
  • I repressed the words which lay on the tip of my tongue ready to fling at him,
  • and went on deck. The wind was still against us, and the ship made littl_rogress, for which both Pharaoh and I were devoutly thankful, neither of u_eing minded to make Vera Cruz ere night fell. Certainly there was little t_hoose between the two courses open to us. If we were handed over to th_nquisitors by Nunez, we should certainly be burned at the stake, or, at an_ate, racked, tortured, and turned over to a slave-master. If we reached shor_e should have to undergo many privations and face all manner of perils, wit_very probability of ultimately falling into the hands of the Spaniards onc_ore. Indeed, so certain did it seem that we should eventually meet our fat_t the stake, or the rack, that more than once I doubted whether it was wort_ur while to attempt an escape.
  • But life is sweet, however dark its prospects may be, and a true man wil_lways fight for it, though the odds against him are great. And, moreover,
  • when a man knows what manner of death it is that awaits him, he will make th_ost desperate efforts to escape it, if it be such a death as that intende_or us by the Spaniards. Now, although I had lived in such an out-of-the-wa_art of England, I had heard many a fearful story of the wrongs and crueltie_racticed by the Inquisitors in Mexico. Tales came across the wide ocean o_ackings and tormentings and burnings, of men given over to slavery, wearin_heir San-benitos for many a weary year, and perhaps dying of torture in th_nd. We would do something to escape a fate like that, God helping us!
  • Late that night Captain Nunez stood by my side on deck. The wind now blew fro_he north-west, and the ship was making headway towards land. To the south-
  • east, through the darkness, glimmered the volcanic fire of Tuxtla, but th_iant peak of Orizaba had disappeared.
  • “To-morrow at sunrise, Master Salkeld, we shall be in the port of Vera Cruz,”
  • said Nunez. “I have some friends there to whom I will give you a_ntroduction. Till then, Senor, sleep well.”
  • He smiled at me in the dim lantern light and went below. I remained pacing th_eck for another hour. Once or twice I looked over the side and saw the boa_winging below our stern. Now, the poop of the Spanish ship was of a more tha_sual height, and I foresaw that I should have some difficulty in getting int_he boat, and run a fair chance of drowning. Better drown, I thought, tha_urn; and so, after a time, the deck being quiet, I climbed over the side an_anaged to drop into the boat, where I made haste to hide myself as I bes_ould.
  • It was some two hours after that when Pharaoh Nanjulian joined me, an_mmediately cut us adrift.
  • The ship seemed to glide away from us into the darkness.