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As soon as the sails had been set, and the vessel was under way, the Spaniard came out from the cabin.
"My daughter is attiring herself, senor," he said to Stephen Boldero, for Geoffrey was at the time at the helm. "She is longing to see you, and to thank you for the inestimable services you have rendered to us both. But for you I should now be dying or dead, my daughter a slave for life in the palace of the bey. What astonishes us both is that such noble service should have been rendered to us by two absolute strangers, and not strangers only, but by Englishmen -- a people with whom Spain is at war -- and who assuredly can have no reason to love us. How came you first to think of interesting yourself on our behalf?"
"To tell you the truth, senor," Stephen Boldero said bluntly, "it was the sight of your daughter and not of yourself that made us resolve to save you if possible, or rather, I should say, made my friend Geoffrey do so. After ten years in the galleys one's heart gets pretty rough, and although even I felt a deep pity for your daughter, I own it would never have entered my mind to risk my neck in order to save her. But Geoffrey is younger and more easily touched, and when he saw her as she landed pale and white and grief stricken, and yet looking as if her own fate touched her less than the parting from you, my good friend Geoffrey Vickars was well nigh mad, and declared that in some way or other, and at whatever risk to ourselves, you must both be saved. In this matter I have been but a passive instrument in his hands; as indeed it was only right that I should be, seeing that he is of gentle blood and an esquire serving under Captain Vere in the army of the queen, while I am but a rough sailor. What I have done I have done partly because his heart was in the matter, partly because the adventure promised, if successful, to restore me to freedom, and partly also, senor, for the sake of your brave young daughter."
"You are modest, sir," the Spaniard said. "You are one of those who belittle your own good deeds. I feel indeed more grateful than I can express to you as well as to your friend."
The merchant's daughter now appeared at the door of the cabin. Her father took her hand and led her up to Boldero. "This, Dolores, is one of the two Englishmen who have at the risk of their lives saved me from death and you from worse than death. Thank him, my child, and to the end of your life never cease to remember him in your prayers."
"I am glad to have been of assistance, senora," Boldero said as the girl began to speak; "but as I have just been telling your father, I have played but a small part in the business, it is my friend Don Geoffrey Vickars who has been the leader in the matter. He saw you as you landed at the boat, and then and there swore to save you, and all that has been done has been under his direction. It was he who followed and rescued your father, and I have really had nothing to do with the affair beyond hiding myself in the hole and helping to tie up your Moors."
"Ah, sir," the girl said, laying her hands earnestly upon the sailor's shoulder, "it is useless for you to try to lessen the services you have rendered us. Think of what I was but an hour since -- a captive with the most horrible of all fates before me, and with the belief that my father was dying by inches in the hands of some cruel taskmaster, and now he is beside me and I am free. This has been done by two strangers, men of a nation which I have been taught to regard as an enemy. It seems to me that no words that I can speak could tell you even faintly what I feel, and it is God alone who can reward you for what you have done."
Leaving Boldero the Spaniard and his daughter went to the stern, where Geoffrey was standing at the helm.
"My daughter and I have come to thank you, senor, for having saved us from the worst of fates and restored us to each other. Your friend tells me that it is to you it is chiefly due that this has come about, for that you were so moved to pity at the sight of my daughter when we first landed, that you declared at once that you would save her from her fate at whatever risk to yourself, and that since then he has been but following your directions."
"Then if he says that, senor, he belies himself. I was, it is true, the first to declare that we must save your daughter at any cost if it were possible to do so; but had I not said so, I doubt not he would have announced the same resolution. Since then we have planned everything together; and as he is older and more experienced than I am, it was upon his opinion that we principally acted. We had long made up our minds to escape when the opportunity came. Had it nor been that we were stirred into action by seeing your daughter in the hands of the Moors, it might have been years before we decided to run the risks. Therefore if you owe your freedom to us, to some extent we owe ours to you; and if we have been your protectors so far, we hope that when we arrive in Spain you will be our protectors there, for to us Spain is as much an enemy's country as Barbary."
"That you can assuredly rely upon," the trader replied. "All that I have is at your disposal."
For an hour they stood talking. Dolores said but little. She had felt no shyness with the stalwart sailor, but to this youth who had done her such signal service she felt unable so frankly to express her feelings of thankfulness.
By morning the coast of Africa was but a faint line on the horizon, and the ship was headed west. Except when any alteration of the sails was required, the two Moors who acted as the crew were made to retire into the forecastle, and were there fastened in, Geoffrey and Boldero sleeping by turns.
After breakfast the little party gathered round the helm, and at the request of Juan Mendez, Geoffrey and Stephen both related how it befell that they had become slaves to the Moors.
"Your adventures are both singular," the trader said when they had finished. "Yours, Don Geoffrey, are extraordinary. It is marvellous that you should have been picked up in that terrible fight, and should have shared in all the perils of that awful voyage back to Spain without its being ever suspected that you were English. Once landed in the service as you say of Senor Burke, it is not so surprising that you should have gone freely about Spain. But your other adventures are wonderful, and you and your friend were fortunate indeed in succeeding as you did in carrying off the lady he loved; and deeply they must have mourned your supposed death on the deck of the Moorish galley. And now tell me what are your plans when you arrive in Spain?"
"We have no fixed plans, save that we hope some day to be able to return home," Geoffrey said. "Stephen here could pass well enough as a Spaniard when once ashore without being questioned, and his idea is, if there is no possibility of getting on board an English or Dutch ship at Cadiz, to ship on board a Spaniard, and to take his chance of leaving her at some port at which she may touch. As for myself, although I speak Spanish fluently, my accent would at once betray me to be a foreigner. But if you will take me into your house for a time until I can see a chance of escaping, my past need not be inquired into. You could of course mention, were it asked, that I was English by birth, but had sailed in the Armada with my patron, Mr. Burke, and it would be naturally supposed that I was an exile from England."
"That can certainly be managed," the trader said. "I fear that it will be difficult to get you on board a ship either of your countrymen or of the Hollanders; these are most closely watched lest fugitives from the law or from the Inquisition should escape on board them. Still, some opportunity may sooner or later occur; and the later the better pleased shall I be, for it will indeed be a pleasure to me to have you with me."
In the afternoon Geoffrey said to Stephen, "I have been thinking, Stephen, about the men in the hold, and I should be glad for them to return to their homes. If they go with us to Spain they will be made galley slaves, and this I should not like, especially in the case of the bey's superintendent. The bey was most kind to us, and this man himself always spoke in our favour to him, and behaved well to us. I think, therefore, that out of gratitude to the bey we should let them go. The wind is fair, and there are, so far as I can see, no signs of any change of weather. By tomorrow night the coast of Spain will be in sight. I see no reason, therefore, why we should not be able to navigate her until we get near the land, when Mendez can engage the crew of some fishing boat to take us into a port. If we put them into the boat with plenty of water and provisions, they will make the coast by morning; and as I should guess that we must at present be somewhere abreast of the port from which we started, they will nor be very far from home when they land."
"I have no objection whatever, Geoffrey. As you say we were not treated badly, at any rate from the day when the bey had us up to his house; and after ten years in the galleys, I do not wish my worst enemies such a fate. We must, of course, be careful how we get them into the boat."
"There will be three of us with swords and pistols, and they will be unarmed," Geoffrey said. "We will put the two men now in the forecastle into the boat first, and let the others come up one by one and take their places. We will have a talk with the superintendent first, and give him a message to the bey, saying that we are not ungrateful for his kindness to us, but that of course we seized the opportunity that presented itself of making our escape, as he would himself have done in similar circumstances; nevertheless that as a proof of our gratitude to him, we for his sake release the whole party on board, and give them the means of safely returning."
An hour later the boat, pulled by four oars, left the side of the ship with the crew, the superintendent and guards, and the two women who had come on board to attend upon Dolores upon the voyage.
The next morning the vessel was within a few miles of the Spanish coast. An hour later a fishing-boat was hailed, and an arrangement made with the crew to take the vessel down to Carthagena, which was, they learned, some fifty miles distant. The wind was now very light, and it was not until the following day that they entered the port. As it was at once perceived that the little vessel was Moorish in rigging and appearance, a boat immediately came alongside to inquire whence she came.
Juan Mendez had no difficulty in satisfying the officer as to his identity, he being well known to several traders in the town. His story of the attack upon his ship by Barbary pirates, its capture, and his own escape and that of his daughter by the aid of two Christian captives, excited great interest as soon as it became known in the town; for it was rare, indeed, that a captive ever succeeded in making his escape from the hands of the Moors. It had already been arranged that, in telling his story, the trader should make as little as possible of his companions' share in the business, so that public attention should not be attracted towards them. He himself with Dolores at once disembarked, but his companions did not come ashore until after nightfall.
Stephen Boldero took a Spanish name, but Geoffrey retained his own, as the story that he was travelling as servant with Mr. Burke, a well known Irish gentleman who had accompanied the Armada, was sufficient to account for his nationality. Under the plea that he was anxious to return to Cadiz as soon as possible, Senor Mendez arranged for horses and mules to start the next morning. He had sent out two trunks of clothes to the ship an hour after he landed, and the two Englishmen therefore escaped all observation, as they wandered about for an hour or two after landing, and did not go to the inn where Mendez was staying until it was time to retire to bed.
The next morning the party started. The clothes that Geoffrey was wearing were those suited to an employee in a house of business, while those of Boldero were such as would be worn by the captain or mate of a merchant vessel on shore. Both were supplied with arms, for although the party had nothing to attract the cupidity of robbers beyond the trunks containing the clothes purchased on the preceding day, and the small amount of money necessary for their travel on the road, the country was so infested by bands of robbers that no one travelled unarmed. The journey to Cadiz was, however, accomplished without adventure.
The house of Senor Mendez was a large and comfortable one. Upon the ground floor were his offices and store rooms. He himself and his family occupied the two next floors, while in those above his clerks and employees lived. His unexpected return caused great surprise, and in a few hours a number of acquaintances called to hear the story of the adventures through which he had passed, and to condole with him on the loss of his wife. At his own request Stephen Boldero had been given in charge of the principal clerk, and a room assigned to him in the upper story.
"I shall be much more comfortable," he said, "among your people, Don Mendez. I am a rough sailor, and ten years in the galleys don't improve any manners a man may have had. If I were among your friends I would be out of place and uncomfortable, and should always have to be bowing and scraping and exchanging compliments, and besides they would soon find out that my Spanish was doubtful. I talk a sailor's slang, but I doubt if I should understand pure Spanish. Altogether, I should be very uncomfortable, and should make you uncomfortable, and I would very much rather take my place among the men that work for you until I can get on board a ship again."
Geoffrey was installed in the portion of the house occupied by the merchant, and was introduced by him to his friends simply as the English gentleman who had rescued him and his daughter from the hands of the Moors, it being incidentally mentioned that he had sailed in the Armada, and that he had fallen into the hands of the corsairs in the course of a voyage made with his friend Mr. Burke to Italy. He at once took his place as a friend and assistant of the merchant; and as the latter had many dealings with Dutch and English merchants, Geoffrey was able to be of considerable use to him in his written communications to the captains of the various vessels of those nationalities in the port.
"I think," the merchant said to him a fortnight after his arrival in Cadiz, "that, if it would not go against your conscience, it would be most advisable that you should accompany me sometimes to church. Unless you do this, sooner or later suspicion is sure to be roused, and you know that if you were once suspected of being a heretic, the Inquisition would lay its hands upon you in no time."
"I have no objection whatever," Geoffrey said. "Were I questioned I should at once acknowledge that I was a Protestant; but I see no harm in going to a house of God to say my prayers there, while others are saying theirs in a different manner. There is no church of my own religion here, and I can see no harm whatever in doing as you suggest."
"I am glad to hear that that is your opinion," Senor Mendez said, "for it is the one point concerning which I was uneasy. I have ordered a special mass at the church of St. Dominic tomorrow, in thanksgiving for our safe escape from the hands of the Moors, and it would be well that you should accompany us there."
"I will do so most willingly," Geoffrey said. "I have returned thanks many times, but shall be glad to do so again in a house dedicated to God's service."
Accordingly the next day Geoffrey accompanied Don Mendez and his daughter to the church of St. Dominic, and as he knelt by them wondered why men should hate each other because they differed as to the ways and methods in which they should worship God. From that time on he occasionally accompanied Senor Mendez to the church, saying his prayers earnestly in his own fashion, and praying that he might some day be restored to his home and friends.
He and the merchant had frequently talked over all possible plans for his escape, but the extreme vigilance of the Spanish authorities with reference to the English and Dutch trading ships seemed to preclude any possibility of his being smuggled on board. Every bale and package was closely examined on the quay before being sent off. Spanish officials were on board from the arrival to the departure of each ship, and no communication whatever was allowed between the shore and these vessels, except in boats belonging to the authorities, every paper and document passing first through their hands for examination before being sent on board. The trade carried on between England, Holland, and Spain at the time when these nations were engaged in war was a singular one; but it was permitted by all three countries, because the products of each were urgently required by the others. It was kept within narrow limits, and there were frequent angry complaints exchanged between the English government and that of Holland, when either considered the other to be going beyond that limit.
Geoffrey admitted to himself that he might again make the attempt to return to England, by taking passage as before in a ship bound for Italy, but he knew that Elizabeth was negotiating with Philip for peace, and thought that he might as well await the result. He was, indeed, very happy at Cadiz, and shrank from the thought of leaving it.
Stephen Boldero soon became restless, and at his urgent request Juan Mendez appointed him second mate on board one of his ships sailing for the West Indies, his intention being to make his escape if an opportunity offered; but if not, he preferred a life of activity to wandering aimlessly about the streets of Cadiz. He was greatly grieved to part from Geoffrey, and promised that, should he ever reach England, he would at once journey down to Hedingham, and report his safety to his father and mother.
"You will do very well here, Master Geoffrey," he said. "You are quite at home with all the Spaniards, and it will not be very long before you speak the language so well that, except for your name, none would take you for a foreigner. You have found work to do, and are really better off here than you would be starving and fighting in Holland. Besides," he said with a sly wink, "there are other attractions for you. Juan Mendez treats you as a son, and the senorita knows that she owes everything to you. You might do worse than settle here for life. Like enough you will see me back again in six months' time, for if I see no chance of slipping off and reaching one of the islands held by the buccaneers, I shall perforce return in the ship I go out in."
At parting Senor Mendez bestowed a bag containing five hundred gold pieces upon Stephen Boldero as a reward for the service he had rendered him.
Geoffrey missed him greatly. For eighteen months they had been constantly together, and it was the sailor's companionship and cheerfulness that had lightened the first days of his captivity; and had it not been for his advice and support he might now have been tugging at an oar in the bey's corsair galley. Ever since they had been at Cadiz he had daily spent an hour or two in his society; for when work was done they generally went for a walk together on the fortifications, and talked of England and discussed the possibility of escape. After his departure he was thrown more than before into the society of the merchant and his daughter. The feeling that Dolores had, when he first saw her, excited within him had changed its character. She was very pretty now that she had recovered her life and spirits, and she made no secret of the deep feeling of gratitude she entertained towards him. One day, three months after Stephen's departure, Senor Mendez, when they were alone together, broached the subject on which his thoughts had been turned so much of late.
"Friend Geoffrey," he said, "I think that I am not mistaken in supposing that you have an affection for Dolores. I have marked its growth, and although I would naturally have rather bestowed her upon a countryman, yet I feel that you have a right to her as having saved her from the horrible fate that would have undoubtedly befallen her, and that it is not for me, to whom you have restored her, besides saving my own life, to offer any objection. As to her feelings, I have no doubt whatever. Were you of my religion and race, such a match would afford me the greatest happiness. As it is I regret it only because I feel that some day or other it will lead to a separation from me. It is natural that you should wish to return to your own country, and as this war cannot go on for ever, doubtless in time some opportunity for doing so will arrive. This I foresee and must submit to, but if there is peace I shall be able occasionally to visit her in her home in England. I naturally hope that it will be long before I shall thus lose her. She is my only child, and I shall give as her dower the half of my business, and you will join me as an equal partner. When the war is over you can, if you wish, establish yourself in London, and thence carry on and enlarge the English and Dutch trade of our house. I may even myself settle there. I have not thought this over at present, nor is there any occasion to do so. I am a wealthy man and there is no need for me to continue in business, and I am not sure when the time comes I shall not prefer to abandon my country rather than be separated from my daughter. At any rate for the present I offer you her hand and a share in my business."
Geoffrey expressed in suitable terms the gratitude and delight he felt at the offer. It was contrary to Spanish notions that he should receive from Dolores in private any assurance that the proposal in which she was so largely concerned was one to which she assented willingly, but her father at once fetched her in and formally presented her to Geoffrey as his promised wife, and a month later the marriage was solemnized at the church of St. Dominic.
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