Westward Ho! by Charles Kingsley
Chapter XXVII. How Salvation Yeo Found His Little Maid Again
"All precious things, discover'd late, To them who seek them issue forth; For love in sequel works with fate, And draws the veil from hidden worth." The Sleeping Beauty.
And so Ayacanora took up her abode in Lucy's cabin, as a regularly accredited member of the crew.
But a most troublesome member; for now began in her that perilous crisis which seems to endanger the bodies and souls of all savages and savage tribes, when they first mingle with the white man; that crisis which, a few years afterwards, began to hasten the extermination of the North American tribes; and had it not been for the admirable good sense and constancy of Amyas, Ayacanora might have ended even more miserably than did the far-famed Pocahontas, daughter of the Virginian king; who, after having been received at Court by the old pedant James the First, with the honors of a sister sovereign, and having become the reputed ancestress of more than one ancient Virginian family, ended her days in wretchedness in some Wapping garret.
For the mind of the savage, crushed by the sight of the white man's superior skill, and wealth, and wisdom, loses at first its self- respect; while his body, pampered with easily obtained luxuries, instead of having to win the necessaries of life by heavy toil, loses its self-helpfulness; and with self-respect and self-help vanish all the savage virtues, few and flimsy as they are, and the downward road toward begging and stealing, sottishness and idleness, is easy, if not sure.
And down that road, it really seemed at first, that poor Ayacanora was walking fast. For the warrior-prophetess of the Omaguas soon became, to all appearance, nothing but a very naughty child; and the Diana of the Meta, after she had satisfied her simple wonder at the great floating house by rambling from deck to deck, and peeping into every cupboard and cranny, manifested a great propensity to steal and hide (she was too proud or too shy to ask for) every trumpery which smit her fancy; and when Amyas forbade her to take anything without leave, threatened to drown herself, and went off and sulked all day in her cabin. Nevertheless, she obeyed him, except in the matter of sweet things. Perhaps she craved naturally for the vegetable food of her native forests; at all events the bishop's stores of fruit and sweetmeats diminished rapidly; and what was worse, so did the sweet Spanish wine which Amyas had set apart for poor Lucy's daily cordial. Whereon another severe lecture, in which Amyas told her how mean it was to rob poor sick Lucy; whereat she, as usual, threatened to drown herself; and was running upon deck to do it, when Amyas caught her and forgave her. On which a violent fit of crying, and great penitence and promises; and a week after, Amyas found that she had cheated Satan and her own conscience by tormenting the Portuguese steward into giving her some other wine instead: but luckily for her, she found Amyas's warnings about wine making her mad so far fulfilled, that she did several foolish things one evening, and had a bad headache next morning; so the murder was out, and Amyas ordered the steward up for a sound flogging; but Ayacanora, honorably enough, not only begged him off, but offered to be whipped instead of him, confessing that the poor fellow spoke truly when he swore that she had threatened to kill him, and that he had given her the wine in bodily fear for his life.
However, her own headache and Amyas's cold looks were lesson enough, and after another attempt to drown herself, the wilful beauty settled down for awhile; and what was better, could hardly be persuaded, thenceforth to her dying day, to touch fermented liquors.
But, in the meanwhile, poor Amyas had many a brains-beating as to how he was to tame a lady who, on the least provocation, took refuge in suicide. Punish her he dared not, even if he had the heart. And as for putting her ashore, he had an instinct, and surely not a superstitious one, that her strange affection for the English was not unsent by Heaven, and that God had committed her into his charge, and that He would require an account at his hands of the soul of that fair lost lamb.
So, almost at his wits' end, he prayed to God, good simple fellow, and that many a time, to show him what he should do with her before she killed either herself, or what was just as likely, one of the crew; and it seemed best to him to make Parson Jack teach her the rudiments of Christianity, that she might be baptized in due time when they got home to England.
But here arose a fresh trouble--for she roundly refused to learn of Jack, or of any one but Amyas himself; while he had many a good reason for refusing the office of schoolmaster; so, for a week or two more, Ayacanora remained untaught, save in the English tongue, which she picked up with marvellous rapidity.
And next, as if troubles would never end, she took a violent dislike, not only to John Brimblecombe, whose gait and voice she openly mimicked for the edification of the men; but also to Will Cary, whom she never allowed to speak to her or approach her. Perhaps she was jealous of his intimacy with Amyas; or perhaps, with the subtle instinct of a woman, she knew that he was the only other man on board who might dare to make love to her (though Will, to do him justice, was as guiltless of any such intention as Amyas himself). But when she was remonstrated with, her only answer was that Cary was a cacique as well as Amyas, and that there ought not to be two caciques; and one day she actually proposed to Amyas to kill his supposed rival, and take the ship all to himself; and sulked for several days at hearing Amyas, amid shouts of laughter, retail her precious advice to its intended victim.
Moreover, the negroes came in for their share, being regarded all along by her with an unspeakable repugnance, which showed itself at first in hiding from them whenever she could, and, afterwards, in throwing at them everything she could lay hands on, till the poor Quashies, in danger of their lives, complained to Amyas, and got rest for awhile.
Over the rest of the sailors she lorded it like a very princess, calling them from their work to run on her errands and make toys for her, enforcing her commands now and then by a shrewd box on the ears; while the good fellows, especially old Yeo, like true sailors, petted her, obeyed her, even jested with her, much as they might have done with a tame leopard, whose claws might be unsheathed and about their ears at any moment. But she amused them, and amused Amyas too. They must of course have a pet; and what prettier one could they have? And as for Amyas, the constant interest of her presence, even the constant anxiety of her wilfulness, kept his mind busy, and drove out many a sad foreboding about that meeting with his mother, and the tragedy which he had to tell her, which would otherwise, so heavily did they weigh on him, have crushed his spirit with melancholy, and made all his worldly success and marvellous deliverance worthless in his eyes.
At last the matter, as most things luckily do, came to a climax; and it came in this way.
The ship had been slipping along now for many a day, slowly but steadily before a favorable breeze. She had passed the ring of the West India islands, and was now crawling, safe from all pursuit, through the vast weed-beds of the Sargasso Sea. There, for the first time, it was thought safe to relax the discipline which had been hitherto kept up, and to "rummage" (as was the word in those days) their noble prize. What they found, of gold and silver, jewels, and merchandise, will interest no readers. Suffice it to say, that there was enough there, with the other treasure, to make Amyas rich for life, after all claims of Cary's and the crew, not forgetting Mr. Salterne's third, as owner of the ship, had been paid off. But in the captain's cabin were found two chests, one full of gorgeous Mexican feather dresses, and the other of Spanish and East Indian finery, which, having come by way of Havana and Cartagena, was going on, it seemed, to some senora or other at the Caracas. Which two chests were, at Cary's proposal, voted amid the acclamations of the crew to Ayacanora, as her due and fit share of the pillage, in consideration of her Amazonian prowess and valuable services.
So the poor child took greedy possession of the trumpery, had them carried into Lucy's cabin, and there knelt gloating over them many an hour. The Mexican work she chose to despise as savage; but the Spanish dresses were a treasure; and for two or three days she appeared on the quarter-deck, sunning herself like a peacock before the eyes of Amyas in Seville mantillas, Madrid hats, Indian brocade farthingales, and I know not how many other gewgaws, and dare not say how put on.
The crew tittered: Amyas felt much more inclined to cry. There is nothing so pathetic as a child's vanity, saving a grown person aping a child's vanity; and saving, too, a child's agony of disappointment when it finds that it has been laughed at instead of being admired. Amyas would have spoken, but he was afraid: however, the evil brought its own cure. The pageant went on, as its actor thought, most successfully for three days or so; but at last the dupe, unable to contain herself longer, appealed to Amyas,--"Ayacanora quite English girl now; is she not?"--heard a titter behind her, looked round, saw a dozen honest faces in broad grin, comprehended all in a moment, darted down the companion- ladder, and vanished.
Amyas, fully expecting her to jump overboard, followed as fast as he could. But she had locked herself in with Lucy, and he could hear her violent sobs, and Lucy's faint voice entreating to know what was the matter.
In vain he knocked. She refused to come out all day, and at even they were forced to break the door open, to prevent Lucy being starved.
There sat Ayacanora, her finery half torn off, and scattered about the floor in spite, crying still as if her heart would break; while poor Lucy cried too, half from fright and hunger, and half for company.
Amyas tried to comfort the poor child, assured her that the men should never laugh at her again; "But then," added he, "you must not be so--so--" What to say he hardly knew.
"So what?" asked she, crying more bitterly than ever.
"So like a wild girl, Ayacanora."
Her hands dropped on her knees: a strong spasm ran through her throat and bosom, and she fell on her knees before him, and looked up imploringly in his face.
"Yes; wild girl--poor, bad wild girl. . . . But I will be English girl now!"
"Fine clothes will never make you English, my child," said Amyas.
"No! not English clothes--English heart! Good heart, like yours! Yes, I will be good, and Sir John shall teach me!"
"There's my good maid," said Amyas. "Sir John shall begin and teach you to-morrow."
"No! Now! now! Ayacanora cannot wait. She will drown herself if she is bad another day! Come, now!"
And she made him fetch Brimblecombe, heard the honest fellow patiently for an hour or more, and told Lucy that very night all that he had said. And from that day, whenever Jack went in to read and pray with the poor sufferer, Ayacanora, instead of escaping on deck as before, stood patiently trying to make it all out, and knelt when he knelt, and tried to pray too--that she might have an English heart; and doubtless her prayers, dumb as they were, were not unheard.
So went on a few days more, hopefully enough, without any outbreak, till one morning, just after they had passed the Sargasso-beds. The ship was taking care of herself; the men were all on deck under the awning, tinkering, and cobbling, and chatting; Brimblecombe was catechising his fair pupil in the cabin; Amyas and Cary, cigar in mouth, were chatting about all heaven and earth, and, above all, of the best way of getting up a fresh adventure against the Spaniards as soon as they returned; while Amyas was pouring out to Will that dark hatred of the whole nation, that dark purpose of revenge for his brother and for Rose, which had settled down like a murky cloud into every cranny of his heart and mind. Suddenly there was a noise below; a scuffle and a shout, which made them both leap to their feet; and up on deck rushed Jack Brimblecombe, holding his head on with both his hands.
"Save me! save me from that she-fiend! She is possessed with a legion! She has broken my nose--torn out half my hair!--and I'm sure I have none to spare! Here she comes! Stand by me, gentlemen both! Satanas, I defy thee!" And Jack ensconced himself behind the pair, as Ayacanora whirled upon deck like a very Maenad, and, seeing Amyas, stopped short.
"If you had defied Satan down below there," said Cary, with a laugh, "I suspect he wouldn't have broken out on you so boldly, Master Jack."
"I am innocent--innocent as the babe unborn! Oh! Mr. Cary! this is too bad of you, sir!" quoth Jack indignantly, while Amyas asked what was the matter.
"He looked at me," said she, sturdily.
"Well, a cat may look at a king."
"But he sha'n't look at Ayacanora. Nobody shall but you, or I'll kill him!"
In vain Jack protested his innocence of having even looked at her. The fancy (and I verily believe it was nothing more) had taken possession of her. She refused to return below to her lesson. Jack went off grumbling, minus his hair, and wore a black eye for a week after.
"At all events," quoth Cary, re-lighting his cigar, "it's a fault on the right side."
"God give me grace, or it may be one on the wrong side for me."
"He will, old heart-of-oak!" said Cary, laying his arm around Amyas's neck, to the evident disgust of Ayacanora, who went off to the side, got a fishing-line, and began amusing herself therewith, while the ship slipped on quietly and silently as ever, save when Ayacanora laughed and clapped her hands at the flying-fish scudding from the bonitos. At last, tired of doing nothing, she went forward to the poop-rail to listen to John Squire the armorer, who sat tinkering a headpiece, and humming a song, mutato nomine, concerning his native place--
"Oh, Bideford is a pleasant place, it shines where it stands, And the more I look upon it, the more my heart it warms; For there are fair young lasses, in rows upon the quay, To welcome gallant mariners, when they come home from say."
"'Tis Sunderland, John Squire, to the song, and not Bidevor," said his mate.
"Well, Bidevor's so good as Sunderland any day, for all there's no say-coals there blacking a place about; and makes just so good harmonies, Tommy Hamblyn--
"Oh, if I was a herring, to swim the ocean o'er, Or if I was a say-dove, to fly unto the shoor, To fly unto my true love, a waiting at the door, To wed her with a goold ring, and plough the main no moor."
Here Yeo broke in--
"Aren't you ashamed, John Squire, to your years, singing such carnal vanities, after all the providences you have seen? Let the songs of Zion be in your mouth, man, if you must needs keep a caterwauling all day like that."
"You sing 'em yourself then, gunner."
"Well," says Yeo, "and why not?" And out he pulled his psalm-book, and began a scrap of the grand old psalm--
"Such as in ships and brittle barks Into the seas descend, Their merchandise through fearful floods To compass and to end; There men are forced to behold The Lord's works what they be; And in the dreadful deep the same, Most marvellous they see."
"Humph!" said John Squire. "Very good and godly: but still I du like a merry catch now and then, I du. Wouldn't you let a body sing 'Rumbelow'--even when he's heaving of the anchor?"
"Well, I don't know," said Yeo; "but the Lord's people had better praise the Lord then too, and pray for a good voyage, instead of howling about--
"A randy, dandy, dandy O, A whet of ale and brandy O, With a rumbelow and a Westward-ho! And heave, my mariners all, O!"
"Is that fit talk for immortal souls? How does that child's-trade sound beside the Psalms, John Squire?"
Now it befell that Salvation Yeo, for the very purpose of holding up to ridicule that time-honored melody, had put into it the true nasal twang, and rung it out as merrily as he had done perhaps twelve years before, when he got up John Oxenham's anchor in Plymouth Sound. And it befell also that Ayacanora, as she stood by Amyas's side, watching the men, and trying to make out their chat, heard it, and started; and then, half to herself, took up the strain, and sang it over again, word for word, in the very same tune and tone.
Salvation Yeo started in his turn, and turned deadly pale.
"Who sung that?" he asked quickly.
"The little maid here. She's coming on nicely in her English," said Amyas.
"The little maid?" said Yeo, turning paler still. "Why do you go about to scare an old servant, by talking of little maids, Captain Amyas? Well," he said aloud to himself, "as I am a sinful saint, if I hadn't seen where the voice came from, I could have sworn it was her; just as we taught her to sing it by the river there, I and William Penberthy of Marazion, my good comrade. The Lord have mercy on me!"
All were silent as the grave whenever Yeo made any allusion to that lost child. Ayacanora only, pleased with Amyas's commendation, went humming on to herself--
"And heave, my mariners all, O!"
Yeo started up from the gun where he sat.
"I can't abear it! As I live, I can't! You, Indian maiden, where did you learn to sing that there?"
Ayacanora looked up at him, half frightened by his vehemence, then at Amyas, to see if she had been doing anything wrong; and then turned saucily away, looked over the side, and hummed on.
"Ask her, for mercy's sake--ask her, Captain Leigh!"
"My child," said Amyas, speaking in Indian, "how is it you sing that so much better than any other English? Did you ever hear it before?"
Ayacanora looked up at him puzzled, and shook her head; and then--
"If you tell Indian to Ayacanora, she dumb. She must be English girl now, like poor Lucy."
"Well then," said Amyas, "do you recollect, Ayacanora--do you recollect--what shall I say? anything that happened when you were a little girl?"
She paused awhile; and then moving her hands overhead--
"Trees--great trees like the Magdalena--always nothing but trees-- wild and bad everything. Ayacanora won't talk about that."
"Do you mind anything that grew on those trees?" asked Yeo, eagerly.
She laughed. "Silly! Flowers and fruit, and nuts--grow on all trees, and monkey-cups too. Ayacanora climbed up after them--when she was wild. I won't tell any more."
"But who taught you to call them monkey-cups?" asked Yeo, trembling with excitement.
"Monkey's drink; mono drink."
"Mono?" said Yeo, foiled on one cast, and now trying another. "How did you know the beasts were called monos?"
"She might have heard it coming down with us," said Cary, who had joined the group.
"Ay, monos," said she, in a self-justifying tone. "Faces like little men, and tails. And one very dirty black one, with a beard, say Amen in a tree to all the other monkeys, just like Sir John on Sunday."
This allusion to Brimblecombe and the preaching apes upset all but old Yeo.
"But don't you recollect any Christians?--white people?"
She was silent.
"Don't you mind a white lady?"
"A woman, a very pretty woman, with hair like his?" pointing to Amyas.
"What do you mind, then, beside those Indians?" added Yeo, in despair.
She turned her back on him peevishly, as if tired with the efforts of her memory.
"Do try to remember," said Amyas; and she set to work again at once.
"Ayacanora mind great monkeys--black, oh, so high," and she held up her hand above her head, and made a violent gesture of disgust.
"Monkeys? what, with tails?"
"No, like man. Ah! yes--just like Cooky there--dirty Cooky!"
And that hapless son of Ham, who happened to be just crossing the main-deck, heard a marlingspike, which by ill luck was lying at hand, flying past his ears.
"Ayacanora, if you heave any more things at Cooky, I must have you whipped," said Amyas, without, of course, any such intention.
"I'll kill you, then," answered she, in the most matter-of-fact tone.
"She must mean negurs," said Yeo; "I wonder where she saw them, now. What if it were they Cimaroons?"
"But why should any one who had seen whites forget them, and yet remember negroes?" asked Cary.
"Let us try again. Do you mind no great monkeys but those black ones?" asked Amyas.
"Yes," she said, after a while,--"devil."
"Devil?" asked all three, who, of course, were by no means free from the belief that the fiend did actually appear to the Indian conjurors, such as had brought up the girl.
"Ay, him Sir John tell about on Sundays."
"Save and help us!" said Yeo; "and what was he like unto?"
She made various signs to intimate that he had a monkey's face, and a gray beard like Yeo's. So far so good: but now came a series of manipulations about her pretty little neck, which set all their fancies at fault.
"I know," said Cary, at last, bursting into a great laugh. "Sir Urian had a ruff on, as I live! Trunk-hose too, my fair dame? Stop--I'll make sure. Was his neck like the senor commandant's, the Spaniard?"
Ayacanora clapped her hands at finding herself understood, and the questioning went on.
"The 'devil' appeared like a monkey, with a gray beard, in a ruff;-- humph!--"
"Ay!" said she in good enough Spanish, "Mono de Panama; viejo diablo de Panama."
Yeo threw up his hands with a shriek--"Oh Lord of all mercies! Those were the last words of Mr. John Oxenham! Ay--and the devil is surely none other than the devil Don Francisco Xararte! Oh dear! oh dear! oh dear! my sweet young lady! my pretty little maid! and don't you know me? Don't you know Salvation Yeo, that carried you over the mountains, and used to climb for the monkey-cups for you, my dear young lady? And William Penberthy too, that used to get you flowers; and your poor dear father, that was just like Mr. Cary there, only he had a black beard, and black curls, and swore terribly in his speech, like a Spaniard, my dear young lady?"
And the honest fellow, falling on his knees, covered Ayacanora's hands with kisses; while all the crew, fancying him gone suddenly mad, crowded aft.
"Steady, men, and don't vex him!" said Amyas. "He thinks that he has found his little maid at last."
"And so do I, Amyas, as I live," said Cary.
"Steady, steady, my masters all! If this turn out a wrong scent after all, his wits will crack. Mr. Yeo, can't you think of any other token?"
Yeo stamped impatiently. "What need then? it's her, I tell ye, and that's enough! What a beauty she's grown! Oh dear! where were my eyes all this time, to behold her, and not to see her! 'Tis her very mortal self, it is! And don't you mind me, my dear, now? Don't you mind Salvation Yeo, that taught you to sing 'Heave my mariners all, O!' a-sitting on a log by the boat upon the sand, and there was a sight of red lilies grew on it in the moss, dear, now, wasn't there? and we made posies of them to put in your hair, now?"--And the poor old man ran on in a supplicating, suggestive tone, as if he could persuade the girl into becoming the person whom he sought.
Ayacanora had watched him, first angry, then amused, then attentive, and at last with the most intense earnestness. Suddenly she grew crimson, and snatching her hands from the old man's, hid her face in them, and stood.
"Do you remember anything of all this, my child?" asked Amyas, gently.
She lifted up her eyes suddenly to his, with a look of imploring agony, as if beseeching him to spare her. The death of a whole old life, the birth of a whole new life, was struggling in that beautiful face, choking in that magnificent throat, as she threw back her small head, and drew in her breath, and dashed her locks back from her temples, as if seeking for fresh air. She shuddered, reeled, then fell weeping on the bosom, not of Salvation Yeo, but of Amyas Leigh.
He stood still a minute or two, bearing that fair burden, ere he could recollect himself. Then,--
"Ayacanora, you are not yet mistress of yourself, my child. You were better to go down, and see after poor Lucy, and we will talk about it all to-morrow."
She gathered herself up instantly, and with eyes fixed on the deck slid through the group, and disappeared below.
"Ah!" said Yeo, with a tone of exquisite sadness; "the young to the young! Over land and sea, in the forests and in the galleys, in battle and prison, I have sought her! And now!--"
"My good friend," said Amyas, "neither are you master of yourself yet. When she comes round again, whom will she love and thank but you?"
"You, sir! She owes all to you; and so do I. Let me go below, sir. My old wits are shaky. Bless you, sir, and thank you for ever and ever!"
And Yeo grasped Amyas's hand, and went down to his cabin, from which he did not reappear for many hours.
From that day Ayacanora was a new creature. The thought that she was an Englishwoman; that she, the wild Indian, was really one of the great white people whom she had learned to worship, carried in it some regenerating change: she regained all her former stateliness, and with it a self-restraint, a temperance, a softness which she had never shown before. Her dislike to Cary and Jack vanished. Modest and distant as ever, she now took delight in learning from them about England and English people; and her knowledge of our customs gained much from the somewhat fantastic behaviour which Amyas thought good, for reasons of his own, to assume toward her. He assigned her a handsome cabin to herself, always addressed her as madam, and told Cary, Brimblecombe, and the whole crew that as she was a lady and a Christian, he expected them to behave to her as such. So there was as much bowing and scraping on the poop as if it had been a prince's court: and Ayacanora, though sorely puzzled and chagrined at Amyas's new solemnity, contrived to imitate it pretty well (taking for granted that it was the right thing); and having tolerable masters in the art of manners (for both Amyas and Cary were thoroughly well-bred men), profited much in all things, except in intimacy with Amyas, who had, cunning fellow, hit on this parade of good manners, as a fresh means of increasing the distance between him and her. The crew, of course, though they were a little vexed at losing their pet, consoled themselves with the thought that she was a "real born lady," and Mr. Oxenham's daughter, too; and there was not a man on board who did not prick up his ears for a message if she approached him, or one who would not have, I verily believe, jumped overboard to do her a pleasure.
Only Yeo kept sorrowfully apart. He never looked at her, spoke to her, met her even, if he could. His dream had vanished. He had found her! and after all, she did not care for him? Why should she?
But it was hard to have hunted a bubble for years, and have it break in his hand at last. "Set not your affections on things on the earth," murmured Yeo to himself, as he pored over his Bible, in the vain hope of forgetting his little maid.
But why did Amyas wish to increase the distance between himself and Ayacanora? Many reasons might be given: I deny none of them. But the main one, fantastic as it may seem, was simply, that while she had discovered herself to be an Englishwoman, he had discovered her to be a Spaniard. If her father were seven times John Oxenham (and even that the perverse fellow was inclined to doubt), her mother was a Spaniard--Pah! one of the accursed race; kinswoman--perhaps, to his brother's murderers! His jaundiced eyes could see nothing but the Spanish element in her; or, indeed, in anything else. As Cary said to him once, using a cant phrase of Sidney's, which he had picked up from Frank, all heaven and earth were "spaniolated," to him. He seemed to recollect nothing but that Heaven had "made Spaniards to be killed, and him to kill them." If he had not been the most sensible of John Bulls, he would certainly have forestalled the monomania of that young Frenchman of rank, who, some eighty years after him, so maddened his brain by reading of the Spanish cruelties, that he threw up all his prospects and turned captain of filibusters in the West Indies, for the express purpose of ridding them of their tyrants; and when a Spanish ship was taken, used to relinquish the whole booty to his crew, and reserve for himself only the pleasure of witnessing his victims' dying agonies.
But what had become of that bird-like song of Ayacanora's which had astonished them on the banks of the Meta, and cheered them many a time in their anxious voyage down the Magdalena? From the moment that she found out her English parentage, it stopped. She refused utterly to sing anything but the songs and psalms which she picked up from the English. Whether it was that she despised it as a relic of her barbarism, or whether it was too maddening for one whose heart grew heavier and humbler day by day, the nightingale notes were heard no more.
So homeward they ran, before a favoring southwest breeze: but long ere they were within sight of land, Lucy Passmore was gone to her rest beneath the Atlantic waves.