The Sea-Hawk HTML version
He departed from her presence with bitterness in his heart, leaving a profound contrition
in her own. The sense of this her last injustice to him so overwhelmed her that it became
the gauge by which she measured that other earlier wrong he had suffered at her hands.
Perhaps her overwrought mind falsified the perspective, exaggerating it until it seemed to
her that all the suffering and evil with which this chronicle has been concerned were the
direct fruits of her own sin of unfaith.
Since all sincere contrition must of necessity bring forth an ardent desire to atone, so was
it now with her. Had he but refrained from departing so abruptly he might have had her
on her knees to him suing for pardon for all the wrongs which her thoughts had done him,
proclaiming her own utter unworthiness and baseness. But since his righteous resentment
had driven him from her presence she could but sit and brood upon it all, considering the
words in which to frame her plea for forgiveness when next he should return.
But the hours sped, and there was no sign of him. And then, almost with a shock of dread
came the thought that ere long perhaps Sir John Killigrew's ship would be upon them. In
her distraught state of mind she had scarcely pondered that contingency. Now that it
occurred to her all her concern was for the result of it to Sir Oliver. Would there be
fighting, and would he perhaps perish in that conflict at the hands either of the English or
of the corsairs whom for her sake he had betrayed, perhaps without ever hearing her
confession of penitence, without speaking those words of forgiveness of which her soul
stood in such thirsty need?
It would be towards midnight when unable longer to bear the suspense of it, she rose and
softly made her way to the entrance. Very quietly she lifted the curtain, and in the act of
stepping forth almost stumbled over a body that lay across the threshold. She drew back
with a startled gasp; then stooped to look, and by the faint rays of the lanterns on
mainmast and poop-rail she recognized Sir Oliver, and saw that he slept. She never
heeded the two Nubians immovable as statues who kept guard. She continued to bend
over him, and then gradually and very softly sank down on her knees beside him. There
were tears in her eyes--tears wrung from her by a tender emotion of wonder and gratitude
at so much fidelity. She did not know that he had slept thus last night. But it was enough
for her to find him here now. It moved her oddly, profoundly, that this man whom she
had ever mistrusted and misjudged should even when he slept make of his body a barrier
for her greater security and protection.
A sob escaped her, and at the sound, so lightly and vigilantly did he take his rest, he came
instantly if silently to a sitting attitude; and so they looked into each other's eyes, his
swarthy, bearded hawk face on a level with her white gleaming countenance.
"What is it?" he whispered.
She drew back instantly, taken with sudden panic at that question. Then recovering, and
seeking womanlike to evade and dissemble the thing she was come to do, now that the