“Marc’antonio,” said I, “my friends here are proposing to sail northward to Cape Corso to-night. They require me to sail with them. Am I free, think you?”
“Beyond doubt you are free, cavalier,” answered Marc’antonio, still without lifting his eyes.
“Now, for my part,” I said, “I am not so sure. Suppose—look at me please, my friend—suppose that you and I were to go first to the Princess together and ask her leave?”
My uncle gazed up at Marc’antonio, who had sprung to his feet; and— after a long look at his face—from Marc’antonio to me.
“Prosper,” he said quietly, “we shall sail to-night. If we sail without you, will your father forgive us? That is all I ask.”
“Dear uncle,” said I, “for the life of me I cannot tell you; but that in my place he would do the like, I am sure.”
THE GREAT ADVENTURE.
“He that luvith
To follow her, sinke or swym,
Hath never a feare how farre,
For the world it longith to hym:
For the road it longith to hym
And the fieldes that marcche beside—
Lift up thi herte, my maister then,
So inery to-morn we ride.”
The Squyres Delyt.
So the Gauntlet sailed for the island of Giraglia; and we two, having watched her for a while as she stood out to make her offing, trod out our camp-fire and turned our faces northward. Marc’antonio’s last action before starting was to unhobble the goats and free the hogs from their wooden collars and headpieces. As he finished operating he turned them loose one by one with a parting smack on the buttocks, and they ran from us among the thickets, where we heard their squeals change to grunts of delight.
Brutes though they were, I could understand their delight, having lived with them, and in even such thraldom as theirs. From my neck also it seemed that a heavy collar-weight fell loose and slipped itself as, having passed Nat’s grave in the hollow, we left the pine-forest at our feet and wound our way up among the granite pinnacles, upward, still upward, into the clear air. Aloft there, beyond the pass, the kingdom of Corsica broke on our view, laid out in wide prospect; the distant glittering peaks of Monte d’Oro and Monte Rotondo, the forests hitched on their shoulders like green mantles, the creased valleys leading down their rivers to the shore; a magic kingdom ringed with a sea of iris blue; a kingdom bequeathed to me. A few months ago I had shouted with joy to possess it; to-day, with more admiring eyes, I worshipped it for the lists of my greater adventure; and surely Nat’s spirit marched with me to the air of his favourite song—
“If doughty deeds
my lady please,
Right soon I’ll mount my steed;
And strong his arm and fast his seat
That bears frae me the meed . . .”