Sir John Constantine eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 502 pages of information about Sir John Constantine.

His russet gown reached almost to his feet, which were bare; and he stood amid the strangest litter of a deck-cargo, consisting mainly—­ or so at first glance it seemed to me—­of pot-plants and rude agricultural implements:  spades, flails, forks, mattocks, picks, hoes, dibbles, rakes, lashed in bundles; sieves, buckets, kegs, bins, milk-pails, seed-hods, troughs, mangers, a wired dovecote, and a score of hen-coops filled with poultry.  Forward of the mainmast stood a cart with shafts, upright and lashed to the mast, that the headsails might work clear.  The space between the masts was occupied by enormous open hatchways through which came the lowing of oxen, and through these, peering down into the hold, I saw the backs of cattle and horses moving in its gloom, and the bodies of men stretched in the straw at their feet.

So much of the Gauntlet’s hugger-mugger I managed to discern before Captain Pomery left the helm and hurried forward to give us welcome on board.

“Mornin’, Squire Prosper!  Mornin’, Billy!  You know me, sir—­Cap’n Jo Pomery—­which is short for Job, and ’tis the luckiest chance, sir, you hailed me, for you’m nearabouts the first man I wanted to see.  Faith, now, and I wonder how your father (God bless him) will take it?”

“Why, what’s the matter?” asked I, with a glance at the monk, who had drawn back a pace and stood, still silent, fingering his rosary.

“The matter?  Good Lord! isn’t this matter enough?” Captain Jo waved an arm to include all the deck-cargo.  “See them pot-plants, there, and what they’m teeled [1] in?”

“Drinking-troughs?” said I.  “Or . . . is it coffins?”

“Coffins it is.  I’d feel easier in mind if you could tell me what your father (God bless him) will say to it.”

“But what has all this to do with my father?” I demanded, and, seeking Billy’s eyes, found them as frankly full of amaze as my own.

“Not but what,” continued Captain Jo, “they’ve behaved well, though dog-sick to a man from the time we left port.  Look at ’em!”—­he caught me by the arm and, drawing me to the hatchway, pointed down to the hold.  “A round score and eight, and all well paid for as passengers; but for the return journey I won’t answer.  It depends on your father, and that”—­with a jerk of his thumb towards the tall monk—­“I stippilated when I shipped ’em.  ‘Never you mind,’ was the answer I got; ’take ’em to England to Sir John Constantine.’  And here they be!”

“But who on earth are they?” I cried, staring down into the gloom, where presently I made out that the men stretched in the straw at the horses’ feet were monks all, and habited like the monk on the deck behind me.  To him next I turned, to find his eyes, which were dark and quick, searching me curiously; and as I turned he made a step forward, put out a hand as if to touch me on the shirt-sleeve, and anon drew it back, yet still continued to regard me.

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Sir John Constantine from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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