My father and Nat Fiennes had finished their game and come forward in time to hear the conclusion of this amazing narrative. Billy Priske stared at his master in bewilderment.
“A spade!” growled Billy, mopping his brow and letting his gaze travel around the horizon again before settling, in dull wrath, on Mr. Fett. “What’s the use, sir, of makin’ a man feel like a villain and putting thoughts into his head without means to fulfil ’em?”
“Sit you quiet,” said my father, “while I try to drive Mr. Fett’s story out of your head with an honester one.”
“About a spade, master?”
“There is a spade in the story.”
“In the year 1416 a certain Portuguese sea-captain, Gonsalvez Zarco by name, and servant of the famous Henry of Portugal, was cruising homeward in a leaky caravel from a baffled voyage in search of the Fortunate Islands. He had run into a fog off Cape Blanco in Africa, and had been pushing through it for two days when the weather lifted and the look-out spied a boat, empty but for one man, drifting a mile and more to leeward. Zarco ran down for the boat, and the man, being brought aboard, was found to be an escaped Moorish prisoner on his way back to Spain. He gave his name as Morales, and said that he had sometime been a pilot of Seville, but being captured by the Moors off Algeciras, had spent close on twenty years in servitude to them. In the end he and six other Christians had escaped in a boat of their own making, but with few victuals. When these were consumed his companions had perished one by one, horribly, and he had been sailing without hope, not caring whither, for a day and a night before his rescue came.
“Now this much he told them painfully, being faint with fasting and light-headed: but afterwards falling into a delirium, he let slip certain words that caused Captain Zarco to bestow him in a cabin apart and keep watch over him until the ship reached Lagos, whence he conveyed him secretly and by night to Prince Henry, who dwelt at that time in an arsenal of his own building, on the headland of Sagres. There Prince Henry questioned him, and the old man, taken by surprise, told them a story both true and wonderful.