The Kingdom of the Sun. A Romance of the Far West Coast - Alexander Maitland Stephen - ebook

The Kingdom of the Sun. A Romance of the Far West Coast ebook

Alexander Maitland Stephen

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Opis

A young man, Richard Anson is a crewman on board Sir Francis Drake’s „Golden Hind”, which is travelling north to the coast of what will one day become British Columbia. „The Kingdom of the Sun. A Romance of the Far West Coast” (1927) is an adventure novel by Alexander Maitland Stephen (May 8, 1882 – July 1, 1942), who was a Canadian author of poetry and fiction. He began writing in the early 1920s. His first book was a volume of poetry called „The Rosary of Pan” which was published in 1923. He wrote two novels, the first being „The Kingdom of the Sun” in 1927. Most of his books were published by J.M. Dent and Sons where his brother worked as a vice-president. In March 1942 he became ill with pneumonia and died in Vancouver on July 1, 1942.

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Liczba stron: 349

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Contents

I. A Gentleman Adventurer

II. The Spanish Main

III. A Pagan Princess

IV. In Drake's Bay

V. A Passage-at-Arms

VI. The King's Jewel

VII. Deliverance by Sword

VIII. Storm and Stress

IX. More Mysteries

X. The Straits of Anian

XI. On Savage Shores

XII. Northern Magic

XIII. Among the Haidas

XIV. Hunting the Sea Otter

XV. Totems

XVI. In the Borderland

XVII. Light and Darkness

XVIII. The Gathering of the Wolves

XIX. Beleaguered

XX. The Kingdom of the Sun

XXI. The Altar

CHAPTER I

A GENTLEMAN ADVENTURER

On the evening of 12 December, 1577, the little squadron of Sir Francis Drake, refitted and seaworthy once more, was ready to leave Plymouth Sound. For almost the space of a month the captains had fumed while they drowned their impatience in sack and malmsey at the inn on the Hoe. It was darkly hinted that Papish witchcraft and sorcery had not a little to do with the disastrous storm which had driven the fleet back upon English shores and, to Devonshire minds, this was quite acceptable, the West country being the home of warlocks, witches and pixies since the earliest times when Briton and Saxon disputed possession of the land.

Now, however, there was a tense atmosphere of expectancy and enthusiasm pervading every nook of the winding, dingy streets of old Plymouth. There were eager hands that would have let the bells of St. Andrew’s peal out jubilantly had there not been the prohibiting fear of Romish spies. Besides, every townsman knew that it was the desire of their great captain that he should slip silently away to sea. Even until the hour when the last light of sunset had faded from the green slopes of Mount Edgecumbe and the rugged heights of Staddon, the waterfront was thronged by citizens old and young, who watched the Pelican and her sister ships with pride in their eyes and bravado in the voices which talked of her gallant crew. Finally, darkness and a gathering fog blotted the Sound and the shipping from sight. The crowd dispersed.

One man alone remained after all the others had gone. Wrapped in a thick cloak which protected him against the chilling mists, he leaned heavily upon the low wall overlooking the harbour. A few of the last stragglers turned to look questioningly at him. One old, white-haired gaffer, indeed, paused while shuffling away to point to the solitary figure with his cane. To a belated companion he whispered:

“There a’ be. He’m breakin’ his heart a-wishin’ mun was aboord.”

A slight movement of the man by the sea-wall sufficed to cut short the old man’s remarks. Laying his hand upon his comrade’s sleeve, the inquisitive one quickened his hobbling steps and faded into the darkness.

It may have been that the man had overheard the words of the elderly gossip, or again, it may have been that the cold had interrupted his reverie. He suddenly drew himself erect and, wrapping his cloak more closely about him, began to pace along the greensward within the line of the wall. He was apparently oblivious of the fact that his low shoes were now wet through and that the fog, gathering thickly upon his cape, had made it but a damp and soggy covering.

A scene, bright and astir with life, was in complete possession of his thoughts. He was living over the hours just passed when he had formed part of the brilliant, noisy crowd in the old inn near by. He could still feel the pressure of the iron hand of England’s foremost sailor upon his shoulder and could feel the fire of the grey, dauntless eyes which had searched his soul. He could even hear the tenderness in the rough voice which had said:

“Eh, Master Anson, it’s not I will have in question your right to remain where you are. If any would cast an eye, my sword would drink his blood as easily as it would that of a Don. But, lad, there are gossiping tongues and I’m tellin’ ‘ee it’s in action we’m best to bury the past.”

Under the kindly grip of that hand the voices of the drawers and the potboys, the captains and the cadets, had suddenly sounded dim and more distant until all had been stilled. In imagination, he was standing with his captain in a bower set in a “goodly and great tree,” upon a green-clad spur in the Cordilleras. Below them the verdure of the tropics stretched like a wave on a shoreless sea until, to eastward and to westward, it merged into the sparkling blue reaches of two oceans. Richard Anson heard again the voice of the man beside him beseeching Almighty God of His goodness to give him life and leave to sail once in an English ship in that sea. The ardour of adventurous youth had thrilled once more to the call of romance.

The golden lure of the Spanish Main, which was the heart’s desire of all the merchant adventurers, held him in its power. To exalt the true faith and to establish the supremacy of England on the seas was to him, as to all true Englishmen in his day, the high privilege and duty of a gentleman. Yet, while his pulses bounded and his being stirred under the sea-magic of his captain’s touch, there had risen within him a chilling numbness which had suddenly checked his desire to clasp Drake’s hand and to risk all with him again in the great adventure.

For to Richard Anson, life bereft of love was as Dead Sea fruit. Behind his ardent patriotism, his manly love of great odds and the lure of uncharted seas, had glowed devotion to an ideal. Willingly would he have faced the embattled powers of the world, of Spain and the devil, if, returning, he could have laid his laurels at the feet of the one woman. But she, for whom he had adventured under perilous skies, was now a memory. A few short weeks ago he had walked with her through the lovely scenery of the Tamar, building fond visions of a home wherein she might reign while he was fighting England’s enemies. Then, a sudden chill–”a wind from out of a cloud”–had prostrated her. The crude medicine of the day had sought without avail to check the disease. She had passed out and with her departed the light of his life. Plunged into an agony of separateness, he had been for awhile in grave danger of losing his mind. In vain his comrades of the fleet had striven to allay the darkness of his mood. He avoided them until, upon the eve of the departure of the squadron, he surprised them all by appearing at the inn. Their hopes revived. He would come with them and, in adventures on the high seas, forget the blow which Fortune had dealt him. However, they had been disappointed. He had bidden them all god-speed. When the hour for embarkation arrived Master Anson remained ashore.

The fog had cleared away somewhat and the moonlight, struggling from behind dun banks of cloud, lay in silvery patches upon the grey sea-wall and the black waters of the harbour. Richard was still engaged in his solitary pacing to and fro. Centred as he was in himself, he was unaware of a strange object approaching him. It would have been hard to ascertain whether it was the form of man or woman which, sliding from among the shadows cast by the walls of the inn, now moved silently towards him. Clothed in black it was, its steps upheld by a rude staff, while, for further support, a bony hand crept uncannily along the top of the low stone wall. When Master Anson’s eyes first lighted upon the weird figure, he was for the moment undecided whether to stand or fly. In the fact there is no reflection upon his bravery. In that day superstition was part and parcel of the thinking of the most intelligent men. To meet the devil in broad daylight was what might happen to any honest gentleman. How much more likely to meet him on a dark night when there were unwonted doings afoot!

A chilliness, not to be accounted for by the night wind, took possession of Richard so that his hand trembled upon his sword-hilt. In a hoarse voice he bade the apparition stand. No answer was forthcoming from the form which glided nearer to him. Then it was that panic seized the man as it will the boldest at times. The moonlight flashed upon the blade of his drawn rapier. The cloak enveloping the head and shoulders of the spectral figure was thrown aside and Richard’s blade was arrested in the act to strike.

“Kate-o’-the-Mill! Thank God who has held my hand!”

As he looked into the face of the woman so nearly his victim his superstitious fear was in no whit abated, although his sword returned to its scabbard. Since early childhood she had been a familiar figure in his dreams of evil fortune. Meeting her upon some lonely road when a boy he had oftentimes fled in terror to his mother’s arms, shaken by the sight of her wild eyes and cruelly twisted features. What stroke of Satanic fate had blighted her youthful beauty and had turned her into a thing of dread was known to few and they, through fear, had held their peace. Her black eyes, filled with an unearthly fire, were holding him now. She brushed aside a damp, grey wisp of hair which had fallen across her brow.

“Aye, Kate-o’-the-Mill, young master. Nay, why should mun tremble like a leaf in the wind? Is it a woman’s face would stay the swoord that should be batin’ the bloody Spaniards off the seas?”

A quick spasm of pain whitened the man’s lips.

“Woman–have a care! That taunt may no man fling and live to tell of it. On my own head be it to bide or go, as I will. Say–what is it to thee what Richard Anson does with the life that is his own, under God, to keep or to cast away?”

Richard could hear the throbbing of his own blood in the silence which followed. The soft lapping of the waves upon the beach sounded like the heavy surge of billows beating in time to his own heart. The harsh voice of Kate-o’-the-Mill was oddly feminine–had even something in it which stirred the man in him strangely, as she quavered:

“Aye. Iss? What is’t to me, then? Down from the glens, thro’ the mire, withouten sup or bite, wi’ the dogs at my heels, I ha’ come. Why? Wi’ a message! No devil it was but the good Lord o’ gloory sent her ladyship to old Kate wi’ the word in mun’s mouth.”

Was it wild-fire caught from the eyes of the old soothsayer that glistened in Master Anson’s own, as he gazed at her? His voice was low, awed by the mystery of the night, the woman and his own great love.

“Speak on–in God’s name!”

“Covered wi’ the gloory o’ the sun, she was! A blessed angel comed to earth, and the light o’ mun will guide old Kate’s footsteps till she’m buried in the glen. Shinin’ like the sun, she was! Iss. An’ says she, ‘Tell Master Richard that his love is not here. She bides in the far seas. If he be true and brave–if his love be great enough–he will find her in the Kingdom of the Sun.’ Aye, master, an’ mun kissed old Kate–old Kate, I’m tellin’ ye–an’ I minded naught else while I was paddlin’ thro’ mire, up hill and down dale, to find ye!”

“In the Kingdom of the Sun!...” Master Anson was rapt from the sense of the scene which the moon was lightening for his earthly eyes. On a gallant galleass, with a foaming wake behind her, he was careening over sunlit seas. Warm, spicy airs blew about him from off shores heavy with strange verdure and flowers of rainbow hue. Waves sparkled and danced away to the far horizon where the sun was setting. As he gazed into the fiery depths to westward, a wind from over the ocean’s rim flowed about him, filling his being with unutterable desire. The nameless hire of a great adventure held him in its thrall. While breath was in him he would sail in unending quest of what called to him as something priceless beyond anything life had brought to his hand.

The man shook himself free from his dreaming. With gruff kindliness, he pressed a purse into the hands of the old woman.

“Get thee warmed, mother. It’s a chill night for thy old bones to be abroad. Nay, no thanks. There’s enough therein to keep thee, if thou fend it, till God take thee in charge. There’s a-plenty more where I’m bound.”

The crone stood fumbling the coins in the sack which Richard had given her.

“May God keep ye, Master Richard! But–whither are ye bound, then?”

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