How They Took the Communion Under the Tree at Higuerote

“Follow thee? Follow thee? Wha wad na follow thee? Lang hast
thou looed and trusted us fairly.”

Amyas would have certainly taken the yellow fever, but for one reason, which he himself gave to Cary. He had no time to be sick while his men were sick; a valid and sufficient reason (as many a noble soul in the Crimea has known too well), as long as the excitement of work is present, but too apt to fail the hero, and to let him sink into the pit which he has so often over-leapt, the moment that his work is done.

He called a council of war, or rather a sanitary commission, the next morning; for he was fairly at his wits’ end. The men were panic-stricken, ready to mutiny: Amyas told them that he could not see any possible good which could accrue to them by killing him, or—(for there were two sides to every question)—being killed by him; and then went below to consult. The doctor talked mere science, or nonscience, about humors, complexions, and animal spirits. Jack Brimblecombe, mere pulpit, about its being the visitation of God. Cary, mere despair, though he jested over it with a smile. Yeo, mere stoic fatalism, though he quoted Scripture to back the same. Drew, the master, had nothing to say. His “business was to sail the ship, and not to cure calentures.”

Whereon Amyas clutched his locks, according to custom; and at last broke forth—“Doctor! a fig for your humors and complexions! Can you cure a man’s humors, or change his complexion? Can an Ethiopian change his skin, or a leopard his spots? Don’t shove off your ignorance on God, sir. I ask you what’s the reason of this sickness, and you don’t know. Jack Brimblecombe, don’t talk to me about God’s visitation; this looks much more like the devil’s visitation, to my mind. We are doing God’s work, Sir John, and He is not likely to hinder us. So down with the devil, say I. Cary, laughing killed the cat, but it won’t cure a Christian. Yeo, when an angel tells me that it’s God’s will that we should all die like dogs in a ditch, I’ll call this God’s will; but not before. Drew, you say your business is to sail the ship; then sail her out of this infernal poison-trap this very morning, if you can, which you can’t. The mischief’s in the air, and nowhere else. I felt it run through me coming down last night, and smelt it like any sewer: and if it was not in the air, why was my boat’s crew taken first, tell me that?”

There was no answer.

“Then I’ll tell you why they were taken first: because the mist, when we came through it, only rose five or six feet above the stream, and we were in it, while you on board were above it. And those that were taken on board this morning, every one of them, slept on the main-deck, and every one of them, too, was in fear of the fever, whereby I judge two things,—Keep as high as you can, and fear nothing but God, and we’re all safe yet.”

“But the fog was up to our round-tops at sunrise this morning,” said Cary.

“I know it: but we who were on the half-deck were not in it so long as those below, and that may have made the difference, let alone our having free air. Beside, I suspect the heat in the evening draws the poison out more, and that when it gets cold toward morning, the venom of it goes off somehow.”

How it went off Amyas could not tell (right in his facts as he was), for nobody on earth knew I suppose, at that day; and it was not till nearly two centuries of fatal experience that the settlers in America discovered the simple laws of these epidemics which now every child knows, or ought to know. But common sense was on his side; and Yeo rose and spoke—

“As I have said before, many a time, the Lord has sent us a very young Daniel for judge. I remember now to have heard the Spaniards say, how these calentures lay always in the low ground, and never came more than a few hundred feet above the sea.”

“Let us go up those few hundred feet, then.”

Every man looked at Amyas, and then at his neighbor.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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