How Amyas let the Apple Fall

“Would you hear a Spanish lady,
   How she woo’d an Englishman?
Garments gay and rich as may be,
   Deck’d with jewels had she on.”
   —Elizabethan Ballad.

It was the first of October. The morning was bright and still; the skies were dappled modestly from east to west with soft gray autumn cloud, as if all heaven and earth were resting after those fearful summer months of battle and of storm. Silently, as if ashamed and sad, the Vengeance slid over the bar, and passed the sleeping sand-hills and dropped her anchor off Appledore, with her flag floating half-mast high; for the corpse of Salvation Yeo was on board.

A boat pulled off from the ship, and away to the western end of the strand; and Cary and Brimblecombe helped out Amyas Leigh, and led him slowly up the hill toward his home.

The crowd clustered round him, with cheers and blessings, and sobs of pity from kind-hearted women; for all in Appledore and Bideford knew well by this time what had befallen him.

“Spare me, my good friends,” said Amyas, “I have landed here that I might go quietly home, without passing through the town, and being made a gazing-stock. Think not of me, good folks, nor talk of me; but come behind me decently, as Christian men, and follow to the grave the body of a better man than I.”

And, as he spoke, another boat came off, and in it, covered with the flag of England, the body of Salvation Yeo.

The people took Amyas at his word; and a man was sent on to Burrough, to tell Mrs. Leigh that her son was coming. When the coffin was landed and lifted, Amyas and his friends took their places behind it as chief mourners, and the crew followed in order, while the crowd fell in behind them, and gathered every moment; till ere they were halfway to Northam town, the funeral train might number full five hundred souls.

They had sent over by a fishing-skiff the day before to bid the sexton dig the grave; and when they came into the churchyard, the parson stood ready waiting at the gate.

Mrs. Leigh stayed quietly at home; for she had no heart to face the crowd; and though her heart yearned for her son, yet she was well content (when was she not content?) that he should do honor to his ancient and faithful servant; so she sat down in the bay-window, with Ayacanora by her side; and when the tolling of the bell ceased, she opened her Prayer-book, and began to read the Burial-service.

“Ayacanora,” she said, “they are burying old Master Yeo, who loved you, and sought you over the wide, wide world, and saved you from the teeth of the crocodile. Are you not sorry for him, child, that you look so gay to-day?”

Ayacanora blushed, and hung down her head; she was thinking of nothing, poor child, but Amyas.

The Burial-service was done; the blessing said; the parson drew back: but the people lingered and crowded round to look at the coffin, while Amyas stood still at the head of the grave. It had been dug by his command, at the west end of the church, near by the foot of the tall gray windswept tower, which watches for a beacon far and wide over land and sea. Perhaps the old man might like to look at the sea, and see the ships come out and in across the bar, and hear the wind, on winter nights, roar through the belfry far above his head. Why not? It was but a fancy: and yet Amyas felt that he too should like to be buried in such a place; so Yeo might like it also.

Still the crowd lingered; and looked first at the grave and then at the blind giant who stood over it, as if they felt, by instinct, that something more ought to come. And something more did come. Amyas drew himself up to his full height, and waved his hand majestically, as one about to speak; while the eyes of all men were fastened on him.

Twice he essayed to begin; and twice the words were choked upon his lips; and then,—

  By PanEris using Melati.

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