Page:Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates (1921).djvu/306

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Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates

from the little I can behold of it, that thy appearance must be extremely comely to the eye.”

“Sir,” said the lady, exhibiting some amusement at this unexpected sally, “I am, you must know, as God made me. Sometime, perhaps, I may be very glad to satisfy your curiosity, and exhibit to you my poor countenance such as it is. But now”—and here she reverted to her more serious mood—“I must again put it to you: are you willing to help an unprotected woman in a period of very great danger to herself? Should you decline the assistance which I solicit, my slaves shall conduct you to the gate through which you entered, and suffer you to depart in peace. Should you, upon the other hand, accept the trust, you are to receive no reward therefor, except the gratitude of one who thus appeals to you in her helplessness.”

For a few moments Jonathan fell silent, for here, indeed, was he entering into an adventure which infinitely surpassed any anticipation that he could have formed. He was, besides, of a cautious nature, and was entirely disinclined to embark into any affair so obscure and tangled as that in which he now found himself becoming involved.

“Friend,” said he, at last, “I may tell thee that thy story has so far moved me as to give me every inclination to help thee in thy difficulties, but I must also inform thee that I am a man of caution, having never before entered into any business of this sort. Therefore, before giving any promise that may bind my future actions, I must, in common wisdom, demand to know what are the conditions that thou hast in mind to impose upon me.”

“Indeed, sir,” cried the lady, with great vivacity and with more cheerful accents—as though her mind had been relieved of a burden of fear that her companion might at once have declined even a consideration of her request—“indeed, sir, you will find that the trust which I would impose upon you is in appearance no such great matter as my words may have led you to suppose.