Part 3 out of 7
"You can take the brown mare," I said, speaking lightly because
my heart was as heavy as lead, "and we'll ride to the forest. It is all
right, I dare say. Doubtless we'll find her garlanding herself with
the grape, or playing with the squirrels, or asleep on the red leaves,
with her head in Angela's lap."
"Doubtless," he said. "Don't lose time. I'll saddle the mare and
overtake you in two minutes."
CHAPTER XIV IN WHICH WE SEEK A LOST LADY
BESIDE the minister and myself, nothing human moved in the
crimson woods. Blue haze was there, and the steady drift of
colored leaves, and the sunshine freely falling through bared limbs,
but no man or woman. The fallen leaves rustled as the deer passed,
the squirrels chattered and the foxes barked, but we heard no sweet
laughter or ringing song.
We found a bank of moss, and lying upon it a chaplet of red-brown
oak leaves; further on, the mint beside a crystal streamlet had been
trodden underfoot; then, flung down upon the brown earth beneath
some pines, we came upon a long trailer of scarlet vine. Beyond
was a fairy hollow, a cuplike depression, curtained from the world
by the red vines that hung from the trees upon its brim, and
carpeted with the gold of a great maple; and here Fear became a
giant with whom it was vain to wrestle.
There had been a struggle in the hollow. The curtain of vines was
torn, the boughs of a sumach bent and broken, the fallen leaves
groun underfoot. In one place there was blood upon the leaves.
The forest seemed suddenly very quiet, - quite soundless save for
the beating of our hearts. On every side opened red and yellow
ways, sunny glades, labyrinthine paths, long aisles, all dim with the
blue haze like the cloudy incense in stone cathedrals, but nothing
moved in them save the creatures of the forest. Without the hollow
there was no sign. The leaves looked undisturbed, or others,
drifting down, had hidden any marks there might have been; no
footprints, no broken branches, no token of those who had left the
hollow. Down which of the painted ways had they gone, and where
were they now?
Sparrow and I sat our horses, and stared now down this alley, now
down that, into the blue that closed each vista.
"The Santa Teresa is just off the big spring," he said at last. "She
must have dropped down there in order to take in water quietly."
"The man that came upon her is still in town, - or was an hour
agone," I replied.
"Then she has n't sailed yet," he said.
In the distance something grew out of the blue mist. I had not lived
thirteen years in the woodland to be dim of sight or dull of hearing.
"Some one is coming," I announced. "Back your horse into this
clump of sumach."
The sumach grew thick, and was draped, moreover, with some
broad-leafed vine. Within its covert we could see with small
danger of being seen, unless the approaching figure should prove
to be that of an Indian. It was not an Indian; it was my Lord
Carnal. He came on slowly, glancing from side to side, and
pausing now and then as if to listen. He was so little of a
woodsman that he never looked underfoot.
Sparrow touched my arm and pointed down a glade at right angles
with the path my lord was pursuing. Up this glade there was
coming toward us another figure, - a small black figure that moved
swiftly, looking neither to the right nor to the left.
Black Lamoral stood like a stone; the brown mare, too, had
learned what meant a certain touch upon her shoulder. Sparrow
and I, with small shame for our eavesdropping, bent to our
saddlebows and looked sideways through tiny gaps in the crimson
My lord descended one side of the hollow, his heavy foot bringing
down the dead leaves and loose earth; the Italian glided down the
opposite side, disturbing the economy of the forest as little as a
snake would have done.
"I thought I should never meet you," growled my lord. "I thought I
had lost you and her and myself. This d-d red forest and this blue
haze are enough to" - He broke off with an oath.
"I came as fast as I could," said the other. His voice was strange,
thin and dreamy, matching his filmy eyes and his eternal, very
faint smile. "Your poor physician congratulates your lordship upon
the success that still attends you. Yours is a fortunate star, my
"Then you have her safe?" cried my lord.
"Three miles from here, on the river bank, is a ring of pines, in
which the trees grow so thick that it is always twilight. Ten years
ago a man was murdered there, and Sir Thomas Dale chained the
murderer to the tree beneath which his victim was buried, and left
him to perish of hunger and thirst. That is the tale they tell at
Jamestown. The wood is said to be haunted by murdered and
murderer, and no one enters it or comes nearer to it than he can
avoid: which makes it an excellent resort for those whom the dead
cannot scare. The lady is there, my lord, with your four knaves to
guard her. They do not know that the gloom and quiet of the place
are due to more than nature."
My lord began to laugh. Either he had been drinking, or the
success of his villainy had served for wine. "You are a man in a
thousand, Nicolo!" he said. "How far above or below the ship is
this fortunate wood?"
"Just opposite, my lord."
"Can a boat land easily?"
"A creek runs through the wood to the river. There needs but the
appointed signal from the bank, and a boat from the Santa Teresa
can be rowed up the stream to the very tree beneath which the lady
My lord's laughter rang out again. "You're a man in ten thousand,
Nicolo! Nicolo, the bridegroom's in town."
"Back so soon?" said the Italian. "Then we must change your
lordship's plan. With him on the ground, you can no longer wait
until nightfall to row downstream to the lady and the Santa Teresa.
He'll come to look for her."
"Ay he'll come to look for her, curse him!" echoed my lord.
"Do you think the dead will scare him?" continued the Italian.
"No, I don't!" answered my lord, with an oath. "I would he were
among them! An I could have killed him before I went" -
"I had devised a way to do it long ago, had not your lordship's
conscience been so tender. And yet, before now, our enemies -
yours and mine, my lord - have met with sudden and mysterious
death. Men stared, but they ended by calling it a dispensation of
Providence." He broke off to laugh with silent, hateful laughter, as
mirthful as the grin of a death's-head.
"I know, I know!" said my lord impatiently. "We are not overnice,
Nicolo. But between me and those who then stood in my way there
had passed no challenge. This is my mortal foe, through whose
heart I would drive my sword. I would give my ruby to know
whether he's in the town or in the forest."
"He's in the forest," I said.
Black Lamoral and the brown mare were beside them before either
moved hand or foot, or did aught but stare and stare, as though
men and horses had risen from the dead. All the color was gone
from my lord's face, - it looked white, drawn, and pinched; as for
his companion, his countenance did not change, - never changed, I
believe, - but the trembling of the feather in his hat was not caused
by the wind.
Jeremy Sparrow bent down from his saddle, seized the Italian
under the armpits, and swung him clean from the ground up to the
brown mare's neck. "Divinity and medicine," he said genially,
"soul healer and body poisoner, we'll ride double for a time," and
proceeded to bind the doctor's hands with his own scarf. The
creature of venom before him writhed and struggled, but the
minister's strength was as the strength of ten, and the minister's
hand held him down. By this I was off Black Lamoral and facing
my lord. The color had come back to his lip and cheek, and the
flash to his eye. His hand went to his sword hilt.
"I shall not draw mine, my lord," I told him. "I keep troth."
He stared at me with a frown that suddenly changed into a laugh,
forced and unnatural enough. "Then go thy ways, and let me go
mine!" he cried. "Be complaisant, worthy captain of trainbands and
Burgess from a dozen huts! The King and I will make it worth
"I will not draw my sword upon you," I replied, "but I will try a fall
with you," and I seized him by the wrist.
He was a good wrestler as he was a good swordsman, but, with
bitter anger in my heart and a vision of the haunted wood before
my eyes, I think I could have wrestled with Hercules and won.
Presently I threw him, and, pinning him down with my knee upon
his breast, cried to Sparrow to cut the bridle reins from Black
Lamoral and throw them to me. Though he had the Italian upon his
hands, he managed to obey. With my free hand and my teeth I
drew a thong about my lord's arms and bound them to his sides;
then took my knee from his chest and my hand from his throat, and
rose to my feet. He rose too with one spring. He was very white,
and there was foam on his lips.
"What next, captain?" he demanded thickly. "Your score is
mounting up rather rapidly. What next?"
"This," I replied, and with the other thong fastened him, despite his
struggles, to the young maple beneath which we had wrestled.
When the task was done, I first drew his sword from its jeweled
scabbard and laid it on the ground at his feet, and then cut the
leather which restrained his arms, leaving him only tied to the tree.
"I am not Sir Thomas Dale," I said, "and therefore I shall not gag
you and leave you bound for an indefinite length of time, to
contemplate a grave that you thought to dig. One haunted wood is
enough for one county. Your lordship will observe that I have
knotted your bonds in easy reach of your hands, the use of which I
have just restored to you. The knot is a peculiar one; an Indian
taught it to me. If you set to work at once, you will get it untied
before nightfall. That you may not think it the Gordian knot and
treat it as such, I have put your sword where you can get it only
when you have worked for it. Your familiar, my lord, may prove of
use to us; therefore we will take him with us to the haunted wood.
I have the honor to wish your lordship a very good day."
I bowed low, swung myself into my saddle, and turned my back
upon his glaring eyes and bared teeth. Sparrow, his prize flung
across his saddlebow, turned with me. A minute more saw us out
of the hollow, and entered upon the glade up which had come the
Italian. When we had gone a short distance, I turned in my saddle
and looked back. The tiny hollow had vanished; all the forest
looked level, dreamy and still, barren of humanity, given over to
its own shy children, nothing moving save the slow-falling leaves.
But from beyond a great clump of sumach, set like a torch in the
vaporous blue, came a steady stream of words, happily rendered
indistinguishable by distance, and I knew that the King's minion
was cursing the Italian, the Governor, the Santa Teresa, the Due
Return, the minister, the forest, the haunted wood, his sword, the
knot that I had tied, and myself.
I admit that the sound was music in mine ears.
CHAPTER XV IN WHICH WE FIND THE HAUNTED WOOD
ON the outskirts of the haunted wood we dismounted, fastening
the horses to two pines. The Italian we gagged and bound across
the brown mare's saddle. Then, as noiselessly as Indians, we
entered the wood.
Once within it, it was as though the sun had suddenly sunk from
the heavens. The pines, of magnificent height and girth, were so
closely set that far overhead, where the branches began, was a
heavy roof of foliage, impervious to the sunshine, brooding, dark
and sullen as a thundercloud, over the cavernous world beneath.
There was no undergrowth, no clinging vines, no bloom, no color;
only the dark, innumerable tree trunks and the purplish-brown,
scented, and slippery earth. The air was heavy, cold, and still, like
cave air; the silence as blank and awful as the silence beneath the
The minister and I stole through the dusk, and for a long time
heard nothing but our own breathing and the beating of our hearts.
But coming to a sluggish stream, as quiet as the wood through
which it crept, and following its slow windings, we at last heard a
voice, and in the distance made out dark forms sitting on the earth
beside that sombre water. We went on with caution, gliding from
tree to tree and making no noise. In the cheerless silence of that
place any sound would have shattered the stillness like a pistol
Presently we came to a halt, and, ourselves hidden by a giant
trunk, looked out on stealers and stolen. They were gathered on the
bank of the stream, waiting for the boat from the Santa Teresa.
The lady whom we sought lay like a fallen flower on the dark
ground beneath a pine. She did not move, and her eyes were shut.
At her head crouched the negress, her white garments showing
ghostlike through the gloom. Beneath the next tree sat Diccon, his
hands tied behind him, and around him my Lord Carnal's four
knaves. It was Diccon's voice that we had heard. He was still
speaking, and now we could distinguish the words.
"So Sir Thomas chains him there," he said, - "right there to that
tree under which you are sitting, Jacky Bonhomme." Jacques
incontinently shifted his position. " He chains him there, with one
chain around his neck, one around his waist, and one around his
ankles. Then he sticks me a bodkin through his tongue." A groan
of admiration from his audience. "Then they dig, before his very
eyes, a grave, - shallow enough they make it, too, - and they put
into it, uncoffined, with only a long white shroud upon him, the
man he murdered. Then they cover the grave. You're sitting on it
now, you other Jacky."
"Godam!" cried the rascal addressed, and removed with expedition
to a less storied piece of ground.
"Then they go away," continued Diccon in graveyard tones. "They
all go away together, - Sir Thomas and Captain Argall, Captain
West, Lieutenant George Percy and his cousin, my master, and Sir
Thomas's men; they go out of the wood as though it were
accursed, though indeed it was not half so gloomy then as it is
now. The sun shone into it then, sometimes, and the birds sang.
You would n't think it from the looks of things now, would you?
As the dead man rotted in his grave, and the living man died by
inches above him, they say the wood grew darker, and darker, and
darker. How dark it's getting now, and cold, - cold as the dead!"
His auditors drew closer together, and shivered. Sparrow and I
were so near that we could see the hands of the ingenious
story-teller, bound behind his back, working as he talked. Now
they strained this way, and now that, at the piece of rope that
"That was ten years ago," he said, his voice becoming more and
more impressive. "Since that day nothing comes into this wood, -
nothing human, that is. Neither white man nor Indian comes, that's
certain. Then why are n't there chains around that tree, and why are
there no bones beneath it, on the ground there? Because, Jackies
all, the man that did that murder walks! It is not always deadly still
here; sometimes there 's a clanking of chains! And a bodkin
through the tongue can't keep the dead from wailing! And the
murdered man walks, too; in his shroud he follows the other - Is n't
that something white in the distance yonder?"
My lord's four knaves looked down the arcade of trees, and saw the
something white as plainly as if it had been verily there. Each
moment the wood grew darker, - a thing in nature, since the sun
outside was swiftly sinking to the horizon. But to those to whom
that tale had been told it was a darkening unearthly and portentous,
bringing with it a colder air and a deepened silence.
"Oh, Sir Thomas Dale, Sir Thomas Dale!"
The voice seemed to come from the distance, and bore in its
dismal cadence the melancholy of the damned. For a moment my
heart stood still, and the hair of my head commenced to rise; the
next, I knew that Diccon had found an ally, not in the dead, but in
the living. The minister, standing beside me, opened his mouth
again, and again that dismal voice rang through the wood, and
again it seemed, by I know not what art, to come from any spot
rather than from that particular tree behind whose trunk stood
Master Jeremy Sparrow.
"Oh, the bodkin through my tongue! Oh, the bodkin through my
Two of the guard sat with hanging lip and lacklustre eyes, turned
to stone; one, at full length upon the ground, bruised his face
against the pine needles and called on the Virgin; the fourth,
panic-stricken, leaped to his feet and dashed off into the darkness,
to trouble us no more that day.
"Oh, the heavy chains!" cried the unseen spectre. "Oh, the dead
man in his grave!"
The man on his face dug his nails into the earth and howled; his
fellows were too frightened for sound or motion. Diccon, a hardy
rogue, with little fear of God or man, gave no sign of perturbation
beyond a desperate tugging at the rope about his wrists. He was
ever quick to take suggestion, and he had probably begun to
question the nature of the ghost who was doing him such yeoman
"D' ye think they've had enough?" said Sparrow in my ear. "My
I nodded, too choked with laughter for speech, and drew my
sword. The next moment we were upon the men like wolves upon
They made no resistance. Amazed and shaken as they were, we
might have dispatched them with all ease, to join the dead whose
lamentations yet rang in their ears; but we contented ourselves
with disarming them and bidding them begone for their lives in the
direction of the Pamunkey. They went like frightened deer, their
one goal in life escape from the wood.
"Did you meet the Italian?"
I turned to find my wife at my side. The King's ward had a kingly
spirit; she was not one that the dead or the living could daunt. To
her, as to me, danger was a trumpet call to nerve heart and
strengthen soul. She had been in peril of that which she most
feared, but the light in her eye was not quenched, and the hand
with which she touched mine, though cold, was steady.
"Is he dead?" she asked. "At court they called him the Black Death.
They said" -
"I did not kill him," I answered, "but I will if you desire it."
"And his master?" she demanded. "What have you done with his
I told her. At the vision my words conjured up her strained nerves
gave way, and she broke into laughter as cruel as it was sweet.
Peal after peal rang through the haunted wood, and increased the
eeriness of the place.
"The knot that I tied he will untie directly," I said. "If we would
reach Jamestown first, we had best be going."
"Night is upon us, too," said the minister, "and this place hath the
look of the very valley of the shadow of death. If the spirits walk,
it is hard upon their time - and I prefer to walk elsewhere."
"Cease your laughter, madam," I said. "Should a boat be coming
up this stream, you would betray us."
I went over to Diccon, and in a silence as grim as his own cut the
rope which bound his hands, which done we all moved through the
deepening gloom to where we had left the horses, Jeremy Sparrow
going on ahead to have them in readiness. Presently he came
hurrying back. "The Italian is gone!" he cried.
"Gone!" I exclaimed. "I told you to tie him fast to the saddle!"
"Why, so I did," he replied. "I drew the thongs so tight that they cut
into his flesh. He could not have endured to pull against them."
"Then how did he get away?"
"Why," he answered, with a rueful countenance, "I did bind him,
as I have said; but when I had done so, I bethought me of how the
leather must cut, and of how pain is dreadful even to a snake, and
of the injunction to do as you would be done by, and so e'en
loosened his bonds. But, as I am a christened man, I thought that
they would yet hold him fast!"
I began to swear, but ended in vexed laughter. "The milk's spilt.
There 's no use in crying over it. After all, we must have loosed
him before we entered the town."
"Will you not bring the matter before the Governor?" he asked.
I shook my head. "If Yeardley did me right, he would put in
jeopardy his office and his person. This is my private quarrel, and I
will draw no man into it against his will. Here are the horses, and
we had best be gone, for by this time my lord and his physician
may have their heads together again."
I mounted Black Lamoral, and lifted Mistress Percy to a seat
behind me. The brown mare bore the minister and the negress, and
Diccon, doggedly silent, trudged beside us.
We passed through the haunted wood and the painted forest
beyond without adventure. We rode in silence: the lady behind me
too weary for speech, the minister revolving in his mind the escape
of the Italian, and I with my own thoughts to occupy me. It was
dusk when we crossed the neck of land, and as we rode down the
street torches were being lit in the houses. The upper room in the
guest house was brightly illumined, and the window was open.
Black Lamoral and the brown mare made a trampling with their
hoofs, and I began to whistle a gay old tune I had learnt in the
wars. A figure in scarlet and black came to the window, and stood
there looking down upon us. The lady riding with me straightened
herself and raised her weary head. "The next time we go to the
forest, Ralph," she said in a clear, high voice, "thou 'lt show me a
certain tree," and she broke into silvery laughter. She laughed until
we had left behind the guest house and the figure in the upper
window, and then the laughter changed to something like a sob. If
there were pain and anger in her heart, pain and anger were in
mine also. She had never called me by my name before. She had
only used it now as a dagger with which to stab at that fierce heart
At last we reached the minister's house, and dismounted before the
door. Diccon led the horses away, and I handed my wife into the
great room. The minister tarried but for a few words anent some
precautions that I meant to take, and then betook himself to his
own chamber. As he went out of the door Diccon entered the
"Oh, I am weary!" sighed Mistress Jocelyn Percy. "What was the
mighty business, Captain Percy, that made you break tryst with a
lady? You should go to court, sir, to be taught gallantry."
"Where should a wife go to be taught obedience?" I demanded.
"You know where I went and why I could not keep tryst. Why did
you not obey my orders?"
She opened wide her eyes. "Your orders? I never received any, -
not that I should have obeyed them if I had. Know where you
went? I know neither why nor where you went!"
I leaned my hand upon the table, and looked from her to Diccon.
"I was sent by the Governor to quell a disturbance amongst the
nearest Indians. The woods today have been full of danger.
Moreover, the plan that we made yesterday was overheard by the
Italian. When I had to go this morning without seeing you, I left
you word where I had gone and why, and also my commands that
you should not stir outside the garden. Were you not told this,
" No!" she cried.
I looked at Diccon. "I told madam that you were called away on
business," he said sullenly. "I told her that you were sorry you
could not go with her to the woods."
"You told her nothing more?"
"May I ask why?"
He threw back his head. "I did not believe the Paspaheghs would
trouble her," he answered, with hardihood, "and you had n't seen
fit, sir, to tell me of the other danger. Madam wanted to go, and I
thought it a pity that she should lose her pleasure for nothing."
I had been hunting the day before, and my whip yet lay upon the
table. "I have known you for a hardy rogue," I said, with my hand
upon it; "now I know you for a faithless one as well. If I gave you
credit for all the vices of the soldier, I gave you credit also for his
virtues. I was the more deceived. The disobedient servant I might
pardon, but the soldier who is faithless to his trust" -
I raised the whip and brought it down again and again across his
shoulders. He stood without a word, his face dark red and his
hands clenched at his sides. For a minute or more there was no
sound in the room save the sound of the blows; then my wife
suddenly cried out: "It is enough! You have beaten him enough!
Let him go, sir!"
I threw down the whip. "Begone, sirrah!" I ordered. "And keep out
of my sight to-morrow!"
With his face still dark red and with a pulse beating fiercely in his
cheek, he moved slowly toward the door, turned when he had
reached it and saluted, then went out and closed it after him.
"Now he too will be your enemy," said Mistress Percy, "and all
through me. I have brought you many enemies, have I not? Perhaps
you count me amongst them? I should not wonder if you did. Do
you not wish me gone from Virginia?"
"So I were with you, madam," I said bluntly, and went to call the
minister down to supper.
CHAPTER XVI IN WHICH I AM RID OF AN UNPROFITABLE SERVANT
THE next day, Governor and Councilors sat to receive presents
from the Paspaheghs and to listen to long and affectionate
messages from Opechancanough, who, like the player queen, did
protest too much. The Council met at Yeardley's house, and I was
called before it to make my report of the expedition of the day
before. It was late afternoon when the Governor dismissed us, and
I found myself leaving the house in company with Master Pory.
"I am bound for my lord's," said that worthy as we neared the guest
house. "My lord hath Xeres wine that is the very original nectar of
the gods, and he drinks it from goblets worth a king's ransom. We
have heard a deal to-day about burying hatchets: bury thine for the
nonce, Ralph Percy, and come drink with us."
"Not I," I said. "I would sooner drink with - some one else."
He laughed. "Here's my lord himself shall persuade you."
My lord, dressed with his usual magnificence and darkly
handsome as ever, was indeed standing within the guest-house
door. Pory drew up beside him. I was passing on with a slight bow,
when the Secretary caught me by the sleeve. At the Governor's
house wine had been set forth to revive the jaded Council, and he
was already half seas over. "Tarry with us, captain!" he cried.
"Good wine's good wine, no matter who pours it! 'S bud! in my
young days men called a truce and forgot they were foes when the
bottle went round!"
"If Captain Percy will stay," quoth my lord, "I will give him
welcome and good wine. As Master Pory says, men cannot be
always fighting. A breathing spell to-day gives to-morrow's
struggle new zest."
He spoke frankly, with open face and candid eyes. I was not
fooled. If yesterday he would have slain me only in fair fight, it
was not so to-day. Under the lace that fell over his wrist was a red
cirque, the mark of the thong with which I had bound him. As if he
had told me, I knew that he had thrown his scruples to the winds,
and that he cared not what foul play he used to sweep me from his
path. My spirit and my wit rose to meet the danger. Of a sudden I
resolved to accept his invitation.
"So be it," I said, with a laugh and a shrug of my shoulders. "A cup
of wine is no great matter. I'll take it at your hands, my lord, and
drink to our better acquaintance."
We all three went up into my lord's room. The King had fitted out
his minion bravely for the Virginia voyage, and the riches that had
decked the state cabin aboard the Santa Teresa now served to
transform the bare room in the guest house at Jamestown into a
corner of Whitehall. The walls were hung with arras, there was a
noble carpet beneath as well as upon the table, and against the wall
stood richly carved trunks. On the table, beside a bowl of late
flowers were a great silver flagon and a number of goblets, some
of chased silver and some of colored glass, strangely shaped and
fragile as an eggshell. The late sun now shining in at the open
window made the glass to glow like precious stones.
My lord rang a little silver bell, and a door behind us was opened.
"Wine, Giles!" cried my lord in a raised voice. "Wine for Master
Pory, Captain Percy, and myself! And Giles, my two choice
Giles, whom I had never seen before, advanced to the table, took
the flagon, and went toward the door, which he had shut behind
him. I negligently turned in my seat, and so came in for a glimpse,
as he slipped through the door, of a figure in black in the next
The wine was brought, and with it two goblets. My lord broke off
in the midst of an account of the morning's bear-baiting which the
tediousness of the Indians had caused us to miss. "Who knows if
we three shall ever drink together again?" he said. "To honor this
bout I use my most precious cups." Voice and manner were free
and unconstrained. "This gold cup " - he held it up - "belonged to
the Medici. Master Pory, who is a man of taste, will note the
beauty of the graven m‘nads upon this side, and of the Bacchus
and Ariadne upon this. It is the work of none other than Benvenuto
Cellini. I pour for you, sir." He filled the gold cup with the ruby
wine and set it before the Secretary, who eyed it with all the
passion of a lover, and waited not for us, but raised it to his lips at
once. My lord took up the other cup. "This glass," he continued,
"as green as an emerald, freckled inside and out with gold, and
shaped like a lily, was once amongst a convent's treasures. My
father brought it from Italy, years ago. I use it as he used it, only
on gala days. I fill to you, sir." He poured the wine into the green
and gold and twisted bauble and set it before me, then filled a
silver goblet for himself. "Drink, gentlemen," he said.
"Faith, I have drunken already," quoth the Secretary, and
proceeded to fill for himself a second time. "Here's to you,
gentlemen!" and he emptied half the measure.
"Captain Percy does not drink," remarked my lord.
I leaned my elbow upon the table, and, holding up the glass against
the light, began to admire its beauty. "The tint is wonderful," I
said, "as lucent a green as the top of the comber that is to break
and overwhelm you. And these knobs of gold, within and without,
and the strange shape the tortured glass has been made to take. I
find it of a quite sinister beauty, my lord."
"It hath been much admired," said the nobleman addressed.
"I am strangely suited, my lord," I went on, still dreamily enjoying
the beauty of the green gem within my clasp. "I am a soldier with
an imagination. Sometimes, to give the rein to my fancy pleases
me more than wine. Now, this strange chalice, - might it not breed
dreams as strange?"
"When I had drunken, I think," replied my lord. "The wine would
be a potent spur to my fancy."
"What saith honest Jack Falstaff?" broke in the maudlin Secretary.
"Doth he not bear testimony that good sherris maketh the brain
apprehensive and quick; filleth it with nimble, fiery, and
delectable shapes, which being delivered by the tongue become
excellent wit? Wherefore let us drink, gentlemen, and beget
fancies." He filled for himself again, and buried his nose in the
" 'T is such a cup, methinks," I said, "as Medea may have filled for
Theseus. The white hand of Circe may have closed around this
stem when she stood to greet Ulysses, and knew not that he had the
saving herb in his palm. Goneril may have sent this green and
gilded shape to Regan. Fair Rosamond may have drunk from it
while the Queen watched her. At some voluptuous feast, C‘sar
Borgia and his sister, sitting crowned with roses, side by side, may
have pressed it upon a reluctant guest, who had, perhaps, a treasure
of his own. I dare swear Ren‚, the Florentine, hath fingered many
such a goblet before it went to whom Catherine de' Medici
delighted to honor."
"She had the whitest hands," maundered the Secretary. "I kissed
them once before she died, in Blois, when I was young. Ren‚ was
one of your slow poisoners. Smell a rose, draw on a pair of
perfumed gloves, drink from a certain cup, and you rang your own
knell, though your bier might not receive you for many and many a
day, - not till the rose was dust, the gloves lost, the cup forgotten."
"There's a fashion I have seen followed abroad, that I like," I said.
"Host and guest fill to each other, then change tankards. You are
my host to-day, my lord, and I am your guest. I will drink to you,
my lord, from your silver goblet."
With as frank a manner as his own of a while before, I pushed the
green and gold glass over to him, and held out my hand for the
silver goblet. That a man may smile and smile and be a villain is
no new doctrine. My lord's laugh and gesture of courtesy were as
free and ready as if the poisoned splendor he drew toward him had
been as innocent as a pearl within the shell. I took the silver cup
from before him. "I drink to the King," I said, and drained it to the
bottom. "Your lordship does not drink. 'T is a toast no man
He raised the glass to his lips, but set it down before its rim had
touched them. "I have a headache," he declared. "I will not drink
Master Pory pulled the flagon toward him, tilted it, and found it
empty. His rueful face made me laugh. My lord laughed too, -
somewhat loudly, - but ordered no more wine. "I would I were at
the Mermaid again," lamented the now drunken Secretary. "There
we did n't split a flagon in three parts. . . . The Tsar of Muscovy
drinks me down a quartern of aqua vit‘ at a gulp, - I've seen him
do it. . . .I would I were the Bacchus on this cup, with the purple
grapes adangle above me. . . . Wine and women - wine and
women. . . good wine needs no bush. . . good sherris sack" . . . His
voice died into unintelligible mutterings, and his gray unreverend
head sank upon the table.
I rose, leaving him to his drunken slumbers, and, bowing to my
lord, took my leave. My lord followed me down to the public room
below. A party of upriver planters had been drinking, and a bit of
chalk lay upon a settle behind the door upon which the landlord
had marked their score. I passed it; then turned back and picked it
up. "How long a line shall I draw, my lord?" I asked with a smile.
"How does the length of the door strike you?" he answered.
I drew the chalk from top to bottom of the wood. "A heavy Core
makes a heavy reckoning, my lord," I said, and, leaving the mark
upon the door, I bowed again and went out into the street.
The sun was sinking when I reached the minister's house, and
going into the great room drew a stool to the table and sat down to
think. Mistress Percy was in her own chamber; in the room
overhead the minister paced up and down, humming a psalm. A
fire was burning briskly upon the hearth, and the red light rose and
fell, - now brightening all the room, now leaving it to the gathering
dusk. Through the door, which I had left open, came the odor of
the pines, the fallen leaves, and the damp earth. In the churchyard
an owl hooted, and the murmur of the river was louder than usual.
I had sat staring at the table before me for perhaps half an hour,
when I chanced to raise my eyes to the opposite wall. Now, on this
wall, reflecting the firelight and the open door behind me, hung a
small Venetian mirror, which I had bought from a number of such
toys brought in by the Southampton, and had given to Mistress
Percy. My eyes rested upon it, idly at first, then closely enough as I
saw within it a man enter the room. I had heard no footfall; there
was no noise now behind me. The fire was somewhat sunken, and
the room was almost in darkness; I saw him in the glass dimly, as
shadow rather than substance. But the light was not so faint that
the mirror could not show me the raised hand and the dagger
within its grasp. I sat without motion, watching the figure in the
glass grow larger. When it was nearly upon me, and the hand with
the dagger drawn back for the blow, I sprang up, wheeled, and
caught it by the wrist.
A moment's fierce struggle, and I had the dagger in my own hand
and the man at my mercy. The fire upon the hearth seized on a
pine knot and blazed up brightly, filling the room with light.
"Diccon!" I cried, and dropped my arm.
I had never thought of this. The room was very quiet as, master
and man, we stood and looked each other in the face. He fell back
to the wall and leaned against it, breathing heavily; into the space
between us the past came thronging.
I opened my hand and let the dagger drop to the floor. "I suppose
that this was because of last night," I said. "I shall never strike you
I went to the table, and sitting down leaned my forehead upon my
hand. It was Diccon who would have done this thing! The fire
crackled on the hearth as had crackled the old camp fires in
Flanders; the wind outside was the wind that had whistled through
the rigging of the Treasurer, one terrible night when we lashed
ourselves to the same mast and never thought to see the morning.
Upon the table was the minister's inkhorn and pen. I drew my
tablets from the breast of my doublet and began to write.
"Diccon!" I called, without turning, when I had finished.
He came slowly forward to the table, and stood beside it with
hanging head. I tore the leaf from the book and pushed it over to
him. "Take it," I ordered.
"To the commander?" he asked. "I am to take it to the
I shook my head. "Read it."
He stared at it vacantly, turning it now this way, now that.
"Did you forget how to read when you forgot all else?" I said
He read, and the color rushed into his face.
"It is your freedom," I said. "You are no longer man of mine.
He crumpled the paper in his hand. "I was mad," he muttered.
"I could almost believe it," I replied. "Begone!"
After a moment he went. Sitting still in my place, I heard him
heavily and slowly leave the room, descend the step at the door,
and go out into the night.
A door opened, and Mistress Jocelyn Percy came into the great
room, like a sunbeam strayed back to earth. Her skirt was of
flowered satin, her bodice of rich taffeta; between the gossamer
walls of her French ruff rose the whitest neck to meet the fairest
face. Upon her dark hair sat, as lightly as a kiss, a little
pearl-bordered cap. A color was in her cheeks and a laugh on her
lips. The rosy light of the burning pine caressed her, - now
dwelling on the rich dress, now on the gold chain around the
slender waist, now on rounded arms, now on the white forehead
below the pearls. Well, she was a fair lady for a man to lay down
his life for.
"I held court this afternoon!" she cried. "Where were you, sir?
Madam West was here, and my Lady Temperance Yeardley, and
Master Wynne, and Master Thorpe from Henricus, and Master
Rolfe with his Indian brother, - who, I protest, needs but silk
doublet and hose and a month at Whitehall to make him a very
"If courage, steadfastness, truth, and courtesy make a gentleman," I
said, "he is one already. Such an one needs not silk doublet nor
She looked at me with her bright eyes. "No," she repeated, "such
an one needs not silk doublet nor court training." Going to the
fire, she stood with one hand upon the mantelshelf, looking down
into the ruddy hollows. Presently she stooped and gathered up
something from the hearth. "You waste paper strangely, Captain
Percy," she said. "Here is a whole handful of torn pieces."
She came over to the table, and with a laugh showered the white
fragments down upon it, then fell to idly piecing them together.
"What were you writing?" she asked. "'To all whom it may
concern: I, Ralph Percy, Gentleman, of the Hundred of Weyanoke,
do hereby set free from all service to me and mine' " -
I took from her the bits of paper, and fed the fire with them. "Paper
is but paper," I said. "It is easily rent. Happily a man's will is more
CHAPTER XVII IN WHICH MY LORD AND I PLAY AT BOWLS
THE Governor had brought with him from London the year before,
a set of boxwood bowls, and had made, between his house and the
fort, a noble green. The generality must still use for the game that
portion of the street that was not tobacco-planted; but the quality
flocked to the Governor's green, and here, one holiday afternoon, a
fortnight or more from the day in which I had drunk to the King
from my lord's silver goblet, was gathered a very great company.
The Governor's match was toward, - ten men to a side, a hogshead
of sweet-scented to the victorious ten, and a keg of canary to the
man whose bowl should hit the jack.
The season had been one of unusual mildness, and the sunshine
was still warm and bright, gilding the velvet of the green, and
making the red and yellow leaves swept into the trench to glow
like a ribbon of flame. The sky was blue, the water bluer still, the
leaves bright-colored, the wind blowing; only the enshrouding
forest, wrapped in haze, seemed as dim, unreal, and far away as a
last year's dream.
The Governor's gilt armchair had been brought from the church,
and put for him upon the bank of turf at the upper end of the green.
By his side sat my Lady Temperance, while the gayly dressed
dames and the men who were to play and to watch were
accommodated with stools and settles or with seats on the green
grass. All were dressed in holiday clothes, all tongues spoke, all
eyes laughed; you might have thought there was not a heavy heart
amongst them. Rolfe was there, gravely courteous, quiet and
ready; and by his side, in otterskin mantle, beaded moccasins, and
feathered headdress, the Indian chief, his brother-in-law, - the
bravest, comeliest, and manliest savage with whom I have ever
dealt. There, too, was Master Pory, red and jovial, with an eye to
the sack the servants were bringing from the Governor's house; and
the commander, with his wife; and Master Jeremy Sparrow, fresh
from a most moving sermon on the vanities of this world.
Captains, Councilors, and Burgesses aired their gold lace, and their
wit or their lack of it; while a swarm of younger adventurers,
youths of good blood and bad living, come from home for the weal
of England and the woe of Virginia, went here and there through
the crowd like gilded summer flies.
Rolfe and I were to play; he sat on the grass at the feet of Mistress
Jocelyn Percy, making her now and then some courtly speech, and
I stood beside her, my hand on the back of her chair.
The King's ward held court as though she were a king's daughter.
In the brightness of her beauty she sat there, as gracious for the
nonce as the sunshine, and as much of another world. All knew her
story, and to the daring that is in men's hearts her own daring
appealed, - and she was young and very beautiful. Some there had
not been my friends, and now rejoiced in what seemed my
inevitable ruin; some whom I had thought my friends were gone
over to the stronger side; many who in secret wished me well still
shook their heads and shrugged their shoulders over what they
were pleased to call my madness; but for her, I was glad to know,
there were only good words. The Governor had left his gilt
armchair to welcome her to the green, and had caused a chair to be
set for her near his own, and here men came and bowed before her
as if she had been a princess indeed.
A stir amongst the crowd, a murmur, and a craning of necks
heralded the approach of that other at whom the town gaped with
admiration. He came with his retinue of attendants, his pomp of
dress, his arrogance of port, his splendid beauty. Men looked from
the beauty of the King's ward to the beauty of the King's minion,
from her costly silk to his velvet and miniver, from the air of the
court that became her well to the towering pride and insolence
which to the thoughtless seemed his fortune's proper mantle, and
deemed them a pair well suited, and the King's will indeed the will
I was never one to value a man by his outward seeming, but
suddenly I saw myself as in a mirror, - a soldier, scarred and
bronzed, acquainted with the camp, but not with the court,
roughened by a rude life, poor in this world's goods, the first flush
of youth gone forever. For a moment my heart was bitter within
me. The pang passed, and my hand tightened its grasp upon the
chair in which sat the woman I had wed. She was my wife, and I
would keep my own.
My lord had paused to speak to the Governor, who had risen to
greet him. Now he came toward us, and the crowd pressed and
whispered. He bowed low to Mistress Percy, made as if to pass on,
then came to a stop before her, his hat in his hand, his handsome
head bent, a smile upon his bearded lips.
"When was it that we last sat to see men bowl, lady?" he said. "I
remember a gay match when I bowled against my Lord of
Buckingham, and fair ladies sat and smiled upon us. The fairest
laughed, and tied her colors around my arm."
The lady whom he addressed sat quietly, with hands folded in her
silken lap and an untroubled face. "I did not know you then, my
lord," she answered him, quite softly and sweetly. "Had I done so,
be sure I would have cut my hand off ere it gave color of mine to"
"To whom?" he demanded, as she paused.
"To a coward, my lord," she said clearly.
As if she had been a man, his hand went to his sword hilt. As for
her, she leaned back in her chair and looked at him with a smile.
He spoke at last, slowly and with deliberate emphasis. "I won
then," he said. "I shall win again, my lady, - my Lady Jocelyn
I dropped my hand from her chair and stepped forward. "It is my
wife to whom you speak, my Lord Carnal," I said sternly. "I wait to
hear you name her rightly."
Rolfe rose from the grass and stood beside me, and Jeremy
Sparrow, shouldering aside with scant ceremony Burgess and
Councilor, came also. The Governor leaned forward out of his
chair, and the crowd became suddenly very still.
"I am waiting, my lord," I repeated.
In an instant, from what he had been he became the frank and
guileless nobleman. "A slip of the tongue, Captain Percy!" he
cried, his white teeth showing and his hand raised in a gesture of
deprecation. "A natural thing, seeing how often, how very often, I
have so addressed this lady in the days when we had not the
pleasure of your acquaintance." He turned to her and bowed, until
the feather in his hat swept the ground. "I won then," he said. "I
shall win again - Mistress Percy," and passed on to the seat that
had been reserved for him.
The game began. I was to lead one side, and young Clement the
other. At the last moment he came over to me. "I am out of it,
Captain Percy," he announced with a rueful face. "My lord there
asks me to give him my place. When we were hunting yesterday,
and the stag turned upon me, he came between and thrust his knife
into the brute, which else might have put an end to my hunting
forever and a day: so you see I can't refuse him. Plague take it all!
and Dorothy Gookin sitting there watching!"
My lord and I stood forward, each with a bowl in his hand. We
looked toward the Governor. "My lord first, as becometh his rank,"
he said. My lord stooped and threw, and his bowl went swiftly over
the grass, turned, and rested not a hands'-breadth from the jack. I
threw. "One is as near as the other!" cried Master Macocke for the
judges. A murmur arose from the crowd, and my lord swore
beneath his breath. He and I retreated to our several sides, and
Rolfe and West took our places. While they and those that
followed bowled, the crowd, attentive though it was, still talked
and laughed, and laid wagers upon its favorites; but when my lord
and I again stood forth, the noise was hushed, and men and women
stared with all their eyes. He delivered, and his bowl touched the
jack. He straightened himself, with a smile, and I heard Jeremy
Sparrow behind me groan; but my bowl too kissed the jack. The
crowd began to laugh with sheer delight, but my lord turned red
and his brows drew together. We had but one turn more. While we
waited, I marked his black eyes studying every inch of the ground
between him and that small white ball, to strike which, at that
moment, I verily believe he would have given the King's favor. All
men pray, though they pray not to the same god. As he stood there,
when his time had come, weighing the bowl in his hand, I knew
that he prayed to his d‘mon, fate, star, whatever thing he raised an
altar to and bent before. He threw, and I followed, while the throng
held its breath. Master Macocke rose to his feet. "It's a tie, my
masters!" he exclaimed.
The excited crowd surged forward, and a babel of voices arose.
"Silence, all!" cried the Governor. "Let them play it out!"
My lord threw, and his bowl stopped perilously near the shining
mark. As I stepped to my place a low and supplicating "O Lord!"
came to my ears from the lips and the heart of the preacher, who
had that morning thundered against the toys of this world. I drew
back my arm and threw with all my force. A cry arose from the
throng, and my lord ground his heel into the earth. The bowl,
spurning the jack before it, rushed on, until both buried themselves
in the red and yellow leaves that filled the trench.
I turned and bowed to my antagonist. "You bowl well, my lord," I
said. "Had you had the forest training of eye and arm, our fortunes
might have been reversed."
He looked me up and down. "You are kind, sir," he said thickly. "
'To-day to thee, to-morrow to me.' I give you joy of your petty
He turned squarely from me, and stood with his face downstream.
I was speaking to Rolfe and to the few - not even all of that side
for which I had won - who pressed around me, when he wheeled.
"Your Honor," he cried to the Governor, who had paused beside
Mistress Percy, "is not the Due Return high-pooped? Doth she not
carry a blue pennant, and hath she not a gilt siren for figurehead?"
"Ay," answered the Governor, lifting his head from the hand he
had kissed with ponderous gallantry. "What then, my lord?"
"Then to-morrow has dawned, sir captain," said my lord to me.
"Sure, Dame Venus and her blind son have begged for me
favorable winds; for the Due Return has come again."
The game that had been played was forgotten for that day. The
hogshead of sweet scented, lying to one side, wreathed with bright
vines, was unclaimed of either party; the servants who brought
forward the keg of canary dropped their burden, and stared with
the rest. All looked down the river, and all saw the Due Return
coming up the broad, ruffled stream, the wind from the sea filling
her sails, the tide with her, the gilt mermaid on her prow just rising
from the rushing foam. She came as swiftly as a bird to its nest.
None had thought to see her for at least ten days.
Upon all there fell a sudden realization that it was the word of the
King, feathered by the command of the Company, that was
hurrying, arrow-like, toward us. All knew what the Company's
orders would be, - must needs be, - and the Tudor sovereigns were
not so long in the grave that men had forgot to fear the wrath of
kings. The crowd drew back from me as from a man
plague-spotted. Only Rolfe, Sparrow, and the Indian stood their
The Governor turned from staring downstream. "The game is
played, gentlemen," he announced abruptly. "The wind grows
colder, too, and clouds are gathering. This fair company will
pardon me if I dismiss them somewhat sooner than is our wont.
The next sunny day we will play again. Give you God den,
The crowd stood not upon the order of its going, but streamed
away to the river bank, whence it could best watch the oncoming
ship. My lord, after a most triumphant bow, swept off with his
train in the direction of the guest house. With him went Master
Pory. The Governor drew nearer to me. "Captain Percy," he said,
lowering his voice, "I am going now to mine own house. The
letters which yonder ship brings will be in my hands in less than an
hour. When I have read them, I shall perforce obey their
instructions. Before I have them I will see you, if you so wish."
"I will be with your Honor in five minutes."
He nodded, and strode off across the green to his garden. I turned
to Rolfe. "Will you take her home?" I said briefly. She was so
white and sat so still in her chair that I feared to see her swoon.
But when I spoke to her she answered clearly and steadily enough,
even with a smile, and she would not lean upon Rolfe's arm. "I will
walk alone," she said. "None that see me shall think that I am
stricken down." I watched her move away, Rolfe beside her, and
the Indian following with his noiseless step; then I went to the
Governor's house. Master Jeremy Sparrow had disappeared some
minutes before, I knew not whither.
I found Yeardley in his great room, standing before a fire and
staring down into its hollows. "Captain Percy," he said, as I went
up to him, "I am most heartily sorry for you and for the lady whom
you so ignorantly married."
"I shall not plead ignorance," I told him.
"You married, not the Lady Jocelyn Leigh, but a waiting woman
named Patience Worth. The Lady Jocelyn Leigh, a noble lady, and
a ward of the King, could not marry without the King's consent.
And you, Captain Percy, are but a mere private gentleman, a poor
Virginia adventurer; and my Lord Carnal is - my Lord Carnal. The
Court of High Commission will make short work of this fantastic
"Then they may do it without my aid," I said. "Come, Sir George,
had you wed my Lady Temperance in such fashion, and found this
hornets' nest about your ears, what would you have done?"
He gave his short, honest laugh. "It's beside the question, Ralph
Percy, but I dare say you can guess what I would have done."
"I'll fight for my own to the last ditch," I continued. "I married her
knowing her name, if not her quality. Had I known the latter, had I
known she was the King's ward, all the same I should have married
her, an she would have had me. She is my wife in the sight of God
and honest men. Esteeming her honor, which is mine, at stake,
Death may silence me, but men shall not bend me."
"Your best hope is in my Lord of Buckingham," he said. "They say
it is out of sight, out of mind, with the King, and, thanks to this
infatuation of my Lord Carnal's, Buckingham hath the field. That
he strains every nerve to oust completely this his first rival since he
himself distanced Somerset goes without saying. That to thwart
my lord in this passion would be honey to him is equally of course.
I do not need to tell you that, if the Company so orders, I shall
have no choice but to send you and the lady home to England.
When you are in London, make your suit to my Lord of
Buckingham, and I earnestly hope that you may find in him an ally
powerful enough to bring you and the lady, to whose grace, beauty,
and courage we all do homage, out of this coil."
"We give you thanks, sir," I said.
"As you know," he went on, "I have written to the Company,
humbly petitioning that I be graciously relieved from a most
thankless task, to wit, the governorship of Virginia. My health
faileth, and I am, moreover, under my Lord Warwick's displeasure.
He waxeth ever stronger in the Company, and if I put not myself
out, he will do it for me. If I be relieved at once, and one of the
Council appointed in my place, I shall go home to look after
certain of my interests there. Then shall I be but a private
gentleman, and if I can serve you, Ralph Percy, I shall be blithe to
do so; but now, you understand" -
"I understand, and thank you, Sir George," I said. "May I ask one
"What is it?"
"Will you obey to the letter the instructions the Company sends?"
"To the letter," he answered. "I am its sworn officer."
"One thing more," I went on: "the parole I gave you, sir, that
morning behind the church, is mine own again when you shall
have read those letters and know the King's will. I am free from
that bond, at least."
He looked at me with a frown. "Make not bad worse, Captain
Percy," he said sternly.
I laughed. "It is my aim to make bad better, Sir George. I see
through the window that the Due Return hath come to anchor; I
will no longer trespass on your Honor's time." I bowed myself out,
leaving him still with the frown upon his face, staring at the fire.
Without, the world was bathed in the glow of a magnificent sunset.
Clouds, dark purple and dark crimson, reared themselves in the
west to dizzy heights, and hung threateningly over the darkening
land beneath. In the east loomed more pallid masses, and from the
bastions of the east to the bastions of the west went hurrying,
wind-driven cloudless, dark in the east, red in the west. There was
a high wind, and the river, where it was not reddened by the
sunset, was lividly green. "A storm, too!" I muttered.
As I passed the guest house, there came to me from within a burst
of loud and vaunting laughter and a boisterous drinking catch sung
by many voices; and I knew that my lord drank, and gave others to
drink, to the orders which the Due Return should bring. The
minister's house was in darkness. In the great room I struck a light
and fired the fresh torches, and found I was not its sole occupant.
On the hearth, the ashes of the dead fire touching her skirts, sat
Mistress Jocelyn Percy, her arms resting upon a low stool, and her
head pillowed upon them. Her face was not hidden: it was cold and
pure and still, like carven marble. I stood and gazed at her a
moment; then, as she did not offer to move, I brought wood to the
fire and made the forlorn room bright again.
"Where is Rolfe?" I asked at last.
"He would have stayed," she answered, "but I made him go. I
wished to be alone." She rose, and going to the window leaned her
forehead against the bars, and looked out upon the wild sky and
the hurrying river. "I would I were alone," she said in a low voice
and with a catch of her breath. As she stood there in the twilight by
the window, I knew that she was weeping, though her pride strove
to keep that knowledge from me. My heart ached for her, and I
knew not how to comfort her. At last she turned. A pasty and stoup
of wine were upon the table.
"You are tired and shaken," I said, "and you may need all your
strength. Come, eat and drink."
"For to-morrow we die," she added, and broke into tremulous
laughter. Her lashes were still wet, but her pride and daring had
returned. She drank the wine I poured for her, and we spoke of
indifferent things, - of the game that afternoon, of the Indian
Nantauquas, of the wild night that clouds and wind portended.
Supper over, I called Angela to bear her company, and I myself
went out into the night, and down the street toward the guest
CHAPTER XVIII IN WHICH WE GO OUT INTO THE NIGHT
THE guest house was aflame with lights. As I neared it, there was
borne to my ears a burst of drunken shouts accompanied by a
volley of musketry. My lord was pursuing with a vengeance our
senseless fashion of wasting in drinking bouts powder that would
have been better spent against the Indians. The noise increased.
The door was flung open, and there issued a tide of drawers and
servants headed by mine host himself, and followed by a hail of
such minor breakables as the house contained and by Olympian
I made my way past the indignant host and his staff, and standing
upon the threshold looked at the riot within. The long room was
thick with the smoke of tobacco and the smoke of powder, through
which the many torches burned yellow. Upon the great table wine
had been spilt, and dripped to swell a red pool upon the floor.
Underneath the table, still grasping his empty tankard, lay the first
of my lord's guests to fall, an up-river Burgess with white hair. The
rest of the company were fast reeling to a like fate. Young Hamor
had a fiddle, and, one foot upon a settle, the other upon the table,
drew across it a fast and furious bow. Master Pory, arrived at the
maudlin stage, alternately sang a slow and melancholy ditty and
wiped the tears from his eyes with elaborate care. Master Edward
Sharpless, now in a high voice, now in an undistinguishable
murmur, argued some imaginary case. Peaceable Sherwood was
drunk, and Giles Allen, and Pettiplace Clause. Captain John
Martin, sitting with outstretched legs, called now for a fresh
tankard, which he emptied at a gulp; now for his pistols, which, as
fast as my lord's servants brought them to him new primed, he
discharged at the ceiling. The loud wind rattled doors and
windows, and made the flame of the torches stream sideways. The
music grew madder and madder, the shots more frequent, the
drunken voices thicker and louder.
The master of the feast carried his wine better than did his guests,
or had drunk less, but his spirit too was quite without bounds. A
color burned in his cheeks, a wicked light in his eyes; he laughed
to himself. In the gray smoke cloud he saw me not, or saw me only
as one of the many who thronged the doorway and stared at the
revel within. He raised his silver cup with a slow and wavering
hand. "Drink, you dogs!" he chanted. "Drink to the Santa Teresa!
Drink to to-morrow night! Drink to a proud lady within my arms
and an enemy in my power!"
The wine that had made him mad had maddened those others,
also. In that hour they were dead to honor. With shameless
laughter and as little spilling as might be, they raised their tankards
as my lord raised his. A stone thrown by some one behind me
struck the cup from my lord's hand, sending it clattering to the
floor and dashing him with the red wine. Master Pory roared with
drunken laughter. "Cup and lip missed that time!" he cried.
The man who had thrown the stone was Jeremy Sparrow. For one
instant I saw his great figure, and the wrathful face beneath his
shock of grizzled hair; the next he had made his way through the
crowd of gaping menials and was gone.
My lord stared foolishly at the stains upon his hands, at the fallen
goblet and the stone beside it. "Cogged dice," he said thickly, "or I
had not lost that throw! I'll drink that toast by myself to-morrow
night, when the ship does n't rock like this d - d floor, and the sea
has no stones to throw. More wine, Giles! To my Lord High
Admiral, gentlemen! To his Grace of Buckingham! May he shortly
howl in hell, and looking back to Whitehall see me upon the King's
bosom! The King 's a good king, gentlemen! He gave me this ruby.
D' ye know what I had of him last year? I" -
I turned and left the door and the house. I could not thrust a fight
upon a drunken man.
Ten yards away, suddenly and without any warning of his
approach, I found beside me the Indian Nantauquas. "I have been
to the woods to hunt," he said, in the slow musical English Rolfe
had taught him. "I knew where a panther lodged, and to-day I laid
a snare, and took him in it. I brought him to my brother's house,
and caged him there. When I have tamed him, I shall give him to
the beautiful lady."
He expected no answer, and I gave him none. There are times
when an Indian is the best company in the world.
Just before we reached the market place we had to pass the mouth
of a narrow lane leading down to the river. The night was very
dark, though the stars still shone through rifts in the ever moving
clouds. The Indian and I walked rapidly on, - my footfalls
sounding clear and sharp on the frosty ground, he as noiseless as a
shadow. We had reached the further side of the lane, when he put
forth an arm and plucked from the blackness a small black figure.
In the middle of the square was kept burning a great brazier filled
with pitched wood. It was the duty of the watch to keep it flaming
from darkness to dawn. We found it freshly heaped with pine, and
its red glare lit a goodly circle. The Indian, pinioning the wrists of
his captive with his own hand of steel, dragged him with us into
this circle of light.
"Looking for simples once more, learned doctor?" I demanded.
He mowed and jabbered, twisting this way and that in the grasp of
"Loose him," I said to the latter, "but let him not come too near
you. Why, worthy doctor, in so wild and threatening a night, when
fire is burning and wine flowing at the guest house, do you choose
to crouch here in the cold and darkness?"
He looked at me with his filmy eyes, and that faint smile that had
more of menace in it than a panther's snarl. "I laid in wait for you,
it is true, noble sir," he said in his thin, dreamy voice, "but it was
for your good. I would give you warning, sir."
He stood with his mean figure bent cringingly forward, and with
his hat in his hand. "A warning, sir," he went ramblingly on.
"Maybe a certain one has made me his enemy. Maybe I cut myself
loose from his service. Maybe I would do him an ill turn. I can tell
you a secret, sir." He lowered his voice and looked around, as if in
fear of eavesdroppers.
"In your ear, sir," he said.
I recoiled. "Stand back," I cried, "or you will cull no more simples
this side of hell!"
"Hell! " he answered. "There's no such place. I will not tell my
"Nicolo the Italian! Nicolo the Poisoner! Nicolo the Black Death! I
am coming for the soul you sold me. There is a hell!"
The thundering voice came from underneath our feet. With a
sound that was not a groan and not a screech, the Italian reeled
back against the heated iron of the brazier. Starting from that fiery
contact with an unearthly shriek, he threw up his arms and dashed
away into the darkness. The sound of his madly hurrying footsteps
came back to us until the guest house had swallowed him and his
"Can the preacher play the devil too?" I asked, as Sparrow came up
to us from the other side of the fire. "I could have sworn that that
voice came from the bowels of the earth. 'T is the strangest gift!"
"A mere trick," he said, with his great laugh, "but it has served me
well on more occasions than one. It is not known in Virginia, sir,
but before ever the word of the Lord came to me to save poor silly
souls I was a player. Once I played the King's ghost in Will
Shakespeare's 'Hamlet,' and then, I warrant you, I spoke from the
cellarage indeed. I so frighted players and playgoers that they
swore it was witchcraft, and Burbage's knees did knock together in
dead earnest. But to the matter in hand. When I had thrown yonder
stone, I walked quietly down to the Governor's house and looked
through the window. The Governor hath the Company's letters, and
he and the Council - all save the reprobate Pory - sit there staring
at them and drumming with their fingers on the table."
"Is Rolfe of the Council?" I asked.
"Ay; he was speaking, - for you, I suppose, though I heard not the
words. They all listened, but they all shook their heads."
"We shall know in the morning," I said. "The night grows wilder,
and honest folks should be abed. Nantauquas, good-night. When
will you have tamed your panther?"
"It is now the moon of cohonks," answered the Indian. "When the
moon of blossoms is here, the panther shall roll at the beautiful
"The moon of blossoms!" I said. "The moon of blossoms is a long
way off. I have panthers myself to tame before it comes. This wild
night gives one wild thoughts, Master Sparrow. The loud wind,
and the sound of the water, and the hurrying clouds - who knows if
we shall ever see the moon of blossoms?" I broke off with a laugh
for my own weakness. "It's not often that a soldier thinks of death,"
I said. "Come to bed, reverend sir. Nantauquas, again, good-night,
and may you tame your panther!"
In the great room of the minister's house I paced up and down;
now pausing at the window, to look out upon the fast darkening
houses of the town, the ever thickening clouds, and the bending
trees; now speaking to my wife, who sat in the chair I had drawn
for her before the fire, her hands idle in her lap, her head thrown
back against the wood, her face white and still, with wide dark
eyes. We waited for we knew not what, but the light still burned in
the Governor's house, and we could not sleep and leave it there.
It grew later and later. The wind howled down the chimney, and I
heaped more wood upon the fire. The town lay in darkness now ;
only in the distance burned like an angry star the light in the
Governor's house. In the lull between the blasts of wind it was so
very still that the sound of my footfalls upon the floor, the
dropping of the charred wood upon the hearth, the tapping of the
withered vines without the window, jarred like thunder.
Suddenly madam leaned forward in her chair. "There is some one
at the door," she said.
As she spoke, the latch rose and some one pushed heavily against
the door. I had drawn the bars across. "Who is it?" I demanded,
going to it.
"It is Diccon, sir," replied a guarded voice outside. "I beg of you,
for the lady's sake, to let me speak to you."
I opened the door, and he crossed the threshold. I had not seen him
since the night he would have played the assassin. I had heard of
him as being in Martin's Hundred, with which plantation and its
turbulent commander the debtor and the outlaw often found
"What is it, sirrah?" I inquired sternly.
He stood with his eyes upon the floor, twirling his cap in his hands.
He had looked once at madam when he entered, but not at me.
When he spoke there was the old bravado in his voice, and he
threw up his head with the old reckless gesture. "Though I am no
longer your man, sir," he said, "yet I hope that one Christian may
warn another. The marshal, with a dozen men at his heels, will be
"How do you know?"
"Why, I was in the shadow by the Governor's window when the
parson played eavesdropper. When he was gone I drew myself up
to the ledge, and with my knife made a hole in the shutter that
fitted my ear well enough. The Governor and the Council sat
there, with the Company's letters spread upon the table. I heard the
letters read. Sir George Yeardley's petition to be released from the
governorship of Virginia is granted, but he will remain in office
until the new Governor, Sir Francis Wyatt, can arrive in Virginia.
The Company is out of favor. The King hath sent Sir Edwyn
Sandys to the Tower. My Lord Warwick waxeth greater every day.
The very life of the Company dependeth upon the pleasure of the
King, and it may not defy him. You are to be taken into custody
within six hours of the reading of the letter, to be kept straitly until
the sailing of the Santa Teresa, and to be sent home aboard of her
in irons. The lady is to go also, with all honor, and with women to
attend her. Upon reaching London, you are to be sent to the Tower,
the lady to Whitehall. The Court of High Commission will take the
matter under consideration at once. My Lord of Southampton
writes that, because of the urgent entreaty of Sir George Yeardley,
he will do for you all that lieth in his power, but that if you prove
not yourself conformable, there will be little that any can do."
"When will the marshal be here?" I demanded.
"Directly. The Governor was sending for him when I left the
window. Master Rolfe spoke vehemently for you, and would have
left the Council to come to you; but the Governor, swearing that
the Company should not be betrayed by its officers, constrained
him to remain. I'm not the Company's officer, so I may tell its
orders if I please. A masterless man may speak without fear or
favor. I have told you all I know." Before I could speak he was
gone, closing the door heavily behind him.
I turned to the King's ward. She had risen from the chair, and now
stood in the centre of the room, one hand at her bosom, the other
clenched at her side, her head thrown up. She looked as she had
looked at Weyanoke, that first night.
"Madam," I said under my breath.
She turned her face upon me. "Did you think," she asked in a low,
even voice, - "did you think that I would ever set my foot upon that
ship, - that ship on the river there? One ship brought me here upon
a shameful errand; another shall not take me upon one more
She took her hand from her bosom; in it gleamed in the firelight
the small dagger I had given her that night. She laid it on the table,
but kept her hand upon it. "You will choose for me, sir," she
I went to the door and looked out. "It is a wild night," I said. "I can
suit it with as wild an enterprise. Make a bundle of your warmest
clothing, madam, and wrap your mantle about you. Will you take
"No," she answered. "I will not have her peril too upon me."
As she stood there, her hand no longer upon the dagger, the large
tears welled into her eyes and fell slowly over her white cheeks. "It
is for mine honor, sir," she said. "I know that I ask your death."
I could not bear to see her weep, and so I spoke roughly. "I have
told you before," I said, "that your honor is my honor. Do you think
I would sleep to-morrow night, in the hold of the Santa Teresa,
knowing that my wife supped with my Lord Carnal?"
I crossed the room to take my pistols from the rack. As I passed
her she caught my hand in hers, and bending pressed her lips upon
it. "You have been very good to me," she murmured. "Do not think
me an ingrate."
Five minutes later she came from her own room, hooded and
mantled, and with a packet of clothing in her hand. I extinguished
the torches, then opened the door. As we crossed the threshold, we
paused as by one impulse and looked back into the firelit warmth
of the room; then I closed the door softly behind us, and we went
out into the night.
CHAPTER XIX IN WHICH WE HAVE UNEXPECTED COMPANY
THE wind, which had heretofore come in fierce blasts, was now
steadying to a gale. What with the flying of the heaped clouds, the
slanting, groaning pines, and the rushing of the river, the whole
earth seemed a fugitive, fleeing breathless to the sea. From across
the neck of land came the long-drawn howl of wolves, and in the
wood beyond the church a catamount screamed and screamed. The
town before us lay as dark and as still as the grave; from the
garden where we were we could not see the Governor's house.
"I will carry madam's bundle," said a voice behind us.
It was the minister who had spoken, and he now stood beside us.
There was a moment's silence, then I said, with a laugh: "We are
not going upon a summer jaunt, friend Sparrow. There is a warm
fire in the great room, to which your reverence had best betake
yourself out of this windy night."
As he made no movement to depart, but instead possessed himself
of Mistress Percy's bundle, I spoke again, with some impatience:
"We are no longer of your fold, reverend sir, but are bound for
another parish. We give you hearty thanks for your hospitality, and
wish you a very good night."
As I spoke I would have taken the bundle from him, but he tucked
it under his arm, and, passing us, opened the garden gate. "Did I
forget to tell you," he said, "that worthy Master Bucke is well of
the fever, and returns to his own to-morrow? His house and church
are no longer mine. I have no charge anywhere. I am free and
footloose. May I not go with you, madam? There may be dragons
to slay, and two can guard a distressed princess better than one.
Will you take me for your squire, Captain Percy?"
He held out his great hand, and after a moment I put my own in it.
We left the garden and struck into a lane. "The river, then, instead
of the forest?" he asked in a low voice.
"Ay," I answered. "Of the two evils it seems the lesser."
"How about a boat?"
"My own is fastened to the piles of the old deserted wharf."
"You have with you neither food nor water."
"Both are in the boat. I have kept her victualed for a week or
He laughed in the darkness, and I heard my wife beside me utter a
The lane that we were now in ran parallel to the street to within
fifty yards of the guest house, when it bent sharply down to the
river. We moved silently and with caution, for some night bird
might accost us or the watch come upon us. In the guest house all
was darkness save one room, - the upper room, - from which came
a very pale light. When we had turned with the lane there were no
houses to pass; only gaunt pines and copses of sumach. I took my
wife by the hand and hurried her on. A hundred yards before us
ran the river, dark and turbulent, and between us and it rose an old,
unsafe, and abandoned landing. Sparrow laid his hand upon my
arm. "Footsteps behind us," he whispered.
Without slackening pace I turned my head and looked. The clouds,
high around the horizon, were thinning overhead, and the moon,
herself invisible, yet lightened the darkness below. The sandy lane
stretched behind us like a ribbon of twilight, - nothing to be seen
but it and the ebony mass of bush and tree lining it on either side.
We hastened on. A minute later and we heard behind us a sound
like the winding of a small horn, clear, shrill, and sweet. Sparrow
and I wheeled - and saw nothing. The trees ran down to the very
edge of the wharf, upon whose rotten, loosened, and noisy boards
we now trod. Suddenly the clouds above us broke, and the moon
shone forth, whitening the mountainous clouds, the ridged and
angry river, and the low, tree-fringed shore. Below us, fastened to
the piles and rocking with the waves, was the open boat in which
we were to embark. A few broken steps led from the boards above
to the water below. Descending these I sprang into the boat and
held out my arms for Mistress Percy. Sparrow gave her to me, and
I lifted her down beside me; then turned to give what aid I might to
the minister, who was halfway down the steps - and faced my Lord
What devil had led him forth on such a night; why he, whom with
my own eyes, three hours agone, I had seen drunken, should have
chosen, after his carouse, cold air and his own company rather
than sleep; when and where he first spied us, how long he had
followed us, I have never known. Perhaps he could not sleep for
triumph, had heard of my impending arrest, had come forth to add
to the bitterness of my cup by his presence, and so had happened
upon us. He could only have guessed at those he followed, until he
reached the edge of the wharf and looked down upon us in the
moonlight. For a moment he stood without moving; then he raised
his hand to his lips, and the shrill call that had before startled us
rang out again. At the far end of the lane lights appeared. Men
were coming down the lane at a run; whether they were the watch,
or my lord's own rogues, we tarried not to see. There was not time
to loosen the rope from the piles, so I drew my knife to cut it. My
lord saw the movement, and sprang down the steps, at the same
time shouting to the men behind to hasten. Sparrow, grappling
with him, locked him in a giant's embrace, lifted him bodily from
the steps, and flung him into the boat. His head struck against a
thwart, and he lay, huddled beneath it, quiet enough. The minister
sprang after him, and I cut the rope. By now the wharf shook with
running feet, and the backward-streaming flame of the torches
reddened its boards and the black water beneath; but each instant
the water widened between us and our pursuers. Wind and current
swept us out, and at that wharf there were no boats to follow us.
Those whom my lord's whistle had brought were now upon the
very edge of the wharf. The marshal's voice called upon us in the
name of the King to return. Finding that we vouchsafed no answer,
he pulled out a pistol and fired, the ball going through my hat; then
whipped out its fellow and fired again. Mistress Percy, whose
behavior had been that of an angel, stirred in her seat. I did not
know until the day broke that the ball had grazed her arm,
drenching her sleeve with blood.
"It is time we were away," I said, with a laugh. "If your reverence
will keep your hand upon the tiller and your eye upon the
gentleman whom you have made our traveling companion, I'll put
up the sail."
I was on my way to the foremast, when the boom lying prone
before me rose. Slowly and majestically the sail ascended, tapering
upward, silvered by the moon, - the great white pinion which
should bear us we knew not whither. I stopped short in my tracks,
Mistress Percy drew a sobbing breath, and the minister gasped
with admiration. We all three stared as though the white cloth had
veritably been a monster wing endowed with life.
"Sails don't rise of themselves!" I exclaimed, and was at the mast
before the words were out of my lips. Crouched behind it was a
man. I should have known him even without the aid of the moon.
Often enough, God knows, I had seen him crouched like this
beside me, ourselves in ambush awaiting some unwary foe, brute
or human; or ourselves in hiding, holding our breath lest it should
betray us. The minister who had been a player, the rival who
would have poisoned me, the servant who would have stabbed me,
the wife who was wife in name only, - mine were strange
He rose to his feet and stood there against the mast, in the old
half-submissive, half-defiant attitude, with his head thrown back in
the old way.
"If you order me, sir, I will swim ashore," he said, half sullenly,
half - I know not how.
"You would never reach the shore," I replied. "And you know that
I will never order you again. Stay here if you please, or come aft if
I went back and took the tiller from Sparrow. We were now in
mid-river, and the swollen stream and the strong wind bore us on
with them like a leaf before the gale. We left behind the lights and
the clamor, the dark town and the silent fort, the weary Due Return
and the shipping about the lower wharf. Before us loomed the
Santa Teresa; we passed so close beneath her huge black sides that
we heard the wind whistling through her rigging. When she, too,
was gone, the river lay bare before us; silver when the moon
shone, of an inky blackness when it was obscured by one of the
many flying clouds.
My wife wrapped her mantle closer about her, and, leaning back in
her seat in the stern beside me, raised her face to the wild and
solemn heavens. Diccon sat apart in the bow and held his tongue.
The minister bent over, and, lifting the man that lay in the bottom
of the boat, laid him at full length upon the thwart before us. The
moonlight streamed down upon the prostrate figure. I think it
could never have shone upon a more handsome or a more wicked
man. He lay there in his splendid dress and dark beauty,
Endymion-like, beneath the moon. The King's ward turned her
eyes upon him, kept them there a moment, then glanced away, and
looked at him no more.
"There's a parlous lump upon his forehead where it struck the
thwart," said the minister, "but the life's yet in him. He'll shame
honest men for many a day to come. Your Platonists, who from a
goodly outside argue as fair a soul, could never have been
acquainted with this gentleman."
The subject of his discourse moaned and stirred. The minister
raised one of the hanging hands and felt for the pulse. "Faint
enough," he went on. "A little more and the King might have
waited for his minion forever and a day. It would have been the
better for us, who have now, indeed, a strange fish upon our hands,
but I am glad I killed him not."
I tossed him a flask. "It's good aqua vit‘, and the flask is honest.
Give him to drink of it."
He forced the liquor between my lord's teeth, then dashed water in
his face. Another minute and the King's favorite sat up and looked
around him. Dazed as yet, he stared, with no comprehension in his
eyes, at the clouds, the sail, the rushing water, the dark figures
about him. "Nicolo!" he cried sharply.
"He's not here, my lord," I said.
At the sound of my voice he sprang to his feet.
"I should advise your lordship to sit still," I said. "The wind is very
boisterous, and we are not under bare poles. If you exert yourself,
you may capsize the boat."
He sat down mechanically, and put his hand to his forehead. I
watched him curiously. It was the strangest trick that fortune had
His hand dropped at last, and he straightened himself, with a long
breath. "Who threw me into the boat?" he demanded.
"The honor was mine," declared the minister.
The King's minion lacked not the courage of the body, nor, when
passionate action had brought him naught, a certain reserve force
of philosophy. He now did the best thing he could have done, -
burst into a roar of laughter. "Zooks!" he cried. "It's as good a
comedy as ever I saw! How's the play to end, captain? Are we to
go off laughing, or is the end to be bloody after all? For instance, is
there murder to be done?" He looked at me boldly, one hand on his
hip, the other twirling his mustaches.
"We are not all murderers, my lord," I told him. "For the present
you are in no danger other than that which is common to us all."
He looked at the clouds piling behind us, thicker and thicker,
higher and higher, at the bending mast, at the black water swirling
now and again over the gunwales. "It's enough," he muttered.
I beckoned to Diccon, and putting the tiller into his hands went
forward to reef the sail. When it was done and I was back in my
place, my lord spoke again.
"Where are we going, captain?"
"I don't know."
"If you leave that sail up much longer, you will land us at the
bottom of the river."
"There are worse places," I replied.
He left his seat, and moved, though with caution, to one nearer
Mistress Percy. "Are cold and storm and peril sweeter to you, lady,
than warmth and safety, and a love that would guard you from, not
run you into, danger?" he said in a whisper. "Do you not wish this
boat the Santa Teresa, these rude boards the velvet cushions of her
state cabin, this darkness her many lights, this cold her warmth,
with the night shut out and love shut in?"
His audacity, if it angered me, yet made me laugh. Not so with the
King's ward. She shrank from him until she pressed against the
tiller. Our flight, the pursuing feet, the struggle at the wharf, her
wounded arm of which she had not told, the terror of the white sail
rising as if by magic, the vision of the man she hated lying as one
dead before her in the moonlight, the cold, the hurry of the night, -
small wonder if her spirit failed her for some time. I felt her hand
touch mine where it rested upon the tiller. "Captain Percy," she
murmured, with a little sobbing breath.
I leaned across the tiller and addressed the favorite. "My lord," I
said, "courtesy to prisoners is one thing, and freedom from
restraint and license of tongue is another. Here at the stern the boat
is somewhat heavily freighted. Your lordship will oblige me if you
will go forward where there is room enough and to spare."
His black brows drew together. "And what if I refuse, sir?" he
"I have rope here," I answered, "and to aid me the gentleman who
once before to-night, and in despite of your struggles, lifted you in
his arms like an infant. We will tie you hand and foot, and lay you
in the bottom of the boat. If you make too much trouble, there is
always the river. My lord, you are not now at Whitehall. You are
with desperate men, outlaws who have no king, and so fear no
king's minions. Will you go free, or will you go bound? Go you
shall, one way or the other."
He looked at me with rage and hatred in his face. Then, with a
laugh that was not good to hear and a shrug of the shoulders, he
went forward to bear Diccon company in the bow.
CHAPTER XX IN WHICH WE ARE IN DESPERATE CASE
"GOD walketh upon the sea as he walketh upon the land," said the
minister. "The sea is his and we are his. He will do what it liketh
him with his own." As he spoke he looked with a steadfast soul
into the black hollow of the wave that combed above us,
The wave broke, and the boat still lived. Borne high upon the
shoulder of the next rolling hill, we looked north, south, east, and
west, and saw only a waste of livid, ever forming, ever breaking
waves, a gray sky streaked with darker gray shifting vapor, and a
horizon impenetrably veiled. Where we were in the great bay, in
what direction we were being driven, how near we might be to the
open sea or to some fatal shore, we knew not. What we did know
was that both masts were gone, that we must bail the boat without
ceasing if we would keep it from swamping, that the wind was
doing an apparently impossible thing and rising higher and higher,
and that the waves which buffeted us from one to the other were
hourly swelling to a more monstrous bulk.
We had come into the wider waters at dawn, and still under
canvas. An hour later, off Point Comfort, a bare mast contented us;
we had hardly gotten the sail in when mast and all went overboard.
That had been hours ago.
A common peril is a mighty leveler of barriers. Scant time was
there in that boat to make distinction between friend and foe. As
one man we fought the element which would devour us. Each took
his turn at the bailing, each watched for the next great wave before
which we must cower, clinging with numbed hands to gunwale
and thwart. We fared alike, toiled alike, and suffered alike, only
that the minister and I cared for Mistress Percy, asking no help
from the others.
The King's ward endured all without a murmur. She was cold, she
was worn with watching and terror, she was wounded; each
moment Death raised his arm to strike, but she sat there dauntless,
and looked him in the face with a smile upon her own. If, wearied
out, we had given up the fight, her look would have spurred us on
to wrestle with our fate to the last gasp. She sat between Sparrow
and me, and as best we might we shielded her from the drenching
seas and the icy wind. Morning had shown me the blood upon her
sleeve, and I had cut away the cloth from the white arm, and had
washed the wound with wine and bound it up. If for my fee, I
should have liked to press my lips upon the blue-veined marble,
still I did it not.
When, a week before, I had stored the boat with food and drink
and had brought it to that lonely wharf, I had thought that if at the
last my wife willed to flee I would attempt to reach the bay, and
passing out between the capes would go to the north. Given an
open boat and the tempestuous seas of November, there might be
one chance out of a hundred of our reaching Manhattan and the
Dutch, who might or might not give us refuge. She had willed to
we were upon our journey, and the one chance had vanished.
That wan, monotonous, cold, and clinging mist had shrouded us
for our burial, and our grave yawned beneath us.
The day passed and the night came, and still we fought the sea, and
still the wind drove us whither it would. The night passed and the
second morning came, and found us yet alive. My wife lay now at
my feet, her head pillowed upon the bundle she had brought from
the minister's house. Too weak for speech, waiting in pain and
cold and terror for death to bring her warmth and life, the knightly
spirit yet lived in her eyes, and she smiled when I bent over her
with wine to moisten her lips. At length she began to wander in her
mind, and to speak of summer days and flowers. A hand held my
heart in a slowly tightening grip of iron, and the tears ran down the
minister's cheeks. The man who had darkened her young life,
bringing her to this, looked at her with an ashen face.
As the day wore on, the gray of the sky paled to a dead man's hue
and the wind lessened, but the waves were still mountain high.
One moment we poised, like the gulls that now screamed about us,
upon some giddy summit, the sky alone above and around us; the
next we sank into dark green and glassy caverns. Suddenly the
wind fell away, veered, and rose again like a giant refreshed.
Diccon started, put his hand to his ear, then sprang to his feet.
"Breakers!" he cried hoarsely.
We listened with straining ears. He was right. The low, ominous
murmur changed to a distant roar, grew louder yet, and yet louder,
and was no longer distant.
"It will be the sand islets off Cape Charles, sir," he said. I nodded.
He and I knew there was no need of words.
The sky grew paler and paler, and soon upon the woof of the
clouds a splash of dull yellow showed where the sun would be.
The fog rose, laying bare the desolate ocean. Before us were two
very small islands, mere handfuls of sand, lying side by side, and
encompassed half by the open sea, half by stiller waters diked in
by marshes and sand bars. A coarse, scanty grass and a few stunted
trees with branches bending away from the sea lived upon them,
but nothing else. Over them and over the marshes and the sand
banks circled myriads of great white gulls. Their harsh, unearthly
voices came to us faintly, and increased the desolation of earth and
sky and sea.
To the shell-strewn beach of the outer of the two islets raced long
lines of surf, and between us and it lurked a sand bar, against
which the great rollers dashed with a bull-like roar. The wind
drove us straight upon this bar. A moment of deadly peril and it
had us fast, holding us for the waves to beat our life out. The boat
listed, then rested, quivering through all its length. The waves
pounded against its side, each watery battering-ram dissolving in
foam and spray but to give place to another, and yet it held
together, and yet we lived. How long it would hold we could not
tell; we only knew it could not be for long. The inclination of the
boat was not so great but that, with caution, we might move about.
There were on board rope and an axe. With the latter I cut away
the thwarts and the decking in the bow, and Diccon and I made a
small raft. When it was finished, I lifted my wife in my arms and
laid her upon it and lashed her to it with the rope. She smiled like
a child, then closed her eyes. "I have gathered primroses until I am
tired," she said. "I will sleep here a little in the sunshine, and when
I awake I will make you a cowslip ball."
Time passed, and the groaning, trembling timbers still held
together. The wind fell, the sky became blue, and the sun shone.
Another while, and the waves were less mountainous and beat less
furiously against the boat. Hope brightened before us. To strong
swimmers the distance to the islet was trifling; if the boat would
but last until the sea subsided, we might gain the beach. What we
would do upon that barren spot, where was neither man nor brute,
food nor water, was a thing that we had not the time to consider. It
was land that we craved.
Another hour, and the sea still fell. Another, and a wave struck the
boat with force. "The sea is coming in!" cried the minister.
"Ay," I answered. "She will go to pieces now."
The minister rose to his feet. "I am no mariner," he said, "but once
in the water I can swim you like any fish. There have been times
when I have reproached the Lord for that he cased a poor silly
humble preacher like me with the strength and seeming of some
might man of old, and there have been times when I have thanked
him for that strength. I thank him now. Captain Percy, if you will
trust the lady to me, I will take her safely to that shore."
I raised my head from the figure over which I was bending, and
looked first at the still tumultuous sea, and then at the gigantic
frame of the minister. When we had made that frail raft no
swimmer could have lived in that shock of waves; now there was a
chance for all, and for the minister, with his great strength, the
greatest I have ever seen in any man, a double chance. I took her
from the raft and gave her into his arms. A minute later the boat
went to pieces.
Side by side Sparrow and I buffeted the sea. He held the King's
ward in one arm, and he bore her safely over the huge swells and
through the onslaught of the breaking waves. I could thank God for
his strength, and trust her to it. For the other three of us, we were
all strong swimmers, and though bruised and beat about, we held
our own. Each wave, overcome, left us nearer the islet, - a little
while and our feet touched bottom. A short struggle with the
tremendous surf and we were out of the maw of the sea, but out
upon a desolate islet, a mere hand's-breadth of sand and shell in a
lonely ocean, some three leagues from the mainland of Accomac,
and upon it neither food nor water. We had the clothes upon our
backs, and my lord and I had kept our swords. I had a knife, and
Diccon too was probably armed. The flint and steel and tinder box
within my pouch made up our store.
The minister laid the woman whom he carried upon the pebbles,
fell upon his knees, and lifted his rugged face to heaven. I too
knelt, and with my hand upon her heart said my own prayer in my
own way. My lord stood with unbent head, his eyes upon that still
white face, but Diccon turned abruptly and strode off to a low
ridge of sand, from the top of which one might survey the entire
In two minutes he was back again. "There's plenty of driftwood
further up the beach," he announced, "and a mort of dried
seaweed. At least we need n't freeze."
The great bonfire that we made roared and crackled, sending out a
most cheerful heat and light. Under that genial breath the color
came slowly back to madam's cheek and lip, and her heart beat
more strongly. Presently she turned under my hand, and with a sigh