THE STORY OF MARGARET TUDOR
A Romance of Old St. Augustine
By ANNIE T. COLCOCK
Illustrated by W. B. GILBERT
NEW YORK . FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY . PUBLISHERS
COPYRIGHT, 1901, BY FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY
All rights reserved
Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note. The oe ligature is shown as [oe].
"That thee is sent receive in buxomnesse, The wrastling of this world asketh a fall, Here is no home, here is but wildernesse, . . . . . Looke up on high, and thanke God of all!" CHAUCER.
The names of Mr. John Rivers,—kinsman and agent of Lord Ashley,—Dr. Wm. Scrivener and Margaret Tudor appear in the passenger list of the Carolina, as given in the Shaftesbury Papers (Collections of the South Carolina Historical Society, Vol. V, page 135). In the same (page 169) may be found a brief account of the capture, at Santa Catalina, of Mr. Rivers, Capt. Baulk, some seamen, a woman, and a girl; also (page 175) mention of the unsuccessful embassy of Mr. Collins; and (page 204) the Memorial to the Spanish Ambassador touching the delivery of the prisoners, one of whom is alluded to as Margaret, presumably Margaret Tudor.
The names of the two Spaniards, Senor de Colis and Don Pedro Melinza, each appear once in the Shaftesbury Papers (pages 25 and 443): the latter individual was evidently a person of some consequence in San Augustin; the former, in the year 1663, was "Governour and Captain-General, Cavallier, and Knight of the Order of St. James."
ANNIE T. COLCOCK.
THE STORY OF MARGARET TUDOR
San Augustin, this 29th of June, Anno Domini 1670.
It is now more than a month since our captivity began, and there seems scant likelihood that it will come to a speedy close,—altho', being in good health myself, and of an age when hope dies slowly, I despair not of recovering both liberty and friends. Yet, in the event of our further detention, of sickness or any other evil that may befall me—and there is one threatening—I write these pages of true history, praying that they may some time reach the hand of my guardian and uncle, Dr. William Scrivener, if he be still alive and dwelling in these parts. Should they chance, instead, to meet the eyes of some friendly-disposed person of English blood and Protestant faith, to whom the name of William Scrivener is unknown, I beseech him to deliver them to any person sailing with the sloop Three Brothers, which did set out from the Island of Barbadoes on the 2nd of November last,—being in the hire of Sir Thomas Colleton, and bearing freight and passengers for these shores.
If the sloop has suffered some misadventure (as I fear is not unlikely,—either at the hands of the Spaniards, or else of the Indians of these parts, who do show themselves most unfriendly to all Englishmen, being set on to mischief by the Spanish friars), then I pray that word may be forwarded to his Lordship, the Duke of Albemarle, and others of the Lords Proprietors who did commission and furnish a fleet of three vessels, to wit: the Carolina, the Port Royal, and the Albemarle, which did weigh anchor at the Downs in August of last year, and set forth to plant an English colony at Port Royal.
In particular would I implore that word might reach Lord Ashley, seeing that his kinsman, Mr. John Rivers, is here detained a prisoner in sorry state, laden with chains in the dungeon of the Castle—for which may God forgive me, I being in some degree to blame; and yet, since it hath pleased Heaven to grant me the fair face that wrought the mischief, I hold myself the less guilty and grieve the more bitterly, inasmuch as I love him with a maid's true love and would willingly give my life to spare him hurt.
If it were so that I might give the true narrative of our present plight, and how it fell about, without cumbering the tale with mention of my own name, it would please me best; but as those who read it may be strangers, I would better tell my story from the start.
Of myself it is enough to say that my name is Margaret Tudor, and saving my uncle, Dr. Scrivener, I am alone in the world and well-nigh portionless—my father having spent his all, and life and liberty to boot, in the service of King Charles, being one of those unfortunate royalists who plotted for His Majesty's return in the year '55. For, as Cromwell did discover their designs ere they were fully ripe, many were taken prisoners, of whom some suffered death and others banishment. Of these last was my father, who was torn from the arms of his young wife and babe and sent in slavery to Barbadoes. We could learn nothing of his after fate, though many inquiries were made in his behalf.
And so it fell about that,—my mother having gone to her rest,—I did take passage with my uncle, Dr. William Scrivener, on board the Carolina, with intent to stop at Barbadoes and make some search for my poor father in the hope that he yet lived.
Among the passengers of the Carolina was Lord Ashley's kinsman and agent, Mr. John Rivers, of whom I can find naught to say that seems fitting; for although it may hap that in this great world there are other men of a countenance as fine, a mien as noble, and a heart as brave and tender, it has not been my lot as yet to encounter them.
Together we did sail for three months on the great deep, in danger of pirates, in peril of tempests, and in long hours of golden calm when the waters burned blue around us and the wide heaven shone pale and clear over our heads. And in all that time we came to know one another passing well; and Mr. Rivers heard my father's story and promised to aid us in our search.
It was October when we reached Barbadoes and landed. Of the news that we obtained, and the strange chance that brought it to our ears, it is needless here to speak. Let it suffice that my dear father did not suffer long, as death soon freed him from his bondage.
We had no further cause to detain us in Barbadoes, so we yielded to the persuasions of Mr. Rivers that we should continue with the expedition to Port Royal; and, in November, we set sail once more in the Three Brothers, a sloop hired to replace the Albemarle, which, in consequence of a broken cable, had been driven ashore in a gale and lost upon the rocks.
From now on, for the truth's sake, I must needs tell somewhat of my intercourse with Mr. Rivers. It may seem I am lacking in a proper modesty if I declare that, even then, there was more than friendship betwixt us. But surely there were reasons enough and to spare. That I should love him was no mystery—he being the gallant gentleman he is; and, since there chanced to be no other maid upon the vessel of proper age and gentle condition, I suppose it was in nature that he should make the best of the little society he had. But nay, I would be false to my own faith if I doubted that it was foreordained of Heaven that we should come together and love one another.
It is true that I did not make confession of this belief until I had tormented my would-be lord with every teasing device that entered into my brain. But though he was often cast down for hours together, he gave me to understand that he could read my heart in my blue eyes.
"An you were to swear upon your soul you hated me, dear lady, I'd not believe it," he once said. "Mistress Margaret is too unversed in city ways and shallow coquetries to play a part—and 'tis for that I love her so." And though it angered me to have him praise my innocence and country airs, I knew he spoke the truth, and that a time would come when I would own my love for him. And so it did.
A terrible storm had raged for eight-and-forty hours. There had been wild, black, awful nights, and sullen days when the gray curtains of the sky were torn asunder and whirled over us in inky folds, their tattered fringes lashing up the seas, and whipping our frail bark till it skulked and cowered, like a beaten cur that looks in vain for mercy. We had drifted northward far from our course, our two consorts had disappeared, and we had well-nigh given up hope, when with the dawning of the third day the wind lulled, and through the ragged clouds we saw the blue arch of heaven high above us.
I had climbed out upon the deck alone; and from a sheltered corner I saw the sun rise and gild a far-off strip of shore that lay to west of us. It seemed a vision of a new heaven and a new earth, and I gave God thanks. Then a hand touched mine, and a voice whispered my name—and other words that need not be recorded here; and I could answer nothing in denial, for the reason that my heart was too full.
The land to west of us was Virginia, and we sought harbour at Nancemund, and lay there some weeks for needful repairs on the sloop, which was also provisioned afresh for her further voyage.
It was then the month of February; we had been six months a-journeying, and still the promised land was far away.
This tale of mine, however, bids fair to spin itself at too great length, so I must hasten on to the story of our captivity.
In spite of fairly good weather on our way southward we somehow over passed the latitude of Port Royal harbour; and of a Saturday in May—the fifteenth day of the month—we did cast anchor at a little isle upon the coast, in order to obtain wood and water for the sloop's needs.
This island is within the territory of the Spaniards, who have named it Santa Catalina. It lies some days' journey north of San Augustin,—the exact latitude I know not, although I have heard it more times than one; but there are some things that abide never in a woman's brain.
Here appeared many Indians, who seemed at first not unfriendly, and spoke words of welcome to us in the Spanish tongue.
Much trading was done aboard the sloop, and the barbarians appeared strangely content with strings of paltry beads and the cast-off garments of the crew, giving in their stead good provender, and skins of the wild deer dressed soft and fine.
The second day of our stay, Mr. Rivers, with the ship's master and three seamen, went ashore with such stuff as the Indians desire, to trade for pork and other provisions; and it being a Monday morn, Dame Barbara did crave leave to take her washing and go with them, in the hope of finding a softer water to cleanse the linen.
It was early morning; the breeze from the land blew sweet and fragrant, and the woods beyond the sandy beach bourgeoned in new leafage, green and tender. I longed for the scent of the warm earth, and the tuneful courting of bird-lovers in the thicket; so I prayed my uncle to let me go ashore with the dame. He acceded willingly enough; but Mr. Rivers, who is always over-anxious where my safety is concerned, counselled me earnestly not to leave the ship.
I was ever a headstrong maid, and the sunshine and the scent of far-off flowers had set me nearly wild with longing; so I chid him roundly for his caution and merrily warned him to beware how he sought to clip the wings of a free bird. Go I did, therefore, though he smiled and shook his head at me; and when we all parted company at the watering-place he seemed uneasy still, and, looking backward over his shoulder as I waved farewell, entreated me to wander no farther from the shore.
The little spring where they had left us welled up, cold and clear, at the foot of a tall cypress-tree, and trickled thence in a tiny stream, a mere thread of crystal, that tangled itself in the low bush and wound its way helplessly through the level wooded country, as though seeking for some gentle slope that would lead it to the sea.
The dame rinsed her linen till it fairly shone, and spread it out to dry in a sunny nook; while I lay prone on the warm earth and stirred up the damp brown leaves that had drifted into a tiny hollow, and found beneath them a wee green vine with little white star-flowers that blinked up at the sun and me. And I dreamed of the new home we would make for ourselves in this far country, and of the very good and docile wife I would be to my dear love. Then at last,—because I grew aweary at the prospect of my very great obedience in the future, and because, too, I thought it was high time my gallant gentleman came back to ask me how I did,—up from the ground I started, rousing the dame from a sweet nap.
"Look, Barbara! the linen is dry; the sun is on its westering way, and the shadows grow longer and longer.—'Tis very strange that Mr. Rivers and the master have not returned!"
"Mayhap they have clean forgot us and gone back to the ship alone," moaned the old woman, rubbing her sleepy eyes and beginning at once to croak misfortune, after the manner of her class.
Such an idea was past belief and set me smiling. I laid my hollowed palms behind my ears and listened.
Master Wind, passing through the tree-tops, had set every leaf a-whispering and nid-nodding to its gossips,—just as the peddler on his way through the village at home stirs all the women-folk to chattering about the latest news from the whole countryside. In the thicket beside us a chorus of feathered singers were all a-twitter, each trying to outdo his neighbour; but one saucy fellow piped the merriest tune of all, mingling in a delicious medley the sweetest notes of all the rest. Of a sudden, as I listened, there was a soft rustle in the undergrowth, and out from a clump of myrtles bounced a little brown rabbit, who cocked an astonished eye at me and disappeared again with a series of soundless leaps and a terrified whisk of his little white tail. Upon that the laugh in my throat bubbled over; I dropped my hands and turned to the dame.
"Gather up your linen, good Barbara, and let us explore the trail ourselves. They are doubtless picnicking somewhere in the woods beyond, and 'tis very discourteous not to bid us to the entertainment."
She would have demurred at first: the linen was not to be left, and yet was too weighty to carry; her back was aweary and she was fain to rest in peace. But Mistress Margaret was minded to have her own way, and, dividing the bundle in two, started on ahead with the larger share of it; so that, will she, nill she, the dame must follow.
I knew, of course, that I was disobeying Mr. Rivers's last injunction, and 'twas that thought quite as much as the sweet woodland airs that lured me on: I desired, above all things, to behold the countenance of my gallant gentleman when he discovered my wilfulness. So I hastened forward, pausing now and again to encourage the good dame and entice her still farther with glowing descriptions of new beauties just coming into view.
It fell about, therefore, that I was some forty paces in advance of her when I suddenly came upon the Indian settlement and saw there a sight that made my heart stand still.
I drew back hastily behind the trunk of a wide-branched oak, whence I could look—unseen, I thought—upon the town.
A great concourse of barbarians was assembled in the open space before the chief building, which was of considerable size, built round after the manner of a dove-house, and completely thatched with palmetto leaves. Many smaller buildings surrounded it: one, in especial, I would have done well to take note of; for it was doubtless a kind of sentinel or watch-tower, being set on tall, upright timbers which gave it an elevation much greater than any part of the surrounding country.
I had eyes for naught, however, but one figure, that stood, with hands and feet bound, at the foot of a great wooden cross planted opposite the entrance of the chief building. It was my dear love—I knew him on the instant by the proud poise of his head and shoulders. He was speaking in his usual calm and courtly tones to the circle of half-naked savages, who seemed to hear him with respectful consideration, though they made no motion to loose his bonds.
On the ground beside him lay the ship's master, old Captain Baulk, and the three seamen, their arms securely pinioned. Near them was the bale of goods which had been brought from the ship: it lay wide open, and was being most unscrupulously rifled of its contents.
For the moment I thought it was the sight of the gewgaws this bale contained that had roused the cupidity of the barbarians; but now I believe otherwise. The savages would have paid for them willingly, in skins and such like, and then suffered our men to depart in peace, had not that smooth-tongued hypocrite, Ignacio, been behind. But this, of course, was unknown to me at the time.
The idea came over me, like a flash, that we should go for help to the ship; and I turned quickly and signalled the dame to be silent. It was too late, however, for she had caught sight of the savages and of our men bound in the midst of them; and turning to the right about with a shrill scream, she cast away the bundle of linen and started back the way we had come at a speed which 'tis likely she had never equalled in her life before. After her I hastened, and implored her to be still, lest the barbarians should hear and overtake us. My one thought was to summon aid; for, though there seemed to be over two hundred of the Indians, I believed that our handful of men, armed with muskets, swords, and pikes, would be sufficient to strike terror into them at once.
We had scarce run an hundred yards down the trail when four savages stepped from a thicket and laid hands upon us. They had lain in wait, there is no doubt, so 'twas evident we had been seen some while before.
Barbara resisted them with much wild shrieking, but I submitted in silence. 'Twas not that I was any braver than she, but simply that I could not believe that they meant to do us any real harm; and all the while I was possessed with the thought that there was some one stationed in the thicket who was directing the actions of the savages. It appeared to me that, as they fastened our arms behind us, their eyeballs rolled ever toward a certain myrtle-bush, as if they were waiting for a cue.
We were led back at once to the town, and I shall never forget the look upon my dear love's face as he caught sight of me.
"Margaret—you also! I had hoped you and the dame were safe!" he cried out, as our captors led us to his side.
"'Twas all my wilfulness—I came hither seeking you," I answered, and hung my head.
He looked at me dumbly, and then turned his face away; and I saw his arms writhing in their bonds. A strange feeling came upon me, part shame and sorrow that I should have grieved him so, and part exultation that—whatever our fate—at least we would meet it side by side. Fear had the least place in my thoughts as I waited, breathless, for the outcome of this strange situation. My eyes wandered round the circle of barbarians, and I noted with some wonderment that numbers of the men wore their crowns shaven, after the manner of a priest's tonsure.
One among them, who seemed of greater consequence than the rest, began to speak; but I could make nothing of his discourse, although he used many words that I thought had somewhat of a Spanish ring.
Yet his meaning was fathomed by Mr. Rivers, who gave him the reply on the instant, couched in the Spanish, and delivered with some heat and indignation.
There was a stir among the barbarians, and presently there appeared a new figure on the scene. The shaven crown, the bare feet, the coarse woollen robe fastened by a knotted cord about the waist, all denoted a friar of the Franciscan order.
"So," muttered Mr. Rivers, under his breath, "now we have the real chief to deal with."
Scarcely less swarthy than the Indians themselves was the dark face of the Spanish friar. As he came forward into the open space, he raised his eyes to the great cross at the foot of which we were standing, and straightway bent the knee and crossed himself. Some few of the Indians likewise made the sign upon their breasts, though the greater part contained themselves with the same stolidity that had marked them from the first.
Mr. Rivers gave a low laugh, and turned to me with a curling lip. "These be Christians," he said.
The Spaniard caught the sneer, and a scowl gathered on his coarse face; but he checked it suddenly and began in smooth tones to address us.
Old Captain Baulk had raised himself to a sitting posture, and the seamen all held themselves in attitudes of strained attention.
"What says he?" I asked, in a whisper, of my dear love, when the friar had ceased and turned away from us.
"Naught but a tissue of lies," exclaimed Mr. Rivers, through his clenched teeth. "He would have us believe that he is wholly irresponsible for the doings of these 'banditos'; but he will exert what influence he has among the believers of his flock to procure our release,—I would we had fallen among infidels! These can have learned naught of their teacher but deceit. They tricked us, on the plea of our most mutual confidence, to lay aside our arms, and then fell instantly upon us and made us captive."
"I would to Heaven I could have gone back to the ship and given warning," I sighed dolefully. "Yet perhaps some of them may come out to search for us."
"Now God forbid!" exclaimed Mr. Rivers, "for they would walk into a trap. Some of these Indians have muskets and ammunition, and are therefore as well armed as our men. If many more of us were taken there would not be left able-bodied men enough to sail the sloop. 'Twould be better if they held off and waited for the Indians to take the initiative. My hope is that we will be able to treat with the savages for ransom,—that is, if the friar bears us no real ill will. See, here he comes again, with his oily tongue."
The shifty eyes and full-lipped mouth of the man filled me with a sudden loathing. Fear began to take hold of me at last, and a little sob broke in my throat.
My dear love turned to me with a quick, warm glance.
"Cheer up, sweetheart," he whispered. "It is too soon to lose courage. Come, where is my brave Margaret?"
"Here!" I answered, and forced a smile on my quivering lips.
The rest of the day passed by like a long nightmare. The friar had us removed to a small but strongly built hut, containing two rooms, separated by a thin partition of hides nailed to a row of upright studs. These were of squared timber, as was the floor also, and the outer frame and wall-plate. The roof and sides were overlaid with thatch; and there was no window, only a square opening in the roof which admitted the light, and also let out the smoke when a fire was built upon the floor.
As dark came on, two young Indian girls entered the hut, where we sat, bound, with our backs against the wall.
They seemed kindly disposed and gentle-mannered, for all their outlandish garb, which consisted of a petticoat of long gray moss, and strings of little shells and beads of divers colours festooned about the neck.
They loosed Barbara and me, for which we were mightily grateful, as our arms had grown numb and sore. We made signs that they should cut the bonds of the men also, which they declined to do. Yet they touched us with gentle hands, and stroked our shoulders in token of their good will.
After this they brought wet clay and spread it upon the floor, and on this laid a fire and kindled it; going forth again, they returned with food and set it before us, making signs that we who were free should feed the rest.
While I was serving my dear love—who made pitiable pretence of enjoying my ministrations—the friar entered the hut, accompanied by two others who were doubtless of mixed Spanish and Indian blood.
They bore with them heavy manacles and chains, which they fastened upon our men, cutting the leathern thongs which had held them until now.
Mr. Rivers demanded to know by whose orders this was done.
"For it would seem our true jailers are not the Indians. These fetters are of Spanish forging. Is it to your nation, padre, we are indebted for this urgent hospitality?"
To this the friar made answer at great length, and what he said appeared to enrage our men, who broke forth in a round volley of oaths as soon as our jailers had left the hut. I turned to Mr. Rivers for explanation.
"'Tis as I supposed," he said, "and the friar is at the bottom of it all. He maintains now that in landing here and attempting to trade with the Indians we have committed an offence against the sovereignty of Santo Domingo, which claims all this coast as Spanish territory. These Indians, he declares, are under the protection of his government, and therefore are not free to dispose of any goods to us English, or to receive any favours at our hands; as such dealings would be to the prejudice of the Spanish rights and influence over this country. Therefore he has claimed us from the Indians and proposes himself to hold us prisoners, awaiting the decision of the Governor at San Augustin."
As I look back now, it seems to me that in those first hours of our captivity I grew older by many years. That gladsome morning, with its wilful moods and joyous daring, fell away back into the past, and seemed as unreal as the day-dreams of my childhood.
We slept that night, Dame Barbara and I, upon a soft and springy couch of moss piled in the little inner room. That is to say, we lay there silently; but I think I scarce closed my eyes.
The wind, drifting through the gaping thatch, caught the loose corner of a shrivelled strip of hide dangling on the rude partition wall, and kept it swinging back and forth, with a faint tap-tap, tap-tap, the whole night long. As it swung outward I could catch fleeting glimpses of the little group huddled about the dying fire; and for hours I lay and listened to the low murmur of their voices and the heavy clank and rattle of their chains.
Old Captain Baulk was in a garrulous mood, and he poured into the sailors' ears a horrid tale of how the Spaniards had massacred the first French settlers on this coast.
"'Twas just about one hundred years ago," he droned in a gruesome whisper. "Ribault's settlement was on the River May, somewhere in these latitudes. There were about nine hundred of them in all, 'tis said, counting the women and children; and not one of them escaped. The bodies of dead and wounded were alike hung upon a tree for the crows——"
"In God's name, hold your croaking tongue!" Mr. Rivers broke in angrily. "'Tis bad enough for the women as things are, and if they overhear these old wives' tales, think you it will make them rest easier?"
"Not old wives' tales, Mr. Rivers, but the fact, sir,—the bloody fact."
"Silence!" whispered my betrothed, in a voice that made me tremble,—for he hath a hot temper when it is roused. "Unless thou canst hold that ill-omened tongue of thine, there presently will be another bloody fact between thy teeth!"
A sudden silence fell. 'Twas broken finally by my dear love, whose generous nature soon repented of a harshly spoken word.
"I was over-hasty, my good Baulk; but I would not for the world have Mistress Tudor hear aught of those horrors. And times have changed greatly in an hundred years. But this inaction, this inaction! 'Tis terrible upon a man!"
A suppressed groan accompanied the exclamation, and my heart ached for him. It must indeed be hard for men—who are used to carving their own fates and wresting from fortune their desires—suddenly to be forced to play the woman's part of patient waiting.
The next day brought no relief.
From the windowless hut we could see naught of what passed without; but about an hour before noon we heard a drum beat in the village. The sound grew ever fainter, as though receding; then came the distant report of musketry, and we grew anxious for our people on the sloop. Hours passed by, and again came the sound of heavy firing, which gradually died away as before.
Late in the afternoon we were joined by another prisoner, whom—from his dress of skins—we mistook at first sight for a young Indian; but 'twas no other than the lad Poole, who was in Mr. Rivers's service and most loyally attached to his master.
From him we learned that the Indians and some Spaniards had been parleying with our men all day. He had swum ashore with a letter to the friar, and had been received with kindness by the savages, who clad him after their own fashion. The friar, however, vouchsafed him no reply; and after a time gave a signal to his men to fire on the sloop. The arrows of the Indians and the muskets of the Spaniards had finally compelled the Three Brothers to weigh anchor and put out to sea.
Day after day dragged by. We grew aweary of discussing the possibilities of our escape and fell gradually into silence.
It was on the first day of June that Don Pedro de Melinza arrived in the galley from San Augustin, and our captivity took on a new phase.
He is a handsome man, this Spanish Don, and he bears himself with the airs of a courtier—when it so pleases him. As he stood that day at the open door of our hut prison, in the full glow of the summer morning, he was a goodly sight. His thick black hair was worn in a fringe of wavy locks that rested lightly on his flaring collar. His leathern doublet fitted close to his slight, strong figure, and through its slashed sleeves there was a shimmer of fine silk. In his right hand he held his plumed sombrero against his breast; his left rested carelessly on the hilt of his sword.
I could find no flaw in his courteous greetings; but I looked into his countenance and liked it not.
The nose was straight and high, the keen dark eyes set deep in the olive face; but beneath the short, curled moustache projected a full, red under lip.
Show me, in a man, an open brow, a clear eye, a firm-set mouth, and a chin that neither aims to meet the nose nor lags back upon the breast; and I will dub him honest, and brave, and clean-minded. But if his forehead skulks backward, his chin recedes, and his nether lip curls over redly—though the other traits be handsome, and the figure full of grace and strength controlled—trust that man I never could! Such an one I saw once in my early childhood. My mother pointed him out to me and bade me note him well.
"That man," she said, "was once your father's friend and close comrade; yet now he walks free and lives in ease, while my poor husband is in slavery. Why is it thus? Because he over yonder was false to his oath, to his friends, and to his king. He sold them all, like Esau, for a mess of pottage. Mark him well, my child, and beware of his like; for in these days they are not a few, and woe to any who trust in them!"
I remembered those words of my mother when the Senor Don Pedro de Melinza y de Colis made his bow to us that summer's day. The meaning of his courtly phrases was lost upon me; but I gathered from his manner that he had come in the guise of a friend,—and I trembled at the prospect of such friendship.
Nevertheless I was right glad when the fetters were struck from my dear love and his companions, and we were taken upon the Spanish galley and served like Christians.
At the earliest opportunity Mr. Rivers hastened to make things clear to me. "Our deliverer"—so he termed him, whereat I marvelled somewhat,—"our deliverer assures me that Padre Ignacio's action is condemned greatly by his uncle, Senor de Colis, the Governor and Captain-General at San Augustin. Don Pedro has been sent to transport us thither, where we will be entertained with some fitness until we can communicate with our friends."
"Says he so? 'Twill be well if he keeps his word; but to my thinking he has not the face of an honest man."
Mr. Rivers looked at me gravely. "That is a hard speech from such gentle lips," he said. "Don Pedro is a Spanish gentleman of high lineage. His uncle, Senor de Colis, is a knight of the Order of St. James. Such hold their honour dear. Until he gives us cause to distrust him, let us have the grace to believe that he is an honest man."
I looked back into the frank gray eyes of my true and gallant love, and I felt rebuked. 'Twas a woman's instinct, only, that made me doubt the Spaniard; and this simple trust of a noble nature in the integrity of his fellow man seemed a vastly finer instinct than my own.
From that moment I laid by my suspicions, and met the courteous advances of Senor de Melinza with as much of graciousness as I knew how. But, as we spoke for the most part in different tongues, little conversation was possible to us.
I marvelled at the ease with which Mr. Rivers conversed in both Spanish and French. Of the latter I was not wholly ignorant myself,—although in my quiet country life I had had little opportunity of putting my knowledge to the test, seldom attempting to do more than "prick in some flowers" of foreign speech upon the fabric of my mother tongue; so it was with great timidity that I essayed at first to thread the mazes of an unfamiliar language.
The Spaniard, however, greeted my attempts with courteous comprehension, and after a time I was emboldened to ask some questions concerning the town of San Augustin, and to comment upon the vivid beauty of the skies and the blue waves around us. Upon that he broke into rapturous praises of his own land of Spain—"the fairest spot upon the earth!" As I listened, smilingly, it seemed to me that I perceived a shadow gathering upon the brow of my dear love.
So far the galley had depended solely upon her oars—of which there were six banks, of two oars each, on either side,—but now, the wind having freshened, Don Pedro ordered her two small lateen sails to be hoisted. While he was giving these directions and superintending their fulfilment, Mr. Rivers drew closer to my side, saying, in a rapid whisper:
"You have somewhat misread me, sweetheart, in regard to your demeanour toward our host. 'Tis surely needless for you to put yourself to the pain of conversing with him at such length."
Now it must be remembered that in the last few hours our situation had greatly changed. I had left a dark and dirty hovel for a cushioned couch upon a breezy deck. In the tiny cabin which had been placed at my disposal, I had, with Barbara's aid, rearranged my tangled locks and my disordered clothing; so that I was no longer ashamed of my untidy appearance. With my outward transformation there had come a reaction in my spirits, which bounded upward to their accustomed level.
The salt air was fresh upon my cheek; the motion of our vessel, careening gaily on the dancing waves, was joyous and inspiring. I forgot that we were sailing southward, and that, if our English friends had survived to begin their intended settlement, we were leaving them farther and farther behind. My thoughts went back to the earlier days of our journey over seas; and a flash of the wilful mischief, which I thought had all died from my heart, rose suddenly within me.
I leaned back upon my cushioned seat and looked with half-veiled eyes at my gallant gentleman.
"These nice distinctions, Mr. Rivers, are too difficult for me," I said. "If this Spanish cavalier of high lineage and honest intentions is worthy of any gratitude, methinks a few civil words can scarcely overpay him."
A heightened colour in the cheek of my betrothed testified to the warmth of his feelings in the matter, as he replied:
"You are wholly in the right, my dearest lady! If civil words can cancel aught of our indebtedness I shall not be sparing of them. Nevertheless, permit me, I entreat you, to assume the entire burden of our gratitude and the whole payment thereof."
"Not so," I rejoined, with some spirit. "Despite our beggared fortunes, I trust no one has ever found a Tudor bankrupt in either courtesy or gratitude; and—by your leave, sir—I will be no exception!"
This I said, not because I was so mightily beholden to the Spaniard; but—shame upon me!—because Mr. Rivers had chosen to reprove me, a while since, for my uncharity.
'Tis passing strange how we women can find pleasure in giving pain to the man we love; while if he suffered from any other cause we would gladly die to relieve him! 'Twould seem a cruel trait in a woman's character—and I do trust that I am not cruel! But I must admit that when I greeted Don Pedro, on his return, with added cordiality, it was nothing in his dark, eager countenance that set my heart beating—but rather the glimpse I had caught of a bitten lip, a knotted brow, and a pair of woeful gray eyes gazing out to sea.
Repentance came speedily, however. There was that in the Spaniard's manner that aroused my sleeping doubts of him; and I soon fell silent and sought to be alone.
My gallant gentleman had withdrawn himself in a pique, and, in the company of old Captain Baulk and the lad Poole, seemed to have wholly forgotten my existence.
I made Dame Barbara sit beside me, and, feigning headache, leaned my head upon her shoulder and closed my eyes. The dame rocked herself gently to and fro, and from time to time gave vent to smothered prayers and doleful ejaculations that set my thoughts working upon my own misdoings.
Through my half-shut eyes I saw the sun go down behind the strip of shore, and watched the blue skies pale to faintest green and richest amber. A little flock of white cloudlets, swimming in the transparent depths, caught fire suddenly and changed to pink flames, then glowed darkly red like burning coals, and faded, finally to gray ashes in the purpling west.
"Lord, have mercy on our sinful hearts!" groaned Dame Barbara softly.
"Amen!" I sighed, and wondered what ailed mine, that it could be so very wicked as to add to the burden of anxiety that my dear love had to bear! A few tears stole from under my half-closed lids, and I was very miserable and forlorn, when suddenly I felt a hand laid upon mine.
I looked up hastily, and saw the face of my gallant gentleman, very grave and penitent, in the fast-deepening twilight. My heart gave a glad leap within my bosom; but I puckered my lips woefully and heaved a mighty sigh.
"Thank you, dear Dame, for your kind nursing," I said to Barbara. "Truly, I know not what I should do without your motherly comforting at times."
Mr. Rivers took my hand, and drew me gently away, saying:
"See what a bright star hangs yonder, above the sombre shores!"
I glanced at the glittering point of light, and then, over my shoulder, at the shadowy decks. The Spaniard was not in sight, and only the bent figure of the dame was very near.
My dear love raised my fingers to his lips. "Forgive me, sweetheart, for being so churlish—but you cannot know the fears that fill me when I see that man's dark face gazing into yours, and realize that we are utterly in his power."
"Surely he would not harm me!" I said, hastily.
"'Tis that he may learn to love you," said Mr. Rivers gravely.
"He may spare himself the pain of it!" I cried. "Have you not told him that we are betrothed?"
"Aye, love—but he may lose his heart in spite of that. What wonder if he does? The miracle would be if he could look upon your face unmoved."
"Am I so wondrous pretty, then?"
"Fairer than any woman living!" he declared. I knew well enough it was a tender falsehood, but since he seemed to believe it himself it was every whit as satisfactory as if it had been truth!
"Be comforted," I whispered, reassuringly. "I know very well how to make myself quite homely. I have only to pull all my curls back from my brow and club them behind: straightway I will become so old and ugly that no man would care to look me twice in the face. Wait till to-morrow, and you will see!"
A laugh broke from Mr. Rivers's lips, and then he sighed heavily.
"Nay, sweetheart, if it be the head-dress you assumed one day some months ago for my peculiar punishment, I pray you will not try its efficacy on the Spaniard; for it serves but to make you the more irresistible."
But already I have dwelt longer upon myself and my own feelings than is needful for the telling of my tale. I must hasten on to those happenings that more nearly concerned Mr. Rivers. Yet, in looking backward, I find it hard to tear my thoughts from the memory of that last hour of quiet converse with my dear love, under the starlit southern skies. How seldom we realize our moments of great happiness until after they have slipped away! It seemed to me then that we were in the shadow of a dark-winged host of fears; but now I know that it served only to make our mutual faith burn the more brightly.
I did not, thereafter, neglect Mr. Rivers's warning, and avoided the Spaniard as much as possible. My dear love lingered always at my elbow, and replied for me, in easy Spanish, to all the courteous speeches of Don Pedro.
Sometimes I think it would have been far better had he left me to follow my own course. There are some men who need only a hint of rivalry to spur them on where of their own choice they had never thought to adventure. Melinza's attentions did not diminish, while his manner toward Mr. Rivers lost in cordiality as time went on.
Among the Spaniard's followers was a young mulatto whom he called "Tomas." Very tall and slight of figure was he, yet sinewy and strong, with corded muscles twining under the brown skin of his lean young limbs. He wore a loose shirt, open at the throat, with sleeves uprolled to the shoulder; and his short, full trousers reached barely to the knee.
I was admiring the agile grace of the lad as he bestirred himself upon the deck the last morning of our voyage. With him young Poole (clothed once more like a Christian, in borrowed garments) was engaged in the task of shifting a great coil of rope; and the sturdy, fair-skinned English youth was a pretty contrast to the other.
Don Pedro was standing near to Mr. Rivers and myself, and his eyes took the same direction as our own.
"They are well matched in size," said he, pointing to the lads. "Let us see which can bear off the palm for strength." He called out a few words in Spanish to the young mulatto, who raised his dark head—curled over with shiny rings of coal-black hair—and showed a gleaming row of white teeth as he turned his smiling face toward his master.
Mr. Rivers spoke a word to Poole, and the boy blushed from brow to neck, and his blue eyes fell sheepishly; but he stood up against the other with a right good will, and there was not a hair's difference in their height.
At a signal from Don Pedro the lads grappled with each other; the brown and ruddy limbs were close entwined, and with bare feet gripping the decks they swayed back and forth like twin saplings caught in a gale.
In the first onset the mulatto had the best of it; his lithe dark limbs coiled about his adversary with paralyzing force: but soon the greater weight of the English youth began to tell; his young, well-knit figure straightened and grew tense.
I saw a sudden snarl upon the other's upturned face. His short, thick upper lip curled back upon his teeth as a dog's will when in anger. He rolled his eyes in the direction of his master, who threw him a contemptuous curse. Stung into sudden rage, the mulatto thrust forth his head and sank his sharp white teeth in the shoulder of young Poole.
There was a startled cry, and the English youth loosened his grasp. In another moment the two figures rolled upon the deck, and the flaxen head was undermost.
"Foul play!" cried Mr. Rivers, springing forward to tear the lads apart; for now the mulatto's fingers were at his opponent's throat.
Melinza's hand flew to his sword; with a volley of oaths he interposed the shining blade between Mr. Rivers and the writhing figures on the floor. Quick as thought another blade flashed from its sheath, and the angerful gray eyes of my betrothed burned in indignant challenge.
I had looked on in dumb amaze; but at the sight of the naked weapons I screamed aloud.
Instantly the two men seemed to recollect themselves. They drew back and eyed each other coldly.
"Hasta conveniente ocasion, caballero!" said the Spaniard, returning his sword to its scabbard, and bowing low.
"A la disposicion de vuestra senoria, Don Pedro," replied my betrothed, following his example.
And I, listening, but knowing no word of the language, believed that an apology had passed between them!
The scuffle on the deck had ceased when the swords clashed forth, and the lads had risen to their feet. Melinza turned now to young Tomas and struck him a sharp blow on the cheek.
"Away with you both!" said the gesture of his impatient arm; but I believe his tongue uttered naught but curses.
All of our English had appeared upon the deck, and when Melinza strode past them with a scowl still upon his brow they exchanged meaning glances. Captain Baulk shook his grizzled head as he approached us.
"What have I always said, Mr. Rivers"——he began; but my betrothed looked toward me and laid a finger on his lip. Afterward they drew apart and conversed in whispers. What they said, I never knew; for when Mr. Rivers returned to my side he spoke of naught but the dolphins sporting in the blue waters, and the chances of our reaching San Augustin ere nightfall.
"So," I thought, "I am no longer to be a sharer in their discussions, in their hopes or fears. I am but a very child, to be watched over and amused, to be wiled away from danger with a sweetmeat or a toy! And truly, I have deserved to be treated thus. But now 'tis time for me to put away childish things and prove myself a woman."
I had the wit, however, not to make known my resolutions, nor to insist on sharing his confidence. I leaned over the vessel's side and watched the silver flashing of the two long lines of oars as they cut the waves, and I held my peace. But in my heart there was tumult. I had seen the glitter of a sword held in my dear love's face!—and I grew cold at the memory. I had coquetted with the man whose sword it was!—and that thought sent hot surges over my whole body. I shut my eyes and wished God had made them less blue; I bit my lip because it was so red. I had not thought, till now, that my fair face might bring danger on my beloved.
He stood at my side, so handsome and so debonair; a goodly man to look upon and a loyal heart to trust; not over-fervent in matters of religion, yet never soiling his lips with a coarse oath, or his honour with a lie! As I glanced up at him, and he bent down toward me, I suddenly recalled the disloyal caution of our father Abraham when he journeyed in the land of strangers; and I thought: "Surely must God honour a man who is true to his love at any cost of danger!"
So passed the day.
It was evening when we crossed the bar and entered Matanzas Bay. The setting sun cast a crimson glow over the waters; I thought of the blood of the French martyrs that once stained these waves, and I shuddered.
Outlined against the western sky was the town of San Augustin,—square walls and low, flat roofs built along a low, green shore. The watch-tower of the castle fort rose up in menace as we came nearer.
Upon the deck of the Spanish galley, hand in hand, stood my love and I.
"Yonder is——our destination," said Mr. Rivers.
"Our prison, you would say," I answered him, "and so I think also. Nevertheless, I would rather stand here, at your side, than anywhere else in this wide world—alone!"
He smiled and raised my fingers to his lips. "Verily, dear lady, so would I also."
There was a rattle of heavy chains, and a loud plash as the anchor slipped down in the darkening waters.
We were received by the Spanish Governor immediately after our landing.
I had already pictured him, in my thoughts, as a man of commanding presence, with keen, dark eyes set in a stern countenance; crisp, curling locks—such as Melinza's—but silvered lightly on the temples; an air of potency, of fire, as though his bold spirit defied the heavy hand of time.
'Twas therefore a matter of great surprise to me—and some relief—when, instead, I beheld advancing toward us a spare little figure with snow-white hair and a pallid face. His small blue eyes blinked upon us with a watery stare; his flabby cheeks were seamed with wrinkles, and his tremulous lips twitched and writhed in the shadowy semblance of a smile: there was naught about him to suggest either the soldier or the man of parts.
He was attired with some pretension, in a doublet of purple velvet with sleeves of a lighter color. His short, full trousers were garnished at the knee with immense roses; his shrunken nether limbs were cased in silken hose of a pale lavender hue, and silver buckles fastened the tufted purple ribbons on his shoes. On his breast was the red cross of St. James—patent of nobility; had it not been for that and his fine attire he might have passed for a blear-eyed and decrepit tailor from Haberdashery Lane.
I plucked up heart at the sight of this little manikin.
"Can this be the Governor and Captain-General of San Augustin?" I whispered in the ear of my betrothed.
"'Tis not at the court of our Charles only that kissing, or promotion, goes by favour!" was his answer, in a quick aside. Then he met the advancing dignitary and responded with grave punctilio to the suave welcome that was accorded us.
Melinza's part was that of master of ceremonies on this occasion. He appeared to have laid aside his rancour, and his handsome olive countenance was lightened with an expression of great benignance when he presented me to the Governor as—"the honourable and distinguished senorita Dona Margarita de Tudor."
I looked up at Mr. Rivers with an involuntary smile.
"My betrothed, your Excellency," he said simply, taking me by the hand.
The blear-eyed Governor made me a compliment, with a wrinkled hand upon his heart. I understood no word of it, and he spoke no French, so Mr. Rivers relieved the situation with his usual ease.
This audience had been held in the courtyard of the castle, which is a place of great strength,—being, in effect, a square fort built of stone, covering about an acre of ground, and garrisoned by more than three hundred men.
We stood in a little group beneath a dim lamp that hung in a carved portico which appeared to be the entrance to a chapel. Captain Baulk and the rest were a little aloof from us; and all around, at the open doors of the casemates, lurked many of the swarthy soldiery.
Suddenly light footsteps sounded on the flagged pavement of the chapel in our rear, and a tall, graceful woman stepped forth and laid her hand upon my shoulder. Through the delicate folds of black, filmy lace veiling her head and shoulders gleamed a pair of luminous eyes that burned me with their gaze.
She waved aside the salutations of the two Spaniards and spoke directly to me in a rich, low voice. The sight of a woman was so welcome to me that I held out both hands in eager response; but she made no move to take them: her bright eyes scanned the faces of our party, lingering on that of my betrothed, to whom she next addressed herself, with a little careless gesture of her white hand in my direction.
Mr. Rivers bowed low, and said, in French: "Madame, I commend her to your good care." Then to me: "Margaret, the Governor's lady offers you the protection of her roof."
His eyes bade me accept it, and I turned slowly to the imperious stranger and murmured: "Madame, I thank you."
"So!" she exclaimed, "you can speak, then? You are not dumb? I had thought it was a pretty waxen effigy of Our Lady, for the padre here," and she laughed mockingly, with a glance over her shoulder.
Another had joined our group, but his bare feet had sounded no warning tread. The sight of the coarse habit and the tonsured head struck a chill through me. Two sombre eyes held mine for a moment, then their owner turned silently away and re-entered the chapel door.
Melinza was standing by, with a gathering frown on his forehead.
"Such condescension on your part, Dona Orosia, is needless. We can provide accommodations for all our English guests here in the castle."
"What! Would Don Pedro stoop to trick out a lady's boudoir?—Nay, she would die of the horrors within these gloomy walls. Come with me, child, I can furnish better entertainment."
I turned hastily toward my dear love.
"Go!" said his eyes to me.
Then I thought of Barbara, and very timidly I asked leave to keep her by me.
"She may follow us," said the Governor's lady carelessly, and sharply clapped her hands. Two runners appeared, bearing a closed chair, and set it down before us.
"Enter," said my self-elected guardian. "You are so slight there is room for us both."
In dazed fashion I obeyed her, and then she followed me.
I thought I should be crushed in the narrow space, and the idea of being thus suddenly torn away from my betrothed filled me with terror. I made a desperate effort to spring out again; but a soft, strong hand gripped my arm and held me still, and in a moment we were borne swiftly away from the courtyard into the dark without.
I wrung my hands bitterly, and burst into tears.
"O cielos! what have we here?" cried the rich voice, petulantly. "'Tis not a waxen saint, after all, but a living fountain! Do not drown me, I pray you. What is there to weep for? Art afraid, little fool? See, I am but a woman, not an ogress."
But 'twas not alone for myself that I feared: the thought of my dear love in Melinza's power terrified me more than aught else,—yet I dared not put my suspicions into words. I tried hard to control my voice as I implored that I might be taken back to the fort and to Mr. Rivers.
"Is it for the Englishman, or Melinza, that you are weeping?" demanded my companion sharply.
"Madame!" I retorted, with indignation, "Mr. Rivers is my betrothed husband."
"Good cause for affliction, doubtless," she replied, "but spare me your lamentations. Nay, you may not return to the fort. 'Tis no fit place for an honest woman,—and you seem too much a fool to be aught else. Here, we have arrived——"
She pushed me out upon the unpaved street, then dragged me through an open doorway, across a narrow court filled with blooming plants, and into a lighted room furnished with rich hangings, and chairs, tables, and cabinets of fine workmanship.
I gazed around me in wonder and confusion of mind.
"How does it please your pretty saintship? 'Tis something better than either Padre Ignacio's hut or Melinza's galley, is it not? Are you content to remain?"
"Madame," I said desperately, "do with me what you will; only see, I pray you, that my betrothed comes to no harm."
"What should harm him?" she demanded. "Is he not the guest of my husband?"
"His guest, madame, or his prisoner?"
She gave me a keen glance. "Whichever role he may have the wit—or the folly—to play."
I wrung my hands again. "Madame, madame, do not trifle with me!"
"Child, what should make thee so afraid?"
I hesitated, then exclaimed: "Senor de Melinza bears him no good will—he may strive to prejudice your husband!"
The Governor's wife looked intently at me. "Why should Melinza have aught against your Englishman?"
I could not answer,—perhaps I had been a fool to speak. I dropped my face in my hands, silently.
Dona Orosia leaned forward and took me by the wrists. "Look at me!" she said.
Timidly I raised my eyes, and she studied my countenance for a long minute.
"'Tis absurd," she said then, and pushed me aside. "'Tis impossible! And yet——a new face, a new face and passably pretty. Oh, my God, these men! are they worth one real heart pang? Tell me," she cried, fiercely, and shook me roughly by the shoulder, "has Melinza made love to you already?"
"Never, madame, never!" I answered quickly, frightened by her vehemence. "Indeed, their quarrel did not concern me. 'Twas about two lads that had a wrestling-match upon the galley. And although they were both angered at the time, there may be no ill feeling between them now. I was foolish to speak of it. Forget my imprudence, I pray you!"
But her face remained thoughtful. "Tell me the whole story," she said; and when I had done so she was silent.
I sat and watched her anxiously. She was a beautiful woman, with a wealth of dark hair, a richly tinted cheek, glorious eyes, and a small, soft, red-lipped, passionate mouth—folded close, at that moment, in a scornful curve.
Suddenly she rose and touched a bell. A young negress answered the summons. Dona Orosia spoke a few rapid words to her in Spanish, then turned coldly to me.
"Go with her; she will show you to your apartment, and your woman will attend you there later on. You must be too weary to-night to join us at a formal meal, and your wardrobe must be somewhat in need of replenishing. To-morrow you shall have whatever you require. I bid you goodnight!"—and she dismissed me with a haughty gesture of her white hand.
The chamber that had been assigned to me—which I was glad to share with the good Dame Barbara—was long and narrow. There was a window at one end that gave upon the sea; and through the heavy barred grating, set strongly in the thick casement, I could look out upon the low sea-wall, and, beyond that, at the smooth bosom of the dreaming ocean, heaving softly in the quiet starlight, as though such a sorrow lay hidden in its deep heart as troubled even its sleep with sighs.
If I pressed my face close against the bars I could see, to the left of me, the ramparts of the castle, where my dear love was. The slow tears rose in my eyes as I thought that this night the same roof would not shelter us, nor would there be the same swaying deck beneath our feet.
While we had been together no very real sense of danger had oppressed me; but from the first hour of our parting my heart grew heavier with forebodings of the evil and sorrow which were yet to come.
At first all seemed to go well enough. The Governor's lady was fairly gracious to me; old Senor de Colis was profuse in his leering smiles and wordy compliments, none of which I could understand; I saw Mr. Rivers and Melinza from time to time, and they seemed upon good terms with each other: but I did not believe this state of affairs could last,—and I was right in my fears.
One night ('twas the twenty-second of June, and the weather was sultry and oppressive; the sea held its breath, and the round moon burned hot in the hazy sky) the evening meal was served in the little courtyard of the Governor's house, and both Mr. Rivers and Melinza were our guests.
This was not the first occasion on which we had all broken bread at the same board; but there was now an air of mockery in the civilities of Melinza,—he passed the salt to my betrothed with a glance of veiled hostility, and pledged him in a glass of wine with a smile that ill concealed the angry curl of his sullen red lip.
'Twas a strange meal; the memory of it is like a picture stamped upon my brain.
From the tall brass candlesticks upon the table, the unflickering tapers shone down upon gleaming damask and glistening silver, and kindled sparks amid the diamonds that caught up the folds of lace on the dark head of Dona Orosia, and that gemmed the white fingers clasping her slow-moving fan. Hers was a beauty that boldly challenged men's admiration and exacted tribute of their eyes. The white-haired Governor paid it in full measure, with a fixed and watery gaze from beneath his half-closed lids, and a senile smile lurking under his waxed moustache. But whenever I glanced upward I met the eyes of Mr. Rivers and Don Pedro turned upon me; and I felt a strange thrill made up, in part, of triumph that my dear love was not to be won from his allegiance, and in part of terror because there was that in the Spaniard's gaze that betokened a nature ruled wholly by its hot passions and a will to win what it craved by fair means or by foul.
I could eat little for the heat and the pungent flavour of strange sauces, so I dallied with my plate only as an excuse for lowered eyes; and, although I listened all the while with strained attention, the talk ran by too swiftly for me to grasp any of its meaning.
But Dona Orosia was neither deaf nor blind; her keen black eyes had noted every glance that passed her by. With a deeper flush on her olive cheek, and a prouder poise of her haughty head, she made to me at last the signal for withdrawal.
The three gentlemen, glasses in hand, rose from their seats; and, as we passed beneath the arched trellis that led away from the paved court into the fragrant garden, Don Pedro lifted his glass to his lips with a gesture in our direction, and exclaimed in French:
"To the fairest face in San Augustin! To the brightest eyes and the lips most worthy of kisses! May the light of those eyes never be withdrawn from these old walls, nor the lips lack a Spanish blade to guard them from all trespassers!"
The Governor, who understood not the French words, lifted his glass in courteous imitation of his nephew's gesture; but Mr. Rivers coloured hotly and set down his upon the table.
"I like not your toast, Senor Melinza, whichever way I construe it. The face I hold fairest here shall leave San Augustin the day that I depart; and, since it is the face of my promised wife, it needs no other sword than mine to fend off trespassers!"
He, too, spoke in French; and as the words passed his lips I felt the soft, strong hand of Dona Orosia grasp my arm and drag me backward among the screening vines, beyond the red light of the tapers, where we could listen unseen.
Melinza was laughing softly. "Senor Rivers says he cannot construe my toast to his liking; but perhaps if I give it him in the Spanish tongue he may find the interpretation more to his taste!" Then he lifted his glass again and slowly repeated the words in his own language, with a meaning glance toward the Governor.
The old man drained his goblet to the dregs, and then turned a flushed face upon the Englishman and laid his hand upon his sword.
My dear love had no thoughts of prudence left,—for Melinza's words had been a direct charge of cowardice,—so for all answer he took the frail goblet from the table and threw it in the younger Spaniard's face.
There was a tinkle of broken glass upon the stone pavement, and Melinza wiped the red wine from his cheek. Then he held up the stained kerchief before the eyes of my dear love and spoke a few words in his softest voice.
An angry smile flickered over the countenance of my betrothed; he bowed stiffly in response.
The blear-eyed Governor broke in hotly, with his hand still upon his sword; his dull eyes narrowed, and the blood mounted higher in his wrinkled cheek: but his nephew laid a restraining hand upon his arm, and, with another laughing speech and a profound bow to Mr. Rivers, pointed toward the door.
I saw the three of them depart through the passageway that led to the street entrance. I heard the creak of the hinges, and the clang of the bars as they fell back into place. Then a strong, sweet odour of crushed blossoms turned me faint. I loosed my hold of the screening vines and stepped backward with a sudden struggle for breath.
The woman beside me caught my arm a second time and drew me still farther away down the moonlit path.
"Is he aught of a swordsman, this fine cavalier of thine?" she demanded, grasping my shoulder tightly and scanning my face with her scornful eyes.
Then my senses came to me: I knew what had happened—what was bound to follow; and I began to speak wildly and to pray her to prevent bloodshed between them.
I scarce know what I said; but the words poured from my lips, and for very despair I checked them not. I told her of my orphan state—of that lone grave in Barbadoes, and the sad young mother who had died of a broken heart; I spoke of the long, long journey over seas, the love that had come into my life, and the dreams and the hopes that had filled our thoughts when we reached the fair, strange shores of this new country; and I prayed her, as she was a woman and a wife, to let no harm come to my dear love.
"Ah! madame," I cried, "a face so fair as yours needs not the championship of one English stranger, who holds already a preference for blue eyes and yellow hair. I grant you that he has a sorry taste; but oh! I pray you, stop this duel!"
She loosed her hand from the clasp of mine, and looked at me a moment in silence; then she laughed bitterly.
"Thou little fool! Thou little blue-eyed fool! What do men see in that face of thine to move them so? A painter might love thee for the gold of thy hair, thy white brow, and thy blue eyes,—they would grace a pictured saint above a shrine,—but for a man's kisses, and such love as might tempt him to risk his very life for thee,—cielos! it is more than passing strange." Then, as I stood dumb before her, she tapped me lightly on the cheek. "Go to! Art such a fool as to think that either sword will be drawn for my beauty's sake?"
That night I had but little sleep.
About an hour after midnight there was a great stir in the house and the sound of opening doors and hurrying footsteps. The unwonted noises terrified me. I leaned against the door, with a heart beating thickly, and I listened. What evil tidings did those sounds portend? There was a loud outcry in a woman's voice,—the voice of Dona Orosia.
I felt that I must know what havoc Fate had wrought in the last hours. I looked at Barbara—she slumbered peacefully on her hard pallet; the moonlight, streaming through the barred window, showed me her withered face relaxed in almost childlike peacefulness. I would not rouse her,—'twas a blessed thing to sleep and forget; but I dared not sleep, for I knew not what would be the horror of my waking. With my cheek pressed close against the door I waited a moment longer. Perhaps only those planks intervened 'twixt me and my life's tragedy!
I laid my hand upon the latch. I feared to know the truth,—and yet, if I did not hear it, I must die of dread. Slowly I turned the key and raised the bars: the door swung open.
I stepped out upon the balcony that overhung the court and I looked over. There was no one in sight; the white moonlight lay over everything, and a strong perfume floated up from the flowers in the garden beyond.
I crept down the stair and stood still in the centre of the empty court. Voices sounded near me, but I knew not whence they came. Trembling still, I moved toward the passage that led to the outer door, and I saw that it was bright as day. The door stood ajar. Those who had last gone out had been strangely forgetful—or greatly agitated.
Scarce knowing what I did, I crossed the threshold and hurried down the street in the direction of the fort.
A group of three men stood upon the corner. At the sight of them I paused and hid in the shadow of the wall; but, one of them turning his face toward me, I recognized Captain Baulk, and, going quickly forward, I laid my hand upon his arm.
"How is he? Where have they taken him?" I whispered.
"What! is't Mistress Tudor? Have they turned you adrift, then? Lor', 'tis a frail craft to be out o' harbour such foul weather!"
"How is he?" I repeated, tightening my grasp upon his sleeve.
"Dead as a pickled herring, poor lad!"
My head struck heavily against the wall as I fell, but I made no outcry.
"Sink me! but the poor lassie thought I meant Mr. Rivers!" I heard the old sailor exclaim as he dropped on his knees beside me,—and the words stayed my failing senses.
"Whom did you mean?" I gasped.
"Young Poole has been done to death, Mistress Margaret. As honest a lad as ever lived, too,—more's the pity!"
I struggled to raise myself, crying: "What do you tell me? Have they killed the lad in pure spite against his master? And where is Mr. Rivers?"
They made me no answer.
"He is dead, then! I knew it, my heart told me so!"
"Eh! poor lass! 'Tis not so bad as that—yet bad enough. They've hung chains enough upon him to anchor a man-o'-war, and moored him fast in the dungeon of the fort. D—n 'em for a crew o' dastard furriners!—an' he own cousin to an English earl!"
"Can you not tell me a straight tale?" I cried. "What has he done to be so ill served? And whose the enmity behind it all,—Melinza's, or the Governor's?"
"Lor'!" exclaimed one of the sailors, "the young Don is past revenge, mistress. If he lives out the night 'tis more than I look to see."
"Here, now, let me tell the tale, lad," the old captain interposed. "'Twas a duel began it, Mistress Tudor. The young bloods were so keen after fighting they could not wait for sunrise, but must needs have it out by moonlight on the beach. 'Twas over yonder, in the lee of the castle walls."
"Mr. Rivers and Don Pedro?"
"Aye, mistress. The Governor was not by,—'tis likely he knew naught of it."
"Not so!" I cried, "he had his share in the quarrel, and they left the house in company."
"Mayhap," said Captain Baulk, "I'd not gainsay it—for I trust no one o' them; but he chose to go with his weather eye shut rather than take precaution 'gainst the squall. So they had it out all by their selves,—and none of us a whit the wiser, saving young Poole, who had guessed somewhat was amiss and followed his master."
"What then? Speak quickly! Was Mr. Rivers wounded?"
"Not he! That's to say, not by any thrust of the Don's. Lor', but it must ha' been a pretty fight! Pity no man saw it that lives to tell!"
"In the name of mercy, sir, speak plainly!"
"Aye, my young mistress, but give me time an' I will. Mr. Rivers ere long did get in such a thrust that the Don went down before it as suddenly as a ship with all her hull stove in. He lay stranded, with the blood flowing away in a dark stream over the white sands. Our young gentleman, gallant heart, did throw away his sword and fall down beside the Spaniard and strive to staunch his wounds, crying aloud most lustily for aid. Who should hear him but young Poole and that yellow devil of a Tomas! They came from opposite quarters, and Poole was in the shadow, so the other saw him not. The mulatto ran up alongside, and, seeing 'twas the Don who had fallen, he whipped out a knife from his belt and struck at our young master as he knelt there on the ground. Nay, now, do not take on so! Did I not say he was but little hurt? Had the blow struck him fairly in the back, as it was meant to do, doubtless it would have put an end to him; but Poole was to the rescue, poor lad! He threw himself on the mulatto in the nick o' time. The knife had barely grazed Mr. Rivers on the shoulder; but young Tomas never let go his hold of it. He and the faithful lad rolled together on the ground—and Poole never rose again. His body was stabbed through in a dozen places. Mr. Rivers had no time to interfere; ere he could rise from his knees, or even put out a hand to take his sword, a dozen soldiers had laid hands on him. That devil of a Tomas finished his evil work, and then picked himself up and walked away; never a one laid a finger on him or cried shame on the foul deed!"
The old sailor paused, and each man of the group breathed a curse through his clinched teeth.
"They have taken Mr. Rivers to the dungeon of the fort?" I whispered.
"Aye, so they tell us. None of us were there, which is perhaps for the good of our necks,—yet I would we had had a chance to strike a blow in defence of the poor lad."
"And the Spaniard—Don Pedro?"
"They carried him into the Governor's own house a while since. I think his wound is mortal."
"Then he has brought his death upon himself, for he forced Mr. Rivers into the quarrel," I declared hastily.
"'Twas bound to come," admitted Captain Baulk, "there has been bad blood between them from the very first. But what are we to do with you, mistress? Did they put you out in anger?"
"Nay," I exclaimed, "I heard a great disturbance and hastened out to seek the cause. The outer door was left unbarred."
"Why then, mistress, we would best make for it again before 'tis shut! This is no hour and no place for a young maid to be out alone." Taking me by the hand he led me back the way I had come; but we were too late. The entrance was closed and barred against us.
"Now, what's to do?" exclaimed the old sailor in dismay.
I had been too crushed and dazed by the ill news to think before of my imprudence; but now I realized how very unwisely I had acted. I turned hastily to the old captain.
"Go and leave me, my good friend," I said. "Already there has been enough trouble of my making. Do not let me have to answer for more. I will wait here and call for some one to open for me. 'Tis better for me to say what is the truth—that I wandered out in my anxiety. Go, I pray you, and be discrete in your conduct, that they may have no just cause to imprison you also."
He saw the wisdom of it and went away out of sight, while I beat with all my might upon the door.
In a moment steps sounded within, the bars fell, and the door was drawn back. It was the Governor himself who stood there. He looked at me in astonishment as he drew aside for me to pass.
I attempted no explanation; for I knew he could not understand me. Doubtless he would tell his lady and she would hold me to account. Slowly I mounted to the balcony above and pushed open the door of my chamber.
The dame still slept peacefully. I went softly to the window and knelt down. My heart was sick for the faithful lad who had died in defending Mr. Rivers. Poor boy! He had no mother—I wonder if there was a little lass anywhere whom he loved? But no, he was young for that. I think his love was all his master's. And to die for those whom we love best is not so sad a fate as to live for their undoing!
The hot tears ran down my face. I leaned my cheek against the bars and set free my thoughts, which flew, as swift as homing pigeons, to my dear love in his dungeon cell.
Oh! I would that all the prayers I pray, and all the tender thoughts I think of him, had wings in very truth; and that after they had flown heavenward they might bear thence some balm, some essence of divinest pity, to cheer him in his loneliness! If it were so, then there would be in never-ending flight, up from the barred window where I kneel, and downward to the narrow slit in his prison wall, two shining lines of fluttering white wings coming and going all these long nights through!
Many days have passed since I began to write these pages.
All the morning after that terrible night, with Barbara I waited fearfully for some manifestation of Dona Orosia's anger. But there was none, nor were we summoned out that day. Food was brought to us, and we remained like prisoners in our chamber. Don Pedro was very low, the servant told us, and the Governor's lady was nursing him.
A week went by,—the longest week I had ever known,—and then we heard that Melinza would recover. However, it was not until he had lain ill a fortnight that Dona Orosia came to visit me.
I was sitting by the window with my head upon my hand, and Barbara was putting some stitches in the worn places in her gown, when the door opened to admit my hostess.
She came straight toward me with a glint of anger in her dark eyes. The long nights of anxious watching had driven back the blood from her smooth olive cheek, and the red lips showed the redder for her unaccustomed pallor. She laid one hand on my head, tilting it backward.
"You little white-faced fool! I would you had never set foot in this town," she cried bitterly.
"Ah! madame, I came not of my own free will," I answered her. "I and my dear love would willingly go hence, an you gave us the means to do so!"
"'Tis likely that we shall, truly," she replied. "'Tis likely that the Governor of San Augustin will keep a galley to ply up and down the coast for the convenience of you English intruders! There came two more of you this morning, from the friar at Santa Catalina."
"Two more English prisoners!" I exclaimed. "Who are they, madame?"
"I know not, and I care not," she said. "I meddle not with things that do not concern me. I come here now but to hear how you came to be on the streets at midnight. Had I been in the Governor's place then, I would have shut the door in your face."
I told her the truth, as it had happened to me; and when she had heard it her brow lightened somewhat.
"Are you deceiving me? You did not leave here till after the duel had taken place?"
"Madame," I said, "I have never yet told a lie, and I would not now were it to save my life."
Her lip curled slightly as she turned to go. "Stir not from this room, then, until Don Pedro is well enough to leave the house," she said. "If I could prevent it he should never look upon your face again." She paused an instant, then added: "I will prevent it!"
"Amen to that!" I said, and I felt the blood burn warmly in my cheek.
She turned and looked at me, and I met her gaze with defiant eyes.
"Amen to that, madame!—for truly I hate him with all my heart!"
She stood still, a slow crimson rising in her pale face, and I trembled a little at my own daring. Then, to my surprise, she laughed at me.
"You think that you hate him desperately?" she exclaimed. "Silly child, it is not in thy power to hate that man as I do, as I have done for years!" and with that she went away and left me wondering.
July, the 16th day.
Two things have happened recently to break the sad monotony of my life within these walls.
Dona Orosia and Melinza have had a disagreement, which has resulted in his removal hence—at his own demand. Although I know nothing of the cause of their quarrel, Dona Orosia's last words to me, the other day, make it possible to understand the man's reluctance to remain here in her care,—and yet they say it was her nursing that saved his life! I would that I could understand it all!
Since his departure I have had the freedom of the courtyard and garden; and yesterday, by good chance, I had speech with one of the newly arrived English prisoners.
It had been a day of terrible heat, and just at nightfall I wandered out into the garden all alone. There is a high wall to it, which so joins the dwelling that together they form a hollow square. This wall is of soft gray stone; it is of a good thickness, and about a man's height. Along the top of it sharp spikes are set; and near one corner is a wrought-iron gate of great strength, which is kept securely locked.
It is not often that I venture near this gate, for it looks out upon the street, and I care not to be seen by any Indian or half-breed Spaniard who might go loitering by; but as I stood in the vine-covered arbour in the centre of the garden I heard a man's voice from the direction of the gate, humming a stave of a maritime air that I had heard sung oft and again by the sailors on the sloop, in which some unknown fair one is ardently invited to—
"—be the Captain's lady!"
and I knew it must be a friend. So I made haste thither and peered out into the street.
Sure enough it was old Captain Baulk, and with him a gentleman whose face, even in the twilight, was well known to me,—he being none other than Mr. John Collins of Barbadoes (the same who had given us news of my poor father's end, and one of our fellow passengers on the Three Brothers).
They both greeted me most kindly and inquired earnestly how I did and if I was well treated. It seems that for days they had been trying to get speech with me, but could find none to deliver a message; so for two nights past they had hung about the gate, hoping that by chance I might come out to them.
Mr. Collins related to me how the sloop had been sent back to Santa Catalina with letters to the friar and the Governor of San Augustin, demanding our release on the ground that as peace was now subsisting between the crowns of England and of Spain, and no act of hostility had been committed by us, our capture was unwarrantable. But Padre Ignacio, with his plausible tongue, had beguiled them ashore into his power.
"The man is a very devil for fair words and smooth deceits," declared Mr. Collins. "In spite of all the warnings we had received, some of us landed without first demanding hostages of the Indians; and when we would have departed two of us were forcibly detained on pretence of our lacking proper credentials to prove our honesty. In sooth he charged us with piratical intentions, though we had not so much as cracked a pistol or inveigled one barbarian aboard. The sloop lingered for three days, but finally made off, leaving us in the hands of the padre. He despatched us here in canoes, under a guard of some twenty half-naked savages, with shaven crowns, who are no more converted Christians than the fiends in hell!"
I asked, then, for news of my uncle, Dr. Scrivener, and Mr. Collins assured me that he was most anxious for my safety, and would have come back with them to demand us of the friar, but he had received a hurt in the neck during the attack at Santa Catalina and was in no state to travel, although the wound was healing well—for which God be thanked!
So far, all the prisoners, except Mr. Rivers, have the freedom of the town; but Captain Baulk declared he would as lief be confined within the fort.
"There be scarce two honest men—saving ourselves—in all San Augustin," he said. "The lodging-house where we sleep is crowded with dirty, thieving half-breeds, who would as willingly slit a man's throat as a pig's. Though they hold us as guests against our will, we must e'en pay our own score; and some fine night—you mark me!—we shall find ourselves lacking our purses."
"Then the Governor will be at the cost of our entertainment," said Mr. Collins.
"'Twill be prison fare, sir," grunted the old sailor, "and we'll be lucky if he doesn't find it cheaper to heave us overboard and be done with it!"
"Tut! man,—hold your croaking tongue in the poor young lady's presence," whispered Mr. Collins; but I heard what he said, and bade him tell us our true case and what real hope there was of our liberation.
"There is every certainty," he said. "When word reaches their Lordships in England, they will not fail to make complaint to the Spanish Council,—and they have no just cause for refusing to set us free. But I trust we shall not have to wait for that. If we had a Governor of spirit, instead of a timorous old man like Sayle, he would have already sent the frigate down here to demand us of the Spaniards. There are not lacking men to carry out the enterprise: Captain Brayne could scarce be restrained from swooping down on the whole garrison—as Rob Searle did, not long ago, when he rescued Dr. Woodward out of their clutches."
"Captain Brayne!—the frigate! Do you mean that the Carolina has arrived?"
"Two months ahead of our sloop," declared Mr. Collins; "but Governor Sayle has despatched her to Virginia for provisions, of which we were beginning to run short. The Port Royal has not been heard of, so 'tis feared she went down in the storm."
He went on to tell me of the new settlement which had been already laid out at a place called Kiawah,—a very fair and fruitful country, which Heaven grant I may one day see!
In my turn I related all that had befallen me since we reached this place. They heard me out very gravely, and promised to contrive some means of communicating with me in case of need.
Then, as it grew very late, we parted, promising to meet the following night; and I crept softly back to the house and my little room, greatly comforted that I now had a worthy gentleman like Mr. Collins with whom I could advise; for with his knowledge of the Spanish tongue and his sound judgment I hope he may influence the Governor in our favour.
* * * * *
The sun is setting now, I think, although I cannot see it from my window; for all the sky without is faintly pink, and every ripple on the bay turns a blushing cheek toward the west. I must lay by my pen and watch for an opportunity to keep tryst at the gateway with my two good friends....
Nine of the clock.
God help me! I waited in the garden till I heard a whistle, and stole down to the gate as before.
A man put out his hand and caught at mine through the bars. It was that vile Tomas—the wretch who would have murdered my dear love! I screamed and fled, but he called after me in Spanish. The words were strange to me—but the tones of his voice and the coarse laughter needed no interpreter!
As I flew across the garden, too frightened to attempt concealment, Dona Orosia stepped out into the courtyard and demanded an explanation. I knew not what to say, for I could not divulge the motive that had sent me out; but I told her that a man had called me from the gate, and when I went near to see who it might be I recognized the servant of Melinza.
She seemed to doubt me at first, till I described him closely; then she was greatly angered and forbade me the garden altogether.
"If I find you here alone again," she hissed, seizing my shoulder with no gentle grasp, "if I find you here again, I will turn the key upon you and keep you prisoner in your chamber."
So now I dare not venture beyond the court and the balconies; and there will be no chance of speaking with Mr. Collins unless he dares to come under my window, and there is little hope of his doing that unseen, for 'tis in full view from the ramparts of the fort, where a sentry paces day and night.
August, the 7th day.
When I began this tale of our captivity it was with the hope that I might find some means of sending it to friends, in this country or in England, who would interest themselves in obtaining our release. However, from what Mr. Collins told me, I feel assured that news of Mr. Rivers's capture has already been sent to their Lordships the proprietors, and this record of mine seems now but wasted labour. Yet from time to time, for my own solace, I shall add to it; and perchance, some day in safety and freedom, I and——another——may together read its tear-stained pages.
This day I have completed the seventeenth year of my age. It is a double anniversary, for one year ago this night—it being the eve of our departure from England—I first set eyes upon my dear love.
Can it be possible that he, in his dolorous prison, has taken account of the passing days and remembers that night—a year ago? 'Twould be liker a man if he took no thought of the date till it was past,—yet I do greatly wonder if he has forgotten.
As for me, the memory has lived with me all these hours since I unclosed my eyes at dawn.
I can see now the brightly lighted cabin of the Carolina, where the long supper-table was laid for the many passengers who were to set out on the morrow for a new world. I had been somehow parted from my uncle, Dr. Scrivener, and I stood in the cabin doorway half afraid to venture in and meet the eyes of all the strangers present. I felt the colour mounting warmly in my cheek, and my feet were very fain to run away, when Captain Henry Brayne, the brave and cheery commander of the frigate, caught sight of me, and, rising hastily, led me to a seat at his own right hand.
(I do recollect that I wore a new gown of fine blue cloth—a soft and tender colour, that became me well.)
As I took my place I glanced shyly round, and saw, at the farther end of the long table, the gallantest gentleman I had ever set eyes upon in all my sixteen years of life. He was looking directly at me, and presently he lifted his glass and said:
"Captain Brayne, I give you the Carolina and every treasure she contains!"
There was some laughter as the toast was drunk, and my uncle—who had only that moment entered and taken his seat beside me—asked of me an explanation.
"Nay, Dr. Scrivener," said the jovial captain, "'tis not likely the little lady was attending. But now I give you—the health of Mistress Tudor! (and it will not be the first time it has been proposed to-night!)"
And that was but a year ago. I would never have guessed that at seventeen I could feel so very old.
San Augustin's Day—August, the 28th.
Oh! but I have been angered this day!
What? when my betrothed lies in prison, ill, perhaps, or fretting his brave heart away, am I to be dragged forth to make part of a pageant for the entertainment of his jailers? I would sooner have the lowest cell in the dungeon—aye! and starve and stifle for lack of food and air, than be forced to deck myself out in borrowed bravery, and sit mowing and smiling in a gay pavilion, and clap hands in transport over the fine cavalier airs of the man I hold most in abhorrence!
Do they take me for so vapid a little fool that I may be compelled to any course they choose? Nay, then, they have learned a lesson. Oh, but it is good to be in a fair rage for once!
I had grown so weary and sick at heart that the blood crawled sluggishly in my veins; my eyes were dull and heavy; I had sat listlessly, with idle hands, day after day, waiting—waiting for I knew not what! Therefore it was that I had no will or courage to oppose the Governor's wife when she came to me this morning and bade me wear the gown she brought, and pin a flower in my hair, and sit with her in the Governor's pavilion to see the fine parade go by.
"This is a great day in San Augustin," she said, "being the one-hundred-and-fifth anniversary of its founding by the Spanish."
As the captives of olden times made part of the triumph of their conquerors, 'twas very fit that I, forsooth, should lend what little I possessed of youth and fairness to the making of a Spanish holiday!
But I was too spiritless, then, to dare a refusal. I bowed my head meekly enough while Chepa—the smiling, good-natured negress—gathered up the rustling folds of the green silk petticoat and slipped it over my shoulders. I made no demur while she looped and twisted the long tresses of my yellow hair, fastening it high with a tall comb, and tying a knot of black velvet riband upon each of the wilful little bunches of curls that ever come tumbling about my ears.
When all was finished, and the lace mantilla fastened to my comb and draped about my shoulders, I was moved by Barbara's cries of admiration to cast one glance upon the mirror. 'Twas an unfamiliar picture that I saw there, and my pale face blushed with some mortification that it should have lent itself so kindly to a foreign fashion.
I would have thrown off all the braveries that minute; but just then came a message from Dona Orosia, bidding me hasten.
"What matters anything to me now?" I thought wearily; and, slowly descending to the courtyard, I took my place in the closed chair that waited, and was borne after the Governor's lady to the Plaza, where, at the western end facing upon the little open square, was the gay pavilion.
Its red and yellow banners shone gaudily in the hot sunlight of the summer afternoon, and the fresh sea breeze kept the tassels and streamers all a-flutter, like butterflies hovering over a bed of flowers.
Three sides of the Plaza were lined with spectators, but the eastern end—which opened out toward the bay—was kept clear for the troops to enter.
Against the slight railing of the little pavilion leaned Dona Orosia, strangely fair in a gown of black lace and primrose yellow, that transformed the soft contours of her throat and cheek from pale olive to the purest pearl. She deigned to bestow but a single cold, unfriendly glance upon me; then she bent forward as before, her lifted fan shielding her eyes from the glare of the sun-kissed sea.
Presently, with the blare of trumpets and the deep rolling of the drums, the King's troops came in sight, three hundred strong.
At the head of the little band, which marched afoot, rode Melinza and the Governor. 'Twas the first time I had seen a horse in the town.
Old Senor de Colis was mounted on a handsome bay that pranced and curvetted beneath him, to his most evident discomfort; but Melinza's seat was superb. It was a dappled gray he rode, with flowing mane and tail of silvery white; a crimson rosette was fastened to its crimped forelock, and the long saddle-cloth was richly embroidered.
As the little company swept round the square, the two horsemen saluted our pavilion. Don Pedro lifted his plumed hat high, and I saw that his face was pale from his recent wound, but the bold black eyes were as bright as ever they had been before.
I drew back hastily from the front of the pavilion and made no pretence of returning his salute. Then, for the first time since I had taken my seat beside her, Dona Orosia spoke to me.
"Why such scant courtesy?" she asked, with lifted brows.
"Madame," I answered, "had my betrothed been here at my side, an honoured guest, I would have had more graciousness at my command."
"What!" she exclaimed, "have you not yet had time to forget your quarrelsome cavalier?"
"I will forget him, madame, when I cease to remember the treachery of those who called themselves his entertainers."
She flushed angrily. "Your tongue has more of spirit than your face. I wonder that you have the courage to say this to me."