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Title: Sir Christopher - A Romance of a Maryland Manor in 1644
Author: Goodwin, Maud Wilder
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber's Notes:

Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_), and text
enclosed by equal signs is in bold (=bold=)

The web browser version of this book contains links to Midi, PDF,
and MusicXML files for the music scores on pages 94 and 319-320.

Additional Transcriber's Notes are at the end.

                   *       *       *       *       *

                            Sir Christopher

[Illustration]



                            Sir Christopher

                       _A Romance of a Maryland
                            Manor in 1644_

                                  BY
                          MAUD WILDER GOODWIN

          Author of "The Head of a Hundred," "White Aprons,"
          "The Colonial Cavalier," etc.

                           _Illustrated by_
                    HOWARD PYLE, AND OTHER ARTISTS

                            [Illustration]

                                Boston
                      Little, Brown, and Company
                                 1901

                          _Copyright, 1901_,
                    BY LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY.


                         _All rights reserved_

                      Entered at Stationers' Hall

                    UNIVERSITY PRESS · JOHN WILSON
                     AND SON · CAMBRIDGE, U. S. A.


                                  TO

                        BLANCHE WILDER BELLAMY

                                  AND

                       FREDERICK PUTNAM BELLAMY



                                Preface


On a bluff of the Maryland coast stand a church, a school, a huddle of
gravestones, and an obelisk raised to the memory of Leonard Calvert.
These alone mark the site of St. Mary's, once the capital of the
Palatinate.

It is near this little town, about the middle of the seventeenth
century, that my story begins, among the feuds then raging between
Catholic and Protestant, Cavalier and Roundhead, Marylander and
Virginian. The Virginians of that day were but a generation removed
from the pioneers who suffered in the massacre of 1622; and the sons
and daughters of those early settlers whose lives were traced in "The
Head of a Hundred"[A] appear in the present romance.

The adventures of Romney Huntoon, of the Brents, and, most of all, of
Christopher Neville and Elinor Calvert, furnish the material of my
story; but I venture to hope that the reader will feel beneath the
incidents and adventures that throbbing of the human heart which has
chiefly interested me.

FOOTNOTE:

[A] Published 1895.


                               Contents


          CHAPTER                                      PAGE

              I. ROBIN HOOD'S BARN                        1

             II. ST. GABRIEL'S AND ST. INIGO'S           16

            III. BLESSING AND BANNING                    34

             IV. THE LORD OF THE MANOR                   49

              V. PEGGY                                   72

             VI. THE KING'S ARMS                         90

            VII. IN GOOD GREEN WOOD                     108

           VIII. A CLUE                                 130

             IX. A REQUIEM MASS                         144

              X. THE ORDEAL BY TOUCH                    159

             XI. THE GREATER LOVE                       172

            XII. HOW LOVERS ARE CONVINCED               180

           XIII. A CHANGE OF VENUE                      196

            XIV. IN WHICH FATE TAKES THE HELM           215

             XV. DIGITUS DEI                            223

            XVI. LIFE OR DEATH                          240

           XVII. ROMNEY                                 256

          XVIII. THE EMERALD TAG                        274

            XIX. THE ROLLING YEAR                       292

             XX. A BIRTHNIGHT BALL                      309

            XXI. A ROOTED SORROW                        334

           XXII. CANDLEMAS EVE                          354

          XXIII. "HEY FOR ST. MARY'S, AND WIVES FOR US
                   ALL!"                                370

           XXIV. THE CALVERT MOTTO                      392



                             Illustrations


      "'Let me go to him!' she shrieked, in her anguish
            of soul"                                _Frontispiece_
               _From a drawing by Howard Pyle_


      "Stretch out thy rod, Cecil"                     _Page_  58
               _From a drawing by James E. McBurney_


      "You are quite a courtier, Master Huntoon"         "    116
               _From a drawing by S. M. Palmer_


      "This is love indeed"                              "    194
               _From a drawing by S. M. Arthurs_


      "He sang to the music of his lute, and she to the
           accompaniment of her whirring wheel"          "    301
               _From a drawing by S. M. Palmer_


    "As it is, I am satisfied. Go!"                      "    390
               _From a drawing by James E. McBurney_


                            SIR CHRISTOPHER



                               CHAPTER I

                           ROBIN HOOD'S BARN


Through the January twilight a sail-boat steered its course by the
light of a fire which blazed high in the throat of the chimney at St.
Gabriel's Manor. Within the hall, circled by the light from the fire, a
Danish hound stretched its lazy length on the floor, and, pillowing his
head against the dog's body, lay a boy eight or nine years old.

He was a plain laddie, with a freckled nose, a wide mouth, and round
apple cheeks over which flaxen curls tumbled in confusion. His big
eyes, the redeeming feature of the face, were just now fixed upon the
shadows cast by the motion of his joined hands on the wall. At length
the lips parted over a row of baby teeth with a gap in the centre,
through which the little tongue showed blood-red, as the boy laughed
long and loud.

"Thee, Knut!" he lisped, with that occasional slip of the letter s
which was a lingering trick of babyhood and cost him much shame, "is
not that broad-shouldered shadow like Couthin Giles? And the tall
one,--why, 'tis the very image of Father Mohl! And the short one ith
Couthin Mary. Look how she bows as she goes before the father! And what
a fine cowl I have made of my kerchief!"

Unconscious of observation as the boy was, he was being closely watched
from two directions. In the shadow of the settle by the fire sat a
tonsured priest, holding before him a breviary over the top of which
he was contemplating the boy on the floor; opposite the priest, on the
landing of the stairs, a woman leaned on the balustrade, following
with absorbed interest every movement of the chubby hands, and every
expression of the childish face, which bore a burlesqued resemblance
to her own. After a moment the woman gathered her skirts closer about
her and stealing down the winding stair, crept up behind the boy and
clasped both hands playfully over his eyes.

"Who is it?" she asked gaily.

"Mother!" cried the child, wrenching himself free only to jump up and
throw himself into the arms outstretched to receive him. "Didst fancy
I was like to mithtake thy hands?" he asked. "No, faith! Father Mohl's
hands are long and cold, and Couthin Mary's fingers are stiff and hard,
no more like to thine than a potato to a puff-ball."

"Hush, Cecil! Hush, little ingrate!" whispered the mother, clapping
her hands this time over his lips. "I would not thy Cousin Mary heard
that speech for a silver crown." Nevertheless, she smiled.

Elinor Calvert, as she stood there with one hand on her son's shoulder
and the other bending back his face, looked like some sunshiny goddess.
Her dress well became her height. She wore a long petticoat of figured
damask, beneath a robe of green stuff. Her bodice, long and pointed,
fitted the figure closely, and the flowing sleeves of green silk fell
back from round white arms. Around her neck was a string of pearls,
bearing a heart-shaped miniature set also in pearls, and held to the
left side of her bodice by a brooch of diamonds. Her figure was tall,
and crowned by a head nobly proportioned and upheld by a white pillar
of throat. Her features were heavily moulded, especially the lips and
chin. The golden hair which swept her brow softened its marked width,
yet the impression conveyed by the face might have been cold had it not
been for the softness of the eyes under their fringe of dark lashes.

In spite of the flashes of gaiety which marked her intercourse with
her son, the prevailing expression of Mistress Calvert's face was sad.
Rumor said that there was enough to account for this in the story
of her brief married life in England, for Churchill Calvert was a
spendthrift and a gambler, who died leaving his widow with her little
son a year old, and no other support than the income of a slender dowry.

In those dark days of her early widowhood Elinor received a letter from
her husband's kinsman, Lord Baltimore.

"I know your pride too well," he wrote, "to offer you any help; but
you must not deny my right to provide for my godson. Money with me is
scarce, but land is plenty, and I offer you in Cecil's name a grant of
seven thousand acres in Maryland. It is covered with virgin forest.
Like the old outlaw you must needs store your grain in caves and stable
your horses and cattle under the trees; wherefore I shall counsel Cecil
to name his manor _Robin Hood's Barn_. Should you be willing to remove
thither, make up your mind speedily, for at the sailing of a ship now
in harbor, our cousins the Brents start for the new world, and would
rejoice to have you and Cecil in their keeping."

Baltimore was right in foreseeing the struggle in Elinor's mind between
pride and love for her child; but he was also right in predicting that
love would triumph, and Elinor thanked him and Heaven daily for this
asylum, where her boy could grow up safe from the temptations of London
which had wrecked his father's life.

As she bent over Cecil to-night, her heart was full of contending
emotions. She and her boy were safely sheltered under the roof of
her dear cousin, Mary Brent, Cecil would soon be old enough to take
possession of the manor at Cecil Point, the future was apparently
bright with promise; yet she was conscious of some unsatisfied hunger
of the heart, and, deeper than that, of a sense of some impending
grief; but she was a woman of shaken nerves easily sunk in melancholy.

"Hark!" cried Cecil, suddenly pulling himself away from his mother's
arms,--"I hear the sound of footsteps outside." At the same moment Mary
Brent came slipping down the stairs.

"Elinor," she said with a little nervousness, "Giles was expecting a
friend to-night."

"Ah?" said Elinor, indifferently.

"Yes; 'tis a pity he was called to St. Mary's in such haste, for the
friend comes on business."

"Perchance he may tarry till Giles returns."

"I hope so,--but, Elinor,--this business concerns thee."

"_Me!_"

"Ay, the new-comer is one who would fain have a lease of the manor at
Cecil Point."

"Robin Hood's Barn? Now, Mary, have I not told thee and Giles that
I would hear of no such plan? I am a woman of affairs and can well
manage till Cecil is old enough to take control. Another six months we
shall rest under your roof,--then, dear cousin, we must be gone to our
own."

Mary Brent laid her hand upon the younger woman's arm.

"Vex me not, Elinor," she said, "by speaking so. Let it be settled that
this is your home. 'Tis not kind to talk of leaving me. Besides, you
could not live upon your lands without an arm to protect you, stout
enough for defence and for toil."

"We will hire laborers."

"Common laborers are not enough. There must be a man with head to
direct as well as hands to work."

Cecil, who had stood by an eager listener, suddenly stripped up the
sleeve of his jerkin and bared his arm.

"Feel that!" he cried, doubling his elbow till the muscle stood out.
Mary Brent laughed as she laid her hand upon it.

"Truly, 'tis a pretty muscle. Yet will it be better for a few more
years of growth. Say, Elinor, wilt thou take this man for thy tenant?
Giles has left the lease already drawn for thee, as Cecil's guardian,
to sign when thou hast settled terms with the man. Giles says he is as
fine a fellow as hath yet set foot in Maryland. He is a gentleman,
moreover, and hath a title, having been knighted for gallant service in
that ill-fated Cadiz expedition some years since."

"Who is the man?"

"Neville is his name, Sir Christopher Neville."

"Christopher Neville!" repeated Elinor, slowly, but the shuffling
of snow-covered feet upon the stepping-stones outside put an end to
further speech. Knut began to bark.

"Give over barking, thou naughty dog! Hie away to the kitchen and make
way for thy betters!" said Mary Brent, making a feint at taking down
a stick from over the fireplace. The dog continued barking, and Cecil
began to laugh.

"Hush, Cecil," said his mother; "where are thy manners? Make haste to
open the door!"

Cecil ran to the door and flinging it wide let in a great gust of wind.
The light from within fell upon a man wrapped in a heavy cloak and
wearing a broad-brimmed cavalier hat with plumes at the side.

"Come in, good thir!" cried Cecil, "before you are frozen stiff;"
and he led the way to the fire, before which Mary Brent stood with
outstretched hand of welcome.

"My brother Giles is called to St. Mary's; but he left a welcome for
you, and bade us keep you without fail till his return."

The new-comer bowed low above Mistress Brent's hand. He was a
tall, plain man, approaching middle age, with keen eyes, and dents
in his face as if Time had nicked it with his sickle. Around his
firm-set mouth, hovered a smile that had summered and wintered many
disappointments.

"Elinor, let me make Sir Christopher Neville known to thee! My cousin,
Elinor Calvert, Sir Christopher, the mistress of Cecil Point."

With this, Elinor, who had stood still as a statue, moved slowly
forward and held out her hand. Neville kissed it.

The priest who had sat in the shadow of the settle, a silent observer
of the scene before him, rose, now that all eyes were turned toward the
stranger, and glided quietly out at the further doorway, murmuring,
"_Suscipiat Dominus sacrificium de manibus meis ad laudem et gloriam
nominis sui!_"

"Come, Cecil!" said Mary Brent. "Let us make ready the hot posset.
I have the ale on the fire a-heating and the milk and sugar and
spices ready, and with a sippet of bread 'tis wonderful sustaining.
Sir Christopher, you will find its sting comforting after your long
journey."

As she drew the child after her she whispered to Elinor, "To business,
Cousin! Tell him he may have the manor for the clearing of the land and
half the harvest!"

The door closed behind her. Elinor Calvert and Christopher Neville
stood looking at each other across the width of the fireplace. A long
silence followed, broken at last by Elinor's impulsive speech.

"Why art thou come hither?"

"Maryland is free to all."

"Why dost thou seek to become my tenant?"

"I have a fancy for the land at Cecil Point."

"Thy answers ring false. Tell me the real reason in a word."

"As well in one word as in a thousand, since the word is _Thou_."

The flush mounted to Elinor Calvert's brow and she stood playing with
the tassels of her girdle, finding nothing to say in answer.

"Yes," Neville went on, "for thy sake I am come hither out of England.
For thy sake I came this night that I might have speech of thee. For
this reason I would fain be thy tenant, that I might add one strong arm
for thy defence in the dangers which threaten."

"Thou art a friend indeed."

"Ay, a true friend, since thou wilt have me for naught beyond. It is
ten years since I asked thee wouldst thou have me for a husband, and
thou didst deny me, and wed Calvert. For four years I strove as an
honest man should to put thee out of my mind. I was fain to believe I
had succeeded, when the news of thy freedom reached me; then the old
love I had counted dead rose up stronger than ever, rose up out of the
grave where I had laid it as in a trance, rose up and bade me never
again cheat myself into the belief that I and it could be put asunder."

The man paused for breath, so shaken was he by the force of his passion.

Elinor Calvert looked at him in terror, unable to break by word or
movement the spell under which he held her. He made a stride closer,
and grasped her hand.

"What stands between us?" he asked, holding her eyes with his, those
penetrating eyes that had the power to pierce all disguises, to rend
all shams to tatters, "Norse een like grey goshawks." Most eyes only
look--Neville's _saw_. The woman before him felt evasions impossible,
subterfuges of no avail.

"Your faith," she answered.

"You cared a little for me, then, in the old days?"

"I did," she answered, like one in a trance bending to the will of
the questioner. As she spoke she unconsciously laid her hand upon the
diamond crescent at her breast.

His eyes followed her motion and he colored high, for he saw that it
was the brooch he had sent her at her marriage. She saw that he saw,
and she too blushed, a painful blush that stained her face crimson and
ran up to lose itself in the shadow of her hair.

"I know who have stood in the way of thy loving me; but let them no
longer come between thee and me, or their tonsured heads shall answer
for it to my sword."

Elinor frowned, and Neville saw that he was endangering his cause.

"Forgive my impetuous speech!" said he. "Forget that the words were
spoken."

"I cannot."

If Elinor had told the whole truth she would have added, "I do not wish
to."

"Then at least put them aside and deal with me in cold business terms
as though we were the strangers thy cousins believe us to be. Wilt thou
have me for thy tenant on shares--three quarters of the harvest to go
to thee and one quarter to me?"

"Tenant of mine thou shalt never be. I could not be so unfair, to let
thee give thy life for me and get nothing in return!"

"To let me do the thing I have set my heart on and get in return a
sight of thee once in the year. That is to make one three-hundred-and
sixty-fifth of every year blessed."

"My tenant," said Elinor, slowly, "thou canst not be."

Neville bent his head.

"But--"

"Blessed be but--! But what?"

"But--perhaps--Cecil's."

"Ay, that is better!" said Neville, smiling a little; "that will be
best, for then there will be no favor on either side, and as the lad
grows older he and I can deal together as man to man."

"Oh, it is such a relief to my mind!" sighed Elinor.

"And to mine," quoth Neville.

"It is not the same thing as being my tenant?"

"Not at all--quite different. And thou wilt come with Cecil to see how
the land fares from time to time?"

"Why, that were but business."

"Truly to do aught else were treason to thy son's interest, and by and
by when the house is built and the title of Robin Hood's Barn suits the
manor no more, thou and he will come to visit me there?"

"That could not be--"

"No, I feared that was asking too much," Neville said humbly, "but at
least thou wilt let me have the boy?"

"How good thou art!"

"_Good!_--I to thee? Shall I tell thee whose picture dwells in my soul
by day and night, Elinor?" There was a curious vibration in Neville's
voice, as if memory were pulling out the stops of an organ.

"Ay, tell me," said Elinor, tremulously, in a voice scarce above a
whisper.

"'Tis that of a girl in a robe of green like the one thou wearest this
night--ay, and floating sleeves like thine, whereby she caught the name
she bears in my heart."

A softness stole into Elinor's eyes and the flush of girlhood rose to
her cheek.

"Ah," Neville went on. "Dost thou remember that day in the Somerset
wood, and how I gave thee the name of Lady Greensleeves, and how I sang
thee the dear old ballad, thou sitting on the stone wall and I leaning
against the great chestnut-tree?"

"Nay, 'twas not a chestnut--'twas an oak, for I do recall the acorns
that lay about thy feet as I listened with my eyes cast down."

"And I stood looking at thy lashes, scarce knowing whether I would have
them lift or not, as they lay against the rose of thy cheek."

"How long ago it all was!" sighed Elinor.

"Yet when thou dost speak and look like that it seems but yesterday.
Oh, my dearest--"

Neville, carried beyond his prudence, drew nearer and was about to fall
upon his knees before her, when he saw the door open to admit Mistress
Brent, followed by a servant bearing a steaming bowl of posset.

How much of his speech had been overheard, he knew not. Manlike he
found it hard to steer his bark in an instant from deep waters into the
shallows of conversation; but Elinor took the helm and dashed into the
safe channel.

"Mary, thou art come in good time to help me to argue terms with a too
generous tenant."

Mary Brent came forward smiling, but a little bewildered.

Elinor took the goblets from the tray and filled them with the posset.
"Drink!" she cried gaily. "Drink both of you to the prosperity of Cecil
Manor, and I will drink a health to Cecil's tenant, Sir Christopher
Neville."

With this, she swept a deep courtesy, and rising, clinked her goblet
against Neville's.

At the same moment Cecil burst upon them from the stairs, his golden
curls topped by Master Neville's brown cavalier hat, and the heavy
cloak sweeping the floor after him as he walked.

"Good evening, madam!" he cried, sweeping off his hat before Mary Brent
with a droll imitation of Neville's manner.

"Small boys," said Elinor, "wax bold as bed hour draws near. Ask pardon
of Sir Christopher and be off to thy bed."

"Thou wilt come with me?"

"Not to-night, sweetheart; we have a guest--"

"Guest or no guest, I go not without thee," cried the child. "'Tis the
first time since our coming thou didst ever deny me. I should lie awake
and see bogies an thou didst not tuck in the counterpane about me with
thine own hands."

"I pray thee," said Neville, under his breath, "grant the boy his wish.
Let not his acquaintance and mine begin with misliking."

At this, Cecil, who till now had hung back and glowered at the stranger
from behind his mother's skirts, came forward with the grace of the
Calvert line, and stretching out his hand frankly to Neville, said: "I
thank you, thir; I am glad you are come to stay with us." As his mother
led him away to bed he turned on the landing and kissed his hand to the
new-comer. Then, with a sudden relapse into the barbarism of childhood,
he dropped on hands and knees and climbed the remaining stairs in that
fashion--growling like a wolf as he went. Ten minutes later the group
in the hall heard him chanting an evening hymn, and his voice had the
high, unearthly sweetness, the clear, angelic note of those who stand
before the Throne.



                              CHAPTER II

                     ST. GABRIEL'S AND ST. INIGO'S


When Elinor returned from Cecil's bedside, Neville detected traces of
weeping in the flush of her cheek and the heaviness of her eyelids; but
her manner was gracious and marked by a gaiety which would have led one
who did not know her well to believe that she was as light-hearted as
the boy upstairs.

The candles on the supper-table shone on a strangely assorted group.
At the head of the board sat Mistress Brent. She was a demure little
lady, like a sleek white cat, full of domestic impulses, clinging to
her hearthstone and purring away life, content to rub against the feet
of those whom she counted her superiors. Her placid face beamed with
joy at the thought that her roof was found worthy to shelter the holy
Fathers from St. Inigo's. Yet, even as she rejoiced, she remembered
with some misgivings a conversation she had held with her brother Giles
before his setting out. "Mary," he had said, "it is rumored throughout
the province that thy house is headquarters for the Jesuits."

"Brother," she had answered, "my house is open to all who seek its
shelter, and shall I shut its doors to the priests of our Holy Church?"

"There is no arguing with women," her brother had said, with a testy
shrug of his shoulders. "Thou must needs turn every question of policy
into an affair of pious sentiment. Baltimore is as good a Catholic as
thou; but he is first of all an Englishman, and second, the ruler of
this province, wherein he hath promised fair play to men of all creeds;
and he will not have the reins of control wrenched from his hands by
the Jesuits, who hold themselves free of the common law, and answerable
to none but the tribunals of the Church."

"I know naught of questions of policy, Giles, as thou sayst; but while
I have a roof over my head, I will take for the motto of my house the
words of Scripture: 'Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.'"

When this motto is posted over the lintel there will never be a lack of
footmarks on the threshold. Many were the guests who came to try the
hospitality of St. Gabriel's Manor, and no visitors were more frequent
than the Jesuits, those brave men who for the sake of their faith had
crossed the sea, braved the perils of the wilderness, and planted a
mission near St. Mary's which they christened St. Inigo's.

On Mary Brent's right hand this evening sat one of these priests,
Father White, whose shrewd eyes shone with love to God and man, whose
heart yearned over the sinner as it bowed before the saint, and whose
life was at the service of the order of Ignatius Loyola. His features
were delicately cut, and the skin of a transparency which recalled the
alabaster columns at San Marco with the light shining through them. So
translucent to the soul behind seemed his fragile frame.

His mulatto servant, Francisco, stood at the back of his chair and
ministered to his wants with loving care.

Opposite Father White sat Christopher Neville, and one at least of the
company found him good to look upon, despite his square jaw and the
sabre-cut over the left eye. But for the particularity of his dress
he might have conveyed the impression of rude strength, but his black
velvet doublet fitted close and gave elegance to the heavily built
figure, and the shirt that broke out above the waist was adorned with
hand-wrought ruffles of an exquisite fineness.

Notwithstanding his plainness, his personality carried conviction.
The whole man made himself felt in the direct glance and the firm
hand-clasp. His words, too, had a stirring quality. People differed,
disputed, denounced; but they always listened. He often roused
antagonism, but seldom irritation. It is not those who oppose, but
those who fail to comprehend, who exasperate, and Neville had above all
the gift of comprehension. Yet with this intellectual perception was
combined a singular imperviousness to social atmosphere. So that in his
presence one had often the feeling of being a piece of china in a bull
pasture; but, in his wildest assault, the slightest droop of the lip,
the faintest appeal for sympathy reduced him to the gentleness of a
lamb.

"I would he were of our communion," thought Father White, studying him.

Near Neville sat a younger priest, the same who had watched Elinor
Calvert and her son from the shadow of the settle. His aspect was more
humble than that of his superior. He bowed lower as he passed the
crucifix rudely fastened to the chimney breast; his eyes were seldomer
raised, and he mumbled more scraps of Latin over his food; but all this
outward show of holiness failed to convince. It was like the smell of
musk which hints of less desirable scents, to be overpowered rather
than cleansed. His narrow gray eyes, cast down as they were, found
opportunity to scrutinize Elinor Calvert closely as she sat by the side
of Neville. Set a man, a priest, and a woman to watch each other--the
priest will catch the man; but the woman will catch the priest.

"Prithee try this wine, Father!" said Mary Brent to the venerable
priest on her right, holding toward him a cup of sparkling red-brown
wine. "'Tis made in our own press from the wild grapes that grow
hereabout, and Giles has christened it 'St. Gabriel's Blessing.'"

"Tempt me not!" said Father White, smiling but pushing the goblet away.
"I have not spent my life studying the _Spiritual Experiences_ of Saint
Ignatius without profiting by that holy man's injunction to regard the
mouth as the portal of the soul. The wine industry is important, but I
fear the effect of drinking on the natives. I have seen a chief take
blasphemous swigs of the consecrated wine at the sacrament, and at a
wedding half the tribe are drunken."

"Prithee, tell me more of these missions among the natives," Elinor
said to Father Mohl, bending the full splendor of her glance upon him;
"are they not fraught with deadly peril?"

"To the body, doubtless."

"'Twould be to the soul too if I were engaged in them, for I have such
hatred of hardship that I should spend my time bewailing the task I had
undertaken."

"Nay, daughter, for ere thou wert called to the trial thou wouldst
have faced the tests that do lead up to it as the _via dolorosa_ to
Calvary. Before we take the final vows we undergo three probations,
the first devoted to the mind, and the last a year of penance and
privation, that we may test our strength and learn to forego all that
hampers our spiritual progress; this is called _the school of the
heart_."

"Would there were such for a woman!"

"There is," said Neville from the other side; "but it is where she
rules instead of being ruled."

Elinor turned and looked at him with that lack of comprehension which
a woman knows how to assume when she understands everything. "He loves
her," thought the priest; "but she only loves his love."

Yet, knowing how many matches have been brought about by this state of
things, Father Mohl set himself to study Neville. He found him reserved
in general, with the suavity and self-command of a man of the world,
but outspoken under irritation.

"We must make him angry," thought the priest.

Seeing that Neville was a Protestant, he began relating the deeds
wrought by priests.

"Do you recall, Father White," he said, "how the natives brought their
chief to die in the mission house, and how Father Copley laid on him a
sacred bone, and how the sick man recovered, and went about praising
God and the fathers?"

"I do remember it well," Father White answered.

"Yes," continued the younger priest, "and I recall how Brother
Fisher found a native woman sick unto death. He instructed her in
the catechism, laid a cross on her breast, and behold, the third day
after, the woman rose entirely cured, and throwing a heavy bag over her
shoulder walked a distance of four leagues."

"Wonderful! wonderful!" murmured Mary Brent.

Neville was irritated, and thought to turn Father Mohl's tales to
ridicule. Whom the gods would destroy they first make droll.

"Did you ever hear of the miracle of the buttered whetstone?" he asked.

"Pray you tell it," said Father Mohl, with his ominous smile.

"Why, there was a friar once in London who did use to go often to the
house of an old woman; but ever when he came she hid all the food in
the house, having heard that friars and chickens never get enough."

If only Neville had looked at Elinor! but he steered as straight for
destruction as any rudderless bark in a storm on a rocky coast.

"This day," he went on, "the friar asked the goodwife had she any meat."

"'Devil a taste!' she said.

"'Well,' quoth the friar, 'have you a whetstone?'

"'Yes.'

"'Marry, I'll eat that.'

"So when she had brought the whetstone, he bade her fetch a frying-pan,
and when he had it, he set it on the fire and laid the whetstone in it.

"'Cock's body!' said the poor wife, 'you'll burn the pan!'

"'No! no!' quoth the friar; 'you shall see a miracle. It shall not
burn at all if you bring me some eggs.'

"So she brought the eggs and he dropped them in the pan.

"'Quick!' cried he, 'some butter and milk, or pan and egg will both
burn.'

"So she ran for the butter, and the friar took salt from the table and
threw it into the pan with butter and eggs and milk, and when all was
done he set the pan on the table, whetstone and all, and calling the
woman, he bade her tell her friends how she had witnessed a miracle,
and how a holy friar had made a good meal of a fried whetstone."

Father Mohl was now angered in his turn. Priests, having surrendered
the love of women, cling with double tenacity to their reverence.

"A merry tale, sir," said he, smoothly, "though better suited to the
ale-house than the lady's table, and more meet for the ears of scoffers
than of believers--Daughter," turning to Mary Brent, "you were amazed a
moment since at the wonders God hath wrought through the hands of His
chosen ones; but the judgments of the Lord are no less marvellous than
His mercies. There was a Calvinist settled at Kent Fort who made sport
over our holy observances."

Elinor Calvert colored and looked from under her eyelids at Neville.
But he went on plying his knife and fork. "If he were angry," she said
to herself, "he would not eat." But in this she mistook the nature of
man, judging it by her own.

"Yes," continued Father Mohl, "although, thanks to our prayers, the
wretch was rescued from drowning on the blessed day of Pentecost,
yet he showed thanks neither to God nor to us. Coming upon a company
offering their vows to the saints, he began impudently to jeer at these
religious men, and flung back ribald jests as he pushed his boat from
shore. The next morning his boat was found overturned in the Bay, and
he was never heard of more."

Neville looked up. "I am glad," he said, "to be able to supply a
happier ending to your story. The man, as it happens, was picked up by
an outward-bound ship, and is alive and well in England to-day."

"You knew the blasphemer, then?"

"I know the man of whom you speak--a fine fellow he is, and the foe of
all liars and hypocrites."

"Ah, I forgot," answered Father Mohl, smoothly, "you are not one of us."

"Not I," cried Neville, hotly; "I have cast in my lot with honest men."

"Say no more," said Mohl, satisfied, "lest thou too blaspheme and die!
_Misereatur tui, Omnipotens Deus!_" Having thus achieved the difficult
task of giving offence and granting forgiveness at the same time,
Father Mohl smiled and leaned back content.

Neville, on his side, was smiling too, thinking, poor fool, that the
victory lay with him; but looking round he saw Elinor raise her wine
cup to her lips, and looking closer he saw two tears rise in her eyes,
swell over the lids, and slip into the wine cup. Instantly he cursed
himself for a stupid brute. "Madam," he said, speaking low in Elinor's
ear, so that she alone could hear him, "thou art wasteful. Cleopatra
cast only one pearl into her wine-cup, and thou hast dropped two."

At the same moment a little white figure appeared in the doorway.

"May I come in for nutth?" asked a small voice.

"Cecil, for shame! Go back to bed this instant!" cried his mother; but
Neville drew a stool between him and Mary Brent, and silently motioned
to Cecil to come and occupy it.

"The child should be taught obedience through discipline," said Father
Mohl, looking with raised eyebrows toward Elinor. Cecil cowered against
the wall; but kept his eyes upon the coveted seat.

Neville crossed glances with the priest as men cross swords. "Or
confidence through love--

"Cecil," he continued, "beg thy mother to heed the petition of a guest
and let thee sit here by me for ten little minutes; I will bid thee eat
nuts,--so shalt thou practise Father Mohl's precepts of obedience."

Elinor smiled, Neville put out his hand, a strong, nervous hand, and
Cecil knew his cause was won.

"Lonely upstairs," he confided to Neville as he helped himself to nuts;
"makes me think of bears."

"Bears come not into houses."

"They say not, but the dark looks like a big black one, big enough to
swallow house and all. I do not like the dark, do you?"

"I did not when I was your age,--that's sure; but I have seen so many
worse things since then--"

"What?"

"Myself, for instance."

"That's silly."

"I think it is."

"Do not say silly things! Mother sends me to bed when I do."

"Is it not silly to fear the dark?"

"Mayhap, but I lie still all of a tremble, and then I seem to hear
a growl at the door, and then blood and flesh cannot stand it and I
scream for Mother. Three or two timeth I scream, and she comes running."

"Wouldst have the bear eat thy mother?"

"Nay, but sure 'nuff he would not. The Dark Bear eateth only little
boys."

"Oh, only little boys?"

"Ay, and he beginneth with their toes. Therefore I dare not kneel alone
to say my Hail Maries. The Dark Bear is not like God, for God careth
only for the heart. Thir Chrithtopher, why doth God care more for the
heart than for the head and legs?"

"Come, Cecil," said Elinor's warning voice, "thou art chattering as
loud as a tree-toad, and the ten minutes are more than passed. Run up
and hide those cold toes of thine under the counterpane!"

"If I go, wilt thou come up after supper to see me?"

"If I can be spared."

"Nay, no _ifs_--ay or no?"

Father Mohl smiled, and his smile was not good to see.

"Is this the flower of that confidence through love which you so much
admire, Sir Christopher?"

"No," answered Neville, "only the thorns on its stem; the blossoms are
not yet out."

"Ay or no?" repeated the child, oblivious of the discussion going on
around him.

"Oh, _ay_, and get thee gone!" cried his mother, thoroughly out of
patience with the child and herself and every one else.

Cecil ran round to her seat, hugged her in a stifling embrace, and then
pattered out of the room and up the stair, reassuring his timid little
heart by saying aloud as he went, "Bearth come not into houtheth!
Bearth come not into houtheth!"

Father Mohl sat with bent head, the enigmatic smile still playing round
his lips. At length, making the sign of the cross, he spoke aside to
Father White,--

"Have I leave to depart?"

"Go--and _pax tibi_!"

The company rose.

"Father, must thou be gone so soon?" Mary Brent asked, with hospitable
entreaty in her tones.

"I must, my daughter."

"This very night?"

"This very night."

"But the road to St. Mary's is dark and rough."

"Ay, but our feet are used to treading rough roads, and the moon will
show the blazed path as clearly as the sun itself."

"Farewell," said Father White. "Bear my greetings to my brothers at St.
Inigo's, and charge them that they cease not from their labors till I
come."

When Father Mohl passed Neville, Sir Christopher, moved by a sudden
compunction, held out his hand. "Hey for St. Mary's!" he exclaimed,
with a note of cordiality which if a trifle forced was at least civil.

Father Mohl ignored the outstretched hand, and with his own grasped the
crucifix at his breast. The sneer in his smile deepened, and one heard
the breath of scorn in his nostrils as he answered, with a meaning
glance at Elinor, "The latter part of the Marylanders' battle-cry were
perchance honester. Why not make it 'Wives for us all'?"

This passed the bounds of patience, and Neville cast overboard that
self-control which is the ballast of the soul. His outstretched hand
clenched itself into a fist.

"Sir!" he cried, very white about the lips, "if you wore a sword
instead of a scapular, we might easily settle our affairs. But since
your garb cries 'Sanctuary!' while your tongue doth cut and thrust
rapier-like, I'll e'en grant you the victory in the war of words.
Good-night, Sir Priest!"

For answer the father only folded his cloak about him and slipped out
of the door as quietly as though he were to re-enter in an hour.

Father White followed Mistress Brent to the hall, from the window of
which she strove to watch the retreating figure of Father Mohl. Neville
thus found himself alone with Elinor Calvert once more. He regarded her
with some anxiety, an anxiety justified by her bearing. The full round
chin was held an inch higher than its wont, the nostrils were dilated
and the eyelids half closed. A wise man would have been careful how
he offered a vent for her scorn; but to her lover it seemed that any
utterance would be better than this contemptuous silence.

"You are very angry--" ventured Neville, timidly.

"I have cause."

"--and ashamed of me."

"I have a right to be."

"Thank Heaven for that!"

"If you thank Heaven for the shame you cause you are like enough to
spend your life on your knees."

"I deprecate your scorn, madam. Yet I cannot take back the saying."

"Make it good, then!"

"Why, so I will. None feel shame save when they feel responsibility.
None feel responsibility for those who are neither kith nor kin save
where they--"

"Where they what?" flashed Elinor, turning her great angry eyes full
upon him.

"Save where they _love_, Mistress Calvert."

It was out now and Neville felt better. Elinor clenched her hands and
began an angry retort, and then all of a sudden broke down, and bending
her head over the back of the high oak chair, stood sobbing silently.

"I pray you be angry," pleaded Neville; "your wrath was hard to bear;
but 'twas naught to this."

"Oh, yes," answered Elinor between her sobs, "it is much you care
either for my anger or your grief, that the first proof you give of
your boasted love is to offend those whom I hold in affection and
reverence."

"'Twas he provoked me to it," answered Neville, sullenly, "with his
tales of my friend yonder, as honest a fellow as walks the earth. Is a
man to sit still and listen in silence to a pack of lies told about his
friend?"

"Say no more!" commanded Elinor. "I see a man is bound to bear all
things for the man to whom he has professed friendship--nothing for the
woman to whom he has professed love."

There was little logic in the argument, but it made its mark, for it
was addressed not to the mind but to the heart.

"Forgive me!" cried Neville--which was by far the best thing he could
have said.

If a woman has anything to forgive, the granting of pardon is a
necessity. If she has nothing to forgive, it is a luxury.

"I do," she murmured.

"Perhaps I was rougher of manner than need was."

"Yet 'twas but nature."

"Yes, but nature must be held in check."

Thus did these inconsistent beings oppose each other, each taking the
ground occupied a few minutes since by the other, and as hot for the
defence as they had been but now for the attack.

Neville seized Elinor's hand and kissed it passionately; then snatching
up his hat and cloak he exclaimed, "I will go after Mohl and make my
peace. Henceforth I swear what is dear to you shall be held at least
beyond reproach by me."

Elinor turned upon him such a glance that he scarcely dared look upon
her lest he be struck blind by the ecstasy of his own soul.

"At last!" he whispered as he passed out into the night.

Was it luck or fate that guided him? Who shall say? Luck is the pebble
on which the traveller trips and slides into quicksands or sands of
gold. Fate is the cliff against which he leans, or dashes himself to
death. Yet the pebble was once part of the cliff.



                              CHAPTER III

                         BLESSING AND BANNING


"Mother! Moth-_er_!"

It was Cecil's voice on the landing, and Cecil's white nightgowned
figure hanging over the balustrade.

"Yes, Poppet, what is it?"

"Thou didtht not come upstairs as thou didtht promise when the nuts
were served...."

"Dearest, I could not. I was in talk with Sir Christopher."

"But thou didtht promise, and how oft have I heard thee say, 'A promise
is a promise'?"

Elinor started from her chair to go toward the stair; but Father White
stayed her with uplifted finger.

"Let me deal with him," he said under his breath; "'tis time the lad
learned the difference between the failure which is stuff o' the
conscience, and that which is the fault of circumstances." Then aloud,
"Cecil, wilt thou close thine eyes and come down to me when thou hast
counted a hundred?"

"Ay, that will I."

"Without fail?"

"Why, surely! There is naught I would love better than toathting my
toeth by the great fire."

"Very well, then; shut thine eyes and begin!"

Cecil counted faithfully to the stroke of a hundred, and then springing
to his feet with a shout, started down the stair, but to his surprise
the priest was nowhere to be seen. Cecil searched behind the settle and
under the table as if one could fancy Father White's stately figure in
such undignified hiding-place! At length the child gave up the search
and called aloud,--

"Where art thou?"

"Here, in this little room," answered a muffled voice, and Cecil ran to
the door only to find it securely fastened by a bolt within.

"Come in," cried the voice.

"I cannot; it ith bolted."

"But you promised--"

"But the door ith fatht."

"What of that? '_A promise is a promise._'"

By this time Cecil, perceiving that jest and lesson were both pointed
at him, stood with quivering lip, ready at a single further word to
burst into tears; but the kind father, flinging wide the door, caught
him in his arms, saying, "We must not hold each other responsible, my
boy, for promises which God and man can make impossible of fulfilment.
We must be gentle and charitable and easy to be entreated for
forgiveness; and so good-night to mother, and I will lay thee again in
thy trundle-bed."

"Has Sir Christopher Neville left us also?" asked Mary Brent, as Father
White came down from Cecil's room and joined her and Elinor at the fire.

"He has."

"A strange man!" said Father White.

Elinor colored.

"Ay," answered Mary Brent; "I cannot make out why Giles hath taken such
a liking to him. To me he seems proud and reserved, with something in
his tone that suggests that he is turning the company into a jest.
For myself I did not see anything droll in his story of the fried
whetstone."

Elinor shrugged her shoulders.

"If every man were condemned that told a tale in which others could see
nothing droll, we should need a Tyburn Hill here in Maryland."

"Ay, but what's the use of telling a droll story if it be not droll? I
do not understand Sir Christopher."

"I don't think you do."

"I think _I_ do."

It was Father White who spoke, and his shrewd gray eyes were fixed
upon Elinor, who turned to the fire without a word.

Mary Brent sat tapping her foot on the floor.

"'Tis strange he should have left without a word," she said at last.

"Never fear, Mary! We have not lost him. He is too large to be mislaid
like a parcel. He did but go out to fulfil a behest of mine, and if
Father White understands him, as he says he does, he will have divined
that it was an errand of courtesy and good-will on which he set out."

A silence fell on the group. Then Father White, looking out, exclaimed:
"'Tis a bitter night and the snow is falling again! No wonder the
settlers grumble over such a winter in this land where they were
promised all sunshine and flowers."

"Yes," said Mary Brent. "If the weather is to be like this, we might as
well have settled on the bleak Massachusetts coast."

"It cannot last long. The natives all say they never knew such a
season. They fear to go abroad at night, there are so many half-starved
wild beasts prowling around."

Elinor rose and began to pace the floor uneasily.

"But," continued Father White, "there are more reasons than those of
climate for preferring Maryland to Massachusetts. How wouldst thou have
prospered in a Puritan colony?"

"I trust even there I should have been true to Mother Church, and
perchance converted some of the heretics from the error of their ways."

"Yet," interrupted Elinor, "they too are serving God in their own way."

Mary Brent shook her head. "I care not to talk of them. In truth had
I known this Neville was a Protestant, I had never urged him for thy
tenant at Robin Hood's Barn."

Elinor murmured something about "toleration."

"Toleration!" repeated her cousin scornfully. "I hate the word. He
that tolerates any religion against his own is either a hypocrite or a
backslider."

"Shall there be no liberty of conscience?"

"Ay, but liberty to think wrong is no liberty."

"These be deep matters, my daughters, and best left to the schoolmen,"
said Father White. "None doubt that Mistress Brent hath kept her
fidelity unspotted to the Church. Let Elinor Calvert pattern after her
kinswoman."

Thereafter Father White turned again to the subject of missions, and
the two women listened till the hour-glass had been turned and the
candles began to burn low in their sockets. At last Mary Brent grew
somewhat impatient. If she had a vice it was excess of punctuality. She
was willing to share her last crust with a stranger; but he must be on
hand when it came out of the oven. The hours for meals and especially
for bedtime were scrupulously observed in her household, and to-night
it irked her to be kept up thus beyond her usual hour for retiring.

Elinor, perceiving this and feeling some sense of responsibility for
the cause, said at last,--

"I pray thee, Cousin, wait no longer the coming of Sir Christopher,
whose errand has kept him beyond what I counted on, else I would not
have given my consent. Father White and I will sit up to await his
coming. Go thou to bed, and see that the counterpane is drawn high over
Cecil, for the howling of the wind promises a cold night."

"Poor little one!" said Mary Brent, rising and evidently glad of an
excuse for retiring, "I will see that he is tucked in warm and snug.
Sir Christopher is to sleep next Father White. I have had his bed made
with our new homespun sheets."

As Mistress Brent passed out of sight up the stairs, Elinor turned to
Father White with tears standing in her eyes,--

"How good she is!" she murmured.

"Ay, a good woman--her price is above rubies. I pray that by her
example and influence you may be held as true as she to your duties to
God and His Holy Church."

Elinor stirred uneasily. The movement did not escape the priest's
eye, accustomed to studying every symptom of the soul's troubles as a
physician studies the signs of bodily tribulations.

"My daughter," he continued, "is your heart wholly at peace--firmly
stayed upon the living rock?"

"No! no!" cried Elinor, "it is rather a boat tossed upon the waves at
the mercy of every tempest that sweeps the waters."

"How strange!" said Father White, speaking softly as to a suffering
child. "How strange that you thus of your own will are tossed about,
and run the risk of being cast upon the rocks; yea, of perishing
utterly in the whirlwind, when peace is waiting for you, to be had for
the asking."

"I would I knew how to find it."

"Even as St. Peter found it when he too was in peril of deep waters, by
calling upon the name of the Lord. Come, my daughter, come with me to
the altar, that we may seek it together!"

Taking a candle from the table he rose and led the way to the recess
at the end of the hall, which Mary Brent had piously fitted up as a
chapel, where before the altar burned the undying lamp of devotion.

"Here," said the priest, "peace awaits the storm-tossed soul. It shall
be thine. But first must thou throw overboard all sinful desires, all
guilty memories, all selfish wishes, and seek in simplicity of heart
that peace of God which passeth understanding. Kneel, my daughter, at
the confessional!"

So saying he seated himself in the great oaken chair, brought out of
England. Elinor fell upon her knees beside it and poured out the grief
and struggles of her tumultuous soul.

"Bless me, Father, because I have sinned." The voice trembled at first
so that the words could scarcely be heard, but grew firmer as she went
on in the familiar words: "I confess to Almighty God, to blessed Mary
ever Virgin, to Michael the archangel, to blessed John the Baptist,
to the holy apostles Peter and Paul, to all the saints, and to you,
Father, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed,
through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault."

"_Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!_" How the words ring down the
ages laden with their burden of human penitence and remorse! Still,
despite all the uses to which they have been wrested by hypocrisy and
levity, they remain infinitely touching in the link they furnish, the
bond of unity for the suffering, sin-laden souls of many races and many
generations.

When Elinor had finished the list of offences whereof she wished to
free her soul, and which even to the sensitive conscience of Father
White appeared over trivial for the emotion she had shown, the priest
asked softly: "Is there nothing else? Examine well thine heart. Leave
no dark sin untold to grow in the shadow and choke the fair flower of
repentance."

"No, Father, I know of no other sin."

"Nor any unworthy wish?"

"Nor any unworthy wish."

"Nor any carnal affection threatening to draw thy soul away from the
path of salvation?"

The shaft was shrewdly aimed. It struck home.

"Father, is it a sin to love?"

"It may be--a deadly sin."

"To love purely, with a high and unselfish devotion?"

"It may be."

"Prithee, tell me how, since God himself is love."

"There is indeed a Godlike love, stooping to the weakest, bending over
the lowest, yearning most over the most unworthy, such as the love of
the shepherd for his sheep, of the mother for her son, of the true
priest for his flock; but let a woman beware how she brings to the
altar such a love for her husband."

Elinor started.

"Yes," Father White went on tenderly, but as one who must probe the
wound that it may heal the sooner, "it is the nature of woman to look
up. She will do it, and if she cannot raise the one she loves she will
stoop to the dust herself, that from that abasement the man may still
seem to stand above her."

"Father," cried Elinor, casting aside all concealment, "the man I love
is not base."

"Do I know him?"

"You have seen him."

"This night?"

"This night."

"Can a man who knoweth not how to rule his own tongue rule a wife, and
above all a wife like thee, aflame one instant, the next melted to
tenderness, full of pity and long-suffering, yet quick of spirit and
proud as Lucifer?"

Elinor was silent.

"A captious temper is a grievous fault, yet it may be mended--if he is
of the true faith. But, oh, my daughter, tempt not thy fate by marrying
an unbeliever! Faults thou mayst conquer; sins thou mayst forgive or
win forgiveness for; but unbelief is a blight which fosters every vice
and destroys every virtue. Root up this passion, though it seem to
tear thy life with it. Think on thy boy! Durst thou expose him to the
influence of such an example?"

"Father," said Elinor, tremulously, "I cannot answer now--I must have
time to think. Who knows but my love may draw him into the right path?"

The priest shook his head; but as he was about to answer, the stamping
of feet was heard outside, and Father White dismissed his penitent with
a wave of his hand.

"Go, my daughter. But as thou dost value thy soul and the soul of thy
boy, entangle thyself no further till thou hast taken counsel once more
with me. And may Almighty God be merciful unto thee, and, forgiving
thee thy sins, bring thee to life everlasting!"

Elinor rose from her knees, and drawing aside the curtain passed out
into the hall, while Father White tarried for the candles.

Neville came in at the outer door, bringing with him a gust of wind and
cold. Knut rose from the hearth with a low growl and moved suspiciously
toward the stranger, then, drawn by some magnetic attraction, he nosed
about him and at last fawned upon him and rubbed against his legs,
seeking a caress. Neville bent over and patted his head. "Good dog!"
he said, "I would I had had you with me in the forest yonder. Belike
I had not been so long in finding my way out. Ah, Mistress Calvert,"
he added, peering into the shadow from which gleamed the shimmer of
Elinor's gown, "I am grieved to have kept the household awake so late,
and all for naught, since I failed as completely in the search for
Father Mohl as though he had vanished like a spirit in the air."

"Yet of old you were a swift runner. I have seen you chase a hare
across the fields at Frome and keep the pace."

"Ay, but that was over Somerset turf, and with the light of day to
guide me."

"I am much disappointed--"

Neville felt the chill in Elinor's tone.

"Not more disappointed than I," he answered. "'Tis the elements must
bear the blame. When I started out the moonlight shone full on the
path, and I could see my way for a quarter of a mile, but even then the
clouds were hanging round the moon like wolves about a sheep-fold. In
half an hour she was swallowed up, and then, to confuse me the more,
a light snow began falling, slowly at first, then faster and faster,
till, what with the wind in my face and the snow on the path, I lost
the trail somewhere near the cross-road. Before I knew it I was caught
in a thicket of brush and briar, and when I had struggled out there was
no hope of catching the priest."

Elinor looked closely at Neville. He was very white and breathing
heavily.

"You are hurt," she exclaimed, moving toward him with quick sympathy.
"See, your garments are pulled this way and that as if you had
struggled with worse foes than the wind."

"Only contact with a few brambles through which I forced my way back to
the road I had lost."

"But your jerkin is torn--"

"Ay, caught on a stray branch which hung too low."

"And there is blood on your boots--yes, and on your hands. Oh, tell me
what you have gone through while we sat here at our ease by the hearth!"

Neville drew near and spoke low: "For such sympathy I would have dared
far more than I met. If you will have the story, it fell out thus.
Having forgot to buckle on my sword as I went out, I found myself
scantily armed with my short poniard. Yet did I never think of danger,
till after I had turned about, and losing the blazed path, began to
scan each branch I passed, for some token that might lead me straight.

"Peering about me with my poniard in hand to cut the boughs, I was
aware of a rustling in the branches over my head as of something
heavier than bird or fowl. I jumped aside. The creature sprang and
missed me. My hope lay in a counter attack, and I in turn leaped upon
her, and buried my poniard in her neck. She must have been made of
something other than flesh and blood, else she had fallen dead at my
feet from that blow; but instead she made off at a bound, and with such
speed that I had no chance to discover her species, though in the dark
she looked about the size of a panther. The worst thing in the whole
adventure was the loss of my knife. It has helped me through many a
perilous place, and it goes hard with me to have lost it now. I suppose
I may count this the best service it has done me. But why do I dwell
at such length upon a trifle? I warrant there be few hunters who have
passed a night in our wilderness without some such taste of the manners
of wild beasts."

"Make not light of such an escape," murmured Elinor, breathlessly. "As
for me, I will give thanks for thee upon my knees in my closet. Father
White will show thee to thy chamber. 'Tis the one next his, and hath
the distinction of owning a bed with sheets in place of a deerskin."

Neville gazed at Elinor with some disappointment. He did not appreciate
that this was the way her quick wit chose to let him know that their
conversation was overheard. As he looked up at her words, he saw Father
White moving towards them. The candle in his hand shone upward and cast
a light on his white hairs, which gave them the effect of a halo around
his forehead. As he held up his fingers in token of benediction to
Elinor as she passed him, he seemed like some saint breathing serenity
and heavenly joy.

Despite his lifetime prejudices Neville felt himself vaguely stirred by
the half-unearthly vision of the saintly face framed in its snowy halo,
and the dark robes fading into the blackness of the hall beyond.

"Bless me too, Father!" he murmured, "for I have sinned." The priest
moved as if he were about to comply, then suddenly recalling himself,
he dropped his half outstretched arm and asked:

"Is it the blessing of Holy Church you crave?"

"No, faith!" cried Neville, suddenly emancipated from the thrall of his
first impression. "It was but the blessing of a good man I asked, which
to my thinking should have some value, with the backing of any church
or none; but since it must be bought with hypocrisy or begged on bended
knee I will have none of it. Good-night, madam," he added, bowing low
to Elinor; and helping himself to a candle from the table, he lighted
it at the fire.

"Good-night, my daughter!" the priest echoed, and added softly:
"_Concede misericors Deus fragilitati nostræ præsidium!_"



                              CHAPTER IV

                         THE LORD OF THE MANOR


The morning sun streamed into the bedroom where Cecil slept on his low
truckle-bed beside his mother's curtained couch. The brilliant rays
tugged at the boy's eyelids and lifted them as suddenly as the ropes
raise the curtain of a play-house, and indeed to this small observer
it seemed that a perpetual comedy was being acted in the world for his
special benefit. Better still, that it was his delightful privilege to
play the part of Harlequin in this rare farce of life and to make the
gravest grown-people the sport of his jests. The earliest manifestation
of humor, in the individual as in the race, is the practical joke;
so it was quite natural that as a fresh and delightful pleasantry it
occurred to Cecil, instantly on waking, to creep over to his mother's
bed and begin to tickle her ear with the tassel of the bed curtain. The
mere occupation was pleasure enough, but the sensation rose to ecstasy
as he watched the sleepy hand raised time after time to brush away
the supposed insect. At length the enjoyment grew too exquisite for
repression, and at the cost of ruining its own existence burst out into
a peal of laughter that roused the drowsy mother.

"Thou naughty implet! What hour o' the clock is it?"

"I know not the hour o' the clock; but o' the sun 'tis past rising
time, and Couthin Mary is stirring already."

"Then we must be stirring too; but first sit thee down here on the edge
of the bed and try to listen as if thou wert grown."

"I am, mother,--I am above thy waist."

"Ay," said Elinor, smiling, "but the question is, art thou up to my
meaning? Hearken! Dost thou know what a tenant is?"

"Ay,--'tis a man who farms thy land, giving thee half and keeping three
quarters for himthelf."

His mother laughed.

"Thou hast a good understanding for one so young, and the description
is apt enough for most tenants; but how sayst thou of one who would
give thee three quarters and keep only one for himself?"

"Why, 'twould not become a Calvert to drive such a bargain with such a
poor fool."

"Thou art not far wrong. Share and share alike is fair dealing 'twixt
land and labor, and so let it be between thee and Sir Christopher
Neville."

"Thir Chrithtopher Neville! The gentleman that came last night? Why, he
ith no laborer. He cannot be in need to work for a living."

"Nay, Cecil, 'tis a labor of love."

"There, mother, I knew he liked me, for all thou saidst my borrowing
of his sword and cloak did anger him. Every one likes me. Couthin Mary
says so."

"Vain popinjay! thou art too credulous of flattery."

"Would Couthin Mary tell a lie?"

"Never mind that question now, but don thy best clothing for the
ceremony of receiving the homage of thy tenant this morning."

"Hooray! Am I to wear my morocco shoes with the red satin roses?"

"Ay."

"And my thilver-broidered doublet?"

"Ay, little peacock."

"And my stockings with the clocks of gold? Oh, Mother, it makes me
feel so grand! I like being lord of the manor. And Thir Chrithtopher
Neville must kneel before me; and how if I tickle him on the neck when
he bends, and make him laugh out before them all?"

"Cecil, if thou dost disgrace me by any of thy clownish pranks, thou
and I will never be friends more. And give thyself no airs either with
this kind new friend. Say to thyself, when he bows before thee, that it
is strength bending to weakness, and pride stooping that it may help
the helpless."

"Do I stand on the platform at the end of the hall where Couthin Mary
stands when her tenants come in?"

"Yes, with Cousin Mary and me beside thee."

"I hope Thir Chrithtopher trips on the step. But I like him, for all he
hath the eyes of a hawk and the mouth of a mastiff."

"Well thou mayst like him! Friends like him are scarce enough anywhere,
and most of all in this new land. Now run away and make haste lest
we vex Cousin Mary by our tardiness, and so begin awry the day which
should open with all good omens. But, Cecil, I have a gift for thee,
something I gave thy father on our marriage. I did think to keep it
till thou shouldst be of age; but on the whole I would rather thou
hadst it to remember this day by."

So speaking, Elinor unlocked her jewel-chest of black oak bound with
brass, and drew from within a pomander-box of gold, the under lid
pierced with holes which permitted the fragrance to escape till it
nearly filled the room with the mingled odor of rose attar and storax,
civet and ambergris, the upper lid adorned with a miniature of Elinor
Calvert painted on ivory and set in pearls like the picture of Cecil
which she wore at her breast. The artist had worked as one who loves
his task, and the delicate tints of neck and arms shone half-veiled by
the creamy lace that fell over them. In the golden curls a red rose
nestled, and around the throat glistened a necklace of rubies.

"Mother!" exclaimed Cecil, "wert thou once as beautiful as that?"

Elinor smiled; but it was not quite a happy smile.

"Yes, once I was as fair as that, and in those days there were many
to care whether I was fair or not. Now there be few either to know or
care."

"Nay, to me thou art still fair, Mother, and there is another who
thinks so too."

"Who is that?"

"Thir Chrithtopher. I saw him looking at you last night, and, Mother,
dost not think, since he thinks to deal so generously with us, it would
be a fine thing for me to give him this portrait of thee to bind the
bargain?"

"Foolish baby, 'twill be time enough to think of that when he asks for
it."

"Then if he asks for it, I may give it--"

"A safe promise truly," said Elinor, smiling this time with beaming
eyes and cheeks, whose rose flush matched the coloring of the ivory
portrait. "Now hasten with thy dressing."

Cecil's head was so filled with thoughts of the pomander-box and his
own greatness that his mother was fully dressed while he sat mooning
over the lacing of his hose and breeches, and gazing with admiring
fondness at the red roses on his holiday shoes.

Three times Cousin Mary had called to him to make haste, and when at
last he entered the hall every one had finished eating, and he was sent
in disgrace to take his breakfast in the buttery. This was too great a
blow for his new-swollen pride, and he fell to howling lustily, while
the tears flowed into his cup of milk and salted it with their brine.
The day which an hour ago had been one glow of rose color all arranged
as a background for the figure of Cecil Calvert in his velvet suit and
gold-clocked stockings, had become a plain Thursday morning in which a
little boy was crying into his milk in a bare buttery hung with pails
and pans.

Suddenly he felt a strong arm thrown over his shoulder, and a kind
voice said in his ear: "I have been late more than once, Cecil; but it
will not do for pioneers, least of all for Little John or Robin Hood."

"Go away; I hate thee," answered the amiable child.

"Dost thou truly? and why?"

"Because were it not for thee I had not put on my best suit with the
troublesome lacings, and but for that I had not been late, and but for
that Couthin Mary had not been vexed, and but for that Mother had not
punished me."

"I see clearly it is I am to blame; and now if thou hast finished thy
bread and milk let us go and ask pardon for our--I mean my fault, and
perhaps we shall be forgiven."

Hand in hand the Lord of the Manor and his tenant sought the hall.

As they walked along the corridor, Neville's face wore a characteristic
smile. This smile of his seemed to begin in one corner of his mouth
and ripple along without ever quite reaching the other, which, to tell
the truth, would have required a goodly journey. There was a certain
fascination in the smile; but one who would fathom its meaning must
look for it, not in the lips at all, but in the pucker of the eyelids
and the gray twinkle of the eyes and the chuckle that lay hid somewhere
in the little creases that the years had drawn in diverging lines from
the point where the lids met.

If Neville was amused he felt no need of proclaiming the fact. A sense
of the ridiculous marks the noisy man, wit the talkative man; but humor
and silence have a strange affinity, and a smile needs no interpreter
to itself.

"Pray, Mistress Brent," said Neville, bowing before his hostess when
they reached the hall, "wilt thou forgive me for being the cause that
Master Cecil did put on his best suit with the troublesome lacings,
whereby he was late to breakfast?"

Mary Brent, being a literal soul, replied, "Why, 'twas not thy fault at
all."

"Then," said Neville, "let the offence become a fixed charge upon the
estate, which I as tenant must assume, and whereupon I promise to give
a breakfast party at Robin Hood's Barn to those here present on this
date each year in remembrance of this day's delinquency.

"As for thee, Sir Landlord, I will give thee an Indian bow and arrows,
that thou mayst play Little John, and when thou dost come a-hunting at
Robin Hood's Barn, thou mayst work havoc at thy will among the heron
and wild duck which I am told do specially abound on the shores of the
bay.

"How say you, Mistress Brent, are the terms accepted, and are we ready
for the ceremony of investiture?"

"I have already bidden in the household," said Mary Brent, and
following on her words there came filing in a train of men and maid
servants, white and black, all arrayed in holiday attire, till the
lower part of the long room was filled.

"'Tis a stately ceremonial thou hast planned," said Elinor, smiling at
her cousin.

"Well enough!" Mary Brent answered, veiling her satisfaction in
deprecation, "since thou hast as yet no tenants, and canst not hold a
court baron at Robin Hood's Barn. I would Giles and Leonard Calvert
were here, for in truth 'tis as goodly a show as we have held."

The tenantry were gathered.

On the dais stood Cecil, his eyes dancing under the page-cut hair which
fell like thatch over his forehead, and his curls tremulous with the
excitement, which would not let him be still for an instant. Elinor
stood beside him in a white dress with a golden girdle, and on the step
knelt Neville.

Elinor found leisure to note the elegance of the jewelled buckles which
he wore on his shoes, and that his collar was of Venice point. It
pleased her that he had taken as much trouble to array himself for his
investiture as he would have done for a court function.

Of what was Neville thinking as he knelt there on the step of the dais?

Was it of Cecil and his manor?

Not at all.

Of law and leases?

Still less.

Of what, then?

Why, of the tiny point of a lady's slipper under a white robe, a
slipper that tempted him to bend a little lower still and kiss it.
Would she feel it, he wondered? Would she chide him if she did? Men
kissed the foot of a saint without blame. If the adorable is to be
adored and the lovable to be loved, why was not the kissable to be
kissed? Besides,--only a slipper!

He was in the hem-of-the-garment stage of his passion, and fancied
himself humble in his desire.

"Stretch out thy rod, Cecil!" It was Elinor's voice that broke in on
Neville's indecision.

[Illustration]

The boy reached forth the stick of ebony tipped with silver which was
Baltimore's gift to Mary Brent on her coming out of England. Neville
grasped the other end, and smiling at Cecil, with a single upward
glance at Elinor bending over him, he said,--

"Hear you, my lord, that I, Christopher Neville, shall be to you both
true and faithful, and shall owe my fidelity to you for the land I hold
of you, and lawfully shall do and perform such customs and services as
my duty is to you, so help me God and all His saints."

"Amen!" said Father White.

"By the terms assigned I do promise to pay to you on taking possession
of the manor at Cecil Point ten Indian arrows and a string of fish,
and thereafter, when the land shall be cleared, to yield you three
quarters of the harvest yearly."

"Nay," interrupted Cecil, "'tis not the bond mother and I did agree
upon; 'twas to be share and share alike. Saidst thou not so in bed this
morning, Mother?"

Before Elinor could reply, Father White spoke as he stepped forward,--

"The case may be happily settled, my daughter, by the yielding of the
quarter in dispute to the revenue at St. Inigo's for the benefit of
Holy Church."

The mutinous blood rose in Neville's cheeks and his chin went out
quarter of an inch; but he held his peace and looked toward Elinor, who
also colored but spoke firmly,--

"Nay, Father, 'twere not well that the Church should profit by an
injustice. What duty Cecil hath to the Church is for thee and me
to settle later, but it must come from his share and not from Sir
Christopher's. Now, Cecil, 'tis thy turn to make thy promise to thy
tenant. Go on: 'I, Cecilius Calvert--'"

"Now, Mother," said the young landlord, shaking off the admonishing
hand from his shoulder with a petulance for which a young Puritan would
have been roundly punished, "if thou dost prompt me like that none will
believe I know my part, and I have learned it as well as thou, thus:
I, Cecilius Calvert, do hereby accept thee, Chrithtopher Neville, as my
tenant at Cecil Point, and promise to protect thee in thy rights to the
extent of the law, and if need be by the aid of my sword."

Neville smiled in spite of himself at the words, and a ripple of
laughter went round the circle of tenants as they noted the comparative
size of protector and protected; but Cecil was too full of his
new-fledged dignity to heed them. He called for the written deed and
the candle and the wax, and on the oaken table he scrawled his name
under those of his mother and Sir Christopher, and then taking off his
signet ring--'twas his father's and a deal too wide for his chubby
finger,--he pressed it firmly into the wax covering the seam of the
folded paper, and then stood looking with admiration at the print of
the crest; a ducal crown surmounted by two half-bannerets. "'Tis a
pretty device, is it not, Thir Chrithtopher? I would you had as pretty
a one. Mother, if Thir Chrithtopher Neville married thee would he bear
the Calvert crest?"

If one could slay one's child and bring him to life again after an
appropriate interval many of us might be tempted to infanticide. A
great flame of anger and shame rose to Elinor's cheek; but Neville came
to her assistance.

"Nay, little landlord," he said coolly, "no husband of thy mother
could bear thy crest. 'Tis for thee, as the only heir in this
generation, to bear it worthily before the world. Mistress Brent, is
the ceremony ended?"

"Ay, and most happily," said Mary, nervously, struggling between desire
to laugh and cry; "let us have in the cake and wine."

The servants went out to fetch the great trays of oaken wood with
rim and handles of silver which had been in the Brent family for
generations. As they re-entered in procession,--for Mary Brent dearly
loved form and ceremony, and kept it up even here in the wilderness,--a
knock was heard at the iron-studded door.

Being flung open it revealed the figure of a man, a tall, slender man
with Saxon flaxen hair and true blue eyes.

"Mistress Brent?" he said questioningly, looking from Mary to Elinor.

"I am she," said Mary, stepping forward and holding out her hand with
even more than her usual warmth of hospitality. "Can I be of service to
you?"

"The question is, rather, are you willing to allow my claim upon your
far-famed hospitality?"

"I think it has never yet been denied any one."

"I believe it well, but perhaps no one ever yet claimed it who lay
under such a shadow. If you consent in your goodness to shelter a
traveller, you must know that you are harboring the brother of Richard
Ingle."

Mary Brent started, for her brother had confided to her Richard Ingle's
treasonable speeches, and in her eyes treason ranked next to blasphemy
among the unpardonable sins. For an instant she hesitated and half
withdrew her hand, then stretching it out again she looked full at him
and said,--

"'Twere a pity frank truth-telling like yours should cost you dear. Let
me ask but one question, Do you hold with your brother in his treason?"

A pained look came into Ralph Ingle's eyes. "Lady," he said, "'tis
a hard matter to hear or speak evil of one's brother--one's only
brother." His lip trembled, but the voice rang clear and steady.
"Yet when the time comes to choose between brotherly affection and
one's duty to King and Commonwealth, the knot must be cut though the
blood flows. So I told Richard yesterday, there on the deck of _The
Reformation_, and hereafter we have sworn to forget that the same
father called us both son."

"You speak like a true man," said Mary Brent, "and shall be taken at
your word. You find us celebrating the tenancy of Sir Christopher
Neville yonder, who is taking up land of Mistress Calvert and her son.

"Elinor, this is Master Ingle. Judge him on his deeds--not his name!"

Ingle swept the ground with the plumes of his hat before Elinor as he
murmured,--

"Nay, rather judge me of your own gentleness, and let mercy temper the
verdict."

Neville stood, looking coldly at the intruder. He was jealous, for he
saw the light of a new interest dawning in Elinor Calvert's face, and
he saw the hot, passionate light of love at first sight as clear as day
in Ralph Ingle's eyes.

For the first time he was conscious with angry protest that he was
growing old. His cast-down glance fell upon his grizzled mustachios,
and he inwardly cursed the sign of age. "The conceited stripling!" he
muttered, as he looked at the bowing golden curls. "I know I am not
just. I have no ambition to be just. I hate him. Come, Cecil," he said,
crossing over to where the child stood holding a wine cup in one hand
and a distressingly large slice of fruit cake in the other, "thou and I
have no larger part to play here than the cock in Hamlet."

"What part did he play?" asked Cecil, crowding his mouth with plums,
while he held the remaining cake high above his head to escape Knut's
jumping.

"Oh, the important office was his to announce the daybreak and put an
end to the ghost's walking. Do ghosts walk nowadays dost thou think,
Cecil?"

"Sure."

"I think so too; I have seen them,--in fact, I feel sometimes as if I
were one of them."

"Art thou really?" Cecil's eyes were round as saucers.

"Well, never mind that question just now. Perhaps I am--perhaps I am
not; do thou drain thy wine, and let us be off outside to build a
snow-man in the road."

Nothing loath, the child slipped his hand into the big, muscular one
held out to him, and unobserved by the preoccupied group around the
fire, they slipped out.

Ralph Ingle turned as they passed him. "I must watch that man," he
thought. "He who takes a child by the hand takes the mother by the
heart."

"Wait," said Cecil at the door. "I must doff my finery, for who knows
when I may need it to receive another tenant?"

"Prudent lad! I will do the same, lest I catch the fever and then thou
must needs seek a new tenant. But, Cecil, promise me one thing."

"Ay, a dozen if you wish."

"Promise me that, whatever tenants thou mayst have hereafter, thou wilt
like me best."

"Why, so I will, especially if you give me the bow and arrows you
promised. I liked you right away last night, and mother likes you, and
Cousin Mary likes you, and Father White likes you a little; but I'll
tell you who doth not."

"Let us hear, then; who is he that has such poor taste in likings?"

"Father Mohl."

"Why do you think that?"

"He thmiled at you."

"Oh! Is that a bad sign with the reverend Mohl."

"You mutht not call him that--you mutht call him holy Father. But you
are right, it is a bad sign when he smiles that way. It is how he looks
when he complains to Mother of me, and gets me a whipping. Father White
smiles like a kind old pussy-cat; but Father Mohl smiles like a wolf."

"But thou wilt stand my friend even if Father Mohl like me not?"

"Pooh, that makes no difference!"

"And thou wilt help thy mother to go on liking me?"

"Yes. She does everything I ask her to, and I'll tell her you are going
to be my best friend."

"I thank thee."

"Well, you are, you know. Of course you are rather old and somewhat
plain, and I cannot promise not to think Master Ingle within there is
handsomer, but I shall always like you best, and beauty doth not count
when you know a person."

"No, but 'tis an amazing good letter of introduction. Now fly up and
change to thine old suit and we will build a snow-man as high as the
window and we will put curls on him as long as those on that jackanapes
inside--I mean as those of the beautiful young man who calls himself
Ralph Ingle."

When Cecil had changed to his every-day clothes he came down again
looking more comfortable in mind and body. "I think," he confided to
Neville, "that I could eat another piece of cake. The belt of this
doublet is so much looser than in my best."

"Ay, but there is dinner to come, and 'tis best to make allowance for
this future; besides, who is this at the wharf in the in-bound boat?"

"Why, 'tis Couthin Margaret."

"So it is. For a moment I thought her a man in that long cloak and
those heavy boots. Let us go down to meet her!"

When they reached the dock, the man in the ketch was already clewing
up the sails, while the woman on the wharf stood giving orders. At the
sound of approaching footsteps she turned.

Despite her rough attire and forty-odd years, Margaret Brent was
a woman worth looking at. Her personality was marked by a noble
largeness which obliterated detail, and cast a mantle of oblivion over
defects. The first impression made upon all who came in contact with
her was of her adequacy to the situation before her, whether it was a
rout or a riot. This it was which a few years later won her the thanks
of the Maryland Assembly for her prompt action in a political crisis,
which led her kinsman to leave her sole executrix of his great estate
with the brief instruction, "Take all--pay all!" and which, finally,
before her death made her the most famous woman in the colony.

Through all the vicissitudes of pioneer life she kept the air and
bearing of race. Even now, though a wave of gray wind-blown hair had
escaped from her hood, and her falling band was pulled awry, yet no
princess in full regalia could have been more the great lady than she
as she came forward to meet Cecil and his companion.

"Sir Christopher, I greet you. I would I had known of your coming
yesterday that I might have had your company and protection."

Neville bowed, smiling. "The advantage of both would have been on my
side, for Mistress Brent's prowess is a byword."

"Say they so indeed!" Margaret answered without attempt at disclaimer
and with a smile which showed her strong white teeth, "I am glad of
that, for I may need the repute in the near future. Sorry was I to hear
that you had thoughts of taking up land in this part of the country and
deserting Kent Fort. I count you the strongest man we have among us,
and since Claiborne's rebellious efforts we need all the help we can
claim. 'Tis in regard to this that I have followed my brother hither."

"I am sorry; but I fear you must meet disappointment. He has been
called to St. Mary's by troubles over Dick Ingle. He may return
to-morrow."

"Nay, if he comes not back to-day I must turn out the trainband on my
own responsibility. The matter will not keep."

"You should be made a captain."

"Not I! I am too wise for that. The captain must give place to the
colonel, and the colonel to the general; but the woman is above them
all, and what men would never yield of their obstinacy to equality,
they will oft give up of their courtesy to her weakness. Besides,
men never forget the obedience to women they learn at their mother's
knee--or over it--

"Is it not so, Father?" she went on, turning to Father White, who had
joined them. "Have I not heard thee say any one might have the training
of a child after seven if thou couldst have the teaching of him till
then?"

"Ay, 'tis so--though this boy may not do so much credit to my teaching
as I could wish;" and he pinched Cecil's ear, laughing.

"He is too busy keeping his body a-growing, I fancy, to pay much heed
to his soul. How say you, Cecil,--wilt thou lend me those cheeks of
thine for cushions?"

"No," answered the child, gravely, "elthe how could I keep my food
in when I eat? Let me go! I mutht tell Couthin Mary thou art come. I
dearly love to be the firtht to tell newth."

But this time he was too late, for Mary had caught sight of the group,
and came running down the path.

"Oh, Margaret, but I am glad to see thee! Bless thine heart, how thou
art blown! I have great need of thy counsel. I must have thee tell me
if the pickles want sweetening, and if the stockade be high enough, and
how many cattle I should order out of England--"

"Why hast not asked Giles all these things?"

"Why, Giles is so great a man he will give no heed to small things, but
puts them off with a 'Presently--presently--'"

"Ay, and if he have not a care, this 'Presently, presently' will cost
him dear. In a new land least of all can we afford to despise the day
of small things.--Ah! there is my Cousin Elinor!" She broke off,
seeing Mistress Calvert in the doorway.

The two women did not altogether harmonize. They were too much alike,
and neither cared for her own type. Both loved to dominate men, though
neither would have owned it. Elinor had early chosen the heart as her
sphere of influence, and Margaret Brent the mind. It was in the border
land that they clashed. Yet, had either been asked, especially when
separated, who was the noblest woman she knew, one would have said
"Elinor Calvert," the other, "Margaret Brent."

"Come in," said Elinor, as she kissed her cousin's cheek. "Come in and
share the feast set out in honor of Sir Christopher Neville, Cecil's
new tenant, at Robin Hood's Barn."

"I knew thou wouldst have him."

"Verily? then thou didst know more than I."

"No doubt--'tis the privilege of the looker-on. Besides, I knew thy
business head, which is better than one would think to watch thine
impulsive bearing, and none but a fool would let such a tenant as
Christopher Neville slip through her fingers."

Elinor reddened.

"Nay, now I see I have said somewhat amiss, but the time is too short
to find out what, so forgive my sins in the bulk, and believe that I
do love thee much for all we fit not always in our moods. Mary, if thou
hast something hot for the inner man, prithee let me have it, for I am
well-nigh starved and frozen."

To herself she said, "Neville is in love with Elinor Calvert--foolish
man! She means to use him--wise woman!"

Which proves that a clever observer may be too clever, and see both
more and less than there is to be seen.

Neville, after watching the women enter the house with Cecil hanging to
his mother's gown, strode down the path with head thrown back, and the
glint of a firm purpose shining from between his narrowed lids.



                               CHAPTER V

                                 PEGGY


Giles Brent was not in an enviable frame of mind on this January
morning, after his visit to St. Gabriel's manor. The gold lace on
his coat, marking his rank as deputy-governor of Maryland, covered
an anxious heart, and as he walked along the path over the bluff in
the village of St. Mary's he twirled the gold-tipped lacings of his
doublet, and cursed his fate in being caught in this coil of colonial
politics, and wished his cousin Leonard Calvert would come home from
England and attend to his own business.

Why, all of a sudden, was his brow cleared of its furrows, and his mind
of its worries for the moment? Because he had caught sight at a window
of a girl's face,--a faulty, charming face with velvet brown eyes, and
hair that shook a dusky glamour over them,--the face of Peggy Neville.

This Peggy was a born coquette--not of the type that sets its cap
at a man as obviously as a boy casts the net for butterflies, but
a coquette by instinct, full of contradictory impulses, with eyes
that whispered "Come!" even while blush and frown cried "Halt!"--with
the gaiety of a flight of larks, alternating with pouts and tears as
sudden and violent as a summer thunder-shower. Such a girl has often a
peculiar charm for an older man, who looks on amused at her coquetries,
and finds her friendship as firm as her loves are fickle. Between
Governor Brent and Peggy Neville such a friendship was established,
and it was with a delight dimpling into smiles that she threw wide the
window, and leaning out into the frosty air, cried out joyously,--

"Good-morning, your Excellency! Do you bring any news of that
good-for-nothing brother of mine?"

The governor shook his sword at her.

"I will have you in the sheriff's hands if you speak so lightly of my
close friend," he answered. "Is your aunt at home?"

"No, but my aunt's niece is, and much exercised to hear the news from
Kent Fort. So prithee come in and rest awhile."

Brent entered at a door so low that he was compelled to bow his tall
head.

"The news of most interest to you," he said, seating himself by
the fire, "comes not from Kent Fort, but from St. Gabriel's Manor,
which I left just before the expected arrival of that aforesaid
good-for-nothing brother of yours, who is in treaty with me for the
manor at Cecil Point, which Baltimore christened Robin Hood's Barn when
he made a grant of it to Mistress Elinor Calvert. The lady is staying
with my sister Mary at present."

"You have just come from St. Gabriel's?" queried Peggy, "and just seen
Mistress Calvert? Then pray tell me all about her. She is very, _very_
handsome, they say--"

"Then for once they say truth. I have seen her enter the gallery at
The Globe when all the gallants on the stage rose to catch sight of
her, and I have seen the London street-sweepers follow her for a mile.
There's beauty for you!"

"And she is very wise too?"

"Ay, as good a head for affairs as mine, and I think no small things of
mine own abilities."

"And she is virtuous and tender and true?"

"The tenderest of mothers, and the loyalest of kinswomen."

Peggy cast down her long-fringed eyes and studied the pointed toes of
her red slippers. At length looking up timidly she asked,--

"Think you I could ever be like her?"

Giles Brent burst out into a great laugh.

"Oh--not in beauty!" Peggy rushed on, all in confusion--"not in beauty,
of course, nor in mind, but could I make my character like hers? You
see, Christopher has always told me how perfect she was, and said how
proud he should be to see me like her."

"Christopher!" exclaimed Brent.

"Oho!" he thought to himself, "so the wind blows from that quarter,
does it? That explains many things. But why under heaven did he conceal
the whole business from me?"

Aloud he said: "Never mind what Christopher tells you, pretty Peggy!
Take my advice and do not waste your time in trying to be like this one
or that,--not even my Cousin Elinor. You have gifts and graces all your
own. Make the most of them, and let the others go. Who is that outside
the door? I thought I knew every man in St. Mary's, at least by sight."

"That?" said Peggy, looking out at the window with a fine show of
indifference, and then moving hastily nearer the fire, "that is no
citizen of St. Mary's, but a young Virginian in command of the ketch
_Lady Betty_ from the York River."

"And his name?"

"Romney Huntoon."

"Huntoon--? I wonder who his father is. Know you anything of his
family?"

"No, save that his father was a physician once and won great reputation
somehow, and his mother was a daughter of Sir William Romney, and
heiress to a fortune, wherewith they bought wide tracts of land on the
York River, and live, 'tis said, in more state than any in Virginia
save Governor Berkeley himself."

"Ah, now I place him. He was head of Flower da Hundred at the time of
the massacre, and since has risen to be a member of the Virginia House
of Burgesses. I would like to speak with this young man. Is that his
knock at the door?"

"I--I think it may be," hesitated Peggy. "He brought a letter from his
mother to my aunt, who knew her in their youth at home in Devonshire."

Hard upon her remarks a young man entered the room, and stood
hesitating in the doorway as if loath to venture further without
assurance of welcome.

He was a colty youth, with long legs and slim body, and hands and feet
that had not learned the repose of maturity. He had also a shock of
dark curls, and under arching brows a pair of merry blue eyes that
danced when anything pleased him beyond the common, like the sun on
Easter morning, while under their surface mirth lay steadfast depths
which bade fair to endure when their dancing days were over.

Just now there was more of anxiety than mirth in them as they turned
toward the slip of a girl by the hearth, as timid a glance as if
she were the Shah of Persia and he a humble subject in terror of the
bowstring.

"Come in!" vouchsafed Peggy,--but with some impatience in her voice,
for she had not yet begun on the list of questions she had prepared for
her other visitor.

"Governor Brent, this is Master Romney Huntoon. Master Huntoon, I
have the honor to present you to Governor Brent." Both men bowed, the
younger man lower.

"I fancy," said Brent, "that I am not wrong in taking you for the son
of that Humphrey Huntoon whose good repute has travelled beyond the
limits of his own province, and become familiar to us dwellers across
the borders."

Romney Huntoon blushed with pleasure and secretly treasured up the
words to say over to his mother; but he received them with some
discomposure. To tell the truth, it is not an easy matter to meet
a compliment for one's relative; the disclaimers wherewith a man
may receive such for himself not quite fitting the situation, yet
consanguinity seeming to demand a corresponding degree of modesty.

"My father will feel deeply honored," he murmured, and lost the end he
had fashioned for his speech in watching a curl that had fallen forward
over Peggy Neville's ear.

Brent was too much occupied with his own thoughts to heed the break in
the young man's reply.

"You have been at St. Mary's for some days?" he asked.

"A week yesterday, your Excellency."

"And spent much time on the wharf?"

"The better part of every day, overlooking first the unloading of
the tobacco, and then the getting aboard of the farm implements and
household stuff I am to carry back to Romney."

"Hm! Perhaps, then, you were witness to the--the unpleasantness that
fell out betwixt Captain Ingle and Reuben Early."

"Ay, sir--I saw the blow struck."

"Of your kindness, tell me how it all fell out. The village folk are so
hot over the matter 'tis passing hard to get a clear story from any of
them. Was Richard Ingle drunk or sober?"

"Why, not fully the one or the other, I should say; but more as one
who has been in his cups overnight and is at odds with the world next
morning."

"And Reuben Early--was he in liquor too?"

"Truth, I think Early was a bit the worse for beer, for he was
continually dropping the sacks with which he was loading the vessel
under Ingle's direction, and when one slipped into the water, instead
of making excuse for himself, he threw up his silly cap and shouted,
"God save the King and Prince Rupert!"

"Fool!"

"Ay, 'twas enough to anger any man, and it seemed to drive Ingle mad
with passion. 'The King!' he cried; 'I'd have you know your King is no
king; and as for Prince Rupert, if I had him here he should be flogged
at the capstan!' Then turning to Early, whose mouth was agape at such
treasonable utterances, he let fly a bucket he had in his hand, and
hit Early full in the head, knocking him over like an ox. If Early had
picked himself up and returned the blow I'd had some sympathy for him,
but instead he went off whimpering and vowing he'd make complaint and
have Ingle under arrest before night."

"A pestilent fellow that Ingle!" muttered Brent; "I'd have him in
irons this day were it not for the trouble over seas; but with King
and Parliament at loggerheads we must be civil with both and Ingle
hath powerful friends in high places among the Roundheads. But of the
quarrel--did you see Richard Ingle after?"

"Nay, but I believe he is still on _The Reformation_, though some say
he was seen to board a ship that sailed yesterday for New Netherland,
and 'tis known the Ingles are on good terms with Governor Stuyvesant,
who hath the Dutch hatred of papists."

"For the matter o' that," said Brent, with some bitterness, "he need
not have gone further afield than across the river. He would have found
enough Catholic-haters in Virginia to protect him."

"We may be over zealous, your Excellency," the young man answered, "but
we do not countenance evil-doers, and 'twere hard to find in Maryland
a cavalier who has the King's cause more at heart than Sir William
Berkeley."

"You say truth, Master Huntoon, and do well to maintain the honor of
your province against all slander. My regards to Sir William Berkeley
when you return--and when is that to be?"

"In two or three days at furthest now. The ketch is already loaded and
I tarry only from hour to hour."

"May the ketch and all your other ventures come safe to shore!" said
Brent, rising and taking the hand of Huntoon.

"Mistress Neville, I will see you again before my return to St.
Gabriel's, and charge myself with any message you may wish to send."

With this adieu the Governor took his leave. The young people, who had
risen with him, still stood facing each other in silence, now that they
were alone.

"Why do you not take a chair once more?" asked Peggy, fingering the
border of her flowered lawn apron.

"I have not been asked," Huntoon responded.

"I feared to detain you from business of more importance," murmured the
little hypocrite.

"Mistress Neville," said Romney, "I have known you but seven days."

"Is it really so long?" asked Peggy, demurely looking out at him from
behind the protecting curtain of her long lashes.

"So long!" exclaimed the youth. He was only twenty, and the power to
receive and parry comes later to men than to girls.

Even Peggy Neville felt a twinge of compunction at his throwing himself
thus upon her mercy. "They have been pleasant days," she continued,
"and therefore by all the laws of life should have seemed short."

"Why, so they have!" the boy rushed on,--"short as a flash of lightning
in the passing, long as July sunlight in the thinking over; and now
they are drawing to an end, somehow a darkness seems to fall around
me. When I think of sailing down the river, away from the sight of the
huddle of cottages, from the great cross in the centre of the village,
from the glimpse of this little window that gives on the wharf, my
heart sinks."

"I wonder why," said Peggy; but this time she did not look at him.

"May I tell you?"

"No, no--of course not," the girl hastened to say in a quick,
business-like voice. "'Tis no affair of mine to pry into the feelings
of all the young men who come to St. Mary's. Besides, here comes my
aunt, and she will be more concerned to bring out wine and seed-cake
for your entertainment than to hear of your regrets at parting.
However," the tease went on wickedly, "if it would relieve your mind to
tell her I will bring the subject before her."

Romney stood still, and looked at her without a word. She had hurt him
beyond the power of speech. This first love of his, which he had been
cherishing by day and brooding over by night for a whole week, seemed
to him to overshadow the world, and that she, the lady of his dreams,
should be the one to make light of it was past bearing.

"'_All_ the young men who come to St. Mary's,'" he repeated to himself
as he strode down the street. "So to her I am no more than one of the
crowd of gallants who hang about the corners and cast eyes at the girls
in the little church o' Sundays. Oh, but I will make her give me a
serious thought yet! She shall know that it is not a ball she holds in
her hands, to be tossed about and caught and thrown away, but a man's
heart."

Then, as he recalled that dimpling face and those eyelashes sweeping
the rich red cheek, he smiled in spite of himself, and fell to
thinking of a little song his mother had sung to him years ago, a song
of another capricious damsel, mightily like this provoking Peggy,--

             "He kissed her once, he kissed her twice,
               Though oft she coyly said him nay;
             Mayhap she let him kiss her thrice
               Before she bade him go away--
                   Singing heigh-ho!
                   Whether or no,
             Kiss me again before you go,
             Under the trees where the pippins grow."

As he reached the widening of the street in front of the Indian wigwam
transformed into a little chapel and dedicated to Our Lady, he was
struck with the number of people standing and walking about. It was
like an ant-hill suddenly emptied of its toilers. Then he recalled that
it was market day at St. Mary's, and that the village was all agog over
Dick Ingle. Women stood at the door of their pioneer cabins, their arms
akimbo, and their heads bare regardless of the winter winds, giving
and getting the latest news. Governor Brent had come last night. That
was sure. He had ridden over from St. Gabriel's Manor, where he was
visiting his sister, and he had been seen this morning walking about
the town. A mighty secrecy had been observed about the object of his
coming; but no one doubted it had to do with Ingle.

"'Twill go hard with Dick," said one; "the Governor is a just man, but
a terror to evil-doers. I miss my guess if Dick and his brother Ralph
both know not the feeling of handcuffs ere nightfall."

"Not Ralph!" interrupted another. "What justice were there in punishing
the innocent with the guilty? Ralph Ingle is as frank and hearty-spoken
a gentleman as there is in Maryland. He comes into my cottage and plays
with the baby, and the boys run to the door as soon as ever his voice
is heard."

"Ay, but how comes it he is so friendly with that rascal brother of
his?"

"Why, blood is thicker than water--even holy water."

A laugh greeted this sally; but the laughers took the precaution to
cross themselves.

"You would none of you exercise yourselves much over the intimacy,"
said a third gossip, "had ye seen as I did the two brothers talking
on deck after the row with Early. Ralph told Dick he was quit of him,
tired of trying to make a gentleman of him, and wished they might never
meet again. He did indeed--I heard it with my own ears."

"That's the most wonderful part of it," said the first speaker; "most
of the things you tell you've heard through the ears of some one else."

Gossip number three turned red and opened her mouth to deliver a
crushing retort, when she discovered that the attention of her hearers
had been distracted by the arrival of a new-comer.

It was Reuben Early, whose wife had bound as big a bandage as possible
about his head. He came up to join the group, receiving on all sides
gratifying commiserations upon the wound he had been dealt by Richard
Ingle's hand; and though he had some difficulty in explaining why he
had not returned it, nor made any defence after all his bold talk, he
still continued to pose as a hero, and to make his townfellows feel
that in his humiliation they had received an individual and collective
insult.

"When the villain struck me," he explained, "I was encumbered with the
sack of grain I was bearing, and ere I could lay it down and reach my
weapon, the fellow had disappeared down the hatchway."

"Come, come, Reuben!" cried a sceptic near-by, "we all know you are
readier with your tongue than with either sword or musket; and I for
one am not sorry to have you taught a lesson, were it not that the
blow was struck at a citizen of St. Mary's, and therefore at us all. I
am for punishing Dick Ingle for the assault, yet lightly; but for the
treason he spoke he should be hung at the yard-arm of his own ship."

"Not hung perhaps; but surely put in custody of Sheriff Ellyson here,"
suggested another of the group, who stood in the morning sunlight
outside the log cabin which served for a hostelry.

"Aha!" laughed the man next him, "our innkeeper would not see the
number of drinkers of his good ale diminished by one. How say you,
Master Boniface, would it not be well to compel the traitor to drink
himself to death at the expense of the Lord Proprietary?"

All but two of the men laughed at this sally. The innkeeper naturally
failed to see the fun of a jest of which he was the butt, and the
sheriff took the suggestion into serious consideration.

"By the Saints, it were a good scheme and has much to commend it. It
may seem a pity to waste good wine on a bad man, when the one is so
scarce and the other so plenty; but it would mightily relieve the
authorities. 'Put him in the custody of the sheriff!' you say; and how,
pray, am I to hold him when I have no jail save my two hands? Can I lie
with him at night and eat and drink by day with my arm locked in his? I
would he were at the bottom of the sea!"

"If every man were at the bottom of the sea who has been wished there,
it would be hard to find a channel for the ships, and we might walk to
England dry-shod!"

It was Giles Brent who spoke, and the men, who had not seen him
approach and did not know how much he had overheard, looked somewhat
taken aback, for the discussion of public officers and their duties was
not looked upon with special favor.

"I tell you, my men," Governor Brent continued, returning their salute
with a wave of his hand, "this standing about the door of ale-houses
is a poor way of life for pioneers. It breeds idleness, and idleness
breeds discontent. Get you all in and drink the King's health at my
charge, and then off with you to work; and the more you use your mouths
to eat and drink withal, and the less for idle chatter, the better it
shall fare with you and your families."

The men, nothing loath to obey the behest, filed into the inn, cheering
alternately for the King, Lord Baltimore, Leonard Calvert, the Governor
now in England, and his deputy, Giles Brent, the last cheer being the
mightiest of all and only drowned by the gurgling of the great draughts
of October ale pouring down their throats.

"Hold, Ellyson," said Brent, as the sheriff passed in last of all. "I
want a word with you."

"Yes, your Excellency; you do me honor," said Ellyson, doffing his cap
of maintenance.

"Does Richard Ingle take his meals on board ship or ashore?"

"I'm not rightly sure, your Excellency; but I do think he takes his
supper here at the inn, and the other meals on his ship."

"Does he come alone?"

"Sometimes alone, but oftener with his brother."

"At what hour does he sup?"

"Oh, any time after the day's work is done, and then sits carousing
till all hours. I have seen him drunk enough to light his pipe at a
pump ere midnight."

"That is well. A man in his cups may be apprehended, even by a sheriff.
Here, read this. 'Tis a proclamation bidding him yield himself to your
custody before February first. That will put him off the scent, for
he will plan to finish loading and slip off at the end of the month.
But to let him do this were to encourage all evil-doers and enemies
of the Commonwealth; therefore it behooves us to get him under arrest
in short order. When he comes to-night, do you invite him to sit down
and sup with you. Give him all he will drink, and scrimp not yourself
either. Remember you both drink at my charge. Then, when the rest of
the drinkers are gone, do you serve your warrant on him, and hold him
at your peril till I call for him. Do yonder fellows know anything of
the prospect of the arrest?"

"They said nothing."

"Then they know nothing. I would I could be as sure that when they
know nothing they say nothing. Be you silent as the grave. You are a
close-tongued fellow enough save when the wine-cup loosens your tongue
and lets out your brains, and leaves you rolled up in a corner like a
filthy hogshead. But never mind--never mind; you are better than many
around you. I give you good-morning."

So the two parted, Ellyson entering the tavern and Brent turning into
the path that led to the house of Councillor Neale.

As he passed on his way, he thought to himself, "Pray Heaven he heeds
not that caution! If he be not well drunken this night our well-laid
plan falls to the ground, and then there's a pretty muddle."



                              CHAPTER VI

                            THE KING'S ARMS


It was already dark on the night after Giles Brent's talk with young
Huntoon, when Captain Richard Ingle entered the doorway of The King's
Arms. On the outside there was little to mark the difference between
the hostelry and the other log-cabins, except that at right angles both
to house and road hung a sign-board decorated with the name of the inn,
and bearing below in gaudy colors the standard of the Commonwealth.

Within, the long low-raftered room, despite its bareness, had that air
of good cheer which the devil knows how to throw around places where
men meet to drink themselves into his likeness.

With his swashbuckler air and swinging bravado of carriage, Ingle was
a not unattractive figure. His height was above the average, and he
wore his jerkin and slashed doublet jauntily. His face might have had
claims to beauty, but for its sinister expression, and to many of those
who looked at him this expression, combined with his reckless bearing,
constituted a certain fascination. The hall mark of the devil adds
value.

With the smell of the sea which hung about Dick Ingle was associated
an air of mystery, as of one who could tell much if he would, and the
dignity of a captain who from his quarter-deck might defy king, lords,
and commons; though justice might some day reach out its long arm for
him ashore, and sweep along with him any rash landsman who ventured on
too close an intimacy.

Just now, after his recent treasonable speeches aboard _The
Reformation_, any display of acquaintance was held to be specially
injudicious, and consequently, though all the men around the inn-board
looked up at Captain Ingle's entrance, none moved to make room for him
on the bench.

The room was so thick with tobacco smoke that the candles set in pine
knots for sockets at various intervals along the board (which was
literally a board, supported on horses of wood) cast only a glimmering
dimness around them. Ingle raised his hand to his eyes and stood a
moment, peering from under it at the table and the group seated around
it. As he took in the meaning of the sudden silence and the averted
glances, a smile of contempt settled about his mouth.

"Ah, friends," he cried jovially, "I am glad to find so many good
fellows met together. Councillor Neale, I will ask a word with you
later about the bill of goods consigned to you."

The councillor cast down his eyes as sheepishly as though all must know
the goods were of doubtful repute.

"Cornwaleys, _The Reformation_ sails in a day or two, and I advise you
to prepare your message of loyalty to the Lord General Cromwell without
delay."

Cornwaleys would have given a hundred pounds rather than that any
should know he had planned to make his future safe by riding two
horses, and making his submission to Parliament while he threw up his
cap for the King.

The other men about the board cowered. The whizzing of the lash was in
the air, and every back quivered with the expectation that it might
feel the next blow.

But having vented his spleen in these unpleasantries, the great man
grew affable, and turning to the wall where a large placard was posted,
he exclaimed,--

"Ha, Sheriff, here is a letter addressed to thee and me by our
worshipful Governor _pro tem_. Let us read it out for the benefit of
the company, who have not book-learning enough to decipher it for
themselves. 'Tis writ in a shaking hand, too, especially the word
'treason,' and in truth it is as well it should be a trifle vague, for
who shall write 'treason' firmly nowadays, when the war has left it
so dubious who is our lawful master that none can say but a year hence
the very name of this tavern shall be changed from _The King's Arms_ to
_General Cromwell's Legs_?"

A titter ran round the room.

"Hush, gentlemen! He who laughs makes himself sharer in the jest, and a
jest at royalty is treason--at least, so says our king-loving Governor.
Listen!"

And in a sing-song voice Ingle began to read aloud from the placard,--

                                                    "20th January.

                            "PROCLAMATION.

 "I do hereby require, in his Majesty's name, Richard Ingle, mariner,
 to yield his body to Robert Ellyson, sheriff of this county, before
 the first day of February next, to answer to such crimes of treason
 as on his Majesty's behalf shall be objected against him, upon his
 utmost peril of the law in that behalf; and I do further require
 all persons that can say or disclose any matter of treason against
 the said Richard Ingle to inform his Lordship's attorney of it at
 some time before the said court, to the end it may be then and there
 prosecuted.

                                                           "G. BRENT.

"You see, gentlemen, the proclamation grants me till the first of
February to deliver myself up; therefore my good friend Ellyson yonder
must needs keep his hands off these ten days. Landlord, bring out your
ale, and all good fellows shall drink with me a health to--let me see;
shall it be Charles, or Oliver? And everlasting damnation to the
enemies of--shall we say the King, or the Parliament?"

The men who sat around were ready enough for a drink, but they had
no mind for such dangerous toasts, and great was the relief when one
shrewd fellow cried out, "Oh, quit your politics, Dick, and let us
drink to the next voyage of _The Reformation_. And now do you give us
a song, for there is none can sing like you when you can abstain from
swearing long enough. But first, here's to our town, and I give you our
rallying cry,--'Hey for Saint Mary's, and wives for us all!'"

Ingle joined with good-humor in the ringing cheer that followed. "Here
goes, then," he said, as the landlord brought in the tankards. "You
may guzzle while I sing, and for the benefit of you family men who are
so fond of shouting 'Wives for us all!' I'll make it a song of married
life. 'Tis sweetly entitled _The Dumb Maid_, and runs thus,--

[Illustration (music score)]

          "'There was a country blade
            Who did wed a pretty maid,
            And he kindly conducted her
                Home, home, home.
            There in her beauty bright
            Lay his whole delight;
            But alack and alas, she was
                Dumb, dumb, dumb.'

"Now, gentlemen, you might think this lucky husband would have been
content with his good fortune, and let well enough alone; but no, he
was for having a perfect wife--which was as if he would have had a
white blackbird or a moral courtier or a wise king; so--

          "'To the doctor he did her bring
            For to cut her chattering string,
            And he let her tongue on
                The run, run, run.
            In the morning she did rise,
            And she filled his house with cries,
            And she rattled in his ears like a
                Drum, drum, drum.'

"Now the stupid oaf began to discover his blunder,--but perhaps you've
had enough."

Cries of "Go on! Go on!"

"Well, then, listen to his fate and take warning,--

          "'To the doctor he did go
            With his heart well filled with woe,
            Crying, "Doctor I am quite
                Undone, done, done.
            Now she's turned a scolding wife
            And I'm weary of my life,
            For I cannot make her hold
                Her tongue, tongue, tongue."

          "'The doctor thus did say--
            "When she went from me away
            She was perfectly cured of being
                Dumb, dumb, dumb.
            But it's beyond the art of man,
            Let him do the best he can,
            For to make a scolding woman hold
                Her tongue, tongue, tongue."'"

Roars of applause greeted the ending of the performance. In the midst
of it Ingle crossed the room to the end of the table where Sheriff
Ellyson was seated.

"Come, Sheriff, since you and I are met, let us sit down at the
further end of the board where our conversation may not disturb these
gentlemen."

With this he drew up a stool for himself, and as the mugs of ale were
quaffed and the pipes emptied, one after another of the bibbers and
smokers reached for his cap, and moved out into the darkness with
a muttered good-night, till at last none were left but Neale and
Cornwaleys, two men in high standing in the colony and close friends of
Governor Brent.

Meanwhile Captain Ingle made vast inroads upon the mighty haunch of
venison which the landlord set before him with obsequious attention,
and a pasty with five small birds stewed together vanished into his
capacious stomach without appearing to diminish his appetite. "Let
us have prawns," he called to the landlord, "prawns and cheese to
finish with, and brown ale from one of the hogsheads I brought in
_The Reformation_. I always call for that," he added with a wink to
Cornwaleys, "when I want something extra good. When you drink what you
bring, you know what you get."

"Ay," responded Ellyson jovially, "trundle it up, landlord, cask and
all, and we will help ourselves. You may go to bed and welcome, for we
mean to make a night on't. Who gets the ale-cask needs no host."

"But who will lock the door?"

"Why, we, to be sure!"

"Faith!" cried the landlord with a shout of laughter, "I've seen ye
both after a night's drinking bout, and neither one of you could keep
your legs or lift hand to mouth, let alone turning key or drawing bolt."

"Then we'll stay till you are up in the morning," roared Ingle, "and
woe to the thief who dares intrude upon the majesty of the law as
represented by Sheriff Ellyson, or the rights of freemen supported by
the sword of Richard Ingle."

With this the freebooter drew his weapon and after waving it round his
head in token of what marauders might expect, laid it on the bench
beside him.

The innkeeper, overawed by the sight of such prospective prowess, began
to think what a fine thing it would be to substitute this gallant blade
for the pale little sheriff.

"I'll tarry at least till these other gentlemen are gone home,"
he said, and betook himself to the other end of the table. Neale
and Cornwaleys loitered a few minutes, then rose with a yawn and a
stretching of the arms and legs.

"Give you good evening, gentlemen!" Neale said to those at the end.

"Good-night, Sir Landlord, and thanks for your good fire and better
ale!" called Cornwaleys, following him lazily out at the door.

But outside their idle lounging ceased. They drew close together and
whispered anxiously. The watch passed. They only drew closer into the
shadow and let him go by. Then they pressed their faces to the hole in
the shutters, and stood gazing at the pair inside, who sat quaffing
tankard after tankard by the wavering light of the candles and the red
glow of the embers on the hearth.

A few moments later they were joined by a third man. A Monmouth cap was
pulled low over his eyes, and the collar of his cloak raised to meet
it so that none could see his features. Neale and Cornwaleys showed no
surprise at his approach, but seemed to be awaiting him.

"How goes it?" asked the new-comer in a whisper.

"To a charm so far," answered Neale.

"I confess I like not the part we are playing."

"Nor I either, but it must be played. The villagers are much roused
against Ingle, yet have a group of them been drinking at his cost at
the tavern to-night, and whatever is done by the authorities will give
offence in some quarter."

"Ay, and his punishment most of all. There be many that like him for
his dare-devil ways, and more that tolerate him for the sake of his
brother."

"Ralph is a fine fellow," said Cornwaleys, "and Dick himself is
open-handed."

"Ay, and open-mouthed," added Neale. "Some daring souls may whisper
touching matters of state; but he must needs shout out his opinions
louder than any Roundhead in Parliament."

"The fool!" muttered Brent (for it was he who had just come up).

"Fool he is," answered Neale; "who ever knew Dick Ingle other than a
fool? But who shall say it was not truth he spoke when he said the
King was no king."

"Well, well," Brent said impatiently, "waste no words on idle
speculations; but let us keep our wits to try how we may steer a safe
course between the devil and the deep sea. If we apprehend this man
'tis an affront to the Parliament to whom he swears allegiance. If we
apprehend him not, 'tis as good as to make ourselves partakers in his
_lèse-majesté_. So 'tis clear the only course is both to apprehend him
and to let him go. All the people will hear of the proclamation and
of my order of arrest. This will satisfy their sense of justice, and
so are we quit of our official duties. And afterward if the sheriff,
through some carelessness and neglect, let Richard Ingle go free and he
reach his own quarter-deck and set sail for England before ever he be
caught--why--"

"Sh!" whispered Cornwaleys, "speak softer, or all will fail. Neale, you
have your eye to the chink in the shutter?"

"Ay, and can see as if I were in the room. It is hard to say which is
drinking the harder."

"No man can keep his legs with that quantity of ale in his belly,"
answered Cornwaleys; "we shall find them in the morning on the tavern
floor."

"Hm!" reflected Neale, "there is some danger o' that and 'twill not
suit our plans neither. We'd best stir Ellyson a bit."

With this he shuffled his feet and moved the shutter back and forth.
The sound reached the ear of Ellyson. He paused with his mug half-way
to his lips, and then, setting his flagon down hard on the board, he
rose, and putting his hand into the breast of his jerkin drew forth
something white.

"The fun begins," whispered Neale, flattening his nose against the
shutter in the effort to lose no glimpse of what was going forward.

"We must be ready to rush in if Ingle uses him too hard," announced
Cornwaleys.

The two men watched with all their eyes, and this is what they saw:--

The giant, having the paper thrust in his face, grew red with rage
and strove to rise and reach for his sword, but only succeeded in
falling across the table, his hair trailing into the mug of ale. Then
the nimble little sheriff, who was perhaps less drunk than he had
feigned, whipped around the table and drawing a length of cord from
his capacious jerkin succeeded in binding the wrists of his adversary
before he could rise. Ingle roared out curses.

The landlord shouted from his bed to know what was the matter.

"Oh, 'tis naught. Give yourself no trouble in the matter. Captain
Ingle has had overmuch drink even for him, and I am taking him home."

"There seems to be a break in our fine plan," murmured Neale. "What if
Ellyson prove the better man of the two?"

"Rubbish! How can he?"

But a weak arm backed by a clear head can do more than mighty muscles
befuddled with beer. Ellyson rapidly made fast his cord, and drawing
out a stouter one tied that too, and tugging might and main pulled
the captain off his stool headlong to the ground, where he lay for an
instant grovelling, and then, gathering himself up, staggered a few
paces to the door.

"Thank ye for that, my fine fellow!" said Ellyson. "I could scarce have
got ye so far without your own help."

The next move of the little sheriff was a clever one. Hard by the door
stood a hand-car used for the moving of casks to the slant of the
cellar-way. Its wheels were made of sections of pine logs revolving on
rudely fashioned axles. This car Ellyson rolled directly in front of
the doorway, and then getting behind Ingle gave him a push which sent
him forward face first upon the car.

"What say ye now, Neale?" whispered Cornwaleys, pressing closer than
ever into the shadow.

"Say? I say the devil is let loose and helping the little sheriff. Let
us follow. His luck may have a turn."

Down the street went the four men, Ellyson grunting and sweating under
his burden, but full of the joy of conquest over an unequal foe, and
of the complacency born of a sense of duty fulfilled, combined with
the hope of preferment. Already he saw himself promoted to fat office,
perhaps to the Council itself. But at this juncture a strange thing
happened.

The night air had begun to cool Ingle's hot head and clear the
beer-befuddled brain. With a mighty effort he tore his arms loose from
the encircling cords, and reaching for the poniard in his breast sprang
from the car.

Luckily for Ellyson, Ingle's legs were still unsteady. As it was, the
doughty little man was consumed with terror at the sight of the giant
lunging about with his weapon gleaming in his hand, as he waved it
wildly and aimlessly about his head. In his terror Ellyson called aloud
for help; but excitement made his voice so weak it could scarcely be
heard a hundred feet away.

"The end has come," said Neale and Cornwaleys in a breath.

Then to their dismay, they saw the door of a cottage open and a young
man dash out half-clad, but with a loaded pistol in his hand.

"Who cried for help?"

"I, the sheriff! I hold an order from Governor Brent to arrest this
man, and I call upon you as a good citizen of Maryland to come to my
aid."

Ingle by this time had got his back against a tree, and stood there
waving his dagger and calling to his foes to come on if they dared.

"I am no citizen of Maryland," said Romney Huntoon; "I come from
Virginia, but I've no objection to bearing a hand in the arrest of this
man, for I heard his traitorous ranting, and I vowed then to do him a
bad turn if ever it came in my way."

"Your chance is come," muttered the sheriff. "Do you stand here and
cover him with your pistol, and I will go round behind the tree and try
if I may not bind him where he stands. Ingle," he added, turning to the
other, "if you move you are a dead man."

"_Hold! in the King's name!_"

The three men started as if a cannon had exploded in their midst. The
surprise even sobered Ingle. He looked up in speechless amazement as
Councillor Neale and Captain Cornwaleys strode up, and with all the
double weight of civil and military authority called out to Ingle to
surrender.

Seeing his position desperate he sullenly obeyed.

"March in front," commanded Cornwaleys. "Ellyson, do you walk beside
him. Master Huntoon, if you will favor us with your company and your
weapons, you will oblige us by your escort down the road as far as the
wharf where _The Reformation_ lies."

"_The Reformation?_" exclaimed Huntoon.

"I said so, I think," answered Cornwaleys.

"But--but--you do not understand," stammered Ellyson; "I am acting
by Governor Brent's command. I am by no means to lose sight of the
prisoner until further commands from him."

"You have fulfilled your commission," said Neale, "and stand discharged
of all responsibility. Master Huntoon, I charge you take notice that
Sheriff Ellyson is hereby relieved of all blame in this matter,
whatever the outcome, and that I do hereby take upon myself all the
burden of Governor Brent's displeasure if such there be."

"The Councillor has spoken," said Cornwaleys, "and with my approbation.
Forward, march!"

The walk down the hill to the wharf was covered in perfect silence.
Ingle walked between Ellyson and Cornwaleys, able to keep his feet with
occasional support from his escort. As the men halted on the wharf,
Neale stepped forward.

"Richard Ingle," said he, "are you drunk or sober?"

"Sober enough, as you shall some day learn that have put this affront
upon me."

"Then listen and give heed to the words I speak. Because of your
treasonable talk, your ill conduct, and your disturbance of the
peace, you do richly deserve the most that the laws of Maryland could
pronounce as your punishment."

"Ay, that he does!" murmured Huntoon.

"Then why not give it to him?" grumbled Ellyson, loath to see the prize
he had captured at such expense of difficulty and danger slip through
his fingers in the moment of triumph.

"Be silent, Sheriff! It is not in your province to criticise your
superiors. Ingle, we shall now put you aboard ship and give you
six hours to make good your departure. But if at dawn so much as a
topmast of _The Reformation_ be seen from St. Mary's, we will have her
overhauled and her captain strung up at the yard-arm."

Ingle's senses were returning fast, and he responded to the
Councillor's words with a smile, the cool impudence of which irritated
Neale beyond endurance. He saw that the sailors were gathering on the
deck, and that time was short.

"Seize him!" he cried suddenly to Huntoon and Cornwaleys; "seize the
cur and toss him on board his vessel as he deserves."

Huntoon and Cornwaleys, delighted at the chance to wreak even a portion
of their vengeance, needed no second bidding. Cornwaleys seized his
head and Huntoon his feet, and with a mighty swing they flung him
clear of the wharf and landed him in the middle of the deck amid a
circle of sailors half angry, half grinning.

"Remember!" cried Neale, warningly.

"A good riddance!" exclaimed Cornwaleys as they walked away.

"Yes, if he stays rid," answered Neale, doubtfully. "Ellyson, you are
to be silent on this night's doings."

"I know my duty," said Ellyson, sullenly, "even when I am not permitted
to do it. But I know not how I am to answer to Governor Brent for this
night's work."

Neale leaned over and whispered some words in his ear which seemed to
amaze him, the more so as something which showed under the struggling
moonbeams round and yellow and shining was slipped into his hand by
Cornwaleys on the other side.

"Master Huntoon, we trust to your honor."

"You may," Huntoon responded with some haughtiness; and he turned upon
his heel and strode back to his lodgings, thanking Heaven that he was a
Virginian.



                              CHAPTER VII

                          IN GOOD GREEN WOOD


"Now what say you, Mistress Peggy?"

"Say? What could I say to such an offer save that, if my aunt allows,
'twill give me more pleasure than aught else that could befall. I have
longed for months to see your sister Mary and St. Gabriel's, and now
to see them, and besides to have sight of my brother and of Mistress
Calvert--"

"To say nothing of a ride through the forest under escort of the
Governor of the province!"

"Why, to tell the truth, it is that only which gives me pause, for
I know well that he has grave matters of state on his mind, and
would fain perhaps be alone to think them over, whereas I am such a
chattering magpie, as my brother has often told me, that no man can
have a thought in his head when I am about."

"And how do you know, little Peggy, that that is not just the reason
why I have asked for your company? It is quite true that I am vexed and
worried and harried half out of my senses over recent affairs here
in St. Mary's,--affairs which call for anxious meditation and drastic
action; but for this one day I would fain forget that I am a grizzled
man weighed down with matters heavy enough to sink him, and make
believe that I am a light-hearted lad again wandering about the forest
with a maiden as care-free as he. We will have a merry ride of it, and
we will stop by the wayside and build a fire in the snow to cook our
noonday meal."

"But--but--I know not how to cook," Peggy confessed with much
embarrassment.

"Not know how to cook! For shame! and you a pioneer--I must have speech
of your aunt, and counsel her to take order with you at once till the
deficiency be mended. But for this once it will not matter, for I am
taking back with me to Kent Fort a lame servant, Anne by name, owned
by Sir Edmund Plowden and lent by him to my sister Margaret. She will
be of our party, and likewise Councillor Neale and Captain Cornwaleys.
So with them to guard us against foes without, and her to fortify us
against the worse enemy of hunger within, you and I may have good hopes
of coming safely to St. Gabriel's."

"O Aunt, Aunt!" Peggy called out, "his Excellency has asked me to ride
with him to St. Gabriel's. Only think of it--to St. Gabriel's, and this
very day!"

"Foolish child!" said her aunt, with reproof in her voice. "You can
think of nothing but the pleasure of the moment. How could you manage
your home-coming? And how do you know that Mistress Brent desires your
company?"

"If you will permit me to take upon myself the burden of answering your
questions, Madam, I think I can set your mind at rest on both points.
My sister Margaret has in mind a journey to St. Mary's from Kent Fort,
and will stop on her way to pick up your niece and bring her home to
you in safety. As for the other question, it could only be asked by one
who knew little of Mary Brent. Why, I have seen her eyes light up with
joy when a total stranger stopped at the door for a meal or a night's
lodging, and at a friend's coming she is clean daft with pleasure.
Between you and me too she has a particular and foolish fondness for
this saucy slip of a niece of yours, and will count it a red-letter day
when she sees the baggage jump off her donkey at the gate, and come
running in at the door. Oh, there will be great rejoicing at the manor
this night,--I can promise you that."

The Governor of Maryland was not lightly to be denied. So it was
settled that Peggy was to go, and the saddle-bags were filled on
one side with her clothing, since, even in the wilderness, a maid
must needs carry her bit of finery, and in the other side her aunt's
hospitable care had stored away an ample supply of bread and meat and
wine, with other eatables and drinkables to be heated in the ashes of
the noonday fire.

When the two donkeys stood at the gate and Mistress Peggy and the lame
serving-woman were mounted there was no happier or prouder maid in the
province than Margaret Neville. Giles Brent joined the procession at
the edge of the village. He was seated on Governor Calvert's horse, one
of the few in the colony, and his large frame with its red-lined cloak
showed well on the big black Flemish steed.

Behind him walked three men. Yes, Peggy distinctly counted three,
though Governor Brent had named only two. There was Councillor Neale,
with his heavy staff and big foreign boots, and Captain Cornwaleys,
brave in his military uniform with gilt trimmings; but who was the
third? Not--surely not--Oh, no, nothing could be more unlikely!--and
yet--Yes, there was no doubt of it; however the thing had come about,
the man who walked between them was Romney Huntoon. If there had been
any doubt in her mind at the first glance, it was set at rest as they
drew nearer, for the young man stepped forward close to the little
brown donkey, and sweeping off his hat laid bare his dark curls,
and then looked up at Peggy as though he had been the devoutest of
Catholics, and she his patron saint.

Now, I will not deny that Peggy Neville was good to look at; but never
did any one bear less resemblance to a saint than she as she sat
perched upon her mottled brown and gray donkey, her saucy, smiling
face peeping out from its scarlet hood, her cheeks as red as the
wool covering around them, and her brown eyes sparkling with fun and
health and girlish glee. Her first care was to give this youth fully
to understand that it was with no thought of him she had joined this
expedition. She took pains, therefore, to throw an extra amount of
surprise into her tone as she exclaimed,--

"Master Huntoon!--and pray how happens it that you are acting as escort
to the Governor of Maryland? Or is it but out of courtesy that you are
walking with us as far as the gates of St. Mary's?"

"As far and farther," answered the young man, proudly.

"Not to St. Gabriel's!"

"And why not, pray? Did you think you were the only person honored with
an invitation? May not I too be a bidden guest?"

"But you were to sail for the York River to-morrow or next day."

"Ay," answered Huntoon, with some embarrassment, "I was; but there have
arisen certain complications with which I chanced to be connected, and
I have received a request which was as near a command as befitted the
message of a Governor of one province to the subject of another, asking
me to tarry for a few days yet and to set out with him this morning for
St. Gabriel's. It was not till an hour ago," he added, "that I learned
what cause I should have to give thanks for my assent."

"Come, come, young people!" called Giles Brent; "my horse has more
sense than you, for he is pawing the ground and eager to be off. Since
we can move but at a snail's pace along the trail, which is harder than
ever to keep, with the snow on it, we'd best waste no time. I will ride
in front to prospect, and the women shall follow. Do you, Huntoon, walk
by Mistress Neville's bridle, and Neale and Cornwaleys shall follow as
a rear guard keeping a sharp look-out, for wolves and other wild beasts
are grown desperate with hunger in this cold weather, and may be met
when least expected."

The little procession took up its line of march along the narrow street
and out at the gate which gave upon the road leading across country.
As they wound up a hill that lay behind the town Peggy turned in her
saddle for a last look at the huddle of log cabins. Hers was one of
those tender hearts that can cling to bare walls, so they be hung with
associations.

The scene on which the girl's eyes rested was fair enough in itself to
need no associations to give it interest. From the height she could
look down upon the broad, placid river lying in a series of loops like
little lakes. For a distance of eight miles it stretched away blue
as the sky above it till it merged itself in the dimmer gray of the
Potomac. Across the river rose gently swelling hills, and there in
the foreground like a giant sentinel loomed the great mulberry tree
which had witnessed Calvert's dealings with the natives, which bore on
its trunk placard and proclamation, and, in short, served most of the
purposes of a town hall.

Peggy looked long over the enchanting prospect, then letting her eyes
fall upon the hamlet of St. Mary's she scanned the little group of
houses, the great cross in the centre, the smoke curling up from the
mud chimneys, the blue reach of the stream at the foot of the bluff.
Suddenly she gave an exclamation of amazement.

"Why, where is Captain Ingle's ship?" she asked, turning from one to
another of her companions.

No one answered.

"I saw it last evening at sunset," she went on. "I am sure of it, for
I went down to the wharf with our serving-man to buy grain, and I asked
Captain Ingle when he would be off, and he said, 'Not for some time;'
and that when he went he would fire a salute of five guns in my honor."

"'Tis like his insolence," muttered Huntoon between his teeth.

"Yes, but how is it that he is gone? Surely, you who are about the
village so much must have heard something of the matter."

The mysterious silence continued a moment longer. Then Giles Brent said
repressively,--

"Master Ingle sailed last night."

"Oh, so you _do_ know all about it," cried the irrepressible Peggy.

"I know nothing to speak of," answered Brent, in so significant a tone
that even Peggy could find courage for no rejoinder, but turned to
Huntoon and bade him walk a little faster, or the donkey would tread
upon his heels.

Huntoon strode on as perfectly happy as is often given to mortals to
be in this sadly mixed world. There is an elation in the solitude of a
wilderness at any time, a sense of freedom, of room for soul-expansion,
and there is a beauty in a snow-clad forest that summer cannot match.
The shadows lay in long blue patches on the snow, the pine trees held
a load of white on their wide-spreading branches, each clump of green
capped with glittering frost. The gaunt branches of oak and maple
etched themselves against the blue of the morning sky. Everything in
nature was radiant. Was it likely that the heart of the young man who
walked with the rein over his arm was less jubilant than the scene
around him?

One thing only troubled him.

He could think of nothing to say.

At last he saw a bunch of scarlet berries peeping out of the snow at
the roots of a great pine tree. He stepped aside and picked them. When
he came back he handed them to Peggy.

"What are these for?" she asked.

"I thought you might wear them."

"So I do not look well enough as I am?"

"I said not so."

"No, but you thought I could look better, and so I could not have been
perfect in your eyes."

"They hang offerings on the neck of the statue of the Madonna. It is
not that she may look better; but I suppose it brings her nearer to see
her wearing their gifts, be they never so humble."

[Illustration]

"You are quite a courtier, Master Huntoon," Peggy answered with a
nervous laugh; "you are thrown away upon these colonial wilds and
should betake yourself to Whitehall. The King would doubtless lend a
favorable ear to your silver tongue."

"Alas!" sighed Romney, in the folly of his youth, "what care I what the
_King_ might say, if the _Queen_ will not listen to me?"

What further softness he might have ventured on, no man knoweth, for
there is no setting limits to the weakness of lovers; but his speech
was interrupted by the crack of the fowling-piece from behind, and
looking back they saw Cornwaleys stooping to pick up a brace of quail
which his gun had just brought down; and which he straightway tossed
over the saddle of Anne, the serving-woman, bidding her pick them as
she rode.

The sun climbed higher and higher till its genial warmth began to
make itself felt. The icicles let fall drop after drop of water,
slowly trickling themselves away. The snow-banks melted into gurgling
streams, which ran along on the surface till they sank noiseless into
the softened ground. The air, balmy with the scent of pine trees and
mild with the bracing mildness of dry midwinter, pulsated in the
perpendicular rays of the noonday sunlight. "Come, friends," called
Giles Brent, reining in his horse and turning in his saddle to await
the arrival of the rest of his party, who could by no means keep the
pace he set, "I know not how it is with the rest of you, but one man
here hath an appetite which tells him that the dinner hour is come."

"Here is another!" cried Cornwaleys.

"Ay, and a third," came from Neale.

"How say you, Huntoon, has your walk given you a zest for an hour's
rest and a bite of good victual?"

"I?" stammered Huntoon. "Why, to say truth, I thought we had but just
set out."

At this Brent laughed and cast a meaning glance at Peggy, who colored
redder than the bunch of berries she had tucked into the front of her
cloak.

"There may be a magic in the bridle-rein of beauty to ward off hunger
and fatigue from him who touches it; but the rest of us poor mortals
have felt the pangs of both; so, as we are come to a clearing, with two
logs convenient for a seat, I counsel that we make a halt and build a
fire wherewith to test Anne's skill as a cook."

Peggy slipped from her saddle and opening the bags brought out the
bread and meat and wine. Cornwaleys spitted the birds upon his sword,
and Anne twirled them before the fire, seasoning them as they cooked.
The men sat on the logs, and Peggy laughed and sang and poured forth a
flood of mirth and gaiety which beguiled the anxious men about her from
all thought of care and worriment, while she herself was like a meadow
lark intoxicated with its own music.

"Is it all your fancy painted--this ride through the forest?" asked
Governor Brent, smiling as he seated himself beside Peggy.

"I should say so!--all and more--the very happiest day I have ever
known. I feel as if I were a snow-bird picking up crumbs here in the
desert. I think I will never live in a house more. I would we were all
going back together," added Peggy, after a little pause.

"But going back you will have my sister Margaret, and she is worth us
all."

"Shall I not be afraid of her?"

"No-o," answered Brent, conscious that he had known times when he was.
Then, loyal to kinship, he continued, "Margaret is a fine fellow. She
lives out the motto of Lord Baltimore, 'Deeds are masculine, words
feminine.'"

"Oh, I am sure I should be afraid with her!"

"No, you will not. Margaret's words have both weight and wit, and her
wit bites sometimes; but it is like a blooded dog and will not hurt a
friend. How often I have wished for her trenchant common-sense when we
were sitting round the council table and the men droning folly. If she
came in it would be like a north wind clearing the air of dulness."

"Ah, Huntoon is coming this way with a cup of sack. I like that youth.
There is meat in his discourse."

"Oh--ay--_veal_," answered Peggy, scornfully.

"Hush, you naughty girl! He will hear you. Here, Huntoon. Pass the cup.
Drink all of you to the happiest day Mistress Peggy has ever known, and
may there be many more like them!"

When the noonday meal was ended, the party took up the line of march
once more, but this time Neale walked by the governor's saddle.

"It is an ugly business--a very ugly business," Brent began.

"Ay, it could scarce have turned out worse."

"So many heard the row that the tale can scarce be suppressed, and
Ellyson is full of wrath over what he calls his wrongs."

"We will advise together yonder at St. Gabriel's. Neville is ever rich
in suggestions, and this young Virginian behind us has a ready wit of
his own. We must bring the matter before the Council; but they will be
sure to see it in the same light as we."

"They may, and they may not," answered Neale. "The chief business of
councils from the beginning of the world has been to find a scapegoat
and then to send him out, as the Hebrews did theirs, loaded with the
sins of the nation."

"Nay, take it not so to heart! You did but as I should have done in
your place, and if the Council resent the escape of Ingle and fear
to involve themselves in the King's displeasure they must deal with
me as well as you. We are both in the same boat. Faith," Brent added
as they came to a swampy place, "it would be well to have an actual
boat if we come to many spots like this. It should be one of the first
pieces of work done in the province to lay a road where a Christian may
travel without losing his way or wading to his chin. Climb up behind my
saddle, and my horse shall save your heels."

Neale did as he was bid, and they waited to see how the rest would
manage. Anne was transferred to a seat behind Mistress Neville, and
Huntoon and Cornwaleys mounted the maid's donkey. Their legs were so
long and the donkey's so short that they were forced to hold their
knees half-way to their chins, and cut so sorry a figure that the
others who were safely across stood shaking their sides with laughter.

Cornwaleys, being over thirty and a man of sense, joined in the
laughter; but Romney Huntoon, being twenty and in love, turned sulky,
and walked along in would-be dignified silence in his old place at
Peggy's bridle. As he grew solemn she grew lively, and entertained
him with rambling tales of her wild doings before ever she came out
of England, how she had ridden a horse after all the grooms had given
him up, how she had stolen away from home and gone down the lane at
midnight to get her future told by an old gypsy woman.

In spite of himself Huntoon's interest kindled.

"These gypsy horoscopes have something uncannily like truth in them,"
he said. "Tell me, did the old crone predict aught about--about your
marriage?"

"Oh, ay, to be sure. What gypsy would ever get her palm crossed with
silver twice by a maiden, if she failed to promise her a husband?"

"So she described him--"

"To the length of his shoe-string and the color of his doublet."

"Hm! What said she of his looks?"

Peggy cast a malicious look at the dark curls and the clean lip and
chin beside her.

"Oh, she set him off to the top of my satisfaction! He was to be like
a Viking of old, with fair hair and mustachios like that--" and Peggy
twirled her fingers off at either side of her dimples.

"I am glad to know the manner of man you do prefer," said Romney,
stiffly, and they went on in silence for several minutes, and Mistress
Peggy quite at her ease nevertheless. Finally she broke the pause,
saying, "Do you remember what night the last was?"

"Surely I do, for I noted it on Governor Brent's order for Ingle's
arrest posted on the tavern door. 'Twas the twentieth of January."

"Ay, the twentieth; and what night was that?"

"In truth I know not. Being no Papist I keep scant account of Saints'
days."

"Nor I either for the most part; but this was a very particular night
indeed." Then, with great impressiveness, "_It was the Eve of St.
Agnes._"

"And what of that?"

"Why, 'tis on that night every maid may see her future husband,--that
is, if she have the wit to go about it the right way."

"And did you go about it the right way?"

Peggy nodded.

"And after what fashion was that?"

"Why, after dusk I went to my chamber as usual, and I took off my
garter--you must, you know, or the charm will not work. It must be the
left garter too, so I took it, and knit three knots in it, and then
with my eyes shut I said the rhyme--"

"What rhyme?"

"Stupid! You don't seem to know anything. Why, this rhyme, of course,--

              "'I knit this knot, this knot I knit
                To know the thing I know not yet--
                That I may see
                The man that shall my husband be,
                Not in his best or worst array
                But what he weareth every day,
                That I to-morrow may him ken
                From among all other men.'"

"And then did you see him?"

"No, not yet. After I had said the charm I lay down and folded my hands
like St. Agnes, and sure enough as soon as I fell asleep a young man
appeared before me. There he stood, as large as life and as clear as
day."

"Yes," said Romney, eagerly; "and what like was he?"

"Why, there's the queer thing," answered Peggy, "his mouth and his
curls and his odd-shaped nose were the image of thine."

"What is wrong with my nose? I have always thought well of it--"

"Oh, 'tis a proper nose enough. No doubt an excellent and serviceable
nose for all practical purposes; but for pure beauty it might be better
without the little hump in the middle of the bridge, and with the
nostrils set closer--but no matter! such as it is, the vision bore it
too, and the eyes were like also and the brows. There was the whole
face and figure, so like that any seeing them would have cried out,
''Tis Master Huntoon to the life.'"

"Peggy!"

"But--"

"Nay, no buts--"

"I must, for 'tis the strangest of all--_but_ his doublet was as like
as two peas to the one Captain Cornwaleys wears this morning, and his
figure was the captain's too, height and all. Now, what is a poor maid
to do under such distracting confusions?"

"Mistress Neville, you are a coquette."

Peggy raised her eyebrows till they arched like a rainbow.

"I'd rather be a tailor and make coats for the moon than fit myself to
your humors."

"Every man knows best what trade fits him; and now you have spoken of
it, the goose doth seem your proper symbol.

"Yes," Romney went on, growing more and more nettled, "the moon changes
but every quarter, while to meet the changes of your whims a man must
be on tip-toe every hour."

"Tip-toe--ah, yes! now I do recall that the vision _was_ on tip-toe and
looking first at the moon and then at me, as though he knew not which
he liked the best."

"It is my belief you never saw any such vision."

"Perhaps I was mistook. Anyway, the charm has not come true, for it
said I was to meet the man I should marry to-day, and you see for
yourself he is not here. Now my limbs are weary sitting so long; I
think I will try walking."

With this she slipped from her saddle and walked on a few steps in
advance of Romney, humming as she went,--

          "'I am as I am, and so will I be;
            But how that I am, none knoweth truly;
            Be it ill, be it well, be I bond, be I free,
            I am as I am, and so will I be.'"

There was a peculiar quality in Peggy's voice that made it an
interpreter of her personality. It had as many changes in it as her
moods. Now it sounded like a church bell over distant meadows, now like
a child praying at its mother's knee, and then would come a sudden
break of laughter like the trill of a bobolink shooting Parthian arrows
of song as he flies.

Huntoon followed her, watching the scarlet cloak against the green
background of the pines, and the stray curls that the wind blew
backward as she walked. Neale and Cornwaleys were far behind beyond
the turn in the road. At length he could bear it no longer. They were
alone. He drew closer and whispered something in her ear.

"Indeed! And pray what of it?" answered the girl, coolly.

"I will tell you what of it," said the young man between his teeth.
"I am not to be treated as I have seen you treat those tame gallants
in the town back there. When I tell you I love you, you may refuse
the love and you may say me nay; but you shall hear me out with
respect, and you shall give me a serious answer, as the true love of an
honorable man deserves whether it be returned or no."

Peggy did not turn, but she listened. This masterful note in his voice
was a new thing. She could scarcely have told whether she liked it or
resented it--perhaps a little of both. Certainly she was not inclined
to accept it meekly or without protest. As Huntoon finished speaking,
Peggy had just bent forward a pine bough that she might pass without
stepping in the mud. A wicked impulse seized the girl, and releasing
the branch suddenly she stepped aside, and the bough struck Huntoon
sharply in the face, his cheek reddening under the blow of its stiff
needles.

In an instant Peggy was sorry for her naughty trick, and turned with an
apology on her lips; but without a word Huntoon seized her in his arms,
and kissed her passionately.

A red spot of anger showed itself in Peggy Neville's cheek. She
stopped and stamped her foot.

"How dare you?" she exclaimed.

Romney made no answer--only stood looking at her. At last he said, "I
forgive you."

This was too much.

What Peggy might have said in answer can never be set down, for at this
moment the donkey, whose rein had slipped off Huntoon's arm, finding
himself free of restraint, kicked up his heels and set off at full
gallop along the path. Huntoon started after him at his fastest pace,
whilst Peggy could not to save her life refrain from bursting into a
fit of laughter at this undignified ending of a lovers' quarrel.

As the donkey, and Huntoon following after, rushed past Brent, the
Governor's horse shied so violently into the bushes that the rider had
hard work to keep his seat. In his vexation Brent called out,--

"I would there were as many donkeys in the province with four feet as
with two. Chase him, Huntoon! Not that way!--to the left--to the left!"

Huntoon had lost sight of the donkey; but now catching the last words,
he turned to the left, following the trail of the animal's feet in the
new-fallen snow. Brent paused a moment and then started after him, for
it was no light matter to be lost in the woods, and the path the young
man had taken was an unfinished one ending in a tangle, though a side
path connected it with the main road to St. Mary's.

The fallen leaves lying thick in the forest path crackled like brown
icicles as they crisped beneath the horse's hoofs, and Brent held a
tight rein to prevent his slipping. Huntoon's pace was swifter and he
was gaining rapidly; but before he had gone fifty rods, he stopped
suddenly.

"My God!" he cried. His breath came in deep gasps, and the sweat stood
out in beads on his forehead.

"Huntoon! Huntoon! Where are you?"

"Here."

"Where's your voice, man? I can scarce hear it. And how white you are,
like one who has seen a ghost."

"I have. LOOK THERE!"



                             CHAPTER VIII

                                A CLUE


At Huntoon's exclamation, Giles Brent dashed forward still faster, and
then he too stopped short and stood at gaze, for there in the centre of
the blazed path lay the body of a dead priest, his cloak and cassock
showing black against the whiteness around, his arms outstretched as if
on a cross.

The snow lay upon his breast in delicate, ruffling drifts; above him
circled a hawk with ominous, flapping wings; around, far as eye could
reach, stretched the interminable forest. Utter solitude! Complete
isolation from humankind! Yet from that solitary figure stretched
threads of destiny which should be found twisted close about the
heartstrings of many fellow-beings.

With a shock Brent recognized in the prostrate form the Jesuit priest
whom he had left at St. Gabriel's but two days since, the same man
against whose too constant visits he had found it necessary to caution
his sister; and now to meet him _thus_!

He rushed toward the body and knelt beside it. Tearing away cloak and
cassock and hair-shirt under all, he leaned his ear above the heart.
For a full minute he listened.

"He is dead," he said at last, "and must have been dead for hours."

"You know him?"

"Ay, he is one of the Fathers at St. Inigo's. He was staying with my
sister Mary at St. Gabriel's, and probably had started on the journey
back to the Hill when this overtook him;" and Brent began rapidly to
repeat a prayer for the dead.

Huntoon stood by in silence with bowed head. When Brent had finished
Huntoon said,--

"Did he--was death natural?"

Brent shook his head gloomily. "Look," he said; and as Huntoon stooped,
he drew aside the shirt and showed a wound on the left side above the
fifth rib. The clothing below it was dark and stiff with blood. No
words were needed to tell the tale.

"It must have been done by a native," said Huntoon.

"Ay, 'twas a deed of revenge or pure malice,--either of a native or,
perhaps, of some of the Protestants. To say truth, Father Mohl had
many enemies among them. He has been a great stirrer up of dissension
'twixt Catholic and Protestant, and 'tis partly on account of him and
his brethren that Leonard Calvert is gone home to consult with Lord
Baltimore. Father Mohl had ever a sneering way with him, and to look at
him one would say he had taken it with him to the next world."

"Ay, 'tis a ghastly smile! Think you could we draw the lips more
together and close the eyelids above that horrible stare?"

"You can try. Nay--'tis vain."

"Hulloa! Hulloa! Hulla-ho!"

The distant call brought back the two men for the first time to the
thought of their comrades. Huntoon looking round saw that the donkey
had entangled his reins in the low branches of a tree near by. As he
moved toward it Brent called out,--

"Nay, leave him there! We shall have need of him. Take my horse and
go back to the women, and prepare them for what they must see. Mount
Mistress Neville on Anne's donkey, then stay you with them and my
horse, and send Neale and Cornwaleys back to help me here."

The younger man bowed and turned back as he was bidden. At the joining
of the road he saw the four grouped where he had left them, Neale and
Cornwaleys talking in low tones, and Peggy feeding nuts to a wild
squirrel half tamed by the magic of her voice.

"Come, bunny! bunny! bunny! Here's fresh nuts gathered in the woods
this fall. Be not afraid! I'm as harmless as thou. I have no gun and
could not fire it if I had. Nay, do not cock thy head and turn thy
black eye toward Captain Cornwaleys! He reserves his fire for larger
game. Why, he will not even shoot a glance at me, for all I have on my
best bib and tucker."

The Captain, who for some time had been chafing under the too pressing
demands on his power of listening made by Neale, broke away now and
drew near Peggy.

"I am honored that Mistress Neville is willing to share her attention
between me and a squirrel, or perhaps, as I seem to have the minor
share, I might better say between a squirrel and me."

"That should be set down to my modesty. I felt more equal to the task
of amusing a squirrel than Sir Thomas Cornwaleys of Cross Manor."

"And to the same cause, perchance, I am to set down the gracious
pleasure wherewith you have received the devotion of that young gallant
from Virginia who has walked by your bridle-rein since ever we left St.
Mary's."

"'Twas the Governor's orders."

"Ay, and no doubt vastly displeasing to your ladyship."

"Oh, I enjoy talking to any one; the one thing I cannot abide is
solitude. Is not that a sign of a vacant mind?"

"Rather, I should say, of a mind filled with some one person--"

"Do I look like a love-sick maid?"

"No, but that condition doth oft lie hid under quips and smiles.
A girl will pick up her skirts and go lilting over hill and dale
light-hearted, the looker-on would think, as a milk-maid, and all the
while some love-sorrow eating into her heart like a canker-worm. Now,
a man is not so. He goes about biting his thumb and scowling at every
son of Adam that speaks to his sweetheart, and, for the matter of that,
often enough scowling at his sweetheart herself, as that callow boy has
been doing all day."

"Faith, I gave him cause."

"The more fool he to let you see that your teasing had met with such
success. However, I care little how he feels, so long as you are
heart-whole; but in the name of all the gallants of Maryland I do
protest against seeing Mistress Margaret Neville, on all hands allowed
to be the most charming damsel in St. Mary's, carried off by an
interloping Virginian. Troth, if the boys don't oust him I'll enter the
lists myself."

"Truly?"

"Try me and see!"

Peggy burst out into a merry ringing laugh, suddenly interrupted by
the sight of Romney Huntoon coming toward them with white, drawn face
and set teeth.

The talk and laughter died on the lips of the two who saw him.

"Oh, what is it?" said Peggy, running to meet him. "Sure, something
dreadful hath befallen! Governor Brent--is he killed?"

"No, he is well--he sent me hither; but--there has been an accident--"

"Are you hurt, that you look so white?"

"No, no; no one you know is injured--but a stranger, a priest, has been
struck with a knife and killed."

It was Peggy's turn to grow pale now. Here she had been laughing and
lightly jesting while this tragedy was brushing her so closely with its
sable wings.

"Master Neale," Huntoon said, turning to the Councillor, "you and
Captain Cornwaleys are to follow this path till you find Governor
Brent, and help him to lift the body of the priest to the donkey's
back; Mistress Neville, you are to ride before Anne on her donkey here."

"Could I not be of use if I went too to the Governor?"

"Hast thou ever looked on death?"

"Never, to remember it. My mother died when I was a little child and my
father at sea."

"Then do not look upon that corpse yonder. I have seen a dead baby and
it looked like a waxen lily, and I have seen a man shot by an Indian's
arrow and he looked grand and stern like a marble statue, but this
priest was ghastly, horrible. No, I am sure the Governor would not wish
you to see it. Mount, and we will ride on and prepare the household at
St. Gabriel's."

When Romney had left him Giles Brent stooped over the body of the
dead priest. "My God!" he murmured, "were not things in this unhappy
colony tangled enough without this new trouble? There is a deviltry
here that must be sifted to the bottom. We must mark this tree by which
the corpse lies. The distance must be two miles from St. Gabriel's and
within ten paces of the cross trail from the main path. If there is
any clue we must follow it. There should be footsteps; but the fresh
snow has covered them whichever way they turned. Death must have been
mercifully swift from such a wound."

As if to put an end to these disconnected thoughts, he stooped and
turned the body on its side. As he did so, something fell from the
folds of the cloak. Giles Brent looked at it, studied it more closely
with a gaze of fixed amazement, and then as he heard the sound of
approaching footsteps slipped it into his pocket. But his face was
ashen as he spoke to Neale, who was in advance.

"Come, Neale, do you lift on that side and I on this, while Cornwaleys
may bind him to the saddle with the rope he will find in my saddle-bag.
So--gently there--now steady him! Cornwaleys, take the bridle and lead
on gently. Thank Heaven, the distance is short!"

"Hast thou--is there any clue?" asked Neale.

"Nay, who shall say what is a clue? Heaven forbid I should even in
thought accuse an innocent man, but as God is my judge, if the guilt
be proven the murderer shall be punished, ay, though he were mine own
brother."

Slowly the men set forward,--Neale and Cornwaleys supporting their
terrible burden between them, Brent walking behind with his horse's
bridle-rein over his arm, and his head bowed as if with a burden too
heavy to be borne.

"Who could have thought it?" he murmured. "Who could have believed it
of _him_ of all men?"

Raising his eyes, he caught sight of the little party in advance, Peggy
in her scarlet cloak and Romney by her side. The sight seemed to give
rise to new and still more painful reflections.

"Poor child," he thought, "would it were possible to punish the guilty
without bringing down shame and sorrow on the innocent as well!"

On and on the caravan moved till the last bend in the road was reached,
and there, beyond the clearing, lay the manor house of St. Gabriel's.

The sun was setting behind the hills and touching the white tips of
the snow-covered trees with flame. The smoke curled from the kitchen
chimney and the fire on the hearth of the hall shone out merrily to
greet the travellers.

Giles Brent was expected, and he rarely came alone. His sister Mary,
who had all day been regretting that he could not be present at the
investiture of Elinor's tenant, was resolved that a noble supper should
console him for the loss. Venison pasty flanked by game graced the
head and foot of the table, and hot bowls of soup simmered before the
kitchen fire.

Cecil was stationed at the window to keep watch and bring early report
of the approach of the cloaked rider on his black Flemish horse.

Already they had been seen, for Cecil and Knut were tearing across the
snowy fields, and Mary Brent and Elinor were at the door with two men
by their side. Brent's heart rose in his throat and choked him as he
recognized Christopher Neville waving his hand in joyous welcome.

Oh, treachery! And who was that beside him--Ralph Ingle? Well, he
might be of use. 'Twas as well that he had come. Ah, now Peggy had
reached the door. She was telling the story. Brent's eye never moved
from Christopher's face while it went on, and he noted with grim
satisfaction that at least the man had the grace to shudder and turn
pale. But what was this?--instead of hiding himself as he should from
the gaze of honest men, he was coming forward toward him, toward _it_!

"This is a sad business, Brent!"

"_Sad_ is not the word; 'tis a _shameful_ business."

"Ay, full of shame for the doer, and sadness for the rest of us. Can I
help in lifting the body?"

"Nay, that is for those to do who, if they loved him not, yet bore him
no malice."

Neville started. How could Brent have heard of the quarrel when he was
absent?

"Not only am I one of those, but I sought this priest last night to beg
his pardon."

"Hush!" said Brent, hoarsely, "incriminate thyself no further!"

"INCRIMINATE!"--That one word cast a lurid light upon the situation. In
an instant Neville saw the pitfalls around his path, and the habit of
facing danger had taught him the habit of self-control.

"This," he said, looking Brent full in the face, "is neither the time
nor the place for the discussion of your words and all that they do
imply. I shall hold myself ready to meet you when and where you will,
to answer any and all charges, whether they come from friend or foe."

As Neville turned on his heel he was aware for the first time that
Ralph Ingle had been standing close beside him, and of necessity
overhearing all that was said. He in turn could not fail to catch
Ingle's words addressed to Brent:

"Surely, this judgment is over hasty. I have known Sir Christopher but
one day, yet am I loath--"

"Thou loath! and pray what dost think of me? Why, I had torn my heart
out rather than believe such a thing of my friend; but justice is
justice."

"Yet mercy is mercy."

"Ay, but mercy to one is injustice to another. And this deed is so
dastardly it puts the doer beyond the pale of clemency."

"And who is the doer of the deed?" It was Mistress Calvert's voice that
spoke, and both men started.

Elinor Calvert stood there before them in her dress of white and gold.
She who had come lightly walking across the snow-covered fields,
holding her head high and bidding her heart not to beat too joyously,
seemed now like some animal decked for the sacrifice, that has been
allowed to make merry on the journey to the altar, but now must bare
its breast to the sacrificial knife.

"Who is the doer of the deed?" Even as she put the question she knew
the answer, yet she stood her ground and gazed steadfastly at the men,
whose eyes fell before hers.

Ralph Ingle looked at the earth and began to stir with his foot a brown
branch of ground-pine which had pushed its way through the snow.

Brent stroked the donkey's ears for an instant, swallowed hard,
hesitated, then spoke impulsively, "Elinor, there is no use in
attempting to hide it. The man who did that foul murder is _Christopher
Neville_."

"NEVER!"

"Ay, so I would have sworn two hours since; but tell me one thing--did
he and the priest quarrel here at St. Gabriel's last night?"

"Ay--but--"

"Nay, no buts--plain facts tell their own story with no 'buts.' Did he
or did he not start out into the night after the quarrel with Father
Mohl?"

Elinor quivered as though the knife had entered her own heart.

"Oh, I will not answer! How can I when I know every word will be
twisted to one fell purpose?"

"Elinor, what is it to thee what befalls a man whom thou didst meet but
yesterday?"

"That is false. I knew him years ago in England. Years ago he loved me
and I loved him, and we would have wedded but for--"

"But for what, Elinor?"

"For his faith."

"Ah, thou hast said the word. Now we have the thread to guide us
through this dark maze. Neville loves thee still. He follows thee to
this country, he begs me to intercede with thee to accept him as thy
tenant, and all without a word of having known thee before; not a word,
you see, Ingle, even to me, this woman's natural guardian. Doth it not
smack of deceit and treachery?"

"I cannot deny it hath that appearance, yet beware how you do wholly
commit yourself to appearances!"

"Ay, if appearances were all, but listen how the story all fits
together. Faith, I can tell it as though I had seen all. This man comes
to St. Gabriel's, and finding Mistress Calvert alone he tells her of
his love. She, like the good Catholic she is, tells him in turn that
his faith still stands between them. He swears at the fanatical priests
who stand between her and him. Is not this all true so far, Cousin?"

No response; but the silence answers him.

"Next comes a quarrel 'twixt Neville and Father Mohl, how bred I
cannot say, though doubtless this lady could tell us if she would; but,
by my guess, at her behest her lover follows the priest to ask pardon;
then--then--the rest is known to God only, but the result we see lying
before us in mute and ghastly protest at the wrong done to humanity."

"Shame, Cousin Giles, that you are so ready to think evil of your
friend! What is all this tale of thine when sifted? A tissue of what
was, and what might have been. You have shown a possible motive, but
'tis a far cry from that to proving the deed."

And what say you, then, to this? As he spoke, Brent drew from his
pocket a poniard, with a handle curiously inlaid with silver and ivory,
and cut upon it the initial "_N_" sunk in a deep circle.

Elinor's only answer was a deep groan. Drawing her cloak close round
her, she turned and fled toward the house, her head bowed like some
wild creature that had got its death-wound.



                              CHAPTER IX

                            A REQUIEM MASS


Gloom lay on St. Gabriel's. In the little chapel at the end of the hall
stood a rude bier, and on it lay the figure of Father Mohl, his hands
crossed upon his breast. Near the bier knelt Elinor Calvert, telling
her beads, but absently, as though her thoughts were far away, and
on her face such a look of utter and unspeakable grief as would have
melted a heart of stone. Her golden hair was drawn back from her pale
forehead, and her lashes fell over deep shadowy circles which sorrow
had traced on her cheek. Grief's pencil works swiftly.

Gusts of chill wind swept along the uncarpeted floor in little eddies,
and stirred the heavy folds of her black dress.

Not far from her knelt Peggy Neville, miserably ill at ease in a
ceremonial unfamiliar and unsympathetic. She was too young to throw
herself into the spirit of other people's emotions, and found comfort
only in the society of those who threw themselves into hers. In spite
of her awe in the presence of death, her thoughts would wander ever
and anon to the scenes in the forest, to Romney's words, and, shame
upon her! she could not for her life help wondering if he were looking
at her now, and if her feet showed beneath her dress as she knelt. And
all the while the young man saw her as a vision of a saint kneeling in
the depth of the shadows.

From the altar sounded Father White's voice in the solemn rhythmic
cadences of the mass, and the voices below answered in their tremulous
responses,--

_Dominus vobiscum--_

_Et cum spiritu tuo._

_Benedicamus Domine!_

_Deo gratias._

_Fidelium animæ per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace._

_Amen._

As the candle-light shone on Mary Brent's face, it marked a curious
change wrought by these few hours. The placidity had stiffened into
obstinacy, as a water-drop stiffens into an icicle. The nostrils were
slightly pinched, and the lines which bigotry draws around the mouth
were already defining themselves in dim outline. No one can determine
to believe evil of another without planting in his own soul the
seeds of deterioration. Mary Brent had no sooner said in her heart,
"Christopher Neville is a murderer," than she began to desire his
punishment, and having banished him from the circle of her sympathy,
she was fain to justify herself by seeking, and secretly wishing proof
of his guilt. From this, it was but a step to suspicion of all his
acts; and after that came uncharitableness, and hatred cloaking itself
under love of justice and pious devotion to holy Church, which had been
thus outraged in the person of its priest.

Already the dark deed enacted in the forest was working, not only on
the lives, but on the character of those among whom it had fallen.

The men and women here at St. Gabriel's were being tried in the
crucible of destiny, and none could foresee which should emerge pure
gold, and which should be utterly consumed in the fire.

Still the priest's voice sounded from the altar, and the responsive
chant rose and fell on the still air.

An awe such as had never before touched her young life stole over Peggy
Neville as she listened, and crowded out the petty vanities which had
filled her mind at first. As she looked at the bier and the priest's
body stretched upon it, she seemed to see her own future strangely
intertwined by destiny with the fate of this rigid figure. How still it
lay! Oh, if it would only move! The mass came to an end. Dead silence
fell, and lasted. Peggy felt that she could bear it no longer. She must
cry out, scream, or perhaps by one of those strange, contradictory
emotions which assail the human soul at great crises, laugh aloud
with wild, unreal hilarity. At this instant she felt a touch upon her
shoulder, and her brother's voice said in her ear, "Get thy cloak and
hood and meet me outside the door."

His voice sounded grave and ominous.

With beating heart she stole away from the circle already breaking up
into whispering groups, and, having donned her cloak with the scarlet
berries still clinging to its breast, she made her way out at a side
door, and walked hurriedly down the path till she saw her brother
waiting for her beneath the shadow of the snow-laden trees.

At sight of him her tense mood broke suddenly, and bursting into tears,
she threw herself into his arms.

"Oh, Kit! Kit! Tell me about it! Who is he? What is he to us? Why dost
thou look so white and strange?"

Christopher Neville swallowed hard, and moved his lips without
utterance.

"My heart is troubled," he said, speaking to himself rather than Peggy,
and then fell to repeating the words of the psalm: "My friends and my
neighbors have drawn near and stood against me. And they that were near
me stood afar off."

With round eyes Peggy watched him sadly, sure that he was in a fever,
and wishing she had brought her aunt's medicaments of herbs and sweet
waters from St. Mary's. "Come, Christopher," she said gently, "come
into the house. There is naught amiss--thou art walking under the
shadow of a bad dream."

For an instant he faced her in silence. Then at last his words came
out, swift and compelled as if shot from a cannon.

"Little sister," he said, "a sudden trouble has fallen on my life, and
almost the saddest part of it is that it is like to darken thine too.
I would to God," he cried with sudden bitterness, "I had never brought
thee over seas."

"Am I in thy way?"

"No! no!--rather art thou the only comfort I have to turn to."

"Then," said Peggy with the characteristic stamp of her foot, "then why
say such hard things? I am not very old and I am not very wise; but I
think--I hope--I can be trusted, and I know I love thee dearly, and
would lay down my life to serve thee."

"Faithful little heart!" he murmured.

"But tell me," she said, speaking softly, as one does to those in
trouble,--"tell me what is this dark cloud which has fallen upon thee
since thou didst come all smiles to lift me from my saddle this very
day. Surely thou didst know of nothing then."

"No, a few short hours since I would have refused to change my lot with
any man in the province,--a few short hours, yet they may suffice to
blight a life."

"For the love of God, talk no more in riddles, but tell me plainly,
what is it has changed thee so? Cheer up, dear heart, and do not talk
as if thou didst stand accused of some terrible crime!"

"_I do._"

"For shame! 'tis no time for idle jesting."

"Never were words spoke less in lightness. If thou must have plainer
speech, know that I, Christopher Neville, thy brother, stand accused of
murdering yonder priest."

"What fools utter such imbecile slander?"

"Alas, they are no fools that utter, ay, and believe it."

"Why not go straight to Governor Brent and give them the lie?"

Neville staggered as if a blow had struck him.

"Peggy--"

"Brother--"

"_It is Brent who accuses me!_"

At these words Peggy turned pale, but she never flinched. "Some
villain has his ear," she cried. "Tell me who it is; I will face him
down,--yes, I, girl though I am, will show him what it is to lie away
the character, perhaps the life, of the best man in Maryland."

"How do you know it is a lie?"

Peggy Neville laughed--a nervous, hysterical laugh; but the sound was
music in her brother's ears. There was one person, then, to whom the
idea of his being a murderer was impossible--absurd. He smiled, but he
repeated the question; "How dost thou know it is a lie?"

"I know it as I know that water runs downhill, that fire burns. Shall I
swear by these and doubt the laws that rule a soul?"

Neville looked at his sister in a sort of trance of bewilderment. Could
this be the little girl he had played with and laughed at and teased
and loved as one loves a pet and plaything,--this pale young creature,
with eyes aflame with righteous wrath, with pity on her lips, and all
her heart bursting with sympathy and tenderness? Her brother took her
hand in his with a feeling akin to reverence.

"You will never know how much you have comforted me," he said. "I did
not do it, Peggy. I did not do it. Cherish that certainty as a support
in the hard, dark days thou wilt be called to pass through."

"Waste no time in telling me what I know already as well as thou. Let
us take counsel rather, while we may. Tell me first what do they say?
What reason have they? What have they found, seen, imagined?"

"Not much, but enough; they know that I followed Father Mohl out into
the night--that he was never seen after till he was found dead in the
wood yonder."

"But how couldst thou have joined in a death struggle and brought home
no trace of conflict?"

"When I came back I was torn with brambles and stained with blood--of a
beast, I told them--but who could know if I spoke truth?"

It was characteristic of Neville to see his adversary's case more
strongly than his own.

"This is all but a series of happenings. Any one might have met with
the same disaster, and come to his death by an arrow from the bow of
one of the natives."

"It was no arrow that did the deed. It was a knife--an English knife."

"Oh, I am so glad! now surely they can trace the murderer."

Neville gave a deep groan, and leaned his head upon his arm against the
tree.

"_Peggy, the knife was mine._"

"Thine!"

"Ay; Governor Brent found it hid in the folds of the priest's cloak.
He knew it for mine. Canst thou wonder that he accuses me?"

"Does--does any one else suspect thee?"

Neville said nothing, yet his sister was answered.

"Oh, cruel! cruel!" she cried. "How could she know thee so long, and
credit any such base slander? She is a--"

"Hush! Not a word of her. Whatever she does, says, thinks, is right and
forever beyond cavil."

"Monstrous!" groaned his sister, "the man is so daft that if this woman
tells him he has committed murder he will bow his head in meek assent.
Oh, be a man, be a man, I pray thee, and give her back scorn for scorn!"

"She has shown me no scorn,--only a sad, half-sick listlessness, as
though she too had got a death-wound at my hands. It is that which has
cut me to the heart as no pride or wrath or disdain had had power to
do."

Peggy shivered. Her brother noticed it. "What a brute I am," he
murmured, "to keep thee standing here in the cold night air. 'Tis
of a piece with my selfishness. Get thee in and know that thou hast
brought something like comfort to the heart of a sorrow-stricken man.
Good-night, and God bless thee!"

"I will go in as thou bidst me, for the night air waxes cold. But
thou--what wilt thou do?"

"I do not know; I have not thought. It matters little."

"Oh, yes, it matters very little whether thou dost catch thy death of
cold!"

"Would to God I could!"

"Well, as for that, it might serve thy turn, but it would be passing
hard for me!" Here she began to cry.

"By Heavens, thou dost speak truth! Listen, little one: for thy sake I
will take care of myself; for thy sake I will fight this thing to the
bitter end. And if by any chance I conquer, thou mayst have the joy of
knowing that but for thee it never had been done."

For the first time a ring of determination, of energy, of unconscious
hope sounded in his voice.

"Now art thou brave once more," cried Peggy, raising herself on tip-toe
to look into his eyes, which shone like cut steel in the moonlight.
"Never fear but all shall come right yet!"

As she tore herself away and hurried up the steps, she saw with
amazement that Ralph Ingle was pacing up and down the cleared space
before the door of the manor-house.

Stranger still, he carried a gun.

He saluted gravely as Peggy drew near, and would fain have passed on,
but she stopped before him.

"Wherefore abroad so early?" she asked.

"By order of Governor Brent," he answered.

The words struck a chill to her soul. So Christopher, her brother
Christopher, the idol of her childhood, the revered hero of her girlish
dreams, was being _watched_, like a criminal! A quick flame of rage
rose in her heart, and drove back the numbness of despair. "How dare
they?" she whispered to herself; but she hid her thoughts, and spoke no
word further.

As she passed through the hall to reach her chamber, she saw Elinor
still kneeling in the chapel, and the hot anger rose in her stronger
than ever. Was this the pattern of perfection she had wasted so many
thoughts upon,--this woman whose faith broke at the first trial?

Oh, paltry faith! Oh, travesty on confidence!

At the foot of the stair Giles Brent and his sister Margaret stood in
low-toned conversation. As Peggy drew near, Giles started and moved
aside a little, but Margaret stretched out a warm, comforting hand.

"Oh, thank you, thank you!" sobbed Peggy, as breaking away she rushed
up stairs.

"Poor child, she hath a heavy load to bear!" said Brent, looking after
her.

"Giles, thou art a fool!"

A moment ago Brent had been ready to take his sister into his
confidence; but her frank speech angered him. Her great mistake lay in
answering appeals for sympathy with advice.

"Margaret, thou art too prone to think that wisdom will die with thee.
It is time thou didst take to heart the fact that I am Governor of this
province, and responsible to God and Calvert alone for my ruling."

"The more the pity that so great a trust is fallen to so little sense."

"Thou hast a shrewd tongue, Margaret, and I have felt its lash often;
but I think thou mightst spare it to-day. Surely, I have enough to try
me."

"Ay, without conjuring up new troubles of thine own imagining."

"'Tis easy said, but hath little meaning. Is the murder of yonder
priest of my own imagining?"

"No."

"Is Neville's knife falling from his garments my own imagining?"

"No."

"Then where comes in the point of thy words?"

"I mean that thou hast walked as fast to meet this trouble as thou
shouldst have walked away from it. Was any with thee when thou didst
find the knife?"

"No, 'twas between the going of Huntoon and the coming of the others."

"And didst show it to Neale or Cornwaleys?"

"No--I was half stunned and walked on in silence; but when Neville came
to meet me I was maddened by his impudent boldness, and I charged him
with the crime then and there."

"Were you two alone?"

"Ay, but for Ralph Ingle and Elinor."

"But for them! As well tell a secret to two hundred as to two. No flies
get through a shut door; but once open, it may as well be kept so, and
let them in and out at will. Therefore, as I said at the beginning,
thou art a fool."

"Thinkst thou I would defeat justice, and make myself sharer in such a
guilty secret as that?"

"I think thou art first of all Governor of this province, wherein the
chief danger lies in the hatred that Catholic and Protestant have for
each other. Now, once 'tis known,--nay, suspected, since for my single
self I believe it not, though I own the proof is strong,--but once, as
I say, let it be suspected that a Protestant hath murdered a Catholic,
and then all the dogs of war are loosed at once. How can it be that
thou who hadst the wit to deal with Ingle shouldst so have lost thy
head here?"

Brent was irritated by the explicitness of his sister's explanation,
as a deaf person is irritated by a tone a shade louder than necessary.
Really, he could take in her meaning without having it lined out to him
as if he were a schoolboy.

"Margaret, I have heard thee through because thou art my sister, and
because thou hast in times past been a faithful counsellor; but in this
I will be my own master, and I am in no humor to submit to orders from
thee. Therefore say no more."

"So be it, then, Brother! Thy folly be on thine own head; but bear in
mind that folly ofttimes claims a more usurious interest than sin. I go
back to Kent Fort at daylight, and shall do my best to quell the rising
discontent; but I know not what will follow the news of the arrest of
a Protestant, especially of such a Protestant,--a man like Christopher
Neville, loved and trusted of all men."

"There, Margaret, thou hast turned the knife in the wound as thou hast
a trick of doing. This is the very root of bitterness in my heart. I
too loved and trusted this man, and he hath betrayed me. He deceived me
about Elinor, whom it seems he hath known and loved for years back. He
deceived me about his wealth, letting me believe he had need to work
at Cecil Point, when in truth he has lands of value in England. And
now worst of all he has betrayed my hospitality by this unpardonable
villainy."

"Enough of this, Giles! It is useless for thee and me to argue this
matter, wherein we cannot see alike. Only do not thou deceive thyself
with talk of statecraft or public duty; these may be in thy mind, but
there is somewhat under them,--thou art jealous--"

Giles Brent started as if a lash had struck him.

"_I_--jealous!"

"Yes, Giles, the love of long ago still lives in thy memory."

"And what harm if it do?"

"No harm save as it drives thee to injustice. Beware! and trust not thy
judgment when thy heart holds the balance."

"Good-bye!" said Giles Brent, and turned upon his heel.



                               CHAPTER X

                          THE ORDEAL BY TOUCH


The second day after the murder had come, and still Father Mohl's body
lay in the centre of the great hall, the inscrutable smile still on his
lips, the fringe of hair streaked over the high, pale forehead. The
candles at his head and feet guttered and dripped in their sockets and
opposed their yellow flame to the grayness of the January day which
seemed to be peering in curiously at the scene in the hall, where all
the household of St. Gabriel's were gathered to watch the final test of
Christopher Neville's guilt or innocence.

The dwellers by Chesapeake Bay two hundred and fifty years ago had
not banished the influence of the supernatural from the conduct of
life in public or private affairs. If their easy toleration prevented
their taking satisfaction in the witch-burning practised by their
contemporaries in Massachusetts, they yet found nothing incredible in
witchcraft, for they too saw ghosts and felt the malign influence of
the evil eye.

To such a generation it was quite natural that a murderer should be
arraigned before the dead as well as the living.

     "If the vile actors of the heinous deed
      Near the dead body happily be brought,
      Oft hath't been proved the breathless corpse will bleed."

It was a test based half on superstition, half on deep knowledge of
human nature; for how indeed could a murderer, brought face to face
with the still accusation in his victim's rigid form, fail to betray
himself before the hostile or coldly neutral eyes of the witnesses. And
as for the corpse showing signs of recognition of the assassin, why,
there were so many ready to swear that they had known that to happen
that it would have been flat scepticism to doubt it.

So the household of St. Gabriel's waited for Neville and his guard to
enter the room, a deep silence hanging over all.

Giles Brent, from his end of the long table, sat gazing at his sister,
and thinking how strangely her smooth, round face and domestic bearing
contrasted with the grim scene around her. It was as if some brown
thrush had been caught up from its nest in the bushes by the wind of
destiny, and suddenly enveloped in the black cloud of a tornado.

Mary Brent kept her eyes steadily fixed upon the portrait of Lord
Baltimore, painted by Van Dyck, and hanging on the wall on the turn of
the stairs.

She studied every detail of his costume,--the small clothes of blue
velvet, coat embroidered in gold, and doublet embroidered in silver,
the open sleeves with their azure lining, the breastplate of blue
inlaid with gold, and the sword-hilt studded with jewels, the powdered
wig that topped the whole, and the cocked hat, its flap looped and held
back with brilliants, which shone bright as real gems.

These seemed real while the figures around her receded from her sight
dim and blurred, wavering like figures in a dream. There was Mistress
Calvert on the settle below the bend of the stairs. Was she really
Elinor Calvert, or a corpse like the one which lay scarcely more white
in the middle of the room?

Elinor herself was almost as doubtful as her cousin whether she really
lived and breathed. It seemed rather as though she had already tasted
the bitterness of death, and now moved about, a pale, miserable ghost
in a land where all was ghastly and miserable. Even Cecil seemed
unreal, and that worried her more than all the rest. In the last three
days the touch of those little arms had in some way lost its power
to comfort, and the childish presence had grown irksome because
it forbade her giving way to the bursts of wild weeping which had
alternated with stony despair.

Just now Cecil was pressing close to her side and whispering in her
ear,--

"Mamma, did Thir Chrithtopher Neville kill the priest? Dost thou think
he did it?"

"Hush, Cecil!"

"But did he?"

"I know not."

"Father White thinks he did it."

Silence on Elinor's part.

"And Couthin Giles thinks so."

Still silence.

"And Couthin Mary thinks so; but I do not."

"And why?"

"Because he promised me a bow and arrowth and he knew thou wouldst not
let me take a gift from a murderer."

The quick stab of the word was intolerable. Elinor thrust the child
away from her side with a swift, tragic gesture; then, at sight of
the angry flush in his cheeks and the grieved wonder in his eyes, she
caught him to her heart again close, and bowed her head over his curls.

The only person who caught the meaning of the action was Peggy Neville,
who sat in a corner a little back of the Governor's chair. Heart reads
heart in crises like these, and sympathy is second sight. Her first
feeling was a quick thrill and a desire to run across the room and
kiss that cold proud face with the swollen eyelids. Then the blood of
the Nevilles, proud every whit as that of the Calverts, surged angrily
back to her heart. "She to dare to doubt him! Why, nobody thinks great
things of me, but I would never desert any one that I cared even the
least little bit about. I'd stick all the closer when people turned
against him, and as for evidence, what is the use of being a woman if
you are going to be influenced by such things as that!"

Oh, little Peggy! women do not own the only minds superior to evidence.
From across the hall a young man is watching every expression of your
face, feeling sure that your brother is innocent because you think
him so--confident that Governor Brent is a cold, hard man, eager to
believe evil of a friend, and vowing that as for him, Romney Huntoon,
his sword, his honor, his life itself are at the service of Christopher
Neville, with whom he has scarcely spoken, and of Christopher's sister
Peggy whom he has known for a matter of ten days.

A silence deeper than before falls on the company as the tramp of
feet is heard at the door and Neville enters between two guards. The
Coroner's inquest is formed after the fashion of the day, Giles Brent
as Chief-Justice and Chief Coroner of the province, under that charter
which in Maryland invested the governor with the _regia potestas_, on
the platform at the end of the hall.

Associated with him by courtesy is the lady of the manor, while on
either side are ranged Councillors Neale and Cornwaleys. All face the
central figure stretched rigid on the bier in the middle of the hall,
and as the prisoner walks the length of the room that lies between him
and the bier, all eyes are fixed upon him. To each person present his
bearing denotes a different thing. It is not beauty alone that is in
the eye of the gazer.

To Peggy Neville that bearing speaks lofty consciousness of innocence.

To Mary Brent it swaggers with the effrontery of brazen guilt.

To Giles Brent the face is an impenetrable mask.

To Elinor Calvert--but how describe the emotions that surge through her
soul, each obliterating the former like waves on a beach of sand!

Her first feeling, as she watched Neville stride up the room, was a
thrill of pride in his imperious personality as he towered taller by
a head than his guard, and in his bearing outranking all present in
courtliness.

Then came a longing to speak out before them all and claim him for her
true love; then, as her glance travelled upward to that pale set face,
the deadly chill of doubt and distrust struck cold upon her heart, and
she bowed her head upon her hands.

When she awoke to consciousness of what was passing around she heard
the voice of Giles Brent saying,--

"That all here present may understand the business which is going
forward, let me first set forth my duties under the law. 'A coroner of
our lord the King,' says the statute, 'shall go to the places where any
be slain, and shall summon the honest men of the neighborhood, and of
them shall inquire what they know touching the death; and if any person
is said to be guilty of the murder he shall be brought before the
coroner and his inquest, and shall be put upon his defence that he may,
if he can, purge himself of the charge.'"

"Oh, dear, how Giles doth love form! I believe he would see us all hung
if he might pronounce sentence in Latin." Elinor's foot kept time to
her angry thoughts, and that so loud that it caught Brent's ear and
brought a frown to his brow.

"Christopher Neville, you stand accused of a dastardly crime,--the
murder of Andrew Mohl, a priest of the Jesuit order, who lies here
before us, and who is known to have come to his death on the night of
January twentieth."

"Who are mine accusers?"

Brent turned and whispered first to Neale and Cornwaleys, then to his
sister, and finally, turning again toward the prisoner, he said,--

"'Twill serve no good turn to press that question."

"I stand upon my rights."

"Is it not enough that there be a dozen here who are convinced of thy
guilt?"

"I stand upon my rights. I will have the name."

"Then, since thou dost demand the name of him who lodged the charge,
'tis that of Father Fisher, come hither to-day from St. Mary's."

"Father Fisher? The head of the Jesuit colony at St. Inigo's?"

"Ay; yet he makes his charge not as a priest, but a citizen."

"No doubt."

"Sneers, sir, will not help your case, with which we will now go on.
What plea are you fain to enter, 'guilty' or 'not guilty'?"

"Not guilty."

"Master Neale, kindly act as secretary and record the plea. Sir
Christopher, will you hear the evidence against you?"

"I will."

"On any disputed point you shall confront witnesses; but that we may
not waste time, let us settle first that whereon we agree. First, you
are a Protestant."

Neville bowed assent.

"Second, here in this house you did quarrel with the dead priest
touching matters of faith and doctrine."

"We had words, certainly."

"And angry words, as I am told."

"I was angry. Belike he was angry, too."

"He admits that he was angered. Put that down," whispered Mary Brent to
Neale.

"Tell us what happened after your talk with Father Mohl."

"He rose and started to walk to St. Mary's."

"And what did you then?"

"I followed him."

"For what purpose?"

"To beg his pardon."

"Ah! Now we have it. You felt you had done him wrong."

"I did not."

"Then why ask his pardon?"

"Because I had wounded other hearts than his, and, moreover, I had
offended against Mistress Brent's hospitality."

Mary Brent's lips drew themselves into a tight, straight line.

"Now, Sir Christopher, will you tell the court something we are most
urgent to know,--did you, or did you not, return from that search
agitated and distraught in bearing, with garments torn and stained with
blood?"

"I did."

There was an ominous pause, during which one could well nigh count
heart-beats.

"Christopher Neville, do you know this knife?"

"Yea; 'tis mine own."

"Ay, and found in the folds of the priest's garments, and fitting with
fatal exactness the wound in the breast. Now, one more question: when
you came in that night did you, or did you not, crave blessing and
absolution from Father White?"

"No--not absolution!"

"A mere quibble! You confessed to him that you had sinned, and you
begged his blessing. Not one of these points do you deny; and, indeed,
denial were worse than useless, for, as you well know, I have witnesses
enough at hand to prove them all. The explanations in your written
statement, which lies before me and which I have examined, your silly
tales of the wild animal, the brush and briar, do credit neither to
your mind nor your conscience. Rather I beg of you while there is yet
time make a clean breast of it here before God, before me, and before
this assembled household of St. Gabriel's." Here Brent's voice took a
tone almost of pleading, strangely at variance with his magisterial
manner at the beginning.

"We all know," he went on, "that the priest had the cause of the
Church so much at heart that he might have been tempted to use words
to a heretic hard for hot blood to brook. Tell us all that happened,
and there may be circumstances making for leniency if not for
justification."

"I did not kill the priest."

The dulness of the speaker's tone might be the result of the reaction
from strong excitement, or the apathy of guilt. It angered Brent.

"Neville, I would like to stand your friend; but the Governor of the
Palatinate of Maryland declines to be a compounder of felony. I ask
once more, have you any confession to make?"

"None."

"Gentlemen, are you ready for the test?"

Councillor Neale and Cornwaleys bowed assent.

"Mistress Brent, do you, as lady of the manor, approve the aforesaid
test that Christopher Neville be commanded to lay his hand upon the
breast of Father Mohl yonder and take oath before God that he knoweth
naught of how the dead man came by his death?"

"I approve it," said Mary Brent, rising in her place, "and I do command
all those here present to draw near the bier and keep watch upon the
face of the dead while the oath proceeds."

Slowly and solemnly the assembled household drew together in a circle
about the corpse. Neville placed his right hand upon the breast of the
dead man. For an instant he stood silent so, then raising the hand
to heaven he said slowly, calmly, distinctly: "I swear to God I am
innocent of this man's death, and I know naught touching it."

Why did all present suddenly shrink back as if a leper stood among
them? The dead priest lay rigid as ever, the folded hands had not
stirred, the inscrutable smile had not wavered on the lips or given
any hint of its meaning. Surely there was no accusation in those still
eyelids. Neville himself looked round in some bewilderment, till he
caught his sister's murmur of horror,--

"Kit! oh, Kit!--YOUR HAND!"

Yes, as he turned it he saw for himself, a drop or two of blood
trickling from a tiny wound in the palm, made by a rough place on the
crucifix as he drew his hand from the corpse. A scratch so slight that
it yielded no sensation to one in his tense, nervous state.

"Ay," he said coolly, but bitterly enough, "that ends it, I reckon.
Such testimony as that closes the case against me; yet, before God--"

"Hush! no more blasphemy!" It was Giles Brent's voice that spoke, and
all echo of friendliness was gone out of it. "Guards, remove your
prisoner to the tobacco-house and keep him close. Gentlemen, the
inquest is ended."



                              CHAPTER XI

                           THE GREATER LOVE


The guards turned, one holding Neville by the wrist, the other marching
behind, and thus he walked down the hall between the rows of unfriendly
faces. As he passed Elinor she looked up timidly, but met a glance of
freezing contempt.

So she read the language of his eyes, and he knew not that they spoke
any such thing. Instead he had but a vague consciousness that among the
dull ranks of meaningless faces his eyes suddenly fell upon a glory, a
brilliancy of sunny tresses straying over cheeks of a luminous pallor.

That was Elinor Calvert. Oh, yes! he knew that very well. Who else had
that bearing, with its strange blending of a dignity too unconscious to
be majestic, with a simplicity too dignified to be wholly simple? And
those purple eyes, why were they so sad? Ah, because he was guilty. He
had forgotten that; but Giles Brent had said so, and all these hostile
faces confirmed the verdict. At any rate, since she thought so, it
mattered little whether the verdict were true or false.

Suddenly there came to him a vision of a new circle in the Inferno, a
circle where one forever questioned the eyes he loved and dared not
read the answer written therein.

"My son, harden not thine heart; but rather submit thyself in penitence
and humility to the sentence of justice."

It was Father White who spoke. The words brought Neville back to the
present with a shock. He shook off the kind priest's hand rudely.

"Judgment, not justice!" he answered, with haughtiness, and moved on
with a smile on his face. Pride is the fox that the Spartan carries
under his cloak, smiling while it eats his heart.

Father White drew back, but so full was Neville's mind that he noted
not the movement, nor indeed aught else, till he was aware of a yellow
head at his elbow and a pair of short legs striding to keep the pace
with his own long ones.

Cecil had crept from his mother's side, and joining Neville was now
seeking to slip his little hand into the close-clenched one beside him.

"I've brought thomething for you," he whispered, putting his other hand
to the breast of his jerkin as they came to the door.

Neville answered by a dreary smile.

"It's a knife to take the place of the one you lost."

The guard shook his head reprovingly.

"No knives for prisoners, Cecil," said Neville.

"Well, you shall have thomething, because you are my friend. I mean
that you shall be my tenant at Robin Hood's Barn yet, and I don't think
you killed the priest. Mother does; but men must think for themselves."

Neville bit his lip till the blood came.

"See," said Cecil, "here is a picture of Mother done on ivory. She gave
it to me the morning I was lord of the manor. I asked if I could give
it to you. She smiled and said it would be time enough to think of that
when you asked for it, and I promised never to offer it to you till you
did; but it ith a pretty picture, and you would like it to look at in
the tobacco-house, and you could sell it for bread if you escape"--this
in a lower whisper. "Now, do you ask for it?"

Neville grew white to the lips. He looked at the picture as a starving
man looks at bread. After an instant's hesitation he shut his teeth and
drew himself up.

"_No!_" he cried.

Then wrenching his wrist from the jailer's clasp, he lifted Cecil in
his arms, kissed him, and set him down again.

"But I do thank thee from the bottom of a sad heart," he said, and
added, "God bless thee and reward thee!"

Inside the hall, with the dignity and formality of which neither
fewness of numbers nor bareness of surroundings could rob our
forefathers, the court filed down the room, Mistress Brent on her
brother's arm.

"Now, Giles," said his sister, "art thou satisfied at last who is the
guilty man?"

"I fear there can be no doubt."

"I should say not, indeed. Even Margaret must needs give over her hot
defence and admit that the voice of the Lord hath spoken."

"I wish it would tell me what were good to do."

"It does, Giles. It says, 'Be firm! Let not ill-timed tenderness
protect the criminal! Blood guiltiness must be wiped out in blood.'"

"That is not a gospel of love, Mary."

"'Tis the gospel of justice. I feel a sense of guilt in myself that
Holy Church hath suffered such outrage in the bosom of my household,
and this guilt can only be purged away when we withdraw fellowship and
sympathy from the evil-doer and deliver him up to justice. To-morrow,
Giles, thou must go to St. Mary's and--"

"Softly, Mary! In this matter we must move slowly and with caution."

"Thy friendship for this man makes thee weak."

"Come, come, Mary!" said her brother, testily; "'tis time we discovered
whether this province is to be ruled by men or women. Elinor calls me
hard of heart for persecuting Christopher Neville; Margaret calls me
a fool for suspecting him; now you will have me a weakling for not
hanging him out of hand. I tell thee I will have no more meddling in
this case; when I see my duty clear before me, I will do it. Till then
I bid thee hold thy peace."

Brent's last words were overheard by the worthy Masters Neale and
Cornwaleys, who followed close after them.

"The Governor is nigh distraught over this wretched business," said
Neale, meditatively stroking the tuft on his chin.

"And well he may be," replied Cornwaleys. "It needs but a small torch
to light such a flame of religious dissension here in Maryland as a
century shall not suffice to extinguish."

"Yet you would not have the guilty escape?"

"Why not Neville as well as Ingle? Better that than set the province
afire. Besides, so many innocent must needs suffer with the guilty.
Look at that little sister of Neville's! Yesterday she was gay as a
lark; to-day she can scarce lift her swollen eyelids. Poor child! I
would I could help her."

Another man in the hall shared the wish of Captain Cornwaleys. As
Peggy passed Huntoon she felt her hand grasped, and held in a strong,
heartening clasp. "Courage!" Romney whispered. "We are not yet at the
end. Much may still come to pass in our favor." Peggy's heart rose at
the word "_our_."

"But the blood," she murmured. "I believe it was the priest's revenge
for the quarrel he had with Kit." The girl shared the superstition of
the age, and it seemed to her that some supernatural and malign agency
was working against Christopher.

"Nay," answered Romney, "else how account for this?" and he held up
his own hand scarred from joint to the joining of the wrist. "'Twas
from the same edge of the crucifix I got the scratch as I watched
by the corpse last night, and leaned over to set the candles at the
head straighter in their sockets. No, no, Peggy! it will not do to
lose heart now. We must think of nothing but how we can help your
brother,--clear him if we can; save him if we cannot clear him."

The contagion of hopefulness spread to Peggy's sorrowing little soul,
and with it came a blessed sense of having a firm support at hand to
lean upon, let the winds of adversity blow as they would. The firm
arm and brave heart and ready, resourceful wit were all hers for the
asking; nay, were themselves pleading with her to be allowed to spend
their life in her service, and she had flouted them and their owner but
three days since,--yes, and answered the proffer of honest love by a
slap in the face from an evergreen bough!

It would seem by all the laws of psychology that this angry humility
and consciousness of her own errors should have made pretty Peggy more
tolerant of the mistakes and shortcomings of others; but by a strange
revulsion, as she drew near the corner where Elinor Calvert sat gazing
into vacancy as if turned to stone by the sight of the gorgon's head,
her anger swiftly changed its object. Slowly and somewhat scornfully
Peggy looked her over from head to foot.

"Do you believe this calumny?" she asked.

No answer from lips or eyes.

"Oh, shame!" cried the girl. "I can bear it for the rest; but that you,
who have known him half his life, you whom he loved, nay worshipped,
putting you well nigh in the place of God above, that you should
condemn him--oh, it is too much! Thank God he still has me to love and
cling to him!"

Slowly the stony face relaxed, the fixed eyes began to see things once
more, but the voice was still dim and distant as Elinor answered,--

"Cease, child!--prate no more of what you feel for Christopher Neville!
You say you love too much to doubt him. What is your love to mine? I
_know_ him guilty, and yet, God help me, I love him still!"



                              CHAPTER XII

                       HOW LOVERS ARE CONVINCED


Nothing is more impossible than to predict what one's emotions will be
in any given crisis. If any one had told Christopher Neville that lying
in a shed under accusation of murder, believed guilty by his lady love,
cast off by his friend, his most acute sensation would be envy of the
tobacco which the sentry was smoking outside the door, he would have
laughed the prophet to scorn; yet so it was.

The nervous strain, added to the cold of the tobacco-house, was more
than he could bear, and beyond any spiritual help he craved physical
stimulant, something to make "a man of him" again, to give him back
that courage and coolness which had never yet deserted him, but which
he felt now slipping away fast.

At length he felt shame at such loss of manhood, and began to take
himself to task.

"Come, now, Christopher Neville, thou sourfaced son of ill fortune!" he
said aloud, as if talking to another person, "state thy woes, one by
one, and I will combat them with what heart I may. Begin then!--What
first?"

"I am in prison."

"Where many a better man has been before thee. In a palace thou mightst
be in worse company."

"I am cold."

"Walk about!"

"I am hungry."

"Pull down yonder tobacco-leaf and chew it."

"My friends have forsaken me."

"So did Job's."

"My sweetheart has turned the cold shoulder to me."

"Then do thou turn thy back full to her. Use thy reason, man alive!
Hast thou lived to nigh forty years, to be hurt like a boy by a woman's
inconstancy? Laugh at her, revile her if thou wilt, rip out round
oaths; but, an thou be not quite demented, put not thy courage beneath
the foot of her scorn!"

"But I love her."

"Ah, poor fool! There thou hast me. Thou knowst well I have no balm in
my box to medicine that hurt. Yet what can't be cured, may be forgot,
for a while at least. Wine would do it. Perchance tobacco may--Curse
that guard! How good his pipe smells!--I would I had one."

Neville had never yet failed of a benefit for lack of asking, so now he
set up a tattoo with his fists on the wall.

"What's wanted within there?" came gruffly from the guard.

"What would you want if you'd been shut up in this cold hole for a
night and a day?"

"I might _want_ ortolans and pheasants and a bottle of old Madeira; but
if I was a murderer, and as good as a dead man myself, I shouldn't look
to get them--not in _this_ world."

Neville kept his temper. It was all he had left.

"Maybe not; but if you saw a fellow outside, with a pipe in his mouth
and a tobacco pouch in his pocket, and another pipe bulging out at the
breast of his jerkin, it's likely you'd count on his taking pity on the
poor devil locked up inside, and giving him a bit smoke."

The guard weakened visibly. Neville could see through the crack that
he half turned and put his hand irresolutely to his pocket. Then he
straightened himself more rigidly.

"How do I know but you want to set the tobacco-house afire? And then
off you'd be, and 'tis I must answer for you to the Governor--a just
man, but hard on one that fails in his duty."

"Come, then," called Neville more cheerfully, feeling his point half
won; "why not come in and smoke with me? Then you can keep an eye on
me and the tobacco together, and it will be a comfort to me to have
speech of a fellow mortal instead of being tormented by my cursed
unpleasant thoughts."

Truth to tell, the guard was nearly as weary of solitude as his
prisoner. This walking up and down in the dusk from one pine-tree
to another was not lively work, and besides, there was a compelling
magnetism in Neville's voice that had charmed stronger men than the
guard, Philpotts.

Slowly, and with a certain reluctance to yield characteristic of
Englishmen, and quite independent of the value of the thing conceded,
he drew the heavy bolt and entered.

The interior of the shed, for it was scarcely more, was dismal enough
in the half light. The long tobacco leaves hanging from the beams
suggested mourner's weeds, and waved ominously in the wind as the door
was opened. Daylight still peeped in through the chinks. By its help
Neville studied the heavy outlines of the guard's figure clad in a sad
colored campaign coat lined with blue and surmounted by a montero cap
which shaded a pock-marked face, a typical English face, square cut,
obstinate, with persistence and loyalty writ large all over it.

"Pardon my not rising," said Neville, as if he were receiving a
courtier. "The cold and dampness of this place have given me the rheum
to such extent that each bone in my body hath its own particular pain.
If I kneel my knees ache, if I sit my hips ache, if I bend my back
aches."

"Marry," interrupted the jailer, with a coarse laugh; "'tis well you
are to try hanging, which will rest them all."

"You have a very pretty wit, jailer, and so keen one would say it had
been sharpened on an English whetstone. The French have no gift for
such rapier thrusts."

"Oh, to Hell with the French!"

"Hell must be crammed full of foreigners. We English are always sending
them there."

"No doubt you'll know soon."

"Very likely. If I do, I'll send you word--and by the way, so that I
may not forget, what is your name?"

"Philpotts."

"Ah! Related to Robert Philpot of Kent?"

"No; no such fine folk in our line. Besides, my name is Philpotts."

"One _l_ and two _t's_?"

"That same," replied the guard laconically, having no mind to be drawn
into too friendly intercourse.

"A droll name!"

"None too droll for many an honest man to bear it."

"Pardon me, I doubt not the honesty; but I question whether there be
many Philpottses floating round the world. I never knew but one, and he
lived in Somerset."

"Somerset?"

"Ay, in a little village on the coast between the Mendip hills and the
river Axe."

A look of recollection stole into the dull gray eyes, but still the
shrewd self-restraint lingered.

"How did the village lie, and what is its name?"

"Its name is Regis, and it lies like a baby in a cradle, snugly tucked
away in the dip of the hills; and there is a brook close beside it that
comes tumbling over the rocks to lose itself in the Axe."

Philpotts nodded unconscious assent.

"Oh," continued Neville, "but I would like to see that river Axe once
more! I do remember a famous pool where the fish leaped to the hook in
the spring in a fashion to make a man's blood sing."

"Did ye know Philpotts, then?"

"Ay."

"What mought his first name ha' been?"

"James--James Philpotts. He had a farm of my father, and he and I were
wont to go a-fishing together in the Axe, and one cold day he fell in.
He couldn't swim, if I remember; and how like a drowned rat he did look
when he got out!"

At the memory, in spite of all his troubles, Neville laughed aloud.
Philpotts slowly laid down his pipe, and propped it against a board,
determined, before yielding to emotion, to attend to the safety of the
tobacco-house. Then striding over to Neville he seized his hand in his
own two brawny ones with a grip that made the other man wince.

"Swim? no, that he couldn't, and it's his life and all he owes to you,
sir, and he bade me look out for you in the New World and pay back the
service an ever I got the chance; but 'twas the name misled me,--'Jack
Neville,' says my brother; 'Christopher Neville,' says the Governor in
the manor-house yesterday."

"Ay, my name is Christopher; but as I had a cousin who bore the same,
and who was often at Frome for months at a time, the family were wont
to call me 'Jack,' after my father."

"So--thou--art--the son of Master John Neville of Frome House?"

The words came hard, as if forced out.

Philpotts stood looking at the prisoner till slowly the mouth began to
work, two tears slipped out from his eyelids and slid down his nose.
He put up the sleeve of his jerkin to wipe them off, and then, fairly
overcome, leaned against his arm on the post in the corner and fell to
sobbing aloud.

"Forgive me blubbering, sir; but, oh, to see you in this sorry case,
and me a-guarding you that should be helping you to escape. Shame on
them that shut up an innocent man and planned his ruin!"

"An innocent man?" queried Neville; "why, 'tis not five minutes since
that I was a murderer unfit to share an honest man's pipe."

"God ha' mercy on my blind stupidity! I see not how I could ha' looked
in your face and not seen that 'twas na' in those eyes to look on a man
to murder him nor in that mouth to swear falsely."

"Not so fast, Philpotts! Many a saint has had the ill luck to look like
a pirate, and I was thrown in with a man in Algiers that I would have
shared my last crust with, and he stole my wallet and made off with it
in the night."

"Well, mebbe it's because I'm not of the quality and have no book
learning, but when I feel things in my bones I don't question of them;
and now my eyes are open and I see you're innocent, I'm going to help
you out of this hole."

"But the danger--"

"To Hell with the danger! There never was a Philpotts yet was a coward."

"But your farm is well started here."

"Let it go to seed, then. It's little good there is for a Protestant
in this Papist province, anyhow, and I'd not be sorry to be off to
Virginia. I've a boat on the river below. So you see there's nothing
between you and freedom."

"Yes, there is one thing."

"An' what's that, pray?"

As if in answer to the question came a rapid knock at the door outside.
The guard grasped his musket and marched once or twice up and down the
barn to recover his severe military bearing before he drew the door a
crack open.

"Who goes there?"

"It is I, Mistress Calvert, cousin to Governor Brent."

Neville's heart felt as if it were an anvil, and some unseen power were
laying on the hammer-strokes thick and fast. The blood surged to his
face, and then fell back again leaving it white. She had come. Was he
glad or sorry? Pride said, "You are sorry." Love whispered, "You are
glad--do not deny it." Pride answered, "Yes, glad of the chance to make
her sorry."

"I know not how to deny you, Mistress Calvert," came from without in
Philpotts' voice, "but my commands are that none should enter save by
the Governor's orders."

"Uncivil fellow!" Neville instinctively felt for his sword, and would
have made a trial of his strength without it, but that on the instant
he heard that voice, the voice that could make little shivers run from
head to foot.

"You are in the right, as usual, good Master Philpotts, and foreseeing
that you could not be swayed without the Governor's order, the
Governor's order I have brought for a half-hour's talk with the
prisoner, you meanwhile to be within call, but not within hearing. See!
is't not writ as I have said?" she asked, holding the paper toward him.

"I am not such a churl as to dispute a lady's word," said Philpotts,
glad in this chivalrous manner to evade a too severe strain on his
powers of reading a written document. "The Governor's order shall be
obeyed," and swinging back the door he closed it again behind him and
resumed his march from the green pine-tree to the brown one, and from
the brown tree back again to the green, watching the yellow sun set
behind the distant hills. His taciturnity yielded at last to the extent
of one exclamation, "By the Lord Harry, what a coil!"

As Elinor Calvert entered she threw back her sable hood, and her pale,
beautiful face, surrounded by its golden hair, shone like the moon
against the dark setting of the tobacco-hung rafters. Her only ornament
was the diamond crescent at her throat, which glistened as a ray of the
setting sun struck upon it. Her eyes were full of unshed tears, and her
lips trembled so that she could scarcely control them enough to utter
the words she had come to speak. Her hands were clenched tightly, as
if by that force alone she held to her resolution.

Inside the door she waited for some word of welcome or greeting. She
put up her hand to her throat as if to ease the sorrow which was rising
and swelling within. By accident her fingers grasped the crescent, and
she clung to it as to a talisman. Neville made no step toward her. He
stood leaning against the wall, his arms folded before him. It was as
if she were the criminal and he the judge. The silence was intolerable
to Elinor.

"Speak to me!" she cried at last, stretching out her hands toward him.
Her voice betrayed a dry anguish in the throat, and her breath came in
quick, short gasps.

"Are you come as Governor Brent's messenger?"

Elinor shivered as though his tone had more chill in it than the
January air, but her own was equally haughty as she answered,--

"I come by permission of my kinsman, who never deserts a friend."

"No, faith! since when the friend needs help he ceases to be one."

"Your words are brutal."

"Perchance. I have not been trained by your Fathers to mean one thing
and say another."

Elinor felt for her hood as though she would have drawn it over her
head again and left without another word; then changing her mind, she
advanced nearer.

"This is not a kind greeting," she said, "for one who comes to help
you."

"If I were not past help I might have spoke more kindly."

"Oh, but you are not past help. And that is what the Governor bade me
say, that it is not too late; that he knows Father Mohl pricked you
past endurance, and that he will move heaven and earth to get you off
if you will but confess, so that no innocent man may suffer."

Neville bowed with ironical courtesy.

"You will give me an answer to take to him?"

"I have given Governor Brent my answer once."

"Oh, think! Do not send me away hastily. Think what is before you,--the
chains, the prison, the--the _scaffold_."

Neville smiled.

"Have you no feeling? How _can_ you smile?"

"Was I smiling? I suppose I was following your words and picturing the
scenes you called up, especially the last. I was thinking about the
fellows who would make the noose fast and swing me off, fancying, poor
fools, that they had killed me. How little they would know that the
death came off weeks before, and was dealt by one glance from a pair of
purple-gray eyes that said in yonder court-room, 'I count you guilty.'"

"Stay not to bandy phrases!" interrupted Elinor, swaying a little
unsteadily on her feet. "Talk no more of guilt or innocence; but let us
look about for another plan of escape since you will not trust Giles
Brent. Look, I am near as tall as you. I measured height the evening
you stood by me at the fire. You have fair hair, too, like mine. Let us
change attire, and you in my cloak shall slip out yonder door."

"And you?"

"What matter what befalls me? As you say yourself, I have got my death
wound already."

"But your boy--Cecil."

"There are others who will care for him. Mary Brent loves him as her
own, and Giles will look to him for my sake."

Neville started; he had never thought before of that possibility of
Brent's having once loved Elinor, yet why not, when none could be near
her and not feel the magic of that charm before which even now his
pride was ebbing fast; but this thought stung him to new haughtiness.

"You and your cousin have been equally at fault in your judgment of
me," he said, dryly. "I am as capable of murdering a priest as of
taking shelter behind a woman and leaving her to bear my punishment. If
I wished to escape I am not dependent upon your help. There are others,
tried and true and firm believers in my innocence, who have offered me
freedom, but my honor would not be clear. There is just one way out of
the present coil, and that road leads up the scaffold--and down again."

"No! No! No! I say it shall not be!" cried Elinor, carried beyond
herself in a burst of passion. "You must--you _shall_ get away from
this horrible place. Come!" she added with a smile, changing suddenly
from anger to sweetness--"come! you have oft said there was naught on
earth you would not do for my sake. Now what I ask is such a little
thing."

"I have heard of Jesuit methods," said Neville, as if speaking to
himself. "'Twas a shrewd trick when other shifts failed to tempt a man
through the woman he loved, the woman who had once loved him."

"_Had_ loved thee! Would to God the taunt were true! Have not faith and
reason grappled with each other through the long midnight hours, one
saying, 'He is innocent, you feel it;' and the other, 'He is guilty,
you know it'? And at the end, when both fell down conquered by the
combat, Love rose up greater than either and took me by the throat and
brought me here. Listen, Christopher! If you have done this thing _I_
have done it, for you and I are one. If you are put to death I will end
my life by my own hand, and then we shall be together to all eternity;
and what matter if the priests call it Hell!"

Neville took a step forward. Falling on his knees at her feet he raised
the hem of her dress to his lips and kissed it once, twice, thrice.

"Oh, Elinor! Oh, my darling!" he murmured, "this is love indeed,
perfect love which passeth understanding; but oh, how, how,"--with this
he rose and strode impatiently up and down the floor--"how can you love
me like this and still doubt me? You have known me these many years,
you have seen me go in and out among my fellows, surely not like a
cutthroat and assassin. You have seen me raise my hand to Heaven and
swear in that high presence to my innocence, and still you condemn me.
What in God's name can I do or say more?"

[Illustration]

He fixed his eyes upon Elinor, whose whole frame shook with the force
of the feeling that swayed her. The blood rushed up and overflowed her
face and neck, and her voice sank to a whisper as she leaned toward
him and murmured,--

"I think--I think if you were to take me in your arms and whisper it in
my ear, I--even I--should believe--and be at peace."



                             CHAPTER XIII

                           A CHANGE OF VENUE


For an hour after Elinor had left him Neville sat staring into the
gathering dusk as if it had been the gate of Paradise. The swaying
of the tobacco leaves in the night wind was as the rustle of angel's
wings, and the light of heaven itself seemed to fall round him like a
halo. For him life had been lived out, and looking back he pronounced
it worth while. The years of suffering, of waiting, of toil and danger
threatening to end in ignominious death were weighed in the balance
against the minutes when he had held Elinor Calvert close to his
heart, and lo the years flew up light as thistledown, not worthy to be
compared with the weight of glory of those transcendent moments when
they stood together, he and she, cheek to cheek, heart to heart, no
word said, because all was understood, and they two alone in the round
world of a kiss.

Philpotts was quite disappointed when he came in with the lantern to
find his prisoner so cheerful.

"I ha' brought summat to comfort you; but ye are smiling as if ye'd
been bid to the King's ball."

"Eh! What?" asked Neville, dreamily still.

"I'm saying you might from your looks ha' been to court, or knighted
over again, or summat like that."

"There's more knighting than comes from the King's hand, my good
Philpotts."

"H'm?" said Philpotts, uncomprehending.

"Nothing," answered Neville.

"I'm glad to see you're not giving in beaten."

"A man, Philpotts, is never beaten till he has said in his heart, 'I am
beaten.'"

"That's right. Keep up your heart, and your heart'll keep you up in
spite of Fate."

"Pooh! Show me Fate and I will show you the will of a man; but what
have you there in your hand?"

"Oh, ye may well ask. 'Tis no slight honor, I can tell you, to get a
letter from Mistress Margaret Brent. I know 'tis from her, for the
boy that brought it bade me say so; twice he said it, and bade me not
forget, as if that were likely."

Neville reached out his hand for the letter, and bending near the
lantern broke the seal and read,--

 "I am sure, sir, you will be glad to know that there are those who
 believe in your innocence and will do all they can to establish it. My
 position is a delicate one, for I can neither thwart those in power,
 nor openly act against them; but what I can do I will, and meanwhile
 should you by any chance reach Kent Island you may find a refuge and
 a shelter."

The note had neither beginning nor end.

"I thank you!" said Neville aloud, as if the writer of the note were
near; and may not souls draw near as well as bodies?

Philpotts hearing his voice turned back.

"Was it good news?" he asked.

"The best."

"Will it help ye?"

"Ay, on the scaffold itself."

"Never be talking so much of what's far off. There's no luck in
prophesying ill things. Was ever any one in your family hung?"

"No; none rose so high," said Neville, with bitter humor.

"Still another sending for thee. 'Twas brought by Mistress Calvert's
son while his mother was within. I wonder does the child think we mean
to starve you." As he spoke he drew out a loaf of bread.

"He said you were not to wait till morning, but eat it _all_ to-night."

Neville smiled, a sweet, wholesome, human smile.

"Give it me," he said, and broke off a great chunk. To his surprise he
found the loaf hollow, and inside was Cecil's knife wrapped round with
a bit of paper on which was scrawled in a childish hand,--

 "I crep out of bed to get this Loaf. I was afraid of bars tho you say
 they cum not into houses. I dug out the Bred with my nife and thru the
 crums out at the Windo so Mother sh'd not see them. I hope you will
 stab your jalor, and jump out your Windo too. Sum day you shal cum to
 Robin Hood's Barn. You may keep the Nife.

                                                        CALVERT."

"Here, Philpotts," said Neville, handing over the knife, "this is for
you; but with your leave I will keep the note," and he folded it and
laid it next his heart, as though it had been written by his own son.

"Why not keep it yoursel', Master?"

"I have no use for it."

"I can find one."

"Still harping on escape? Every one seems to know me for a coward."

"No son of Master John Neville was ever that; yet I do beg of you, sir,
see, on my knees, to quit this prison now, this hour, for who knows
what the next may bring forth!"

"My kind jailor, my good friend, get up from those honorable knees of
yours which bend before adversity as most men's to prosperity."

"Your promise first!"

"Never to that you do propose; but here's my hand, and it's proud I am
to offer it; and now, good-night, for it is well with me in body and
soul, and I would fain try to fall asleep to see if I can conjure up
again in my dreams certain visions which have made me happier than ever
I was in my life before."

Philpotts thought Neville's troubles had driven him mad, and withdrew
to his own corner, muttering curses on those that had unhinged this
noble mind; but Neville lay still in such bliss as only angels and
lovers know, till sleep came softly and kissed his eyelids.

The long slumber somewhat tarnished the glory of Neville's mood, and
when he awoke at the turn of morning he was conscious of a reactionary
depression of soul.

Say what we will of the gloom of gathering night, it is as nothing to
the grimness of the gray dawn. Night swallows up detail. The facts of
one's life seen in midnight hours may look tragic; but they are large
and vague, with somewhat of the vastness of eternity. In the morning
they stand out in all their bare, shabby pettiness, and we shrink back
appalled from the tasks of the coming day.

As Neville woke he felt a hand upon his breast, and looking up saw
Philpotts standing over him with a grave face.

"They've come for you, Master Neville."

"'They?' Who?"

"They are come by the Governor's orders to fetch you away, belike to
St. Mary's for trial. Oh, sir, but you'd best have heeded my offer last
night and got away while there was time!"

"My good Philpotts, when milk is spilled it is spilled, and there's
no good in thinking what fine puddings it would have made. You've
done your best for me, like a man. Now go away and forget the whole
business. Plant your cabbages in the spring, and water them not with
any tears for me!"

"Me go away! Not me, sir! And by good luck it's orders that I'm to be
one of the escort to St. Mary's. That is, if 'tis to St. Mary's we're
bound; but the orders are sealed, or some flummery like that they
talked about, as the paper's not to be opened till we're out in the
river."

"Ah! You make me feel like a State character. My importance is rising.
Where are the gentlemen? We must not keep them waiting."

A rattle at the door showed that the visitors were growing impatient,
and as Neville stepped toward it two men flung it open and entered
hastily. One was tall, the other short. Both wore long cloaks and hats
pulled rather low over their faces, as though they felt little pride
in this charge of their prisoner. In truth, Neville even in his short
stay in the colony had made the reputation of a gentleman and a brave
man, and there were many that grieved for him, and wondered whether the
knife alone were evidence enough to hang a man upon. Moreover, despite
the wise and liberal rule of the Lord Proprietor, the Papist-Protestant
feeling ran high throughout the length and breadth of Maryland, and the
Protestants were ready to a man to swear to Neville's innocence for no
other reason than his religion.

This alone might have been enough to make Giles Brent wish the trial to
take place at Kent Island, where enough force could be brought to bear
to keep the peace while the trial proceeded.

"There is one favor I am fain to ask at your hands, gentlemen," said
Neville, as he took up his hat.

"Any favor consistent with the Governor's wish and the good of the
Commonwealth we will be pleased to grant."

"I have a sister at the Manor, a sister who would cry her pretty eyes
out if her brother had the ill manners to take his departure without a
word of farewell. May not our course take me past her window, that I
may at least wave a good-bye?"

The smaller man, he of the purple cloak and broad, drooping purple hat,
moved as if he were in favor of granting the petition; but the other
spoke with some sternness,--

"We have no time for such courtesies as farewells spoken or wafted from
finger-tips. Our orders are to set forward with all speed and to be
aboard the ketch before sunrise."

"As you will. Poor little Peggy!" he murmured to himself. "So end
all her plans of escape. On the whole I am glad. Now she will cease
pestering me to save myself."

"I fear," said the larger man, "that we must ask you to submit to
having your arms bound. 'Tis an indignity we would gladly spare you,
but the Governor's orders--"

"Spare me at least your apologies. On with the ropes!"

Five minutes later the door was flung open and the four men took the
road. Neville in the lead with the tall stranger, Philpotts and the
other following close behind. In his zeal to keep up with the great
strides of Philpotts, the smaller man tripped over his sword and
well-nigh fell down the steep pine-needle carpeted path slippery with
hoar frost. The larger man looked back annoyed. Neville smiled at his
discomfiture.

"Faith, Brent despatched a boy to do a man's work. Were't not for
Philpotts I could, an it pleased me, make short work of you and yonder
stripling."

"Ay, but it _is_ for Philpotts; moreover, yonder stripling is
marvellous handy aboard the boat, as you will see when we shake out the
sails."

Neville spoke no more, but tramped along, looking well to his
footsteps, for he too found the ground wet and slippery with its thin
glazing of ice. The treacherous Southern winter was in one of its
relenting moods, and the morning air, even now before the sun was fully
risen, held a hint of spring. The green pines sent forth their sweet
odor, and a bird fluttered up and flapped his bright wings full in
Neville's face.

It was a morning to give a man courage for meeting life or for leaving
it. Neville had faced danger and death too often to be wholly absorbed
in his own fate, and now interwoven with his dull web of despair was a
bright thread of enjoyment of the scene around him.

Never will any romancer truly tell the story of a man's inner life till
he takes cognizance of the many trains of thought, gay and sombre, that
can slide on side by side, neither wholly filling nor dominating the
mind.

The tingling air, the slant sunshine, and the sense of unknown
adventure awaiting him raised Neville's spirits, so that as a turn
of the path brought the ketch in sight he found himself humming the
refrain of a song,--a song he had first heard rippling from the lips
of Elinor Calvert, oh, how many years ago, among the green fields of
Somerset,--

              "Greensleeves was all my joy,
               Greensleeves was my delight,
               Greensleeves was my heart of gold,
               Who but Lady Greensleeves?"

The words called up a vision of Elinor as he had seen her at eighteen
tripping along the forest paths of the Somerset woods, her robe as
green as Maid Marian's and her floating sleeves catching ever and anon
on bush or briar,--a blessed chance which gave her lover opportunity
to bend over it and touch it with his lips whilst disentangling it
slowly--oh, so slowly! And again he saw her in a dress of a similar
fashion there in the hall of St. Gabriel's, and again she smiled upon
him, and those warm slender fingers rested in his, and those perfect
eyes unveiled their tender depths before his gaze. To have come so near
and then to have lost--oh, it was unbearable!--and he kicked viciously
at the innocent root of a tree in his path.

As the last words left his lips, his mood sank to despair again.

"Look alive there, sir! Jump aboard, Philpotts, and loosen that
forward sheet! Sir Christopher, step on that board and you'll reach the
stern easy! That's your seat by the helm."

"You are shivering," said the younger man, who had scarcely spoken till
now. "Take my cloak."

"No, no," reproved his elder, "not too much softness to the Governor's
prisoner! He'll do very well for a while yet with his jerkin and
doublet. Come on! we need your help there forward."

"Let me thank you for the intention at least before you go," said
Neville, ignoring the churlish speech of the older man and addressing
himself to the one in purple. "A kind word may carry more warmth than a
purple cloak." Then he sank back, gazing out over the water, while the
sails were raised and the ropes cast off from the wharf, which slowly
receded as the bright sunrise-tinted water slipped along the keel, and
the brisk little waves slapped the side of the ketch as if daring her
to a game of tag.

They were out in the river now. The Potomac spread far to the southward
as far as eye could reach, with vague hints of low hills so near the
hue of the water that one could scarce tell where water ended and land
began, or where the land again slipped into the misty blueness of the
western sky.

Neville strained his eyes to catch sight of a particular point as they
passed it,--a point rising a little from the water and crowned with a
thick growth of primeval forest. There lay Robin Hood's Barn, and the
wide acres of Cecil's Manor stretched peacefully along the river just
where it widened into the bay.

There is a peculiar irony in watching in our unhappiness the scenes
associated with hours of hope and joy. Neville smiled bitterly as he
contrasted what might have been with what was. Then he reproached
himself for a coward and a faint heart that was ready to yield to the
first buffet of Fate. He resolved to turn his mind from gloomy thoughts
and find comfort in the cheerfulness around him.

The ketch was running free with all sails spread and looked like a big
white bird skimming the surface. It was a sight to cheer the heart of
the most downcast, but more cheering still was the smell of breakfast
a-cooking in the cabin, and right willingly did Neville respond to the
call and seat himself at the rude board in the tiny cabin, which, rude
as it was, proved a welcome shelter from the fresh wind blowing outside.

"I reckon," he said, looking with a smile at his captors, "that I am to
be allowed the freedom of my arms while eating unless ye do intend to
feed me with a pap spoon like an infant."

"All in good time, Sir Christopher." It seemed to be always the tall
man who spoke.

"Curse his ready tongue! Why will he never give the other fellow a
chance?" thought Neville, but held his peace while the spokesman
continued,--

"Before we remove the rope we want your oath to two things. First, that
you will make no effort to escape. Second, that you will cheerfully
obey our orders and those, whatever they may be, in this sealed paper."

"A largish contract; but for the first I can well afford to promise,
since having put aside the chance of escape when 'twas easy, I am not
like to undertake it now 'tis become well-nigh impossible. I'm neither
whale nor Jonah that I should set out to swim a matter of a dozen miles
to land; and as for running away, I am bound to see this trial to a
finish and try what Maryland law for Protestants is."

Here Philpotts was guilty of the indiscretion of sighing. Neville,
fearing he would show himself too much the prisoner's friend for his
own good, turned upon him with simulated fierceness.

"Sirrah, I will have none of your officious sighing as if I were
already as good as a dead man. Keep your breath to cool your porridge.
When I want it I'll ask for it.

"Now," turning again to his interlocutor, "as for the second clause,
you ask a trifle too much. As much of your will as I must obey I shall,
and with three against one to enforce it that share seems likely to be
well-nigh the whole; but as to the cheerfulness with which I meet it,
that must needs depend on God and my own mind. But make haste ere those
cakes be cold to unbind me and let me have at them!"

"Are you satisfied with the prisoner's promise?"

The other two men nodded, and Philpotts went on deck again. The
stripling began in a trice to undo the ropes which bound Neville,
whereupon he fell to and made as hearty a breakfast as ever he laid in
on firm land with high hopes and bright prospects.

When they were come out of the cabin again, he noticed that the boat
had changed her course and was running with a beam wind.

"Why, how's this?" he asked of Philpotts as he took his seat once more
by the stern. "Surely this ketch is not laying her course for St.
Mary's."

"Do not ask me, sir! I'm not the captain of this infernal ketch. In
truth, I'm no sailor at all, and would be right glad if I could be set
ashore this minute."

Neville could have laughed as he saw the green and yellow melancholy
that too surely tells the story of coming sea-sickness, but pity ruled
and he said sympathetically, "Go you below, and I'll keep the helm till
you have braced your insides with some hot meat and drink."

"How's this?" cried the tall man, coming on deck just as Neville
reached for the tiller. "Mutiny already! Troth, I have a pair of irons
below, and you shall be clapped in them if I see you move toward the
tiller again. Philpotts, give me the helm and go below!"

Neville shrugged his shoulders, but refrained from speech. He withdrew
his outstretched hand, pulled his hat over his eyes, and sat gazing
over the sail at the blue distance which seemed of a sudden peopled
with all the friends of a lifetime. He could see his father and mother
seated by the great stone fireplace at Frome Hall, the Irish setter
with his head on his master's knee. Yes, and there in her own little
chair, the tiny Peggy, with rebellious curls shaken back every now and
again from the bright eyes beneath them, and then the quick lighting up
of the face, the leaning forward of the little figure as Christopher
himself entered the room with his game-bag over his shoulder, the eager
peep into the bag, and the jumping up and down with delight as she
counted the tale of the day's success.

Perhaps he had scarcely realized in those days how much that little
sister's adoring love had meant to him. But now it all came back with
a swift stab. Oh, to take her in his arms once more, to tell her how
he felt to the heart's core her loyalty and devotion! Why do these
impulses so often come too late to all of us?

As Neville withdrew his gaze from the water to the deck, the
hallucination of familiar figures followed him. There close at his
elbow was the dear round face with its roguish dimples and mischievous
eyes, not cast down and swollen with crying as he had seen them last,
but full of life and light, and her dear voice was murmuring in his
ear,--

"Kit, my darling brother, I am here. Are you glad?"

Neville brushed his arm across his eyes: the figure was too real. It
savored of madness, but it would not move. When he opened his eyes
again, there it stood, more solid than ever, but now the tears were
rising in the eyes, and the hands were stretched out softly toward him.

"Where am I? What does it mean?" Christopher murmured.

"It means," said the senior escort, removing his hat, and revealing the
dark curls of Romney Huntoon, "that we have decided upon a change of
venue for your case, and have arranged to remove the jurisdiction to
Romney Hall, York County, Virginia."

"Bless my soul!" cried Philpotts, from the companionway; "he's told
him, the mean devil, and me not there to see the fun--me, that's beaten
any play actor in the old country at deceiving tricks. Sir Christopher,
the Captain and crew of the ketch _Lady Betty_ are at your service,
and it's no more of prison bars we'll hear after we touch Protestant
Virginia."

"Peggy, Peggy, what have you done?" exclaimed her brother, bending over
her brown head as it lay on his breast, as she knelt close beside him.

"Done? We have saved you from prison, to be sure. He and I and good
Master Philpotts, that we thought to outwit and found full ready to
help us. And this is Master Huntoon's boat all ready loaded for Romney.
He brought it round yesterday from St. Mary's. He's rather clever, that
Master Huntoon, though he keeps his wits mostly for great occasions."

"Vastly clever of you all three, and vastly dull of me to be your dupe!
I thank you all heartily; and now will you please put your helm about,
and head the ketch for St. Mary's with what speed you may?"

"Christopher!" exclaimed Peggy, in such a heart-broken voice that her
brother clasped her closer than ever as he said,--

"Indeed, indeed, I appreciate what you have all done, and risked for
me, but I cannot run away."

"Then you care nothing for me compared with your flimsy honor."

"Nay, 'tis partly that I care so much for you that I must have a care
of this flimsy honor, which is yours as well as mine. Philpotts, will
you kindly put about that helm?"

Philpotts made a motion to obey; but Huntoon stopped him with a
movement of his hand.

"Listen, Sir Christopher, I pray you," he said. "Of course I am a
younger man, and you may resent my counselling you; but remember, I
love your sister, and her honor and yours are no less dear to me than
to you. I see the situation more clearly as a looker-on, and this is
how it looks to me. There is no hope here and now of a fair trial. The
Catholics are hot for the punishment of the murderer of a priest, and
Calvert and Brent have already angered them by the leniency they have
shown to Protestants. Give the matter but time to cool, and make sure
of a fair hearing. That is all I ask."

Neville sat silent with his head bowed on his hands for an instant,
then he spoke low but firmly,--

"Go! I must have time to think. Go you all below and give me the helm!
When I have made up my mind, I will summon you, and my decision must
stand. You, Huntoon, must give me back the oath I swore to obey you.
This matter touches none so close as me, and in my hands it must be
left. Go!"

Slowly and dejectedly the three conspirators crept into the cabin.
There Romney and Peggy sat silent and expectant for what seemed an
eternity. Ropes creaked, sails flapped on deck. Who could say what was
passing? At length they heard a cheerful call of "All hands on deck!"

They rushed up the companionway and saw Christopher standing at the
helm, his hair blown back and his hand grasping the helm, the tiller
pushed far to port, and the ketch standing for St. Mary's.



                              CHAPTER XIV

                     IN WHICH FATE TAKES THE HELM


AS the three conspirators emerged from the companionway one after
another, they made a forlorn picture of disappointment, so chapfallen
were the faces of all. Philpotts stood still, his shaggy eyebrows drawn
into a frown, and under them a pair of eyes that threatened resistance.
'Twas as if Sancho Panza had come to the end of his patience with Don
Quixote, and thought it time that common-sense took control for the
good of all concerned.

Romney twisted his cap and looked at Peggy, who bit her lips to keep
back the tears which, in spite of her will, were gathering in her eyes,
and standing large on the fringe of her lashes.

As Christopher watched her, he felt his courage ebbing so fast that he
must either yield or smile. He chose the latter.

"Troth," cried he, "'tis as though you were condemned criminals and
I the judge. For having connived at the escape of a prisoner, I do
sentence you to a happy life forever after, but in the present case
to be balked of your good intent. Wherefore I am bound for St. Mary's,
there to surrender myself to Sheriff Ellyson; but 'tis no part of my
plan to give you up too. So if you are minded to risk the trip across
the bay without yonder shallop bobbing along behind us like an empty
cork, I'll e'en borrow it, when we are within a mile of the town and
then--" here he paused and swallowed hard for a minute, "then, tried
friends and true, we'll say good-bye for a while and you must continue
on your way."

"Let them go, then, since thou wilt have it so, and we will make our
way safe to St. Mary's, thou and I."

It was Peggy who spoke, coming close to her brother and looking up at
him with unwavering love in her eyes.

"Nay, nay, little sister," said Christopher, gathering her soft hand
into his. "That will not content me neither. Thou art well-nigh a part
of myself, and it will content me much, whate'er betides, to feel that
one part at least is happy. I will not have thee go back where thou
must be made wretched by hearing hard words of thy brother, and be
looked down upon by all. Huntoon, thou hast in right manful fashion
declared thy love for my sister Margaret here. I venture not to give
her answer. That must thou win from her thyself, and perchance 'tis
not yet ready for the giving; but I trust her in thy keeping. Take her
back to thy mother! She will, I know, receive her tenderly, for I am
familiar with the repute of Mistress Huntoon's hospitality."

Huntoon came swiftly forward and grasped Neville's other hand, which
released its hold on the tiller as Philpotts took the helm. Tears stood
in the lad's eyes.

"Be sure," he said, "that your sister shall be treated with that love
and reverence which are her due, nor shall she be hurried to any
decision she might after regret. To my mother she will be dear as a
daughter of her own."

Men are prone to believe in a family welcome to their loves as warm
as their own. It does not always fall out according to expectation,
but Romney Huntoon knew his mother's heart, which was soft to a folly,
especially to young and unhappy lovers; she herself having suffered
much, 'twas said, in her youth.

"'Tis well," said Neville, clasping Huntoon's hand on his right almost
as firmly as he held his sister's on the other side. "Thou art a man
after my own heart; and if thou dost win this little sister of mine, be
tender, be gentle to her whimsies, of which she hath a full assortment;
but keep the whip hand, my friend, keep the whip hand! And now one more
charge I pray thee accept for my sake. This good Master Philpotts,--he
is not made for a roving life, as his sea-sickness but now did bear
witness, yet hath he without a murmur left farm and implements and all
means of earning a livelihood to help me out of this hard place."

"Yes, and if thou wert a wiser man, thou wouldst stay helped and not go
throwing thyself back into the pit from which we ha' digged you."

"Have thy fling, good friend Philpotts! Having never laid claim to
wisdom, I am not over-sensitive to the charge of lacking it; but what
I would say to Master Huntoon was this, that if my lands at home in
England be not confiscate, I do intend them as a dowry for my sister.
I would counsel that they be sold and land taken up in Virginia,
where Philpotts may have a farm and implements as many as he left and
whatsoever more is needed."

Philpotts tried to speak, but could not. The tears choked him. He
gulped and bent over the tiller. Peggy, too, was crying hard, and
Huntoon sat with steady gaze fixed upon Christopher.

The silence that fell upon the little group continued long. So much
must be said if that silence were once broken! So bowed down were their
hearts that it seemed quite natural that the sunshine should fade out
of the sky and a universal grayness slowly spread itself over the sea.

Philpotts was first to speak. "Look yonder, Captain!" he said, pointing
Huntoon to the eastward; "is that yonder Watkins Point or a bank of
fog?"

"That's the Point. No, it cannot be the Point either,--'tis too far
south for that; besides, it looms as we look. It is drawing nearer, and
the fogs do drift in with marvellous quickness in these waters. Give
_me_ the helm!"

"'Tis unlucky," murmured Neville, "for 'tis not the easiest thing in
the world in the brightest weather to make one's way past all these
headlands, they are so much alike. What's that craft yonder by the
wooded point?"

Huntoon made a glass of his two hands. "She hath the look of a packet
sloop outward bound, somewhat heavy laden too, for she lies low in the
water and goes slowly with a fair wind."

"How far away is she?"

"A matter of a mile, I should say."

"Ay," put in Philpotts, "and she hath seen the fog too, and is setting
all sail to make what way she can before it strikes her."

The air grew colder as the sky clouded, and Huntoon brought Peggy's red
cape from below and wrapped it close about her. She thanked him with a
smile that he thought the sweetest and the saddest thing he had ever
seen.

The fog was closing in on them now, and the wind dropped before it. The
rail dripped with the chill dampness, and the sails flapped heavily as
they swung over the deck whenever the vessel changed her course.

"Peggy dear, wilt thou not go below and keep warm?" said Christopher's
voice.

"Nay, let me stay by thee whilst I can; and, Kit, if I obey thee
in this, mind, 'tis only that I may help thee more. Romney--Master
Huntoon--hath friends in the colony who are sure to sift this matter to
the last. And it will go hard but we find some way to bring thee aid
and comfort yet."

"Philpotts, can you see how we are heading?"

"No, faith, Master Huntoon, no more than if I were blindfold. The wind
is dead ahead now; but whether it hath shifted or the boat hath run off
its course, I know not."

"Hearken!" cried Peggy, putting her hand to her ear. "Did ye hear no
noise? Methought I caught a sound as of a horn or a distant bell.
Perchance 'twas the church bell ringing for noonday prayers. I heard
them telling of some saint's day celebrated to-day."

All the men stood listening. Neville rose and running along the deck
climbed to the bowsprit to listen again. Suddenly he cried out at the
top of his voice, "Boat ahoy! Ahoy there!"

Too late! The three huddled together in the stern were aware of a large
vessel looming up and up above them, rising with the rising wave, and
then lunging forward full upon _The Lady Betty_. Huntoon clasped Peggy
in his arms as though he could shield her thus from the inevitable
crash. Philpotts dropped the helm and rushed forward to drag back
Neville. Again too late. The two boats met with a shock.

By good luck when Philpotts dropped the helm, _The Lady Betty_ had
veered away from the larger vessel, so that the packet's bowsprit,
having crashed against her, bumped along against the side, knocking
away rail and stanchion, and staving a hole in her, deep and dangerous
but not instantly fatal. For one instant all drew a breath of relief at
the deadly peril passed. Then, to their dismay, they heard Philpotts
crying out, "He's overboard! The bowsprit hit him!"

"Overboard!" cried Peggy; "but he is a famous swimmer, surely he can
reach the boat."

Even as she spoke, something white rose to the surface and sank again,
and Peggy knew it for Christopher's face with death in it, and but for
Romney's strong arm around her, she, too, would have thrown herself
into that cold grave.

"Let me go to him!" she shrieked aloud in her anguish of soul. "O Kit!
Dead! Dead!"

The words seemed to fall dully on the surrounding wall of fog. No
sound; not even an echo answered. Away to the right a single sail
flitted ghostlike, showing no hull to support it. On the left close at
hand loomed the packet which had wrought so much harm.

Save for these the waters were bare of life, and the girl in the ketch
sat looking with frozen gaze, as if she had seen the Gorgon's head, at
that spot unmoved now by so much as a ripple, that silent grave which
had opened and closed again over a life precious to her beyond aught
else that earth held.

As she gazed, she was seized by a sudden madness, following hard upon
the stony stillness.

"I will go! I will!" she screamed, struggling with Romney's grasp,
which held like steel. She was as powerless in that clasp as a bird in
a gauntleted hand.

Of her sense of powerlessness a new emotion was born, a nameless
quivering thing that nestled in the heart of her desolation and in that
moment of deepest despair struck a peace.



                              CHAPTER XV

                              DIGITUS DEI


Much ado there was at St. Gabriel's when it was found that the door of
the tobacco-house stood open, and the prisoner was gone. All the more
exasperating was it when it proved that there was no one to be blamed
or held responsible, because the jailor was gone too.

Each member of the household took the news of the escape differently.

Cecil jumped for joy. Father White betook himself to solitude and
prayer in his oratory. Mary Brent made few comments, but went about
with her mouth pursed up as though she feared to relax the muscles lest
they betray her into rash words. Her light lashes too were cast down
and her eyes carefully discharged of all expression.

Such silence has more power to irritate than reproaches or curses.

Elinor felt this irritation so keenly that she could not stay in the
house with her cousin, but took refuge in the woods beneath the calm
sky, in that silence of Nature which holds only balm for wounded hearts.

Brent too thought it well to give his sister a wide berth. His own
irritation found vent in an honest volley of oaths directed impartially
at himself and each member of the household except perhaps Ralph Ingle,
to whom he turned for that comfort which a strong and autocratic nature
finds in a pliant one. With such a man as Brent, to concur is to
conquer.

Ingle in return gave him sympathy and silence. Silences differ as
widely as speech, and Ingle's silence was no more like that of Mary
Brent than the calm of a sunny day is like the electric stillness
preceding storm. Ingle's silence was full of delicate suggestions of
assent, of a sympathy too subtle to be put into words, of comradeship
and support to that self-esteem which just now felt itself sadly shaken.

No wonder his company was desired! We succeed with others as we
comprehend them. We value others as they comprehend us.

Giles Brent was a man of action, and lost no time in locking and double
barring the stable door after the horse was stolen.

Two messengers he despatched to St. Mary's to learn, if they could,
whether any news had reached the town of Neville's escape. The other
available men he divided into parties of four, and sent them to scour
the woods in all directions. Then, taking Ralph Ingle with him, he
buckled on his sword, lifted two guns from the rack in the hall, and
marched grimly down the little path to the wharf.

"You have a keen eye, Ingle, and are a mariner born and bred. Therefore
have I brought you with me, for it seems far likelier that Neville
has made his escape by sea than by land. I will take the helm, and do
you go before the mast and keep a sharp lookout for any small boat,
especially one that may seem to hug the wooded points at the mouth of
the river."

Ingle ventured a few words by way of conversation, but found his
companion in a taciturn mood and not to be drawn into conversation.
Both men scanned every headland and inlet till their eyes ached, but
with no success, till at length Ingle called out,--

"There's a ship yonder,--a packet, I should say, from the size and
build of her."

"Ay, for a guess 'tis Prescott's. I ordered him from St. Mary's
yesterday for being too much hand in glove with that scapegrace brother
of thine."

A pained look crossed Ralph Ingle's face.

"Forgive me!" said Brent, who had a soft heart under a quick temper.
"Whatever may be said of your brother, I put trust in you, and here's
my hand on 't."

Ingle did not note the outstretched hand, for his eyes were fixed on
something beyond the ship, a smaller boat making for St. Mary's.

"Look!" he said, "to the right there, to the southward of Pine Point!
Damnation, how the fog is shutting down!"

Even as he spoke a film gathered between him and the two boats,--a film
deepening into a thick veil and that into an impenetrable, impalpable
wall of fog.

Brent held his boat straight on her course. On, on, till once again he
caught the outline of the packet looming close at hand. Then from the
other side he heard a voice which he recognized as Neville's shouting
"Boat ahoy!" Then a crash as if a sea monster had both boats and were
grinding them between his teeth. A rebound, and then another crash, and
above the noise the voice of Philpotts crying, "My God! He's gone!" and
a woman's voice sobbing, "O Kit! Dead! Dead!"

"Hard alee!" shouted Ingle to Brent. "Hard alee! or we shall be in the
coil with the rest;" and running aft he threw his whole weight on the
tiller just in time to shave the packet. They swept into open water,
and the wind bore them away till once more the two boats looked like
gray phantoms against the grayer sky.

"Well done, Ingle! But for your quickness we should have been snarled
up with the other boats. Next time we must come to them with more
caution."

"Why take the risk again? Death has been before us in claiming our
prisoner."

"Ay, but his jailor and the accomplices are yet to be reckoned with if
Maryland justice is not to become a byword and a hissing."

"Governor Brent," Ingle spoke in slow, reluctant tones, "did you chance
to read the name of the larger packet as we passed?"

"Nay, I was too much occupied with saving the skin of my own boat. Did
you?"

"I did."

"And the name--"

"Was _The Reformation_."

"Ah!"

"Yes, and I saw Dick aboard her striding up and down the deck in a
fury, swearing like the cutthroat he is."

"Yet shall he not hinder me from the performance of my duty. No man
shall say that Giles Brent is a coward."

"No fear that any man will ever say that. Let none have cause to say
that the Lieutenant-General, Admiral, Chancellor, Keeper of the Great
Seal, Chief Captain, Magistrate, and Commander of the Province forgot
the sacredness of trust involved in all these offices and ran risks.
Do not drive me to say what risks; but believe me when I say that I
know my brother well, and I know he would stop at nothing,--even to the
carrying off of an officer of the King. He is mad, fairly mad, over his
treatment at St. Mary's yonder."

Brent frowned, shook his head, and hesitated as if uncertain what
course to pursue, then he gave the helm to Ingle entirely, saying,--

"You are right. It is hard to draw the line betwixt cowardice and
caution; but in Calvert's absence I have no right to run risks."

Still in the distance hovered the two phantom ships gray against the
universal grayness, yet dimly discernible, the smaller boat settling
lower and lower like some despairing animal feeling death near at hand
yet struggling to the last.

"It is the end," said Ralph Ingle. "The man is drowned, and his boat is
sunk. Whatever he has done, he has made the fullest atonement man can
make."

"Yes," said Brent, uncovering his head. "I think that we have seen the
end of this unhappy business. A life has been given for a life. The
judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

Ralph Ingle bowed his head as one too much moved for words.

Silently they drifted shoreward and still silently clewed up the sail
and tied the boat to the dock. Once more Brent held out his hand. "You
have proved yourself a tried and trusty comrade this day, and if you
have aught to ask of me, be sure I stand ready to grant it."

"Nay, nay," said Ralph, with his frank smile, "'twere poor comradeship
to begin with asking of favors; besides, there is naught in your gift
that I crave unless--unless--"

"Out with it, man!"

"Well, then, your influence with your kinswoman, Mistress Elinor
Calvert."

Brent started.

"I never dreamed of this," he said.

"Nor I, on my faith, till I was so deep there was no turning back. She
is one of those women that to love once is to love always. I would do
anything for her,--sacrifice my life, nay, my soul itself,--but she is
cold as the ice floating in yonder river."

Giles Brent's face grew set and stern.

"I can well believe it, for I fear 'tis not alone that she loves you
not; but that her heart has been given to another and clings but the
closer, the unworthier she finds him."

"Then it _was_ Neville. I suspected as much. But now, surely now that
he is dead, there may be a chance for me."

"My friend, you little know Elinor Calvert. She has made this murderer
into a saint, and she will burn candles to his memory and say masses
for his soul while she lives."

"Hush! is this not she coming down the path?"

"Ay, go you round through the underbrush and leave me to tell her."

So advised, Ingle took a short cut through the woods, and Brent,
walking on alone, met Elinor face to face.

"Good morrow, Cousin!"

"Would it were a _good_ morrow, Giles! But that can scarce be till we
are good ourselves and credulous of good in others."

"I have no time to play with words. I am come from stern scenes that
wring men's souls."

Elinor turned pale.

"Hast thou seen him?"

"By _him_ signifying Christopher Neville, I doubt not. Now I might put
thee off by saying I have not seen him, as in a sense I have not; yet I
have been near him and in a way to know his fate, which, not to delay
ill news in the telling, is death by drowning."

Elinor answered not a word. She grew deadly white, bowed her head, and
turning about began to walk toward the house.

Brent would not have been surprised to see her swoon at his feet, but
this unnatural calmness terrified him.

"Whither art thou bound?" he asked, catching up with her.

"To the manor-house--there to say a prayer for the soul of him that's
gone, then to pack my belongings and Cecil's."

"To _pack_?"

"Ay, and to make ready for our departure to St. Mary's. There we will
make our home till we can betake ourselves to Cecil Manor. The house of
the Brents can never again be shelter for me or mine."

"Elinor! Have I deserved this?"

"Thou hast been a kind kinsman to me, Giles, and for the past I thank
thee; but thou art a hard man, and my heart is bitter against thee for
the part thou hast played in driving an innocent man to his death."

"I drive the poltroon!" muttered Brent. "Was he not drowned in a
cowardly attempt to escape from a trial he dared not face?"

"No!" flamed Elinor.

"Thou dost speak as one who knows. Perhaps thou hast information. How
canst thou talk so bold?"

"I talk so bold because I do know--alas! none better. I--I tempted
him--the other night--I promised him aid and begged him to escape, and
he would not. He scorned the cowardice and vowed he would stand his
trial and abide by the result."

"Some other must have had more influence with him, then, for there was
a woman's voice in the boat when he sank."

"Bless her!" cried Elinor, "whoever she was, that did plan his
safety--but hold. I know who it was,--his sister Peggy,--who, as we
thought, went back to St. Mary's yesterday; whether he be taken with
or against his will, she is with him. God has been kind to her, but
she deserved it, for she was stanch and true. She has her deserts, and
I had mine. 'Twas God's truth she spoke when she told me I had been
false, and vowed she never wished to see my face again. I know how she
felt, for I feel it now toward thee. Ay, stand back, Giles, and hear
my vow: Never again after this day will I hold converse with thee or
remember that there is a bond of kinship between us till thou shalt
kneel as I have knelt in contrition and shame for the part thou hast
played."

"These are wild vows, Elinor, and will be repented when thou dost
consider them. I would be well-nigh as glad as thou to see Christopher
Neville acquitted of the charge of this terrible crime. To say truth,
against all the evidence, against reason itself, I cherished faint
hope that something might be unearthed even yet to show us that we had
all been mistaken, but now that he hath skulked away under cover of
darkness--why, 'tis the same as a confession."

"Ay, and for that reason he has never done it. Never--_never_--_never_!
'Tis not in his nature, not near so much as to have done the murder
of which he stands accused. Giles, 'tis but a little while since thou
didst urge my taking Christopher Neville for my tenant yonder at Cecil
Manor; and why? Because, thou saidst, he was the boldest and the truest
and the faithfullest man in Maryland. So he was and is. Thinkst thou a
man's soul is changed in a day or two days or a week? Fie! thou hast
not enough knowledge of human nature to be ruler of a county, much less
a commonwealth."

Brent drew his brows together impatiently.

"'Tis all very well to rail like that, but it proves nothing. He
is gone. That is a fact not to be gainsaid. What is it, then, but
jail-breaking?"

"Ay, but he may not have gone of his free will."

"A likely story. Who, then, hath taken him by force?"

"How do I know? Some that have reason to profit by his accusation,
yet fear to press the trial to the end. Perchance the fathers of St.
Inigo's."

Giles Brent was furious, all the more that the same possibility had
been floating dimly in his own mind. He answered coldly,--

"Since thou art so lost to all sense of dignity and decency in the
cause of thy lover as to accuse Holy Church herself rather than admit
what one who runs may read, that he hath done a dastardly deed and then
hath run away to escape the consequences, why, I will waste neither
argument nor entreaty, but when the day comes that all is made clear,
thou wilt have a heavy account to settle."

"I know not how it may be in the future of this world, Giles; but when
the day comes that the secrets of all hearts are laid open, I feel sure
as that I stand here that Christopher Neville will have naught to fear.
For myself my shame will be that I loved not too much, but too little.
To love cautiously is not to love at all. For thee, thy punishment--the
hardest, I believe, for a just man--shall be to see too late the
wrong thou hast done; the friendship lightest held where it should
have been strongest, the faith withheld where the hand should have
been outstretched in aid, the life sacrificed that should have been a
bulwark to the state,--all this will be laid at thy door--"

Then,--with a sudden break,--"God forgive me! What a hypocrite I am! My
sin is heavier than thine. I knew him, I loved him, and I failed him.
Death holds no bitterness like this."

Without another word she turned and left him.

Brent fell back, awed by the force of her passion, and stood still
watching her as she swept on, a tall vision of Nemesis, vague and
gray in the mist that clung about the long folds of her cloak. On she
walked, slowly at first, then faster and faster till she was almost
running. At the third bend of the path a man slipped out from behind
the twisted pine, and fell in with her step so naturally that she was
scarcely conscious of his companionship.

There was a softness in Ralph Ingle's silence, a soothing quality in
his sympathy that made itself felt. Elinor's gait slowed, and she
removed the hands that had been pressed to her temples, as if to quiet
the intolerable throbbing pain.

"Pity me!"--Ralph Ingle spoke low.

"I pity thee! Have I room in my heart for pity of any save myself?"

"Thou shouldst have for one more miserable than thou."

"That cannot be; and why shouldst thou need pity?"

"Because thou art sorrowful, and I can give thee no help. Is not that
reason enough?"

Elinor stopped and looked at him with wide, half-seeing eyes, striving
to force herself to put aside her own trouble enough to realize that of
another.

"Do not!" she cried, stretching out defensive hands, "do not tell me
that I have made someone else wretched too! My life seems destined to
be a calamity to all who fall within its fateful shadow."

"No; speak no such sad words," cried Ingle, falling on his knees before
her. "To me your presence has been pure sunshine; but were life all
shadow, I would rather live under the clouds with thee than in the
light of heaven itself without thee."

"Forgive me!" answered Elinor, wearily, brushing her hand across her
eyes. "It is idle to talk thus. I loved--I love--Christopher Neville,
and I cannot listen to any other."

"My words were untimely; I spoke too soon."

"Nay, for me there is no time any more,--only a waiting for eternity."

"Think a moment, Elinor! I must call thee so once if nevermore. Wilt
thou in good earnest condemn me to despair?"

"I condemn no one. If despair be thy portion, thou must needs drink
the cup as I am draining mine. Farewell!"

"Farewell, then, Elinor Calvert! And on thy head be my soul's ruin, and
all that may befall me or thee hereafter!"

So absorbed in her own grief was Elinor that her ear scarcely caught
his words, nor did her mind take note of his wild look and manner as he
flung away into the forest. She quickened her pace and saw with relief
the walls of the manor-house rising between the trees. A few more paces
and she would reach the house, then if Fate were kind, her room, and
then she could at least be alone with her despair; but no, she thought
bitterly, even this poor comfort was to be denied her, for, as she drew
near the house, she saw Father White standing in the doorway. She would
have swerved from the path and sought entrance through the side room,
but it was too late; she had been seen. Father White moved toward her
like some strong merciful angel, holding healing and benediction in his
outstretched hands.

"My daughter, thou art ill."

"Ay, Father, so ill that I must needs with all speed seek rest in my
chamber."

"Is it indeed illness, or grief?"

"They are much alike."

"Ay, but they may need differing treatment."

"Rest and solitude are best for both."

"Nay, for bodily sickness thou hast need of a physician of the body,
and for soul sickness of a physician of the soul."

"Father," said Elinor, sinking on her knees before him, "I am past all
help of medicine for body or soul--_He is dead!_"

The old priest raised his eyes to heaven, murmuring to himself,
"_Digitus Dei est hic._--Yes," he added slowly, "surely it is the
finger of God himself, and it is the Lord who has spoken."

Aloud he said: "I know how troubles such as thine shake the soul till
there is no power left to seek aid. Then the Lord sends the help the
sufferer is too weak to reach out a hand for. If thou shouldst probe
this wound of thine, thou wouldst find that its deepest hurt lay not in
what hath befallen without, but from that which hath gone wrong within."

"'Tis God's truth thou speakest."

"There lies no help in man."

"None! None!"

"Then look above! Oh, my daughter, hast thou not before found comfort
at the confessional, at the foot of the altar? Listen: I am a priest
of God and charged with power to absolve sin and declare His pardon to
weary, struggling souls like thine."

With a wild cry Elinor threw up her arms above her head.

"Talk not to me of God's pardon! Will that bring Christopher Neville to
life? Will that save his poor heart one of the pangs my distrust dealt,
or his faithful soul one hour of the weary years my cold disdain cost
him? Nay, Father, save pardon and penance for those who can still use
them! I tell you, it is _I_ who cannot forgive _myself_,--_I_!"



                              CHAPTER XVI

                             LIFE OR DEATH


"Hold her, Philpotts! Dead or alive, I must find _him_."

With these words, as Philpotts laid his controlling hand on Peggy's
wrist, Huntoon threw off his coat, kicked away his boots, and springing
to the taff-rail, plunged into the icy water. As he plunged, the body
rose again, this time further away from the boat, and Huntoon struck
out towards it.

Peggy shut her eyes and prayed.

One minute--two--three--went by. Then with fear and trembling, white
as the sea-gull that wheeled above her head, the girl opened her eyes
once more, and strained them toward the spot where Huntoon had plunged.
Not there; so he too had gone. No, that dark object to the right must
be his head; now she could see one strong arm cleaving the water, and
surely, surely he was holding some person, some _thing_ with the other.
Yes, and now he is calling for a rope. Oh, fool, fool! not to have
thought of that!

She turned to the cabin; but Philpotts was before her. He dashed down
the companionway, and reappeared with a coil of rope in his hand.
Bracing himself against the mast, he flung the coil with all his might.
It flew straight as an arrow and fell within reach of Huntoon's free
hand.

"Bravo! Well done!" came from the crew of the packet, which had come
about and stood by to render what help might be needed.

Philpotts, having made sure that his rope had carried, made the
other end fast to a cleat, and then as Huntoon passed his end around
Neville's body, Philpotts and Peggy drew it in hand over hand, till the
two in the water, the swimmer and his burden, were brought close to the
boat.

Philpotts leaped into the shallop, brought it round, and together he
and Huntoon succeeded in lifting Neville's body into it. Huntoon's
teeth were chattering, and his limbs shaking with cold; but he gave no
heed to himself.

"An ugly blow!" he muttered, looking at the great round swelling
above the temple where the blood was already settling black. "Brandy,
Philpotts, quick--from my flask in the cabin!" and falling on his knees
in the shallop, he began to chafe Neville's icy hands. At the same time
he called aloud to the sailors on the packet to send their small boat
to make examination of _The Lady Betty_, to take off the young lady if
the danger were imminent, and to lend a hand at saving the cargo.

He and Philpotts rowed the shallop to the packet, and lifted Neville
with the sailors' help to the deck of the larger vessel. Then, and not
till then, he looked about for the captain who stood facing him, and
behold it was--_Richard Ingle_!

The best gift of the gods is prudence; the next best audacity. Romney
Huntoon was handsomely dowered with the latter commodity, and he
invoked it now in his awkward predicament. Walking up to Ingle with a
smile, he stretched out his hand.

"You and I are quits," he said; "I did you a bad turn yonder at St.
Mary's. You have done me a bad turn now by sinking my boat. Shall we
wipe the slate and begin again?"

Huntoon's opening was happily chosen. Had he apologized, all would have
been lost; but the freebooter was pleased with the boy's boldness. Yet
that alone would scarcely have won the day. It was the bright eyes of
Peggy Neville that lent a certain civility to his surly voice.

"If I'd known whose boat we were running down, I'd never ha' given
myself the trouble to come about, for I could ha' seen you go down with
her in great comfort; but since ye chanced to have this young lady
aboard, I'm not sorry things fell out as they did. But that's as far
as I'll go. And as for your cargo yonder, I warn you that all we save
of that goes to Ingle and Company, to make good the damage to _The
Reformation_."

"A bit of paint--" began Huntoon, and then turned his back and stood
looking over the rail, watching the death-struggle of _The Lady Betty_.
The little vessel rolled first this way and then that, shipping water
in her hold at every turn.

There is a solemnity in watching a sinking ship akin to that of
standing by a death-bed. As Huntoon looked, a wave of memories swept
over him. He recalled the first journey he had taken aboard her, the
pride of setting out with his father, the smell of tar on the ropes,
as the sailors cast them loose, and the anxious face of his mother as
she stood on the pier to wave a farewell. With this thought of his
father and mother came the wonder how this disaster would strike them.
He dreaded their consternation at the loss, but he felt sure of their
sympathy. Blessed is the son who holds to that, let come what may.

Meanwhile, Neville lay on the packet's deck, pale as death, with
eyelids closed, and only the faint beating of his heart giving evidence
that he still lived. Peggy sat beside him, holding sal volatile to
his nostrils. The sailors stood around in a sympathetic circle, their
Monmouth caps doffed, though the winter air was searching. None
doubted that they were in the face of death, and the roughest sailor
grows reverent in that august presence.

At length, however, the lowered lids quivered and lifted themselves
first a crack, then wider and wider till the eyes--those long
steel-gray eyes--rested with full recognition on Huntoon and Philpotts.
His lips moved, and formed one half-audible word, "St. Mary's!"

Huntoon looked questioningly at Ingle who answered as if he had
spoken,--

"No, by the Lord! and any one who suggests turning about for so much as
a mile, will be spitted like a pigeon on my sword here and flung into
the sea."

"As you will," said Huntoon, coolly. "So far as I know, none has
suggested it save this man who is raving in delirium from the cut in
his head. For my part, I had far rather he did not get his wish, for we
have but just saved him from Brent's clutches."

"How's that? I thought they were as thick as thieves."

"So they were; but time brings strange revenges. It was after you did
set sail that the priest was murdered at St. Gabriel's."

"I'm right glad to hear of it whenever one of those black crows is put
out of the way. No word of it reached me, though I have been hanging
about the river here waiting for cargo."

"That means spying on the land," Huntoon thought to himself, but aloud
he said,--

"Well, so it has fallen out, and because he had Neville's knife in his
breast, the Governor will have it that it was Neville did the murder.
He was hot for punishment, and will be sore angered when he finds his
prey has slipped through his fingers."

This was shrewdly spoken. To spite Giles Brent, Ingle would have taken
much trouble; but his suspicions were not yet set at rest.

"Then what for should Neville want to go to St. Mary's?"

"'Tis a strange affection he hath. You would call it folly; some folks
call it honor."

Richard Ingle colored, and Huntoon hastened to change the subject:
"Now, Captain Ingle, I have a proposition to make: In regard to
the salvage of my cargo belonging to your crew, there might be two
opinions; and if you took it without my leave, there might be awkward
questions for you to settle when next you come to Virginia; but I'll
agree that you may have it as ferryage if you'll take us four and our
crew to Romney on the York River, which doubtless lies off your course."

"S' let it be!" growled Ingle, adding under his breath, "Damn the
fool! I was going that way anyhow to have talk with Claiborne.

"Turn to, men! Have out the boats, and save what we can from yonder
ketch, for by all the signs she will not last half an hour."

Romney had no heart to watch the men at work nor the oars flashing over
the water. He turned instead to where Neville lay.

"He'll catch his death lying here in the cold," he said; "let us carry
him below, Philpotts!"

"Ay," said Ingle, carelessly, "ye may lay him in the cabin next mine,
and the third and last cabin I'll have made ready for Mistress Neville.
You're to be queen o' the ship while you're aboard," he added, turning
to Peggy; "and when you land you shall have the salute of five guns I
promised you at St. Mary's."

Peggy thanked the Captain with gracious courtesy, but Romney glowered
and made as if to speak, then thought better of it, and lifting Neville
with the help of Philpotts bore him down into the cabin, where they
chafed feet and hands with brandy and wrapped the cold form in hot
blankets.

To Huntoon's strained sense it seemed hours, though it was only
minutes, before the rapid tread of feet on the deck, the creaking of
ropes, and the flapping of sails gave notice that _The Reformation_ was
once more under way. Hurrying on deck, he was just in time to see _The
Lady Betty_ rise for the last time on the crest of the wave, and then,
with a final shiver, plunge downward in five fathoms of water. Tears
rose to his eyes and a ball that seemed as big as an apple stuck in his
throat; but he gulped it down and began to pace the deck with a manner
as indifferent as he could make it.

"There's ship's biscuit and hot stuff in the cabin," said Ingle. "You'd
best come below and have some. You look as though you'd fasted near
long enough."

It was the first time the thought of food had crossed Huntoon's mind,
but he realized now that it was well on towards nightfall and he had
not broken fast since seven in the morning. Yet when he was seated at
the table despite his hunger he could scarce eat. Two things choked
him: first, the thought of _The Lady Betty_ lying on the sand five
fathoms under water and her cargo on this pirate's deck; and afterward,
when he had conquered this bitterness and looked up, the anger in his
heart at sight of the ogling attention Richard Ingle was bestowing upon
Peggy Neville.

The girl herself was more than a little frightened, but she held her
head high.

"Had I known we were to have a lady aboard, I had had the cabin
decorated."

"Bare walls go best with a sad heart, Captain Ingle."

"Fill your goblet again and down with the Madeira!"

"None for me, I thank you."

"Ho! ho! I see you are jealous. Wine and woman, the old saw says, make
fools of all men. So belike you care not to take your rival to your
heart."

"I crave your permission to withdraw."

"Ah, do those bright eyes feel the weight of sleep so early?"

Peggy bowed.

"Then must we do without them, though 'tis like turning out the
light in the ship's lantern. Your cabin, you know, lies between your
brother's and mine."

"I shall sit with my brother the night."

"And you so overcome with drowsiness," mocked Ingle.

Huntoon started up; but Peggy checked him: "Master Huntoon, will you
take me to my brother? I will detain him but a moment, Captain Ingle,
and I thank you for your courtesy."

It might have been a court lady who swept past Ingle to take Huntoon's
arm; but it was a trembling and much frightened little maid who entered
Neville's cabin.

"Will you do something for me?"

"Anything."

"I don't know how to say it."

"I know. You fear Ingle."

"I do."

"And would like to have me sleep outside the door here."

"No; that would make him angry, and we are all in his power."

"I fear you speak only the truth."

"But there is a way."

"What?"

"Keep him talking all night."

"I will try, and, Peggy, if worst comes to worst--"

"I know, and I trust you; but now hasten back."

So he left her.

When Huntoon returned to the table, Ingle poured him out a huge bumper
of Madeira and another for himself, though his flushed cheeks and
glazed eyes showed that he had little need of more. Then leaving his
seat he went to the little locker at the end of the cabin, and drawing
out two carefully preserved treasures set them down with a thump on the
table.

"Do ye know what those are?"

"Drinking cups," said Huntoon, but he shuddered.

"Ay, drinking cups of a rare make. The last voyage but one of _The
Reformation_ we fell in with a ship and would have boarded her
peaceably, as the crew were for letting us, but the captain and mate
made a fight for it and cost me two of our best men. So angered was
I by their obstinacy, I vowed if we won I'd have their skulls made
into drinking cups, and here they are with the silver rims round 'em
fashioned by a smith on board from a roll of silver on the ship. See,
I'll take the captain, and you shall drink from the mate. Now give us a
toast."

Huntoon paled and his heart thumped against his ribs, but he kept
saying to himself, "Yes, Peggy, I will do it. I promised you, and I
must not fail."

At length, grasping the ghastly cup, he raised it and in a voice of
strained gayety cried out,--

"Here's to _The Reformation_! She's a gallant vessel, as this day's
work has proved."

"Ay, that she is, and fit to gladden the heart of any sailor in
Christendom."

"Were you bred to the sea?"

"Not I."

"That's strange. You walk the deck as if you had had sea legs on since
you gave up going on all fours."

"Ay, but that comes of natural bent and brains. Give a man brains
enough and he can be anything from an admiral to a bishop. Now there
was a time when I had thoughts of being a bishop myself."

"You?"

"Oh, you may smile, and I own there's not much in the cut of my jib to
suggest its being made of the cloth, and this ring I wear being taken
from the finger of a corpse in a merchantman would scarce do duty for
the Episcopal symbol; but for all that I speak truth."

"And what changed your purpose?"

"What always changes a man's purpose? A woman. Here, pass over that
Madeira. Do you know, I have more than half a mind to tell you the
whole story."

"Should I not feel honored by the confidence?"

"Well you may, for I've never yet told it to any one; but the sight of
that girl and you in love with her--oh, never mind coloring up like
that. I knew it the moment you set foot on the ship--the sight of you
two, I say, brings it all back."

"You were in love once?"

"Ay, that I was, as deep as you or any other fool."

"Was the girl English?"

"Ay, and a tall, straight, handsome girl as ever you saw, in those
days,--far handsomer than her sister, who is and always was a weakling,
with no more expression than a basin of hasty pudding."

"She is living, then?"

For answer Ingle pointed with his thumb over his shoulder in the
direction of Kent Fort.

"Here, in Maryland?"

Ingle lurched half way across the table, and putting his hand to the
side of his mouth whispered a name.

"No!" exclaimed Huntoon.

"Ay!" then jealously, "Perhaps you think she's too good for me?"

Huntoon thought it prudent to evade the question by another.

"Did you ever tell your love?"

"I tried to, and more than once, but I could never get her to listen.
Curse the pride of those Brents!"

"They _are_ proud," Huntoon assented.

"Ay, and Margaret proudest of all. Why, when I wrote her she sent back
the letter, saying she could not read it for the spelling, and that I
would be the better for a twelvemonth more of schooling. And when I
spoke to her she bade me shut my mouth. And when I held her wrist and
would make her listen, she said I was no gentleman."

"But how were you on the road to a bishop's see? Not surely by writing
of misspelled letters and holding of ladies' hands against their wills."

"No, but in spite of it, for I had influence and the Archbishop was
a friend of my father's, and I had his promise of preferment, which
was good for its face value in those days, and I might have risen
to anything; but when Margaret Brent cast scorn at me like that it
maddened me--and what was she to hold herself above me? What are the
Calverts themselves? Why, Leonard Calvert's grandfather was a grazier,
and Leonard himself was a dolt when we were at school together."

Huntoon, not seeing exactly what answer was expected, wisely attempted
none, but made a feint of helping himself from the jug at his elbow,
and then shoved it across the table. Ingle shook it and finding it
still heavy, set it down with a contented thump.

"Bide you there, my beauty!" he said jovially, "till I'm ready for you.
I'll have you yet. Yes, and Margaret Brent too, for all her fine-lady
airs. Who ever heard of the Brents till they sprang up like mushrooms
in this new world? While the Ingles--my grandfather did oft tell me how
all England took its name from them."

"Faith!" said Huntoon to himself, "your spelling is not much improved
since the days when you wrote Mistress Brent." Aloud he said, "And did
the disappointment drive you out of England, the country named after
your forefathers?"

"It did," answered Ingle, with a hiccough, and fell into drunken
weeping, "but perhaps I might have lost my head if I'd tarried, so
maybe 'tis all for the best, and the life o' the sea is a merry one;
but I've never forgotten nor forgiven, and for Margaret Brent's sake
I've sworn an oath to make a hell of Maryland to all her kith and kin."

With this Ingle came to himself a little and feared the confidences he
was making this stranger in his cups might have gone too far, so he
burst into tipsy laughter and shook the jug, which was made of leather,
and then poured its contents to the last dregs into his silver-rimmed
skull, and finally waving it above his head burst out singing,--

        "'Oh, a leather bottel we know is good,
          Far better than glasses or cans of wood.
          And what do you say to the silver flagons fine?
          Oh, they shall have no praise of mine,
          But I wish in Heaven his soul may dwell
          That first devised the leather bottel!'

Huzza for the leather bottel! and huzza for the wine in it! Wine and
woman they're a fine pair; I'll sing you a song about them--hic!"

Huntoon looked anxiously toward the door behind which Peggy was
sitting, and he saw with satisfaction that the carousing Captain had
promised more than he could perform, for when he started to sing his
voice failed him, his arm fell at his side, and the whole man collapsed
in a heap beneath the table.

"At last," murmured Huntoon, gratefully, "I think he can be trusted to
stay where he is till morning," and escaping from the close cabin with
its foul-smelling lantern he made his way to the deck.

The fog was gone, and the night stainlessly, brilliantly, radiantly
clear. The stars twinkled a frosty greeting to him. The deep, dark blue
of the sky calmed and soothed him. He took a dozen turns up and down
the deck, then he went below, and stretching himself out before the
door of Peggy's cabin fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.



                             CHAPTER XVII

                                ROMNEY


It was on the afternoon of the day after the collision with _The Lady
Betty_ that _The Reformation_ rounded the last headland that shut
Romney from the view. The river ran cobalt blue between its brown
banks, bare but for the patches of snow that lay here and there in
unsunned hollows. The sky arched above far and clear, save where a
group of fleecy clouds bunched together like a flock of white sheep on
the horizon.

The sunlight fell full on the western front of Romney as it stood in
stalwart bulk against the black forest behind it, its wings outspread
on either side like some wild bird sheltering its young. A stout
stockade enclosed house and grounds, and ended on either side of the
little wharf running out into the river.

In the doorway of the house stood a woman, her hand raised to shelter
her eyes as she scanned the river to the southward. Mistress Huntoon
was still beautiful, though the radiance of youth was gone. The
pencilled eyebrow and the transparent curve of the delicate nostril,
the lambent flame in the eyes, yet remained, and, above all, that
indefinable attraction which hovers about some women from the cradle to
the grave.

Just now she shivered a little as though she had been standing and
looking long. Then she drew closer about her the cloak of gray paduasoy
lined with yellow and held by carved clasps of polished marcasite.

"Will he never come?" she murmured. "'Tis nigh a week since he was
to have reached home, and I cannot help worrying, for all his father
laughs and bids me put away womanish fears and remember that the boy
is well-nigh come to man's estate and better able than either of us
to look after himself. Ah, what's that beyond the headland? A sail, a
sail, Humphrey! Do you hear? a sail in the river! It must be Romney's,
though it looks over large for _The Lady Betty_."

Her eager words brought her husband to her side, buttoning his doublet
close as he shut the door behind him.

"Poor, poor little mother!" he said, as he laid a comforting arm
about her shoulder, "we cannot let the lad go beyond the length of
her apron string again, if she is to lead me such a life as this of
last week. Why, we have had him die of seven separate deaths already.
Let me see," and he began counting soberly on his fingers: "first,
drowned in Chesapeake Bay; second, caught by pirates and carried off
to the Bermudas; third, languishing in prison, for taking the part of
Virginia in one of Master Claiborne's skirmishes between commonwealth
and palatinate; fourth, stabbed in the streets of St. Mary's on a dark
night and robbed of his gold; fifth, shot in a duel brought on by his
hot temper 'so like his father's;' sixth, frozen to death on some
lonely Maryland road; or last and worst of all, dead in love with some
designing maid, wife, or widow there at St. Mary's and wholly forgetful
of his duty to thee and me--ay, sweetheart?"

"Hush, Humphrey! Cease thy jesting and tell me is that _The Lady
Betty_, or is it not?"

"Why, no, as I make out, 'tis too large for the ketch, deeper built,
and with a prow more fit to buffet ocean waves. 'Tis more likely a
merchant packet plying a regular trade with James City or St. Mary's;
but come, let us signal her from the wharf and perhaps we may get some
news of Romney."

The wind was blowing cold as they reached the dock, and Huntoon wrapped
the gray cloak close about his wife, as they seated themselves under
the shelter of a pile of logs to watch the approaching vessel.

"Dost thou remember, Betty, the day I set sail from James City in _The
Red Fox_?"

"Ay, that I do, and I watching thee from the window of the Carys'
cottage, with my heart in my throat."

"And I that disappointed I could have cried like a schoolboy, because
thou camest not to see me off."

"I dared not."

"If I could only have known that!"

"Poor fool, too dull to ask what thou wast aching to know!"

"Ay, poor fool indeed, and much needless trouble my dulness and
diffidence together brought upon me, and on thee too; but in the end
all came out right, and I sometimes think we could not have loved each
other so well but for all the trials we went through."

For all answer Elizabeth Huntoon slipped her hand into her husband's.

"Yet such inconsistent creatures are we, I own I would not our boy
should suffer as I did."

"Never fear; Romney is a lad of spirit, and will never lose a girl for
lack of asking."

"Ay, but asking and getting are two different things. There was Captain
Spellman. He wooed thee with as much spirit as any woman could wish."

"The presuming coxcomb!"

"There it is. What is a poor man to do, when asking is presumption, and
not asking is dulness?"

"Do? Why, hold his tongue and use his eyes, to be sure."

"But, Betty, thou wert never twice alike."

"So shouldst thou have changed too. When I was hot, thou shouldst have
been cold. When I was cold, thou shouldst have turned to a furnace."

"Who loves, fears. I played the fool; but, Betty, 'twas the fool who
won. Pray Heaven Romney meets as kind a fate."

"But, Humphrey, what can be keeping him?"

"The old refrain; I have heard that question so often I could answer it
in my sleep. Thy boy is safe and sound, and will give a good account of
his absence, I'll be bound."

For all his light treatment of his wife's terrors, Master Huntoon had
his own fears for his son's safety, and realized better than she could
the many forms of danger and temptations that beset a home-bred youth,
setting out to do business or battle with the world. It was with a glad
leap of the heart and a curious catch in his throat that he recognized
the stalwart figure by the gunwale as the packet drew near the wharf,
though a moment later he realized that something must have gone wrong
with the ketch.

"All's well, Father," cried Romney; which meant, "There's the devil to
pay; but I'm alive."

Before the ship had made fast her first hawser, the boy was over its
side and in his mother's arms, with one hand held fast in his father's,
pouring forth a torrent of words so bewildering that his father finally
clapped his hand over his son's mouth, saying,--

"Softly, thou headlong stripling, or thou wilt split our ears in the
effort to hear, and our heads trying to take all in. Now let me put
the questions, and do thou say 'ay' or 'no,' and as little more as the
grace of God lets thee hold thy tongue for. Now, thou didst load at St.
Mary's?"

"Ay, sir."

"And cleared in safety?"

"Ay."

"And stopped at St. Gabriel's Manor?"

"Ay."

"What for?"

"How can I say 'ay' or 'no' to that?"

"Then explain more at length; but briefly."

"Prithee let that stand. Suffice it to say a man--a friend of mine--was
in mortal peril, and his sister and I resolved to save him."

"_Sister!_ Ah, I begin to see a light. Is she with you?"

"Ay, and I have promised her a welcome from thee and my mother fit to
heal her sore heart."

"Well, well, we'll come to that later. Now what befell the ketch?"

"Why, the fog befell us first, and then Dick Ingle befell us, and
then the devil befell us; but here we are in spite of all three; and,
Mother, thou _wilt_ be good to her, wilt thou not?"

The crisis had come to Elizabeth Huntoon, as it comes to every
mother--gradually to some, suddenly to others--when she realizes that
her supreme place is gone forever. Henceforth, for her, affection and
esteem and a comfortable suite of dowager apartments in her child's
heart; but the absolute sway, the power, the _firstness_ at an end.

The blood surged back from Mistress Huntoon's face, leaving it gray,
and for the first time with the touch of age upon it, so that one could
know how she would look as an old woman.

"Yes; I will be good. Where is she?" The lips formed the words which
sounded cold and formal in her own ears; but she saw with a new pang
that her son had no leisure for noting subtle shades of tone or meaning
in her voice.

"Here, Mother, here!" he exclaimed, turning to where his father was
already assisting Peggy Neville from the deck to the wharf. Now, had
Peggy been rosy and dimpling and happy as she was a fortnight ago, and
as she must needs have been to arrest the wandering fancy of Romney
Huntoon, his mother would have greeted her with as much coolness as
Virginia hospitality permitted; but seeing a pale, tearful little
face, weary and woe-begone, peeping out from the brown curls, the
older woman felt her heart touched by a keen remembrance of herself as
a young girl, a stranger in a strange land; and waiting no words of
presentation, she made one of her swift, characteristic strides toward
Peggy, and folding her arms close about her, kissed her on both cheeks.

"Poor child!" she said in her low caressing voice; "thou art fair tired
out and sadly in need of rest. Come with me to the little white chamber
next mine; there shalt thou bathe thy face with fresh water and rest
thy weary body in a warm bed."

"But my brother--he is very ill--"

"Leave him to my husband, who is counted the best physician in
Virginia. He and Romney can do more for him than thou or I. Romney,
receive our guests and do what is needful for their comfort! I will
join thee shortly in the hall."

"Captain Ingle, will you come ashore and try the quality of Romney
cheer?" said Humphrey Huntoon, as his son stood looking like one dazed
after the women on the path.

"I thank you; but my time is short, and I must have speech with Master
Claiborne, who is staying further up the river."

"Perhaps on your return you will stop and let me try to repay--" began
Huntoon, courteously; but the thought of _The Lady Betty's_ goods
stored in _The Reformation's_ hold pricked Ingle's conscience.

"I am already repaid," he answered stiffly, "and there is no call for
thanks on either side. Here, you men! Lift Sir Christopher Neville over
the railing there. Three of you go to this side; three to that. So!
easy there. One--two--three! Now lift!"

To give the devil his due, no man had such a gift as Richard Ingle for
giving orders.

It was scarcely quarter of an hour after _The Reformation_ touched the
wharf before she was away again, leaving four of her passengers and the
crew of _The Lady Betty_ on the wharf. When she was well out in the
river, Ingle ordered a salute of five guns, and then bade his men give
three cheers for the Mistress Peggy Neville, the handsomest girl that
ever trod the deck of a vessel.

"Here's to her!" he cried himself, "and may she have the luck to marry
a buccaneer when yonder stripling is dead and gone!"

Peggy smiled a watery, tearful smile as she heard the five guns. How
little, she thought, had she imagined under what circumstances that
salute would be fired when Captain Ingle lightly promised it at St.
Mary's!

But her hostess would give her no time for thought. She led her swiftly
up the winding stair to the little white bedroom, and in a trice she
had set black Dinah at work heating the sheets with the great brass
warming-pan. Susan was fetching water hot and cold, and she herself was
loosening the lacings with which Peggy's own numb fingers fumbled in
vain.

All the while she kept her eyes upon the wharf which lay below the
window. Already a litter had been improvised of boards that lay on the
wharf; four men lifted the figure over the ship's side and laid it
down gently. Then the litter was raised and borne toward the house,
Romney and his father walking on either side. Once or twice the figure
struggled and flung its arms wildly above its head. So violent did the
struggles become that at length Master Huntoon drew a phial from his
jerkin, and pouring out some drops forced them between the prostrate
man's lips. The head fell back, and quiet settled on the limbs so
suddenly that Mistress Huntoon uttered an involuntary exclamation of
terror.

Peggy caught her anxiety in a moment.

"What are they doing? Where is he? Oh, not--not dead!"

"Why, no, foolish child," answered Lady Betty, ready to pinch herself
for her ill-timed outcry. "Look for thyself. See, they are bearing him
up the walk, and they will have him undressed and put to bed in no
time. Go thou to rest likewise! I promise to bring thee tidings, should
there be need of thee in the sick room, and meanwhile let me sing thee
a little song that my mother sang to me in the old country, and I again
to Romney here in his babyhood."

Mistress Huntoon watched Peggy closely as she spoke Romney's name, but
no answering blush marked her words. The girl was so utterly worn out
that she scarcely took any heed of what was passing around her, but
sank upon the bed, closed her eyes, and dropped into sweet slumber to
the sound of a tender, preoccupied crooning of the old refrain,--the
same that Romney had hummed to himself on the hillside path at St.
Mary's,--

          "Heigh-ho! whether or no,
           Kiss me once before you go
           Under the trees where the pippins grow."

In her dreams it seemed to Peggy that she was standing on a ladder in
an English orchard. Romney was shaking the tree and for every apple
that fell claiming a kiss, while she from her vantage ground of the
ladder pelted him with the red apples instead.

The dream brought a smile to the pale young lips.

"It is well," said Mistress Huntoon to herself, watching her; "she
sleeps and she smiles. Youth will do the rest." After bending an
instant over the sleeper she left her and slipped down the staircase
into the hall. Romney was walking up and down. At the foot of the
stairway he met his mother and kissed her hand, as had been his custom
from babyhood. They crossed the hall and sat down side by side on the
wide settle before the fire.

Then a silence fell between them.

"Alas," thought the mother, "when did ever my boy find it hard to speak
with me before?"

"She suspects something," thought her son.

This was not the truth; she did not suspect, she _knew_.

"Tell me now of all that hath befallen thee since ever _The Lady Betty_
touched at St. Mary's."

"Nay, tell me first if thou, like my father, hast forgiven the loss of
the dear old boat."

"Speak not of the loss of a boat though it had held half our fortune
when thy life was in the scale. Oh, my son, my son!"

The mother covered her face with her hands and fell to weeping, not so
much, to tell the truth, because her son might have been lost to her,
as because he _had_ been.

Romney, shrewd as he thought himself, never dreamed of what was passing
in her mind.

"Now then, little Mother, cheer up! What's the use of weeping when thou
hast me here safe and sound? As for my adventures, they have in truth
been many and wonderful. To begin at the beginning, I found St. Mary's
mightily dull till I did make acquaintance with Mistress Neville and
her niece who is with us here."

"Neville, so that is her name?"

"Why, of course, Neville,--Peggy Neville," Romney said the name slowly
as if it were music in his ears. "'T was at their house, Mother, I
met Governor Brent, and he did make particular inquiry for my father,
and said the fame of his courage and wisdom was spread beyond the
boundaries of Virginia."

This was a good feint on the boy's part and drew his mother's attention
for the moment.

"Said he so indeed? Why, 'twas right civilly spoke. I trust thou didst
return what courtesy thou couldst to the Governor."

"Yes, and no. I did him some small favors; but in the end I robbed him
of his prisoner."

"Romney!"

"Ay, that did I, and would do it again. The man was falsely accused."

"Accused of what?"

"Murder."

Elizabeth Huntoon's face fell. She dearly loved the atmosphere of
respectability, and had no mind to be mixed up with a felony. Her son
paid little heed to her expression.

"Oh, but 'twas shrewdly planned,--Peggy and I--"

"Peggy!"

Romney could have bitten his tongue out. The mischief was done. He
halted, stammered, and finally resolved to throw himself on his
mother's mercy, which he might better have done in the beginning.

"Yes, _Peggy_!--the sweetest name for the sweetest girl in the
colonies. When thou dost know her better, Mother, thou wilt say so too."

"Thou dost not seem to have needed long knowledge to find it out; but
thou must needs remember that all thou hast told me of her so far is
that she is sister to a murderer."

"Mother!" cried Romney, flinging off his mother's hand and jumping up
to pace the floor.

"It was thou who didst say the word."

"Not I. Am I like to speak such a foul falsehood of the man I honor
most in the world, next to my father! I said _accused_ of murder,--a
mighty different thing, as any but a woman would know."

It is a great relief to a man to vent upon the sex a charge which
courtesy and respect forbid his laying at the door of the individual.

"Perhaps it will be set down to the curiosity of my sex if I venture to
ask whom this high-souled gentleman is supposed to have put out of the
way."

God gave sarcasm to woman in place of sinewy fists. Poor Romney felt
his heart pommelled, but being in the right and knowing it, he kept his
temper.

"I'll tell thee as if thou hadst asked more kindly."

The shot told, for it was deserved.

"Sir Christopher Neville was accused of killing a Jesuit priest,--one
of those who dwell at St. Inigo's. The evidence against him was strong,
and Giles Brent credited it, though he had great liking for Neville.
But his sister is much under the influence of 'those of the Hill,' as
the Jesuits are called, and thou thyself, Mother, dost know how much
that order is to be trusted."

Cleverly aimed again, Romney! He knew that his mother had come to the
greatest griefs of her life through the machinations of a follower of
St. Ignatius; already she weakened a little, though her face did not
betray it.

"But why was it necessary that thou shouldst be caught in the toils?
Neither deed nor charge was any affair of thine. What was it all to
thee?"

"What was it to my father when thou wert in trouble yonder in James
City?"

Elizabeth Huntoon trembled.

"Oh, Romney, is it gone so far, in one little fortnight? Remember thy
father had known and loved me for years."

"Pshaw!" said Romney, striding up and down faster than ever, crowding
his hands deep into the pockets of his jerkin. "Is there any calendar
of love with directions, 'On such a day a man may take a liking, after
so many days he may admire, at the end of a month, or three, or six, he
may give rein to his fancy, and when a year is out he may love,--that
is, if his mother gives consent'?"

The lad was growing angry, and therefore letting down his guard.
Trust a woman for seeing the advantage and using it! Elizabeth poked
her little red boots out to the fire and looked at them as if they
interested her more than anything in the world. Then as though the
question were the most natural and casual one she asked,--

"When are you to marry?"

It was at once the cruellest and the kindest thing she could have said.
A huge sob rose in the boy's throat and choked him. Then he threw
himself on his knees and buried his head in his mother's lap, crying,--

"Don't! Don't! She does not love me!"

"Ask her!"

"I have asked her."

Let those who can, explain the workings of a woman's mind. Perhaps they
can tell why Elizabeth Huntoon, who five minutes before had set her
face like a flint against this love affair, of a sudden whiffed about
like a weather-cock and was set for it as if she had planned it herself
from the beginning. All she said was,--

"Then why did she ask thy help?"

"She did not; I offered it,--nay, forced it upon her; and for her
brother she would do anything. It's my belief he is the only human
being she does truly love."

"All the better. Love for a brother never yet blocked the way to any
other. But, hark! I hear her stirring. Belike she will be able to come
down for supper. Go thou, and don thy scarlet sash and the falling
band with lace edge. Oh, and don't forget the lace cuffs and the gold
lacings."

"Mother, dost take thy son for a baby or a popinjay?"

"Neither, but for the dullard he is, not to know that dress makes as
much difference in men as in women. Why, who knows but I would have had
thy father a year earlier, had he paid more heed to his attire! Go!
Go!--Suppose thou hadst never come!" Here words failed her, and she
caught her son to her heart, cried over him a moment, and then pushed
him toward the stairs.



                             CHAPTER XVIII

                            THE EMERALD TAG


With the dignity of absolute self-renunciation Elinor took up the
cramped, new existence in the little cottage at St. Mary's. To Cecil it
was but a play, this strange life in the tiny rooms, where the great
four-post bed seemed an elephant in a toy house, and the head on the
carved chest appeared to be perpetually grinning at the incongruity
of its surroundings. What cared the child for narrow quarters, while
in the evenings he could lie as of old before the fire, and in sunny
spring days could wander through the village streets, now loitering on
the wharf to watch the lumber loading for the new house at Cecil Point
and anon pausing at the smithy for a talk with the blacksmith as he
hammered at his anvil?

For the first time in his life the boy was learning the meaning of
democracy. The best gift money can offer its owners is the aloofness
afforded by wide acres, and the servants who act as buffers to
the multitude; but the eternal laws of compensation hold here as
everywhere, and this aristocratic seclusion is bought at the expense of
the feeling of kinship and sympathy with the average man.

Elinor realized this, and it reconciled her to much that was trying in
her new lot. She felt that her own life was at an end, the last page
turned, and _finis_ written on that day when Giles Brent met her on the
river path at St. Gabriel's and told her that the waters had closed
over the head of Christopher Neville. On that day hope fell dead; but
duty lives on after hope has died, and then there was always Cecil.

On him she lavished all her pent-up love, all the unsatisfied ambition
of her heart. For him she planned and worked. He was to be Lord of the
Manor, then Councillor, then perhaps in the far-off days Governor of
the Province, and always an honor to the Calvert name. Already men were
at work building the house at Cecil Point, and the wood-chopper's axe
rang merrily among the giant trees that must fall to clear the fields
and make them ready for their burden of wheat and maize and tobacco.

The superintendence of all this, combined with the keeping of the
little house at St. Mary's, filled Elinor's days so full that she had
scant time for grieving; but when Cecil was in bed and asleep, and
Elinor sat by the fire alone with memory, then, indeed, the struggle
was a bitter one, and often her head was bowed upon the table and the
candle-light shone upon a figure shaken by a storm of tears and sobs.
Yet each time, after the storm and stress came peace, as she betook
herself to her closet and her beads. In nothing has the Catholic faith
a stronger hold on men's hearts than in the tie its creed furnishes
between the living and the dead, in the belief that the prayers of
those who kneel before the altar do still reach forth to help and
succor those who lie beneath the pavements of the church.

Elinor, too, had her private liturgy addressed to Christopher, which
she recited as the bells tolled the hours of devotion. At matins she
said,--

"May the coming day grant me opportunity to serve thee and honor thy
name!"

At prime: "May thine innocence dawn upon those who doubt thee as the
glory of the morning rises on the world of shadows!"

At vespers: "So ends another day which did separate thee and me."

And at complines: "I lay me down to sleep. May our souls meet in the
world of dreams here and the world of spirits hereafter!"

Elinor never spoke to Father White of Neville, for she knew full well
that to the priest he was accursed as a heretic if not as a murderer,
and she felt that she could only talk of him with one who held him as
she did.

Often in these lonely days did her heart yearn toward Peggy, who was
known at St. Mary's to have been rescued from the ketch and to have
made her home with the Huntoons; but something within her, whether
pride or penance, forbade. She remembered the scorn in Peggy's voice
as she reproached her with her doubts of Christopher, and she felt how
idle it would be now to try to persuade the girl that her faith was as
strong as her own. Some day, she told herself, when her prayer had been
answered, her struggles rewarded, and she had shown forth Christopher's
innocence to the world, then she would write in tender triumph and bid
Peggy come to her and be her little sister for life.

The chief comfort of all to her troubled soul lay in this task she had
set herself as her life-work,--the proving to the world of Neville's
innocence. Baffled at every turn, she never gave up, but followed every
hint of a clue and rejoiced to find here and there men and women who
believed in Neville as earnestly as she.

Of all these friends in need, one was more helpful, more comforting,
more sustaining than all the rest. Margaret Brent was like a granite
cliff against which the waves beat mightily, but could not prevail.
Had her nature sharp peaks, crevasses, and unsunned slopes? In times
of storm one thought not of these, but of the rock's protection and
the solid barrier against the fury of the tempest. The very bluntness
of her shrewd comments on Elinor's conduct of life held a certain
tonic. The people who help us most are those who make light of our
achievements, and have faith in our possibilities.

As Elinor compared Margaret with her sister Mary, she felt how
unenlightened her former judgments had been. Mary Brent's virtues were
for times of sunshine. Hospitality, tranquillity, pious observances,
marked her placid progress through the world; but when the final test
came, it laid bare under these qualities narrowness of mind and bigotry
of soul and that hardness which sometimes underlies suavity. Her white
eyelids, with their light lashes, never quivered as she pronounced
Neville guilty and bade Elinor renounce him and his memory. Elinor
would not? Then they were best apart, and she would not undertake to
dissuade her cousin from her plan of taking up her abode at Cecil
Point. When she bade Cecil good-bye, a brief spasm seemed to tear her
heart; but it passed, leaving the face as unruffled as ever, and it was
with a feeling of relief that Elinor turned from her to the wilderness.

At first sight the cottage at St. Mary's had seemed impossible for one
of Elinor Calvert's birth and upbringing; but outward things had no
power to trouble her now, and she set to work with a certain sense of
pleasurable independence to brighten the little house for Cecil's sake.

Her chief helper was Bride, an old nurse of Cecil's who had come to
the new land with her boy and who now proved herself as reliable in
the kitchen as in the nursery. She was a picturesque figure enough in
her short stuff gown with bright stockings and heavy shoes, a white
kerchief folded above her checked apron, and a ruffled cap covering her
gray hair.

Her only wish was to serve her mistress, her only joy to prepare good
things for Cecil to eat, her only terror fear of these strange blacks
whom people seemed to take into their houses as if they were human
beings like the white folk, instead of uncanny creatures of whom any
deviltry might be expected.

"Do ye think, Master Cecil, the black would come off if ye touched
one?" she asked.

"I know not; I never tried. Come here, Lysander! There, stand still
while I rub you with this white cloth. See, Bride, the cloth is not
black, no more than if you rubbed it on a black cow or any other beast."

"Ay, it's beasts they are, and not men at all, and it's none of them
I be wanting about my kitchen. Let them bring water from the well
and leave it at the door, and then be off out of my sight before one
of them casts the evil eye on me. And the females are worse than the
males; they're like black witches."

"Bride!"

"Ay, my bairn!"

"Ye remember the murder of Father Mohl?"

"Am I like to forget it?"

"Well, I've been thinking 'twas not like a man to kill a priest like
that. Do you think it might have been a black witch that was riding
through the forest on a broomstick, and did it with a witch knife,--you
know they have them that they copy from real ones."

"What's this talk of witches and witch knives?" It was Ralph Ingle
who spoke. He stood leaning against the door, his hair falling light
against his suit of huntsman's green with leather trimmings, in his
hands a string of wild ducks.

"Oh, Master Ingle!" cried Cecil, jumping up and down and clapping his
hands, "you have been shooting again and when, oh, when will you take
me with you as you did promise?"

"When Mistress Neville grants her gracious permission; and, Cecil, do
you think ever you could gain her consent to another thing?"

"What thing?"

"To her accepting me as a tenant at Cecil Point."

Cecil shook his yellow curls and set his mouth in droll imitation of
his mother's determined look.

"Cannot be! Mother says we shall never have a tenant at the Point."

"Not till the sea gives up its dead," said Elinor, coming to the door
and laying her arm about Cecil's shoulder.

At Mistress Calvert's approach Ingle bent forward with that unconscious
deference which is the most subtle flattery, as though the soul stood
at attention before its superior.

"Say no more, I pray you," said Elinor, "though I know you do speak but
out of kindness and deep thoughtfulness for me. You have been hunting,"
she added, striving to turn the conversation.

"Ay, and have brought the spoils to lay at your feet," adding under his
breath, "where my heart still lies."

Elinor colored and shook her head, but, feeling that refusal were
ungracious, she took the ducks from his hand, stroked the plumage, and
bade Cecil carry them to Bride.

Ingle watched Cecil disappear with the birds over his arm, then he
leaned across the door near Elinor.

"You are more beautiful than ever," he said.

"I have outgrown the age of flatteries, Master Ingle. Beauty belongs
to youth and joy, and both have left me forever."

"One type of beauty belongs to these. At St. Gabriel's yonder you were
beautiful like a great lady of the court. To-day you are beautiful like
the Blessed Virgin."

"Hush! You speak something akin to blasphemy."

"Nay, not a whit. Did not the old masters paint Our Lady from the women
around them, and none so fair as you?"

"A pretty model for a sacred figure I should make, with my homespun
apron and a bunch of keys in my hand."

"They might be the keys of Heaven if the hand were in mine."

"Master Ingle, I have told you more than once that I could listen to no
such talk from you."

"Your word is law," said Ingle, bowing low. Then with a swift turn of
the tide of talk, "I must tell you how narrow an escape these ducks had
from becoming food for some dirty red man instead of lying in state
on your table. I shot them on the river a day or two since. Father
White asked me to go with him as interpreter on a mission among the
Patuxents. We took a boat and two chests, one containing clothing along
with bread and butter and cheese and corn, and another containing
bottles of wine for the eucharist and holy water for baptism. But in
the night the savages broke into the tent where that dolt of a servant
slept, and stole the sacramental wine and our chest of clothing and all
the food save one pat of butter and a cheese-cake.

"Father White was so pleased that the sacred vessels were untouched
that he fell on his knees, giving thanks as though the whole affair
were a great mercy; and for me, to tell the truth, when I found the
ducks I did shoot for you were still there, I heeded no other loss."

Elinor came nearer to a smile than the last month had witnessed. There
was consolation in knowing that there was still some one to whom she
was first, whose only thought was the gratification of her tastes and
fancies.

"They are in the nick of time," she said, "to garnish our supper
to-night, when I do expect my cousin, Margaret Brent, who comes to
spend some time under my roof. Perhaps you will join us."

"Thanks, fair hostess; but Mistress Margaret Brent and I agree not
as well as I and her brother and sister. Besides, I did promise the
Governor to be back this night at St. Gabriel's."

"Master Ingle?"

"Yes, Cecil."

"Will you pass by the road where Father Mohl was murdered?"

Ingle started. He loved not ghostly thoughts nor sad memories.

"Not I," he said hastily; "but by the main road."

"I am sorry."

"Why?"

"I wanted so much to have you look in the branches of the tree and see
if by chance you saw any scrap of cloth that did look like the cloaking
of a witch."

"Hush, Cecil!" cried Elinor, clasping her hands over the boy's mouth.
"Drop no hint that might spread another calumny. We who are suffering
from that dread scourge should see to it that we lay not the lash to
the back of another. Whoever the guilty one is, we must leave him to
God, and I believe in my heart his suffering is greater than mine, or
than any that ever Christopher Neville knew."

"Think you all souls are as sensitive as thine?" asked Ingle, gazing
with reverence into the face so near and yet so infinitely far away.

"I know not; but I can conceive no nature so base that it would not
writhe to see its just censure borne by another; and to be so sunk in
sin as to feel nothing,--why, that would be most pitiable of all."

"It would," answered Ingle, and stood musing a moment; then he moved
slowly away, walking backward that he might keep Elinor in view till
the last. "Good-bye," he said finally, and turning strode hastily
toward the gate nearest St. Gabriel's.

Elinor stood long in the doorway gazing after him, and then when he had
quite vanished, gazing on into vacancy like one who sees the unseen and
holds converse with spirits.

"Come, Cecil," she said at last, shaking off her lethargy with an
effort, "fetch a pitcher, and we will go down to the Governor's Spring
and draw water fresher than that which flows in our well."

Nothing loath, Cecil slipped one hand in his mother's and with the
other swung the earthen pitcher to and fro, to the imminent risk of its
brown nose.

When they reached the spring the two seated themselves on the stone
curb with which by Calvert's orders the spring had been walled about.
From the gravelly bank above, a group of tiny rivulets tumbled over
each other in a laughing cascade. Held for a moment in the stone basin,
they wandered onward to water the dell shaded by its thick growth of
sycamores, elms, and holly-trees.

Spring was misting all the foliage with green, not the rich verdure of
summer, but a tender yellow, deepening here and there into the full
green glory of unfolded leaves.

Cecil leaned far over the curb, and laughed at his reflection in the
spring.

"Do thou lean too, Mother, with thy cheek near mine, that I may thee if
thou dotht in truth look ath much like me ath folk say."

As he spoke Cecil gave a little tug at his mother's sleeve and drew
her to the margin, where she too stooped and looked down smiling at
the golden curls and rosy cheeks of her boy looking up at her from the
water.

An instant later she caught another reflection, the face of a red man
peering from the bushes over her shoulder. With an inward start she
realized that they were on a by-path and beyond call of help.

"Come, Cecil," she cried, striving to speak lightly, though she was
conscious that her voice shook. "Pick up thy pitcher, for we must be
going. Make haste, too, lest Cousin Margaret be at the house before us."

"Nay, Mother, 'tith tho fair beautiful here," began Cecil, turning
toward his mother with pleading in his voice.

As he turned, his eyes too caught the Indian's face even as it was
withdrawn into the shadow.

"Why, 'tis the same native I did see on the wharf--"

"Never mind, Cecil, who or what it is, but make good speed for home and
I will follow. There, give me the pitcher. Now, run!"

They reached the cottage door panting and out of breath just as
Margaret Brent was dismounting from her donkey.

Elinor ran on still faster to greet her. It was the first time they had
met since the midnight mass at St. Gabriel's. The older woman took her
in her arms.

"So you could not go on living with Mary? Neither could I. She is a
good woman, better belike than either you or I, yet--well, different.
And when she has once made her decision, angels and archangels could
not move her. Never mind, we must win the fight without her."

"Oh, Margaret, do you think there is any ray of light?"

"Foolish child, waste no energy in wondering when light will come; but
stumble on in the darkness as best you may. I have several scouts from
Kent Fort scouring the trail between St. Mary's and St. Gabriel's. So
far they have met with little success, except for one trifle,--one tiny
straw,--yet it may show the set of the wind."

"What? Oh, what?"

"Why, Master Halfehead found by the side of the path, on the low bough
of a bush not ten paces from where the priest's body hung, the tag of a
point such as men use to lace hose and breeches together. It had a bit
of the green point hanging to it still."

"But any might have worn that."

"Not such a tag as this. It was made of wrought gold and had an emerald
brilliant set at the tip's end. That tiny green gem must be our guiding
star."

"But how to follow it?"

"Listen! where there is one point there are two, and each point has two
tags; therefore, somewhere in this province, there must be three tags
of wrought gold with a tiny emerald at the tip. It is our business to
find them."

"But if we find them, what then? Master Huntoon or Giles Brent or one
of your scouts might have dropped this."

"Nay, I'd stake my life that if we find the tag we find the murderer--"

"What gives you such assurance?"

"Why, 'tis clear as day. The point was of stout ribbon, somewhat
broader than the ordinary lacing. Now that could have been torn off
only by some one running and not without the knowledge of the runner.
Being of some value, it was well worth picking up or going back to
search for, unless the runner had some reason for haste which made him
willing to sacrifice the tag rather than stay to look for it."

"Oh, Margaret, how many shrewd ideas thou hast! Would I had a tithe of
them!"

"Ideas come with wrinkles, my dear, and are bought at a cost of years
beyond their value. As for shrewdness, 'tis a mean virtue at best,
and not to be compared with warmth of heart like thine, that draws all
toward thee like bees to the red clover. Yet shrewdness has its value.
Therefore am I now full of interest in talk of points and lacings with
every man I meet, and I leave not off the subject till I have learned
with what manner of points the man and his brothers and his cousins and
his wife's relatives do lace together hose and breeches. There, that is
the whole of my budget of news."

"And thou art an angel to bring it; but having still some human nature,
thou must needs eat, and Bride has set out the table with our best
linen in honor of thy coming, and has cooked some rare ducks which
Master Ingle did bring to the door this morning."

"Does Ralph Ingle come here often?"

"Why, yes and no. Never to stay long, yet often in going and coming for
a brief converse at the door."

"Dost thou like him?"

"Faith, Margaret, I think I have no place in my heart warm enough for
liking, save of old friends; but Cecil is overjoyed to see him, and
Father White oft sends him here of an errand."

"'Tis easy to see why."

"Yes, thou art shrewd as ever, Margaret. Father White would be glad to
see me wed now that he has returned to the bosom of Holy Church after
long wandering. He accompanies the Father on his missions, and renders
much service as interpreter. Ingle himself has given up all thought of
marriage, but would fain be our true friend, and asked me this morning
to consider of him as a tenant at Cecil Manor."

"Be thine own tenant, Cousin. Trust me, 'tis safer."

"Ay, so I think, and so I have decided. I am very ignorant, but the
manor cannot be ready for habitation till next year, and ere a year is
over I hope to learn much."

"And I will help thee. Count upon me. Ah, Cecil, how fares it with
thee?"

"I do well, Couthin Margaret, yet I like not St. Mary's as well as St.
Gabriel's, and in the summer 'twill be worth."

"In the summer thou and thy mother are to come to me at Kent Island.
What fine breeches thou dost wear, Cecil!"

"Ay, they are my best, and donned for thee."

"And with such pretty points, knowst thou any other that wears points
as fine?"

"Why, Couthin Giles hath points of azure silk with tags of silver, and
Counthillor Neale wears rich ribbon points tipped with crystal, and the
other day I saw an Indian, and on his blanket was fastened a single
point of green silk, and--what think you?--the tag was of wrought gold
with an emerald in the end. It made me laugh to see it worn like that.
Oh, and, Mother, 'twas the same Indian we saw to-day in the butheth
by the Governor's Spring. 'Twath that I strove to tell thee, but thou
wouldtht not hear."

The two women looked at each other and turned pale.

"This Indian--who was he--did ever you see him before?"

"Nay, 'twas on the wharf, and he was selling tobacco and shells; none
knew him, for I asked."

"Margaret, oh, Margaret, surely now we have found the guilty man."

"Not so fast, Elinor! The Indian got that point of a white man. The
question is, was it before or after the murder."

The smile faded out of Elinor Calvert's face, and she drew a deep sigh.

"Only another blind lead," she murmured.

"Only another link in the chain," said Margaret. "Be of good cheer.
You and I are not women to fail in an undertaking into which we have
put our whole hearts. Depend upon it, we shall trace the owner of the
emerald tag yet."



                              CHAPTER XIX

                           THE ROLLING YEAR


"Is he better to-day?"

"Better in body; but for the mind I can see little betterment."

Elizabeth sighed at her husband's words. Months had gone by since
Christopher Neville was borne into the house on his litter. Winter
had thawed into spring, spring had bourgeoned and bloomed itself into
summer, and summer had dropped its green mantle and taken on the dusky
sadness of autumn with its intervals of Indian summer's hazy glory, and
now winter was here again. Not last year's icy winter with the cruel
chill of the north bearing down on the unpreparedness of the south; but
a genial, soft, out-of-doors winter with roses blooming to deck the
burial of the old year and welcome the birth of the new, to hearten the
struggling and revive the sick.

"Surely," they said, "this weather must put new life into Neville."

It was only in the inner circle that they named him. To the outer
world he was "the guest," or when need was, "Master John." Often when
alone Huntoon asked himself what would happen if Brent caught wind
of Neville's being alive, and made requisition upon Berkeley for his
return. It would make an awkward entanglement, Huntoon admitted; but he
vowed to himself that there should be a stiff fight before the prisoner
was taken from Romney, and those who knew Huntoon's character and the
look of his upper lip would have been slow to undertake the capture.

In the first months under the doctor's skilful treatment, the invalid
had gained rapidly, and the household rejoiced. Then Nature cried a
halt. The color came back to the pallid cheeks, strength to the limbs,
but the old light in the eyes never returned. A lassitude marked all
motions. A gentle thoughtfulness showed itself in word and deed; but
they were as the words and deeds of a child dealing with the present
alone. The blow from the bowsprit or the shock of the water or both
together, falling on nerves so terribly overwrought, had unseated
reason and dethroned memory, at least made a gap which the wandering
mind was powerless to fill.

Neville dwelt much in the world of his childhood, fancied himself
riding along English lanes, and pulling briar and eglantine in the
valleys of Surrey and Somerset with Peggy by his side. Then his
imagination led to a beautiful golden-haired girl who went robed in
green holding herself like some stately palm.

He remembered watching her walking over close-cropped lawn, and dancing
galliards on polished floors. It seemed to him that he had loved her
in that strange far away world, and he could recall vaguely a pang of
regret when he heard that she was married. Then a blank and nothing
more till he found himself here in this hospitable home, with Peggy
still beside him ministering to him without ceasing, and the circle of
friendly faces about. He knew neither curiosity nor sadness. It was
well with him, and he asked nothing but to stay as he was.

"That is the worst of the case," said Master Huntoon to his wife.
"If Neville were discontented or unhappy, it would show that there
was some half-conscious memory at work in his mind; as it is, I have
little hope. And such a man! Faith, Brent must have been mad to believe
anything evil of that broad, open brow. I have seen many criminals
in my time, Betty, and I know the look of them; but there is another
look--the look of a man who might commit a crime if the motive were
strong enough--I know that too; and then there is yet another face that
God keeps for the man who is to play a man's part in the world, to do
and dare and bear bravely the worst Fate can lay upon him, and that is
the face of Christopher Neville."

"Alas that his mind should have died before the body!"

"Nay, Betty, let us not give it up so easily. Memory may be gone and
judgment even, and yet the vital spark linger. Thought is the breath of
the soul. While that lasts there is life, and Christopher's thought is
as beautiful and as pure as the heaven above us."

"Ay, that's God's truth."

"More than that, I have seen in him now and then a glimpse of
recognition of earth as though the soul were shaking off its lethargy.
Were the real world a less sad one for him, I might be tempted to try
to call him back by mention of the Brents or Mistress Calvert."

"Oh, that woman!" exclaimed Elizabeth; "not a word from her in all
these weeks."

"You forget. She counts him dead."

"Ay, but she might have written to Peggy."

"Yet when Peggy's aunt wrote it did not suit thee."

"I should say not. Such a letter! It was as well Christopher was dead,
since he had brought such disgrace on the name, but Peggy might come
back to her if she chose. Oh, but it was good to see the answer Peggy
sent, and how she scorned aid or protection from any that doubted her
brother's innocence."

"Perhaps Mistress Calvert feared a like rebuff, for she and Peggy did
not part in love. Besides, thou must not forget that she has much
to contend with. She is a Catholic and under the tutelage of Jesuit
priests."

"'Tis well I know what _their_ influence is. If I were Lord Baltimore,
I would harry them all out of the province."

"Ay, but thou art not Lord Baltimore nor called upon for the Christian
task of harrying out of the land a band of brave men."

"Thou dost defend them?"

"Nay, there be few things in which they and I think alike; but this
I do say: There is no chapter in her history to which the Church has
better right to point with pride than this work of the Jesuits here in
the West. At privations they have smiled, at danger they have laughed,
at torture they have stretched out hands of blessing over their
torturers. And who are they who have faced all these things for their
religion? Not hardy pioneers full of love of adventure like many of our
Virginia cavaliers, but delicately nurtured students, men for the chief
part who prefer the cloister to the world, but have cheerfully sought
these western wilds, moved only by love of God and man."

"Humphrey, thou dost love to argue, but answer me one question, Dost
thou put trust in them?"

Huntoon shrugged his shoulders.

"Why, for the matter of that," he said, "the older I grow, the fewer
men do I put full trust in. But, Betty, there is something else I have
to talk of with thee."

"Ay," said his wife, laying down the purse she was netting, "and what
is that?"

"Faith, I scarce like to speak of it lest it vex thee."

"The sooner I hear it, the less 'twill keep me on the rack."

"Why, then, I do suspect that Romney is in love."

"Verily!"

"Ay, verily, verily. At the first I thought 'twas but a boyish
softness; but I have watched him close of late, and I fear it is a
man's passion."

"Oh, mayhap 'tis thy fancy leads thee on to imagine all this. Romney is
tougher than thou mayst credit. He can see a pretty face--ay, even for
a year--and not lose his heart."

"But, Betty--"

"Well!"

"What if the maid lose hers with looking at him? He is a well-favored
lad."

"Ay, he hath the look and bearing of the Romneys. But what hath put
this fancy in thy head?"

"Oh, I have looked and listened and I am very swift to take in such
things, swifter than thou, I dare venture; oft would I have spoken to
thee of the matter ere this, but feared to stir lest thou take it too
hard."

"Good Master Blind-as-a-Bat, once before I called thee by that name,
and thou hast got no better eyes since. I have known this wondrous news
of thine these twelve months more or less."

"And never told me?"

"Oft would I have spoken," answered Elizabeth, mockingly, "but feared
lest thou take it too hard."

"The same old Betty!" cried Humphrey Huntoon, laughing, yet a trifle
vexed, for the most amiable of men loves not to be made a jest of. "But
there must be some deeper reason why thou shouldst have held thy peace
on a matter touching us both so nearly. Faith, thou art like the fish
Walton tells of, that closeth its mouth in August and openeth not till
spring."

"Why, Humphrey, 'twas the first night of the Nevilles' coming, Romney
did make a clean breast of his love for Peggy, and the next day we
talked of it again. He told me all,--how he had asked her to marry him
and got no answer; that is, none that suited him, for he swore she
cared no more for him than for any gallant of St. Mary's save as he
had befriended her brother; 'but, Mother,' he said, 'I spoke with her
since she came to Romney and told her the matter was not to be opened
for a year, that we were both too young, and meanwhile we were to be
friends, and if she made any show of not being at ease with me, I would
take myself off for the whole year, and that would be a great grief to
you and my father.'"

"Ah!" said her husband, "the boy has the blood of the Huntoons in him.
'Twas spoken like a man, and Peggy--what said she?"

"She said nothing, only stretched out both hands and looked up at him
in a way she has which would make a man in love with her that was cold
before, and make her lover ready to live or die for another like it.
Ever since they have been fast friends, though 'tis to thee rather than
Romney she shows favor, and 'tis well I am a woman above jealousy."

While they were talking Neville entered.

"Is it not a pity, my good host, to be shut indoors when the sunshine
lies on the river bank and the air is like mellow wine?"

"Hast thou spent the morning in the open?"

"Ay, Romney and I and Peggy have been sitting by the river bank. We
made wreaths for her while she bound our wrists with withes and
laughed to see us struggle with them. I did break mine full easily; but
Romney could not for his life till Peggy did herself undo them."

"Where did you leave the two?" asked Elizabeth.

"They came up from the river with me, but turned in at the barn where
the spinning-wheel stands. There! I ought not to have told, for Peggy
was fain to surprise thee with a great skein of smooth flax."

"She is more like to surprise me with a knotted skein, and a snarl on
the spindle that will take a week to unwind. Never was there such a
careless, heedless, captivating being."

"Since the days of Elizabeth Romney," said Huntoon, who would listen to
no word spoken in detraction of Peggy. His wife smiled and thrust out
her chin at him.

"I must go and try if it be yet too late to rescue the poor wheel," she
said, and passed out at the door and down the path which led to the
barn.

At the entrance of the barn she paused and stood looking in at the
picture which the doorway framed. Leaning against the rough wall stood
Romney, his fingers idly sweeping the strings of a lute, while his eyes
were fixed upon Peggy as she sat by the flax-wheel in the corner. Her
little foot pressed the treadle, her round arms swayed this way and
that with the moving skein, and her supple fingers hovered over distaff
and spindle.

The last year had left time's mark on the young man. In youth these
marks are generally an improvement, and before thirty, the years add
more than they take away. It was hard to define the change which the
passing months had brought to Romney, but where a year ago the passing
stranger saw the lingering boyhood, to-day he marked the coming
manhood. The mouth shut closer, the brows drew a little together as if
set in a purpose known only to themselves. If the smile were rarer, it
was also sweeter, for it had learned to show itself only when another
smile appeared to call it forth. Just now it was playing freely about
his lips as he watched the figure at the wheel.

When two are alone together, and a third is present, his name is Love.
Peggy's mood was merry, and her mouth had lost for the time the wistful
sadness that had hung round it ever since her coming to Virginia. Now
it curved into the old-time dimples at the corner as she tossed back
and forth the refrain of an old song of which Romney, in teasing humor,
had begun the first verse. He sang to the music of his lute and she to
the accompaniment of her whirring wheel.

[Illustration]

With a mocking smile he thrummed and sang:

            "'Pray, what are women like unto?
              Believe me, and I'll tell you true:
              Wine, wine, women and wine,
              They are alike in rain or shine.'"

Peggy bridled, and Romney, still smiling, went on,--

            "'Woman's a witch who plies her charm
              As doth the wine to work man harm,
              And when she sees his heart is sore,
              She smiles and sparkles all the more.'"

Peggy dropped her lashes, leaned a bit more over the wheel till the
curls shaded the round of her cheek as she took up the word,--

            "'It is not woman is the wine,
              But love, but love, oh, sweetheart mine!
              Drink deep, and drinking thou shalt prove
              How heart'ning is the draught of love.'

Is't not a silly verse?"

"Peggy! 'Tis a year last week since thou didst come to Romney."

"Ay--"

"And then we did forswear all talk of love for a twelvemonth. But the
twelvemonth is ended. May I talk of it now?"

Peggy colored rose-red.

"Dost know what manner of thing love is?"

Peggy looked up but sidewise, and so looking took in a glimpse of
Mistress Huntoon, and she ran to her as to a refuge.

"Come, thou dear hostess," she said, drawing her in at the wide door,
"thou art just in time to answer a question of thy son's, 'What manner
of thing is love?'"

Elizabeth Huntoon colored almost as red as Peggy had done but now.
It was as though the question had turned back life's dial-point and
her youth was before her again. She saw Humphrey bending over her in
the window-seat at James City. She could recall the trembling of his
fingers as they fastened her necklace. She could almost hear again the
beating of her own heart. So real did all this seem that she stood
stock still with her finger on her lips, like a statue of Memory,
smiling to its own image in the past.

"Love!" she said at last, rousing herself, "why, I am fain to think the
beauty of love is that none can describe it because it is different to
each soul; nay, that it is different each hour to the same soul."

"Does it bring happiness?"

"In that it is like life,--brilliant as a field of poppies one day, sad
as a grove of yew-trees the next."

"But how can one tell when one is--is in love?"

"Because when one is--is in love," mocked Elizabeth, "Love tells one."

"Wert thou _sure_?"

"Nay, I was of the blow hot, blow cold sort. When Humphrey shunned me,
I fell a-dying for him; but when he sat casting sheep's eyes at me, I
yawned in his face. I wanted to own him; yet I had no yearning to bear
bonds myself. But sometimes storms clear the air better than sunshine;
and when we met at the gate of death, as it seemed, in the massacre at
Flower da Hundred yonder, I knew that in life or death he was mine and
I his."

"Master Huntoon," cried Peggy, turning to Romney with a merry eye but
a trembling lip, "thinkst, then, thou couldst get up a massacre? 'Tis
evident nothing less will show a woman what manner of thing love is!
Yet that would not serve either, for in such like times 'tis only the
great things of life that we heed. If I could keep thee for such, thou
wouldst suit me to the Queen's taste, but oh dear me! life is made up
of such little things! When thou dost trip over the root of a tree, I
hate thee for thy clumsiness; when thou dost turn a compliment, I long
to take it from thy lips and say it to myself,--I know so well what
manner of speech a girl would like."

"And I what answer a man would go on his knees for."

"Ah, there thou art again. When thou didst kneel, I saw thee first dust
the floor with thy kerchief."

"I never did, Peggy, I swear I never did, though I had on my peach-blow
breeches and blue hose."

"Well, 'twas as bad, for thou didst look as if to see where the dust
was least. Oh, I could scarce help bursting into laughter."

"The devil!" exclaimed poor Romney, looking toward his mother with
despair in his eyes, but his mother only smiled.

"Tell me, thou dear, wise Mistress Huntoon, can a woman truly love and
yet be fain to laugh at herself and her love and her lover?"

"Some women can, Peggy, women like thee and me; and, truth to tell, I
believe their laughing love is as well worth having as the sighs of
those who must pull a long face and grow pale and go about solemnly
breathing out prayers and poems; but if thou wilt have my judgment in
thy case, little one, I think thou art as one who uses the beads of a
rosary to play marbles before the world, yet in the closet will string
them once more and murmur Pater Nosters and Ave Marias as piously as
any nun.

"Never mind! By and by thou wilt make a little shrine for them and they
will grow more sacred, and then little by little thou wilt forget that
thou couldst once laugh and make merry over them. Kiss me and say, dost
not feel it so?"

No answer.

"But Romney must wait patiently for the stringing of the beads and the
building of the shrine, and not try to bless the rosary till the play
is over. As for thee, Peggy, trouble not thy head over the future, and
for the present cease to twitch at that skein which thou art snarling
past all hope of disentangling."

"How stupid of me! and I was going to make it such a lovely skein
for a surprise," and Peggy's nervous fingers began to work with the
refractory thread.

"I came to talk of lighter things when I was drawn into this discourse
of love," said Elizabeth. "I wanted to tell thee, Peggy, of a plan
we have for a day not far off when this graceless boy of ours comes
to man's estate. If we were at home in England we should keep this
twenty-first birthday of his with state and ceremony, but here in the
wilds our festivities must needs be primitive. We have thought of a
barbecue in the forest for the tenants and a dance in the house for
the friends and neighbors. For a dance, folk twenty miles away count
themselves neighbors."

"A dance!" Peggy's eyes lighted and then fell with a sudden sadness
upon her black dress. Romney's glance followed hers and he said
quietly,--

"Let us not attempt it, Mother. We are none of us in the mood."

"Perhaps we all need it the more on that account. Even to the world
Peggy's year of mourning is over, and there will be less questioning if
she takes her place in the world once more; and among ourselves, where
it is a question of Christopher, surely the best service we can do him
is to bring what gayety of heart we can into his life."

"You speak wisdom, Mistress Huntoon; but your words bring home to
me something I have often of late wished to speak of with you.
I--we--cannot longer trench upon even your inexhaustible hospitality."

"Hush!" said Elizabeth, interrupting her with the quick impulsive
tears starting to her eyes. "Little Peggy, it has been the one drop of
sadness in our cup that we have had no daughter. Now we happen to have
taken a fancy to you, though you do snarl flax. Nay, never blush and
look at Romney; it is a daughter we want, though she be not our son's
wife. We love you for yourself, and we love Christopher for himself. So
speak no word further of parting, but rather play the daughter of the
house and help me in planning the dance."

"Oh, may I really? Do you think I ought?"

"I do indeed think you both may and ought. It is more than any one
woman can undertake alone. I must go into the house at once to begin."

"And I will follow as soon as this is unsnarled," said Peggy.

"And I will wait to practise kneeling to the Queen's taste," said
Romney, with a look which brought a surge of red to Peggy's cheek.

"Heigh-ho!" sighed his mother as she walked toward the house, "it is
one thing to sigh for the moon; another to get it."



                              CHAPTER XX

                           A BIRTHNIGHT BALL


It was the evening of Romney's dance. Lights blazed from every window
of the Huntoon mansion, and outside the moon hung her yellow lantern in
honor of the merry-making.

Already the guests were gathering. At the wharf lay a flock of
white-sailed boats, billing together like a covey of friendly swans.
Around the door huddled a motley group of men and boys, holding
the bridle of horse and donkey, and in the midst, the centre of
observation, stood the lumbering yellow coach with a crest on the panel
of its door, the state carriage of the Governor of the province and
used only on occasions of ceremony.

On the shore, in front of the house, a great bonfire flamed up,
a beacon that could be seen far out on the river. Above the fire
stretched two parallel bars supported on forked stakes. On one of the
bars hung a huge moose figuring in place of the ox that would have
adorned a barbecue in England. On the other bar hung a string of wild
birds, duck, heron, and bittern, alternating with raccoon, squirrel,
and possum. On the ground around the fire sat a throng of Indians and
negroes interspersed with white servants, eagerly watching the game
hissing on the spit. In the centre, Philpotts crouched, resting on his
heels and holding out his hands to the cheerful blaze.

"I tell you, Cupid," he said, turning to a negro seated beside him,
"this is a sight for sore eyes, yet would I give more than all, if one
I wot of could get the good of it with the rest of us."

Cupid answered by raising his eyebrows in question and jerking his
thumb over his shoulder in the direction of a lighted window against
which Neville's figure was outlined.

"Ay," answered Philpotts, as if he had spoken, "it's my master I was
thinking of. It's my very life I'd give to see him himself again. You
did never see such a man as he was in his prime, Cupid, and that's not
long since. My brother knew him when he was little more than a boy, and
he says he was the bravest and the blithest lad in all the shire of
Somerset. But he fell in love, Cupid. He fell in love, and that's how
all a man's troubles begin."

Cupid grinned so widely that all his shining row of white teeth showed
against the blackness of his face like a row of candles.

"Massa Romney he no tink so. See!"

Following Cupid's eyes, Philpotts saw Master Romney standing on the
terrace below the little white bedroom, and flinging roses against the
window, from which Peggy was leaning and laughingly dodging the flowers
as they struck.

"Come down, mistress mine. Thou art late, and the company is half
gathered already."

"Go away, then, and do not break my window, and then leave me to thy
mother's reproof."

With the words she shut to the casement and flung down a rose which had
landed on the sill. Romney stooped, picked it up, kissed it, and thrust
it into the breast of his coat.

Philpotts and Cupid looked at each other and burst into a shout of
laughter.

"Come, Cupid, we must in and help about the horses. Youth will be
youth, and fools will fall in love while the world lasts."

Within the house the girls were hastily donning their finery, shaking
out their skirts, and making ready to flutter down to the foot of the
stairway where their escorts awaited them, while such of the men as
had ridden made use of the time to unloop the tails of their coats,
prudently fastened back for their ride over forest trails.

"Girls, have any of you seen this Maryland maid who is staying with
Mistress Huntoon?" asked Mistress Nancy Lynch, as they came down the
stair, buttoning their gloves.

"Why," answered Polly Claiborne, "once I caught a glimpse of her
standing on the terrace with Romney. I thought no great things of her.
She was too brown, and but for a pretty trick of the eyes she had no
claims."

"Yet they say at the chapel of ease the parson can scarce go on with
the service for gazing on her, and when in the litany he comes to 'Have
mercy upon us' he looks straight at her in the Huntoon pew."

"Well, there is one lucky thing, all the men are dead set against
Maryland now. I dare say the poor thing will have scarce a partner at
the ball."

"You would not care to dance with a girl from Maryland, would you,
Captain Snow?" said Mistress Polly, leaning over the railing to where
the young officer stood smoothing back his cuffs.

"Not while Virginia holds her own as she does to-night. You have
promised me the first reel, remember. Faith! 'tis as fine a hall as
ever I saw for dancing."

"Ay, that it is!" echoed Nancy Lynch, and straightway the whole bevy of
girls and men fell to echoing the praises of the house, and voting it
the finest in the province, next to the Governor's.

On the outside Romney was but a settler's house, noteworthy only in
size and fine proportion; within, it was an English mansion, for all
the furnishings of Romney Hall in Devonshire had been brought over and
placed as nearly as possible in their relative position in the new
house.

Chairs and tables of black carved oak stood about. On the south side of
the great hall hung a tapestry worked by the maids of Mary of Scotland
in her captivity; in the corner stood a great bronze vase, wrought by a
famous Florentine of an earlier day. Over the mantel breast scowled a
portrait of Sir William Romney, and opposite him his wife smiled down,
as if she wished she were alive, and could take part in the festive
scene in the hall, lighted by the many candelabra and sconces and the
hissing, sparkling, high-flaming fire on the broad hearth.

The portrait bore a striking resemblance to the hostess, who stood
under it in her gown of silver brocade over yellow satin, receiving her
guests with that graciousness which made each one believe himself the
one most desired, where all were welcome. Each girl felt that now _she_
had come, the ball was sure to be a success; each man, that it was upon
_him_ Mistress Huntoon counted as her chief aid.

Just now she was listening with an air of absorbed interest to the
talk of Sir William Berkeley, who dispensed his compliments upon just
and unjust alike. True to the cavalier ideal, his theme was always
"lovely woman." If the particular woman with whom he was talking was
lovely she must like to be told so, if not, she must like it all the
more.

In the case of Elizabeth Huntoon the strain upon his conscience was
less than usual, and if she smiled at his elaborate flatteries, it was
only after his back was turned.

"I trust, Madam," he was saying, "that I am to be favored with this
white hand in the first measure--that is, if no other partner has been
selected by the queen of the ball."

"Where the Governor asks there can be no other," answered Elizabeth,
sweeping her best courtesy; "but I am only queen dowager to-night, and
Your Excellency must honor some of the rising beauties by asking of
them in the dance."

"Ay, after you," he said, tapping his gold snuff-box; "but when one is
looking upon the sun, one has no mind to be put off with satellites."
Then, breaking off and looking toward the staircase, he exclaimed, "In
the name of Venus and Cupid, who is _that_?"

Following his eyes Elizabeth saw naughty Peggy, who should have been
ready an hour ago, coming slowly down the winding stair, her figure
showing lithe and erect against the oak panelling, her head thrown
back, her nostrils dilated with the elation of a race-horse coming in
sight of the grand stand.

For the last year she had drooped into a Yorkshire rose, but to-night
she glowed in full Lancastrian splendor. Her cheeks were flushed with
carnation, her lips redder still, and her eyes flashing with a sense of
untried power and latent consciousness of crescent beauty. She was like
a young empress looking down upon a roomful of men destined to be her
subjects, though as yet they knew it not.

The girls looked up at her and instinctively fell to arranging
their lovelocks, and wondering if they had not abandoned the mirror
prematurely. The men looked up and straightway forgot themselves and
their partners, or wondered only how soon they could civilly be rid of
them.

"That girl not a beauty!" whispered Nancy reproachfully to Polly. "Why,
then, where's the use of being beautiful. Look at the men!"

In truth, it was as if the company had seen a comet. All faces were
turned upward, all eyes upon that figure which came slowly down the
stair with as calm an assurance as if her life had been spent in courts.

"This satellite," said Elizabeth, with amused emphasis on the word,
and drawing the girl toward her as she spoke, "is Mistress Peggy
Neville, Your Excellency."

"I had never thought of her having a name," said the Governor, bowing
low, "unless, indeed, it were Flora or Proserpine, or some of those
goddesses who appeared now and then to man in old days to show him what
goddesses were like. May I hope that Flora will tread the pavan with me
later?"

Peggy blushed rosier than ever and courtesied to the ground. The
twanging of the fiddles was in her ears celestial music, the candles
were the lights of paradise, and _this_ was life.

"Good-evening, Sir William!"

"Ah! Huntoon, I have not seen you since my return from England."

"How did you leave affairs there?"

"Badly enough. His Majesty is hard pressed. I urged upon him a
temporary withdrawal to his dominions on this side of the water, and if
things go much worse with him I believe he may consider of it."

"Come, gentlemen," broke in Elizabeth, "the fiddles are tuned, and the
young people cannot brook waiting while you settle the fate of the
nation."

In truth, to one little maid it did seem as though the dancing would
never begin. What was the fun of having men struggle for the privilege
of talking with her? Old ladies could talk. She could talk better at
forty-eight than at eighteen; but to _dance_, to sway to the music, and
feel the blood keeping time as it swept along; to promenade down the
hall with all eyes fixed upon one; to wheel the gallants in the reel
and feel the lingering pressure of fingers reluctant to let go their
transient grasp; to feel the light of the candles reflected in one's
eyes and the perfume of roses caught in her breath; to live and move
and reign the princess of love,--this was the glorious privilege of
youth and womanhood, the guerdon which kind Fate in atonement for many
hard blows had flung at the feet of Peggy Neville.

At last the march began,--Sir William and Mistress Huntoon leading, the
master of the house following with Lady Berkeley; and when Romney held
out his hand to Peggy, she was glad to be alive. As she looked down at
her gown she experienced that satisfaction which the young knights of
old knew in donning their maiden armor, for is not dress the armor of
the social battle?

Never in her short life of eighteen years had Peggy Neville looked
as lovely as she did to-night. Never had her eyes been so bright,
never her cheeks so red, never had Romney felt himself so helplessly
her slave, and, alas! the poor boy thought, never had she looked so
indifferently upon him.

It would not perhaps have encouraged the lad to know that instead of
thinking of him with indifference, she simply was not thinking of him
at all, her entire attention being fixed upon the scene around her and
the actors in it. Such beautiful girls, in their jewels and laces and
brocades and high-heeled slippers! Such magnificent men, with rainbow
colors in sashes and velvet coats, with ruffles of costly embroideries
and buckles reflecting the light of the candles! Most gorgeous of all,
Sir William Berkeley!

It quite took Peggy's breath away when this elegant courtier bowed
before her and begged her hand for the pavan. Yet there he was,
sweeping the floor before her with the white plumes of his hat and
craving the honor of the dance. Whatever might be thought of Sir
William's powers of governing, there could be no doubt that he
understood the art of dancing, and, final test of skill, of making his
partner dance well. Holding the tips of Peggy's fingers lightly, but
firmly, he led her to the head of the hall, where the host and hostess
stood. These they saluted gravely, she with a deep courtesy, he with an
equally deep bow, his hat clasped to his heart. Then sweeping down the
room they paused again before the portrait of the King, and Berkeley
saluted with his sword; then on again, the hautboys keeping time while
the company marked the rhythm by singing together, after the fashion
introduced by Queen Henrietta's French courtiers--

[Illustration (music):

      Bel - le qui tiens ma - vie - e cap - ti - ve
      dans tes yeux, Qui m'as l'â - me ra - vi - e d'un
      sou - rire gra - ci - eux, Viens tôt me se - cou
      rir ou me faud - ra mou - rir.

]

At the end of the measure, the advance being ended, the retreat began,
the Governor walking behind and leading his partner backward, always
with delicately held finger-tips, the raised arm and rounded wrist
showing every graceful curve as the girl walked.

"Where did she learn it," wondered Romney, "and she never at Court?"

For Peggy the most trying period in the ordeal was when she was left
standing alone while her cavalier, with gliding steps and deep bows,
retreated to the centre of the room, where, sweeping a grave circle
with his rapier, he faced about and again advanced toward her with the
proud peacock-motion that gave the dance its name. At first she had not
the courage to look up to his face at all, but kept her eyes fixed upon
the scarlet cross-bands embroidered with gold across his breast and the
jewel-studded hilt of his rapier.

Apparently His Excellency found the view of her eyelashes and lowered
lids unsatisfactory, for as they paced down the room between the
rows of gallants he compelled her to look up by asking how she liked
Virginia.

"Virginia much, but Virginians more," she answered.

"That is doubly a compliment, coming from a dweller across the border,"
said the Governor, with a smile. "For our part, whatever quarrels we
may have with the men of your province, we are forced to lower our
swords before its women. Beauty is the David who slays his tens of
thousands, where strength, like Saul, counts its thousands only. It is
not every one," he added, with a look which older men permit themselves
and call impertinence in a youth,--"it is not every one who can move in
a ball-room as if it were her birthright to be admired."

"Thank you," said Peggy, and then blushed crimson. "What a dolt I am,"
she thought; "as if he meant me!"

To cover her confusion she fixed her eyes upon a soldierly man at the
head of the room.

"Can you, who know every one, tell me," she asked, "who is the cavalier
who dances with an abstracted air, as though his thoughts were fixed
on serious subjects, and his mind only permitted his body to dance on
condition that it made no demand on his attention?"

"Ah, you mean Councillor Claiborne."

"Not Master William Claiborne?"

"Why not?"

"Why--why--" stammered Peggy, "I thought he would look like a
cut-throat or a pirate."

The Governor laughed so loud that every one turned and wondered what
the girl talking with him could have said that was so mightily clever,
and thus her blunder did the new-comer more good in social repute than
the finest wit.

"So the Maryland picture of poor Claiborne supplies him with all the
attributes of the devil, except the horns and hoof? And you would never
have known him as different from half the worthies here to-night. Well,
I'll tell you privately what Master William Claiborne really is,--a
good friend, an able secretary of the Council, and a damned obstinate
enemy. When Baltimore undertook to oust him from Kent Island he might
better have thrust his hand into a nest of live wasps. Ah, what? Our
turn again. Why, young lady, your talk is so beguiling I had quite lost
myself."

Peggy smiled behind her fan at the Governor's notion that it was she
who had done the talking. She wished--she did wish Christopher could
have heard him say it, though. But Christopher, when she begged him
to be present at the dance, had shaken his head and answered that he
should not know how to carry himself at a ball. Peggy, remembering her
mother's stories of Christopher at court, and how Queen Henrietta had
asked to have him presented to her as the finest gallant at Buckingham
Palace, had fallen to crying then. Even now, following her little
vanity came a great rush of pity and tenderness that brought the quick
tears, and made her glad when the dance was ended, and Sir William,
bowing low over her hand, led her to her seat with a kiss.

"Uncle William has resigned her at last," said the Governor's niece,
who was talking with Romney in a corner under the musician's balcony.
"Do you admire her as much as the other men do?"

"_Her?_" asked Romney, with a fine show of indifference.

"Mistress Neville, I mean, that they all talk of as if nothing like her
was ever seen before."

"Do they?"

"Ay, Master Lawrence says she lights the hall more than all the
candles, while Colonel Payne says that her dancing is poetry and her
talk is music."

"Indeed!"

"Ay, and Captain Snow is worst of all, for he follows her about with
his eyes opened twice as big as usual, lest he lose a single glance. If
you doubt me, look at Polly Claiborne, who thought she had him safely
landed for a husband, and now sees him drifting in the tow of another
bark. She is furious."

"She looks calm enough."

"In the face, yes, but look at her hands; they are wringing that
unlucky lace kerchief as if 'twere her rival's neck. But you have not
said what you think of this paragon."

"I was looking at you."

"_Toward_ me, not _at_ me, and ever and anon your eyes took a holiday
and wandered off to the Beauty. Oh, it is fine to be a Beauty with a
capital letter. Yet I think really it is more her manner that charms
than her looks. She has the air of being so pleased with each man she
meets, and so more than pleased that he finds pleasure in looking at
her."

"She does."

"It looks like vanity. Say you not so?"

"It surely does--like coquetry, which is the very essence of vanity."

"'Tis well she hears you not."

"I will go over now, and you shall see me tell her so," Romney said, as
a man joined them.

"It was a shrewd device; but it fails to deceive me," thought his
companion. "He is in love, and he is jealous."

"It is like the days at old Romney Hall, is it not, sweetheart?" said
the master of the house, standing beside his wife, as they watched the
lines of men and maidens gliding down the length of the room, their
gorgeous brocades and glistening jewels reflected as in a mirror in the
polished floor.

"Ay," answered Elizabeth, "and the county of Devon could not show more
pretty faces than are here to-night. Nancy Lynch is a beauty, and Kitty
Lee has the loveliest crinkly hair."

"But Peggy is the queen of the ball," said Huntoon, with a satisfied
nod. "See the saucy baggage smiling at her own reflection in the glass."

"I fear she is vain."

"No doubt, being pretty, and a woman."

"She is neglecting Romney."

"But is she not having a fine time! I vow it makes my slow, old blood
dance to watch her."

"But it is Romney's dance, and he enjoys it not."

"And if the boy wants the moon, this being his birthnight, his mother
must get it for him. See, Peggy is throwing a rose at Romney. It hit
him squarely in the breast and she is smiling at him."

"Stupid!" said Elizabeth. "Why does he not ask her for the galliard?"

"He has; see how glum the others look. Call you that hospitality, to
keep the best for himself?"

"Oh, the others were best occupied in talking with the girls. But no,
they must hang about looking at Peggy, as though the sun rose and set
over her shoulder."

Yet Elizabeth smiled.

Meanwhile Peggy, having had her fill of admiration, turned gracious and
bethought herself of the other damsels. She would fain have persuaded
some of her superfluous partners to betake themselves across the hall
to where Polly Claiborne was sitting in solitude against the settle;
but such curious creatures are men, that they prefer to hover on the
frigid rim of the outermost circle of success rather than to bask in
the welcoming smiles of the neglected.

One held Peggy's fan, another her kerchief, a third her roses, the ones
Romney had gathered for her this afternoon, and now viewed with wrath,
seeing them picked to pieces by the idle fingers of young Captain
Richard Snow, who, having won a place in the inner line by her side,
showed a determination not to abandon it before supper.

"Never before did I know that the Huntoons were selfish!" he was
murmuring.

"That they could never be!" ejaculated Peggy, with anger in her voice.

"Yet they have kept you to themselves for a whole year, you that should
have shone like the sun over all Virginia."

"Poor Virginia!" mocked Peggy; "she has indeed been sadly cheated."

"You need not shine long to warm the province," said a second gallant,
"since you have melted Snow in a single evening."

"Ah," answered Peggy, "snow in this part of the world never stays
long, but," with a side glance under her lashes, "it is lovely while
it lasts;" then catching too a self-satisfied smile upon the Captain's
face, she added pertly, "but somewhat soft."

The Captain colored and glowered at his rival. "It is a misfortune," he
said, stiffly, "to have a name that lends itself to jests."

"Oh," said Peggy, feeling that she had taken a liberty and anxious to
make amends, "I do admire your name much."

"Really!"

"Really and truly."

"You have only to take it; I assure you it is quite at your service."

At this a shout of laughter went up from the circle of men about.

"What is the jest?" asked Romney, joining the group from which he had
been vainly striving to abstract his eyes and interest.

"Why, an offer of marriage from Snow, which Mistress Neville has not
yet answered."

Romney showed his vexation by tapping with his foot on the floor and
biting his lip.

"Yes," added another, "we are all waiting eagerly to try our own
chance."

"I am sorry," said Romney, stiffly, "to cut short your lottery, but my
mother has sent me to conduct Mistress Neville to the supper-table, and
begs that you gentlemen will find partners."

Peggy, knowing that she was not behaving well, was incensed with Romney
for showing that he knew it too.

"The hero of a birthnight is no more to be denied than the King
himself," she said, turning for a last smile at her court. Then as soon
as they were out of hearing, "Romney, what is the matter? Have I a
black smooch on my nose, or did I talk too much or laugh too loud that
you look so--so--so righteously disapproving?"

"If you are satisfied with your conduct I shall not presume to
disapprove."

"If I _were_ satisfied with my conduct I should not care a halfpenny
whether you disapproved or not. It's just because I am not satisfied in
the least that it makes me so vexed that you do presume to disapprove.
See you not why I cannot bear to have you think ill of me?"

Romney's heart beat thick and fast.

"Why, Peggy? Will you not tell me why?"

"Because if you do your mother will, and then I should have only your
father for my friend, and by and by--perhaps--who knows?--he would give
me up too."

Romney's spirits, which had risen to boiling point at her question,
sank to freezing at her answer. The lights seemed to fade out of
the hundred candles and leave the hall gloomy; he heard the fiddles
scraping out the tune of "Oil of Barley," and he hated the music ever
after. In silence he stalked on to the door of the supper-room. Within
was a merry din of talk and laughter.

"Come, Peggy," said the hostess, "I was looking for you. We are waiting
for you to cut the birthday cakes. Good friends all," she continued,
turning to the company, "we have here two birthday cakes, and in each
lies hid one half of a gimmal ring, which, as you know, is made of two
rings that do fit together to form one. On the man's ring is inscribed
'_to get_,' and on the maid's, '_her_,' and being united they read
'_together_.' Come, Peggy, cut and choose first lot for the maid's
ring!"

Amid much shouting and laughter the lots were cast, and when it was
found that the lucky numbers had been drawn by Mistress Neville
and Captain Snow, all the company save one found the result vastly
diverting. The Captain fastened his half conspicuously over his breast,
and Peggy mischievously slipped hers upon the marriage finger.

Humphrey Huntoon, seeing the gathering cloud on Romney's brow, filled
a goblet from the great punch-bowl which stood in the centre of the
table flanked by candelabra bearing twenty candles each.

"A toast, my boy! a toast!" he called out, and under his breath he
murmured, "Forget not that to-night you are host first and lover
afterward."

Romney colored but took the goblet, raised it and said, bowing to all
corners of the room,--

"To my guests, one and all!"

"I give you 'The Ladies of Virginia!'" called Colonel Payne.

"Here's to Maryland! Confusion to her men, but long life to her women!"
It was Claiborne who spoke, and Captain Snow capped the toast by
clinking his new ring against his goblet and crying, "I drink to Her!"

Peggy, seeing Romney's face darken again, took her courage in both
hands and with it her goblet, which she lifted, saying in a soft voice
which could yet be heard over all the room,--

"To Master and Mistress Huntoon, the kindest hostess and the noblest
host, and--" here she stretched out her hand to Romney, "to the hero of
the night, the best comrade in the world!"

A chorus of "Long life to them all!" greeted the toast, and the goblets
clinked merrily; but to Romney it might have been water or wine or
poison they were drinking, for all he knew or cared.

At last, when supper was ended Sir William Berkeley rose in his place,
and with a solemnity quite different from his jovial manner of the
evening hitherto he said, "One last toast, and we will, if you please,
drink it standing. The King, God bless him!"

Fifty men sprang to their feet, fifty goblets flashed in air. Then
utter silence fell. It was as if the shadow of the scaffold at
Whitehall already cast its gloom over the loyal hearts of the colonial
cavaliers.

The guests broke up into little groups of two and three and wandered
back to the dancing-hall, where the fiddles were still working away
for dear life at the strains of "The Jovial Beggar" and "Joan's Ale is
New." The long lines of reel and brantle formed again, and the dancers
refused to give over their merry-making till the gray dawn came peeping
in at the window, turning the yellow candlelight to an insignificant
glimmer, and hinting of the approaching day and its humdrum duties.

As the guests, one by one, came up to bid their hosts a good-night,
which might more appropriately have been a good-morning, Master
Claiborne drew Huntoon aside a moment, asking,--

"Will you be at home to-morrow--I mean to-day?"

"Ay."

"Then I may come to see you?"

"Why not stay now, since 'tis already day?"

"Because there be others I must see first, but I will be back before
noon."

"And I glad as always to see you, but too sleepy, I fear, to give heed
to any business."

"Then get your sleep before, for it is business of moment touching
which we need your aid and counsel."

Before Huntoon could answer, another guest claimed his attention, and
he followed to the door to help the ladies, who had donned their hoods
and safeguards, to mount their horses or embark in the boats.

As they rode or sailed away into the gray dawn, Peggy, wrapped in her
red cloak, stood with Romney watching them from the porch.

"It has been _such_ a beautiful ball!" she sighed.

"You think so?"

"Of course I do; but then, you see, I never saw a real, big ball
before. Do you think they are all like that?"

"To girls like you, yes, and I suppose to men like me."

"But there are so few men like you."

Romney's eyes looked a question.

"So persistent and so jealous and so--dear--"

With this Peggy pulled the ring off her finger and, tossing it lightly
toward the lad, whispered,--

"Catch! and keep it if you can! It is my birthday gift."

"I take the dare and I take the gift, and I will yet take something
else. So there, Peggy!"

But ere he had finished she had vanished up the stairway and the ball
was over.



                              CHAPTER XXI

                            A ROOTED SORROW


Before the last guest had taken his departure from Romney the red sun
came bobbing up across the river and shot his rays in at the window.

There is a sarcastic common-sense about the morning sun on such
occasions. "Was it all worth while?" he seems to ask. "Consider the
labor of preparation, the rushing about of the servants, the hours that
my lady spent before her mirror with patch and powder-puff, the effort
my fine gentleman expended upon his ruffles and falling bands. Then
the occasion itself, the weary feet that trod the measure long after
the toilsome pleasure had ceased to please, the lips that murmured
sentiment knowing it was nonsense, the eyes that reversed the old
moral maxim and strove to beam and not to see--Reflect upon all these
and then sum up the aftermath,--the disordered rooms, the guttering
candles, the faded flowers, the regretted vows, the heavy eyelids, the
aching heads. Now, was it all worth while?"

The answer of the overnight revellers would doubtless depend chiefly on
age and temperament. Young men and maidens would reply that it was none
of the sun's business; that he had never been at a ball, and did not
know what he was talking about, and for themselves they preferred to
reserve their confidences for the sympathetic moon, who, being so much
younger than the sun, could better understand youthful experiences and
emotions.

Certainly that is what Romney Huntoon would have said. The commonplace
day annoyed him. His mood was too sentimental for its searching light.
He had slept little, and now at near noon hung about the foot of the
stairway wondering at what time it would occur to Mistress Margaret
Neville to come down.

When she did appear disappointment was in store for him. She seemed to
have forgotten wholly that little scene on the terrace, and when he
held out his hand with her ring, that blessed little ring upon it, she
only courtesied and asked if his mother were yet down stairs.

At breakfast it was little better: she raved over Colonel Theophilus
Payne, praised the bearing of Councillor Claiborne, said how she doted
upon army men, commended the curls of one cavalier and the bearing of
another,--all as if no such youth as Romney Huntoon had ever crossed
her path.

Romney avowed his intention of spending the afternoon in his boat on
the river. Peggy thought it an excellent plan, and purposed retiring to
her room unless Mistress Huntoon had need of her.

Mistress Huntoon had _no_ need of her. In fact, in reviewing last
night's events she felt that Peggy had treated her son rather badly,
and she was inclined to make the culprit feel it, too. It must be
admitted that justice is never so unrelenting as when Rhadamanthus has
been up overnight. On another occasion excuses might have been found
for the girl, but this morning she was pronounced unquestionably vain
and presumably heartless,--in short, Elizabeth Huntoon was out of
temper.

It was not much better with her husband. He was uneasy over the
approaching visit of William Claiborne, and annoyed with himself that
he had not had the wit to devise an excuse. He knew well Claiborne's
insubordinate temper, and had no mind to be drawn into any of his
schemes.

Peggy alone worked away at her stitching in exasperating content. At
length Romney could bear it no longer. He rose, thrust his hands into
his pockets and rushed out, opening the door with his head as he went,
like a goat butting a wall.

Peggy smiled, and the smile brought a frown to the face of her hostess.

"Romney is not over well this morning, I fear," said his mother.

"I thought he was not behaving well--I mean not behaving as if he were
well."

"He hath much to try him."

"That is hard to believe, in this beautiful home and with thee for a
mother."

Elizabeth tapped the floor with her slipper.

"'Twere well for young men if a mother's love sufficed them."

"Ho! ho!" laughed Humphrey, roused from his abstraction by the tilt
between the two women. "Faith, good wife, I felt the need of another
love than my mother's, and I look not to see Romney more filial than I."

"Oh, you may make a jest of me," began Elizabeth, stiffly; but there
was a catch in her voice which led Peggy to throw down her netting, and
run across the room to kneel beside her. "_I_ need a mother's love more
than any," she whispered.

Elizabeth's anger weakened.

"Tell me where Romney has gone and I will follow and strive to make my
peace."

For answer Mistress Huntoon pointed through the window to where Romney
sat on the edge of the wharf vexing the placid breast of the York River
by a volley of pebbles, flipped between his thumb and forefinger.

As the boy sat thus idly occupied, his hand full of pebbles, his head
full of bitter thoughts, his heart of a curious numbness, he felt a
light touch on his shoulder, but he did not turn.

"Master Huntoon!"

No answer.

"Romney!"

"Ay."

"Of what art thou thinking?"

"Nothing."

"And what dost thou think of when thou art thinking of nothing?"

"A woman's promise."

"Hath some woman promised thee aught and failed thee?"

"Ay, it comes to the same thing. Eyes may speak promises as well as
lips."

"Oh, yes, eyes may say a great deal, especially when they are angry
eyes and look out from under drawn brows. I should scarce think any
maid would dare wed a man with eyes that could look black when their
color by nature is blue."

Clever Peggy to shift the ground of attack! Silly Romney to fall into
the trap!

"I am not angry."

"Yes you are, and have been all the morning in a temper. I felt quite
sorry for your mother, she was so shamed by it."

"What said she?"

"Oh, that you were not well, which is what mothers always say when
their son's actions do them no credit."

"If my temper did me no credit, who drove me to it?"

Peggy raised her eyebrows, puckered her pretty lips, and looked
straight up into the sky as if striving to solve a riddle.

"For my life I cannot guess," she said at last, "unless--unless it was
that wretched woman who broke her promise."

"Thou hast keen insight for one of thy years."

"Then it was she!"

"It was no other."

"Tell me her name, that I may go to her and denounce her to her face."

"Strangers know her as Mistress Margaret Neville. To her friends she is
plain Peggy. Now denounce her to her face if thou wilt."

Tripping to the edge of the bank, the girl bent over till she could
catch the reflection of her curls and dancing eyes in the water.

"Plain Peggy," she said, shaking her finger at the image below with a
wicked smile, "you must be a bad baggage. It seems you have broken
your promise to marry a gentleman here, and such a perfect gentleman!
he says so himself,--one who never gets angry, never butts with his
head at doors, never shames his mother. Why, plain Peggy, you must be
a fool to lose such a chance; but since you have thrown away such a
treasure, I trust you will meet the punishment you do deserve, and that
he will go away and never--_never_--NEVER speak--to you again!"

With this Peggy turned sharply on her heel, burning with curiosity to
see the effect of her words. Poor, discomfited little maiden! Romney
had withdrawn to the edge of the wharf, and there, close beside her,
with his horse's bridle over his arm, stood Councillor Claiborne.

With no attempt at salutation Peggy clapped her hands over her burning
cheeks, and ran, yes, ignominiously ran, toward the house. At the door
she met Mistress Huntoon. "Councillor Claiborne is--is--coming," she
stammered breathlessly.

"Why didst thou not stay to speak with him?" But Peggy attempted no
answer, only fled on indoors.

When Humphrey had been left alone, by Peggy's exit to the wharf and his
wife's withdrawal to the offices, his thoughts turned with renewed
irritation to Claiborne, till Christopher's entrance shed its usual
benison of tranquillity. The glimpse of the ball which Neville had
caught from over the stairway had lingered in his mind as a charming
vision. The lights cheered him, and the music had lulled him to sweet
slumber, from which he had wakened at peace with the world, yet with a
haze of the Indian-summer sadness over the serenity.

After breakfast, Neville and Huntoon sat by the open door smoking their
pipes in that social silence so dear to men, so difficult to women.

"Neville," said his host at length, breaking the long quiet, "you look
better to-day than at any time since you came to Romney."

"Oh, I am well enough."

"Your tone hath somewhat of discouragement in it."

"I do feel a certain sadness of late, as if I were ever grasping for
something I could not see, much less reach. It doth often seem to me
that I and you and all of us here at Romney are shut out from the
world by a wall of fog, not dark, because it is ofttimes flooded by
sunlight, but heavy, dense, dull. It is like a thick curtain with vague
distances in it, like the distances between the sun and the earth,
and through these spaces float familiar scenes and faces, and all the
while I feel that if I could grasp one word it would prove a clue to
guide me through the spaces from one scene to another; but the word--a
name, I think it is--will not come, and when I think on it too hard I
seem to hear an echo murmuring 'Far away, far away.' Then the whole
vision fades, and I come back to you and Mistress Huntoon and the rest;
and yet it is as if only half of me came back, and half were still
wandering through these vague, gray spaces of mist, following the name.
Think you I shall ever find it?"

Touched to the quick, Huntoon opened his lips to speak. "Is the name--"

At that point his attention was caught by a stranger's voice outside
the door saying, "I am surprised to see you abroad so early after last
night's mighty merry dance, Mistress Huntoon."

"I am honored that you found it so merry, Councillor," said Elizabeth.

"Ay, all counted it the most brilliant festivity yet given in Virginia,
and as for the young Maryland beauty, she has turned the heads of half
the cavaliers in York County."

"Some heads are set on pivots, and turn to each new face," answered
Elizabeth, irritably conscious that Romney and Peggy were both within
hearing.

"Perhaps, but many of these heads will find some difficulty in turning
another way. Captain Snow raved all the way home over her charms, and
Colonel Payne swore her coming had gone far to do away with his grudge
toward Maryland; and by the way, the name reminds me that I came to see
your husband on a matter of somewhat urgent business. Is he within?"

"I left him in the hall," Elizabeth replied, leading the way back to
the house, and turning back after she had waved the new-comer to enter.

"Good-morning, Master Huntoon!"

"Ah, Claiborne, you look as though you had had even less sleep than I."

"I do suspect 'tis true, for I have been in the saddle since dawn."

"You must have pressing affairs on hand."

"Most pressing, and it is concerning them that I am come to consult
with you privately."

A certain emphasis on the last word caused Huntoon to glance toward
Neville, who was scrutinizing the inside of his pipe, and had scarcely
noted the stranger's entrance.

"Go on," said Huntoon, "it is quite safe. I'll be warrant for the close
mouth of my friend here. Besides," here he drew back behind Neville,
and tapped his forehead significantly, "he is a stranger here, and
neither cares nor knows anything of our entanglements."

"Then, Master Huntoon, I will make a clean breast of the matter that
brought me hither. You are a Virginian, and a man of honor."

"Certainly the former, and I have some hopes of the latter."

"Then join us in our effort to wrest away the land which the perfidious
Calverts have stolen under guise of royal grant from the Commonwealth."

"'Stolen' is a strong word, Councillor."

"Not too strong to fit the occasion. Was not the license to trade with
the natives along the Maryland shore granted to me by the government of
Virginia, and afterward by the King himself?"

"It was."

"Was it not under authority of Virginia that I made a settlement at
Kent Island?"

"Yes, but--"

"Did not Kent belong to Virginia by right of a charter antedating the
patent of that upstart, Calvert?"

"The Commissioners in England decided differently."

"Ay, of course wire-pulling will always move the wires."

Huntoon's only response was a non-committal smile.

"You may remember, Councillor Huntoon, that this same question came
before the Virginia Council ten years ago, that I did ask the opinion
of that honorable body as to whether I should yield to Baltimore's
claims. The board answered that they wondered how any such question
could be asked, that they knew no reason why they should give up their
rights in the Isle of Kent more than any other formerly granted to
Virginia by His Majesty's patent, and that I was in duty bound to
maintain the rights and privileges of our colony."

"But that was before the decision of the Commission."

"Ay, but that goes for nothing. 'Twas unjust, unfair, and should be
unrecognized."

"Who are concerned in your present plan?" asked Huntoon.

"Half the planters along the river."

"And who is to be the leader?"

"I believe they look to me; but I shall not be alone in the
responsibility. My friend, Captain Ingle, is already anchored in the
bay with his ship _The Reformation_."

"Richard Ingle?"

"The same, and a gallant spark he is. Last winter Governor Brent had
him tossed on to his vessel like a bag of grain, and the ship ordered
off in mad haste as though she had the plague aboard. Ingle swore
revenge then; but matters were in too ticklish a stage at home 'twixt
King and Parliament to admit of his proceeding too fast. Now things
are clearer, and he has come back with ammunition, armed with letters
of marque from Parliament, and purposes to make hot work in more senses
than one at St. Mary's."

Neville stopped playing with his pipe and brushed his hand across his
forehead.

"Then what you purpose is an immediate raid," said Huntoon.

"That's it. You're not one that takes long to grasp a situation, and so
I told Ingle. We are to set sail to-morrow to a point in the bay where
we look to find _The Reformation_ awaiting us, and then under cover of
night we shall slip through the mouth of the Potomac River and be in
the town ere daybreak. That, I fancy, will be a surprise indeed for
Calvert, who, I hear, is lately come back from England, and fancies
his little kingdom here secure from all invaders. Now, what say you?
May we count on you and your son to be on the wharf with your firearms
to-morrow, an hour or so past noon?"

"You may not."

Claiborne started.

"You are not ready, then, to hazard anything for the honor of Virginia."

"Pardon me; I never gave any man the right to say that, but neither
gave I any man charge over my conscience to tell me what was needful
to sustain my honor or that of the Commonwealth. For my part I see in
this raid you do propose an outrage on the rights of a sister colony,
an outrage sure to be resented and sometime revenged, and meanwhile to
sow seeds of dissension among the little handful of civilized white men
scattered along this unfriendly coast."

"Forgive me," sneered Claiborne; "I had quite mistook both your
character and your inclination. My time is too short to listen to
longer sermon-making, the more as I must seek further for brave men who
have stomach for a fight."

Huntoon bowed coldly and made a step toward the door. Claiborne
hesitated.

"I trust," he said, "I may at least depend upon your secrecy."

"As for that, I must settle it with my own conscience after more
thought. I sought no confidence, and am bound to no silence which I
count an injury to the colony; but as the enterprise is a private one,
I see so far no reason for the Government's interfering, though for
myself I tell you in all frankness I should count it strict justice if
you and your precious friend, Ingle, found a noose awaiting you at your
journey's end."

Claiborne laughed, and played with the hilt of his sword.

"Thanks, Master Huntoon, for your courtesy and good wishes, but we'll
look after our own necks, and do you the same. We have no taste for
hanging, and it behooves all of the name of Calvert to keep more than a
rope's length from Richard Ingle and William Claiborne."

With an assumed jauntiness the visitor strode out at the open door and
went whistling down the path.

Huntoon stood still plunged in thought, moving his foot about on the
floor. When he looked up he was startled by the change in Neville's
appearance. It was as if the soul had roused itself from its long
trance and had taken command of the body once more.

"I heard and I understood," he said.

"Understood what?" said Huntoon, to test him.

"Everything. It was as if his words made a gap in that wall of fog I
told you of this morning, and of a sudden I could see the world beyond.
Dick Ingle is come back. He and Claiborne are to attack St. Mary's. Is
that true?"

"It is true," sighed Huntoon.

"And what will you do about it?"

To Huntoon this spectre, raised suddenly, as from mental death, seemed
like the embodiment of his own conscience risen to confront him.

"What can I do?" he asked.

Again Neville drew his hand across his forehead, as though he were
striving to clear away the mist that still clouded his faculties.

"Ingle--Calvert--St. Mary's," he repeated, as though the words were
talismans to prevent his mind from slipping away again.

"Ay, 'tis a coil--a grievous coil. I see not what I can do. I have no
authority to act, and there is no time to call the Council together--"

"For you I know not. For me one thing is clear, I must go."

"Surely the Calverts and their friends have not treated you so well
that you owe them either aid or warning."

"I must go." Neville seemed to be talking to himself rather than to
Huntoon, and to fear most of all that he should lose the power that
floated just before him, still tantalizingly beyond his grasp.

"Why must you go?"

"There is some one there who needs me. I cannot recall her name, but I
seem to see her face and I hear her voice. I wish--I wish--I could call
her by name." Piteously he turned to Huntoon, seeking aid.

"Is the name you seek _Elinor_--_Elinor Calvert_?"

"God bless you! Yes; _Elinor_. Say it again to me if my mind wanders.
Elinor! Oh, I do love thee! That face of thine--it has hovered in my
dreams, but I thought it was an angel's. I remember it now, and with
that smile on it and those words of thine, 'I think if thou shouldst
put thine arms around me and whisper it in my ear I should believe!'
Oh, Elinor, my love! Dost thou love me, dear, still? But the wall still
stands between us."

"What wall?"

"The smirch upon mine honor. She would have been mine in spite of it,
but I swore an oath to God never to call her wife unless I could offer
her a name as clear in the sight of men as in His."

The strong man bowed his face upon his arms and wept, silently at
first, then with hard, heart-rending sobs, and Huntoon stood by awed
and helpless. It was the birth-cry of a soul beginning life for the
second time.

At length the sobs ceased, and Neville rose and stood upright, looking
inches taller than before, as though a miracle had been wrought and
thought had added a cubit to his stature. He smiled, and the smile was
sadder than the tears.

"Help me, Huntoon," he said, "for I am as a little child, and I have a
man's work before me."

Huntoon struck hands with him, and a force of vital will-power seemed
borne on that electric current of sympathy. "Fear not!" he said. "If
God has work for you, He will furnish strength to do it."

"Amen!" cried Christopher, bowing his head. When he lifted it again his
face was as the face of an angel,--the angel of the sword.

Turning, Huntoon was aware that Romney and Peggy and Elizabeth were
standing in the doorway and looking in bewilderment from him to Neville.

"We have had strange news, Neville and I. An attack is to be made upon
St. Mary's, and Neville feels his Maryland blood thrilling to go to the
rescue." Aside he said low to his wife, "Take no notice of the change,
we are seeing a miracle,--the dead has come to life again."

Peggy grew white. "Christopher," she whispered, running up and laying
her face against her brother's shoulder, "thou wilt not leave me!"

"Dear, I must; but I do not leave thee alone. Answer me, Peggy," and
holding her face between his hands he gazed deep into her eyes, "Dost
thou love Romney Huntoon?"

Peggy felt the same spell that had lain upon them all, the compelling
force of an almost supernatural presence, before which her little
doubts and hesitations vanished and her dimpling artifices faded into
utter pettiness. She stood looking up at him, "in the eyes all woman,
in the lips half child," till his earnest gaze forced an answer. "I
do," she said, without blush or tremor.

"Come here, Romney," said Neville; and placing Peggy's hand in the
young man's, "be good to her!" he said.

Then turning to where Elizabeth and Humphrey stood side by side, he
took a hand of each.

"Kind friends,--and better no man ever had,--do me one more favor in
accepting this little sister of mine as your daughter."

"Trust me!" said Humphrey; but Elizabeth said never a word, only moved
across the room and threw her protecting motherly arms around Peggy.

Christopher smiled.

"I am answered. Now, where is dear old Philpotts?"

"Here, my master," spoke the faithful retainer, who had been
holystoning the bricks of the great fireplace. To him Neville stretched
out his hand. "It all comes back to me now,--what you have dared and
suffered and lost for me. I thank you from my soul. Perhaps 'tis too
much to ask, but could you find it in your heart to bear me company in
one more troublous time, one more life-risk?"

"Ay, ay, I'll follow your lead to the death!"

"Then to the wharf and loose the little boat that lies there, the one
that you have been building all summer. For the rest of you, good-bye,
and God bless you, one and all!"

The little group stood on the dock and watched the boat as it stole out
into the twilight, Philpotts at the helm, Neville before the mast, just
as he had stood on that fatal day twelve months since, the sunlight
streaming across his pale face.

"He is like Sir Tristan," thought Humphrey Huntoon, "'born to sadness
and cradled in sorrow.' God grant him one glimpse of happiness before
he goes hence forever!"



                             CHAPTER XXII

                             CANDLEMAS EVE


"Couthin Marget, dost think the ground-hog can see his shadow when he
comes out of his hole to-morrow?"

"I fear it, Cecil. See how bright the west is!"

It was Candlemas Eve at St. Mary's. All day Cecil had been in the
woods gathering snowdrops for the shrine of the Virgin, and binding
bay-leaves into wreaths to decorate Our Lady's Chapel. Now, at sunset,
he was resting with his head against Margaret Brent's knee under the
great mulberry-tree on the bluff.

"Then the winter will be long?"

"So they say."

"And hard?"

"That's what all the grandames tell."

"Is it a falsehood or a truehood?"

"True as most sayings belike."

"Then, Marget."

"Well?"

"I think I'd best be up ere sunrise, and roll stones before all the
holes, and I know five wherein ground-hogs live."

Margaret Brent laughed. "That's just what Giles did once when he was
little."

"Wath Couthin Giles ever little--really little--like me?"

"Yes, Cecil, little like you; and he and I were wont to chase
butterflies through the English meadows, and it's small thought either
he or I ever had that we should end our lives here in the wilderness."

"End your lives!"

To Cecil it was as impossible to conceive of an end as of a beginning
to these grown-up people who always had been, and, of course, always
would be, the backbone of his world. After a pause given to meditation
he resumed,--

"What makes folks die?"

"Oh! different things. They may be sick, or they may fall down stairs,
or break their bones."

"I see. Then they go up to God to get mended.--Marget!"

"Ay."

"I wish Mother would get God to mend her smile."

"What's that?"

"She used to have such a pretty smile, and now she only smiles when I
make her."

"Then see that thou dost make her smile often. Perchance 'tis thus that
God will mend it. Come, Cecil, she will be waiting for us even now, and
we shall catch the rheum if we sit longer on this damp ground."

Cecil, always glad to be in motion, jumped up, and led the way home,
his yellow curls bobbing along the path, as good as a lantern in the
gloaming, as Margaret Brent told herself.

At the cottage door Elinor stood bathed in the crimson light that
flooded earth and sky. Her pale cheek had caught the rosy glow, and the
damp February air had twisted her hair in soft clinging rings about
her face. As she caught sight of Margaret and Cecil her lips parted in
a welcoming smile, and she came down the path to meet them with arms
outstretched.

"Look, Couthin!" cried Cecil, "God's mending her already!"

"Pray Heaven He does!" answered Margaret, under her breath. Then, after
seeing the boy clasped in his mother's arms, she turned for a last look
at the scene which she had left with reluctance, for it was one of the
inconsistencies of Mistress Brent's practical nature to love the poetry
of the twilight, and to be willing to barter all the noon-day hour for
that last swift dip of the red sun behind the hills.

To-night she stood with head thrown back and chest expanded, as though
she were physically breathing in the beauty around her. The rose-purple
of a moment since had narrowed to a single crimson bar, stretched above
the opal barrier of the hills, athwart the deep yellow of the sky.

"The walls were of jasper, and the city was of pure gold like unto
clear glass!"

"Supper, Couthin Marget! and wheaten porridge. Come in with speed!"

"Peace, poppet! Who talks of porridge in the New Jerusalem!"

"But this is not the New Jerusalem, only the ragged little village of
St. Mary's." It was Elinor's voice that answered, and Margaret rejoiced
to catch a strain of oldtime lightness in it. Moreover, the promise of
the voice was fulfilled as they sat at the supper-table, for Elinor was
as one who has shaken off a burden. Her gown was of a rich red that
might have been stolen from the sunset, and in her hair she had set a
wing of the cardinal tanager. Around her neck hung a single ruby.

"Truth, Elinor, thou art like a flame to-night," exclaimed Margaret as
Cecil drew out a stool for her at the table.

"'Tis time, Cousin. Poor Cecil hath had too much of shadow in his
little life. Now, I am fain to throw some brightness into it, if 'tis
but a red gown and a tanager's wing."

"Hurrah! Now art thou thine old self once more, as I saw thee on the
morning when I was Lord of--"

Margaret saw the gayety fade out of Elinor's face as swiftly as a
sunlighted sail is swallowed up by the gray mist.

"Dost thou mind, Elinor," she said, quickly, "how we were wont to make
merry on Candlemas Eve at home in England?"

"Ay, right well I remember how once, when I was a girl, I went through
the woods gathering wax berries for the candles." Here she paused, and
added softly, with a mounting flush and a tender smile, "'Twas with
Christopher Neville."

Margaret Brent looked up astonished.

"Yes, Cousin, I can speak his name, and mean to talk often of him with
Cecil, to make the boy, so far as I can, in his image, so tender and
true, so steadfast and faithful to death."

"Thou art a brave woman."

"Nay, I have been till now a very foolish one. Even now, as thou didst
see, Cecil's words and all they called up cut to the quick like a
two-edged knife; but this is wrong, and I know it. Sure, God did not
give us memory to be a curse, but a joy. So far as I sinned toward
Christopher I must bear the burden of sorrow; but I mean not that it
shall blight all the past. We were happy together once--then sorrow
swept between; but now that too has passed, and I am fain to live once
again, though alone, the happiness we shared."

"Art sure it will not try thine endurance too far to dwell so on the
past?"

"Nay, for I love it, and 'tis so real,--far, far more real than the
present. Why, I can smell again the fragrance of the waxen berries, and
I can see Christopher as he stood pulling down the bushes and smiling
at my eagerness to fill my pail. I think there never was a smile quite
like his. 'Twas more in the eyes than the lips, and it seemed to have
actual warmth in it, like the fire yonder."

"Ay, 'twas clear wonderful to see what a change a smile could make in
that stern face of his."

"Oh, but in those days there was no sternness in his face, only a great
gladness and gayety. I have seen him lie under the trees and whistle
beneath the hat pulled over his face, till all the birds gathered round
and wondered what strange new creature it was that had learned so merry
a note."

Elinor's eyes grew dark and misty as she looked across the candle-light
into the darkness beyond; but the smile still curved her lips, and an
expression lay on her face as of one who listens and responds.

"Mother, wilt thou sing me a song as thou dost every Candlemas?"

"Cecil, I fear my voice will not follow my resolutions; but yes,--it
shall. What wilt thou have me sing?"

"Oh, the song about the lady with the green sleeves."

"Must it be that, Cecil? Surely some other would do as well."

"No, 'tis my favorite of them all."

Elinor paled a little; but she began bravely, and her courage and her
voice rose together till at the end there came a triumphant burst that
swelled beyond the narrow walls and could be heard out on the road, and
the villagers stood still to listen, and nudged each other with wonder.

"Heard ye that? 'Tis Mistress Calvert singing,--Mistress Calvert!"

When the song was ended, Margaret took her turn at story-telling,
and then Cecil must sing; and thus the time sped away so fast that
they could scarce believe their ears when the curfew bell sounded for
"lights out," and Cecil well-nigh forgot the answer to the bell, that
he had been taught in babyhood and repeated every night since he could
speak: "Christ send us the lights of Heaven!"

"Off to bed with thee, Cecil," said his mother, taking his face between
her hands, as was her wont, and kissing him on both cheeks. "To bed,
and sweet dreams attend thee!"

"Yet forget not to be up early," added Margaret.

"No fear, I have all the candles to light for the Candlemas blaze, and
Father White hath promised I may help him in the chapel of Our Lady."

Leaning against his mother's knee he looked up into her face,
exclaiming,--

"Oh, but I do love thee!"

"I wonder why."

"Why?--because thou art thou, and I am I."

"Sweet, there is no other reason for loving in all the wide world."

"I can think of other reasons too--little ones."

"What?"

"I love thee for the gold of thy hair, and for the holes at the corners
of thy mouth, and for the seed cake thou didst give me, and for not
beating me when I fell into the Governor's Spring in my new breeches,
and for rubbing my legs that night."

Elinor threw her arms about the child with a swift hug, jealously
noting that he was taller by a head than last year. The boy belongs to
his mother. The man belongs to the world or to some other woman.

"I love thee too" was all she said.

Clasping his arms close about his mother's neck, Cecil whispered, "God
_is_ mending thee, and I _am_ so glad, 'cos now thou wilt have no need
to die."

When the child was gone the two women drew nearer to the fire and began
to rake the ashes together, but slowly, as if loath to put out the
cheerful domestic spark, though the air was too soft to need warming,
and the full moon blandly shining in through the window served amply
for light.

With the dying of the fire Elinor's cheer seemed to die too, and she
sat silent in the moonlight with hands folded before her and feet
thrust out toward the warm ashes.

"Margaret!"

"Yes."

"Ralph Ingle was here yesterday."

"I thought I saw him vanishing from the door as I came."

"Yes, he was here, and he asked me again to marry him."

"And thou--"

"I told him for the fortieth time that marriage was not for me."

"Did that settle it?"

"Nay, he only smiled."

"Insolent fellow!"

"No, Cousin, there is no insolence in Ralph Ingle, but something which
frights me more,--or did till to-day,--a calm biding of his time, as
though in the end, struggle against fate as I would, he must triumph
and I must yield."

"Bah, Elinor! That's the talk of a woman who seeks excuse for yielding.
Your will is as strong as his; use it!"

Elinor's lips shut in a proud silence. There was something in
Margaret Brent's manner which did not invite, much as it justified,
self-revelation. Few make confidences to those who never make mistakes.
Elinor made a move as if to rise; but Margaret laid her hand upon her
arm. "Cousin," said the older woman, "I have heard thy story; now
listen to mine. I loved a man once--"

Elinor started.

"Ah, thou didst never think I had known what it was to love?"

"He--he was a lucky man," stammered Elinor, in surprise.

"He might have been a lucky man, though perchance it behooves not me to
say it; yet I verily believe I could have made him happy, but that he
was of a jealous temper--"

Elinor, who had a blessed gift for silence, used it now.

"Yes," Margaret continued; "he was jealous by nature, and therefore
lent a ready ear when one dropped poison in it."

"He doubted _thee_?"

"He thought he had proof."

"And the villain who traduced thee to him--"

"Was Dick Ingle, and thou dost well to call him villain. 'Twas years
ago in England, and we have met but twice since; but I know the blood,
and I swear to thee I'd rather see thee carried out of this room in thy
coffin than as the bride of an Ingle."

"Yet Ralph--"

"Oh, I know he hath not the brutal outside of his brother, but, Elinor,
I count him falser at heart. You don't always see a snake, but you
trace his course by the rippling of the grass. Something always goes
wrong when Ralph Ingle is about. Trust him not with thy little finger,
much less thy hand in marriage."

"Listen, then, Margaret, and thou wilt rejoice with me and understand
the better my lightness of spirit this night when I tell thee that
yester morning Ralph Ingle renounced me, told me I was too cold for any
love save for a dead man,--God help me, that is true,--then suddenly,
as if carried beyond his own control, he seized me in his arms and
kissed me, and then flung through the doorway. At the door he turned
once more and said, 'Elinor, thy day of grace is ended!'

"I was much angered by his free manner, and I answered,--

"'If the day of grace be the day of thy company, the sooner ended the
better.'

"'I am going away,' he said.

"For answer I but courtesied, with a great gladness at my heart.

"'The time may come when thou wilt beg me to wed thee.'

"I laughed.

"'Till that time comes I will never speak of marriage more,' he said.
Then with one devouring glance, he bowed low and left the house, and
Sheriff Ellyson told me to-day that he saw him with three men making
down the river in a pinnace. Pray Heaven, he is gone forever!"

"Ay, pray Heaven; but keep thy wits at work none the less, and never
believe that an Ingle means what he says. They say only what they wish
thee to believe; and as for Ralph Ingle giving thee up, he has about as
much intention on't as my gray cat, that withdraws into the dark and
lets her victim mouse play about till she's ready for the spring."

"Cousin, thou art suspicious."

"Say rather, watchful."

"'Tis all one."

"Nay. If thou art watchful, thou mayst find there is no cause for
suspicion."

Elinor sat looking at the woman opposite her. Dead silence fell between
them, till at last, with a cry, Elinor threw herself on her knees at
her cousin's side.

"Love me, Margaret! Try to love me! There are so few to love me now!"

It was as if the cry of Elinor's full heart broke down the barriers
that had somehow raised themselves between her and Margaret Brent. A
single word had laid them low, never to rise again.

"I do love thee; I do," whispered Margaret, folding her arms close
about Elinor. "Poor child! Life hath been a hard school for thee."

"And I an unruly scholar," murmured Elinor, smiling through her tears.

"Perchance; most of us are. But now shalt thou give proof of thy
new-found spirit of obedience by obeying me, and getting this weary
body of thine into bed. Hark! the watchman is crying ten of the clock."

With a certain joy in being bidden like a little child, Elinor rose and
moved to her chamber. It is, however, one thing to go to bed, and quite
another to go to sleep. Strive as she would, she could not shake off
the sombre shadow of Margaret's words.

At last, unable to rest quiet longer, she rose and went to Cecil's
little bed. There he lay, flushed and rosy in sleep, with the coverlid
thrust aside and revealing the firm curves of a sturdy leg.

"Thank God for him!" murmured his mother, and taking down a vial of
holy water she sprinkled a few drops on the golden curls. Then from the
shelf beneath the crucifix she took down a little brown book with worn
cover and dog's-eared corners. Opening at random her eyes fell on these
words:--

"Love is a great thing, yea, a great and thorough good: by itself it
makes everything that is heavy light, and it bears evenly all that is
uneven. For it carries a burden which is no burden and makes everything
which is bitter sweet and savory."

"Heigh ho!" sighed Elinor; but she read on.

"Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing more courageous, nothing higher,
nothing wider, nothing more pleasant, nothing fuller nor better in
heaven and earth."

"For some," murmured Elinor, and read on.

"My child, thou art not yet a courageous lover. Because for a slight
opposition thou givest over thy undertakings and too eagerly seekest
consolation. A courageous lover standeth firm in temptations and giveth
no credit to the crafty persuasions of the enemy--"

A tear slid down upon the hand that turned the page. Tears are
crystallized confession. Elinor bowed her head.

"Alas! Alas! How the words pierce to my heart's core! It is to me
surely that they were written. What a coward in love have I been! How
ready at the first whisper to sink from faith into doubt! To me God
gave such chance as falls to the lot of few women to hold up the hands
of my love, and the chance slipped from me, and I joined the ranks of
them that doubted and turned aside.

"Is it too late now to repent? No, never too late for that. What
consolation, what joy, what glory to feel that perhaps ages hence, when
I have worked out the penance my sin demands in Purgatory, I may rise
to the presence of the saints, where, for all the churchmen say, God
must make a place for souls like Christopher's! Then I shall look into
his eyes and he will forgive and bless me."

The thought brought comfort, and she turned back to her couch with a
calmer mind. As she passed the window she heard the watchman calling
the hour of midnight, followed by the familiar cry,--

              "From fire and brand and hostile hand
               God save our town!"

For some time she stood still, watching, with a comfortable sense of
safety, the queer figure and the twinkle of his lantern as it bobbed up
and down along the street.

"Elinor, is that thou?"

"Ay, Margaret."

"Now art thou unruly, indeed,--walking the house at midnight like an
uneasy ghost, when I bade thee go to bed and to sleep. To bed, I say,
this instant!"

Elinor smiled, but obeyed, and drawing the coverlid over her fell into
a light slumber, broken by a fitful dream in which the world seemed
to be whirling around, and Ralph Ingle was pushing it to make it go
faster, when suddenly Christopher Neville appeared, and all at once it
stopped and she could hear his voice bidding her be of good cheer and
fear nothing. Then came the unconsciousness of deeper sleep; and at
last, out of that calm there swept a great noise, a rush of feet along
the quiet street, a swinging of lanterns, a hurried knocking at the
door, and a shout,--

"Make ready all within! _Dick Ingle is at the gates!_"



                             CHAPTER XXIII

              "HEY FOR ST. MARY'S, AND WIVES FOR US ALL!"


Morning was streaking the black of night with a single line of silver
as Richard Ingle dropped anchor in St. Mary's River opposite the little
town marked by its tall rude cross and its sentinel mulberry-tree on
the edge of the bluff. Already the men were lowering boats and filling
them with muskets, powder, and shot, and strips of wood soaked in oil.

As Ingle looked upward at the sleeping village, his heart swelled with
delight. Let no one fancy that happiness is the reward of virtue. To
the good there can be little individual happiness that does not carry
its own sting in the thought of the cost to others at which it has been
purchased, but to the bad man life is simplified to

                "The good old rule, the simple plan,
                 That he may take who has the power,
                 And he may keep who can."

Through these twelve long months the memory of the indignity thrust
upon him at Brent's behest, as he firmly believed, by the townspeople
of St. Mary's, had rankled in his memory. This, combined with his old
grudge against Margaret Brent, drove him back to England. This kindled
his delight at finding King Charles defeated and Parliament in control.
This was always in mind when he represented to the government the
dangerous growth of Catholic power in Maryland, and this the crown of
his triumph when he found himself turning the prow of _The Reformation_
westward once more, armed with letters of marque giving him license to
attack these dangerous monarchists and schismatics and harry them out
of the land if he could.

"Now, my friends," thought he, as he peered through the darkness at the
dim outlines of the wharf, "we'll see whose turn it is to be tossed
aboard a vessel like a sack of grain. I'll settle my score with you,
Sheriff Ellyson, and with you, Worshipful Councillor Neale. As for you,
Giles Brent, if you get not a sword-thrust from my blade that will make
you carry your head a shade less high, my name is not Dick Ingle."

As the buccaneer strode up and down the deck nursing his hot wrath, he
came to where Claiborne was standing in talk with Ralph Ingle, who had
joined his brother as soon as the secret news reached him that _The
Reformation_ lay hid among the wooded points of the bay.

"Now," said Richard, "remember that I am the Captain of this expedition
and you are both to take the word from me."

"Hm! I know not," Claiborne began doubtfully.

Richard Ingle bent a compelling glance upon him.

"Did you not ask my help?"

"Ay."

"Did you not say I was worth any twenty Virginians in this expedition?"

"Belike I did."

"Is not the ammunition of my providing?"

"Oh, have done with your vain boasting!"

"I'll have done with boasting when you have done with insubordination.
Do you or do you not recognize my authority?"

"On your ship, yes," answered Claiborne, flushing; "on land I take
commands from no man. I am answerable to the authorities of Virginia
and them only."

"And I," said Ralph, "am a free lance, and will thrust where I see fit.
Besides, this expedition is as much mine as thine."

"The devil take the fellow's impudence!" exclaimed Richard. "Here have
I been over seas to fetch letters of marque, and pulled members of
Parliament this way and that, gathered a crew, begged, borrowed, and
stolen money to buy powder and shot, and now you, who have stayed
in the lap of luxury there at St. Gabriel's, would have me give you
control."

"The still hog sups the milk," answered Ralph, coolly. "'Twas I kept
you informed of the temper of the colony, of Brent's unreadiness for
attack; and did you but know it I did you the greatest favor of all in
ridding the colony of the one man who might have detected your plot and
made some head against us."

Richard Ingle flushed and laid his hand upon the hilt of his sword; but
Claiborne, foreseeing an ill beginning if the invaders fell to fighting
among themselves before they were fairly landed, stepped between the
brothers and laid a hand on the shoulder of each as he said,--

"There is honor enough ahead for each of you and for me too, so let
us not quarrel over that. Let Dick direct his crew, while I lead the
Virginians in the ship behind us, and you, Ralph, shall be the free
lance."

The words were timely. Richard put up his sword, and Ralph smiled
again,--that frank smile that had won its way to Giles Brent's heart
and deceived him to the end.

Claiborne saw his advantage and pressed it. "First of all," he said,
"we must have a rallying cry whereby we may know friend from foe."

"The cry of the townsfolk up yonder is 'Hey for St. Mary's, and wives
for us all!'"

"We'll make it true by taking of their wives."

"Ay," chuckled Dick, "we'll make hay of St. Mary's, set fire to the
rick, and then off to sea again with wives for us all!"

"A merry jest. You would have made your fortune as a clown, Dick."

"The trouble is I have your fortune to make, too, Ralph, and you're too
much of the damned fine gentleman for me, and find my ways over rough."

"Keep to the point, my friends, keep to the point," interrupted
Claiborne. "'Tis a rallying cry we want. Now what say you to 'God and
the Parliament'?"

A soft voice from Richard Ingle's right answered, "Think you not 'twere
as well to leave the name of God out of the business? Considering the
nature of the matter in hand, is it not just possible that He might
take offence?"

"Faith, I believe you're right for once, Ralph!" cried Richard Ingle,
with a certain generosity, not detecting the sarcasm underlying his
brother's words. "For my part, I think that cry too tame. I would like
better 'The devil take the Brents!' or 'To Hell with the Calverts!'"

"All save one!" murmured Ralph under his breath. Aloud he said, "Let
'Ingle!' be our cry. 'Tis short and sharp and sufficient."

"So let it be!" assented Richard; "but were it not well to have badges
on the arm besides the cry, that we may know each other by them when
the growing dawn gives light enough to see?"

"'Tis a good thought," said Claiborne. "I have a roll of green cloth
which can be swiftly torn into bands; but I know not if 'tis enough to
go round among so many."

"I will be answerable for mine own," said Ralph Ingle, putting his hand
to the breast of his jerkin and drawing out a green ribbon of watered
silk.

"See what a fop this brother of mine learned to be in France. His very
points must be tagged with gold, and, on my life, the tags are tipped
with emerald!"

"Ay," said Ralph, coolly, "I got them of a French Seigneur without his
permission, and they have been cursed unlucky so far. The first tag I
lost in the forest near St. Gabriel's and could never find again, and
the point with the other tag joined to it was stolen by a Patuxent
brave while I was on a mission,--the sacrilegious savage! Since then
for safe keeping I have carried this in the inner pocket of my jerkin."

"Cease talking of your jewelled points and make haste," cried
Claiborne, testily. "Speed is the main thing. To be discovered is to be
balked, if not defeated."

"Push off there in the first boat if you are ready! Shall I go in her,
Captain Ingle?"

"Ay, and command her crew. Wait for us at the shore, and we'll rush the
stockade together."

"But how to mount the bluff?"

"There is a road, and I suppose it was made to be walked on."

"Ay, but it leads to the strongest fortified of the gates."

"You are a monstrous clever man, Master Claiborne; but for all that,
Dick Ingle knows more tricks than ever a juggler taught you."

"That means I am to have no confidences."

Ingle laid his red finger to the side of his redder nose.

"Are you Captain or I?"

"You are Captain but not Pope; I suppose you may be questioned."

"All in good time, Master Claiborne; all in good time. Yonder on the
strip of beach below the bluff I will give my orders and divulge my
plans."

"Fend off!" called Claiborne, sullenly, to the man at the prow of the
small boat, and seating himself in the stern he pulled his cloak close
about him, muttering to himself,--

"Damn the fellow! I begin to hate him worse than Calvert."

"Dick," said Ralph Ingle as the two brothers were left alone together,
"what treatment might a prisoner look for if brought aboard this ship?"

"Why, all the difference betwixt a swift death and a slow one."

"And if the prisoner were a woman--"

"Nay, none of that business, Ralph! I was but jesting when I spoke of
carrying off the villagers' wives. Remember, we take our commission
from the Roundheads, who do faithfully believe we are bent on promoting
the Puritan religion in this part of the world." Here Richard Ingle
burst into a roar of laughter, but his brother's eyes flashed.

"You know not how to take a gentleman," he said.

"Indeed," sneered his brother, "have a few months in the Brent
household turned thee into such a white-livered fellow, half prude,
half priest? Nay, nay," seeing his brother's sulky looks; "I meant not
to vex thee, though 'tis a damned odd time for talking of such matters;
but take thy pleasure as thou wilt, only now make ready for the
prettiest fight thou hast seen since we met the pirates off Algiers."

"The other pirates," corrected Ralph, and began buckling on his
cutlass and feeling for his pistols.

"Come on, then," called Richard, lowering himself over the ship's side,
"come on, men; rally to the cry of 'Ingle!' Never mind giving quarter,
and set the torches to every house in St. Mary's. There's plunder
enough for us all, and then up sail and away before the burghers know
who's struck them."

The muffled oars sped silently through the water; silently, too, the
keels of the boats slipped over the sand of the beach. With unshod
feet, pistols in belts, and cutlass in hand, the men ranged themselves
in a ragged line, and before them, Richard Ingle stood in a theatrical
attitude, with one hand on his hip, the other waving a sword.

"Are you ready for a fight, my men?"

"Try us!"

"Ready to make a bonfire of yonder town?"

A waving torch answered, but was speedily extinguished by Ingle's order.

"Ready to open the bung-holes in the tavern barrels?"

"Ay, and drink the spirit as it runs."

"Then you're the men for Dick Ingle. Claiborne, how many have you in
your command?"

"Forty."

"Take twenty, and climb yonder stairs. There is a gap in the palisade
at their head. Put your men through it single file, and in dead
silence. There is no guard.

"Ralph!"

"Ay."

"Do you take the other twenty and follow the longer trail leading to
the rear of the town. When our approach is known, the rush will be for
the river gate. That leaves your gate weak. Beat it down. Once in, I
leave you to your work."

"Trust me!"

"The rest of you follow me. Swift and still. That's your motto till we
burst in with a yell, and surprise our friends. The guard is bribed,
the gate unbarred. Up and forward!"

Forward they went with a rush, Ingle well in front,--up the hilly road
at a double quick to the very shadow of the palisade, not a sound
giving warning of their approach.

Suddenly from that gray picketed line of logs broke a zigzag streak of
fire, and out into the stillness boomed the sound of guns.

"We are betrayed!" muttered Claiborne, turning at the head of the
steps, out of breath with the climb.

"Follow me!" cried Richard Ingle. "Twenty pounds to the first man over
the wall, or through the gate!"

"Ingle! Ingle!" the cry rose from all sides, as the men rushed after
their leader toward the stockade. Several fell; but the others closed
in and rushed on the faster.

"I fear they're too many for us!" muttered Giles Brent, as he peered
through the peep-hole of the gate. "If we could have had the news
but a few hours earlier! Fire at the tall man with the green cap,
Neville!--and there's Ingle, the same swashbuckler as ever! But he's a
brave devil. Gather the guard, Neville. Open on them with the culverin;
if they break in the gate, give them clubbed muskets: _Hey for St.
Mary's, and wives for us all!_"

No man who took part in that morning's fight ever forgot the day.
Almost every fighter had his private feud to avenge, and under the
guise of sustaining his colony, slashed and hacked for St. Mary, or
St. Richard Ingle, and broke heads in fine style, all for the honor of
the Commonwealth or the Palatinate in general, and the satisfaction of
James and John and Robert in particular.

Oh, but it was a fine skirmish! and when the invaders, despite the
thunder of the culverin, broke in the iron-studded gate and rushed upon
the defenders, the fighting took on still more interest. If there is
pleasure in knocking over your enemy at a distance with a cannon-ball,
it is as nothing to the joy of felling him with your clubbed musket,
where he can claim no foul, no better armament, but must acknowledge
as he falls, that he dies because you are the better man, and surrender
his pride before he gives up the ghost.

Who would not throw away years of inglorious safety to know the mad
leap of the blood bounding along his veins as he cut and thrust and
parried in the rough give and take of battle? When the Anglo-Saxon
forgets that stern ecstasy, his domination of the earth is at an end.

There is, however, one class to whom the struggle brings little of this
exhilaration. The non-combatants bear the heart-breaking anxieties
of the combat and know nothing of its delights. Little did Elinor
Calvert know or care about the effect of fighting on national character
as she stood at the door of her cottage in the little hamlet of St.
Mary's, holding her boy by the hand. Her heart had room for only one
thought,--terror,--not so much for herself as for her child. "But
surely," she thought, "none could be so cruel as to harm him!" and she
looked down on his yellow curls and drew him closer, and folded her
cloak about him as though that feeble shelter could avail anything
against men with hearts of steel and arms of iron. Her mind was still
bewildered with the suddenness of the excitement.

"Oh, Mother!" cried Cecil, anxious to be a hero, but conscious of a
painful sinking at the pit of his stomach, "what manner of man is this
Ingle? Will he have horns and a tail like the devil?"

"Fear not, Cecil," Margaret Brent answered. "Dick Ingle has cowered
before me ere this. Let him face me now if he dares. He has lied about
me to the man I loved, he has done his best to ruin my life, but he
has never yet dared to look me in the eye since. If he enters the town
this day, he and I will have it out. Elinor, are there fire-arms in the
house?"

"Nay, but I have my dagger--"

"Keep it; thou mayst have need of it. Stay thou here with the child,
and I will take my pistol and go to the gate. Doubtless Giles will take
command at the gate next the river."

"Nay, Margaret, are there not men enough?"

"Not so many but they will be the better for one woman."

"Thou canst not fight like a man."

"Perhaps not,--I have not yet tried; but at least I can make the men
fight better. There was never soldier yet that did not shoot straighter
and strike deeper if a woman were looking on. That's what we're for,
Coz,--not to pit our strength against men's, but to double theirs."

"Margaret, thy courage shames me; I will come too. At least, I can
carry powder and water-buckets."

"No; rather make ready thine house here, for I know Ingle well enough
to be sure of hot fighting and many hurt. We shall need a hospital and
a nurse. Tear thy linen into bandages, and set Cecil to preparing lint
for wounds. Now, good-bye, and may God have you both in his keeping
till we meet again!"

As the door closed after her, Elinor felt that a strong presence had
passed out and she shivered. Now she caught the sharp clash of combat
at the gate and the rival cries,--

"Ingle! Ingle! Claiborne and Ingle!"

Then, louder still,--

"Hey for St. Mary's, and wives for us all!"

Her heart failed her as she looked at Cecil, and she thought of the
powerful arm that might have been near to protect both her boy and her.
She breathed a deep sigh.

"Mother," whispered Cecil, "I will guard thee; do not fear!" But he
crowded closer against her skirt.

"Sweet one, 'tis for thee I fear most. Run thou within and hide thyself
while thou canst."

"Mother!" cried the boy, "I am a Calvert. Dost think Cousin Giles would
ever speak with me again if I deserted thee? Why, I am almost a man.
See, up to thy shoulder already. I can, at least, throw a stone;" and
he picked one up from the road.

"We can at least die together," Elinor murmured, "and it may be soon."

"But perhaps we sha'n't die," Cecil whispered consolingly. "Thou knowst
to-day is the festival of Candlemas. I remember, when we were gathering
the greens and taking them down from the chapel last night, some one
bade me see that no leaf was neglected, for as many as I left, so many
goblins should I see. And so I went back and picked up the very last,
and then Father White blessed two great candles and gave them me and
bade me burn them on the shrine of St. Michael, because he was my
patron saint and I was born on his day."

"And didst thou?"

"Ay, Mother, when I came home and saw the image in my room,--thou
knowst the one of the saint, with his foot on the devil's head,--I
thought, for safety's sake, I would offer one to the devil, too, for
who knew when it might come his turn to befriend one. Now I will go in
and light the candles, and I will pray to Michael and beg him to come
and set his foot on Dick Ingle's neck. Ingle must look a deal like
Lucifer; and Michael--Mother, dost not think Michael must look rather
like Master Neville?"

Elinor started as if a bandage had been torn from some hidden wound.
She gave a little gasp; but the nearer trampling of feet called her
thoughts back to the pressing needs of the present moment. In truth,
they were urgent. Already the fighting mob was surging through highway
and byway lighted by the glare of the burning church. They fought,
not like an army, but in little detached groups, without order or
leadership. Here the enemy gained ground, here the townsfolk.

What was this the men were bearing to her door? Her heart sank as she
recognized Giles Brent.

"Oh, Giles! Cousin!--art thou hurt?"

"A scratch,--a mere scratch, on my honor;" but he whitened as he spoke.

"Bear him in," said Elinor to the two men on whose shoulders he was
leaning, "bear him in, and I will make a bed ready for him."

As she watched the men following her bidding, her mind leaped back
to the last time she had seen Brent,--the day when he told her of
Neville's death, and when she had sworn never to own kinship or speak
with him again till he took back his accusation. "I have broken my
vow," she said to herself. "God forgive me! Yet not so much the
breaking as the making."

Then she turned to follow him in; but as she moved, she felt her wrist
grasped from behind, softly but with the irresistibleness of a handcuff
of iron.

Looking round, she caught sight of a sleeve of russet cloth bound about
with a green ribbon with gold and emerald tags, and turning she found
herself face to face with Ralph Ingle.

Instinctively she struggled to free herself, then perceiving that her
strength was no match for his, she stood still.

"I am thy slave still," he whispered. "Give me one kind word, one
glance to kindle hope in my heart, and my sword is thine for offence
and defence. Nay, 'tis in my power to save thy kinsman, whom I have
just seen borne in at thy door. I saw him fall and followed his
bearers, sure that they would bring him here."

"'Tis a fair return thou art making for his hospitality."

"I wonder not at thy surprise."

"Surprise! I feel none. 'Tis what I should look for in one of thy name
and race. If I was once deceived in thee, I know thee now for what thou
art."

"What am I?"

"A traitor."

"Harsh words, my lady! Couldst not choose some gentler name?"

"Nay, if I called thee aught else, 'twould be _murderer_."

Ingle turned pale.

"By what token?"

"By that Iscariot badge on thine arm."

The man looked down in bewilderment.

"Ay, that point convicts thee. 'Tis as though the finger of the Lord
were laid upon that emerald tag, and His voice said, 'Thou art the
man.'"

"Who told thee?"

"No man told me; but murder will out, though the deed be wrought in the
blackness of midnight and the body of the victim lie hid in the shadows
of the forest."

"'Tis false. Thou dost but babble to gain time."

"'Tis true. Thy very pallor and trembling proclaim it true. Thou didst
slay an unarmed man, alone and unprotected in the wilderness. Worse
than that, thy victim was a priest of Holy Church, whose very garb
should have been sacred to thee."

Ingle reddened and spoke more sullenly.

"There be many sins heavier than the taking off of a Jesuit."

"Ay, there be heavier sins. Shall I name thee one?"

"An it please thee."

"Then I count it a heavier sin than the committing of a crime to let
another be charged with thy deed, and still baser when thou thyself
dost egg on his accusers. Thou _Judas_!"

Ingle's look darkened, and he grasped her wrist still more firmly.

"Thou hast had thy say. Now I will have mine. I will teach thee to call
me by a new name."

Elinor's lip curled with scorn.

"Yes," he went on, "I will show thee what I am, and first of all I am
thy master."

"A moment since thou wert my slave."

"Ay, both slave and master in one; and I am come to take thee with me
to a place where thou shalt know me under both guises."

"Never!"

With her left hand Elinor Calvert pulled a dagger from her belt; but
before she had time to use it, Ingle loosed her other hand and seizing
Cecil cried, "When thou wouldst see thy boy again, seek the world
through for Ralph Ingle."

He was gone before Elinor could utter a word; and when she would have
rushed after him her limbs seemed made of lead, her outstretched arms
fell nerveless at her side, her knees tottered under her, and with her
child's shriek of terror ringing in her ears, his pleading eyes still
straining toward hers, she fell to earth in a dead swoon.

As she fell, Margaret Brent turned the corner of the street, and seeing
her believed her wounded, and rushed toward her with open arms, while
from the other side Richard Ingle advanced, brandishing a pistol in
one hand and a torch in the other. He and Margaret Brent met above the
prostrate form.

"So you are here," he said; "I thought you were at Kent Fort, and I
meant to seek you there. I killed that precious brother of yours."

Margaret Brent paid no more heed to him than if he had been a fly in
her path. She knelt by Elinor's side, and finding the pulse beating
still drew a breath of relief. Once more, however, she bent over lower
still, and when she rose it was with a cocked pistol, which she pointed
full at Ingle's head.

"_If you move so much as a finger, I fire!_"

So amazed was the invader that he made no attempt to stir, but stood
looking at the woman before him with ashen face and dropped jaw.

"Dick Ingle," said Margaret, still with pistol levelled, "you have
pursued me for years, first with your unwelcome love and then with
malignant hate; you have lied about me to Thomas White; you have tried
to ruin my life. Now you say you have killed my brother. Is there any
reason why I should not kill you? Nay, do not move so much as a hair,
or you are a dead man. I know how to shoot, and I have no hesitation in
taking life. Answer me. Have you not deserved death at my hands?"

"The devil take my soul!--I have."

"I like you for owning it. I like you for appealing to the devil,
whom you love and serve, instead of to God. If you had denied your
deviltries, I swear I would have put a bullet through your heart. As it
is, I am satisfied. Go!"

[Illustration]

She lowered her pistol and stood looking at him, alone, helpless,
unprotected. So he had seen her in imagination many times. So he had
vowed he would have no mercy. Now she had shown mercy. She had held
his life in her hand, and had spared it. This was the worst of all the
wrongs she had done him. The thought galled him beyond endurance. Quick
as lightning, he raised his pistol and fired, then covered his eyes
with his arm. God forgive the wretch! He loved this woman still.

When he looked again the vision stood there yet, the eyes still
dominating him, a cool smile on the haughty lips.

"Coward!" was all she said; but it was enough. Ingle, the redoubtable,
the terror of the seas, the conqueror in fifty combats with desperate
men, turned and ran as though the fiends were after him. The groups of
his men that he passed, seeing a sight never before witnessed,--their
leader fleeing with a look of terror on his face,--joined in the
retreat toward the steps which led down the bluff, crying as they went,
"To the ships! to the ships! Ingle! Ingle!"

Cornwaleys, who had hastily gathered a band of followers from
neighboring plantations, came rushing after and fancied that it was he
and his men who had routed Ingle. So he told the story afterward at the
tavern. So the villagers all believed.

Only Margaret Brent knew.



                             CHAPTER XXIV

                           THE CALVERT MOTTO


"Put me down! Put me down!" screamed Cecil.

"I put thee down? I'll see thee roasted first!"

"I hate thee!"

"Very like; but wait, thou little imp, till I have thee safe in the
ship!"

"In St. Michael's name!" cried the child, and beat Ralph Ingle lustily
about the head; but Ingle swept down his chubby arms as though they had
been gnats, and ran on toward the nearest gate.

When he reached the Governor's Spring, he noticed that the waters ran
red with blood. By its margin two men were cutting and thrusting with
sword and cutlass, while a third with hand clasped to his throat lay
along the curb, his head hanging lifeless over the water.

"Help, Ralph!" came in Claiborne's voice from the group.

As he called out he retreated a step, that he might free the weapon
which his adversary held engaged.

His opponent, who fought with his back to Ingle, took advantage of the
retreat, and making a lunge forward, drove his sword into Claiborne's
side, crying out,--

"Take that for the death of Philpotts!"

Claiborne fell, wounded.

"Wait till I get some one to hold this wriggling brat, and I'm with
you."

So far Ingle had gone in his speech when the foeman turned, and Ingle
saw that in front of him which made his cheek blanch and his heart fail
and his knees totter under him, for there stood a dead man waving a
sword and making ready for a thrust at his heart, while Cecil shouted
aloud with joy,--

"Thir Chrithtopher! help! help! He is taking me from my mother!"

No words answered. From a ghost none were to be looked for; but the
steel flashed in air, and when it drew back it left a trail of blood.
Ingle felt a quick intolerable pain at his heart, and the arm around
Cecil slackened its hold till the child dropped to the ground.

"So you are come to take me to Hell, are you?" he muttered between set
teeth, then swayed, reeled, and fell to earth with eyes fixed. Neville
stood over him with vengeance in his glance.

"Are you from the charnel-house or from Hell itself?" asked Ingle.

"Is not this enough like Hell?"

"Ah, you _have_ come from Hell, and know what it is like. Did the devil
tell you? I meant to thwart Satan himself by confessing just before I
died."

"If you have a confession to make, best be quick, for your last hour is
come."

"A priest!" he murmured, for years of indifference could not quite
obliterate the memory of Pater Nosters lisped at his mother's knee;
"or no, a priest would be harder than any, they stick so close by one
another."

"If you do indeed desire to free your soul of a confession," said
Neville, touched in spite of himself by the look of death on Ingle's
face, "speak to me and in the presence of this child whom you have
wronged."

"Do you think I could so escape Hell?"

"'Tis no business of mine," answered Neville; "but for myself I'd not
like to die with a sin on my soul."

"No business of yours! Then--the--devil--did--not--tell--you."

The words came slower now, with little gasps between. Suddenly his
glazing eye brightened a little. "A priest! a priest!" he repeated.
Looking round, Neville saw Father White passing up and down rendering
help and solace to the wounded. "Run and fetch him, Cecil!" he said.

The child plucked the good priest by the cloak. "Father, come, Father!"
he said. "Ralph Ingle hath need of thee. He is dying and would fain
confess."

Father White dropped the cup of water he was carrying, and coming to
the side of the dying man knelt beside him.

"I think, after all, I won't tell," Ingle whispered. "Even this dead
man had not heard it, and perhaps the devil himself has caught no word."

"Think not to escape so," said the priest; "the moments of time for
thee are short, but the years of eternity are long, and through them
all comes no chance such as lies before thee now to make some scant
atonement by confession, and earn, perhaps, if not Heaven at least
Purgatory, in place of Hell."

"Bah!" said Ralph Ingle, rousing himself to a touch of his old-time
boldness, "'tis no use to strive to fright me with your ghostly
threats. Perhaps the devil will send me up like Master Neville here to
do his work on earth; that would be rare sport, to cut and thrust and
be beyond the power of wounds." Here his head sank, and for a moment
it seemed as he were gone, then the eyes opened again and the boyish
smile curved his lips.

"Besides, 'tis no such great matter to kill a priest; there are so many
of you, you know."

"So it was you!" cried Neville, with new interest in his voice and
stooping he wet Ingle's lips with brandy from his flask. "Now," he
said, "if you have the least spark of manhood in you, speak out. You
killed Father Mohl?"

Ralph Ingle moved his head in assent.

"How?"

"Speak!" exhorted Father White; "though thou be the chief of sinners,
speak and trust in the mercy of the Lord who died to save such."

"But I'm--not--the--chief--of--sinners--'Twas the knife did it--the
knife in the panther's throat."

"You found it?"

A nod.

"You were on your way from St. Mary's to St. Gabriel's?"

Nod.

"What for?"

"To stay with Brent--I promised Dick."

Father White spoke low: "At least he was true to some one. Remember it,
O Lord, when thou dost count up the sum of his transgressions!"

"Ay, 'twas Dick suggested it, so he and I feigned a quarrel before the
gossips on the deck, and then I set out alone--More brandy--I cannot
speak."

Again Neville knelt beside him and poured the brandy down his throat.
Under the stimulant Ingle revived and moved as if he would sit up, but
Father White stayed him.

"Waste not an inch of thy strength," he said, lifting his head, "but
use it to save thy soul. Didst thou quarrel with Father Mohl?"

"Ay, 'twas his fault--I was singing a tavern song to cheer me, when I
met old shaven-crown--Nay, God forgive me, the holy father--

"'Good evening,' says I.

"'God have mercy on your soul!' saith he.

"'That's between Him and me,' says I, and then he must needs answer
back in Latin--I had borne to be damned in English and never raised a
finger; but to be called names in an outlandish foreign tongue was too
much!"

"Thou art sinning away the hour of mercy," said Father White, sternly;
"speak of thyself and thy crime."

"Ay, but I want God to know why I did it.

"'Hold your tongue,' said I.

"'_Pax tibi_,' said he, near as I could catch.

"'Another word, and I'll have your life!' said I, raising the knife.

"'_Dominus tecum!_' he answered, out of spite, as the ugly, ugly smile
of him showed, and that finished him.

"The knife came down, and ere I could pull it out I heard steps near by
and did run for my life--"

"Whither didst run?"

"To St. Gabriel's; and, seeing lights still up, I would fain have
entered, but thought better of it, and rested in an out-house till
morning."

"Traitor!" exclaimed Father White, "was thy conscience so dead thou
didst feel no pricks at accepting hospitality,--thou, a murderer?"

"Not a prick; only a mighty satisfaction that the devil looks so well
after his own--or--hold--art thou going to tell all this to God? For
then I must say it all different."

"Speak truth! If anything could save thy guilty soul, 'twere that."

"Then if I'm damned for the business, I'll own that I was glad when I
thought myself safe, glad when I saw this man, Neville, accused, glad
when I saw him sink in the river yonder. There, go back and tell that
to the devil, will you?"

"Faith, you can tell him soon enough yourself," muttered Neville, as he
watched the laboring heart and the eye, which now glazed faster than
ever.

"Is this all?"

It was Father White who spoke. Ingle pointed to Cecil, opened his lips,
gasped out, "Elinor!" and fell back dead.

Father White lifted his eyes to heaven, praying:

"Judge him not according to his demerit, but through the infinite
multitude of Thy mercies, and extend Thy grace and pardon in the name
of Thy dear Son."

When he rose from his knees he turned and would have clasped Neville's
hand, but he and Cecil had vanished together in the direction of
Mistress Calvert's cottage.

"Mother must be dead," panted Cecil, as they hurried along; "else had
she surely followed me."

A deadly fear struck on Neville's heart, cold as a hailstone on an
opening rose. Had he so nearly reached the goal to fail at last?

"Look!" cried Cecil. "There she is!"

Neville dropped the child's hand and rushed forward to where Elinor lay
stretched, corpse-like, upon the ground, Margaret Brent chafing her
cold hands. He fell upon his knees beside her and rained hot kisses on
the cold fingers.

"O Death," he muttered, "you must not, _shall_ not cheat me now! Not
till she knows. Oh, not till then!"

"This is not death," said Margaret Brent, "but a heavy swoon. Hast thou
brandy?"

For answer Neville pulled his flask from his jerkin, poured out some of
the liquid and forced it between Elinor's lips, while Margaret ran to
the Governor's Spring for water, taking Cecil with her to help carry
the ewer.

Left alone thus with the woman he loved, the only woman he had ever
loved, Neville knelt on, and watched and waited,--waited as it seemed
to him for hours, though in reality it was but minutes, to catch the
first flicker of those white lids, the first tremulous movement of
those chiselled nostrils.

Two minds there were within him: one intent upon that still form,
gazing in an agony of terror upon its immobility; the other living over
the past,--that past which for him began and ended with Elinor.

How radiant she had looked at St. Gabriel's that first night, when
he came in out of the cold and darkness and saw her standing like a
goddess of sunshine with her yellow hair gleaming above her green robe!

How graciously she had smiled upon him when he made friends with Cecil;
how tenderly she had looked at him when he offered to seek Father Mohl
and beg his pardon! Here came a swift pang as the bitterness of those
dark days that followed the priest's death swept over him. His lips
framed the word "Unjust!" Then lifting his head he shook back the
hair, and looking up cried aloud,--

"No, though it were with my last breath, and though she should never
breathe again, I vow to God, I thank Him for it all, justice and
injustice alike, else had I never known how she loved me."

Up and down the street to the edge of the bluff the fight still raged
around them, as one group of stragglers met another of the opposing
force. None could say which had lost or won.

As for Neville, he had no care for what passed around him. All the
world held for him lay there on the ground. Oh, God! would those
dark-fringed eyes never open? Would those pallid lips never again
redden to their old-time warmth, nor curve into their old-time tender
wistfulness, nor open in the old-time gracious speech?

For one awful moment, Neville felt that this was indeed the end, and
bowing his head he murmured, "It has--been--worth--while!"

The first sensation Elinor knew after her fall was a rushing of water
over face and neck, a gurgling in her ears and a gasping as of some
dying animal near by, then a curious realization that the gasping
animal was herself, and that a sound of voices rang far and vague
around her. Gradually through her closed lids gathered a dim light
which, as she opened her eyes, grew to a glory dazzling as though it
streamed from the great white Throne, and shadowed against it was the
outline of a familiar face, long dear to memory and of late enshrined
in her heart of hearts,--the face of Christopher Neville.

"So," she murmured, "this _is_ Heaven that lies beyond. I always said
death would be nothing if we could be sure of that."

Then the black curtain fell again, and the next sound that struck her
consciousness was Cecil's voice calling,--

"Mother! Mother! Wake up! Dick Ingle is fled, and the broidery on my
coat is torn, and the Church of Our Lady is burned to the ground, and
we are very hungry, and there is but corn meal in the house--oh! and
Ralph Ingle--"

"Softly, little man, softly!" spoke Neville's voice. "Run into the
house and fetch pillows for thy mother's head."

Slowly Elinor's mind awakened to the scene around. So this, after all,
was not the pale reflection of earth cast upon the clouds of a shadowy
after-life, but Heaven itself come down to earth. Love and life lay
before, not behind. Too weary to question the causes of the miracle,
she accepted it and thanked God.

"My dear!" she said simply, raising her arms and laying them about
Neville's neck. The effort of speech was too much for her strength,
and she fell back exhausted and so white that Neville laid his hand
anxiously upon her heart.

"Tell me all!" she murmured.

Neville laughed, a natural hearty laugh, for the first time since that
terrible day in January. "So," he said, "'tis curiosity alone can prick
thee back to life. Well, thou shalt have the story. All there is to
tell, as soon as thou canst bear it. Now, let us in." And raising her
in his arms he carried her to the settle where Cecil was piling the
cushions.

As she sank into them, she laid her hand on the rebellious curls of her
boy.

"Poor baby!" she whispered.

"Baby! 'Tis no baby thou hadst thought me, Mother, hadst thou seen me
wrestling with Ralph Ingle? But he would not fight fair, and he had my
arms pinioned when Thir Chrithtopher met us."

"So, in addition to all my other debts, 'tis to thee I owe my son,"
said Elinor, turning with a new tenderness in her eyes to Neville.

"Why, in a fashion, yes."

"In all fashions, Mother. Why, 'twas like this--"

"Hush, Cecil, I can make naught of thy prattle. 'Tis too fast and too
broken. Prithee, let Sir Christopher tell me the whole story."

"Art sure thou hast strength to hear it?"

"I am sure I have not strength to do without it longer. Tell me, in
Heaven's name, how it comes that thou whom all men counted dead art
returned alive to be the saving of us all."

"Thank God, I was in time!"

"But how, when, where?"

"Nay, 'tis too long a story, and thou art still too weak."

"Not I," said Elinor scornfully, making an effort to sit up, but
failing pitifully and sinking back again.

"There, see, thou hast no more strength than I when I fell against
the gate of St. Mary's last night, and they pulled me in like a log.
'Twas well Philpotts had kept his breath and could cry the warning. I
think the villagers took me for a ghost, for they looked at me with
dazed eyes and did my bidding as though I were something beyond nature.
Sheriff Ellyson lent me his sword. I owe him much thanks, else had we
not this valiant little warrior with us now."

Elinor shivered and clasped Cecil close about the shoulders. "Go on, go
on!" she whispered breathlessly.

"All hands were ordered to the guns at the gates. I worked side by side
with Giles Brent, he, too, half shrinking from me, half drawn toward
me as if I were a messenger from another world. When he fell, two men
picked him up and one asked, 'Whither shall we carry him?'

"'To Mistress Calvert's home,' said the other.

"'Mistress _Elinor_ Calvert?' I asked, my knees shaking under me.

"'Ay,' said the soldier, 'she and her boy have been settled here since
February. She is in the second house beyond the Church of Our Lady.'
Oh, Elinor, may you never know the anguish that thought cost me! If I
had fought like a man before, I fought like a devil then, but we had
not ammunition enough for our guns. The time was too short for bringing
it from the powder-house, and they burst in at the weakest gate, the
one furthest from mine, and then my only thought was to get to thee and
die fighting at thy side. No, that's not true neither, for I thought
little of dying: my blood was up, and I was bent on trying how many of
the rascally invaders I could put an end to.

"I started from the gate on a dead run, and before I had gone a hundred
paces I found old Philpotts by my side. Hard by the Governor's Spring
we met Claiborne with a gang of marauders, armed with cutlasses. One
of them made at Philpotts and ran him through the throat, so the poor
fellow fell without a groan, and the blood of his faithful heart
flowed out into the spring. Heaven rest his soul for truer friend man
never had."

"And thou?"

"Faith, 'twas like to have fared no better with me; but that Neale and
Ellyson and their following let drive at the invaders and drove them
off, following them to keep them on the run. Only Claiborne stood his
ground. Just as my sword touched him in the side, I heard him cry,
'Help, Ralph!' and turning I found myself face to face with Ingle,
carrying Cecil in his arms; the poor child was screaming lustily."

"And fighting, Thir Chrithtopher. Say now, was I not scratching and
biting valiantly?"

"That he was, and hath a handful of the pirate's hair as a keepsake.
Just then Ingle caught sight of me, and 'twas as if he saw the Day of
Judgment. 'So you 're come to take me to Hell, are you?' he said. With
that he dropped Cecil, and ran at me with his cutlass, having no time
to draw pistol. 'Twas scarce a fair fight, for I verily believe had he
not been mastered by ghostly fear he would have finished me."

"Thank God for the deliverance!"

"Ay, and for a greater mercy than life. The wretch did make confession
to Father White, and of what, thinkst thou?"

"Oh, Mother," cried Cecil, unable to curb his impatience another
moment, "it was he who killed Father Mohl."

"I know."

"Thou knowest? In God's name, how didst thou know?" Neville exclaimed.

"The emerald tag."

Margaret Brent had entered unperceived, and now her questioning eyes
said, "Who wore it?"

"Ralph Ingle, to-day, on his left arm, as if it were a badge to be
proud of,--he, the man whose presence I tolerated, whose hateful
love-making I permitted. Oh, Christopher, canst thou forgive me?"

"_Forgive?_ Dearest, _I love thee_!"

"And canst thou forgive one who cannot lay claim to that mantle of love
that covers all sins?"

It was the voice of Giles Brent, who had staggered to the door and
stood leaning against the post, a new expression of humility on his
proud face.

"Sir Christopher Neville," he went on, "I have been hopelessly wrong,
honestly but fatally wrong, and I do most earnestly entreat you who
have been so deeply injured to believe in the depth of my grief and
repentance."

"You had every reason--" began Christopher.

"Ay, but of what use are faith and friendship but to warm the fires
about reason when she grows too cold. To my life's end I must bear the
bitter thought of my injustice, but I pray God the lesson may not be
lost. See, here is my sword, a present from Baltimore! If you can find
it in your heart to forgive, accept this and wear it."

With his unwounded arm Brent drew the sword with difficulty from
its scabbard, and extended it towards Neville. It was a symbol of
surrender. Neville took it, and seizing Brent's hand he raised the hilt
of the sword, exclaiming, "By this token I swear fealty to my lady, and
to all her kindred!"

"Elinor," said Brent, "this Neville is a worthy gentleman, and thou
hast made no mistake in giving thy heart into his keeping."

"Amen," said Margaret Brent.

"Ah," said Elinor, jealously, turning swiftly toward Margaret, "thou
didst never doubt him; thou canst afford to be proud."

Margaret Brent smiled. "No storm," she said, "no rainbow; no trial, no
faith; no faith, no love."

"Mother," broke in Cecil, "wilt thou wed Thir Chrithtopher?"

"If he condescend to ask me again, I surely will."

"Thir Chrithtopher! You do mean to ask her again?"

"Perhaps, some day."

"Couldst not make thy decidence now?"

"Why dost thou seek to hurry me so? Marriage is a serious matter, and
who knows but I might regret any undue haste!"

"Nay, now art thou in jest and I in earnest, for we were to have the
feast of Candlemas to-night, and there are not candles enough to go
round; but if you and Mother are to be one--"

"I do take your meaning,--then one candle will do for both."

"'Xactly."

"In that case, I must waive all scruples, and I do here commit myself
to a solemn promise to ask Mistress Calvert to marry me; and, Cecil, I
am fain to ask thee for a betrothal gift."

"I know,--the Calvert seal."

"Nay, I have no use for the seal, Cecil, though its motto stood by
me well in the dark days last winter. Yes, Elinor, I said them over
to myself many a time there in the tobacco-house,--'Fatti Maschij:
Parole Femine,--Deeds for men; words for women.' They may not be read
so in the bastard Italian, but so they were writ in my heart, and I
said, 'After all, 'tis my life must speak for me. If that condemns me,
protests are vain; if that acquits me, who in the end shall be able
to stand against me?' But, Cecil, there is still something I did once
decline like a churl when thou didst offer it, and have longed for in
secret ever since."

"Oh, you mean Mother's picture; why, of course you may have it, and
mine too, which has larger pearls round it,--may he not, Mother?"

"Cecil, what is ours is his."

"And better still, what is his must be ours, so I shall have the bow
and arrows without asking. We will have our feast to-night, and we will
set out all the candles in the house and deck the table with flowers of
purification and the bowl of punch and the seed-cakes."

"_Ave Maria Purificante!_" quoth Father White, who had entered
unperceived at the open door. "Sir Christopher, you have borne yourself
nobly under the shadow of a great tragedy."

"Tragedy! Nay, the story with a happy ending is not such. My life is no
tragedy."

And Christopher Neville spoke truth, for the only real tragedy is the
degeneration of the soul under misfortune, and the only real misfortune
is that which dominates character.

"Hurrah for Candlemas Day, raid and all!" cried Cecil.

From the street came an echoing cry,--

  "Hey for St. Mary's, and Wives for us all!"

As for Christopher, he knelt beside Elinor, and putting his arms about
her close he whispered, "Now I have thee for always. Fate itself could
not separate us. So thou must e'en make the best of a poor bargain, and
take me for a life tenant of Robin Hood's Barn."

                               THE END.

                   *       *       *       *       *

                        THE HEAD _of_ A HUNDRED

                   _In the Colony of Virginia, 1622_

 By MAUD WILDER GOODWIN, author of "Sir Christopher," "White Aprons,"
 "The Colonial Cavalier," "Flint," etc. Illustrated edition. With
 colored miniature and five full-page pictures by JESSIE WILLCOX SMITH,
 WILFRED S. LUKENS, SOPHIE B. STEEL, and CHARLOTTE HARDING. 12mo.
 Decorated Cloth. $1.50.

Although this stirring colonial romance was written in 1895, its scene,
its chief historical incident and several of its historical characters
are the same as those of Miss Johnston's popular book, "To Have and to
Hold." The heroine, Betty Romney, comes to the shores of Virginia in
the first shipload of wives to escape a titled marriage with a man she
hates, chosen by her father. Among the historical personages who figure
in "The Head of a Hundred" are John Pory, John Rolfe, and George Thorp.
"The climax of the story," says a writer in the _New York Times_, "is
the same in both books, the bloody Indian uprising of the period in
which both heroes distinguish themselves."

This new illustrated edition of Mrs. Goodwin's charming companion
romance to her delightful and highly successful story, "White Aprons,"
is printed from a new set of plates and well illustrated, and presents
in attractive form a book that since its first publication has found
thousands of readers. "The Head of a Hundred" has met with favor both
as an accurate picture of the early days of Virginia, and as a fresh
and entertaining romance.

                     =LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY=

             =Publishers · 254 Washington Street, Boston=

                   *       *       *       *       *

                        THE HEAD _of a_ HUNDRED

                           =PRESS OPINIONS=

One of the best works of its class.--_The Mail and Express._

Well deserves its popularity.--_Detroit Free Press._

She has indeed added a valuable page to the literature of Virginia....
The story goes with a rush from start to finish.--_San Francisco
Bulletin._

Holds its reader fast from the first page to the end.--_The
Independent._

A story of love and adventure delightfully told.--_New England
Magazine._

Worthy to rank with the best romantic fiction of the year, at home and
abroad.--_New York World._

The atmosphere and spirit of the Colonial period are skilfully
depicted.--_The Indianapolis Journal._

Mrs. Goodwin's style is cultivated and charming, and in her chronicles
of Virginia she is giving a new value to history.--_The Book Buyer._

A book that ought to be in every Virginia library.... A charming
attempt to reproduce early Virginia colonial life.--_Richmond Despatch._

The book is sweet and true, and charming for its sweetness and truth.
We have read it with a delight not commonly felt in these times.--_New
York Times._

An exceptionally graceful piece of work--a love-story told with feeling
and insight, imbued with the spirit of its period, and made quaint by
effective touches of archaism.--_The Dial._

It is as sweet and pure a piece of fiction as we have read for many a
day, breathing, as it does, the same noble air, the lofty tone, and the
wholesome sentiment of "Lorna Doone."--_The Bookman._

A book of a thousand. One of those strong, sweet stories that entertain
and refresh the reader. It is a pleasure to commend such a book as
this, and it will give pleasure to all who read it.--_Boston Journal._

The book is written in a fresh, charming style, and is not overburdened
with pictures of "Colonial life," as are so many chronological stories.
Anything so wholesome and so old-fashioned in the simplicity of its
story-telling is gratifying and refreshing.--_Springfield Republican._

Has studied the records of early Southern history until she is able to
reproduce the characters and the times in which they lived with great
fidelity.... One seems to be transported to those early days, when
the ripe civilization of England was so rudely transplanted to the
primeval forest. One understands better the people who grew from such
conditions, after reading this story, than if a dozen histories were
conned.--_Minneapolis Tribune._

                     =LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY=

             =Publishers · 254 Washington Street, Boston=

                   *       *       *       *       *

                             WHITE APRONS

           _A Romance of Bacon's Rebellion, Virginia, 1676_

 By MAUD WILDER GOODWIN, author of "The Head of a Hundred," etc. New
 Illustrated Edition, from new type. 12mo. Decorated cloth. $1.50.

The Scene is in part Virginia, and in part the Court of Charles the
Second. The historical basis of the romance is the episode known as
"Bacon's Rebellion," but the author has woven into it a charming love
story, and given to the whole narrative much dramatic interest.

A charming story.... Its fidelity to the conditions prevailing in the
Virginia colony at the time is carefully sustained.--_The Review of
Reviews._

It is no less a success as a literary monument than as a piece of most
entertaining fiction. Its love notes are pure and sweet, and withal
inspiring. Almost any scene picked out at random is a quotable instance
of genuine ability.--_Boston Herald._

As sweet and pure a bit of fiction as often comes in the reader's
way.--_Detroit Free Press._

A beautiful little story, sweet and inspiring, not less clever than
true.--_New York Times._

Mrs. Goodwin invests her romance with a crispness and freshness that
set it far above the ordinary novel, wherein facts and fiction are
thrown together.--_Chicago Post._

                   *       *       *       *       *

                  FLINT By MAUD WILDER GOODWIN.
                        16mo. Decorated cloth. $1.25.

Mrs. Goodwin is at her best in dialogue, and some very spirited
conversations are distributed through the book.--_Providence Journal._

The story abounds in bright, almost epigrammatic sayings and sparkling
flashes of merriment and wit, and altogether is as sweet and pure a
piece of fiction as we have seen for many a day.--_Detroit Free Press._

Miss Wilkins herself could not have drawn the inn-keeper and "general
grocer" Marsden more truthfully or artistically. Winifred is a lovely
creation--as charming a piece of womankind as we have encountered for
some time.--_Buffalo Commercial._

A quick, sympathetic study of human nature and those bonds of interest
which unite human souls.--_Boston Herald._

Sententious, witty sayings appear on almost every page.--_Chicago
Journal._

                     =LITTLE. BROWN, AND COMPANY=

             =Publishers · 254 Washington Street, Boston=

                   *       *       *       *       *

                    _Romances of Colonial Virginia_

 By MAUD WILDER GOODWIN. Illustrated Holiday Edition. 2 vols. 16mo.
 Cloth, extra, gilt tops, put up in neat box, $3.00.

I. =The Head of a Hundred, in the Colony of Virgina, 1622=

 By MAUD WILDER GOODWIN. Illustrated with five full-page photogravure
 plates from drawings by Jessie Willcox Smith, Sophie B. Steel,
 Charlotte Harding, and Winfield S. Lukens; four decorative headings
 by Clyde O. De Land; and an ornamental titlepage by K. Pyle.

II. =White Aprons=

 A Romance of Bacon's Rebellion, Virginia, 1676. By MAUD WILDER
 GOODWIN. Illustrated with five full-page photogravure plates from
 drawings by A. McMakin, Clyde O. De Land, L. R. Dougherty, Margaret
 F. Winner, and Violet Oakley; four decorative headings by Clyde O. De
 Land; and an ornamental titlepage by K. Pyle.

                   *       *       *       *       *

                        _The Colonial Cavalier_

=Or, Southern Life Before the Revolution=

 By MAUD WILDER GOODWIN. New edition, with notes. With numerous
 full-page and smaller illustrations by Harry Edwards. 12mo. Cloth,
 extra, gilt top, $2.00. Full crushed morocco, gilt edges, $4.50.

This thoughtful and most suggestive and entertaining study of the
domestic and social life of the early settlers of Virginia and Maryland
has received the highest praise.

It gives us, through the old-time gossip of letters and diaries, and
the homely details of life and customs, _a fireside intimacy with old
Virginian and Maryland life which we have never had before_.--_New York
Evening Post._

_A delightful sketch of the colonial cavalier in his home, church,
state, and social relations._ We are made acquainted with the whole
man.--_The Outlook._

                     =LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY=

             =Publishers · 254 Washington Street, Boston=

                   *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

Many thanks to Chris Jordan for transcribing the music scores on pages
94 and 319-320 into digital form, and the HTML version of this work
includes links on those pages to PDF, MIDI, and MusicXML files for
the scores.

Pages 94 and 319-320: The music scores on these pages are marked by
"[Illustration (music score)]." The lyrics for the score on pages
319-320 include hyphens and spaces to indicate phrasing.

Pages 94-96: _The Dumb Maid_ is a traditional folk song, and lyrics for
a number of variants are on the World Wide Web under this title and
others, including _The Young Gallant Trappan'd_, _There Was a Country
Blade_, _The Dumb Wife_, _Dumb, Dumb, Dumb_, and _The Dumb Wife's
Tongue let Loose_. An audio recording of a variant made during _The
John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip_ is available
in _AFC 1939/001: AFS 02590b01 DLC-AFC American Folklife Center,
Library of Congress_ under the title _There Was a Country Blade_. The
notes on the page 94 score are too high for a male singer, who would
probably sing this an octave or more lower.

Pages 319-320: The music score is for the first verse of _Belle Qui
Tiens Ma Vie_ by Thoinot Arbeau (1520-1595). Numerous performances of
this are available on the World Wide Web, as well as lyrics for all the
verses, including translations into modern English. The spelling for
some words in the lyrics varies among different sources.

Punctuation has been made consistent.

Variations in spelling and hyphenation were retained as they appear in
the original publication, except as noted below.

Changes have been made as follows:

Page 34: "t'is" changed to "'tis" (breath; "'tis time)

Page 344: "non-commital" changed to "non-committal" (a non-committal
smile)





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