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Gilbert, W. B / Margaret Tudor A Romance of Old St. Augustine
Then came a message from the
captain, asking if I would see him. I was eager to be out, for many
reasons, the chief being my desire to see him from whom I had been so
long parted; it was his face I sought first among the many familiar ones
that crowded round me. Besides Captain Brayne I recognized other
officers of the _Carolina_ as the same with whom I had sailed from the
Downs nearly two years ago. All my fellow prisoners--save one--greeted
me joyfully and kindly. But that one missing face--where was it?

It was on my tongue to ask for Mr. Rivers; then, of a sudden, it came
over me _how_ we had parted. So! and he still believed me--that thing
which I had shown myself. He had nursed his doubts for two whole days
and nights, and now he would not even come forward to touch my hand and
wish me joy of my escape. It seemed to me I caught glances of pity
passing between one and another of the lookers-on. Did they wait to see
how Margaret Tudor would bear her lover's apathy? A jilted maid!

There was a mist before my eyes; but I smiled and said little gracious
words of thanks to each and all of them, and wished in my heart that I
was dead. Oh, my love! whatever doubts you may have had of me were paid
back that cruel moment in full measure. I recalled some of the hard
speeches I had heard from the embittered Spanish woman, and I thought
within myself, All men are made after the same pattern!

Captain Brayne and Master Collins and good old Captain Baulk of the
_Three Brothers_ had been in earnest conversation for some moments; and
now the _Carolina's_ commander came to me and took me gently by the
hand, leading me aside.

"Mistress Margaret," he said, "there is one aboard this ship to whom
your coming may mean life instead of death. He is very ill,--so ill that
we despaired of him till now,--and one name is ever on his lips. Are you
too weak and unstrung, my dear young lady, to go with me to his sick
bed?"

That was how the truth came to me. I cannot write of what I felt.

"Take me to him," I said.

He lay in his berth; his large eyes were alight with fever, and he was
talking ceaselessly, now in broken whispers, now with a proud defiance
in his husky tones.

"God knows what the devils did to him," murmured Henry Brayne. "He was
once a proper figure of a man; but starvation and ill usage have worn
him to a shadow!"

Aye, but a shadow with a gnawing sorrow at its heart.

"You may taunt me, Seņor de Melinza," whispered the broken voice, "you
may taunt me with my helplessness. I may not break these bonds, it is
true; but neither can you sever those that bind to me the love of a
true-hearted English maid.... That is a foul lie, Don Pedro, and I cast
it back into your teeth!... Strike a helpless prisoner? Do so, and you
add but another black deed to the long score that stands against the
name of Spaniard. Some day the reckoning will come, seņor--I dare stake
my soul on that!... I'll not believe it; no! not upon your oath, Don
Pedro!... Margaret, Margaret! Tell him he lies, dear lady!... In God's
name, speak, sweetheart!" And though I knelt beside him, and called his
name again and again, he was deaf to my voice and put me by with feeble
hands, crying ever: "Margaret! Margaret!" till I thought my heart would
break.

Oh! the terror of this new jailer--dread Disease--that held him in its
grip while Death lurked grimly in the background! For no wiles or
blandishments of mine could move them or loose their hold upon the life
most dear to me. When there was but man to deal with, my faith failed me
and I ceased praying; now it was my punishment that only God's mercy
could set my dear love free,--and it might be his pleasure to loose him
in another world and leave me still on earth to mourn his loss.

As, hour after hour, I listened to his ravings, a deeper understanding
of the horrors of his long captivity began to grow upon me. I could
scarce forbear crying out when I thought how I had touched the hand of
that vile Spaniard, and listened, smiling, when he spoke of love to me.

How terrible a thing is hatred! Heaven pardon me, but I think there is
somewhat of it in my heart. Yet, now that the fever is abating, and my
beloved is coming back to me from the very brink of the grave, I do pray
that I may forgive mine enemy, even as God in His clemency has pardoned
me!

* * * * *

He knows me at last. It was some hours ago. I was bending over him, and
a light of recognition dawned in his eyes.

"Margaret! _Margaret!_ is it _you_? I dreamed just now----that----that
you were untrue to me!"

"Did you so, dear love?" I answered. "Forget it then, and rest; for now
the fever and the dreams are past."

He smiled at me and fell asleep like a little child.

* * * * *

In the long hours that I have watched beside him I have written these
last pages of my story; and some time, when he is awake and strong
enough to bear the truth, I will put them all into his hand and leave
him here alone. And I think, when he has read them through to the end,
he will discern--between the lines--more of my heart than I have words
to tell.



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