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Gilbert, W. B / Margaret Tudor A Romance of Old St. Augustine
Some few of the Indians
likewise made the sign upon their breasts, though the greater part
contained themselves with the same stolidity that had marked them from
the first.

Mr. Rivers gave a low laugh, and turned to me with a curling lip. "These
be Christians," he said.

The Spaniard caught the sneer, and a scowl gathered on his coarse face;
but he checked it suddenly and began in smooth tones to address us.

Old Captain Baulk had raised himself to a sitting posture, and the
seamen all held themselves in attitudes of strained attention.

"What says he?" I asked, in a whisper, of my dear love, when the friar
had ceased and turned away from us.

"Naught but a tissue of lies," exclaimed Mr. Rivers, through his
clenched teeth. "He would have us believe that he is wholly
irresponsible for the doings of these 'banditos'; but he will exert what
influence he has among the believers of his flock to procure our
release,--I would we had fallen among infidels! These can have learned
naught of their teacher but deceit. They tricked us, on the plea of our
most mutual confidence, to lay aside our arms, and then fell instantly
upon us and made us captive."

"I would to Heaven I could have gone back to the ship and given
warning," I sighed dolefully. "Yet perhaps some of them may come out to
search for us."

"Now God forbid!" exclaimed Mr. Rivers, "for they would walk into a
trap. Some of these Indians have muskets and ammunition, and are
therefore as well armed as our men. If many more of us were taken there
would not be left able-bodied men enough to sail the sloop. 'Twould be
better if they held off and waited for the Indians to take the
initiative. My hope is that we will be able to treat with the savages
for ransom,--that is, if the friar bears us no real ill will. See, here
he comes again, with his oily tongue."

The shifty eyes and full-lipped mouth of the man filled me with a
sudden loathing. Fear began to take hold of me at last, and a little sob
broke in my throat.

My dear love turned to me with a quick, warm glance.

"Cheer up, sweetheart," he whispered. "It is too soon to lose courage.
Come, where is my brave Margaret?"

"Here!" I answered, and forced a smile on my quivering lips.




CHAPTER III.


The rest of the day passed by like a long nightmare. The friar had us
removed to a small but strongly built hut, containing two rooms,
separated by a thin partition of hides nailed to a row of upright studs.
These were of squared timber, as was the floor also, and the outer frame
and wall-plate. The roof and sides were overlaid with thatch; and there
was no window, only a square opening in the roof which admitted the
light, and also let out the smoke when a fire was built upon the floor.

As dark came on, two young Indian girls entered the hut, where we sat,
bound, with our backs against the wall.

They seemed kindly disposed and gentle-mannered, for all their
outlandish garb, which consisted of a petticoat of long gray moss, and
strings of little shells and beads of divers colours festooned about the
neck.

They loosed Barbara and me, for which we were mightily grateful, as our
arms had grown numb and sore. We made signs that they should cut the
bonds of the men also, which they declined to do. Yet they touched us
with gentle hands, and stroked our shoulders in token of their good
will.

After this they brought wet clay and spread it upon the floor, and on
this laid a fire and kindled it; going forth again, they returned with
food and set it before us, making signs that we who were free should
feed the rest.

While I was serving my dear love--who made pitiable pretence of enjoying
my ministrations--the friar entered the hut, accompanied by two others
who were doubtless of mixed Spanish and Indian blood.

They bore with them heavy manacles and chains, which they fastened upon
our men, cutting the leathern thongs which had held them until now.

Mr. Rivers demanded to know by whose orders this was done.

"For it would seem our true jailers are not the Indians. These fetters
are of Spanish forging. Is it to your nation, padre, we are indebted for
this urgent hospitality?"

To this the friar made answer at great length, and what he said appeared
to enrage our men, who broke forth in a round volley of oaths as soon as
our jailers had left the hut. I turned to Mr. Rivers for explanation.

"'Tis as I supposed," he said, "and the friar is at the bottom of it
all. He maintains now that in landing here and attempting to trade with
the Indians we have committed an offence against the sovereignty of
Santo Domingo, which claims all this coast as Spanish territory. These
Indians, he declares, are under the protection of his government, and
therefore are not free to dispose of any goods to us English, or to
receive any favours at our hands; as such dealings would be to the
prejudice of the Spanish rights and influence over this country.
Therefore he has claimed us from the Indians and proposes himself to
hold us prisoners, awaiting the decision of the Governor at San
Augustin."

As I look back now, it seems to me that in those first hours of our
captivity I grew older by many years. That gladsome morning, with its
wilful moods and joyous daring, fell away back into the past, and seemed
as unreal as the day-dreams of my childhood.

We slept that night, Dame Barbara and I, upon a soft and springy couch
of moss piled in the little inner room. That is to say, we lay there
silently; but I think I scarce closed my eyes.

The wind, drifting through the gaping thatch, caught the loose corner of
a shrivelled strip of hide dangling on the rude partition wall, and
kept it swinging back and forth, with a faint tap-tap, tap-tap, the
whole night long. As it swung outward I could catch fleeting glimpses of
the little group huddled about the dying fire; and for hours I lay and
listened to the low murmur of their voices and the heavy clank and
rattle of their chains.

Old Captain Baulk was in a garrulous mood, and he poured into the
sailors' ears a horrid tale of how the Spaniards had massacred the first
French settlers on this coast.

"'Twas just about one hundred years ago," he droned in a gruesome
whisper. "Ribault's settlement was on the River May, somewhere in these
latitudes. There were about nine hundred of them in all, 'tis said,
counting the women and children; and not one of them escaped. The bodies
of dead and wounded were alike hung upon a tree for the crows----"

"In God's name, hold your croaking tongue!" Mr. Rivers broke in angrily.
"'Tis bad enough for the women as things are, and if they overhear these
old wives' tales, think you it will make them rest easier?"

"Not old wives' tales, Mr. Rivers, but the fact, sir,--the bloody fact."

"Silence!" whispered my betrothed, in a voice that made me tremble,--for
he hath a hot temper when it is roused. "Unless thou canst hold that
ill-omened tongue of thine, there presently will be another bloody fact
between thy teeth!"

A sudden silence fell. 'Twas broken finally by my dear love, whose
generous nature soon repented of a harshly spoken word.

"I was over-hasty, my good Baulk; but I would not for the world have
Mistress Tudor hear aught of those horrors. And times have changed
greatly in an hundred years. But this inaction, this inaction! 'Tis
terrible upon a man!"

A suppressed groan accompanied the exclamation, and my heart ached for
him. It must indeed be hard for men--who are used to carving their own
fates and wresting from fortune their desires--suddenly to be forced to
play the woman's part of patient waiting.

The next day brought no relief.

From the windowless hut we could see naught of what passed without; but
about an hour before noon we heard a drum beat in the village. The sound
grew ever fainter, as though receding; then came the distant report of
musketry, and we grew anxious for our people on the sloop. Hours passed
by, and again came the sound of heavy firing, which gradually died away
as before.

Late in the afternoon we were joined by another prisoner, whom--from his
dress of skins--we mistook at first sight for a young Indian; but 'twas
no other than the lad Poole, who was in Mr. Rivers's service and most
loyally attached to his master.

From him we learned that the Indians and some Spaniards had been
parleying with our men all day. He had swum ashore with a letter to the
friar, and had been received with kindness by the savages, who clad him
after their own fashion. The friar, however, vouchsafed him no reply;
and after a time gave a signal to his men to fire on the sloop. The
arrows of the Indians and the muskets of the Spaniards had finally
compelled the _Three Brothers_ to weigh anchor and put out to sea.




CHAPTER IV.


Day after day dragged by. We grew aweary of discussing the possibilities
of our escape and fell gradually into silence.

It was on the first day of June that Don Pedro de Melinza arrived in the
galley from San Augustin, and our captivity took on a new phase.

He is a handsome man, this Spanish Don, and he bears himself with the
airs of a courtier--when it so pleases him. As he stood that day at the
open door of our hut prison, in the full glow of the summer morning, he
was a goodly sight. His thick black hair was worn in a fringe of wavy
locks that rested lightly on his flaring collar. His leathern doublet
fitted close to his slight, strong figure, and through its slashed
sleeves there was a shimmer of fine silk. In his right hand he held his
plumed sombrero against his breast; his left rested carelessly on the
hilt of his sword.

I could find no flaw in his courteous greetings; but I looked into his
countenance and liked it not.

The nose was straight and high, the keen dark eyes set deep in the olive
face; but beneath the short, curled moustache projected a full, red
under lip.

Show me, in a man, an open brow, a clear eye, a firm-set mouth, and a
chin that neither aims to meet the nose nor lags back upon the breast;
and I will dub him honest, and brave, and clean-minded. But if his
forehead skulks backward, his chin recedes, and his nether lip curls
over redly--though the other traits be handsome, and the figure full of
grace and strength controlled--trust that man I never could! Such an one
I saw once in my early childhood. My mother pointed him out to me and
bade me note him well.

"That man," she said, "was once your father's friend and close comrade;
yet now he walks free and lives in ease, while my poor husband is in
slavery. Why is it thus? Because he over yonder was false to his oath,
to his friends, and to his king. He sold them all, like Esau, for a mess
of pottage. Mark him well, my child, and beware of his like; for in
these days they are not a few, and woe to any who trust in them!"

I remembered those words of my mother when the Seņor Don Pedro de
Melinza y de Colis made his bow to us that summer's day. The meaning of
his courtly phrases was lost upon me; but I gathered from his manner
that he had come in the guise of a friend,--and I trembled at the
prospect of such friendship.

Nevertheless I was right glad when the fetters were struck from my dear
love and his companions, and we were taken upon the Spanish galley and
served like Christians.

At the earliest opportunity Mr. Rivers hastened to make things clear to
me. "Our deliverer"--so he termed him, whereat I marvelled
somewhat,--"our deliverer assures me that Padre Ignacio's action is
condemned greatly by his uncle, Seņor de Colis, the Governor and
Captain-General at San Augustin. Don Pedro has been sent to transport us
thither, where we will be entertained with some fitness until we can
communicate with our friends."

"Says he so? 'Twill be well if he keeps his word; but to my thinking he
has not the face of an honest man."

Mr. Rivers looked at me gravely. "That is a hard speech from such gentle
lips," he said. "Don Pedro is a Spanish gentleman of high lineage. His
uncle, Seņor de Colis, is a knight of the Order of St. James. Such hold
their honour dear. Until he gives us cause to distrust him, let us have
the grace to believe that he _is_ an honest man."

I looked back into the frank gray eyes of my true and gallant love, and
I felt rebuked. 'Twas a woman's instinct, only, that made me doubt the
Spaniard; and this simple trust of a noble nature in the integrity of
his fellow man seemed a vastly finer instinct than my own.

From that moment I laid by my suspicions, and met the courteous advances
of Seņor de Melinza with as much of graciousness as I knew how. But, as
we spoke for the most part in different tongues, little conversation was
possible to us.

I marvelled at the ease with which Mr. Rivers conversed in both Spanish
and French. Of the latter I was not wholly ignorant myself,--although in
my quiet country life I had had little opportunity of putting my
knowledge to the test, seldom attempting to do more than "prick in some
flowers" of foreign speech upon the fabric of my mother tongue; so it
was with great timidity that I essayed at first to thread the mazes of
an unfamiliar language.

The Spaniard, however, greeted my attempts with courteous comprehension,
and after a time I was emboldened to ask some questions concerning the
town of San Augustin, and to comment upon the vivid beauty of the skies
and the blue waves around us. Upon that he broke into rapturous praises
of his own land of Spain--"the fairest spot upon the earth!" As I
listened, smilingly, it seemed to me that I perceived a shadow gathering
upon the brow of my dear love.

So far the galley had depended solely upon her oars--of which there were
six banks, of two oars each, on either side,--but now, the wind having
freshened, Don Pedro ordered her two small lateen sails to be hoisted.
While he was giving these directions and superintending their
fulfilment, Mr. Rivers drew closer to my side, saying, in a rapid
whisper:

"You have somewhat misread me, sweetheart, in regard to your demeanour
toward our host. 'Tis surely needless for you to put yourself to the
pain of conversing with him at such length."

Now it must be remembered that in the last few hours our situation had
greatly changed. I had left a dark and dirty hovel for a cushioned couch
upon a breezy deck. In the tiny cabin which had been placed at my
disposal, I had, with Barbara's aid, rearranged my tangled locks and my
disordered clothing; so that I was no longer ashamed of my untidy
appearance. With my outward transformation there had come a reaction in
my spirits, which bounded upward to their accustomed level.

The salt air was fresh upon my cheek; the motion of our vessel,
careening gaily on the dancing waves, was joyous and inspiring. I forgot
that we were sailing southward, and that, if our English friends had
survived to begin their intended settlement, we were leaving them
farther and farther behind. My thoughts went back to the earlier days of
our journey over seas; and a flash of the wilful mischief, which I
thought had all died from my heart, rose suddenly within me.

I leaned back upon my cushioned seat and looked with half-veiled eyes at
my gallant gentleman.

"These nice distinctions, Mr. Rivers, are too difficult for me," I said.
"If this Spanish cavalier of high lineage and honest intentions is
worthy of any gratitude, methinks a few civil words can scarcely overpay
him."

A heightened colour in the cheek of my betrothed testified to the warmth
of his feelings in the matter, as he replied:

"You are wholly in the right, my dearest lady! If civil words can cancel
aught of our indebtedness I shall not be sparing of them. Nevertheless,
permit me, I entreat you, to assume the entire burden of our gratitude
and the whole payment thereof."

"Not so," I rejoined, with some spirit. "Despite our beggared fortunes,
I trust no one has ever found a Tudor bankrupt in either courtesy or
gratitude; and--by your leave, sir--I will be no exception!"

This I said, not because I was so mightily beholden to the Spaniard;
but--shame upon me!--because Mr. Rivers had chosen to reprove me, a
while since, for my uncharity.

'Tis passing strange how we women can find pleasure in giving pain to
the man we love; while if he suffered from any other cause we would
gladly die to relieve him! 'Twould seem a cruel trait in a woman's
character--and I do trust that I am not cruel! But I must admit that
when I greeted Don Pedro, on his return, with added cordiality, it was
nothing in his dark, eager countenance that set my heart beating--but
rather the glimpse I had caught of a bitten lip, a knotted brow, and a
pair of woeful gray eyes gazing out to sea.

Repentance came speedily, however. There was that in the Spaniard's
manner that aroused my sleeping doubts of him; and I soon fell silent
and sought to be alone.

My gallant gentleman had withdrawn himself in a pique, and, in the
company of old Captain Baulk and the lad Poole, seemed to have wholly
forgotten my existence.

I made Dame Barbara sit beside me, and, feigning headache, leaned my
head upon her shoulder and closed my eyes. The dame rocked herself
gently to and fro, and from time to time gave vent to smothered prayers
and doleful ejaculations that set my thoughts working upon my own
misdoings.

Through my half-shut eyes I saw the sun go down behind the strip of
shore, and watched the blue skies pale to faintest green and richest
amber. A little flock of white cloudlets, swimming in the transparent
depths, caught fire suddenly and changed to pink flames, then glowed
darkly red like burning coals, and faded, finally to gray ashes in the
purpling west.

"Lord, have mercy on our sinful hearts!" groaned Dame Barbara softly.

"Amen!" I sighed, and wondered what ailed mine, that it could be so very
wicked as to add to the burden of anxiety that my dear love had to bear!
A few tears stole from under my half-closed lids, and I was very
miserable and forlorn, when suddenly I felt a hand laid upon mine.

I looked up hastily, and saw the face of my gallant gentleman, very
grave and penitent, in the fast-deepening twilight. My heart gave a glad
leap within my bosom; but I puckered my lips woefully and heaved a
mighty sigh.

"Thank you, dear Dame, for your kind nursing," I said to Barbara.
"Truly, I know not what I should do without your motherly comforting at
times."

Mr. Rivers took my hand, and drew me gently away, saying:

"See what a bright star hangs yonder, above the sombre shores!"

I glanced at the glittering point of light, and then, over my shoulder,
at the shadowy decks. The Spaniard was not in sight, and only the bent
figure of the dame was very near.

My dear love raised my fingers to his lips. "Forgive me, sweetheart, for
being so churlish--but you cannot know the fears that fill me when I see
that man's dark face gazing into yours, and realize that we are utterly
in his power."

"Surely he would not harm me!" I said, hastily.

"'Tis that he may learn to love you," said Mr. Rivers gravely.

"He may spare himself the pain of it!" I cried. "Have you not told him
that we are betrothed?"

"Aye, love--but he may lose his heart in spite of that. What wonder if
he does? The miracle would be if he could look upon your face unmoved."

"Am I so wondrous pretty, then?"

"Fairer than any woman living!" he declared. I knew well enough it was a
tender falsehood, but since he seemed to believe it himself it was every
whit as satisfactory as if it had been truth!

"Be comforted," I whispered, reassuringly. "I know very well how to make
myself quite homely. I have only to pull all my curls back from my brow
and club them behind: straightway I will become so old and ugly that no
man would care to look me twice in the face. Wait till to-morrow, and
you will see!"

A laugh broke from Mr. Rivers's lips, and then he sighed heavily.

"Nay, sweetheart, if it be the head-dress you assumed one day some
months ago for my peculiar punishment, I pray you will not try its
efficacy on the Spaniard; for it serves but to make you the more
irresistible."

But already I have dwelt longer upon myself and my own feelings than is
needful for the telling of my tale.



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