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Gilbert, W. B / Margaret Tudor A Romance of Old St. Augustine
With a deeper flush on her olive
cheek, and a prouder poise of her haughty head, she made to me at last
the signal for withdrawal.

The three gentlemen, glasses in hand, rose from their seats; and, as we
passed beneath the arched trellis that led away from the paved court
into the fragrant garden, Don Pedro lifted his glass to his lips with a
gesture in our direction, and exclaimed in French:

"To the fairest face in San Augustin! To the brightest eyes and the lips
most worthy of kisses! May the light of those eyes never be withdrawn
from these old walls, nor the lips lack a Spanish blade to guard them
from all trespassers!"

The Governor, who understood not the French words, lifted his glass in
courteous imitation of his nephew's gesture; but Mr. Rivers coloured
hotly and set down his upon the table.

"I like not your toast, Seņor Melinza, whichever way I construe it. The
face I hold fairest here shall leave San Augustin the day that I
depart; and, since it is the face of my promised wife, it needs no other
sword than mine to fend off trespassers!"

He, too, spoke in French; and as the words passed his lips I felt the
soft, strong hand of Doņa Orosia grasp my arm and drag me backward among
the screening vines, beyond the red light of the tapers, where we could
listen unseen.

Melinza was laughing softly. "Seņor Rivers says he cannot construe my
toast to his liking; but perhaps if I give it him in the Spanish tongue
he may find the interpretation more to his taste!" Then he lifted his
glass again and slowly repeated the words in his own language, with a
meaning glance toward the Governor.

The old man drained his goblet to the dregs, and then turned a flushed
face upon the Englishman and laid his hand upon his sword.

My dear love had no thoughts of prudence left,--for Melinza's words had
been a direct charge of cowardice,--so for all answer he took the frail
goblet from the table and threw it in the younger Spaniard's face.

There was a tinkle of broken glass upon the stone pavement, and Melinza
wiped the red wine from his cheek. Then he held up the stained kerchief
before the eyes of my dear love and spoke a few words in his softest
voice.

An angry smile flickered over the countenance of my betrothed; he bowed
stiffly in response.

The blear-eyed Governor broke in hotly, with his hand still upon his
sword; his dull eyes narrowed, and the blood mounted higher in his
wrinkled cheek: but his nephew laid a restraining hand upon his arm,
and, with another laughing speech and a profound bow to Mr. Rivers,
pointed toward the door.

I saw the three of them depart through the passageway that led to the
street entrance. I heard the creak of the hinges, and the clang of the
bars as they fell back into place. Then a strong, sweet odour of crushed
blossoms turned me faint. I loosed my hold of the screening vines and
stepped backward with a sudden struggle for breath.

The woman beside me caught my arm a second time and drew me still
farther away down the moonlit path.

"Is he aught of a swordsman, this fine cavalier of thine?" she demanded,
grasping my shoulder tightly and scanning my face with her scornful
eyes.

Then my senses came to me: I knew what had happened--what was bound to
follow; and I began to speak wildly and to pray her to prevent bloodshed
between them.

I scarce know what I said; but the words poured from my lips, and for
very despair I checked them not. I told her of my orphan state--of that
lone grave in Barbadoes, and the sad young mother who had died of a
broken heart; I spoke of the long, long journey over seas, the love that
had come into my life, and the dreams and the hopes that had filled our
thoughts when we reached the fair, strange shores of this new country;
and I prayed her, as she was a woman and a wife, to let no harm come to
my dear love.

"Ah! madame," I cried, "a face so fair as yours needs not the
championship of one English stranger, who holds already a preference for
blue eyes and yellow hair. I grant you that he has a sorry taste; but
oh! I pray you, stop this duel!"

She loosed her hand from the clasp of mine, and looked at me a moment in
silence; then she laughed bitterly.

"Thou little fool! Thou little blue-eyed fool! What do men see in that
face of thine to move them so? A painter might love thee for the gold of
thy hair, thy white brow, and thy blue eyes,--they would grace a
pictured saint above a shrine,--but for a man's kisses, and such love
as might tempt him to risk his very life for thee,--_cielos_! it is more
than passing strange." Then, as I stood dumb before her, she tapped me
lightly on the cheek. "Go to! Art such a fool as to think that _either_
sword will be drawn for _my_ beauty's sake?"




CHAPTER VIII.


That night I had but little sleep.

About an hour after midnight there was a great stir in the house and the
sound of opening doors and hurrying footsteps. The unwonted noises
terrified me. I leaned against the door, with a heart beating thickly,
and I listened. What evil tidings did those sounds portend? There was a
loud outcry in a woman's voice,--the voice of Doņa Orosia.

I felt that I must know what havoc Fate had wrought in the last hours. I
looked at Barbara--she slumbered peacefully on her hard pallet; the
moonlight, streaming through the barred window, showed me her withered
face relaxed in almost childlike peacefulness. I would not rouse
her,--'twas a blessed thing to sleep and forget; but _I_ dared not
sleep, for I knew not what would be the horror of my waking. With my
cheek pressed close against the door I waited a moment longer. Perhaps
only those planks intervened 'twixt me and my life's tragedy!

I laid my hand upon the latch. I feared to know the truth,--and yet, if
I did not hear it, I must die of dread. Slowly I turned the key and
raised the bars: the door swung open.

I stepped out upon the balcony that overhung the court and I looked
over. There was no one in sight; the white moonlight lay over
everything, and a strong perfume floated up from the flowers in the
garden beyond.

I crept down the stair and stood still in the centre of the empty court.
Voices sounded near me, but I knew not whence they came. Trembling
still, I moved toward the passage that led to the outer door, and I saw
that it was bright as day. The door stood ajar. Those who had last gone
out had been strangely forgetful--or greatly agitated.

Scarce knowing what I did, I crossed the threshold and hurried down the
street in the direction of the fort.

A group of three men stood upon the corner. At the sight of them I
paused and hid in the shadow of the wall; but, one of them turning his
face toward me, I recognized Captain Baulk, and, going quickly forward,
I laid my hand upon his arm.

"How is he? Where have they taken him?" I whispered.

"What! is't Mistress Tudor? Have they turned you adrift, then? Lor',
'tis a frail craft to be out o' harbour such foul weather!"

"How is he?" I repeated, tightening my grasp upon his sleeve.

"Dead as a pickled herring, poor lad!"

My head struck heavily against the wall as I fell, but I made no outcry.

"Sink me! but the poor lassie thought I meant Mr. Rivers!" I heard the
old sailor exclaim as he dropped on his knees beside me,--and the words
stayed my failing senses.

"Whom did you mean?" I gasped.

"Young Poole has been done to death, Mistress Margaret. As honest a lad
as ever lived, too,--more's the pity!"

I struggled to raise myself, crying: "What do you tell me? Have they
killed the lad in pure spite against his master? And where is Mr.
Rivers?"

They made me no answer.

"He is dead, then! I knew it, my heart told me so!"

"Eh! poor lass! 'Tis not so bad as that--yet bad enough. They've hung
chains enough upon him to anchor a man-o'-war, and moored him fast in
the dungeon of the fort. D--n 'em for a crew o' dastard furriners!--an'
he own cousin to an English earl!"

"Can you not tell me a straight tale?" I cried. "What has he done to be
so ill served? And whose the enmity behind it all,--Melinza's, or the
Governor's?"

"Lor'!" exclaimed one of the sailors, "the young Don is past revenge,
mistress. If he lives out the night 'tis more than I look to see."

"Here, now, let me tell the tale, lad," the old captain interposed.
"'Twas a duel began it, Mistress Tudor. The young bloods were so keen
after fighting they could not wait for sunrise, but must needs have it
out by moonlight on the beach. 'Twas over yonder, in the lee of the
castle walls."

"Mr. Rivers and Don Pedro?"

"Aye, mistress. The Governor was not by,--'tis likely he knew naught of
it."

"Not so!" I cried, "he had his share in the quarrel, and they left the
house in company."

"Mayhap," said Captain Baulk, "I'd not gainsay it--for I trust no one o'
them; but he chose to go with his weather eye shut rather than take
precaution 'gainst the squall. So they had it out all by their
selves,--and none of us a whit the wiser, saving young Poole, who had
guessed somewhat was amiss and followed his master."

"What then? Speak quickly! Was Mr. Rivers wounded?"

"Not he! That's to say, not by any thrust of the Don's. Lor', but it
must ha' been a pretty fight! Pity no man saw it that lives to tell!"

"In the name of mercy, sir, speak plainly!"

"Aye, my young mistress, but give me time an' I will. Mr. Rivers ere
long did get in such a thrust that the Don went down before it as
suddenly as a ship with all her hull stove in. He lay stranded, with the
blood flowing away in a dark stream over the white sands. Our young
gentleman, gallant heart, did throw away his sword and fall down beside
the Spaniard and strive to staunch his wounds, crying aloud most lustily
for aid. Who should hear him but young Poole and that yellow devil of a
Tomas! They came from opposite quarters, and Poole was in the shadow, so
the other saw him not. The mulatto ran up alongside, and, seeing 'twas
the Don who had fallen, he whipped out a knife from his belt and struck
at our young master as he knelt there on the ground. Nay, now, do not
take on so! Did I not say he was but little hurt? Had the blow struck
him fairly in the back, as it was meant to do, doubtless it would have
put an end to him; but Poole was to the rescue, poor lad! He threw
himself on the mulatto in the nick o' time. The knife had barely grazed
Mr. Rivers on the shoulder; but young Tomas never let go his hold of it.
He and the faithful lad rolled together on the ground--and Poole never
rose again. His body was stabbed through in a dozen places. Mr. Rivers
had no time to interfere; ere he could rise from his knees, or even put
out a hand to take his sword, a dozen soldiers had laid hands on him.
That devil of a Tomas finished his evil work, and then picked himself up
and walked away; never a one laid a finger on him or cried shame on the
foul deed!"

The old sailor paused, and each man of the group breathed a curse
through his clinched teeth.

"They have taken Mr. Rivers to the dungeon of the fort?" I whispered.

"Aye, so they tell us. None of us were there, which is perhaps for the
good of our necks,--yet I would we had had a chance to strike a blow in
defence of the poor lad."

"And the Spaniard--Don Pedro?"

"They carried him into the Governor's own house a while since. I think
his wound is mortal."

"Then he has brought his death upon himself, for he forced Mr. Rivers
into the quarrel," I declared hastily.

"'Twas bound to come," admitted Captain Baulk, "there has been bad
blood between them from the very first. But what are we to do with you,
mistress? Did they put you out in anger?"

"Nay," I exclaimed, "I heard a great disturbance and hastened out to
seek the cause. The outer door was left unbarred."

"Why then, mistress, we would best make for it again before 'tis shut!
This is no hour and no place for a young maid to be out alone." Taking
me by the hand he led me back the way I had come; but we were too late.
The entrance was closed and barred against us.

"Now, what's to do?" exclaimed the old sailor in dismay.

I had been too crushed and dazed by the ill news to think before of my
imprudence; but now I realized how very unwisely I had acted. I turned
hastily to the old captain.

"Go and leave me, my good friend," I said. "Already there has been
enough trouble of my making. Do not let me have to answer for more. I
will wait here and call for some one to open for me. 'Tis better for me
to say what is the truth--that I wandered out in my anxiety. Go, I pray
you, and be discrete in your conduct, that they may have no just cause
to imprison you also."

He saw the wisdom of it and went away out of sight, while I beat with
all my might upon the door.

In a moment steps sounded within, the bars fell, and the door was drawn
back. It was the Governor himself who stood there. He looked at me in
astonishment as he drew aside for me to pass.

I attempted no explanation; for I knew he could not understand me.
Doubtless he would tell his lady and she would hold me to account.
Slowly I mounted to the balcony above and pushed open the door of my
chamber.

The dame still slept peacefully. I went softly to the window and knelt
down. My heart was sick for the faithful lad who had died in defending
Mr. Rivers. Poor boy! He had no mother--I wonder if there was a little
lass anywhere whom he loved? But no, he was young for that. I think his
love was all his master's. And to die for those whom we love best is not
so sad a fate as to live for their undoing!

The hot tears ran down my face. I leaned my cheek against the bars and
set free my thoughts, which flew, as swift as homing pigeons, to my dear
love in his dungeon cell.

Oh! I would that all the prayers I pray, and all the tender thoughts I
think of him, had wings in very truth; and that after they had flown
heavenward they might bear thence some balm, some essence of divinest
pity, to cheer him in his loneliness! If it were so, then there would be
in never-ending flight, up from the barred window where I kneel, and
downward to the narrow slit in his prison wall, two shining lines of
fluttering white wings coming and going all these long nights through!




CHAPTER IX.


Many days have passed since I began to write these pages.

All the morning after that terrible night, with Barbara I waited
fearfully for some manifestation of Doņa Orosia's anger. But there was
none, nor were we summoned out that day. Food was brought to us, and we
remained like prisoners in our chamber. Don Pedro was very low, the
servant told us, and the Governor's lady was nursing him.

A week went by,--the longest week I had ever known,--and then we heard
that Melinza would recover. However, it was not until he had lain ill a
fortnight that Doņa Orosia came to visit me.

I was sitting by the window with my head upon my hand, and Barbara was
putting some stitches in the worn places in her gown, when the door
opened to admit my hostess.

She came straight toward me with a glint of anger in her dark eyes. The
long nights of anxious watching had driven back the blood from her
smooth olive cheek, and the red lips showed the redder for her
unaccustomed pallor. She laid one hand on my head, tilting it backward.

"You little white-faced fool! I would you had never set foot in this
town," she cried bitterly.

"Ah! madame, I came not of my own free will," I answered her. "I and my
dear love would willingly go hence, an you gave us the means to do so!"

"'Tis likely that we shall, truly," she replied. "'Tis likely that the
Governor of San Augustin will keep a galley to ply up and down the coast
for the convenience of you English intruders! There came two more of you
this morning, from the friar at Santa Catalina."

"Two more English prisoners!" I exclaimed. "Who are they, madame?"

"I know not, and I care not," she said. "I meddle not with things that
do not concern me. I come here now but to hear how you came to be on the
streets at midnight. Had I been in the Governor's place then, I would
have shut the door in your face."

I told her the truth, as it had happened to me; and when she had heard
it her brow lightened somewhat.

"Are you deceiving me? You did not leave here till _after_ the duel had
taken place?"

"Madame," I said, "I have never yet told a lie, and I would not now were
it to save my life."

Her lip curled slightly as she turned to go. "Stir not from this room,
then, until Don Pedro is well enough to leave the house," she said. "If
I could prevent it he should never look upon your face again." She
paused an instant, then added: "I _will_ prevent it!"

"Amen to that!" I said, and I felt the blood burn warmly in my cheek.

She turned and looked at me, and I met her gaze with defiant eyes.

"Amen to that, madame!--for truly I hate him with all my heart!"

She stood still, a slow crimson rising in her pale face, and I trembled
a little at my own daring. Then, to my surprise, she laughed at me.

"You think that you hate him desperately?" she exclaimed. "Silly child,
it is not in thy power to hate that man as I do, as I have done for
years!" and with that she went away and left me wondering.




CHAPTER X.


July, the 16th day.

Two things have happened recently to break the sad monotony of my life
within these walls.

Doņa Orosia and Melinza have had a disagreement, which has resulted in
his removal hence--at his own demand. Although I know nothing of the
cause of their quarrel, Doņa Orosia's last words to me, the other day,
make it possible to understand the man's reluctance to remain here in
her care,--and yet they say it was her nursing that saved his life! I
would that I could understand it all!

Since his departure I have had the freedom of the courtyard and garden;
and yesterday, by good chance, I had speech with one of the newly
arrived English prisoners.

It had been a day of terrible heat, and just at nightfall I wandered out
into the garden all alone. There is a high wall to it, which so joins
the dwelling that together they form a hollow square. This wall is of
soft gray stone; it is of a good thickness, and about a man's height.
Along the top of it sharp spikes are set; and near one corner is a
wrought-iron gate of great strength, which is kept securely locked.

It is not often that I venture near this gate, for it looks out upon the
street, and I care not to be seen by any Indian or half-breed Spaniard
who might go loitering by; but as I stood in the vine-covered arbour in
the centre of the garden I heard a man's voice from the direction of the
gate, humming a stave of a maritime air that I had heard sung oft and
again by the sailors on the sloop, in which some unknown fair one is
ardently invited to--

"--be the Captain's lady!"

and I knew it must be a friend. So I made haste thither and peered out
into the street.

Sure enough it was old Captain Baulk, and with him a gentleman whose
face, even in the twilight, was well known to me,--he being none other
than Mr. John Collins of Barbadoes (the same who had given us news of my
poor father's end, and one of our fellow passengers on the _Three
Brothers_).

They both greeted me most kindly and inquired earnestly how I did and if
I was well treated. It seems that for days they had been trying to get
speech with me, but could find none to deliver a message; so for two
nights past they had hung about the gate, hoping that by chance I might
come out to them.

Mr. Collins related to me how the sloop had been sent back to Santa
Catalina with letters to the friar and the Governor of San Augustin,
demanding our release on the ground that as peace was now subsisting
between the crowns of England and of Spain, and no act of hostility had
been committed by us, our capture was unwarrantable. But Padre Ignacio,
with his plausible tongue, had beguiled them ashore into his power.

"The man is a very devil for fair words and smooth deceits," declared
Mr. Collins. "In spite of all the warnings we had received, some of us
landed without first demanding hostages of the Indians; and when we
would have departed two of us were forcibly detained on pretence of our
lacking proper credentials to prove our honesty.



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