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Gilbert, W. B / Margaret Tudor A Romance of Old St. Augustine

I have one other accomplishment that has won me more favour with the
Governor's wife than aught else. She discovered, one day, that I have
some skill with the lute, and a voice not lacking in sweetness; and now
she will have me sing to her by the hour until my throat is weary and I
have to plead for rest.

I had, recently, a conversation with her that has haunted me every hour
since; for it showed me a side of her nature that I had not seen before,
and that leads me to think that under her caprice and petulance there is
a deep purpose hidden.

I had exhausted my list of songs, and as she still demanded more I
bethought me of a curious old ballad I had heard many years ago. The air
eluded me for some while; but my fingers, straying over the strings,
fell suddenly into the plaintive melody; with it, the words too came
back to me.

I bade my love fareweel, wi' tears;
He bade fareweel to me.
"How sall I pass the lang, lang years?"
"I maun be gane," quo' he.

The tear-draps frae mine een did rin
Like water frae a spring;
But while I grat, my love gaed in
To feast and reveling!

The tear-draps frae mine een did start
Salt as the briny tide:
Sae sair my grief, sae fu' my heart,
I wept a river wide.

Adoon that stream my man did rove,
And crossed the tearfu' sea.
O whaur'll I get a leal true love
To bide at hame wi' me?

The lang, lang years they winna pass;
My lord is still awa'.
Mayhap he loves a fairer lass--
O wae the warst ava!

How sall I wile my lover hame?
I'll drink the tearfu' seas!
My red mou' to their briny faem,
I'll drain them to the lees!

Then gin he comes na hameward soon
His ain true love to wed,
I'll kilt my claes and don my shoon
And cross the sea's dry bed.

"Oh in thine heart, my love, my lord,
Mak' room, mak' room for me;
Or at thy feet, by my true word,
Thy lady's grave sall be!"

"A melancholy air, yet with somewhat of a pleasing sadness in its minor
cadences," commented Doņa Orosia when I had ceased. "Translate me the
words, an your Spanish is sufficient."

"That it is not, I fear," was my reply, "and the task is beyond me for
the further reason that the song is not even English, but in a dialect
of the Scots. 'Tis only the plaint of a poor lady whose mind seems to
have gone astray in her long waiting for a faithless lover"--and I gave
her the sense of the verses as best I could.

"Nay," said the Spanish woman, with a singular smile. "She hath more wit
than you credit her with. You mark me, the flood of a woman's tears will
bear a man further than a mighty river, and her sighs waft him away more
speedily than the strongest gale. And once he has gone, taking with him
such a memory of her, 'twould be far easier for her to drink the ocean
dry than to wile him home. For let a man but suspect that a woman
_could_ break her heart for him, and he----is more than content to let
her do it!"

She paused; but I made no answer, having none upon my tongue. Presently
she added: "When once a woman has the folly to plead for herself, in
that moment she murders Love; and every tear she sheds thereafter
becomes another clod upon his grave. There remains but one thing for her
to do----"

"Herself to die!" I murmured.

"Nay, child! To live and be revenged!" She turned a flushed face toward
me; and, though the water stood in her eyes, they were hard and angry.
"To be revenged! To plot and to scheme; to bide her time patiently; to
study his heart's desire, and to foster it; and then----"

"And then?" I questioned softly, with little shivers of repulsion
chilling me from head to foot.

"_To rob him of it._"

The words were spoken deliberately, in a voice that was resonant and
slow. 'Twas not like the outburst of a moment's impulse--the sudden
jangling of a harpstring rudely touched; it was rather with the fateful
emphasis of a clock striking the hour, heralded by a premonitory
quiver--a gathering together of inward forces that had waited through
long moments for this final utterance.

What manner of woman was this? I caught my breath with a little
shuddering cry.

Doņa Orosia turned quickly.

"Go! Leave me!" she cried. "Do you linger? Can I never be rid of you?
Out of my sight! I would have a moment's respite from your great eyes
and your white face. Go!"

And I obeyed her.


March, the 9th day.

Doņa Orosia sent for me at noon to-day. There was news to tell, and she
chose to be the one to tell it.

I found her in her favourite seat,--a great soft couch, covered with
rich Moorish stuffs, and placed under the shadow of the balcony that
overlooks the sunny garden. Up each of the light pillars from which
spring the graceful arches that support this balcony climbs a mass of
blooming vines that weave their delicate tendrils round the railing
above and then trail downward again in festoons of swaying colour.
Behind, in the luminous shadow, she lay coiled and half asleep; with a
large fan of bronze turkey-feathers in one lazy hand, the other teasing
the tawny hound which was stretched out at her feet.

She opened her great eyes as I came near.

"Ah! the little blue-eyed Margarita, the little saint who frowns when
men worship at her shrine," she said slowly. "There is news for you. The
_Virgen de la Mar_ arrived last night from Habana, bringing the
commands of the Council of Spain that the English prisoners here
detained be liberated forthwith. For it seems that there has been
presented to the Council, through our ambassador to the English Court, a
memorial, which clearly proves that these persons have given no
provocation to any subject of his Catholic Majesty, Charles the Second
of Spain, and are therefore unlawfully imprisoned. How like you that?"
The waving fan was suddenly stilled, and the brilliant eyes half veiled.

"Is this true?" I asked, for my heart misgave me.

She laughed. "It is true that the _Virgen de la Mar_ has brought those
orders to the Governor of San Augustin--and that my husband has received

"Will he obey them, seņora?"

"Will who obey them?" she asked; and there was a gleam of white teeth
under the red, curling lip. "My husband, or the Governor of San

"Are they not the same?"

"If you think so, little fool," she cried, half rising from her couch;
"if you think so still, you would better go back to your chamber and
pray yourself and your lover out of prison!"

I made no answer; I waited, without much hope, for what she would say
next. My heart was very full, but I would not pleasure her by weeping.

"Child," she continued, sinking back among the cushions and speaking in
a slow, impressive manner, "there are _two_ Governors in San
Augustin--and they take their commands neither from the child-King, the
Queen-mother, nor any of the Spanish Council. My husband is not one; he
obeys them both by turns. His Excellency Don Pedro Melinza decrees that
these orders from Spain shall be carried out except in the case of one
Seņor Rivers, who will be held here to answer for an unprovoked assault
on one of his Majesty's subjects, whom he severely wounded; also for
inciting others of his fellow prisoners to break their parole, and for
various other offences against the peace of this garrison,--all of which
charges Melinza will swear to be true."

"Is he so lost to honour? And will your husband uphold him in the lie?"

"Hear me out," she continued in the same tone. "Melinza also decides
that these orders do not include the English seņorita, Doņa Margaret,
whom he intends to detain here for----for reasons best known to himself;
although the other Governor of San Augustin decrees"----she started up
from her nest of pillows and continued in a wholly different tone: "_I_
say--_I_ say--that you shall quit this place with the other prisoners,
and my husband dares not oppose me! I am sick of your white face and
your saintly blue eyes; I am wearied to death of your company; but I
swear Melinza shall not have you! Therefore go you must, and speedily."

"And leave my betrothed at Don Pedro's mercy?"

"What is that to me? Let him rot in his dungeon. I care not--so I am rid
of your white face."

She shut her eyes angrily and thrust out her slippered foot at the
sleeping hound. He lifted his great head and yawned; then, gathering up
his huge bulk from the ground, he drew closer to his mistress's side and
sniffed the air with solicitude, as though seeking a cause for her
displeasure. There was a dish of cakes beside her, and she took one in
her white fingers and threw it to the dog. He let it fall to the ground,
and nosed it doubtfully, putting forth an experimental tongue,--till,
finding it to his taste, he swallowed it at a gulp. His mistress
laughed, and tossed him another, which disappeared in his great jaws. A
third met the same fate; but the fourth she extended to him in her pink
palm, and, as he would have taken it she snatched the hand away. Again
and again the poor brute strove to seize the proffered morsel, but each
time it was lifted out of his reach; till finally his lithe body was
launched upward, and he snapped both the cake and the hand that teased

'Twas the merest scratch, and truly the dog meant it not in anger; but
on the instant Doņa Orosia flushed crimson to her very brow, and,
drawing up her silken skirt, she snatched a jewelled dagger from her
garter and plunged it to the hilt in the poor beast's throat. The red
blood spouted, and the huge body dropped in a tawny heap.

I rushed forward and lifted the great head; but the eyes were glazed.

"Seņora!" I cried, "seņora! the poor brute loved you!"

She spurned the limp body with a careless foot, saying,--

"So did--once--the man who gave it me."

Then she clapped her hands, and the negro servant came and at her
command dragged away the carcass, wiped the bloody floor, and brought a
basin of clear water and a linen cloth to bathe the scratch on her hand.
When he had gone she made me bind it up with her broidered kerchief and
stamped her foot because I drew the knot over-tight.

"Doņa Orosia," I said, when I had done it to her liking. "If all you
care for, in this other matter, is to get rid of my white face, I pray
you kill me with your dagger and ask your lord to let my love go free."

She looked up curiously. "Would you die for him?" she asked.

"Most willingly, an it please you to make my death his ransom."

Still she gazed at me and seemed strangely stirred. "Once I loved like
that," she said in musing tones. "I will tell thee a tale, child, for I
like not the reproach in those blue eyes. Five years ago, when I was as
young as thou art now, I lived with my parents in Valencia, where the
flowers are even sweeter and the skies bluer than here in sunny Florida.
I had a lover in those days, who followed me like my shadow, and, in
spite of my old duenna, found many a moment to pour his passion in my
ears. He was a brave man and a handsome, and he won my heart from me.
Though he had no great fortune I would have wed him willingly and
followed him over land and sea. I never doubted him for a day; and when
he came to my father's house with an old nobleman, his uncle and the
head of his family, I was well content; for my mother told me they had
asked for my hand and it had been promised. But when my father called me
in at last to see my future husband, it was the old man who met me with
a simper on his wrinkled face. I turned to the nephew; but he was gazing
out of the window----"

She broke off with a fierce laugh and then added bitterly,--"And so I
came to marry my husband, the Governor of San Augustin!"

"The other was Don Pedro?"

"Has thy baby wit compassed that much? Yes, the other was Melinza."

"But if you once loved him why should there be hate between you now?"

"Why? thou little fool! Why?"--she put out one hand and drew me closer,
so that she could look deep into my eyes. "Why does a woman ever hate a
man? Canst tell me that?"

We gazed at each other so until I saw--I scarce know what I saw! My head
swam, and of a sudden it came over me that when the angels fell from
heaven there must have been an awful beauty in their eyes!


I awoke this morning with a sense of horror haunting me,--and then I
recalled the scene of yesterday and the dumb appeal in the eyes of the
dying hound. The story the Spanish woman had told me of her own past
pleaded nothing in excuse. Hatred and cruelty seemed strange fruit for
love to bear.

I thought of my own ill fortunes, and I said within me: True Love sits
at the door of the heart to guard it from all evil passions. Loss and
Pain may enter in, and Sorrow bear them company; but Revenge and
Cruelty, Untruth, and all their evil kin, must hide their shamed faces
and pass by!

Secure in the thought of the pure affection that reigned in my own
bosom, I went forth and met Temptation, and straightway fell from the
high path in which I believed my feet to be so surely fixed!

Doņa Orosia seemed to be in a strangely gentle mood.

"Child, how pale thy face is! Didst thou not lie awake all night? Deny
it not, 'tis writ most plainly in the dark shadows round those great
blue eyes. Come, rest here beside me"--and she drew me down upon the
couch and slipped a soft pillow under my head.

I was fairly dumfounded at this unwonted courtesy, and could find no
words to meet it with. But she appeared unconscious of my silence and
continued speaking.

"'Tis the thought of the English lover that robs thee of sleep,
Margarita mia! Thou wouldst give thy very life to procure his freedom;
is it not so? Would any task be too hard for thee with this end in

I could not answer; I clasped my hands and looked at her in silence.

"I thought as much," she said, smiling, and laid a gentle finger on my

"Oh, seņora, you will aid me to save him! You will plead with the
Governor--you will set him free?"

She drew back coldly. "You ask too much. I have told you that there are
two Governors in San Augustin--I divide the honours with Melinza; but I
plead with him for naught."

I turned away to hide the quivering of my lip.

"Listen to me," she added more kindly. "Between Pedro Melinza and Orosia
de Colis there is at present an armed peace; since each holds a
hostage. Not that I care anything for the Englishman, but my husband is
undesirous of defying the commands of the Council. Although he bears no
love to your nation, he maintains that it is not the policy of our
government, at present, to ignore openly the friendly relations that are
supposed to exist between the Crowns of England and of Spain. It seems
that the duplicate of the Council's orders has been sent to the Governor
of your new settlement on this coast; and if he sends hither to demand
the delivery of the prisoners, Seņor de Colis would rather choose to
yield up all, than to risk a reprimand from the authorities at home.

"Dost thou understand all this? Well, let us now see the reverse of the

"Melinza sets his own desires in the scale, and they outweigh all
politic scruples. He has sworn that so long as I stand between him and
you, so long will Seņor Rivers remain in the castle dungeon,--unless
Death steps kindly in to set your lover free."

A little sob broke in my throat at these cruel words. Doņa Orosia laid
her hand on mine.

"Poor little one!" she said.

"You pity me, seņora! What is your pity worth?" I demanded, forcing back
the tears.

"I have a way of escape to offer," she answered softly.

"Escape for him? Or for me?"

"For both. Now listen! There is but one way to relax Melinza's hold on
Seņor Rivers. He would exchange him willingly for you."

"Better for us both to die!" I exclaimed indignantly.

"I would sooner kill you with my own hands than give you up to him,"
said Doņa Orosia, with a cold smile.

"Then what do you mean, seņora?"

"I mean, Margarita mia, that you should feign a tenderness for him and
let him think that it is I who would keep two loving souls apart."

"What! when I have shown him naught but dislike in all these months? He
could never be so witless as to believe in such a sudden

"Such is the vanity of man," said Doņa Orosia, "that he would find it
easier to believe that you had feigned hatred all this while from fear
of me, than to doubt that you had eventually fallen a victim to his

"What would it advantage me if I did deceive him?"

"He would then cease to oppose the liberation of all the other

"But what of my fate, seņora?"

"Leave that in my hands, little one,--I am not powerless. I give thee my
word he shall never have thee. At the last moment we shall undeceive
him"--and she laughed a low laugh of triumph.

I glanced up quickly.

"So!" I exclaimed. "This will be your revenge! And you would bribe me,
with my dear love's freedom, to act a part in it! To lie for you; to
play at love where I feel only loathing; to sully my lips with feigned
caresses; and to make a mockery of the holiest thing in life!"

"Is your Englishman not worth some sacrifice?" she asked, with lifted

What could I say? I left her. I hastened to my little room, shut fast
the door, and bolted it on the inner side. Then I knelt at the barred
window and looked out at the sunlight and the sea.

The blue waves danced happily, and the fresh wind kissed the sparkling
ripples till the foam curled over them--as white lids droop coyly over
laughing eyes. Two snowy gulls dipped and soared, flashing now against
the blue sky--now into the blue sea. I gazed at their white wings--and
thought of all the vain prayers I had sent up to Heaven.

And then the dark hour of my life closed down on me.

I bethought me of my father, that loyal gentleman whose only fault was
that he served his Prince too well,--a Prince whose gratitude had never
prompted him to inquire concerning that servant's fate, or to offer a
word of consolation to the wife who had lost her all. I bethought me of
my young mother, of her white, tear-stained face, of the long hours she
had spent upon her knees, and how at last she prayed: "Lord! only to
know that he is dead!"--yet she died ignorant.

Then did the devil come to me and whisper: "Of what use is it to have
patience and faith? Does thy God bear thee in mind--or is his memory
like that of the Prince thy father served? Dost thou still believe that
He doeth all things well, and is there still trust in thy heart? Come,
make friends of those who would aid thee--never mind a little lie!
Wouldst be happy? Wouldst save thy dear love? Then cease thy vain
prayers and take thy fate in thine own hands."

I rose up from my knees and looked out again upon the laughing
waters,--I would do this evil thing that good might come. I would act a
lying part, and soil my soul, so that I and my dear love might win
freedom and happiness. But I would pray no more--for I could not ask
God's blessing on a lie.

Then I went slowly back to where my temptress waited.

"Doņa Orosia," I said, "I take your offer. I am young--I would be happy;
and you--you would be revenged! I am not the little fool you think me: I
know you too well to believe that you would aid me out of love; I laugh
at your pity; but I trust your hate!"

"_Bueno_," she said. "It is enough. We understand one another,--but I
must teach thee the part, or thou wilt fail."

"I am not so simple, seņora, I can feign love--for love's sake."

"Yet I would have thee set round with thorns, my sweet. The rose that is
too easy plucked is not worth wearing. And do thou give only promises
and never fulfil them,--I'd baulk him of every kiss he thinks to win!"


A day went by, and though I had become even letter-perfect in my new
rôle I had not the chance to play it to my audience; but it came at

It was in the long, dreamy hour of the early afternoon, when sleep comes
easiest. Doņa Orosia had ordered her couch to be placed in the shadiest
part of the breezy garden, close against the gray stone wall.

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