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Chapter 17 IN WHICH MY LORD AND I PLAY AT BOWLS

  • THE Governor had brought with him from London the year before, a set o_oxwood bowls, and had made, between his house and the fort, a noble green.
  • The generality must still use for the game that portion of the street that wa_ot tobacco-planted; but the quality flocked to the Governor's green, an_ere, one holiday afternoon, a fortnight or more from the day in which I ha_runk to the King from my lord's silver goblet, was gathered a very grea_ompany. The Governor's match was toward,—ten men to a side, a hogshead o_weet-scented to the victorious ten, and a keg of canary to the man whose bow_hould hit the jack.
  • The season had been one of unusual mildness, and the sunshine was still war_nd bright, gilding the velvet of the green, and making the red and yello_eaves swept into the trench to glow like a ribbon of flame. The sky was blue, the water bluer still, the leaves bright-colored, the wind blowing; only th_nshrouding forest, wrapped in haze, seemed as dim, unreal, and far away as _ast year's dream.
  • The Governor's gilt armchair had been brought from the church, and put for hi_pon the bank of turf at the upper end of the green. By his side sat my Lad_emperance, while the gayly dressed dames and the men who were to play and t_atch were accommodated with stools and settles or with seats on the gree_rass. All were dressed in holiday clothes, all tongues spoke, all eye_aughed; you might have thought there was not a heavy heart amongst them.
  • Rolfe was there, gravely courteous, quiet and ready; and by his side, i_tterskin mantle, beaded moccasins, and feathered headdress, the Indian chief, his brother-in-law,—the bravest, comeliest, and manliest savage with whom _ave ever dealt. There, too, was Master Pory, red and jovial, with an eye t_he sack the servants were bringing from the Governor's house; and th_ommander, with his wife; and Master Jeremy Sparrow, fresh from a most movin_ermon on the vanities of this world. Captains, Councilors, and Burgesse_ired their gold lace, and their wit or their lack of it; while a swarm o_ounger adventurers, youths of good blood and bad living, come from home fo_he weal of England and the woe of Virginia, went here and there through th_rowd like gilded summer flies.
  • Rolfe and I were to play; he sat on the grass at the feet of Mistress Jocely_ercy, making her now and then some courtly speech, and I stood beside her, m_and on the back of her chair.
  • The King's ward held court as though she were a king's daughter. In th_rightness of her beauty she sat there, as gracious for the nonce as th_unshine, and as much of another world. All knew her story, and to the darin_hat is in men's hearts her own daring appealed,—and she was young and ver_eautiful. Some there had not been my friends, and now rejoiced in what seeme_y inevitable ruin; some whom I had thought my friends were gone over to th_tronger side; many who in secret wished me well still shook their heads an_hrugged their shoulders over what they were pleased to call my madness; bu_or her, I was glad to know, there were only good words. The Governor had lef_is gilt armchair to welcome her to the green, and had caused a chair to b_et for her near his own, and here men came and bowed before her as if she ha_een a princess indeed.
  • A stir amongst the crowd, a murmur, and a craning of necks heralded th_pproach of that other at whom the town gaped with admiration. He came wit_is retinue of attendants, his pomp of dress, his arrogance of port, hi_plendid beauty. Men looked from the beauty of the King's ward to the beaut_f the King's minion, from her costly silk to his velvet and miniver, from th_ir of the court that became her well to the towering pride and insolenc_hich to the thoughtless seemed his fortune's proper mantle, and deemed them _air well suited, and the King's will indeed the will of Heaven.
  • I was never one to value a man by his outward seeming, but suddenly I sa_yself as in a mirror,—a soldier, scarred and bronzed, acquainted with th_amp, but not with the court, roughened by a rude life, poor in this world'_oods, the first flush of youth gone forever. For a moment my heart was bitte_ithin me. The pang passed, and my hand tightened its grasp upon the chair i_hich sat the woman I had wed. She was my wife, and I would keep my own.
  • My lord had paused to speak to the Governor, who had risen to greet him. No_e came toward us, and the crowd pressed and whispered. He bowed low t_istress Percy, made as if to pass on, then came to a stop before her, his ha_n his hand, his handsome head bent, a smile upon his bearded lips.
  • "When was it that we last sat to see men bowl, lady?" he said. "I remember _ay match when I bowled against my Lord of Buckingham, and fair ladies sat an_miled upon us. The fairest laughed, and tied her colors around my arm."
  • The lady whom he addressed sat quietly, with hands folded in her silken la_nd an untroubled face. "I did not know you then, my lord," she answered him, quite softly and sweetly. "Had I done so, be sure I would have cut my hand of_re it gave color of mine to"—"To whom?" he demanded, as she paused.
  • "To a coward, my lord," she said clearly.
  • As if she had been a man, his hand went to his sword hilt. As for her, sh_eaned back in her chair and looked at him with a smile.
  • He spoke at last, slowly and with deliberate emphasis. "I won then," he said.
  • "I shall win again, my lady,—my Lady Jocelyn Leigh."
  • I dropped my hand from her chair and stepped forward. "It is my wife to who_ou speak, my Lord Carnal," I said sternly. "I wait to hear you name he_ightly."
  • Rolfe rose from the grass and stood beside me, and Jeremy Sparrow, shoulderin_side with scant ceremony Burgess and Councilor, came also. The Governo_eaned forward out of his chair, and the crowd became suddenly very still.
  • "I am waiting, my lord," I repeated.
  • In an instant, from what he had been he became the frank and guileles_obleman. "A slip of the tongue, Captain Percy!" he cried, his white teet_howing and his hand raised in a gesture of deprecation. "A natural thing, seeing how often, how very often, I have so addressed this lady in the day_hen we had not the pleasure of your acquaintance." He turned to her an_owed, until the feather in his hat swept the ground. "I won then," he said.
  • "I shall win again—Mistress Percy," and passed on to the seat that had bee_eserved for him.
  • The game began. I was to lead one side, and young Clement the other. At th_ast moment he came over to me. "I am out of it, Captain Percy," he announce_ith a rueful face. "My lord there asks me to give him my place. When we wer_unting yesterday, and the stag turned upon me, he came between and thrust hi_nife into the brute, which else might have put an end to my hunting foreve_nd a day: so you see I can't refuse him. Plague take it all! and Doroth_ookin sitting there watching!"
  • My lord and I stood forward, each with a bowl in his hand. We looked towar_he Governor. "My lord first, as becometh his rank," he said. My lord stoope_nd threw, and his bowl went swiftly over the grass, turned, and rested not _ands'-breadth from the jack. I threw. "One is as near as the other!" crie_aster Macocke for the judges. A murmur arose from the crowd, and my lor_wore beneath his breath. He and I retreated to our several sides, and Rolf_nd West took our places. While they and those that followed bowled, th_rowd, attentive though it was, still talked and laughed, and laid wagers upo_ts favorites; but when my lord and I again stood forth, the noise was hushed, and men and women stared with all their eyes. He delivered, and his bow_ouched the jack. He straightened himself, with a smile, and I heard Jerem_parrow behind me groan; but my bowl too kissed the jack. The crowd began t_augh with sheer delight, but my lord turned red and his brows drew together.
  • We had but one turn more. While we waited, I marked his black eyes studyin_very inch of the ground between him and that small white ball, to strik_hich, at that moment, I verily believe he would have given the King's favor.
  • All men pray, though they pray not to the same god. As he stood there, whe_is time had come, weighing the bowl in his hand, I knew that he prayed to hi_aemon, fate, star, whatever thing he raised an altar to and bent before. H_hrew, and I followed, while the throng held its breath. Master Macocke ros_o his feet. "It's a tie, my masters!" he exclaimed.
  • The excited crowd surged forward, and a babel of voices arose. "Silence, all!"
  • cried the Governor. "Let them play it out!"
  • My lord threw, and his bowl stopped perilously near the shining mark. As _tepped to my place a low and supplicating "O Lord!" came to my ears from th_ips and the heart of the preacher, who had that morning thundered against th_oys of this world. I drew back my arm and threw with all my force. A cr_rose from the throng, and my lord ground his heel into the earth. The bowl, spurning the jack before it, rushed on, until both buried themselves in th_ed and yellow leaves that filled the trench.
  • I turned and bowed to my antagonist. "You bowl well, my lord," I said. "Ha_ou had the forest training of eye and arm, our fortunes might have bee_eversed."
  • He looked me up and down. "You are kind, sir," he said thickly. "'To-day t_hee, to-morrow to me.' I give you joy of your petty victory."
  • He turned squarely from me, and stood with his face downstream. I was speakin_o Rolfe and to the few—not even all of that side for which I had won—wh_ressed around me, when he wheeled.
  • "Your Honor," he cried to the Governor, who had paused beside Mistress Percy,
  • "is not the Due Return high-pooped? Doth she not carry a blue pennant, an_ath she not a gilt siren for figurehead?"
  • "Ay," answered the Governor, lifting his head from the hand he had kissed wit_onderous gallantry. "What then, my lord?"
  • "Then to-morrow has dawned, sir captain," said my lord to me. "Sure, Dam_enus and her blind son have begged for me favorable winds; for the Due Retur_as come again."
  • The game that had been played was forgotten for that day. The hogshead o_weet scented, lying to one side, wreathed with bright vines, was unclaimed o_ither party; the servants who brought forward the keg of canary dropped thei_urden, and stared with the rest. All looked down the river, and all saw th_ue Return coming up the broad, ruffled stream, the wind from the sea fillin_er sails, the tide with her, the gilt mermaid on her prow just rising fro_he rushing foam. She came as swiftly as a bird to its nest. None had though_o see her for at least ten days.
  • Upon all there fell a sudden realization that it was the word of the King, feathered by the command of the Company, that was hurrying, arrow-like, towar_s. All knew what the Company's orders would be,—must needs be,—and the Tudo_overeigns were not so long in the grave that men had forgot to fear the wrat_f kings. The crowd drew back from me as from a man plague-spotted. Onl_olfe, Sparrow, and the Indian stood their ground.
  • The Governor turned from staring downstream. "The game is played, gentlemen,"
  • he announced abruptly. "The wind grows colder, too, and clouds are gathering.
  • This fair company will pardon me if I dismiss them somewhat sooner than is ou_ont. The next sunny day we will play again. Give you God den, gentles."
  • The crowd stood not upon the order of its going, but streamed away to th_iver bank, whence it could best watch the oncoming ship. My lord, after _ost triumphant bow, swept off with his train in the direction of the gues_ouse. With him went Master Pory. The Governor drew nearer to me. "Captai_ercy," he said, lowering his voice, "I am going now to mine own house. Th_etters which yonder ship brings will be in my hands in less than an hour.
  • When I have read them, I shall perforce obey their instructions. Before I hav_hem I will see you, if you so wish."
  • "I will be with your Honor in five minutes."
  • He nodded, and strode off across the green to his garden. I turned to Rolfe.
  • "Will you take her home?" I said briefly. She was so white and sat so still i_er chair that I feared to see her swoon. But when I spoke to her she answere_learly and steadily enough, even with a smile, and she would not lean upo_olfe's arm. "I will walk alone," she said. "None that see me shall think tha_ am stricken down." I watched her move away, Rolfe beside her, and the India_ollowing with his noiseless step; then I went to the Governor's house. Maste_eremy Sparrow had disappeared some minutes before, I knew not whither.
  • I found Yeardley in his great room, standing before a fire and staring dow_nto its hollows. "Captain Percy," he said, as I went up to him, "I am mos_eartily sorry for you and for the lady whom you so ignorantly married."
  • "I shall not plead ignorance," I told him.
  • "You married, not the Lady Jocelyn Leigh, but a waiting woman named Patienc_orth. The Lady Jocelyn Leigh, a noble lady, and a ward of the King, could no_arry without the King's consent. And you, Captain Percy, are but a mer_rivate gentleman, a poor Virginia adventurer; and my Lord Carnal is—my Lor_arnal. The Court of High Commission will make short work of this fantasti_arriage."
  • "Then they may do it without my aid," I said. "Come, Sir George, had you we_y Lady Temperance in such fashion, and found this hornets' nest about you_ars, what would you have done?"
  • He gave his short, honest laugh. "It's beside the question, Ralph Percy, but _are say you can guess what I would have done."
  • "I'll fight for my own to the last ditch," I continued. "I married her knowin_er name, if not her quality. Had I known the latter, had I known she was th_ing's ward, all the same I should have married her, an she would have had me.
  • She is my wife in the sight of God and honest men. Esteeming her honor, whic_s mine, at stake, Death may silence me, but men shall not bend me."
  • "Your best hope is in my Lord of Buckingham," he said. "They say it is out o_ight, out of mind, with the King, and, thanks to this infatuation of my Lor_arnal's, Buckingham hath the field. That he strains every nerve to ous_ompletely this his first rival since he himself distanced Somerset goe_ithout saying. That to thwart my lord in this passion would be honey to hi_s equally of course. I do not need to tell you that, if the Company s_rders, I shall have no choice but to send you and the lady home to England.
  • When you are in London, make your suit to my Lord of Buckingham, and _arnestly hope that you may find in him an ally powerful enough to bring yo_nd the lady, to whose grace, beauty, and courage we all do homage, out o_his coil."
  • "We give you thanks, sir," I said.
  • "As you know," he went on, "I have written to the Company, humbly petitionin_hat I be graciously relieved from a most thankless task, to wit, th_overnorship of Virginia. My health faileth, and I am, moreover, under my Lor_arwick's displeasure. He waxeth ever stronger in the Company, and if I pu_ot myself out, he will do it for me. If I be relieved at once, and one of th_ouncil appointed in my place, I shall go home to look after certain of m_nterests there. Then shall I be but a private gentleman, and if I can serv_ou, Ralph Percy, I shall be blithe to do so; but now, you understand"—
  • "I understand, and thank you, Sir George," I said. "May I ask one question?"
  • "What is it?"
  • "Will you obey to the letter the instructions the Company sends?"
  • "To the letter," he answered. "I am its sworn officer."
  • "One thing more," I went on: "the parole I gave you, sir, that morning behin_he church, is mine own again when you shall have read those letters and kno_he King's will. I am free from that bond, at least."
  • He looked at me with a frown. "Make not bad worse, Captain Percy," he sai_ternly.
  • I laughed. "It is my aim to make bad better, Sir George. I see through th_indow that the Due Return hath come to anchor; I will no longer trespass o_our Honor's time." I bowed myself out, leaving him still with the frown upo_is face, staring at the fire.
  • Without, the world was bathed in the glow of a magnificent sunset. Clouds, dark purple and dark crimson, reared themselves in the west to dizzy heights, and hung threateningly over the darkening land beneath. In the east loome_ore pallid masses, and from the bastions of the east to the bastions of th_est went hurrying, wind-driven cloudless, dark in the east, red in the west.
  • There was a high wind, and the river, where it was not reddened by the sunset, was lividly green. "A storm, too!" I muttered.
  • As I passed the guest house, there came to me from within a burst of loud an_aunting laughter and a boisterous drinking catch sung by many voices; and _new that my lord drank, and gave others to drink, to the orders which the Du_eturn should bring. The minister's house was in darkness. In the great room _truck a light and fired the fresh torches, and found I was not its sol_ccupant. On the hearth, the ashes of the dead fire touching her skirts, sa_istress Jocelyn Percy, her arms resting upon a low stool, and her hea_illowed upon them. Her face was not hidden: it was cold and pure and still, like carven marble. I stood and gazed at her a moment; then, as she did no_ffer to move, I brought wood to the fire and made the forlorn room brigh_gain.
  • "Where is Rolfe?" I asked at last.
  • "He would have stayed," she answered, "but I made him go. I wished to b_lone." She rose, and going to the window leaned her forehead against th_ars, and looked out upon the wild sky and the hurrying river. "I would I wer_lone," she said in a low voice and with a catch of her breath. As she stoo_here in the twilight by the window, I knew that she was weeping, though he_ride strove to keep that knowledge from me. My heart ached for her, and _new not how to comfort her. At last she turned. A pasty and stoup of win_ere upon the table.
  • "You are tired and shaken," I said, "and you may need all your strength. Come, eat and drink."
  • "For to-morrow we die," she added, and broke into tremulous laughter. He_ashes were still wet, but her pride and daring had returned. She drank th_ine I poured for her, and we spoke of indifferent things,—of the game tha_fternoon, of the Indian Nantauquas, of the wild night that clouds and win_ortended. Supper over, I called Angela to bear her company, and I myself wen_ut into the night, and down the street toward the guest house.