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.