Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 26 IN WHICH I AM BROUGHT TO TRIAL

  • MY lord came not again into the hold, and the untied cords and the broke_hain were not replaced. Morning and evening we were brought a niggar_llowance of bread and water; but the man who carried it bore no light, an_ay not even have observed their absence. We saw no one in authority. Hour b_our my wounds healed and my strength returned. If it was a dark and noisom_rison, if there were hunger and thirst and inaction to be endured, if we kne_ot how near to us might be a death of ignominy, yet the minister and I foun_he jewel in the head of the toad; for in that time of pain and heaviness w_ecame as David and Jonathan.
  • At last some one came beside the brute who brought us food. A quiet gentleman, with whitening hair and bright dark eyes, stood before us. He had ordered th_wo men with him to leave open the hatch, and he held in his hand a spong_oaked with vinegar. "Which of you is—or rather was—Captain Ralph Percy?" h_sked, in a grave but pleasant voice.
  • "I am Captain Percy," I answered.
  • He looked at me with attention. "I have heard of you before," he said. "I rea_he letter you wrote to Sir Edwyn Sandys, and thought it an excellentl_onceived and manly epistle. What magic transformed a gentleman and a soldie_nto a pirate?"
  • As he waited for me to speak, I gave him for answer, "Necessity."
  • "A sad metamorphosis," he said. "I had rather read of nymphs changed int_aurel and gushing springs. I am come to take you, sir, before the officers o_he Company aboard this ship, when, if you have aught to say for yourself, yo_ay say it. I need not tell you, who saw so clearly some time ago the dange_n which you then stood, that your plight is now a thousandfold worse."
  • "I am perfectly aware of it," I said. "Am I to go in fetters?"
  • "No," he replied, with a smile. "I have no instructions on the subject, but _ill take it upon myself to free you from them,—even for the sake of tha_xcellently writ letter."
  • "Is not this gentleman to go too?" I asked.
  • He shook his head. "I have no orders to that effect."
  • While the men who were with him removed the irons from my wrists and ankles h_tood in silence, regarding me with a scrutiny so close that it would hav_een offensive had I been in a position to take offense. When they ha_inished I turned and held Jeremy's hand in mine for an instant, then followe_he new-comer to the ladder and out of the hold; the two men coming after us, and resolving themselves above into a guard. As we traversed the main deck w_ame upon Diccon, busy with two or three others about the ports. He saw me, and, dropping the bar that he held, started forward, to be plucked back by a_ngry arm. The men who guarded me pushed in between us, and there was no wor_poken by either. I walked on, the gentleman at my side, and presently came t_n open port, and saw, with an intake of my breath, the sunshine, a dark blu_eaven flecked with white, and a quiet ocean. My companion glanced at m_eenly.
  • "Doubtless it seems fair enough, after that Cimmerian darkness below," h_emarked. "Would you like to rest here a moment?"
  • "Yes," I said, and, leaning against the side of the port, looked out at th_eauty of the light.
  • "We are off Hatteras," he informed me, "but we have not met with the storm_eas that vex poor mariners hereabouts. Those sails you see on our quarte_elong to our consort. We were separated by the hurricane that nigh sunk us, and finally drove us, helpless as we were, toward the Florida coast and acros_our path. For us that was a fortunate reef upon which you dashed. The god_ust have made your helmsman blind, for he ran you into a destruction tha_aped not for you. Why did every wretch that we hung next morning curse yo_efore he died?"
  • "If I told you, you would not believe me," I replied.
  • I was dizzy with the bliss of the air and the light, and it seemed a smal_hing that he would not believe me. The wind sounded in my ears like a harp, and the sea beckoned. A white bird flashed down into the crystal hollo_etween two waves, hung there a second, then rose, a silver radiance agains_he blue. Suddenly I saw a river, dark and ridged beneath thunderclouds, _oat, and in it, her head pillowed upon her arm, a woman, who pretended tha_he slept. With a shock my senses steadied, and I became myself again. The se_as but the sea, the wind the wind; in the hold below me lay my friend; somewhere in that ship was my wife; and awaiting me in the state cabin wer_en who perhaps had the will, as they had the right and the might, to hang m_t the yardarm that same hour.
  • "I have had my fill of rest," I said. "Whom am I to stand before?"
  • "The newly appointed officers of the Company, bound in this ship fo_irginia," he answered. "The ship carries Sir Francis Wyatt, the new Governor; Master Davison, the Secretary; young Clayborne, the surveyor general; th_night marshal, the physician general, and the Treasurer, with othe_entlemen, and with fair ladies, their wives and sisters. I am George Sandys, the Treasurer."
  • The blood rushed to my face, for it hurt me that the brother of Sir Edwy_andys should believe that the firing of those guns had been my act. His wa_he trained observation of the traveler and writer, and he probably read th_olor aright. "I pity you, if I can no longer esteem you," he said, after _ause. "I know no sorrier sight than a brave man's shield reversed."
  • I bit my lip and kept back the angry word. The next minute saw us at the doo_f the state cabin. It opened, and my companion entered, and I after him, wit_y two guards at my back. Around a large table were gathered a number o_entlemen, some seated, some standing. There were but two among them whom _ad seen before,—the physician who had dressed my wound and my Lord Carnal.
  • The latter was seated in a great chair, beside a gentleman with a pleasan_ctive face and light brown curling hair,—the new Governor, as I guessed. Th_reasurer, nodding to the two men to fall back to the window, glided to a sea_pon my lord's other hand, and I went and stood before the Governor o_irginia.
  • For some moments there was silence in the cabin, every man being engaged i_taring at me with all his eyes; then the Governor spoke: "It should be upo_our knees, sir."
  • "I am neither petitioner nor penitent," I said. "I know no reason why I shoul_neel, your Honor."
  • "There 's reason, God wot, why you should be both!" he exclaimed. "Did yo_ot, now some months agone, defy the writ of the King and Company, refusing t_tand when called upon to do so in the King's name?"
  • "Yes."
  • "Did you not, when he would have stayed your lawless flight, lay violent hand_pon a nobleman high in the King's favor, and, overpowering him with numbers, carry him out of the King's realm?"
  • "Yes."
  • "Did you not seduce from her duty to the King, and force to fly with you, hi_ajesty's ward, the Lady Jocelyn Leigh?"
  • "No," I said. "There was with me only my wife, who chose to follow th_ortunes of her husband."
  • He frowned, and my lord swore beneath his breath. "Did you not, falling i_ith a pirate ship, cast in your lot with the scoundrels upon it, and yoursel_urn pirate?"
  • "In some sort."
  • "And become their chief?"
  • "Since there was no other situation open,—yes."
  • "Taking with you as captives upon the pirate ship that lady and tha_obleman?"
  • "Yes."
  • "You proceeded to ravage the dominions of the King of Spain, with whom hi_ajesty is at peace"—
  • "Like Drake and Raleigh,—yes," I said.
  • He smiled, then frowned "Tempora mutantur," he said dryly. "And I have neve_eard that Drake or Raleigh attacked an English ship."
  • "Nor have I attacked one," I said.
  • He leaned back in his chair and stared at me. "We saw the flame and heard th_hunder of your guns, and our rigging was cut by the shot. Did you expect m_o believe that last assertion?"
  • "No."
  • "Then you might have spared yourself—and us—that lie," he said coldly.
  • The Treasurer moved restlessly in his seat, and began to whisper to hi_eighbor the Secretary. A young man, with the eyes of a hawk and an iro_aw,—Clayborne, the surveyor general,—who sat at the end of the table besid_he window, turned and gazed out upon the clouds and the sea, as if, contemp_aving taken the place of curiosity, he had no further interest in th_roceedings. As for me, I set my face like a flint, and looked past the ma_ho might have saved me that last speech of the Governor's as if he had neve_een.
  • There was a closed door in the cabin, opposite the one by which I had entered.
  • Suddenly from behind it came the sound of a short struggle, followed by th_uick turn of a key in the lock. The door was flung open, and two wome_ntered the cabin. One, a fair young gentlewoman, with tears in her brow_yes, came forward hurriedly with outspread hands.
  • "I did what I could, Frank!" she cried. "When she would not listen to reason, I e'en locked the door; but she is strong, for all that she has been ill, an_he forced the key out of my hand!" She looked at the red mark upon the whit_and, and two tears fell from her long lashes upon her wild-rose cheeks.
  • With a smile the Governor put out an arm and drew her down upon a stool besid_im, then rose and bowed low to the King's ward. "You are not yet well enoug_o leave your cabin, as our worthy physician general will assure you, lady,"
  • he said courteously, but firmly. "Permit me to lead you back to it."
  • Still smiling he made as if to advance, when she stayed him with a gesture o_er raised hand, at once so majestic and so pleading that it was as though _train of music had passed through the stillness of the cabin.
  • "Sir Francis Wyatt, as you are a gentleman, let me speak," she said. It wa_he voice of that first night at Weyanoke, all pathos, all sweetness, al_ntreating.
  • The Governor stopped short, the smile still upon his lips, his hand stil_utstretched,—stood thus for a moment, then sat down. Around the half circl_f gentlemen went a little rustling sound, like wind in dead leaves. My lor_alf rose from his seat. "She is bewitched," he said, with dry lips. "She wil_ay what she has been told to say. Lest she speak to her shame, we shoul_efuse to hear her."
  • She had been standing in the centre of the floor, her hands clasped, her bod_owed toward the Governor, but at my lord's words she straightened like a bo_nbent. "I may speak, your Honor?" she asked clearly.
  • The Governor, who had looked askance at the working face of the man besid_im, slightly bent his head and leaned back in his great armchair. The King'_avorite started to his feet. The King's ward turned her eyes upon him. "Si_own, my lord," she said. "Surely these gentlemen will think that you ar_fraid of what I, a poor erring woman, rebellious to the King, traitress t_ine own honor, late the plaything of a pirate ship, may say or do. Truth, m_ord, should be more courageous." Her voice was gentle, even plaintive, but i_ad in it the quality that lurks in the eyes of the crouching panther.
  • My lord sat down, one hand hiding his working mouth, the other clenched on th_rm of his chair as if it had been an arm of flesh.