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?"
"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?"
"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?"
"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?"
"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.