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Prisoners of Hope - A Tale of Colonial Virginia
by Mary Johnston
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"I say," he said presently with ingenuous frankness, "I asks your pardon for what I said to you yesterday. I dessay you make a very good Sec'tary, and Losh! the Lord Mayor himself mightn't have dared to strike that d—d fine Court spark. They say he has fought twenty duels."

"You have my full forgiveness," said Landless, smiling.

"That's right!" cried the other, relieved. "I hates for a man to bear malice."

"I have seen you before yesterday. I forget how they call you."

"Dick Whittington."

"Dick Whittington!"

"Ay. Leastways the parish over yonder," a jerk of his thumb towards England, "called me Dick, and I names myself Whittington. And why? Because like that other Dick I runs away to make my fortune. Because like him I've little besides empty pockets and a hopeful heart. And because I means to go back some fine day, jingling money, and wearing gold lace, and become the mayor of Banbury. Or maybe I'll stop in Virginia, and become a trader and Burgess. I could send for Joyce Whitbread, and marry her here as well as in Banbury."

Landless laughed. "So you ran away?"

"Yes; some four years ago, just after I came to man's estate." (He was about nineteen.) "Stowed myself away on board the Mary Hart at Plymouth. Made the Virginny voyage for my health, and on landing was sold by the captain for my passage money. Time's out in three years, but I may begin to make my fortune before then, for—" He stopped speaking to give Landless a sidelong glance from out his blue eyes, and then went on.

"A voice speaks through the land, from the Potomac to the James, and from the falls of the Far West to the great bay. What says the voice?"

Landless answered, "The voice saith, 'Comfort ye, my people, for the hour of deliverance is at hand.'"

"It's all right!" cried the boy gleefully. "I thought you was one of us. We are all in the fun together!"

"We are in for a desperate enterprise that may hang every man of us," said Landless sternly. "I do not see the 'fun,' and I think you talk something loudly for a conspirator."

The boy was nothing abashed. "There's none to hear us," he said. "I can be as mum as t' other Dick's cat when there are ears around. As for fun, Losh! what better fun than fighting!"

"You seem to have a pretty good time as it is."

"Lord, yes! Life's jolly enough, but you see there's mighty little variety in it."

"I have found variety enough," said Landless.

"Oh, you've been here only a few weeks. Wait until you've spent years, and have gone through your experience of to-day half a dozen times, and you will find it tame enough."

"I shall not wait to see."

"Then a man gets tired of working for another man, and hankers for the time when he can set up for himself, especially if there's a pretty girl waiting for him." A tremendous sigh. "And then there's the fun of the rising. Losh! a man must break loose now and then!"

"For all of which good reasons you have become a conspirator?"

"Ay, it doesn't pay to run away. You are hunted to death in the first place, and well nigh whipped to death if you are caught, as you always are. And then they double your time. This promises better."

"If it succeeds."

"Oh, it will succeed! Why shouldn't it with old Godwyn, who is more cunning than a red fox or a Nansemond medicine-man, at its head? Besides, if it fails, hanging is the worst that can happen, and we will have had the fun of the rising."

"You are a philosopher."

"What's that?"

"A wise man. Tell me: If this plot remains undiscovered, and the rising actually takes place, there will be upon each plantation before we can get away an interval of confusion and perhaps violence. 'Tis then that the greatest danger will threaten the planters and their families. You yourself have no ill feeling towards your master or his family? You would do them no unprovoked mischief?"

The boy opened his big blue eyes, and shook his head in a vehement negative.

"Lord bless your soul, no!" he cried. "I wouldn't hurt a hair of Mistress Patricia's pretty head, nor of Mistress Lettice's wig, neither. As for the master, if he lets us go peaceably, we'll go with three cheers for him! Bless you! they're safe enough!"

The sanguine youth next announced that he smelt bacon frying, and that his stomach cried "Trencher!" and started off in a lope for the quarters, now only a few yards distant. Landless followed more sedately, and reached his cabin without being observed by the overseer.



CHAPTER XII

A DARK DEED

Three weeks passed, weeks in which Landless saw the mender of nets some eight times in all, making each visit at night, stealthily and under constant danger of detection. Thrice he had assisted at conferences of the Oliverians from the neighboring plantations, who now, by virtue of his descent, his intimacy with Godwyn, and his very apparent powers, accepted him as a leader. Upon the first of these occasions he had set his case before them in a few plain, straightforward words, and they believed him as Godwyn had done, and he became in their eyes, not a convict, but, as he in truth was, an Oliverian like themselves, and a sufferer for the same cause. The remaining interviews had been between him and Godwyn alone. In the lonely hut on the marsh, beneath starlight or moonlight, the two had held much converse, and had grown to love each other. The mender of nets, though possessed of a calm and high serenity of nature that defied trials beneath which a weaker soul had sunk, was a man of many sorrows; he had the wisdom, too, of years and experience, and he sympathized with, soothed, and counseled his younger yoke-fellow with a parental tenderness that was very grateful to the other's more ardent, undisciplined, and deeply wounded spirit.

Upon the night of their eighth meeting they held a long and serious consultation. Affairs were in such train that little remained to be done, but to set the day for the rising, and to send notice by many devious and underground ways to the Oliverian captains scattered throughout the Colony. Landless counseled immediate action, the firing of the fuse at once by starting the secret intelligence which would spread like wildfire from plantation to plantation. Then would the mine be sprung within the week. There was nothing so dangerous as delay, when any hour, any moment might bring discovery and ruin.

Godwyn was of a different opinion. It was then August, the busiest and most unhealthy season of the year, when the servants and slaves, weakened by unremitting toil, were succumbing by scores to the fever. It was the time when the masters looked for disaffection, when the overseers were most alert, when a general watchfulness pervaded the Colony. The planters stayed at home and attended to their business, the trainbands were vigilant, the servant and slave laws were construed with a harshness unknown at other seasons of the year. There were few ships in harbor compared with the number which would assemble for their fall lading a month later, and Godwyn counted largely upon the seizure of the ships. In a month's time the tobacco would be largely in,—a weighty consideration, for tobacco was money, and the infant republic must have funds. The ships would be in harbor, and their sailors ready for anything that would rid them of their captains; the heat and sickness of the summer would be abated; the work slackened, and discipline relaxed. The danger of discovery was no greater now than it had been all along, and the good to be won by biding their time might be inestimable. The danger was there, but they would face it, and wait,—say until the second week in September.

Landless acquiesced, scarcely convinced, but willing to believe that the other knew whereof he spoke, and conscious, too, that his own impatience of the yoke which galled his spirit almost past endurance might incline him to a reckless and disastrous haste.

It was past midnight when he rose to leave the hut on the marsh. Godwyn took up his stick. "I will walk with you to the banks of the creek," he said. "'Tis a feverish night, and I have an aching head. The air will do me good, and I will then sleep."

The young man gave him his arm with a quiet, protecting tenderness that was very dear to the mender of nets, and leaning upon it, he limped through the fifty feet of long grass to the border of the creek.

"Shall I not wait to help you back?" asked Landless.

"No," said the other, with his peculiarly sweet and touching smile. "I will sit here awhile beneath the stars and say my hymn of praise to the Creator of Night. You need not fear for me; my trusty stick will carry me safely back. Go, lad, thou lookest weary enough thyself, and should be sleeping after thy long day of toil."

"I am loth to leave you to-night," said Landless.

Godwyn smiled. "And I am always loth to see you go, but it were selfish to keep you listening to a garrulous, wakeful old man, when your young frame is in sore need of rest. Good-night, dear lad."

Landless gave him his hands. "Good-night," he said.

He stood below the other at the foot of the low bank to which was moored his stolen boat. Godwyn stooped and kissed him upon the forehead. "My heart is tender to-night, lad," he said. "I see in thee my Robert. Last night I dreamed of him and of his mother, my dearly loved and long-lost Eunice, and ah! I sorrowed to awake!"

Landless pressed his hand in silence, and in a moment the water widened between them as Landless bent to his oars and the crazy little bark shot out into the middle of the stream. At the entrance of the first labyrinthine winding he turned and looked back to see Godwyn standing upon the bank, the moonlight silvering his thin hair and high serene brow. In the mystic white light, against the expanse of solemn heaven, he looked a vision, a seer or prophet risen from beneath the sighing grass. He waved his hand to Landless, saying in his quiet voice, "Until to-morrow!" The boat made the turn, and the lonely figure and the hut beyond it vanished, leaving only the moonlight, the wash and lap of water, and the desolate sighing of the marsh grass.

There were many little channels and threadlike streams debouching from the main creek, and separated from it by clumps and lines of partially submerged grass, growing in places to the height of reeds. While passing one of these clumps it occurred to Landless that the grass quivered and rustled in an unusual fashion. He rested upon his oars and gazed at it curiously, then stood up, and parting the reeds, looked through into the tiny channel upon the other side. There was nothing to be seen, and the rustling had ceased. "A heron has its nest there, or a turtle plunged, shaking the reeds," said Landless to himself, and went his way.

Some three hours later he was roused from the heavy sleep of utter fatigue by the voice of the overseer. Bewildered, he raised himself upon his elbow to stare at Woodson's grim face, framed in the doorway and lit by the torch held by Win-Grace Porringer, who stood behind him. "You there, you Landless!" cried the overseer, impatiently. "You sleep like the dead. Tumble out! You and Porringer are to go to Godwyn's after that new sail for the Nancy. Sir Charles Carew has taken it into his head to run over to Accomac, and he's got to have a spick and span white rag to sail under. Hurry up, now! He wants to start by sun up, and I clean forgot to send for it last night. You're to be back within the hour, d' ye hear? Take the four-oared shallop. There's the key," and the overseer strode away, muttering something about patched sails being good enough for Accomac folk.

Landless and the Muggletonian stumbled through the darkness to the wharf behind the quarters, where they loosed the shallop, and in it shot across the inlet towards the mouth of the creek.

"I will row," said the Muggletonian with grim kindness; "you look worn out. I suppose you were out last night?"

Landless nodded, and the other bent to the oars with a will that sent them rapidly across the sheet of water. A cold and uncertain light began to stream from the ashen east, and the air was dank and heavy with the thick mist that wrapped earth and water like a shroud. It swallowed up the land behind them, and through it the nearer marshes gloomed indistinctly, dark patches upon the gray surface of the water. The narrow creek was hard to find amidst the universal dimness. The Muggletonian rowed slowly, peering about him with small, keen eyes. At length with a grunt of satisfaction he pointed to a pale streak dividing two masses of gray, and had turned the boat's head towards it, when through the stillness they caught the sound of oars. The next moment a boat glided from the creek and began to skirt the shores of the inlet, hugging the banks and moving slowly and stealthily. It was still so dark that they could tell nothing more than that it held one man.

"Now, who is that?" said the Muggletonian. "And what has he been doing up that creek?"

"Hail him," Landless replied.

Porringer sent a low halloo across the water, but if the man heard he made no sign. The boat, one of the crazy dugouts of which every plantation had store, held on its stealthy way, but being over close to the bank presently ran upon a sand bar. Its occupant was forced to rise to his feet in order to shove it off. He stood upright but a moment, but in that moment, and despite the partial darkness, Landless recognized the misshapen figure.

"It is the convict, Roach!" he exclaimed.

"Ay," said the Muggletonian, "and an ill-omened night bird he is! May he be cursed from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head! May there be no soundness in him! May—What are you about, friend?" he cried, interrupting himself. "There's no need of two pair of oars. We have plenty of time."

Landless bent to the second pair of oars. "He came down the creek," he said in a voice that sounded strained and unnatural.

The other stared at him. "What do you mean?" he demanded.

"Nothing: but let us hasten."

Porringer stared, but fell in with the humor of his companion, and the shallop, impelled by strong arms, shot into the creek and along its mazy windings with the swiftness of a bird.

Landless rowed with compressed lips and stony face, a great fear tugging at his heart. Porringer too was silent. The vapor hung so heavily upon the plains of marsh level with their heads that they seemed to be piercing a dense, low cloud. The light was growing stronger, but the earth still lay like a corpse, livid, dumb, cold and still. There was a chill stagnant smell in the air.

Arriving at the stake in the bank below the hut, they fastened the boat to it, and stepping out, moved through the dense mist to where the hut loomed indistinctly before them, looking in the blank and awful stillness like a forlorn wreck drifting upon an infinite sea of soundless foam.

"The door is open," said Landless.

"Ay, I see," answered Porringer. "Does he wish to die before his time of the fever, that he lets this graveyard mist and stench creep in upon him in his sleep?"

They spoke in low tones as though they feared to waken the sleeper whom they had come to waken. When they reached the hut, they knocked upon the lintel of the door and called Godwyn by name, once, twice, thrice. There was no answer.

"Come on!" said Landless hoarsely, and entered the hut, followed by the other. The cold twilight, filtering through the low and narrow doorway, was powerless to dispel the darkness within. Landless groped his way to the pallet and stooped down.

"He is not here," he said.

The Muggletonian stumbled over a sheaf of oars, sending them to the floor with a noise that in the utter stillness, and to their strained ears, sounded appalling.

"It's the darkness of Tophet," muttered Porringer. "If I could find his flint and steel; there are pine knots, I know, in the corner—God in Heaven!"

"What is it? What is the matter?" cried Landless, as he staggered against him.

"It's his face!" gasped the other. "There upon the table! I put my hand upon it. It's cold!"

Landless rushed to the fireplace where he knew the tinder-box to be kept, and then groped for and found the heap of pine knots. A moment more and the fat wood was burning brightly, casting its red light throughout the hut, and choking back the pale daylight.

The familiar room with its familiar furnishing of chest and settle and pallet, of hanging nets and piles of dingy sail, sprung into sight, but with it sprung into sight something unfamiliar, strange, and dreadful.

It was the body of the mender of nets, flung face upwards across the rude table, the head hanging over the edge, and the face, which but a few short hours before had looked upon Landless with such a bright and patient serenity, blackened and distorted. Upon the throat were dark marks, the print of ten murderous fingers.

With a bitter cry Landless fell upon his knees beside the table, and pressed his face against the cold hand flung backwards over the head of the murdered man. Porringer began to curse. With white lips and burning eyes he hurled anathemas at the murderer. He cursed him by the powers of light and darkness, by the earth, the sea, and the air; by all the plagues of the two Testaments. Landless broke the torrent of his maledictions.

"Silence!" he said sternly. "He would have forgiven." Presently he rose from the ground, and taking the body in his arms, placed it upon the pallet, and reverently composed the limbs. Then he turned to the fireplace. It was easy to see that the hiding place had been visited. The spring was broken, and the lid had been struck and jammed into place by a powerful and hasty hand. Landless wrenched it off. Before him lay the pistols; but the gold and papers were gone. He turned to the Muggletonian, standing beside him with staring eyes.

"Listen!" he said. "There was gold here. The wretch whom we passed but now knew of it—never mind how—and for it he has murdered the only friend I had on earth. There will come a day when I will avenge him. There were papers here, lists with the signatures of Oliverians, Redemptioners, sailors,—of all classes concerned in this undertaking, save only the slaves and the convicts. There were letters from Maryland and New England, and a correspondence which would provide whipping-post and pillory for other Nonconformists than the Quakers. All these, the actual proofs of this conspiracy, are in his—that murderer's—hands,—where they must not stay."

"What wilt thou do, friend?" said the Muggletonian eagerly. "Wilt thou take the murderer aside in the gate to speak with him quietly, and smite him under the fifth rib, as did Joab to Abner the son of Ner, who slew his brother Asahel?"

"God forbid," said Landless. "But I will take them from him before he knows their contents. One moment, and we will go."

He crossed to the pallet and stood beside it, looking down on the shell that lay upon it with a stern and quiet grief. One of the cold white hands was clenched upon something. He stooped, and with difficulty unclasped the rigid fingers. The something was a ragged lock of coarse red hair.

"You see," he said.

"Ay," said the Muggletonian grimly. "It's evidence enough. There's but one man in this county with hair like that. Leave that lock where it is, and that dead man holds the rope that will hang his murderer."

"It shall be left where it is," said Landless, and reclosed the fingers upon it.

He took a piece of sail-cloth from the floor, and with it covered the dead man from sight. Next he turned to the hollow above the fireplace, and took from it the pistols, concealing them in his bosom. "I may need them," he said. "Come."

They left the hut and its dead guardian, and rowed back through the summer dawn. The sky was barred with crimson and gold, the fiery rim of the sun just lifting above the eastern waters, the mist, a bridal veil of silver and pearl drawn across the face of a virgin earth.

They rowed in silence until they neared the wharf, when Porringer said, "You are leader now."

The other raised his haggard eyes. "It is a trust. I will go through with it, God helping me. But I would I were lying dead beside him in yonder hut."

They left the boat at the wharf, and went towards the quarters. Meeting one of the blowzed and slatternly female servants, Landless asked where they might find the overseer. He had gone to the three-mile field half an hour ago, after bestowing upon the two dilatory servants a hearty cursing, and promising to reckon with them at dinner-time. "Where was the master?" He had gone to the mouth of the inlet with Sir Charles Carew, who had grown impatient, and had sailed away under the Nancy's patched sail. The under overseer was in the far corn-field, two miles off.

"Are all the men in the fields, Barb?" asked Landless.

Barb informed him that they were, "as he might very well know, seeing that the sun was half an hour high."

"Have you seen the man called Roach?"

No: Barb had not seen him; but she had heard the overseer tell Luiz Sebastian to take two men and go to the strip of Orenoko between the inlet and the third tobacco house, and Luiz Sebastian had been calling for Roach and Trail.

Landless thanked her, and moved away without offering to bestow upon her that which Barb probably thought her information merited.

"Do you find Woodson," he said to the Muggletonian, "and report this murder, saying nothing, however, of what we know. I myself will go to the tobacco house."

"Had I not best come with thee to hold up thy hands?" said Porringer. "I would take up my text from the thirty-fifth of Numbers, and from Revelation, twenty-second, thirteen, and deal mightily with the murderer."

"No," answered Landless. "Woodson must be seen at once, or we ourselves will fall under suspicion. And, friend, ask that thou and I may be the ones to bury him."



CHAPTER XIII

IN THE TOBACCO HOUSE

The third tobacco house was built upon a point of land jutting into the larger inlet, and screened off from the wide expanse of fields by a belt of cedars. It was a lonely, retired spot, and the high, dark, windowless structure with its heavy, low-browed door had a menacing aspect. Landless expected to find the men within the building, instead of outside attending to their work, and he was not disappointed. As he walked through the doorway into the pungent gloom, the three started up from the debris of casks, sticks, and pegs, amidst which they had been squatting, with their heads ominously close together.

Landless strode up to Roach. "You murderer!" he said.

The convict recoiled; then with a bestial sound, half snarl, half bellow of rage, he gathered himself for a rush. Landless awaited him with bent body and sinewy, outstretched arms; but the mulatto interposed. Laying his long, beautifully shaped, yellow hands upon Roach, he forced him back against a cask, and, pinning him there, whispered in his ear. The face of the wretch gradually resumed its usual expression of low brutality, though an ugly sweat broke out upon it, and the mouth opened and shut as though he had been running. He turned upon Landless with a half threatening, half cringing air.

"So you've found out what I was about last night, eh, pardner? But you'll keep a still tongue. You're not one to peach on your comrade as was in hell or Newgate with you, and as crossed the ocean with you to this d—d Virginia, and as has always liked you, and has the same spite as you have against the man what bought us. You say naught, comrade, and you'll not stand to lose by it."

"I go from here to give you up to Colonel Verney," said Landless.

The wretch gave a snarl of rage and fear. Luiz Sebastian laid a soothing hand upon his shoulder.

"If I thought that," snarled the convict, "you'd never live to reach that door."

"I shall live to see you hanged," said the other coolly.

Here the mulatto slipped something into Roach's hand. "So you'll give me up?" said the latter in a peculiar voice.

"I have said so."

"Then, by the Lord! I'll be even with you!" Roach cried with savage triumph. "Do you see this, and this, and this?" fluttering a mass of folded papers before the other's eyes. "Ah! I was wise, I was, when I couldn't hide everything about me, to take the papers, and leave the weapons. I've got you now. Here's the lists that the old fool who is dead and gone to hell had hidden behind the gold! Here's enough to hang you and your d—d Cromwellians higher than Haman. There will be more than one giving up, I'm thinking! I've got you under my thumb, and I'll squeeze you!"

"You cannot read; you do not know what those papers contain," said Landless steadily.

"But I can," put in Trail smoothly. "I was but just running them over to our friend whose education has been so sadly neglected, when you came in."

Landless drew a pistol from his bosom, cocked it, and leveled it at the murderer. "You see," he said with an ominously quiet eye and voice, "you were not altogether wise to leave the weapons. Now, give me those lists."

"Damnation!" cried the convict, and Luiz Sebastian glided towards the door.

Landless, quick of eye and active of body, saw the movement, and sprang backwards to the opening before the other could reach it. He covered the three with his pistol.

"I will shoot the first of you that stirs," he said sternly. "You, Roach, lay those papers upon that bit of board, and push them towards me with your foot."

"I'll go to hell first," was the sullen reply.

"As you please. I will give you until I count twenty. If those papers are not in my hands, then I will shoot you like the dog you are."

The murderer uttered a dreadful curse. Landless began to count. Roach made an irresolute motion of the hand that held the lists. Landless counted on, "fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen—" With another oath and a grin of rage Roach dropped the papers upon the board at his feet. "Now push it towards me," said Landless.

With a brow like midnight the other did as he was bid. Still covering his men, Landless stooped quickly, and took up the precious papers, assured himself that they were all there, and placed them in his bosom.

"Now," he said, leaning his back against the doorpost, and regarding the three baffled rogues with a grim eye, "I have a few words to say to you. I speak first to you, Trail, and to you, Luiz Sebastian. These papers have told you little that you did not know before. It was not the information that you gained from them that made them so valuable; it was the possession of them, the possession of actual proofs of this conspiracy which you might hold over our heads, or, if the notion took you, might sell to Colonel Verney?"

"Senor Landless sees the thing as it is," said Luiz Sebastian.

"Well, you no longer possess these proofs, and are therefore just where you were yesterday."

"Listen, Senor Landless," said Luiz Sebastian gloomily. "This plot does not please us. It is too much in the hands of those who call themselves soldiers and martyrs, whom our master calls fanatic Oliverians, and whom I, Luiz Sebastian, call accursed heretics. The servants have no say in the matter; they are to follow like sheep where these others lead. The slaves are not even to know of it until the last moment. A handful of us who have white blood in our veins are let into the secret, that we may incite the blacks when the time is come; but are we consulted? Are our opinions asked, our wishes deferred to? I, Luiz Sebastian, who have been through three insurrections in the Indies, and who know how such things should be managed; has my advice been craved as to this or that? You make us promises. Mother of God! how do we know that those promises will be kept? By St. Jago! the insurrection may arrive, and the planters be put down, and next year may find us slaves still, with but a change of masters!"

"It is too late now for such questions," said Landless steadily. "You must accept the conspiracy as it is. In liberating themselves, these men will of necessity free you even as they will free me, who am not, as you know, of their class. I shall take my chance, as I think you will take yours."

The mulatto played with a tobacco peg, striking it against his great, white teeth. At length he said slowly and with a sinister upward glance at the figure by the door, "Certainly, Senor Landless, it seems our best, our only chance, for freedom."

And with this Landless had perforce to be content. He turned to the murderer, saying sternly, "Now for my word with you. I hold your life in my hands, for I heard you last night in the marsh, and Porringer and I saw you stealing from the creek this morning, and I can swear that you knew of the gold hidden in the hut. You have it on you at this moment. I could hold you here with this pistol until the overseer should come and search you. But I let you go, choosing rather your safety than the endangerment of that which was dearer than life to the man you murdered. The unsupported assertion of a murderer as to the contents of papers which he had not got to show, might not go for much, but I prefer that you should not make it. I have warned you;—you had best make your escape at once."

"If you hold your tongue, there's no reason why I should run."

"Oh, yes, there is! There is a reason in the hut on the marsh."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that clasped in the hand of the man you murdered is the missing half of that torn lock upon your forehead."

With a yell Roach sprang to the door only to be confronted by the muzzle of Landless' pistol.

"Wait a moment," he said composedly. "Oh, you need not be afraid! I intend to let you go. But you don't leave this tobacco house until after I have left it myself."

"Curse you!" cried the other, foaming at the lips.

"You are ungrateful. I not only promise not to witness against you, but I aid you to escape."

"For reasons of your own," suggested Trail.

"Precisely; for reasons of my own. If you are taken, I will hold my tongue just so long as you hold yours. If you escape now, I will pray that my day of reckoning will yet come. And it will be a heavy reckoning."

"Ay, that it will!" cried the murderer with brutal fury. "You've got the upper hand now; but wait! Every dog has his day, and I'll have mine! and when it comes, I'll do for you! I'll smash your beauty! I'll draw more blood from you than ever the whip of the overseer did! I'll use you worse than I used that old man last night, who writhed and struggled, and tried to pray! I'll—"

With white lips and blazing eyes Landless sprang forward, and clapped the mouth of the pistol to the ruffian's temple. Roach recoiled, then sunk upon his knees with an abject whine for mercy.

Landless let his hand drop, and moved slowly back to the door. "You had need to cry for mercy," he said in a low, distinct voice, "for you were never so near to death before. I let you go now, but one day I shall kill you. Until which day—take care of yourself!" Still with his face upon them he passed out of the door, then turned and walked away with a steady step, but with a heart bleeding for the loss of his friend, and heavy with forebodings for the future.

In the tobacco house the murderer, the forger, and the mulatto sat stricken into silence until the last crisp footfall had died away. Then amidst a torrent of curses Roach made for the door. Trail plucked him back. "Where are you going?" he cried.

"I don't know! To the devil!"

"The bloodhounds will be upon your trail before noon."

The wretch cried out and struck his hand against the wall with a force that laid the knuckles bare and bleeding.

"There is a way," said Luiz Sebastian slowly, "a way that only I know. You must take to the inlet here, and swim up it until you come to the mouth of the brook yonder in the forest. You must wade up that brook until you come to a second, and up that until you come to a third. When you have gone a mile up that one, leave it, and strike through the woods, going towards the north. Another mile will bring you to a village of the Chickahominies upon the Pamunkey.[1] They are at odds with Governor and Council, and they will hide you. Moreover, I once did their sachem a service, and they are my friends."

"I'm off," said Roach, breaking from the detaining grasp.

"Wait," said Luiz Sebastian. "There is time enough. Woodson will not come for a long while. When he does, he shall find Senor Trail and myself busily at work there outside, and we will say that you left us, and went down the inlet a long time before. But now we want to talk to you."

"Be quick then," growled the other, "I've no mind to swing for this job."

Luiz Sebastian brought his handsomely malevolent face close to the other's hideous countenance.

"Would you not like to ruin that devil who but now robbed you of your hard-earned property?"

"Would I not?" cried the murderer with a tremendous oath. "I'd give everything but life and gold to do it, as that cunning devil well knew. I'd give my soul!"

"Would you like to be shown how to get more gold than old Godwyn's store, twenty times told? To get your freedom? To have some black, sweet hours in which to work your will on them at the house yonder? To plunge your arms to the elbow in the master's money chest; to become drunken with his wine; to strike him down, and that smiling imp his cousin, and that other devil, Woodson; to hear the women cry for mercy—and cry in vain? You would like all this?"

"Show me the way!" cried the brute with a ferocious light in his bloodshot eyes. "Show me the way to do it safely, and I'll—" He broke off and threatened the air with malignant fists.

"Go to the village on the Pamunkey," said Luiz Sebastian with his most feline expression. "I will come to you there the first night I can slip away, I and our friend, the Senor Trail. There we will have our little conference. Mother of God! Senor Landless may find that others can plot as well as he and his accursed heretics."

[Footnote 1: The modern York.]



CHAPTER XIV

A MIDNIGHT EXPEDITION

Four nights later, the hour before midnight found Landless walking steadily through the forest, bound upon a mission which he had had in his mind since the night after the murder of Godwyn. This was the first night since that event upon which he had deemed it advisable to leave the quarters, having no mind to be captured as a runaway by one of the many search parties which were scouring the peninsula between the two great rivers for the murderer of Robert Godwyn. But the search was now trending northward towards Maryland, to which colony runaways usually turned their steps, and he felt that he might venture.

There was little undergrowth in the primeval forest, and the rows of vast and stately trees were as easy to thread as the pillared aisles of a cathedral. When he came to one of the innumerable streamlets that caught the land in a net of silver, he removed his coarse shoes and stockings, and waded it. The great branches overhead shut in a night that was breathlessly hot and still. He could see the stars only when he crossed the streams or emerged into one of the many little open glades. He walked warily, making no sound, and now and then stopping to listen for the distant halloo, or bark of a dog, which might denote that he was followed, or that there was a search party abroad, but he heard nothing save the usual forest sounds,—the dropping of acorns, the sighing leaves, the cry of some night bird,—sounds that seemed to make the night more still than silence.

He was nearing his destination when from out a shadowy clump of alders, standing upon the bank of the stream which he had just crossed, there shot a long arm, and the next moment he was wrestling with a dark and powerful figure whose naked body slipped from his hold as though it had been greased. But Landless, too, was strong and determined, and the two swayed and strained backwards and forwards through the darkness, wary and resolute, neither giving his antagonist advantage. The hand of the unknown writhed itself from the other's clasp and stole downwards towards his waist. Landless felt the motion and intercepted it. Then the figure, with an angry guttural sound, began to put forth its full strength. The arms encircled Landless with a slowly tightening iron band; the great dark shoulder came forward with the force of a battering-ram; the limbs twined like boa-constrictors around the limbs of the other. Locked together, the two reeled into a little fairy glade, where the short grass, pearled with dew, lay open to the moon. Here, borne backwards by the overwhelming force of his assailant, Landless fell heavily to the ground. The figure falling with him, pinned him to the earth with its knee upon his breast. In the moonlight he saw the gleam of the lifted knife.

He had had but time for a half-uttered, half-thought prayer when the pressure upon his breast relaxed; the knife fell, indeed, but harmlessly upon the grass, and the figure rose to its height with an astonished "Ugh!"

Landless, rising also, began to think that he recognized the gigantic form towering through the pale moonlight.

"Ugh!" said the figure again. "The great Spirit threw us into the light in time. Monakatocka had been forever shamed had his knife drunk the life of his friend."

"Why did you set upon me?" demanded Landless, still breathless from the struggle, while the Indian was as calmly composed as upon the day of their first meeting.

"Monakatocka took you for the man for whom they hunt with dogs through the forest, scaring the deer from the licks and the partridge from the fern. Two nights ago Major Carrington said to Monakatocka, 'Find me that man and kill him, and to the twenty arms' length of roanoke which the county will pay to Monakatocka, I will add a gun with store of powder, and with a bullet for every stag between Werowocomico and Machot.' When he heard you a long way off, moving over the leaves, trying to make no sound, Monakatocka thought he held the gun of the paleface Major in his hand. But now—" he waved his hand with a gesture eloquent of resignation.

"I am sorry to disappoint you," said Landless, amused at his air of calm regret.

"I am glad to have proved the strength of my brother," was the sententious reply. "Where goes my brother through the woods, which are full of danger to him to-night? Or has he a pass?"

"I have business at Rosemead," answered Landless. "I am close to the house, I think?"

The Indian pointed through the trees. "It lies twelve bowshots before you. The overseer with the dogs has gone to the great swamp to look for the man with the red hair."

"Thanks for the information, friend," said Landless. "I ask you, moreover, to say nothing of this encounter. I have no pass."

"I have but one friend," answered the Indian. "His secret is my secret."

"Are you, too, then, so lonely?" asked Landless, touched by his tone.

"Listen," said the Indian, leaning his back against a great oak. "I will tell my brother who I am.... Many years ago the Conestogas, they whom the palefaces call the Susquehannocks, came down the great bay and fought with the palefaces. Monakatocka was then but a lad on his first warpath. Agreskoi was angry: he hid his face behind a cloud. With their guns the palefaces beat the Conestogas like fleeing women back to their village on the banks of a great river, and themselves returned in triumph to their board wigwams, bearing with them many captives. Monakatocka, son to a great chief, was one. The palefaces made him to work like a squaw in their fields of tobacco and maize. When he ran away they put forth a long arm and plucked him back and beat him. Agreskoi was angry, for Monakatocka had not any offering to make him. One by one his fellow captives have dropped away like the leaves that fall in the moon of Taquetock, until, behold! he is left alone. The palefaces are his enemies. He thinks of the village beside the pleasant stream, and he hates them. A warrior of the long house takes no friend from the wigwam of an Algonquin. Monakatocka is alone."

He spoke with a wild pathos, his high, stern features working in the moonlight, and his bold glance softened into an exquisite melancholy.

"I too am friendless," said Landless, "and bound to a far more degrading captivity than that you suffer. Our fate is the same."

The Indian took his hand in his, and raising it, pressed the forefinger against a certain spot upon his shoulder. "You have a friend," he said.

"You make too much of a very slight service," said Landless. "But I embrace your offer of friendship—there's my hand upon it. And now I must be going upon my way. Good-night!"

The Indian gave a guttural "Good-night," and Landless strode on through the thinning woods. Shortly he emerged from the forest and saw before him tobacco fields and a house, and beyond the house the vast sheet of the Chesapeake slumbering beneath the moon. There was a beaten path leading to the house. Landless struck into it and followed it until it led him beneath a window which (having been once sent with a message to the Surveyor-General), he knew to belong to the sleeping-chamber of Major Carrington. Stopping beneath this window he listened for any sound that might warn him of aught stirring within or without the mansion,—all was silent, the house and its inmates locked in slumber.

He took a handful of pebbles from the path and threw them, one by one, against the wooden shutter, the thud of the last pebble being answered by a slight noise from within the room. Presently the shutter was opened and an authoritative voice demanded:—

"Who is it? What do you want?"

Landless came closer beneath the window. "Major Carrington," he said in a low voice, "It is I, Godfrey Landless. I must have speech with you."

There was a moment's silence, and then the other said coldly, "'Must' is a word that becomes neither your lips nor my ears. I know no reason why Miles Carrington must speak with the servant of Colonel Verney."

"As you please: Godfrey Landless craves the honor of a word with Major Carrington."

"And what if Major Carrington refuses?" said the other sharply.

"I do not think he will do so."

The Surveyor-General hesitated a moment, then said:—

"Go to the great door. I will open to you in a moment. But make no noise."

Landless nodded, and proceeded to follow his directions. Presently the door swung noiselessly inward, and Carrington, appearing in the opening, beckoned Landless within, and led the way, still in profound silence, across the hall to the great room. Here, after softly closing the door, he lighted candles, saw to it that the heavy wooden shutters were securely drawn across the windows, and turned to face his visitor in a somewhat different guise than the riding suit and jack boots, the mask and broad flapping beaver, in which he had appeared in their encounter in the hut on the marsh. His stately figure was now wrapped in a night-gown of dark velvet, his bare feet were thrust into velvet slippers, and a silken night-cap, half on and half off, imparted a rakish air to his gravely handsome countenance. He threw himself into a great armchair and tapped impatiently upon the table.

"Well!" he said dryly.

Landless standing before him began to speak with dignity and to the point. Godwyn, the head of a great conspiracy, was dead, leaving him, Landless, in some sort his successor. In a conference of the leading conspirators held but a few nights before the murder, Godwyn had announced that not only had he given to the son of Warham Landless his complete confidence, but that in case aught should happen to himself before the time for action, he would wish the young man to succeed him in the leadership of the revolt. There had been some demur, but Godwyn's influence was boundless, and on his advancing reason after reason for his preference, the Oliverians had acquiesced in his judgment and had given their solemn promise to respect his wishes. Three nights later, Godwyn was murdered. Since that dreadful blow, Landless had seen only such of the conspirators as were in his immediate neighborhood. Confounded at the turn affairs had taken, and utterly at a loss, they had turned eagerly to him as to one having authority. For his own freedom, for the sake of his promise to the dead man, he would do his utmost. He had come to-night to discover, if possible, Major Carrington's intentions—

Carrington, who had listened thus far with grave attention, frowned heavily.

"If my memory serves me, sirrah, I told you once before that Miles Carrington stirs not hand or foot in this matter. I may wish you well, but that is all."

"'Tis a poor friend that cries 'Godspeed!' to one who struggles in a bog, and gives not his hand to help him out."

"Your figure does not hold," said the other, dryly. "I have not cried 'Godspeed!' I have said nothing at all, either good or bad. I have nothing to do with this conspiracy. You are the only man now living that knows that I am aware that such a thing exists. And I hope, sir, that you will remember how you gained that knowledge."

"I am in no danger of forgetting."

"Very well. Your journey here to-night was a useless as well as a dangerous one. I have nothing to say to you."

"Will you tell me one thing?" said Landless, patiently. "What will Major Carrington have to say to me upon the day when I speak to him as a free man with free men behind me?"

"Upon that day," said the other, composedly, "Miles Carrington will submit to the inevitable with a good grace, having been, as is well known, a friend to the Commonwealth, and having always, even when there was danger in so doing, spoken against the cruel and iniquitous enslavement of men whose only offense was non-conformity, or the having served under the banners of Cromwell."

"If he should be offered Cromwell's position in the new Commonwealth, what then?"

"Pshaw! no such offer will be made."

"We must have weight and respectability, must identify ourselves with that Virginia in which we are strangers, if we are to endure," said Landless, with a smile. "A fact that we perfectly recognize—as does Major Carrington. He probably knows who is of, and yet head and shoulders above, that party in the state upon whose support we must ultimately rely, who alone could lead that party; who alone might reconcile Royalist and Puritan;—and to whom alone the offer I speak of will be made."

Carrington smiled despite himself. "Well, then, if the offer is made, I will accept it. In short, when your man is out of the bog I will lend my aid to cleanse him of the stains incurred in the transit. But he must pull himself out of the mire. I am safe upon the bank, I will not be drawn with him into a bottomless ruin. Do I make myself plain?"

"Perfectly," said Landless, dryly.

The other flushed beneath the tone. "You think perhaps that I play but a craven part in this game. I do not. God knows I run a tremendous risk as it is, without madly pledging life and honor to this desperate enterprise!"

"I fail to see the risk," said Landless, coldly.

The other struck his hand against the table. "I risk a slave insurrection!" he said.

A noise outside the door made them start like guilty things. The door opened softly and a charming vision appeared, to wit, Mistress Betty Carrington, rosy from sleep and hastily clad in a dressing-gown of sombre silk. Her little white feet were bare, and her dark hair had escaped from its prim, white night coif. She started when she saw a visitor, and her feet drew demurely back under the hem of her gown, while her hands went up to her disheveled hair; but a second glance showing her his quality, she recovered her composure and spoke to her father in her soft, serious voice.

"I heard a noise, my father, and looking into your room, found it empty, so I came down to see what made you wakeful to-night."

"'Tis but a message from Verney Manor, child," said her father. "Get back to bed."

"From Verney Manor!" exclaimed Betty. "Then I can send back to-night the song book and book of plays lent me by Sir Charles Carew, and which, after reading the first page, I e'en restored to their wrappings and laid aside with a good book a-top to put me in better thoughts if ever I was tempted to touch them again. I will get them, good fellow, and you shall carry them back to their owner with my thanks, if it so be that I can find words that are both courteous and truthful."

"Stop, child!" said her father as she turned to leave the room. "The volumes, which you were very right not to read, may rest awhile beneath the good book. This is a secret mission upon which this young man has come. It is about a—a matter of state upon which his master and I have been engaged. No one here or at Verney Manor must know that he has been at Rosemead."

"Very well, my father," said Betty, meekly, "the books can wait some other opportunity."

"And," with some sternness, "you will be careful to hold your tongue as to this man's presence here to-night."

"Very well, father."

"You are not to speak of it to Mistress Patricia or to any one."

"I will be silent, my father."

"Very well," said the Major. "You are not like the majority of women. I know that your word is as good as an oath. Now run away to bed, sweetheart, and forget that you have seen this messenger."

"I am going now, father," said Betty, obediently. "Is Mistress Patricia well, good fellow?"

"Quite well, I believe, madam."

"She spake of crossing to Accomac with Mistress Lettice and Sir Charles Carew, when the latter should go to visit Colonel Scarborough. Know you if she went?"

"I think not, madam. I think that Sir Charles Carew went alone."

"Ah! They have fallen out then," said Betty, half to herself, and with a demure satisfaction in her wild flower face. "I am glad of it, for I like him not. Thanks, good fellow, for your answering my idle questions."

Landless bowed gravely. Betty bent her pretty head, and with a hasty, "I am going, father!" in answer to an impatient movement on the part of the Major, vanished from the room.

Carrington waited until the last light footfall had died away, and then said, "Our interview is over. Are you satisfied?"

"At least, I understand your position."

"Yes," said Carrington, thoughtfully, "it is as well that you should understand it. It is simple. I wish you well. I am in heart a Commonwealth's man. I love not the Stuarts. I would fain see this fair land freed from their rule and returned to the good days of the Commonwealth. And I may as well acknowledge, since you have found it out for yourself,"—a haughty smile,—"that I have my ambitions. What man has not?" He rose and began to pace the room, his hands clasped behind him, his handsome head bent, his rich robe trailing upon the ground behind him.

"I could rule this land more acceptably to the people than can William Berkeley with his parrot phrases, 'divine right,' and 'passive obedience.' I know the people and am popular with them, with Royalist and Churchman as well as with Nonconformist and Oliverian. I know the needs of the colony—home rule, self taxation, free trade, a more liberal encouragement to emigrants, religious tolerance, a rod of iron for the Indians, the establishment of a direct slave trade with Africa and the Indies. I could so rule this colony that in a twelvemonth's time, Richard Verney or Stephen Ludlow, hot Royalists though they be, would be forced to acknowledge that never, since the day Smith sailed up the James, had Virginia enjoyed a tithe of her present prosperity."

"'Tis a consummation devoutly to be desired,'" said Landless, dryly. "In the mean time, like the cat i' the adage—"

"You are insolent, sirrah!"

"When a stripling I served under one who took the bitter with the sweet, the danger as well as the reward, who led the soldiers from whom he took his throne."

"Cromwell, sirrah," said Carrington sternly, "led soldiers. You would require Miles Carrington to lead servants, to place himself, a gentleman and a master, at the head of a rebellion which, if it failed, would plunge him into a depth of ignominy and ruin proportionate to the height from which he fell. He declines the position. When you have won your freedom he will treat with you. Not before."

"Then," said Landless slowly, "upon the day on which the flag of the Commonwealth floats over the Assembly hall at Jamestown, then—"

"Then I will join myself to you as I have said, and I will bring with me those without whom your revolution would be but short-lived—the Puritan and Nonconformist element in the colony, gentle and simple."

"That is sufficiently explicit," said Landless, "and I thank you."

"I have trusted you fully, young man," said the other, stopping before him, "not only because you cannot betray me if you would, seeing that not one scrap of writing exists to inculpate me in this matter, and that your word would scarce be taken before mine, but because I believe you to be trustworthy. I believe also"—graciously—"that Robert Godwyn (whose death I sincerely mourn) showed his usual wisdom and knowledge of mankind when he chose you as his confidant and co-worker. I wish you well through with a dangerous and delicate piece of work and in enjoyment of your reward, namely, your freedom, and the esteem of the Commonwealth of Virginia. I will myself see to it that any past offenses which you are supposed to have committed (for myself, I believe you to have been harshly used), shall not stand in your light."

"Major Carrington is very good," said Landless, calmly. "I shall study to deserve his commendation."

The other took a restless turn or two through the room, stopping at length before the younger man.

"You may tell me one thing," he said in a voice scarcely above a whisper, and with his eyes bent watchfully upon the other's composed face. "Had Godwyn set the day?"

"Yes."

"And you will adhere to it?"

"Yes."

"What day?"

"The thirteenth of September."

"Humph! Two weeks off! Well, my tobacco will be largely in, and I shall send my daughter upon a visit to her Huguenot kindred upon the Potomac. Good night."

"Good night," answered Landless.



CHAPTER XV

THE WATERS OF CHESAPEAKE

Patricia was ennuyee to the last degree. That morning Sir Charles had ridden to Green Spring with her father; Mistress Lettice was in the still room decocting a face wash from rose leaves, dew and honey; young Shaw on his knees in the master's room, disconsolately poring over piles of musty papers in search of a misplaced deed which the colonel had ordered him to find against his return. It was a hot and listless afternoon. Patricia read a page of "The Rival Ladies," tried her spinet, had a languid romp with her spaniels, and finally sauntered into the porch, and leaning her white arms upon the railing, looked towards the dazzling blue waters of the Chesapeake. Presently an idea came to her. She went swiftly into the hall, and called for Darkeih. When that handmaiden appeared:—

"Darkeih, go down to the quarters, and tell the first man you meet to find Woodson, and send him to me."

Darkeih departed, and in half an hour's time the overseer appeared at the foot of the porch steps, red and heated from his rapid walk from the Three-Mile field.

"What's wrong, Mistress Patricia?" he asked quickly.

Patricia opened her lovely eyes. "Nothing is wrong, Woodson. What should be? I sent for you, because I want to go to Rosemead."

"To Rosemead!" exclaimed the overseer.

"Yes, to Rosemead, and I want a couple of men to take me."

The overseer gave a short, vexed laugh. "I can't spare the men, Mistress Patricia. You ought to have known that every man jack on the plantation is busy cutting. If I had a known this was all that was wanted! Fegs! I thought something dreadful was the matter."

"Something dreadful is the matter," said the young lady calmly. "I am bored to death."

"Sorry for ye, missy, but I can't spare the men."

"Oh, yes, you can!" said Patricia with unruffled composure.

The overseer, knowing his lady, began to weaken.

"Anyhow, you wouldn't want two men. You might go on a pillion behind old Abraham. I could spare him."

"I shall not go a-horseback. 'Tis too hot and dusty. I shall go in one of the sail-boats—the Bluebird, I think."

"Now, in the name of all that's contrary, what do you want to do that for, Mistress Patricia?" cried the harassed overseer. "It's twice as far by water."

"I'll reach Rosemead before dark. The men can bring the boat back to-night, and Major Carrington will send me home on a pillion to-morrow."

"Have you forgotten that to-morrow is Sunday?" said the overseer severely, and with a new-born anxiety for the proper observance of the holy day. "Will you have the Colonel pay a fine for you?"

"I will go to service with the Carringtons then, and come home on Monday," said the lady serenely.

"There's a squall coming up this afternoon."

"There isn't a cloud in the sky," said his mistress with calm conviction, looking straight before her at a low, tumbled line of creamy peaks along the horizon.

"If the Colonel were here—"

"He would say, 'Woodson, do exactly as Mistress Patricia tells you.'" This with great sweetness.

The overseer gave it up. "I reckon he would, missy," he said with a grin. "You wind him and all of us around your finger."

"'Tis all for your good, Woodson," with a soft, bright laugh. Then, coaxingly, "Am I to have the Bluebird?"

"I reckon so, Mistress Patricia, seeing that you have set your heart upon it," said the still reluctant overseer.

"That's a good Woodson. I want Regulus to be one of the boatmen. You can send any other you choose. I shall take Darkeih with me."

"You can't have Regulus, Mistress Patricia," answered the overseer positively. "He's worth any two men in the field. I can't let him go."

"Let him be at the wharf in half an hour. I will be ready by then."

"You can't have him, Missy."

Patricia stamped her pretty foot. "Am I mistress of this plantation, or am I not, Woodson?"

"Lord knows you are!" groaned the overseer.

"Then when I say I want Regulus, I will have Regulus and no other."

The overseer sighed resignedly. "Very well, Mistress Patricia, I'll send for him."

Patricia danced away, and the overseer strode down the path, viciously crunching the pebbles and bits of shell beneath his feet. At the wharf he found a detachment of the infant population of the quarters busily crabbing; all of whom, save two little Indians who fished stoically on, scrambled to their feet, and pulled a forelock. The overseer touched one urchin upon the shoulder with the butt end of his whip.

"You, Piccaninny, run as fast as your legs will carry you to the field by the swamp, and tell Regulus to leave his work, and come to the big wharf. Mistress Patricia wants to go a pleasuring."

Piccaninny's black shanks and pink heels flew up and out, and he was away like a flash. The overseer kept on to the end of the wharf, where were clustered the boats, some tied to the piles, some anchored a little way out. "Haines was to send a man to caulk a seam in the Nancy," he muttered. "Whoever he is, he'll have to go in the Bluebird. I'm not going to take another man from the tobacco. What fools women are! But they get their way,—the pretty ones at least." He leaned over the railing, and called,—

"You there, in the Nancy!"

Godfrey Landless looked up from his work. "What is it?"

The overseer chuckled grimly. "It's that fellow Landless who angered her once before," he said to himself with a malicious grin. "Well, 't isn't my business to know which of all the servants on this plantation she most dislikes to come near her. She'll have to put up with him to-day. There isn't a better boatman on the place anyhow."

To Landless he said, "Bring the Bluebird up to the wharf, and see that she is sweet and clean inside. Mistress Patricia starts for Rosemead in half an hour, and you and Regulus are to take her. You'll bring the boat back to-night. Step lively now!"

Landless brought the Bluebird, a sixteen-foot open boat, up to the wharf, made the inside, and especially the seat in the stern, spotlessly clean, put up the sail, and sat down to wait. Presently Regulus appeared above him, and swung himself down into the boat with a grin of delight, for he much preferred sailing with "'lil missy" to cutting tobacco. He had a great burly form and a broad, ebony face, and he was the devoted slave of Patricia, and of Patricia's maid, Darkeih. Moreover, he enjoyed the distinction of being the first negro born in the Colony, his parents having been landed from the Dutch privateer which in 1619 introduced the slave into Virginia. Viewed through a vista of nigh three hundred years, he appears a portent, a tremendous omen, a sign from the Eumenides. Upon that tranquil summer afternoon in the Virginia of long ago he was simply a good-humored, docile, happy-go-lucky, harmless animal.

"'Lil Missy's comin'," he remarked, with bonhommie, to his fellow boatman.

Darkeih, laden with cushions, appeared at the edge of the wharf. Landless, standing in the bow below her, relieved her of her burdens, and taking her by the hands, swung her down into the boat. She thanked him with a smile that showed every tooth in her comely brown countenance, and tripped aft, where, with the assistance of Regulus, she proceeded to arrange a cushioned seat for her mistress.

Landless waited for the lady of the manor to come forward. In the act of extending her hands to the boatman, she glanced at him, crimsoned, and drew back. Landless, interpreting color and action aright, buckled his armor of studied quiet more closely over a hurt and angry heart.

"I was ordered to attend you, madam," he said proudly. "But if you so desire, I will find the overseer and tell him that you wish for some one else in my place."

"There is not time," was the cold reply. "And as well you as any other. Let us be going."

Landless held out his arms again. She measured with her eyes the distance between her and the boat. "I do not need any help," she said. "If you will stand aside, I can spring from here to the prow."

"And strike the water instead, madam," said Landless, grimly, "when I would have to touch more than your hand in order to pull you out."

She colored angrily, but held out her hands. Landless lifted her down and steadied her to her seat in the stern. She thanked him coldly, and began at once to talk to Regulus with the playful familiarity of a child. Regulus grinned delight; he had been "'lil Missy's" slave from her childhood. Landless untied the boat from the piles and pushed her off; Regulus, who was to steer, pulled the tiller towards him, and the little Bluebird glided from the wharf, made a wide and graceful sweep, and proceeded leisurely down the inlet towards the waters of the great bay.

Landless seated himself in the bow, and turned his face away from the group in the stern. Patricia leaned back amidst her cushions, and opened a book; Darkeih, upon the other side of the rudder, held a whispered flirtation with Regulus, squatting at her feet, the tiller in his hand. There was but little wind, but what there was came from the land, and the Bluebird moved steadily though listlessly down the inlet, between the velvet marshes. The water broke against the sides of the boat with a languid murmur. It was very hot, and the sky above was of a steely, unclouded blue that hurt the eyes. Only in the southwest the line of cloud hills was erecting itself into an Alpine range. The glare of the sun upon the white pages of her book dazzled Patricia's eyes; the heat and the lazy swaying motion made her drowsy. With a sigh of oppression she closed her book, and taking her fan from Darkeih, laid it across her face, and curled herself among her cushions.

"I will sleep awhile," she said to her handmaiden, and serenely glided into slumberland.

She was in a balcony with Sir Charles Carew, looking down upon a fantastic procession that wound endlessly on, with flaunting banners, and to the sound of kettle-drums and trumpets, when she was aroused by Landless' voice. She opened her eyes and looked up from her nest of cushions to see him standing above her.

"What is it?" she asked frigidly.

"I grieve to waken you, madam, but there is a heavy squall coming up."

She sat up and looked about her. The Bluebird had left the inlet and was rising and falling with the long oily swell of the vast sheet of water that stretched before them to a horizon of vivid blue. North and east the water met the sky; a mile to the westward was the low wooded shore which they were skirting.

"The sun is shining," said Patricia, bewildered. "The sky is blue."

"Look behind you."

She turned and uttered an exclamation. The Alpine range had vanished, and a monstrous pall of gray-black cloud was being slowly drawn upward and across the smiling heaven. Even as she looked, it blotted out the sun.

"We had better make for the shore at once," said Landless. "We can reach it before the storm breaks and can find shelter for you until it is over."

Patricia exclaimed: "Why, we cannot be more than three miles from Rosemead! Surely we can reach it before that cloud overtakes us!"

"I think not, madam."

"Regulus!" cried his mistress imperiously. "We can reach Rosemead before that storm breaks, can we not?"

Among other amiable qualities, Regulus numbered a happy willingness to please, even at the expense of truth.

"Sho-ly, 'lil Missy," he said with emphasis.

"And it will not be much of a squall, besides, will it, Regulus?"

"No, 'lil Missy, not much ob squall," answered the obliging Regulus.

"There is much wind in it," said Landless. "Look at those white clouds scudding across the black; and these squalls strike with suddenness and fury. I may put the boat about, madam?"

"Certainly not. Regulus, who must know the Chesapeake and its squalls much better than you possibly can, says there is no danger. I have no mind to be set ashore in these woods with night coming on and Indians or wolves prowling around."

"I beg that you will be advised by me, madam."

She looked at him as she had done that day in the master's room. "Is it that you are afraid of a Virginia squall? If so, you will have to conquer your tremor. Regulus, keep the boat as it is."

Landless went back to his seat in the bow, with tightened lips. The wind freshened, coming in hot little puffs, and the Bluebird slid more swiftly over the low hills. The water turned to a livid green and the air slowly darkened. Across the black pall, looming higher and higher, shot a jagged streak of fierce gold, followed by a low rumble of thunder. A mass of gray-white, fantastically piled clouds whirled up from the eastern horizon to meet the vast blank sullen sheet overhead. There came a more vivid flash and a louder roll of thunder.

Landless walked aft and took the tiller from Regulus' hand, motioning him forward to the place he had himself occupied. The negro stared, but went with his accustomed docility. Patricia sat upright in indignant surprise.

"What are you doing?"

"I am about to head the boat for the shore," suiting the action to the word.

Her eyes blazed. "Did you not hear me say that I wished to proceed to Rosemead?"

"Yes, madam, I did."

"I order you, sir—"

"And I choose to disobey."

"I shall report you to Colonel Verney."

"As you please, madam."

From the prow, where he had been taking observations, Regulus cried in a startled voice: "De win 's comin'! De win 's comin' mighty quick!"

Landless thrust the tiller into Patricia's hands. "Keep it there, just where it is, for your life!" he cried authoritatively, and bounded forward to where Regulus was already struggling with the sail. They got it in and lashed to the mast just in time, for, with the shriek of a thousand demons, the squall whirled itself upon them. In an instant they were enveloped in a blinding horror of furious wind and rain, glare of lightning and incessant, ear-splitting thunder. A leaden darkness, illuminated only by the lightning, settled around them, and the air grew suddenly cold. Beneath the whip of the wind the Chesapeake woke from slumber, stirred, and rose in fury. The Bluebird danced dizzily upon white crests or swooped into black and yawning chasms. Steadying himself by the thwarts, Landless went back to Patricia, sitting pale and with clasped hands, but making no sound. Darkeih, with a moan of fear, had thrown herself down at her mistress' feet, and was hiding her face in her skirts. Landless took a scarf from among the pile of cushions, and wrapped it around Patricia. "'Tis a poor protection against wet and cold," he said, "but it is better than nothing."

"Thank you," she said then, with an effort. "Do you think this squall will last long?"

"I cannot tell, madam. It is rather a hurricane than a squall. But we must do the best we can."

As he spoke there came a fresh access of wind with a glare of intolerable light. The mast bent like a reed, snapped off clear to the foot and fell inward, the loosened beam striking Regulus upon the head, and bearing him down with it. The boat careened violently, and half filled with water. Darkeih screamed, and Patricia sprang to her feet, but sat down again at Landless' stern command, "Sit still! She will right in a moment."

He lifted and flung overboard the mass of splintered wood and flapping cloth, then fell to bailing with all his might, for the danger of swamping was imminent. Presently Patricia touched him upon the arm. "I will bail if you will see to Regulus," she said, in a low, strained voice. "I think he is dead."

Landless resigned the pail into her hands and lifted the negro's head and shoulders from the water in which he was lying, pillowing them upon the stern seat. He was unconscious, and bleeding from a cut on the forehead.

"He is not dead nor like to die," Landless said. "He will revive before long."

The girl gave a long, quivering sigh of relief. Landless finished the bailing and sat down at her feet.

Some time later she asked faintly: "Do you not think the worst is over now?"

"I am afraid not," he answered gently. "There is a lull now, but I am afraid the storm is but gathering its forces. But we will hope for the best—"

Another flash and crash cut him short. It was followed by rain that fell, not in drops, but in sheets. The wind, which had been blowing a heavy gale, rose suddenly into a tornado. With it rose the sea. The masses of water, hissing and smoking under the furious pelting of the rain, flung themselves upon the hapless Bluebird, laboring heavily in the trough of the waves, or staggering over their summits. A constant glare lit the heaving, tossing world of waters, and the air became one roar of wind, rain, and thunder.

Darkeih crouched moaning at her mistress' feet. Regulus lay unconscious, breathing heavily. Suddenly, with a quick intake of his breath, Landless seized Patricia, pulled her down into the bottom of the boat, and held her there.

"I see," she said in a low, awed voice. "It is Death!"

Through the glare a long green wall bore down upon them. The Bluebird leaped to meet it. It lifted her up, up to meet the lightning, then hurled her into black depths, and passed on, leaving her staggering in the trough, water-logged and helpless.



CHAPTER XVI

THE FACE IN THE DARK

Patricia lifted her white face from her hands. "We rode that dreadful wave?" she cried incredulously.

"By God's mercy, yes," said Landless gravely.

"Is there any hope for us?"

Landless hesitated. "Tell me the truth," she said imperiously.

"We are in desperate case, madam. The boat is half filled with water. Another such sea will sink us."

"Why do you not bail the boat?"

"The bucket is gone; the tiller also."

She shivered, and Darkeih began to wail aloud. Landless laid a heavy hand upon the latter's shoulder. "Silence!" he said sternly. "Here! I shall lay Regulus' head in your lap, and you are to watch over him and not to think of yourself. There's a brave wench!"

Darkeih's lamentations subsided into a low sobbing, and Landless turned to her mistress.

"Try to keep up your courage, madam," he said. "Our peril is great; but while there is life there is hope."

"I am not afraid," she said. "I—" The pitching of the boat threw her against Landless, and he put his arm about her. "You must let me hold you, madam," he said quietly. She shrank away from his touch, saying breathlessly, "No, oh no! See! I can hold quite well by the gunwale." He acquiesced in silence, only lifting her into a more secure position. "I thank you," she said humbly.

The storm continued to rage with unabated fury. Flash and detonation succeeded flash and detonation; the rain poured in torrents; and the wind whooped on the angry sea like a demon of destruction. The Bluebird pitched and tossed at the mercy of the great waves that combed above her. Time passed, and to the darkness of the storm was added the darkness of the night. The occupants of the boat, drenched by the rain and the seas she had shipped, shivered with cold. Regulus began to stir and mutter. "He is coming to himself," Landless cried to Darkeih. "When you see that he is conscious, make him lie still. He must not move about."

"Do you know where we are?" asked Patricia.

"No, madam; but I fear that the wind is driving us out into the bay."

"Ah!"

She said it with a sob, for a sudden vision of home flashed across the cold and darkness; and presently Landless could hear that she was weeping.

The sound went to his heart. "I would God I could help you, madam," he said gently. "Take comfort! You are in the hands of One who holds the sea in the hollow of His hand."

In a little while she was quiet. There passed another long interval of silent endurance, broken by Patricia's saying piteously, "My hands are so numbed with cold that I cannot hold to the side of the boat. And my arms are bruised with striking against it."

Without a word Landless put his arm around her, and held her steady amidst the tossings of the boat. "You are shivering with cold!" he said. "If I had but something to wrap you in!"

She drooped against him, and the lightning showed him her face, still and white, with parted lips, and long lashes sweeping her marble cheek.

"Madam, madam!" he cried roughly. "You must not swoon! You must not!"

With a strong effort she rallied. "I will try to be brave," she said plaintively. "I am not frightened,—not very much. But oh! I am cold and tired!"

He drew her head down upon his knee. "Let it lie there," he said, speaking as to a tired child. "I will hold you quite steady. Now shut your eyes and try to sleep. The storm is no worse than it was; and since the boat has lived this long in this sea, she may live through the night. And with morning may come many chances of safety. Try to rest in that hope."

Faint and exhausted from cold and terror, she submitted like a child, and lay with closed eyes in a sort of stupor within his arms.

There was less lightning now, and the thunder sounded in long booming peals, instead of short, sharp cannon cracks. The rain, too, had ceased; but the wind blew furiously, and the sea ran in tremendous waves. Regulus stirred, groaned, and struggled into a sitting posture. "Lie down again!" ordered Darkeih. "We 's all on de way to Heaben, but if nigger shake de boat, we'll get dere befo' de Lawd ready for us. Lie down!" Regulus, muttering to himself, looked stupidly about him, then dropped his head back into her lap. In three minutes he was snoring. Darkeih's whimpering died away, and her turbaned head sank lower and lower, until it rested upon that of Regulus, and she, too, slept.

Landless sat very still, holding his burden lightly and tenderly, and staring into the darkness. Against the steep slope of the sea, a picture framed itself, melted away, and was followed by others in long procession. He saw a ruinous, ivy-grown hall, and an old, grave, formal garden, where, between long box hedges broken by fantastic yews, there walked a boy, book in hand. A man with a stately figure and a stern, careworn face met the boy, and they leaned upon a broken dial, and the father reasoned with the son of Right and Truth and Liberty, and something touched upon the Tyrannicides of old. The yew trees drooped their sombre boughs about the figures, and they were gone, and in their place roared and swelled the Chesapeake.... The sound of the storm became the sound of a battle-cry. He saw a clanging fight where sword clashed upon armor, and artillery belched fire and thunder, and horse and man went down in the melee, and were trampled under foot amidst shrieks and oaths and stern prayers. The boy who had leaned upon the dial fought coolly, desperately, drunk with the joy of battle, stung to fierce effort by his father's eyes. The great banner, blazoned with the Cross of Saint George, streamed in crimson and azure between the battle and the lonely watcher in the storm-tossed boat, and the vision was gone.... The spires of a great city, where men walked with long faces and church bells made the only music, rose through the gloom, and he saw a dingy chamber in a dingy stack of buildings, and within it, bending over great tomes of law, a man, impoverished and orphaned, but young, strong, and full of hope,—a man well spoken of and allowed to be on the road to high preferment. The chamber wavered into darkness; but the city spires flashed light, and the slow ringing changed to mad peals from joy bells. Some one had been restored—to drop balm upon the bleeding heart of a nation, to bring light to them that sit in darkness,—so said the joy bells.... He saw a loathsome prison, and the man who had sat in the dingy chamber lying therein under accusation of a crime which he had not committed. He saw him pining there, week after week, month after month, untried, forgotten, at the mercy of an enemy to his house whose day had come with the Restored One.... The prison vanished, and the waves that tossed around him were the waves of the Atlantic. A ship ploughed her way through them. He saw into her hold,—a horrible place of stench and filth and darkness,—a place where hounds would not have kenneled. Men and women were there who cursed and fought for the scanty, worm-eaten food that was thrown them. Some wore gyves: they were heavy upon the wrists and ankles of the man of his vision. He saw a face looking down upon this man, a handsome supercilious face, with insolent amusement in the languid eyes and in the curves of the lips. The hatches were battened down upon the cargo of misery, and the ship with its brutal captain and its handful of gold-laced, dicing, swearing passengers vanished.... He saw a sandy, grass-grown street, and a row of mean houses, and a low, brick building with barred windows. There was a crowd before this building, and a man standing upon the platform of a pillory was selling human flesh and blood. He saw the boy who had stood beneath the yews of the old Hall, who had fought at Worcester beneath his father's eye; the man who had lain in prison and in the noisome hold of the ship, put up and sold to the highest bidder. He saw him carried away with other merchandise to the home of his purchaser. He saw a Virginia plantation lying fair and serene beneath a Virginia heaven; and a wide porch, and standing therein an angelic vision, all grace and beauty, vivid youth and splendor.

The picture vanished into the night that raved about him, and with a long shaken sigh he let his eyes fall from the watery steeps to the face of the woman who lay within his arms. He had not looked at her before, conceiving that she might be awake and feel his glance upon her. Now he could tell from her breathing that she slept. He gazed upon the pure pale face with the golden hair falling about it, in a passion of pity and tenderness. She moaned now and then in her sleep, or turned uneasily in his arms. Once she spoke a few words, and he bent eagerly to catch them, thinking that she had awakened and was speaking to him. They were:—

"Ah, your Excellency! where I reign there shall be only good Churchmen and loyal Cavaliers—no Roundheads, no rebel or convict servants!" and she laughed in her sleep.

Landless shrank as from a mortal blow, then broke into a bitter laugh, and said to himself, "Thou art a fool, Godfrey Landless. It were but too easy to forget to-night what thou art and what thou must seem to her. Thou art answered according to thy folly." He sighed impatiently, and withdrawing his gaze from the sleeping face, fell into a sombre reverie.

He was roused to active consciousness by a sudden and death-like pause in the gale. The lightning showed the pall of cloud hanging low, black, and unbroken; but the wind had sunk into an ominous calm. He looked anxiously around him, then softly disengaging himself from Patricia, leaned across her, and shook Regulus awake. The negro started up, stupid from sleep and from his wound.

"What is it, massa?" he queried. "Wake mighty early at Rosemead.... Lawd hab mercy! we 's still on de Chesapeake!"

"We will be in the Chesapeake in a moment," said Landless sternly, "if you stagger about in that way. Sit down and pull your wits together. You are like to need them all directly." He touched Darkeih and said, as her eyes, wide with alarm, opened upon him, "Listen, my wench! Whatever happens, you are to trust yourself to Regulus. He is a strong swimmer and he will take care of you. You hear, Regulus!"

"What is it?" exclaimed Patricia, as he bent over her. "Why have you waked Regulus? And oh! has not that dreadful wind died away?"

"It has stopped, madam, stopped suddenly and utterly," he said gravely. "But it will come upon us from another quarter, and it will bring the sea with it." He raised her, and held her with his arm. "Trust yourself to me when it comes," he said gently. "If I can save you, I will."

There was no time for more. Above them broke a new and more terrible storm. A ball of fire shot from the cloud into the sea; it was followed by a crash that seemed to shake the earth. A cataract of rain descended. From the northeast there swooped upon them a wind to which the gale of an hour before seemed a zephyr. It drove the boat before it as if she had been the bird from which she took her name. It piled wave on wave until the sea ran in mountains. Athwart the storm came a dull booming roar, and above the great hills of water appeared a long ridge crested with white.

"It is coming," said Landless.

Patricia looked up at him with great, despairing, courageous eyes. "I have caused your death," she said. "Forgive me."

There came a vivid flash, and a loud scream from Darkeih. "De lan'! de bressed, bressed, lan'!"

Landless wheeled. Silhouetted against the lit sky he saw a fringe of pines, and below it a low, shelving shore where the waves were breaking in foam and thunder. The Bluebird, driven by the wind, was hurrying towards it in mad bounds. The great wave overtook her, bore her onward with it, and sunk her within fifty feet of the shore.

Ten minutes later Landless, breathless and exhausted, staggered from out the hell of pounding waves and blinding, stinging spray on to the shore. Unlocking Patricia's arms from about his neck, he laid her gently down upon the sand and turned to look for the other occupants of the hapless Bluebird. They were close behind him. In a few minutes the two men, battling against wind and rain, had borne the women out of reach of the waves, and had placed them in the shelter of a low bank of sand. As Landless set his burden down he said reverently, "I thank God, madam."

"And I thank God," she answered, in the same tone.

He tried to shield her from the wind with his body. "It is frightful," he said, "that you should be exposed to such a night. I pray God that you take no harm."

"Would it not be more sheltered higher up the shore, under those trees?"

"Perhaps, but I fear to risk you there with the lightning so near. Later, when the storm subsides, we will try it."

He seated himself so as to screen her as much as possible from wind and rain, and a silence fell upon the party so suddenly snatched from death. Regulus stretched himself upon the sand and pulled Darkeih down beside him. Within a few minutes they were both asleep. The white man and woman sat side by side without speaking, watching the storm.

By degrees it raved itself out. The rain fell in less and less volume, the lightning became infrequent, the thunder pealed less loudly, and the wind died from a hurricane into a breeze. In two hours' time from the swamping of the boat the booming of the sea, and a ragged mass of cloud, lit by an occasional flash and slowly falling away from a pale and watery moon, were the only evidences of the tornado which had raged so lately.

"The storm is over," said Patricia, breaking a long silence.

"Yes," said Landless. "You have nothing to fear now. Would you not like to walk a little? You must be sadly chilled and weary with long sitting."

"Yes, I would," she answered, with a sigh of relief. "Let us walk towards those trees, and see if forest or water be beyond them."

He helped her to her feet, and they left the slaves sleeping upon the ground, and moved slowly, for she was numbed with cold, towards the fringe of pines.

Landless walked beside her without speaking. A while ago she had been simply a woman in danger of death—something for him to protect and to save. He had well nigh forgotten: he knew that she had quite forgotten. She was safe now, and was become once more the lady of the manor to whose soil he was fettered. He had remembered, and she was beginning to remember, for presently she said timidly and sweetly, but with condescension in her voice;—

"I am not ungrateful for all that you have done for me to-night, for saving my life. And, trust me, you will not find your mas—my father, ungrateful either. We will find some way to reward—"

"I neither merit nor desire reward, madam," said Landless, proudly and sadly, "for doing but my duty as a man and as your servant."

"But—" she began kindly, when he interrupted her with sudden passion.

"Unless you wish to cut me to the heart, to bitterly humiliate me, you will not speak of payment for any service I may have done you. I have been a gentleman, madam. For this one night treat me as such."

"I beg your pardon," she said at once.

They reached the belt of trees and entered it. Outside, the broken clouds had permitted an occasional gleam of watery moonshine; within the shadow of the trees it was gross darkness. Above them the wet branches, moved by the wind which still blew strongly, clashed together with a harsh and mournful sound, showering them with heavy raindrops. Their feet sank deeply in cushions of soaked moss and rotting leaves.

"There is nothing to be done here," said Landless. "It is better beneath the open sky."

There came a last, vivid flash of lightning that for a moment lit the wood, showing long colonnades of glistening tree trunks, with here and there a blasted and fallen monster. It showed something more, for within ten feet of them, from out a tangle of dripping, rain-beaten vines looked the face of the murderer of Robert Godwyn.



CHAPTER XVII

LANDLESS AND PATRICIA

For one moment the parties to this midnight encounter stared at each other with starting eyeballs; the next, down came the curtain of darkness between them.

With a cry of terror Patricia seized and clung to Landless's arm, trembling violently, and with her breath coming in long, gasping sobs. Exhausted by the previous terrors of the night, this last experience completely unnerved her—she seemed upon the point of swooning. Divining what would soonest calm her, Landless hurried her out of the wood and down the shore to the bank, beneath which lay the sleeping slaves. Here she sank upon the sand, her frame quivering like an aspen. "That dreadful face!" she said in a low, shaken voice. "It is burned upon my eyeballs. How came it there? Was it—dead?"

"No, no, madam," Landless said soothingly. "'Tis simple enough. The murderer is in hiding within these woods, and we stumbled upon his lair."

She gazed fearfully around her. "I see it everywhere. And may he not follow us down here? Oh, horrible!"

"He is not likely to do that," said Landless, with a smile. "You may rest assured that he is far from this by now."

She drew a long breath of relief. "Oh! I hope he is!" she cried fervently. "It was dreadful! No storm could frighten me as did that face!" and she shuddered again.

"Try not to think of it," he said. "It is gone now; try to forget it."

"I will try," she said doubtfully.

Landless did not answer, and the two sat in silence, watching out the dreary night. But not for long, for presently Patricia said humbly:—

"Will you talk to me? I am frightened. It is so still, and I cannot see you, nor the slaves, only that horrid, horrid face. I see it everywhere."

Landless came nearer to her, and laid one hand upon the skirt of her wet robe. "I am here, close to you, madam," he said; "there can nothing harm you."

He began to speak quietly and naturally of this and that, of what they should do when the day broke, of Regulus's wound, of the storm, of the great sea and its perils. He told her something of these latter, for he knew the sea; piteous tales of forlorn wrecks, brave tales of dangers faced and overcome, of heroic endurance and heroic rescue. He told her tales of a wild, rockbound Devonshire coast with its scattered fisher villages; of a hidden cave, the resort of a band of desperadoes, half smugglers, half pirates, wholly villains; of how this cave had been long and vainly searched for by the authorities; of how, one night, a boy climbed down a great precipice, scaring the seafowl from their nests, and lighted upon this cavern with the smugglers in it, and in their midst a defenseless prisoner whom they were about to murder. How he had shouted and made wailing, outlandish noises, and had sent rocks hurtling down the cliffs, until the wretches thought that all the goblins of land and sea were upon them, and rushed from the cavern, leaving their work undone. Whereupon, the boy reclimbed the cliff, and hastening to the nearest village, roused the inhabitants, who hurried to their boats, and descending upon the long-sought-for cave, surprised the smugglers, cut them down to a man, and rescued the prisoner.

The man who told these things told them well. The wild tales ran like a strain of sombre music through the night. His audience of one forgot her terror and weariness, and listened with eager interest.

"Well—" she said, as he paused.

"That is all. The ruffians were all killed and the prisoner rescued."

"And the boy?"

"Oh, the boy! He went back to his books."

"Did you know him?"

"Yes, I knew him. See, madam, it has quite cleared. How the moon whitens those leaping waves!"

"Yes, it is beautiful. I am glad the prisoner escaped. Was he a fisherman?"

"No; an officer of the Excise—a gallant man, with a wife and many children. Yes, I suppose he prized life."

"And I am glad that the smugglers were all killed."

Landless smiled. "Life to them was sweet, too, perhaps."

"I do not care. They were wicked men who deserved to die. They had murdered and robbed. They were criminals—"

She stopped short, and her face turned from white to red and then to white again, and her eyes sought the ground.

"I had forgotten," she muttered.

The hot color rose to Landless's cheek, but he said quietly:—

"You had forgotten what, madam?"

She flashed a look upon him. "You know," she said icily.

"Yes, I know," he answered. "I know that the perils of this night had driven from your mind several things. For a little while you have thought of, and treated me, as an equal, have you not? You could not have been more gracious to,—let us say, to Sir Charles Carew. But now you have remembered what I am, a man degraded and enslaved, a felon,—in short, the criminal who, as you very justly say, should not be let to live."

She made no answer, and he rose to his feet.

"It is almost day, and the moon is shining brightly. You no longer fear the face in the dark? I will first waken the slaves, and then will push along the shore, and strive to discover where we are."

She looked at him with tears in her eyes. "Wait," she said, putting out a trembling hand. "I have hurt you. I am sorry. Who am I to judge you? And whatever you may have done, however wicked you may have been, to-night you have borne yourself towards a defenseless maiden as truly and as courteously as could have done the best gentleman in the land. And she begs you to forget her thoughtless words."

Landless fell upon his knee before her. "Madam!" he cried, "I have thought you the fairest piece of work in God's creation, but harder than marble towards suffering such as may you never understand! But now you are a pitying angel! If I swear to you by the honor of a gentleman, by the God above us, that I am no criminal, that I did not do the thing for which I suffer, will you believe me?"

"You mean that you are an innocent man?" she said breathlessly.

"As God lives, yes, madam."

"Then why are you here?"

"I am here, madam," he said bitterly, "because Justice is not blind. She is only painted so. Led by the gleam of gold she can see well enough—in one direction. I could not prove my innocence. I shall never be able to do so. And any one—Sir William Berkeley, your father, your kinsman—would tell you that you are now listening to one who differs from the rest of the Newgate contingent, from the coiners and cheats, the cut-throats and highway robbers in whose company he is numbered, only in being hypocrite as well as knave. And yet I ask you to believe me. I am innocent of that wrong."

The moonlight struck full upon his face as he knelt before her. She looked at him long and intently, with large, calm eyes, then said softly and sweetly:—

"I believe you, and pity you, sir. You have suffered much."

He bowed his head, and pressed the hem of her skirt to his lips.

"I thank you," he said brokenly.

"Is there nothing?" she said after a pause, "nothing that I can do?"

He shook his head. "Nothing, madam. You have given me your belief and your divine compassion. It is all that I ask, more than I dared dream of asking an hour ago. You cannot help me. I must dree my weird. I would even ask of your goodness that you say nothing of what I have told you to Colonel Verney or to any one."

"Yes," she said thoughtfully. "If I cannot help you, it were wiser not to speak. I might but make your hard lot harder."

"Again I thank you." He kissed the hem of her robe once more, and rose to his feet with a heart that sat lightly on its throne.

The day began to break. With the first faint flush Landless woke the slaves, who at length yawned and shivered themselves into consciousness of their surroundings. "What are we to do now?" demanded Patricia.

"We had best strike through that belt of woods until we come to some house, whence we may get conveyance for you to Verney Manor."

"Very well. But oh! do not let us enter the forest here where we saw that fearful face. Let us walk along the shore until the light grows stronger. It is still night within the woods."

Landless acquiesced with a smile, and the four—he and Patricia in front, the negroes straying in the rear—set out along the shore. The air was chill and heavy, but there was no wind, and the unclouded sky gave promise of a hot day. In the east the rosy flush spread and deepened, and a pink path stretched itself across the fast subsiding waters. The wet sand dragged at their feet, and made walking difficult; moreover Patricia was chilled and weary, so their progress was slow. There were dark circles beneath her eyes, and her lips had a weary, downward curve; her golden hair, broken from its fastenings, hung in damp, rich masses against her white throat and blue-veined temples, and amidst the enshrouding glory her perfect face looked very small and white and childlike. The magnificent eyes carried in their clear, brown depths an expression new to Landless. Heretofore he had seen in them scorn and dislike; now they looked at him with a grave and wondering pity.

As the sun rose, the shipwrecked party left the shore, and entered the forest. A purple light filled its vast aisles. Far overhead bits of azure gleamed through the rifts in the foliage, but around them was the constant patter and splash of rain drops, falling slow and heavy from every leaf and twig. There was a dank, rich smell of wet mould and rotting leaves, and rain-bruised fern. The denizens of the woodland were all astir. Birds sang, squirrels chattered, the insect world whirred around the yellow autumn blooms and the purpling clusters of the wild grape; from out the distance came the barking of a fox. The sunlight began to fall in shafts of pale gold through openings in the green and leafy world, and to warm the chilled bodies of the wayfarers.

"It is like a bad dream," said Patricia gayly, as Landless held back a great, wet branch of cedar from her path. "All the storm and darkness, and the great hungry waves and the danger of death! Ah! how happy we are to have waked!"

Her glance fell upon Landless's face, and there came to her a sudden realization that there were those in the world, to whom life was not one sweet, bright gala day. She gazed at him with troubled eyes.

"I hope you care to live," she said. "Death is very dreadful."

"I do not think so," he answered. "At least it would be forgetfulness."

She shuddered. "Ah! but to leave the world, the warm, bright, beautiful world! To die on your bed, when you are old—that is different. But to go young! to go in storm and terror, or in horror and struggling as did that man who was murdered! Oh, horrible!"

The thought of the murdered man brought another thought into her mind.

"Do you think," she said, "that we had better tell that we saw the murderer at the first house to which we come, or had we best wait until we reach Verney Manor?"

Landless gave a great start. "You will tell Colonel Verney that?"

She opened her eyes widely. "Why, of course! What else should we do? Is not the country being scoured for him? My father is most anxious that he should be captured. Justice and the weal of the State demand that such a wretch should be punished." She paused and looked at him gravely as he walked beside her with a clouded face. "You say nothing! This man is guilty, guilty of a dreadful crime. Surely you do not wish to shield him, to let him escape?"

"Not so, madam," said Landless in desperation. "But—but—"

"But what?" she asked as he stopped in confusion.

He recovered himself. "Nothing, madam. You are right, of course. But I would not speak before reaching Verney Manor."

"Very well."

Landless walked on, bitterly perplexed and chagrined. The strife and danger of the night, the intoxicating sweetness of the morning hours when he knew himself believed in and pitied by the woman beside him, had driven certain things into oblivion. He had been dreaming, and now he had been plucked from a fool's paradise, and dashed rudely to the ground. Yesterday and the life and thoughts of yesterday, which had but now seemed so far away, pressed upon him remorselessly. And to-morrow! He did not want Roach to be taken. Always there would have been danger to himself and his associates in the capture of the murderer, but now when the vindictive wretch would assuredly attribute his disaster to the man to whom the lightning flash had revealed his presence on the shores of the bay, the danger was trebled. And it was imminent. He had little doubt that another night would see Roach in custody, and he had no doubt at all that the scoundrel would make a desperate effort to save his neck by betraying what he knew of the conspiracy—and thanks to Godwyn's lists he knew a great deal—to Governor and Council.

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