The Maid and the Blade by George Barr McCutcheon
Over two centuries ago. Virginia, fair Virginia, in her most
rugged, uncouth state, yet queen of all the colonies, rich in the
dignity of an advanced settlement, glorious in prophecies and
ambitions; the favoured ward of England's sovereigns, the paradise of
her royal pillagers, the birthplace of American Freedom.
Jamestown was in the throes of a savage struggle, confined not to
herself alone, but spreading to the farthermost ends of the apparently
unbounded state. The capital fight was on, the contest waging between
the town in which grew Bacon's rebellion and Williamsburg, in which
William and Mary College had just been born, an infant venture that
seemed but a mockery in the wilds. Boisterous, boasting Jamestown,
since the rule of Berkeley and the unfortunate overthrow of Bacon, had
resumed a state of composure which she had not known in the five
preceding decades, and was beginning to look upon herself as the
undisputed metropolis of the wilderness. The impudence of
Williamsburg, with her feeble scholastic claims, was not even
condemned—it was ignored.
The crude fort at Jamestown held a merry garrison, the Governor
having impressed upon royalty across the sea the importance of troops
in a land where unexpected rebellions against authority might succeed
the partially triumphant uprising against Sir William in 1676. Bacon's
death in the October of that year had lost the fight which had been
fairly won, and it was wisdom which told the new Governor that troops
were essential, even in time of peace.
The commander of the garrison was Colonel Fortune. The number and
quality of his troops are not important factors in this tale.
Among the men were a dozen or more subalterns, fresh from England,
undergoing their first rough work in the forests of Virginia. In this
fledgling crowd were young Grafton, afterward a general; Mooney,
Vedder, Hoicraft and others, whose names, with those of their Virginia
companions went into colonial history.
Near the fort were the homes of the officers, the Governor's
residence being but a short distance down the rough, winding lane,
which was dignified by the name of street. Colonel Fortune's home was
the handsomest, the merriest of them all, a typical frontier mansion.
A mansion of those days could be little more than a cottage in these,
yet the Colonel's was far brighter, gayer than the palace of today. In
his house gathered chivalrous subalterns from English homes, stalwart
Virginians of inherited gallantry, the men and women from whom sprung
the first families of that blue blood which all Americans cherish
lovingly and proudly.
His board was more hospitable than that of the Governor, his
favours were coveted more eagerly even than were those of his
superior. Stern, exacting, yet affable and courteous, he was the idol
of a people whose hatred for those who ruled them had wrought ruin
more than once. Mrs. Fortune, a lady of gentle birth closely related,
in fact, to a certain branch of nobility, shared the power of her
But there was a colonial queen whose reign was of more consequence
to the youth of Jamestown than was that of the august person across
the sea. She was queen of hearts, this daughter of theirs, airy Kate
Fortune. Daintiest maid in all the land, famed for her wit, her
follies, her merry loveliness, her dimples and her sunshine, she was
the wiliest tempter who ever laid unconscious siege against man's
indifference. The English officers called her an angel, the more
deferential Virginians moaned that she was a witch, yet would not have
burned her for the whole universe. On the contrary, they sacrificed
themselves to the worship of her craft. War and strife were forgotten,
the treacheries of the Indians were minimised, and a score or more of
dreamers, awake or asleep, found their minds so full of dainty Kate
that thought of else could work no means of entrance. In that year of
our Lord, Jamestown was a veritable cauldron of rivals, fair suitors
all, some bold, some timid, none hopeful.
Strange as it may appear to those who live these two centuries
later, there were no jealousies, no bitterness among them. In those
good days the favoured man's best friends were his beaten rivals.
Kate's kingdom was not large, was not glittering, but her sceptre was
mighty. It was made of tenderness and beauty.
For two months the Governor's nephew had been her most ardent
admirer, notwithstanding the fact that he had been in Virginia but
sixty days. His surrender had been instantaneous.
Ordinarily the nephew of the Governor, who was a lord of the realm,
might be considered a superior rival, but in this instance he was not
even feared. He had come to Jamestown with exalted ideas. He dressed
better, talked better and lived better, and he seemed to hold every
man in the colony in disdain. Friendly, courteous even to the lowest
soldier, he still gave forth the impression that he was condescending,
not alone to those beneath, but to those above him. That this scion,
this self-ordered perfect man, should have drifted to the colonies
from the drawing-rooms of London only to fall in love with Kate
Fortune seemed incredible.
Moreover, he had refused to wrestle in the contests at the fort,
and had failed to fight the man who had warmly called him a coward in
the presence of others.
Tales of his conduct in that and other exhibitions had been spread,
and the good-looking young officer eventually became a laughing-stock.
One day, however, he pulled the nose of an impudent lieutenant. When
the red-faced lieutenant insisted upon satisfaction with swords he
merely turned pale and ignored the challenge.
"I came here to fight the Indians, not to kill my comrades," he had
said, and a disdainful laugh followed, bringing a flush to his face as
he walked away.
Kate Fortune rather admired the easy elegance of the stranger, yet
despised his lack of courage, the story having come to her promptly
enough. She began to treat him coldly and he was at last driven to
feel that he was her most unwelcome suitor. One day he bluntly asked
her why she treated him so unkindly.
"Captain Studdiford, I will be frank with you," replied the girl.
"How can you expect me to admire a man who submits to the ridicule of
a whole company of men, not one of whom seems able to cope with him in
strength or in the experience of arms? I am the daughter of an English
soldier; that should be sufficient reason for my conduct. If I have
mistreated you it was because I could not help it." She saw a look of
pain come and go in his flushed face, hence the hasty apology, such as
"So I am an object of derision to you, as well as to them," he
observed, quietly. "I shall not intrude myself again, Miss Fortune. I
am brave enough to tell you, for the first time, and in the face of
your evident dislike, that I love you better than I ever dreamed I
could love a woman." He was turning away in apparent indifference as
he concluded this strange avowal.
Kate planted herself squarely before him, her pretty, perplexed
face twitching between a smile and a frown, wonder fairly popping from
her curious blue eyes.
"Isn't it cowardly to say that when you know how I feel? You are
safe in confessing something that you already know I cannot consider,"
"I would rather not discuss it. You may treat it as a jest, as
cowardice, or what you like. I cannot control your treatment of the
best thing an honest man has to give a woman." It left the girl
standing on the tips of her toes in sheer surprise. She was at no time
a dignified queen, but she was an inquisitive one.
"But, Captain, you must not go away fearing that I—I shall treat
lightly what you have said to me," she murmured.
"Fearing? Why should I fear your ridicule more than that of others?
You are brighter, more bewitching, more tantalising than any woman I
have ever known—you are maddening—do you hear? Ah, I crave your
pardon for so far forgetting myself as to dwell upon a matter which I
should have forgotten in your displeasure. By the way, I should like
to tell you why I will not accommodate these young fools with a duel,
why I have controlled my natural desire to resent their insults. I
have fought one duel and I have killed a man. These men would have no
more chance than that man had. You may tell them so. Farewell!"
She watched his tall figure move from her dooryard and disappear in
the direction of the river. Then Kate sat down in the window and gazed
half regretfully toward the opening in the timber through which he had
It began to occur to her that Captain Studdiford was somehow the
superior of any man she had ever seen. She felt a joy that he had
fought a duel, although the thought that he had killed a man caused
her to shudder. With the shudder, however, came the relieved feeling
that he had not been the victim. Her face flushed faintly, too, as she
recalled his strange avowal of love.
That same night a half dozen young men, with as many maids, dropped
in to spend the chilly evening before the Colonel's roaring fires.
They were toasting apples and chattering gaily when Kate suddenly
turned to a young Virginian, and with taunting eyes, cried:
"Morton Trask, I know why Captain Studdiford would not fight a duel
"So do I," responded Trask. "Because he feared me."
"'Twas no such reason. He says he does not choose to kill anything
but Indians." A big laugh went up from the men.
"The fool! Did he say that to you?" cried Trask.
"He truly did; and, besides, he has fought and killed a man."
"Ho! Ho!" laughed Trask, disdainfully.
"Did he stab him in the dark?" questioned Farring.
"He lies if he says he fought aught save a boy," sneered Trask.
"Yet he pulled your valiant nose until it was red for near a week,"
said Kate, cheerily.
"Oh, would that I were at him—the coward!" cried Trask, white and
"You can pull his nose when next you meet him, Morton, it is your
turn, you know," said Kate, laughingly, and Trask glared at the
burning logs in angry silence.
"Please forgive me, Morton; I did not mean to hurt you by recalling
a previous injury," cried Kate, and Trask's injury increased with her
"I cannot see why you defend the Captain, Miss Fortune," ventured
"Why not? He will not defend himself."
"But you surely cannot approve a coward?"
"Are you sure he is a coward?"
"I should consider myself one under the circumstances, I believe,"
he replied, evasively.
"Would it not be cowardly to fight Morton Trask if he knew he could
"Bah!" came from the angry Trask.
"He could, at least, have given Trask satisfaction for an insult,"
said Varney. Kate wavered.
"That's true," she said; "he should have been a gentleman. Still,
that does not prove him a coward."
"I'll wager that I can prove him a coward," observed Lieutenant
Holmes. "And safely, too."
"'Twere wise to do it safely," supplemented Miss Fortune.
"One time at home we exposed a boasting captain, who would have had
us think him the bravest man on earth—"
"But that does not seem to be Captain Studdiford's object,"
"True," went on Holmes, "but that has nothing to do with it. This
captain was one night approached by five of his fellow officers,
disguised as highwaymen, and despite his declarations that he had
fought dozens of such men, he ran like a hound, screaming murder all
the way. Why not test your captain's courage as we tested ours, Miss
"In the first place, I could not be a very impressive highwayman,
and in the second place, he might shoot."
"You have plenty of men at your command who would serve as Indians
for such an experiment," speculated Varney.
"Egad! we all would!" exclaimed Holmes. "So you might!" she cried.
"He would be willing to kill you if you were Indians."
"We might as well give up the plan, for we could not force him to
leave town without a bodyguard," sneered Trask.
"Fie! That is easy. Miss Fortune could ask him to ride with her
into the forest and he would go blindly enough," said Holmes.
"I?" cried Kate, blushing to think of herself in that position
after Studdiford's proclamation. "I could not—would not do such a
thing. Prove him a coward, but do not ask me to help you." "Holmes is
right, and Miss Fortune should be willing to make the test. She is his
defender; she cannot refuse to satisfy herself of her error in this
harmless, yet effective way," announced big Farring, and every member
of the party laid siege against Kate's faltering opposition. The fun
of it all finally appealed to her and she rather timidly agreed to the
proposition. How could she ask him to ride with her after what had
passed between them? He would think her unwomanly and, strangely
enough, with that thought she began to feel that she must have his
good opinion. Yet she went, half dubiously, into the plot to prove a
coward of the man she was beginning to admire.
The details of the scheme were submitted by the men, and were as
follows: Kate was to ask him to ride horseback with her to "Big Fork,"
five miles through the forest, on some near afternoon, and the men
were to bedeck themselves as Indians, attack them, take her from his
custody and hurry her off into apparent captivity, whilst he trembled
with fear and inaction.
"But suppose he should happen to be disappointing and shoot
somebody," objected Lucy Gaines.
"Oh, he must have no chance to do that," said Varney. "Miss Fortune
can induce him to discharge his pistols in some feat of marksmanship
and we will swoop down before he can reload them."
"For shame!" cried Kate. "How could that be a fair test of bravery?
An unarmed man against five brawny Indians! I'll have none of it. His
pistols must remain undisturbed."
"But—good heavens!—he may kill us all," cried Trask.
"Well, how else is he to prove his courage? You must take your
chances, gentlemen, with your coward. If he is a coward you need not
fear his pistols, though he had a dozen; if he is not, then you may
have to run from them."
"Allow us to capture you and offer him the privilege of fighting
for your liberty, choosing his own weapons. If he agrees to fight for
you, instead of taking his proffered freedom, we will leave the field
to him and you may call him hero. That is fair, is it not?" proposed
"You will not hurt him?" asked Kate doubtingly.
"Hurt him? We shall not even catch him. He will leave you and fly
for his life!" cried Trask.
"I tell you now, gentlemen, if he stands the test and disproves
your taunts against his valour, my respect for him will be far more
than you can ever hope to inspire. Yet, after all, it will be a
diversion— it will be fun to see how he will act," mused the fair
It required all of Kate's courage and a dismal sacrifice of pride
to suggest the ride to Captain Studdiford, but she did it the next
morning, stopping him near the fort after having walked not thirty
feet behind for more than two hundred yards. She was a trifle insecure
as to her own valour in this preliminary step.
The rosiness of her cheeks might have been by others attributed to
the chill of the December morn, but she knew they were the flames from
an inward fire.
Captain Studdiford's heart thumped unusually fast as he looked down
into the piquant face and big blue eyes, which for the first time
since he had known her, wore a gleam bordering on embarrassment. They
were very soft and timid this morning—there was something appealing
in their tempting depths.
"May I not walk with you? I am going your way," were her first
words as she reached his side.
"Oh, to—" and here she blushed, for in truth she had no
destination— "to Anna Corwin's," she concluded in relief.
"But Mistress Corwin lives back yonder. How came you to be going
"Did I say Anna Corwin?"
"If I am not deaf."
"Then I must have meant some one else; to be sure I did—how queer
of me. I am going to Lucy's. You cannot say, sir, that she does not
live in this direction. I'll not walk with you if you are bound to be
particular, though." Her little ears were very red.
"I beg you to forgive me and allow me to walk with you," cried the
"I like that much better. No matter if I were going to Anna's and
chose a roundabout way, you should not be so impolite as to
remonstrate. As a rule, Captain, the men prefer the roundabout way."
"Be it miles I would walk it with thee," cried he, smiling at her
"Oh, would you do that?" she asked, suddenly seeing her way clear.
Yet, in spite of all, her composure deserted her and she blurted it
out, turning red again. "I am dying to ride to 'Big Fork' tomorrow,
but I have no one to accompany me. Would you like to go?" Then to
herself, "What a fool he thinks me!"
"Gladly; but, are we sure there are no stray Indians about?" he
asked, rather quickly.
"He is afraid," she thought, with strange disappointment. "If you
are afraid, we will not go," she said a trifle coldly.
"Afraid? Not for myself, but for you. We will go if you like, and I
should rejoice to meet all of the Indians in Virginia if it will
So they made their plans, and she was so loth to leave him that he
was forced to remind her that they had passed the home of Lucy Gaines
a full furlong or more. He left her at the door, his heart exultant,
hers all a-flutter.
The next afternoon the two rode forth from Jamestown and into the
forest, following the well-made road which led to the westward beneath
the red and yellowing oaks. Half an hour previous to their departure
five young men had ridden from the home of Lucy Gaines, strange
bundles strapped to their saddles. Above all things, they had
cautioned Kate to demand the Captain's proof of marksmanship at a
point near Big Fork.
It was with some consternation, notwithstanding all the plotting,
that Kate observed the big pistols at the Captain's side and the heavy
sword which jangled against his leg. That jangling sword gave her the
tremors, and she cast many furtive glances toward its chain and
scabbard. At last she was compelled to ask:
"How can you, I pray, use such a monstrous sword, Captain
Studdiford? It must have been made for a giant." "It was; it was my
great-great- grand-father's over a century ago. See! It is
serviceable, even in my weak hand." He pulled the gleaming blade, long
and heavy, from its scabbard, and swept it downward through the air so
fiercely that it resembled a wide sheet of silver. Kate's blue eyes
grew wide with apprehension, a cold chill seized upon her and her
ruddy face paled. He returned the weapon to its sheath with such a
forceful crash that she started violently in her saddle, her little
teeth clicking in sheer affright.
"I could cleave a man's skull in twain as easily as you can cut an
apple. Would that we could meet a warlike Indian that I could show you
how it merits my praise."
"Goodness!" gasped Kate hopelessly. "You would not strike a—a—man
with it, would you?"
"If he were an enemy. For you, loved one, I could cut down an
army." Their horses drew more closely side by side and the fierce,
strong hand was gently laid upon her trembling fingers. Tenderly
clasping the little one the big one raised it until it touched the
lips of him who leaned across to kiss it. Their eyes met as he raised
his head. His were full of love, hers with a pleading dread, the
uncertain quiver between love and fear. Without a word he dropped the
hand, suddenly sick at heart.
"I could die for her and she despises me," he groaned to himself.
"Oh, what have I—have we done?" she thought, a thousand fears
gathering in her heart. "He is no coward and he will kill one of them!
How can I tell him—how can I save their lives? He will despise me!
That awful sword! A man's skull! Oh, dear! He called me loved one! How
big and strong he is! He called me—how can I keep him from using the
sword? The pistols I can manage and—perhaps they will not be there.
He will kill them all—horror upon horror! What have I done? Oh!" the
last exclamation was so loud and so sudden that the pale Captain
"What is it? What is it?"
She laughed wildly, even gleefully, almost in the face of her
"Nothing—nothing at all!" she cried.
"I am glad to have afforded you amusement, Mistress Fortune. You
may tear my heart to shreds."
Her manner changed instantly. Tears flew to the blue eyes and her
hand crept toward him.
"Forgive me, pray, Captain Studdiford, I—I did not mean to hurt
you. I—I—am very foolish, very unkind. You must hate me," she
"Hate you! How could I? You do not love me—why should I have
hoped? I can but blame myself." Her hand had fallen to her side
because he had not touched it. "And it is our last afternoon
"Last?" she repeated, faintly.
"Yes; for I shall not see you again."
"Oh—you—you—do not mean that!"
"I have asked to be transferred to Willamsburg. I—I have not one
friend in Jamestown; why should I stay here?" he cried bitterly.
"But you have," she exclaimed, eagerly; "you have. I am your
"Friend! That is not what I ask of you," he said, almost gruffly.
Silence, broken only by the clatter of the hoofs upon the road
followed his words. In her confusion she had forgotten the terrible
sword, but it recurred to her, and, with it, the thought which had
given birth to her untimely mirth, the thought that was to lead her
from the chief predicament into which she had been cast. She would ask
the Captain to turn back to Jamestown at once, avoiding the
possibility of conflict.
"Captain Studdiford, I believe we had better turn back." Her face
grew crimson beneath his calm gaze. "As you like. You will grant me
time to adjust my saddle girth; it is slipping," he said coolly,
dismounting without another word.
They were fully three miles from the village, and in a dense piece
of forest. On either side of the narrow road grew the thickest of
underbrush with the great, gaunt trees stretching above like silent
sentinels. The girl's mind was chaos; her thoughts were changing and
interchanging like leaves before the whirling wind. She knew that she
admired this man, and that something even sweeter was beginning to
throb its way into her heart. A half smile came to her troubled face
as she thought of the war-painted plotters two miles away, waiting to
make a coward of her hero. A touch of remorse came to her as she
remembered her part in the play, and that the plot would have been
carried out had she not seen the great swing of that fearful sword.
What havoc it would have wrought! And he was to leave Jamestown!
Without a friend, he had said. How could he say that?
In the midst of these varying thoughts she allowed her softening
eyes to wander from him toward the trees above and the straggling
brush beneath their knotty limbs. A suppressed scream called the
Captain's attention to her staring eyes. They were blinking with
Deep in the underbrush she had seen the form of an Indian warrior!
Horrors! The sword!
"What do you see?" cried he, staring toward the now deserted brush.
"Nothing—nothing!" she gasped. "Yes—I mean, that red bird! See?
Do shoot it for me—I must have it! Isn't it beautiful?" She was
excitedly pointing toward a red bird in the top branches of a big oak.
He drew his pistols and deliberately aimed with one of them. The
shot missed and the bird darted away.
"Oh, goodness!" she cried. "Try the other one!"
"But the bird is gone."
"Is it? So it is—but, quick! See if you can cut off that twig up
there—the one with three red leaves. I wager you cannot! Quick, and
then we will ride for home."
"Why are you so excited?"
"I am not the least bit excited—I never am! Why do you not shoot
at that twig?"
"You try it," he surprised her by saying, pushing a pistol into her
hand. Without a word or aim she blazed away at the sky and his
firearms were useless. She handed the smoking pistol to him with a
"Would it not be awful if Indians came upon us!" she cried, with
strange exultation. "But mount, and race with me to the spring!"
As the Captain placed his foot in the stirrup a yell burst from the
thicket, an arrow whizzed above their heads, and a half-a-dozen,
fierce warriors were dashing toward them.
"Do not use your sword!" she screamed.
Before the bewildered soldier could catch his breath an ugly brave
was in the road, not ten feet away, knife in hand. Out whizzed the
Kate screamed in agony, clasping her hand over her eyes.
"They are friends! Do not strike!"
But it was too late. The streak of steel cut the air. A sickening
thud, a gurgling howl, and the assailant fell, his head half severed
from his body. An instant later the big Englishman was in his saddle.
A second slash and an Indian at his side went down beneath the
The two horses plunged forward as a brawny redskin grasped her arm
and she felt herself being dragged to the ground. Then a hand clasped
her other arm, a big form leaned over behind her, far across the back
of her horse. She heard the hiss of something cutting the air, the
crash as of splitting wood, a scream, of agony and the Indian's
ruthless grasp was loosened. Her horse stumbled and seemed to totter
beneath her, but again that arm from aloft exerted itself and it
seemed as if she were being lifted to the tree tops. Almost before she
could realise it she was upon another horse, clasped in the arm of its
rider, and they were off like the wind.
Suddenly she felt the form of the man who held her so closely drop
forward with a groan and then straighten again slowly. Exultant yells
came from behind them, several arrows whizzed past, and then naught
was heard but the thunder of the horse's hoofs upon the frozen road.
As her eyes opened involuntarily, terror possessing them, they fell
upon the scene far behind. Two hundred yards away her own horse lay
struggling in the road, two human forms stretched near it, another
dragging itself to the roadside. Three feathered Indians were some
fifty yards nearer, gesticulating wildly. Her brain whirred and
buzzed, and—consciousness was lost!
When she regained her senses she was lying upon the ground. With
feeble eyes she glanced wonderingly about. To a tree near by a horse
was hitched, beneath her body were the blankets from the horse and
certain garments from the back of man. All was as a dream; she could
account for nothing. Studdiford was leaning against the big oak,
coatless and as pale as a ghost. Deep lines stretched across his brow
and down his mouth; his eyes were closed, as if in pain.
An involuntary moan escaped her lips, and the Captain was at her
side almost before it had died away. She was crying.
"Oh, what have I done! What have I done!"
"Calm, yourself, dearest! You are safe—entirely so. See, we are
alone, far from those devils. It is but a mile to Jamestown. Be brave
and we will soon be at home," he murmured hoarsely, kneeling at her
side and lifting her to a sitting posture.
"Home! I can never go home! Oh, God, you do not know—you do not
"There—there! Now, be quiet."
"How could you know? I am a murderess—I am the wretch! Kill me; I
cannot live!" she wailed.
"Hush!" he cautioned, lovingly.
"You could not know—you did not know them, Captain Studdiford!"
she cried, sitting bolt upright, glaring wildly about her, then
shudderingly plunging her white face against his shoulder. "They were
not Indians," she almost whispered.
"Not Indians!" he gasped.
"God forgive me—no! It was all a trick—to test your
courage—forgive me—to test—to test—oh! and I allowed you to kill
"Speak! Go on! What do you mean?" "They were our friends—not
Indians! My dearest friends! Oh, how is it that I am not struck dead
for this? Please heaven, let me die!" she wailed.
"My God!" he exclaimed, after the first bewildering shock. "A
trick— and I have killed—oh, it cannot be true!" He leaped to his
feet, allowing her to fall from his side to the ground, where she lay,
a wretched, shivering heap. With a ferocious oath he snatched the big
sword from the ground and turned upon her, with eyes blazing, muscles
She was looking up at him, those wide blue eyes gleaming piteously.
"Kill me!" she murmured, and closed the eyes to await the stroke.
His big arm relaxed, the sword fell from his nerveless grasp,
clanging to the ground.
When she reopened her eyes after an age of suspense she saw him
leaning against the tree, his body shaking with sobs. A second glance
and she started to her feet alarmed.
His broad back was covered with blood. Near his left shoulder the
clothing was torn and an ugly, gaping wound leered at her.
"Oh," she gasped; "you—you are hurt!"
"Hurt!" he groaned. "They have killed me! You have killed me—you
and your friends. I hope you—are—satisfied—with—your—see?" As he
sank to the ground, he pointed feebly to the cruel arrow which he had
torn from his side. It lay not far away, grim and bloody.
The horrified girl glanced at it helplessly and then at the
unconscious man, unable to realise. Then she cried aloud in her agony
and threw herself upon the prostrate form, moaning:
"Dead! Dead! Speak to me, Ralph—look up! I love you—I worship
you! You shall not leave me!"
She kissed the pallid face, caressed the chilling head, sobbing:
"Forgive me—forgive me!"
An hour afterward the clatter of hoofs upon the road aroused her
from the semi-conscious condition into which her grief had thrown her.
Through the gathering darkness she saw horsemen approaching—Indian
riders! A moment later they were dismounting at her side, and well-
known voices were calling to her:
"Are you hurt?"
"What has happened?"
"Killed? My God!"
It was Farring, Trask and the other plotters, reeking with
excitement. Their horses were wet from the fierceness with which they
had been ridden.
"Do not touch him! You have killed him!" she cried, striving to
shield the body from Farring's anxious touch.
"Killed him? Good God, Kate! where did you meet them!" cried
Farring, as Trask pulled her from Studdiford's side.
"Are you not dead?" she finally whispered to the men.
"We? He killed three of them—split their heads! But the wretches
put an arrow into him, after all. What a dreadful thing we have done!
Fairly tricked him to his death!" cried poor Trask.
"Then—then it was not you?" cried Kate.
"Heavens, no! We found the Indians dragging their dead from the
road, three miles back, and knew that something terrible had happened.
"Thank God! I am spared that! But he must not die—he shall not! I
love him. Do you hear? I love him!"
For three weeks the victim of that ill-fated trick hung between
life and death. Surgery was crude in the colonies, and the first
evidence of restoration was due more to his rugged constitution than
to the skill of his doctors. The poor fellow rolled and tossed upon
one of Mrs. Fortune's soft beds, oblivious to the kind offices of
those about him. They had taken him there at Kate's command, and she
had worn herself to a shadow with anguish, love and penitence. She
watched him by day and by night—in her restless dreams; her whole
existence was in the tossing victim of her folly. Every twitch of that
pain-stricken body seemed to show her that he was shrinking from her
in hatred. Her pretty face was white and drawn, the blue eyes dark and
pitiful, the merry mouth, plaintive in its hopelessness.
And those jovial tricksters—those who had jeered over his lack of
courage, the testing of which they had undertaken! They were smitten
by their own curses, haunted by their own shame. The fiery Trask, the
polished Farring, the ingenious Holmes, with all of Jamestown, prayed
for his recovery, and spared no pains to bring to life and health the
man who had won that which they had relinquished hope of having—
Kate's love. They were tender, sympathetic, helpful—true men and
Kate could not forget the look of disgust she had seen upon
Studdiford's face as he stood above her with the great sword in his
hand. His first thought had been to kill her!
Sitting beside him, bathing the fevered brow, caressing the rumpled
hair, holding his restless hands, she could feel her heart thumping
like lead, so heavy had it grown in the fear of his awakening.
Finally the doctors told her that he would recover, that the fever
was broken. Then came the day when he slept, cool and quiet, no trace
of fever, no sign of pain.
It was then that Kate forsook him, burying herself in her distant
room, guilty and heart-broken, fearing above all things on earth, the
first repellent glance he would bestow upon her. Once, while he slept,
she peered through his door, going back to her room and her spinning
with tears blinding the plaintive blue eyes.
At last, one day, her mother came from the Captain's room and said
to her gently:
"Kate, Captain Studdiford asks why you do not come to see him. He
tells me that for three days he has suffered because you have been so
unkind. Go to him, dear; he promises he will not plead his love if it
is so distasteful to you!"
Distasteful! The girl grew faint with wonder. Her limbs trembled,
her lips parted, her eyes blurred and her ears roared with the rush of
blood from her heart.
"Mother!" she whispered, at last, steadying herself against the
wall. "Are you sure, Mother?"
"That he wants you? My child, his eyes fill with tears when he
thinks of you. I have seen them moisten as he lies looking from the
But Kate was gone.
When Mrs. Fortune opened the door to the sick man's room soon
afterward she drew back quickly, closed it again, and, lifting her
eyes aloft, murmured:
"God make them happy!"