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To Have and To Hold
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XXXV. In Which I Come To The Governor's House
I LAID him down upon the earth, and, cutting away his doublet and the shirt
beneath, saw the wound, and knew that there was a journey indeed that he
would shortly make. "The world is turning round," he muttered, "and the stars are
falling thicker than the hailstones yesterday. Go on, and I will stay behind, - I and
I took him in my arms and carried him back to the bank of the stream, for I knew
that he would want water until he died. My head was bare, but he had worn his
cap from the gaol at Jamestown that night. I filled it with water and gave him to
drink; then washed the wound and did what I could to stanch the bleeding. He
turned from side to side, and presently his mind began to wander, and he talked
of the tobacco in the fields at Weyanoke. Soon he was raving of old things, old
camp fires and night-time marches and wild skirmishes, perils by land and by
sea; then of dice and wine and women. Once he cried out that Dale had bound
him upon the wheel, and that his arms and legs were broken, and the woods
rang to his screams. Why, in that wakeful forest, they were unheard, or why, if
heard, they went unheeded, God only knows.
The moon went down, and it was very cold. How black were the shadows around
us, what foes might steal from that darkness upon us, it was not worth while to
consider. I do not know what I thought of on that night, or even that I thought at
all. Between my journeys for the water that he called for I sat beside the dying
man with my hand upon his breast, for he was quieter so. Now and then I spoke
to him, but he answered not.
Hours before we had heard the howling of wolves, and knew that some ravenous
pack was abroad. With the setting of the moon the noise had ceased, and I
thought that the brutes had pulled down the deer they hunted, or else had gone
with their hunger and their dismal voices out of earshot. Suddenly the howling
recommenced, at first faint and far away, then nearer and nearer yet. Earlier in
the evening the stream had been between us, but now the wolves had crossed
and were coming down our side of the water, and were coming fast.
All the ground was strewn with dead wood, and near by was a growth of low and
brittle bushes. I gathered the withered branches, and broke fagots from the
bushes; then into the press of dark and stealthy forms I threw a great crooked
stick, shouting as I did so, and threatening with my arms. They turned and fled,
but presently they were back again. Again I frightened them away, and again
they returned. I had flint and steel and tinder box; when I had scared them from
us a third time, and they had gone only a little way, I lit a splinter of pine, and with
it fired my heap of wood; then dragged Diccon into the light and sat down beside
him, with no longer any fear of the wolves, but with absolute confidence in the
quick appearance of less cowardly foes. There was wood enough and to spare;
when the fire sank low and the hungry eyes gleamed nearer, I fed it again, and
the flame leaped up and mocked the eyes.
No human enemy came upon us. The fire blazed and roared, and the man who
lay in its rosy glare raved on, crying out now and then at the top of his voice; but