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To Have and To Hold

V. In Which A Woman Has Her Way
TEN days later, Rolfe, going down river in his barge, touched at my wharf, and
finding me there walked with me toward the house.
"I have not seen you since you laughed my advice to scorn - and took it," he said.
"Where's the farthingale, Benedick the married man?"
"In the house."
"Oh, ay!" he commented. "It's near to supper time. I trust she's a good cook?"
"She does not cook," I said dryly. "I have hired old Goody Cotton to do that."
He eyed me closely. "By all the gods! a new doublet! She is skillful with her
needle, then?"
"She may be," I answered. "Having never seen her with one, I am no judge. The
doublet was made by the tailor at Flowerdieu Hundred."
By this we had reached the level sward at the top of the bank. "Roses!" he
exclaimed, - "a long row of them new planted! An arbor, too, and a seat beneath
the big walnut! Since when hast thou turned gardner, Ralph?"
"It's Diccon's doing. He is anxious to please his mistress."
"Who neither sews, nor cooks, nor plants! What does she do?"
"She pulls the roses," I said. "Come in."
When we had entered the house he stared about him; then cried out, "Acrasia's
bower! Oh, thou sometime Guyon!" and began to laugh.
It was late afternoon, and the slant sunshine streaming in at door and window
striped wall and floor with gold. Floor and wall were no longer logs gnarled and
stained: upon the one lay a carpet of delicate ferns and aromatic leaves, and
glossy vines, purple-berried, tapestried the other. Flowers - purple and red and
yellow - were everywhere. As we entered, a figure started up from the hearth.
"St. George!" exclaimed Rolfe. "You have never married a blackamoor?"
"It is the negress, Angela," I said. "I bought her from William Pierce the other day.
Mistress Percy wished a waiting damsel."
The creature, one of the five females of her kind then in Virginia, looked at us
with large, rolling eyes. She knew a little Spanish, and I spoke to her in that
tongue, bidding her find her mistress and tell her that company waited. When she
was gone I placed a jack of ale upon the table, and Rolfe and I sat down to
discuss it. Had I been in a mood for laughter, I could have found reason in his
puzzled face. There were flowers upon the table, and beside them a litter of small
objects, one of which he now took up.
"A white glove," he said, "perfumed and silver-fringed, and of a size to fit Titania."
I spread its mate out upon my palm. "A woman's hand. Too white, too soft, and
too small."
He touched lightly, one by one, the slender fingers of the glove he held. "A
woman's hand, - strength in weakness, veiled power, the star in the mist, guiding,
beckoning, drawing upward!"
I laughed and threw the glove from me. "The star, a will-of-the-wisp; the goal, a
slough," I said.