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To Have and To Hold

VI. In Which We Go To Jamestown
IT was early morning when we set out on horseback for Jamestown. I rode in
front, with Mistress Percy upon a pillion behind me, and Diccon on the brown
mare brought up the rear. The negress and the mails I had sent by boat.
Now, a ride through the green wood with a noble horse beneath you, and around
you the freshness of the morn, is pleasant enough. Each twig had its row of
diamonds, and the wet leaves that we pushed aside spilled gems upon us. The
horses set their hoofs daintily upon fern and moss and lush grass. In the purple
distances deer stood at gaze, the air rang with innumerable bird notes, clear and
sweet, squirrels chattered, bees hummed, and through the thick leafy roof of the
forest the sun showered gold dust. And Mistress Jocelyn Percy was as merry as
the morning. It was now fourteen days since she and I had first met, and in that
time I had found in her thrice that number of moods. She could be as gay and
sweet as the morning, as dark and vengeful as the storms that came up of
afternoons, pensive as the twilight, stately as the night, - in her there met a
hundred minds. Also she could be childishly frank - and tell you nothing.
To-day she chose to be gracious. Ten times in an hour Diccon was off his horse
to pluck this or that flower that her white forefinger pointed out. She wove the
blooms into a chaplet, and placed it upon her head; she filled her lap with trailers
of the vine that swayed against us, and stained her fingers and lips with the
berries Diccon brought her; she laughed at the squirrels, at the scurrying
partridges, at the turkeys that crossed our path, at the fish that leaped from the
brooks, at old Jocomb and his sons who ferried us across the Chickahominy.
She was curious concerning the musket I carried; and when, in an open space in
the wood, we saw an eagle perched upon a blasted pine, she demanded my
pistol. I took it from my belt and gave it to her, with a laugh. "I will eat all of your
killing," I said.
She aimed the weapon. "A wager!" she declared. "There be mercers in
Jamestown? If I hit, thou 'lt buy me a pearl hatband?"
"Two."
She fired, and the bird rose with a scream of wrath and sailed away. But two or
three feathers came floating to the ground, and when Diccon had brought them
to her she pointed triumphantly to the blood upon them. "You said two!" she
cried.
The sun rose higher, and the heat of the day set in. Mistress Percy's interest in
forest bloom and creature flagged. Instead of laughter, we had sighs at the length
of way; the vines slid from her lap, and she took the faded flowers from her head
and cast them aside. She talked no more, and by and by I felt her head droop
against my shoulder.
"Madam is asleep," said Diccon's voice behind me.
"Ay," I answered. "She'll find a jack of mail but a hard pillow. And look to her that
she does not fall."
"I had best walk beside you, then," he said.
 
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