To Have and To Hold
XIX. In Which We Have Unexpected Company
THE wind, which had heretofore come in fierce blasts, was now steadying to a
gale. What with the flying of the heaped clouds, the slanting, groaning pines, and
the rushing of the river, the whole earth seemed a fugitive, fleeing breathless to
the sea. From across the neck of land came the long-drawn howl of wolves, and
in the wood beyond the church a catamount screamed and screamed. The town
before us lay as dark and as still as the grave; from the garden where we were
we could not see the Governor's house.
"I will carry madam's bundle," said a voice behind us.
It was the minister who had spoken, and he now stood beside us. There was a
moment's silence, then I said, with a laugh: "We are not going upon a summer
jaunt, friend Sparrow. There is a warm fire in the great room, to which your
reverence had best betake yourself out of this windy night."
As he made no movement to depart, but instead possessed himself of Mistress
Percy's bundle, I spoke again, with some impatience: "We are no longer of your
fold, reverend sir, but are bound for another parish. We give you hearty thanks
for your hospitality, and wish you a very good night."
As I spoke I would have taken the bundle from him, but he tucked it under his
arm, and, passing us, opened the garden gate. "Did I forget to tell you," he said,
"that worthy Master Bucke is well of the fever, and returns to his own to-morrow?
His house and church are no longer mine. I have no charge anywhere. I am free
and footloose. May I not go with you, madam? There may be dragons to slay,
and two can guard a distressed princess better than one. Will you take me for
your squire, Captain Percy?"
He held out his great hand, and after a moment I put my own in it.
We left the garden and struck into a lane. "The river, then, instead of the forest?"
he asked in a low voice.
"Ay," I answered. "Of the two evils it seems the lesser."
"How about a boat?"
"My own is fastened to the piles of the old deserted wharf."
"You have with you neither food nor water."
"Both are in the boat. I have kept her victualed for a week or more."
He laughed in the darkness, and I heard my wife beside me utter a stifled
The lane that we were now in ran parallel to the street to within fifty yards of the
guest house, when it bent sharply down to the river. We moved silently and with
caution, for some night bird might accost us or the watch come upon us. In the
guest house all was darkness save one room, - the upper room, - from which
came a very pale light. When we had turned with the lane there were no houses
to pass; only gaunt pines and copses of sumach. I took my wife by the hand and
hurried her on. A hundred yards before us ran the river, dark and turbulent, and
between us and it rose an old, unsafe, and abandoned landing. Sparrow laid his
hand upon my arm. "Footsteps behind us," he whispered.