She who stood at his side, this prisoner of his prowess, taken by his ruthless disregard of wish or rights of others, stood even with his shoulder, tall, deep-bosomed, comely, as fair and fit and womanly a woman as man’s need has asked in any age of the world. In the evening light the tears which had wet her eyes were less visible. She might indeed have been fit queen for a spot like this, mate for a man like this.
And now the chill of autumn lay in the twilight. Night was coming—the time when all creatures, save ravening night feeders, feel apprehension, crave shelter, search out a haven for repose. This woman was alone and weary, much in need of some place to rest her head. Every fiber in her heart craved shelter, comfort, security, protection.
Dunwody turned, offered her a hand, and led her to the wide double doors.
FREE AND THRALL
“Sally, come here,” called Dunwody to one of the row of grinning negro servants who were loosely lined up in the hall, as much in curiosity as deference, to give their master his only welcome home. “Take this lady up to the room in the east part. See that she has everything she wants. She is not to be disturbed there until morning, do you hear, Sally? When you come down I want to see you again. You others there, make your duty to this lady. Call her Miss Josephine. When she wants anything, you jump and get it. Go on, now.”
They scattered grinning, all but the bent and grizzled old woman Sally, who now came forward. She looked with blank brown eyes at the new-comer, herself inscrutable as the Sphinx. If she commented mentally on the droop of the young woman’s mouth and eyes, at least she said nothing. It was not her place to ask what white folk did, or why. She took up the traveling-bags and led the way up the narrow stairway which made out of the central hall.
“Sally,” said Josephine, turning, when they reached the stairway, “where’s my own maid—the other—Jeanne?”
“I dunno, Ma’am,” said Sally. “I reckon she’s all right, though. Dis heah’s yuah room, Ma’am, if you please.” She shuffled ahead, into a tall and wide room, which overlooked the lawn and the approaching road.
Once alone, Josephine flung herself face downward upon the bed and burst into a storm of tears, her fine courage for once outworn. She wept until utterly spent. Sally, after leaving the room, had returned unnoticed, and when at last Josephine turned about she saw the old woman standing there. A hard hand gently edged under her heaving shoulder. “Thah now, honey, doan’ cry! God A’mighty, girl, doan’ cry dat-a-way. What is wrong, tell me.” Sympathy even of this sort was balm to a woman wholly unnerved. Josephine found her head on the old negro woman’s shoulder.
[Illustration: Her fine courage for once outworn.]