“I hope I shall have no reason to be too blunt with my own kin,” I said.
“You may have reason—” She hesitated, then, with a pretty confidence in her eyes, “For my sake please to pass provocation unnoticed. None will doubt your courage if you overlook and refuse to be affronted.”
“I cannot pass an affront,” I said, bluntly. “What do you mean? Who is this quarrelsome Mr. Butler?”
“An Ormond-Butler,” she said, earnestly; “but—but he has had trouble—a terrible disappointment in love, they say. He is morose at times—a sullen, suspicious man, one of those who are ever seeking for offence where none is dreamed of; a man quick to give umbrage, quicker to resent a fancied slight—a remorseless eye that fixes you with the passionless menace of a hawk’s eye, dreamily marking you for a victim. He is cruel to his servants, cruel to his animals, terrible in his hatred of these Boston people. Nobody knows why they ridiculed him; but they did. That adds to the fuel which feeds the flame in him—that and the brooding on his own grievances—”
She moved nearer to me and laid her hand on my sleeve. “Cousin, the man is mad; I ask you to remember that in a moment of just provocation. It would grieve me if he were your enemy—I should not sleep for thinking.”
“Dorothy,” I said, smiling, “I use some weapons better than I do the war-axe. Are you afraid for me?”
She looked at me seriously. “In that little world which I know there is much that terrifies men, yet I can say, without boasting, there is not, in my world, one living creature or one witch or spirit that I dread—no, not even Catrine Montour!”
“And who is Catrine Montour?” I asked, amused at her earnestness.
Ere she could reply, Ruyven called from the stairs that Cato had my tub of water all prepared, and she walked away, nodding a brief adieu, pausing at the door to give me one sweet, swift smile of friendly interest.
I had bathed and slept, and waked once more to the deep, resonant notes of a conch-shell blowing; and I still lay abed, blinking at the sunset through the soiled panes of my western window, when Cato scraped at the door to enter, bearing my sea-boxes one by one.
Reaching behind me, I drew the keys from under my pillow and tossed them to the solemn black, lying still once more to watch him unlock my boxes and lay out my clothes and linen to the air.
“Company to sup, suh; gemmen from de No’th an’ Guy Pahk, suh,” he hinted, rolling his eyes at me and holding up my best wristbands, made of my mother’s lace.
“I shall dress soberly, Cato,” said I, yawning. “Give me a narrow queue-ribbon, too.”
The old man mumbled and muttered, fussing about among the boxes until he found a full suit of silver-gray, silken stockings, and hound’s-tongue shoes to match.