Cato at my bedside with basin, towel, and razor, a tub of water on the floor, and the sun shining on my chamber wall. These, and a stale taste on my tongue, greeted me as I awoke.
First to wash teeth and mouth with orris, then to bathe, half asleep still; and yet again to lie a-thinking in my arm-chair, robed in a banyan, cheeks all suds and nose sniffing the scented water in the chin-basin which I held none too steady; and I said, peevishly, “What a fool a man is to play the fool! Do you hear me, Cato?”
He said that he marked my words, and I bade him hold his tongue and tell me the hour.
“Then I’ll sleep again,” I muttered, but could not, and after the morning draught felt better. Chocolate and bread, new butter and new eggs, put me in a kinder humor. Cato, burrowing in my boxes, drew out a soft, new suit of doeskin with new points, new girdle, and new moccasins.
“Oh,” said I, watching him, “am I to go forest-running to-day?”
“Mars’ Varick gwine ride de boun’s,” he announced, cheerfully.
“Ride to hounds?” I repeated, astonished. “In May?”
“No, suh! Ride de boun’s, suh.”
“Oh, ride the boundaries?”
“Oh, very well. What time does he start?”
“’Bout noontide, suh.”
The old man strove to straighten my short queue, but found it hopeless, so tied it close and dusted on the French powder.
“Curly head, curly head,” he muttered to himself. “Dess lak yo’ pap’s!... an’ Miss Dorry’s. Law’s sakes, dishyere hair wuf mo’n eight dollar.”
“You think my hair worth more than eight dollars?” I asked, amused.
“H’it sho’ly am, suh.”
“But why eight dollars, Cato?”
“Das what the redcoats say; eight dollars fo’ one rebel scalp, suh.”
I sat up, horrified. “Who told you that?” I demanded.
“All de gemmen done say so—Mars’ Varick, Mars’ Johnsing, Cap’in Butler.”
“Bah! they said it to plague you, Cato,” I muttered; but as I said it I saw the old slave’s eyes and knew that he had told the truth.
Sobered, I dressed me in my forest dress, absently lacing the hunting-shirt and tying knee-points, while the old man polished hatchet and knife and slipped them into the beaded scabbards swinging on either hip.
Then I went out, noiselessly descending the stairway, and came all unawares upon the young folk and the children gathered on the sunny porch, busy with their morning tasks.
They neither saw nor heard me; I leaned against the doorway to see the pretty picture at my ease. The children, Sam and Benny, sat all hunched up, scowling over their books.
Close to a fluted pillar, Dorothy Varick reclined in a chair, embroidering her initials on a pair of white silk hose, using the Rosemary stitch. And as her delicate fingers flew, her gold thimble flashed like a fire-fly in the sun.