“And you thought, of course, that I must be of my uncle’s mind?” There was a crispness about her voice, an ominous challenging sparkle in her hazel eyes.
“I’d not willingly be rude to a lady even in my thoughts,” said he. “But that you should bestow gifts on them, considering that if your uncle came to hear of it....” He paused, leaving the sentence unfinished. “Ah, well — there it is!” he concluded.
But the lady was not satisfied at all.
“First you impute to me inhumanity, and then cowardice. Faith! For a man who would not willingly be rude to a lady even in his thoughts, it’s none so bad.” Her boyish laugh trilled out, but the note of it jarred his ears this time.
He saw her now, it seemed to him, for the first time, and saw how he had misjudged her.
“Sure, now, how was I to guess that... that Colonel Bishop could have an angel for his niece?” said he recklessly, for he was reckless as men often are in sudden penitence.
“You wouldn’t, of course. I shouldn’t think you often guess aright.” Having withered him with that and her glance, she turned to her negro and the basket that he carried. From this she lifted now the fruits and delicacies with which it was laden, and piled them in such heaps upon the beds of the six Spaniards that by the time she had so served the last of them her basket was empty, and there was nothing left for her own fellow-countrymen. These, indeed, stood in no need of her bounty — as she no doubt observed — since they were being plentifully supplied by others.
Having thus emptied her basket, she called her negro, and without another word or so much as another glance at Peter Blood, swept out of the place with her head high and chin thrust forward.
Peter watched her departure. Then he fetched a sigh.
It startled him to discover that the thought that he had incurred her anger gave him concern. It could not have been so yesterday. It became so only since he had been vouchsafed this revelation of her true nature. “Bad cess to it now, it serves me right. It seems I know nothing at all of human nature. But how the devil was I to guess that a family that can breed a devil like Colonel Bishop should also breed a saint like this?”
PLANS OF ESCAPE
After that Arabella Bishop went daily to the shed on the wharf with gifts of fruit, and later of money and of wearing apparel for the Spanish prisoners. But she contrived so to time her visits that Peter Blood never again met her there. Also his own visits were growing shorter in a measure as his patients healed. That they all throve and returned to health under his care, whilst fully one third of the wounded in the care of Whacker and Bronson — the two other surgeons — died of their wounds, served to increase the reputation in which this rebel-convict