“Bad cess to your memory. Is there no good in me at all that you could be dwelling on instead?”
“Oh, several things.”
“For instance, now?” He was almost eager.
“You speak excellent Spanish.”
“Is that all?” He sank back into dismay.
“Where did you learn it? Have you been in Spain?”
“That I have. I was two years in a Spanish prison.”
“In prison?” Her tone suggested apprehensions in which he had no desire to leave her.
“As a prisoner of war,” he explained. “I was taken fighting with the French — in French service, that is.”
“But you’re a doctor!” she cried.
“That’s merely a diversion, I think. By trade I am a soldier — at least, it’s a trade I followed for ten years. It brought me no great gear, but it served me better than medicine, which, as you may observe, has brought me into slavery. I’m thinking it’s more pleasing in the sight of Heaven to kill men than to heal them. Sure it must be.”
“But how came you to be a soldier, and to serve the French?”
“I am Irish, you see, and I studied medicine. Therefore — since it’s a perverse nation we are — .... Oh, but it’s a long story, and the Colonel will be expecting my return.” She was not in that way to be defrauded of her entertainment. If he would wait a moment they would ride back together. She had but come to enquire of the Governor’s health at her uncle’s request.
So he waited, and so they rode back together to Colonel Bishop’s house. They rode very slowly, at a walking pace, and some whom they passed marvelled to see the doctor-slave on such apparently intimate terms with his owner’s niece. One or two may have promised themselves that they would drop a hint to the Colonel. But the two rode oblivious of all others in the world that morning. He was telling her the story of his early turbulent days, and at the end of it he dwelt more fully than hitherto upon the manner of his arrest and trial.
The tale was barely done when they drew up at the Colonel’s door, and dismounted, Peter Blood surrendering his nag to one of the negro grooms, who informed them that the Colonel was from home at the moment.
Even then they lingered a moment, she detaining him.
“I am sorry, Mr. Blood, that I did not know before,” she said, and there was a suspicion of moisture in those clear hazel eyes. With a compelling friendliness she held out her hand to him.
“Why, what difference could it have made?” he asked.
“Some, I think. You have been very hardly used by Fate.”
“Och, now....” He paused. His keen sapphire eyes considered her steadily a moment from under his level black brows. “It might have been worse,” he said, with a significance which brought a tinge of colour to her cheeks and a flutter to her eyelids.