Then, as I lay puffing away something feebly at my pipe, still with enjoyment, he unfolded his evil news to me. It seemed that my brother had commissioned him so to do.
“’Tis a shame, Harry,” he said, “and I will assure thee that all that could be done hath been, and if now there were less on guard, and a place where thou couldst hide with safety, the fleetest horse in the Colony is outside, if thou wert strong enough to sit him. And so thou escaped, I would care not if never I saw him again, though I paid a pretty penny for him and love him better than ever I loved any woman, since he springs to order and stands without hitching, and with never a word of nagging in my ears to make me pay penance for the service. What a man with a good horse, and good wine, and good tobacco, wanteth a wife for, passeth my understanding, but I know thou art young, and the maid is a fair one. Faith, and she was in such sore affliction this morning because of thee, Harry, as might well console any man. Had she been Bacon’s widow, she had not wedded again, but gone widow to her death. Thou shouldst have seen her, lad, when I ventured to strive to comfort her with the reflection that her suffering in thy behalf was not so grievous as was Bacon’s wife’s for his death, for thou art to have thy life, my poor Harry, and no great hurt, though it may be somewhat wearisome if the sun be hot. But Mistress Mary Cavendish flew out at me in such wise, though she hath known all along to what fate thou wert probably destined, and said such harsh things of poor Madam Bacon, that I was minded to retreat. Keep Mary Cavendish’s love, when she be wedded to thee, Harry, for there is little compromise with her for faults, unless she loveth, and she hath found out that Cicely Hyde betrayed the plans of the plant-cutters, and for her and Madam Bacon her sweet tongue was like a fiery lash, and Catherine was as bad, though silent. Catherine, unless I be greatly mistaken, will wed thy brother John, but unless I be more greatly mistaken, she loveth thee, and now, my poor Harry, wouldst know what they will do to thee to-morrow?”
I nodded my head.
“They will even set thee in the stocks, Harry, at the new field, before all the people at the sports,” said Parson Downs.
I truly think that if Parson Downs had informed me that I was to be put to the rack or lose my head it would not have so cut me to the heart. Something there was about a gentleman of England being set in the stocks which detracted not only from the dignity of the punishment, but that of the offence. I would not have believed they would have done that to me, and can hardly believe it now. Such a punishment had never entered into my imagination, I being a gentleman born and bred, and my crime being a grave one, whereas the stocks were commonly regarded for the common folk, who had committed petty offences, such as swearing or Sabbath-breaking. I could not for some time realise it, and lay staring at Parson Downs, while he tried to force the Burgundy upon me and stared in alarm at my paleness.