Mistress Mary Cavendish had framed in black, in her chamber, a silhouette of this hero, and she wore in a locket a lock of his hair, by which she had come, in some girlish fashion, through a young gossip of hers, a kinswoman of Bacon’s, from whose head I verily believe she had pilfered it while asleep. And, more than that, I knew of her and Cicely Hyde strewing fresh blossoms on the tide of the York River, in which Bacon had been buried, on the anniversary of his death, and coming home with sweet eyes red with tears of heroic sentiment, which surely be not the most ignoble shed by mankind.
“’Twas the only good ever heard of them,” repeated Mistress Mary, “and even that they must need spoil by coming home and paying tithes to my Lord Culpeper that he wink at their disaffection. I trow had I been a man and fought with General Bacon, as I would have fought, had I been a man, I would have paid no price therefore to the king himself, but would have stayed in hiding forever.”
With that she touched Merry Roger with her whip and was off at a gallop, and I abreast, inwardly laughing, for I well understood that this persistency on other and stirring topics, and sudden flight when they failed, was to keep me from the subject of the powder and ammunition unladen that morning from the “Golden Horn.” But she need not have taken such pains, for I, while in church, had resolved within myself not to question her further, lest she tell me something which might do her harm were I forced, for her good, to reveal it, but to demand the meaning of all this from Sir Humphrey Hyde, who, I was convinced, knew as much as she.
Thus we rode homeward, and presently came in sight of the Cavendish tobacco-fields overlapped with the fresh green of young leaves like the bosses of a shield, and on the right waxed rosy garlands of the locust grove, and such a wonderful strong sweetness of honey came from it that we seemed to breast it like a wave, and caught our breaths, and there was a mighty hum of bees like a hundred spinning-wheels. But Mistress Mary and I regarded mostly that green stretch of tobacco, and each of us had our thoughts, and presently out came hers—“Master Wingfield, I pray you, whose tobacco may that be?” she inquired in a sudden, fierce fashion.
“Madam Cavendish’s and yours and your sister’s,” said I.
“Nay,” said she, “’tis the king’s.” Then she tossed her head again and rode on, and said not another word, nor I, but I knew well what she meant. Since the Navigation Act, it was, indeed, small profit any one had of his own tobacco, since it all went into the exchequer of the king, and I did not gainsay her.
When we had passed the negro huts, swarming with black babies shining in the sun as sleek as mahogany, and all turning toward us with a marvellous flashing of white eyeballs and opening of red mouths of smiles, all at once, like some garden bed of black flowers, at the sight of our gay advance, we reached the great house, and Mistress Catherine stood in the door clad in a green satin gown which caught the light with smooth shimmers like the green sheath of a marsh lily.