I cast about in my mind what to say, being resolved not to betray Mary Cavendish, even did this man know what I could betray, and yet being resolved to have some understanding of what was afoot.
“A man of honour includes not maidens in plots, Sir Humphrey,” said I finally.
Sir Humphrey stammered and looked at me, and looked away again. Then suddenly spake Mistress Mary from her window overhead, set in a climbing trumpet-vine, and so loudly and recklessly that had not her grandmother and sister been on the farther side of the house they must have heard her. “’Tis not Sir Humphrey included the maid in the plot, but the maid who included Sir Humphrey,” said she. Then she laughed, and at the same moment a mock-bird trilled in a tree.
“Why do you not tell Master Wingfield that the maid, and not you nor Cousin Ralph, is the prime mover in this mystery of the cargo of furbelows on the Golden Horn?” said she, and laughed again.
“I shield not myself behind a maiden’s skirts,” said Sir Humphrey, grimly.
“Then,” tried Mary, “will I tell thee, Master Wingfield, what it means. He cannot betray us, Humphrey, for his tongue is tied with honour, even if he be not on our side. But he is on our side, as is every true Englishman.” Then Mary Cavendish leaned far out the window, and a white lace scarf she wore floated forth, and she cried with a great burst of triumph and childish enthusiasm: “I will tell thee what it means, Master Wingfield, I will tell thee what it means; I am but a maid, but the footsteps of General Bacon be yet plain enough to follow in this soil of Virginia, and—and—the king gets not our tobacco crops!”
I have always observed with wonder and amusement and a tender gladness the faculty with which young creatures, and particularly young girls, can throw off their minds for the time being the weight of cares and anxieties and bring all of themselves to bear upon those exercises of body or mind, to no particular end of serious gain, which we call play and frivolity. It may be that faculty is so ordained by a wise Providence, which so keeps youth and the bloom of it upon the earth, and makes the spring and new enterprises possible. It may be that without it we should rust and stick fast in our ancient rivets and bolts of use.
That very next morning, after I had learned from Mary Cavendish, supplemented by a sulky silence of assent from Sir Humphrey Hyde, that she had, under presence of ordering feminine finery from England, spent all her year’s income from her crops on powder and shot for the purpose of making a stand in the contemplated destruction of the new tobacco crops, and thereby plunged herself and her family in a danger which were hard to estimate were it discovered, I heard a shrill duet of girlish laughs and merry tongues before the house. Then, on looking forth, whom should I see but Mary