“And not my Lady Culpeper’s?”
“And not my Lady Culpeper’s.”
Mary continued looking at me, then all at once her forehead cleared.
“Catherine, ’twas Catherine,” she cried out. “She said not, but well I know her; she would not own to it—the sweetheart. Sure a falsehood to hide a loving deed is the best truth of the world. ’Twas Catherine, ’twas Catherine, the sweetheart, the darling. She sent for naught for herself, and hath been saving for a year’s time and maybe sold a ring or two. Somehow she discovered about the plot, what I had done. And she hath heard me say, that I know well, that I thought ’twas a noble list of Lady Culpeper’s, and I wished I were a governor’s wife or daughter, that I could have such fine things. I remember me well that I told her thus before ever the Golden Horn sailed for England, that time after Cicely Hyde slept with me and told me what she had from Cate Culpeper. A goodly portion of the goods were for Cate. ’Twas Catherine. Oh, the sweetheart, the darling! Was there ever sister like her?”
It was an industrious household at Drake Hill both as to men and women folk. The fields were full of ebony backs and plying arms of toil at sunrise, and the hum and whir of loom and spinning-wheels were to be heard in the negro cabins and the great house as soon as the birds.
Madam Judith Cavendish was a stern task-mistress, and especially for these latter duties. Had it not been for the stress of favour in which she held me, I question if my vocation as tutor to Mistress Mary would have had much scope for the last year, since her grandmother esteemed so highly the importance of a maid’s being versed in all domestic arts, such as the spinning and weaving of flax and wool, and preserving and distilling and fine needlework. She set but small store by Latin and arithmetic for a maid, not even if she were naturally quick at them, as was Mistress Mary; and had it not been that she was bent upon keeping me in her service at Drake Hill, I doubt not that she would have clapped together the maid’s books, whether or no, and set her to her wheel. As it was, a goodly part of every day was passed by her in such wise, but so fond was my pupil of her book that often I have seen her with it propped open, for her reference, on a chair at her side.
It was thus the next morning, the morning of the day of my Lord Culpeper’s ball. It was a warm morning, and the doors and windows of the hall were set wide open, and all the spring wind and scent coming in and dimity curtains flying like flags, and the gold of Mistress Mary’s hair tossing now and then in a stronger gust, and she and Catherine cramming down their flax baskets, lest the flax take wings to itself and fly away. Both Mary and Catherine were at their flax-wheels, but Madam Cavendish was in the loom-room with some of the black women. Mary had her Latin book open, as I have said before,