THE WHITE RAINBOW
A Story of the Grand Rebellion
G. APPLEBY TERRILL
YOUR worship is Mr. Gart—the Honourable Mr. L. Gart?” asked the big fellow in a jump-coat, advancing.
Doubting not what my answer would be, he made a gesture to the other two, whereat they lowered the muskets with which they had menaced my party. Plainly we were come to my brother’s lines. I dropped my legs over the side of the litter, and stood on the turf.
“Ay—L. Gart,” I said.
I took from the litter my sword and pistol; and, fastening them on, made a survey of my surroundings, which had been much hidden from me by the hangings of the vehicle.
Grass, coarse and crisp with salt, ran from my feet seaward—the sea being not above a mile away on my right hand. Before me was the great headland called Dodman, and beyond it curved many a league of Cornish coast, that J could discern as far as the Rame Head, by the rebels’ port of Plymouth; for, despite that the moon was risen— looking of rare size and a deep vivid yellow colour—there was yet good daylight.
The range of shore was familiar to me, though I had never viewed it from this spot; and I gave it no more than a glance ere I turned my eyes inland, eager to see Penhalirose, the house that my brother was beleaguering with seventy men.
It was held against him by two ladies and a handful of Parliament soldiers, lent to them by Lord Essex; and their resistance was a hopeless thing. For in this September month of 1644 scarce another rebel was to be found in Cornwall, owing to his Majesty’s marching hither and putting Essex to flight. Often during the day, as my litterhorses bore me over the thirty miles between my home and Penhalirose, I had marvelled at the spirit which had defended the place for a week, and mused as to whether it would fall before I arrived, as seemed likely from my brother’s latest message.
I had come mainly to greet John, my brother, there being great affection between us, and he not having seen me
since my wound; yet I had a lively desire to witness the siege.
On looking from the sea I gazed into a broad valley,.its bottom fairly clear of trees, its sides high and most densely wooded. Right at the summit of one of the woods I perceived a slender chimney of a pretty twisted design, and near to it the peak of a gable.
“Penhalirose?” I asked, nodding.
“Yes, an it please your worship,” said the man in the jump-coat who, having saluted, was come to a stand by me.
“Have you carried it?”
“Nay.” He pushed his hat aslant and ran his finger tips through his hair, which was speckled with grey and close-cropped as any rebel’s; and a rueful smile spread over his broad, good-tempered face while he stared at the chimney. “Nay, your worship. Yet ’tis but a silly place, in a way of speaking; a house builded not for war, with a score of men for garrison, and no artillery save a mortarpiece. A silly place to get the better of the two score Cornish lads we have in the company. You do know how they can fight, sir, being, under favour, one yourself.” He shifted his hat forward, puckering his eyes thoughtfully. “We made two assaults this morning—lost three men killed and eight shrewdly winged... .The musketry beat us, but our Cornish Jacks say there is witchcraft in the business, and Mistress de Corsolo the witch.”
“My brother got no hurt?” I asked anxiously.
“No, sir, nothing touched the commander, though he
was foremost of us____Shall I bring you to him now, sir?
I am Dan Field, his sergeant.” He looked at the litter. “Will your worship ride again? To keep beyond throw of their mortar-piece and muskets we must go in a curve that will mean a half-mile walk.”
“I can foot tenfold that,” I said gaily. And, telling my men to follow us, I set off with him, he taking me by a
path that was crushed through a very sea of ¿teat ferns that brushed our shoulders and smelled finely fresh.
“By your leave, sir,” said he anon, scanning me with kindly satisfaction. “I am glad to see you able to step thus. So many of us heard how sadly the cannon bullet harmed your worship at the siegeing of Lyme three months since. You cannot be long rose from your bed?”
“Tuesday was se’nnight,” I told him, with a word of thanks for his concern; and I added laughing, “I trust Penhalirose shall make no sally on our camp, for I cannot fight. I am all bandaged from hips to heart, and should scream outright if a blow were dealt me. Some of my bones are scarce set, the surgeons were so long in finding all the breakage.”
He clucked his lips in homely solicitude.
“There will be no sally, sir,” said he, “but a surrender within a few hours, from what the commander hath said to me..... .Look, sir, yonder is their mortar-piece, perched on a stone roof.” He showed me other details, after which he asked, “Sir, will you please to tell me of Lyme? ’Tis not witchcraft hath kept us from Penhalirose,but surely ’twTas that kept the Prince’s Highness out of Lyme!”
For the rest of our way I spoke of wrhat I had seen when serving in Dorset with Prince Maurice; and in this mode Field and I became friends in the shortest space.
JOHN was my elder by eleven years, his age being thirty-six. Not in the world was there a tenderer brother or an honester friend, but the violence of his temper toward an enemy had gained him some ill-repute. When I entered the cottage which was his quarters I found him sat athwart the edge of the table, his arms folded, his features harsh with thought. And though his face became very bright w'hen he saw me, and remained so for part of the supper-hour, whilst I chatted of our parents and sisters (for I, fresh from home, had all the news to give), nevertheless he slipped presently into a silent, frowning mood. Our converse had veered to Penhalirose, and I could fathom his brooding. Ten of his men were slain—in attacking a country liou«i». And that lions«» c\ou!d have yielded on dinand but for Vera de Corsolo.
1 had never met this lady, hut. from my boyhood 1 had heard of her as my brother's foe,vornan. Commencing I cannot tell how, there hail heen for forty years hostility between the (¡arts and the Ie Corsolos. which latter as is not uncommon in Cornwall were of Spanish rather than English blood. In the winter of '34, Mistres.Vera, t hough then not sixteen, had entered the quarrel John having affronted her father, she gained t he ear of the maiden my brother was betrothed to, and broke it 'twixt them for ever. Thenceforth, though Mistress Vera and John rarely came face to face, their enmity grew she cold and scathing in all she said of him, he raging when told her words, but helpless to do aught.
On the outbreak of the Rebellion the De Corsolos, having declared for the Parliament, were swiftly driven from Penhalirose; and Cornwall saw no more of them until the advance of Lord Essex, when there appeared at Penhalirose Mistress Vera and Mistress Margaret, her younger sister, with their borrowed soldiery,
Mistress Vera saying, on the flight of Essex, that she would hold the house in face of a thousand odds.
It was bruited that Essex had left with her certain of his papers, conjuring her to hide them safely. So the King had bidden John, as one knowing the environs of Penhalirose, to subdue it forthwith and discover these writings.
The success of the garrison had stung my brother to fury. Ere he fell silent he confessed to me of a letter he had sent to Mistress Vera, wherein he vowed to flog her when he took her, if he could save her alive from his Comishmen, who were resolute to drown her for a witch.
There was a black omen in this talk of flogging, in this new reference to witchcraft, in this hint that a young lady of birth might be put to death—a presage of things very different from any yet done in the war —which rendered me silent as John for a while.
T PICKED up the end of a riband that was trailing from
my hair, and retied it. I retied its fellow; and then, with my arms on the table, turned and turned the ring on my forefinger—an easy matter since my sickness. At last I said: “But thou wilt not whip her?”
John cast out his hand in some reproach.
"Why, nay, Lucian. I am come to mv proper self again.” He shrugged his shoulders and drank some wine slowly. “But verily I fear worse for her -this witchcraft alarm. Yet I believe she is no witch though 'f was rumoured years ago that she was.”
“Swineherds’ mumping,” I said, “because she was whitefaced and night-eyed and foreign.—”
And a very spite,” said John in a tone that made me conscious I had leaned overmuch toward the enemv. “Well,” he added, “the rumour is aflare now in my Cornish troop. Their spleen is grown most evil, and Dan Field and I, and our dozen Shropshire boys, will find it busy work to stall them back from her to-morrow. Ah, I told thee not the item of chiefest import. Perchance because nothing nice is in it, only treachery.”
His face flushed somewhat. He stood up and moved about the little room. “This afternoon I tampered with her troops, and I am well-nigh sure that to-morrow they will rise against her and let us into Penhalirose. That shall he a sure blow to her pride!”
“Pride!” he repeated, his flush changing to a fire of
anger. "Insolent pride, that a vaunting coat-armnur device doth feed and prime, so that a De Corsolo hath contempt for all other mankind. Pah! IxH me cool my face outdoors. Come round with me to the sentinels, coz, an the night air will not hurt thee. . . .Stay, first read these. And still muttering “Pride!” he took a paper from a shelf and
cast it to me, the paper cutting'through the air because of the weight of a big waxen seal upon it. Above the seal I read:
“If you do take me and flog me, and give me to death, which also, I understand, you do fully intend, what of it? Am I anything disgraced thereby, or made to seem little?
“Think youT should ask to be spared, or that my lip would shiver?
“Oh, assuredly you do know of the De Corsolos what I believed all the earth knew! If not, an you can read Latin, learn of my signet, fellow.
V. de Corsolo.”
Upon the seal, of course, was the arrogant De Corsolo device, formed principally from the name:
Deo Coram Solum Parvi
(Only in the presence of God (are the De Corsolos small.)
T COULD not sleep, perchance because I missed my mother’s hands at my bandages, though John with prolonged care and gentleness had eased them for the night.
Nay, and I should not sleep, however many hours I lay. I rose softly from my pallet by John’s side, tightened my swathings as well as I could, dressed and armed, and went forth into the moonlight—that was of glorious kind.
A mist had stolen over us, a somewhat thick mist; yet the moonrays poured through, turning it to sparkling silver; and I told the face of my watch with no more trouble than in daytime.
It was one of the clock.
I walked off by the fern path along which Field had led me, the ferns wetting me a little, but filling my lungs with gladsome freshness. Nearing the end I called out the night-
words. "Penryn Town”, to the sentries, and then I fared on toward the sea. Stopping at length, and resting my hands on my sides, I took two or three deep breaths, quietly rejoicing in the health which my body was gaining.
Then, chancing to turn with my hack to the moon, I -;iw the fairest sight I had ever beheld. Fashioned in the
mist before me, looking not ten yards away, and having its ends close to the ground, was a lovely pure arc of white— a White Rainbow, a thing I had heard no man speak of.
Its height was perhaps twenty feet, and, somehow,, after it had reminded me of a gateway, its lovely pureness set me to thinking of it as the Gate of Heaven; so that anon remembering much ill might have befallen a girl—a poor, humble man’s daughter— if I had not been wounded, I felt that, since God had made me whole again, it behooved me to make Him no perfidious requital, but to keep from lovemaking till I met with her I should desire to wed, and I determined within myself this should he so.
Within a second of which determining I had drawn off my hat, ready to believe that angels were come to bid me be firm in my purpose, for moving to me from beneath the arch of the White Rainbow were two white figures. But a sudden complete pause on thçir part, a whisper between them, and then the haughty lifting of the hooded head of one as they advanced anew, advertised me of the truth. The De Corsolo ladies, having discovered the treachery which impended, were fleeing. They had slipped through John’s ring of sentinels. “Who art thou?”
She who had thrown up her head asked the question, in a voice that was low and beautiful, and careless withal. And she altered her path a foot’s breadth to come more straight!y to me, wherefore I doubted not she was Mistress Vera.
“Lucian Gart, madame,” I said.
They halted by me, calmly as though we were friends; yet I could take no note of the sister for Mistress Vera, who was wellnigh of my height, looked at me steadily and her face held me.
John had seen her—and he could remain her foe! ’Twas beyond credence! This pale face, shaped with such harmony, these bright lips, pouted yet slender, these great dark eyes, this low, exquisite forehead, its nobleness easy to trace despite the shining black hair pressed close about it by the hood—these things were an entrancing picture of immobile loveliness. Nay, not immobile, for deep in the eyes was a glow of light which quickened all with strong life.
“Lucian Gart?” said she. “Ah, tell me, Mr. Gart, what force you have brought to cut off my sister and me from
the sea......I perceive not your battalia-” Her eyes
went ironically past me. “Perchance they have entrenched themselves against our coming?”
“I am alone, madame,” said I, smiling at the jab. I debated for an instant, then:
'T think you are Mistress Vera de Corsolo!” I said.
CH E bent her head a trifle, her eyes returning to my face. ^ "1 do not surrender me,” she said.
‘T shall not hinder you from the sea, madame,” I replied. “Yet I must not be too much a traitor to the King and my brother. Give me any papers that you and this lady carry, and you may go.”
“Not otherwise?” she asked, without a shade of pleading, merely as one arranging a business.
My hatthad slipped from my hand. For a further instant I debated, twisting the ring on my forefinger, her eyes and mine locked unwaveringly.
"Not otherwise, madame,” I said.
She gave a small box which she bore to her sister, who, I now saw, resembled her closely, hut was much the more youthful of the twain. Then, from some pocket within her cloak, she drew forth a mass of documents bound with a string. I held out my hand, but avoiding it coolly, she gave these also to her sister, saying, “Go! If I follow not, make no delay in the boat, but row hard away.”
And then, casting her arms round me swift as lightning, she purposed to throw me to the ground, thinking, I suppose to hold and hamper me while her sister escaped.
I required little throwing. At the very start of the twist she gave me I sank backward with a hoarse shriek that immediately was choked by the awfulness of my pain as my half-mended bones were crushed remorselessly. I hung in her arms, then, she opening them, fell on my back, my mouth stretched wide in inexpressible agony, my eyes, I am sure, bulging forth from their frames. Yet I swooned not. I saw her stand for a space, her hands still outheld, her face amazed. I heard her sister entreat her to run; and, she vanishing, I heard their feet fly softly over the turf.
And then, whilst groaning feebly in my anguish, I strained my hands against my left side, striving to hold a sundered bone from piercing its way out of me,, as it threatened to, her face appeared above me.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Your hand... .press....” I tried to say for my own hands were going weak.
She comprehended, and laying one of her hands firmly on me, she’gave me relief from my worst suffering.
“I was broke by a cannon bullet,” I whispered.
“Oh, welladay! welladay!” she breathed, her face turning into an angel’s, such as I had first taken her for, and being full of grief withal. She put her free hand on my forehead, and taking it up, her palm running with my sweat, “Oh, welladay!” she cried. And then, “Margaret, go. I cannot come with you. Have care of my lord’s letters... .You should be in Plymouth long ere noon.”
Her sister’s voice answered in quick, passionate protest.
. But, “No!” replied she. “Shall I leave him here to die? Nay, I must summon his friends when you are pushed from shore. Bid Martin fire his pistol then to warn me you are safe. Go, child and heart.” She made a little sign that was a prayer for her sister’s safety, and bent over me.
“You have faithful men for your boat?” I muttered.
“My butler and two more house-servants, that found out—oh, no matter what!”
\ CHE raised her eyebrows high, and, de-
spite my own pain and the dazedness that was affecting me, I perceived that in her spirit was great pain at the treason which John had sown—and the artifice seemed utterly shameful to me now. tt “Haste after your sister,” I muttered on. “Haste—escape! You must!... .My brother—” I was forced to pause, being near to swooning.
She saw, and, venturing not to shift me or to take her hand from my side, she leaned and swept her other hand through the grass which was all asparkle with moisture, laying her hand, cool and dripping, again and again on my brow, and smoothing hack niy hair from it, and murmuring to me, “I am sorry—sorry for this I have done.”
“My brother,” I said, “he will not harm you.... But those roughs, lying knaves that say you are a witch.... they are your danger.” I put my hand on hers that pressed my side. I essayed to remove it. “Go—instantly!” I said.
“And what of you, untended here?”
“I will listen for the pistol you spoke of . . .then fire mine own to bring the sen! tries hither.”
“Except you were fainted, which I think would be.”
“Go,” I urged.
She shook her head. Then, gazing pensively into the mist:
To use you thus cruelly,” she said, with something like a smile touching her lips,
“then to leave you here helpless! Can you j deem I would be so small?”
I remembered her motto.
" ‘Deo Comm—’ ” I said, but there a stab of pain made me writhe, which brought her eyes back to mine; and her hand sank on my shoulder, seeking to allay me.
“ ‘Deo Coram Solum Parvi,’ ” I whispered presently. “I believed it not, but you show me how" true it is.... you that are great .... you that are bent to lose your life
thus____But I will not endure you to lose
it!” I raised my head a little, and speaking almost fiercely from the suffering this gave me, I commanded her, “Away—away and follow your sister!”
“No,” she replied. And I saw I should never persuade her.
Dropping my head back, I looked up at her for a while in silence, battling with my pangs, she sometimes answering my look, sometimes staring off into the mist as though reckoning how nearly her sister was got to the boat.
At length, marvelling because of a thing that was in my mind, I said:
“Twas even as I pledged myself to wait
____till I met you.....that you came
through the Archway of Heaven.”
“The Archway of Heaven?” she asked soothingly finding no meaning in my words.
I moved my head to face away from the moon. “Look!” I muttered.
And turning her head she, too, saw the White Rainbow.
She drew a'breath of awe, of rapture. And for a long space we gazed on it together, she murmuring of its beauty and calling it by the name I had given it. But ever and again she turned to let her eyes rest anxiously on me or to cool my forehead as heretofore, her hand on my side never faltering in its pressure nor taking offence of my hand which still clasped it.
A sound, more a little shock to the mist than a report, reached us.
“My sister is put to sea,” she said.
AND-instantly her left hand went to my sash, drew forth my pistol, and held it aloft. Cocking it deftly with her slim thumb, she aimed toward Penhalirose and fired.
Minutes drifted by; minutes and more drifting minutes.
Then, sudden, and indistinct, a voice broke the stillness.
Swiftly, echoingly, Vera de Corsolo cried to it.
“Who ’ee be?” it asked, and the tones were Cornish.
But directly after, making me start with a great throb of thankfulness, there spoke a voice that I knew—Sergeant Field’s.
“Vera,” I answered—ay, I used but her name—“Vera, call ‘Dan Field, Dan Field!’ Bid him come hither alone. Alone!
......Mr. Gart’s orders... .Vera!” I
implored, as she hesitated.
Whereat she did what I asked.
And when Field loomed through the mist and the moonlight fell across his face, all good-humour and perplexity, I raised my hand, intent upon an action that should drive home to him my words.
I raised it to the level of Vera’s cheek— and was stayed by something snapping in my side and almost crazing me with anguish. I clenched my teeth and forced the hand higher—higher, and I got it round her neck, knowing I was going to swoon forthwith.
“Field!” I said, not able to see him now. “Guard her... .guard her with your life. — Shoot any man — Tell my brother she saved me... Say I will never forgive
Wherewith I was finished for that morn, and for days to come.
That Dan Field and John had well protected Vera I had full proof when I returned to my proper consciousness—that being above a week later in my home—for I saw her by my mother’s side bending over my bed.
It was close upon Christmastide ere she left us to keep this season with her own folk in London. And thither in the March following, I myself rode, having in my pocket a safe-conduct granted me by the Parliamentary “Committee of the Tw'o Kingdoms,” w'hich safe-conduct bade officers and soldiery of the Parliament to “let the Honourable Mr. L. Gart, of the Adverse Party, pass without hindrance or hostility to London for his marriage with Lieut-Col. de Corsolo’s daughter.”