No sound in the cabin save for the dying embers falling, the cruel wind in the eaves and the dry cough of my Lord, my husband in the corner bed. I sit here by the fire, waiting -- for what? For ghosts to gather around me here in this strange lost land I have come to love? For death to knock at the door? To take away yet another part of my poor life?
When did I begin to love this man who has shared my bed these past five years -- This man so grievously ill now of the fever? I think it began when I saw him tear off his fine coat that first summer we came. When he took up ax to help the servants fell yet another of the everlasting trees that surround us here so that we could have a home come winter and the birth of our child.
Before this he had played the arrogant master, and was cold in company and in bed. I was still warmed then by my memories of Will Shakespeare and London and the Rose. This man who had made a marriage bargain with my father was my captor and my guard. I hated him for taking me away, for taking me by force and making me with child. And away to what? No fine plantation, certainly. Not even a home. Just a few poor shacks in a landscape so wild and strange we could have landed on the moon.
But that day, when he came to quench his thirst, he had a look on his face of.....what? Happiness -- that is it -- and pride. I believe it was then that he began to like himself for the first time, and in so doing, allowed me to see him differently too.
Gradually, as the cabin rose, I saw his fine shirts stained with sweat and toil, his clothes now the deer's leather instead of satin and velvet. I saw him care for the indentured servants, deal honestly with the savages that came through the trees to sit before our fire. I saw him raise logs and split them for a warm roof -- to roll rocks from riverbed to build this chimney I now sit before. I saw him learn to laugh, to see the rough beauty around him. I saw him turn one day and behold me as I really was.
O blessed days! He treated me with gentle tenderness. He served me as a servant would when I was too ill to leave my bed. He brushed back my hair and bathed me. He helped me bear our son and he built the tiny coffin and dug the grave that now holds our little one fast under yonder trees.
My love for Will in that long ago life came from joy and discovery, my love for Robert Wessex was born from the greatest of sorrows. Who is to say which is better? I cannot. I only know I now think only of this man's broad shoulders and tousled hair, of gentle hands and wide and curving mouth, of deep dark voice that read to me the plays Will sent us by occasional ship.
Then the fever arrived, born by savages back from Raleigh's ships. It passed me by, but took our son, and now it stands ready to take this strongest of men. I pray to God above to spare him, for if he dies, I die too. I have no wish to live without him.
The other life I led across the oceans is a dream of midsummer, not this cold winter's tale
He cries out!
"Steady, my love, I am here. Drink this water, and I will cool your burning limbs as once you bathed me. I love you more than life itself."