The Heart's Highway
by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
In 1682, when I was thirty years of age and Mistress Mary Cavendish
just turned of eighteen, she and I together one Sabbath morning in the
month of April were riding to meeting in Jamestown. We were all alone
except for the troop of black slaves straggling in the rear, blurring
the road curiously with their black faces. It seldom happened that we
rode in such wise, for Mistress Catherine Cavendish, the elder sister
of Mistress Mary, and Madam Cavendish, her grandmother, usually rode
with us?Madam Judith Cavendish, though more than seventy, sitting a
horse as well as her granddaughters, and looking, when viewed from the
back, as young as they, and being in that respect, as well as others, a
wonder to the countryside. But it happened to-day that Madam Cavendish
had a touch of the rheumatics, that being an ailment to which the
swampy estate of the country rendered those of advanced years somewhat
liable, and had remained at home on her plantation of Drake Hill (so
named in honour of the great Sir Francis Drake, though he was long past
the value of all such earthly honours). Catherine, who was a most
devoted granddaughter, had remained with her?although, I suspected,
with some hesitation at allowing her young sister to go alone, except
for me, the slaves being accounted no more company than our shadows.
Mistress Catherine Cavendish had looked at me after a fashion which I
was at no loss to understand when I had stood aside to allow Mistress
Mary to precede me in passing the door, but she had no cause for the
look, nor for the apprehension which gave rise to it. By reason of
bearing always my burthen upon my own back, I was even more mindful of
it than others were who had only the sight of it, whereas I had the
sore weight and the evil aspect in my inmost soul. But it was to be
borne easily enough by virtue of that natural resolution of a man which
can make but a featherweight of the sorest ills if it be but put in the
balance against them. I was tutor to Mistress Mary Cavendish, and I had
sailed from England to Virginia under circumstances of disgrace; being,
indeed, a convict.
I knew exceeding well what was my befitting deportment when I set
out that Sabbath morning with Mistress Mary Cavendish, and not only
upon that Sabbath morning but at all other times; still I can well
understand that my appearance may have belied me, since when I looked
in a glass I would often wonder at the sight of my own face, which
seemed younger than my years, and was strangely free from any recording
lines of experiences which might have been esteemed bitter by any one
who had not the pride of bearing them. When my black eyes, which had a
bold daring in them, looked forth at me from the glass, and my lips
smiled with a gay confidence at me, I could not but surmise that my
whole face was as a mask worn unwittingly over a grave spirit. But
since a man must be judged largely by his outward guise and I had that
of a gay young blade, I need not have taken it amiss if Catherine
Cavendish had that look in her eyes when I set forth with her young
sister alone save for those dark people which some folk believed to
have no souls.
I rode a pace behind Mary Cavendish, and never glanced her way, not
needing to do so in order to see her, for I seemed to see her with a
superior sort of vision compounded partly of memory and partly of
imagination. Of the latter I had, not to boast, though it may perchance
be naught to boast of, being simply a kind of higher folly, a somewhat
large allowance from my childhood. But that was not to be wondered at,
whether it were to my credit or otherwise, since it was inherited from
ancestors of much nobler fame and worthier parts than I, one of whom,
though not in the direct line, the great Edward Maria Wingfield, the
president of the first council of the Dominion of Virginia, having
written a book which was held to be notable. This imagination for the
setting forth and adorning of all common things and happenings, and my
woman's name of Maria, my whole name being Harry Maria Wingfield,
through my ancestor having been a favourite of a great queen, and so
called for her honour, were all my inheritance at that date, all the
estates belonging to the family having become the property of my
younger brother John.
But when I speak of my possessing an imagination which could gild
all the common things of life, I meant not to include Mistress Mary
Cavendish therein, for she needed not such gilding, being one of the
most uncommon things in the earth, as uncommon as a great diamond which
is rumoured to have been seen by travellers in far India. My
imagination when directed toward her was exercised only with the
comparing and combining of various and especial beauties of different
times and circumstances, when she was attired this way or that way, or
was grave or gay, or sweetly helpless and clinging or full of daring.
When, riding near her, I did not look at her, she seemed all of these
in one, and I was conscious of such a great dazzle forcing my averted
eyes, that I seemed to be riding behind a star.
I knew full well, though, as I said before, not studying the
matter, just how Mistress Mary Cavendish sat her horse, which was a
noble thoroughbred from England, though the one which I rode was a
nobler, she having herself selected him for my use. The horse which she
rode, Merry Roger, did not belie his name, for he was full of prances
and tosses of his fine head, and prickings of his dainty pointed ears,
but Mistress Mary sat him as lightly and truly and unswervingly as a
blossom sits a dancing bough.
That morning Mistress Mary glowed and glittered and flamed in
gorgeous apparel, until she seemed to fairly overreach all the innocent
young flowery beauties of the spring with one rich trill of colour,
like a high note of a bird above a wide chorus of others. Mistress Mary
that morning wore a tabby petticoat of a crimson colour, and a crimson
satin bodice shining over her arms and shoulders like the plumage of a
bird, and down her back streamed her curls, shining like gold under her
gauze love-hood. I knew well how she had sat up late the night before
fashioning that hood from one which her friend Cicely Hyde's
grandmother had sent her from England, and I knew, the first pages of a
young maid being easy to spell out, that she wondered if I, though only
her tutor, approved her in it, but I gave no sign. The love-hood was
made of such thin and precious stuff that the gold of her head showed
Mistress Mary wore a mask of black velvet to screen her face from
the sun, and only her sweet forehead and her great blue eyes and the
rose-leaf tip of her chin showed.
All that low, swampy country was lush and green that April morning,
with patches of grass gleaming like emeralds in the wetness of sunken
places and unexpected pools of marsh water gleaming out of the
distances like sapphires. The blossoms thrust out toward us from every
hand like insistent arms of beauty. There was a frequent bush by the
wayside full of a most beautiful pink-horned flower, so exceeding sweet
that it harmed the worth of its own sweetness, and its cups seemed
fairly dripping with honey and were gummed together with it. There were
patches of a flower of a most brilliant and wonderful blue colour, and
spreads as of cloth of gold from cowslips over the lowlands. The road
was miry in places, and then I would fall behind her farther still that
the water and red mud splashing from beneath my horse's hoofs might not
reach her. Then, finally, after I had done thus some few times, she
reined in her Merry Roger, and looked over her shoulder with a flash of
her blue eyes which compelled mine.
"Why do you ride so far away, Master Wingfield ?" said she.
I lifted my hat and bent so low in my saddle that the feather on it
grazed the red mud.
"Because I fear to splash your fine tabby petticoat, Madam," I
"I care not for my fine petticoat," said she in a petulant way,
like that of a spoiled child who is forbidden sweets and the moon, and
questions love in consequence, yet still there was some little fear and
hesitation in her tone. Mistress Mary was a most docile pupil, seeming
to have great respect for my years and my learning, and was as gentle
under my hand as was her Merry Roger under hers, and yet with the same
sort of gentleness, which is as the pupil and not as the master
decides, and let the pull of the other will be felt.
I answered not, yet kept at my distance, but at the next miry place
she held in Merry Roger until I was forced to come up, and then she
spoke again, and as she spoke a mock-bird was singing somewhere over on
the bank of the river.
"Did you ever hear a sweeter bird's song than that, Master
Wingfield?" said she, and I answered that it was very sweet, as indeed
"What do you think the bird is mocking, Master Wingfield?" said
she, and then I answered like a fool, for the man who meets sweetness
with his own bitterness and keeps it not locked in his own soul is a
"I know not," said I, "but he may be mocking the hope of the
spring, and he may be mocking the hope in the heart of man. The song
seems too sweet for a mock of any bird which has no thought beyond this
I spoke thus as I would not now, when I have learned that the soul
of man, like the moon, hath a face which he should keep ever turned
toward the Unseen, and Mistress Mary's blue eyes, as helpless of
comprehension as a flower, looked in mine.
"But there will be another spring, Master Wingfield," said she
somewhat timidly, and then she added, and I knew that she was blushing
under her mask at her own tenderness, "and sometimes the hopes of the
heart come true."
She rode on with her head bent as one who considers deeply, but I,
knowing her well, knew that the mood would soon pass, as it did.
Suddenly she tossed her head and flung out her curls to the breeze, and
swung Merry Roger's bridle-rein, and was away at a gallop and I after
her, measuring the ground with wide paces on my tall thoroughbred. In
this fashion we soon left the plodding blacks so far behind that they
became a part of the distance-shadows. Then, all at once, Mistress Mary
swerved off from the main road and was riding down the track leading to
the plantation-wharf, whence all the tobacco was shipped for England
and all the merchandise imported for household use unladen. There the
way was very wet and the mire was splashed high upon Mistress Mary's
fine tabby skirt, but she rode on at a reckless pace, and I also, much
at a loss to know what had come to her, yet not venturing, or rather,
perhaps, deigning to inquire. And then I saw what she had doubtless
seen before, the masts of a ship rising straightly among the trees with
that stiffness and straightness of dead wood, which is beyond that of
live, unless, indeed, in a storm at sea, when the wind can so inspirit
it, that I have seen a mast of pine possessed by all the rage of
yielding of its hundred years on the spur of a mountain.
When I saw the mast I knew that the ship belonging to Madam
Cavendish, which was called "The Golden Horn," and had upon the bow the
likeness of a gilt-horn, running over with fruit and flowers, had
arrived. It was by this ship that Madam Cavendish sent the tobacco
raised upon the plantation of Drake Hill to England.
But even then I knew not what had so stirred Mistress Mary that she
had left her sober churchward road upon the Sabbath day, and judged
that it must be the desire to see "The Golden Horn" fresh from her
voyage, nor did I dream what she purposed doing.
Toward the end of the rolling road the wetness increased; there
were little pools left from the recedence of the salt tide, and the
wild breath of it was in our faces. Then we heard voices singing
together in a sailor-song which had a refrain not quite suited to the
day, according to common opinions, having a refrain about a lad who
sailed away on bounding billow and left poor Jane to wear the willow;
but what's a lass's tears of brine to the Spanish Main and a flask of
As we came up to the ship lying in her dock, we saw sailors on deck
grouped around a cask of that same wine which they had taken the
freedom to broach, in order to celebrate their safe arrival in port,
though it was none of theirs. The sight aroused my anger, but Mary
Cavendish did not seem to see any occasion for wrath. She sat her
prancing horse, her head up, and her curls streaming like a flag of
gold, and there was a blue flash in her eyes, of which I knew the
meaning. The blood of her great ancestor, the sea king, Thomas
Cavendish, who was second only to Sir Francis Drake, was astir within
her. She sat there with the salt sea wind in her nostrils, and her hair
flung upon it like a pennant of victory, and looked at the ship wet
with the ocean surges, the sails stiff with the rime of salt, and the
group of English sailors on the deck, and those old ancestral instincts
which constitute the memory of the blood awoke. She was in that instant
as she sat there almost as truly that ardent Suffolkshire lad, Thomas
Cavendish, ready to ride to the death the white plungers of the sea,
and send the Spanish Armada to the bottom, as Mary Cavendish of Drake
Hill, the fairest maid of her time in the Colony of Virginia.
Then as suddenly that mood left her, as she sat there, the sailors
having risen, and standing staring with shamefaced respect, and
covertly wiping with the hairy backs of hands their mouths red with
wine. But the captain, one Calvin Tabor, stood before them with more
assurance, as if he had some warrant for allowing such license among
his men; he himself seemed not to have been drinking. Mistress Mary
regarded them, holding in Merry Roger with her firm little hand, with
the calm grace of a queen, although she was so young, and all the wild
fire was gone from her blue eyes. All this time, I being as close to
her side as might be, in case of any rudeness of the men, though that
was not likely, they being a picked crew of Suffolkshire men, and
having as yet not tasted more wine than would make them unquestioning
of strange happenings, and render them readily acquiescent to all
counter currents of fate.
They had ceased their song and stood with heavy eyes sheepishly
averted in their honest red English faces, but Captain Calvin Tabor
spoke, bowing low, yet, as I said before, with assured eyes.
"I have the honour to salute you, Mistress," he spoke with a grace
somewhat beyond his calling. He was a young man, as fair as a Dutchman
and a giant in stature. He bore himself also curiously for one of his
calling, bowing as steadily as a cavalier, with no trembling of the
knees when he recovered, and carrying his right arm as if it would
grasp sword rather than cutlass if the need arose.
"God be praised! I see that you have brought 'The Golden Horn'
safely to port," said Mistress Mary with a stately sweetness that
covered to me, who knew her voice and its every note so well, an
"Yes, praised be God, Mistress Cavendish," answered Captain Tabor,
"and with fine head winds to swell the sails and no pirates."
"And is my new scarlet cloak safe?" cried Mistress Mary, "and my
tabby petticoats and my blue brocade bodice, and my stockings and my
satin shoes, and laces ?"
Mistress Mary spoke with that sweetness of maiden vanity which
calls for tender leniency and admiration from a man instead of
contempt. And it may easily chance that he may be as filled with vain
delight as she, and picture to himself as plainly her appearance in
those new fallalls.
I wondered somewhat at the length of the list, as not only Mistress
Mary's wardrobe, but those of her grandmother and sister and many of
the household supplies, had to be purchased with the proceeds of the
tobacco, and that brought but scanty returns of late years, owing to
the Navigation Act, which many esteemed a most unjust measure, and
scrupled not to say so, being secure in the New World, where disloyalty
against kings could flourish without so much danger of the daring
tongue silenced at Tyburn.
It had been a hard task for many planters to purchase the
necessaries of life with the profits of their tobacco crop, since the
trade with the Netherlands was prohibited by His Most Gracious Majesty,
King Charles II, for the supply being limited to the English market,
had so exceeded the demand that it brought but a beggarly price per
pound. Therefore, I wondered, knowing that many of those articles of
women's attire mentioned by Mistress Mary were of great value, and
brought great sums in London, and knowing, too, that the maid, though
innocently fond of such things, to which she had, moreover, the natural
right of youth and beauty such as hers, which should have all the silks
and jewels of earth, and no questioning, for its adorning, was not
given to selfish appropriation for her own needs, but rather considered
those of others first. However, Mistress Mary had some property in her
own right, she being the daughter of a second wife, who had died
possessed of a small plantation called Laurel Creek, which was a mile
distant from Drake Hill, farther inland, having no ship dock and
employing this. Mistress Mary might have sent some of her own tobacco
crop to England wherewith to purchase finery for herself. Still I
wondered, and I wondered still more when Mistress Mary, albeit the
Lord's Day, and the penalty for such labour being even for them of high
degree not light, should propose, as she did, that the goods be then
and there unladen. Then I ventured to address her, riding close to her
side, that the captain and the sailors should not hear, and think that
I held her in slight respect and treated her like a child, since I
presumed to call her to account for aught she chose to do.
"Madam," said I as low as might be, "do you remember the day ?"
"And wherefore should I not?" asked she with a toss of her gold
locks and a pout of her red lips which was childishness and wilfulness
itself, but there went along with it a glance of her eyes which puzzled
me, for suddenly a sterner and older spirit of resolve seemed to look
out of them into mine. "Think you I am in my dotage, Master Wingfield,
that I remember not the day?" said she, "and think you that I am going
deaf that I hear not the church bells ?"
"If we miss the service for the unlading of the goods, and it be
discovered, it may go amiss with us," said I.
"Are you then afraid, Master Wingfield?" asked she with a glance of
scorn, and a blush of shame at her own words, for she knew that they
I felt the blood rush to my face, and I reined back my horse, and
said no more.
"I pray you have the goods that you know of unladen at once,
Captain Tabor," said she, and she made a motion that would have been a
stamp had she stood.
Calvin Tabor laughed, and cast a glance of merry malice at me, and
bowed low as he replied:
"The goods shall be unladen within the hour, Mistress," said he,
"and if you and the gentleman would rather not tarry to see them for
fear of discovery?"
"We shall remain," said Mistress Mary, interrupting peremptorily.
"Then," said Captain Calvin Tabor with altogether too much of
freedom as I judged, "in case you be brought to account for the work
upon the Sabbath, 'The Golden Horn' hath wings for such a wind as
prevails to-day as will outspeed all pursuers, even should they borrow
wings of the cherubim in the churchyard."
I was glad that Mistress Mary did not, for all her youthfulness of
temper, laugh in return, but answered him with a grave dignity as if
she herself felt that he had exceeded his privilege.
"I pray you order the goods unladen at once, Captain Tabor," she
repeated. Then the captain coloured, for he was quick-witted to scent a
rebuff, though he laughed again in his dare-devil fashion as he turned
to the sailors and shouted out the order, and straightway the sailors
so swarmed hither and thither upon the deck that they seemed five times
as many as before, and then we heard the hatches flung back with claps
We sat there and waited, and the bell over in Jamestown rang and
the long notes died away with sweet echoes as if from distant heights.
All around us the rank, woody growth was full of murmurs and movements
of life, and perfumes from unseen blossoms disturbed one's thoughts
with sweet insistence at every gust of wind, and always one heard the
lapping of the sea-water through all its countless ways, for well it
loves this country of Virginia and steals upon it, like a lover who
will not be gainsaid, through meadows and thick woods and coarse
swamps, until it is hard sometimes to say, when the tide be in, whether
it be land or sea, and we who dwell therein might well account
ourselves in a Venice of the New World.
I waited and listened while the sailors unloaded the goods with
many a shout and repeated loud commands from the captain, and Mistress
Mary kept her eyes turned away from my face and watched persistently
the unlading, and had seemingly no more thought of me than of one of
the swamp trees for some time. Then all at once she turned toward me,
though still her eyes evaded mine.
"Why do you not go to church, Master Wingfield ?" said she in a
sweet, sharp voice.
"I go when you go, Madam," said I.
"You have no need to wait for me," said she. "I prefer that you
should not wait for me."
I made no reply, but reined in my horse, which was somewhat restive
with his head in a cloud of early flies.
"Do you not hear me, Master Wingfield?" said she. "Why do you not
proceed to church and leave me to follow when I am ready?"
She had never spoken to me in such manner before, and she dared not
look at me as she spoke.
"I go when you go, Madam," said I again.
Then, suddenly, with an impulse half of mischief and half of anger,
she lashed out with her riding whip at my restive horse, and he sprang,
and I had much ado to keep him from bolting. He danced to all the trees
and bushes, and she had to pull Merry Roger sharply to one side, but
finally I got the mastery of him, and rode close to her again.
"Madam," said I, "I forbid you to do that again," and as I spoke I
saw her little fingers twitch on her whip, but she dared not raise it.
She laughed as a child will who knows she is at fault and is scared by
her consciousness of guilt and would conceal it by a bravado of
merriment; then she said in the sweetest, wheedling tone that I had
ever heard from her, and I had known her from her childhood:
"But, Master Wingfield, 'tis broad daylight and there are no
Indians hereabouts, and if there were, here are all these English
sailors and Captain Tabor. Why need you stay? Indeed, I shall be quite
safe?and hear, that must be the last stroke of the bell?"
But I was not to be moved by wheedling. I repeated again that I
should remain where she was. Then she, grown suddenly stern again,
withdrew a little from me, and made no further efforts to get rid of
me, but sat still watching the unlading with a gravity which gave me a
vague uneasiness. I began to have a feeling that here was more than
appeared on the surface, and my suspicion grew as I watched the sailors
lift those boxes which were supposed to contain Mistress Mary's finery.
In the first place there were enough of them to contain the wardrobe of
a lady in waiting, in the second place they were of curious shape for
such purposes, in the third place 'twas all those lusty English sailors
could do to lift them.
"They be the heaviest furbelows that ever maiden wore," I thought
as I watched them strain at the cases, both hauling and pulling, with
many men to the ends to get them through the hatch, then ease them to
the deck, with regard to the nipping of fingers. I noted, too, an order
given somewhat privately by Captain Tabor to put out the pipes, and
noted that not one man but had stowed his away.
There was a bridle-path leading through the woods to Laurel Creek,
and by that way to my consternation Mistress Mary ordered the sailors
to carry the cases. 'Twas two miles inland, and I marvelled much to
hear her, for even should nearly all the crew go, the load would be a
grievous one, it seemed to me. But to my mind Captain Calvin Tabor
behaved as if the order was one which he expected, neither did the
sailors grumble, but straightway loaded themselves with the case raised
upon a species of hurdles which must have been provided for the
purpose, and proceeded down the bridle-path, singing to keep up their
hearts another song even more at odds with the day than the first. The
captain marched at the head of the sailors, and Mistress Mary and I
followed slowly through the narrow aisle of green. I rode ahead, and
often pulled my horse to one side, pressing his body hard against the
trees that I might hold back a branch which would have caught her
headgear. All the way we never spoke. When we reached Laurel Creek,
Mistress Mary drew the key from her pocket, which showed to me that the
visit had been planned should the ship have arrived. She unlocked the
door, and the sailors, no longer singing, for they were well-nigh spent
by the journey under the heavy burdens, deposited the cases in the
great room. Laurel Creek had belonged to Mistress Mary's maternal
grandfather, Colonel Edmond Lane, and had not been inhabited this many
a year, not since Mary was a baby in arms. The old furniture still
stood in the accustomed places, looking desolate with that peculiar
desolateness of lifeless things which have been associated with man.
The house at Laurel Creek was a fine mansion, finer than Drake Hill,
and the hall made me think of England. Great oak chests stood against
the walls, hung with rusting swords and armour and empty powder-horns.
A carven seat was beside the cold hearth, and in a corner was a tall
spinning-wheel, and the carven stair led in a spiral ascent of mystery
to the shadows above.
When the cases were all deposited in the great room, Mistress Mary
held a short conference apart with Captain Calvin Tabor, and I saw some
gold pass from her hand to his. Then she thanked him and the sailors
for their trouble very prettily in that way she had which would have
made every one as willing to die for her as to carry heavy weights.
Then we all filed out from the house, and Mistress Mary locked the
door, and bade good-bye to Captain Tabor; then he and his men took
again the bridle-path back to the ship, and she and I proceeded
churchward on the highway.
When we were once alone together I spurred my horse up to hers and
caught her bridle and rode alongside and spoke to her as if all the
past were naught, and I with the rights to which I had been born. It
had come to that pass with me in those days that all the pride I had
left was that of humility, but even that I was ready to give up for her
"Tell me, Madam," said I, "what was in those cases ?"
"Have I not told you ?" said she, and I knew that she whitened
under her mask.
"There is more than woman's finery in those cases, which weigh like
lead," said I. "What do they contain ?"
Mistress Mary had, after all, little of the feminine power of
subterfuge in her. If she tried it, it was, as in this case, too
transparent. Straight to the point she went with perfect frankness of
daring and rebellion as a boy might.
"It requires not much wit, methinks, Master Wingfield, to see
that," said she. Then she laughed. "Lord, how the poor sailor-men
toiled to lift my gauzes and feathers and ribbons!" said she. Then her
blue eyes looked at me through her mask with indescribable daring and
"Well, and what will you do ?" said she. "You are a gentleman in
spite?you are a gentleman, you cannot betray me to my hurt, and you
cannot command me like a child, for I am a child no longer, and I will
not tell you what those cases contain."
"You shall tell me," said I.
"Make me if you can," said she.
"Tell me what those cases contain," said I.
Then she collapsed all at once as only the citadel of a woman's
will can do through some inner weakness.
"Guns and powder and shot and partizans," said she. Then she added,
like one who would fain readjust herself upon the heights of her own
resolution by a good excuse for having fallen. "Fie, why should I not
have told you, Master Wingfield ? You cannot betray me, for you are a
gentleman, and I am not a child."
"Why have you had guns and ammunition brought from England?" I
asked; but in the shock of the discovery I had loosened my grasp of her
bridle and she was off, and in a minute we were in Jamestown, and could
not disturb the Sabbath quiet by talk or ride too fast.
We were a good hour and a half late, but there was to my mind
enough of preaching yet for my soul's good, for I thought not much of
Parson Downs nor his sermons, but I dreaded for Mistress Mary that
which might come from her tardiness and her Sabbath-breaking, if that
were discovered. I dismounted, and assisted Mistress Mary to the horse
block, and off came her black velvet mask, and she clapped a pretty
hand to her hair and shook her skirts and wiped off a mud splash. Then
up the aisle she went, and I after her and all the people staring.
I can see that church as well to-day as if I were this moment
there. Heavily sweet with honey and almond scent it was, as well as
sweet herbs and musk, which the ladies had on their handkerchiefs, for
it was like a bower with flowers. Great pink boughs arched overhead,
and the altar was as white as snow with blossoms. Up the aisle she
flashed, and none but Mary Cavendish could have made that little
journey under the eyes of the governor in his pew and the governor's
lady and all the burgesses, and the churchwarden half starting up as if
to exercise his authority, and the parson swelling with a vast expanse
of sable robes over the Book, with no abashedness and yet no boldness
nor unmaidenly forwardness. There was an innocent gayety on her face
like a child's, and an entire confidence in good will and loving
charity for her tardiness which disarmed all. She looked out from that
gauze love-hood of hers as she came up the aisle, and the governor, who
had a harsh face enough ordinarily, beamed mildly indulgent. His lady
eyed her with a sort of pleasant and reminiscent wonder, though she was
a haughty dame. The churchwarden settled back, and as for Parson Downs,
his great, red face curved in a smile, and his eyes twinkled under
their heavy overhang of florid brow, and then he declaimed in a hoarser
and louder shout than ever to cover the fact of his wandering
attention. And young Sir Humphrey Hyde, sitting between his mother,
Lady Betty, and his sister, Cicely, turned as pale as death when he saw
her enter, and kept so, with frequent covert glances at her from time
to time, and I saw him, and knew that he knew about Mistress Mary's
My profession has been that of a tutor, and it thus befell that I
was under the necessity of learning as much as I was able, and even
going out of my way to seek those lessons at which all the pages of
life are open for us, and even, as it were, turning over wayside
stones, and looking under wayside weeds in the search for them; and it
scarcely ever chanced that I did not get some slight savour of
knowledge therefrom, though I was far enough from the full solution of
the problems. And through these lessons I seemed to gain some increase
of wisdom not only of the matters of which the lessons themselves
treated, such as the courses of the stars and planets, the roots of
herbs, and Latin verbs and algebraic quantities, and evil and good, but
of their bearing upon the human heart. That I have ever held to be the
most important knowledge of all, and the only reason for the setting of
those lessons which must pass like all things mortal, and can only live
in so far as they have turned that part of the scholar, which has hold
of immortality, this or that way.
I know not how it may be with other men, but of one branch of
knowledge, which pertains directly to the human heart, and, when it be
what its name indicates, to its eternal life, I gained no insight
whatever from my books and my lessons, nor from my observance of its
workings in those around me, and that was the passion of love. Of that
I truly could learn naught except by turning my reflections toward my
And I know not how this also may be with other men, but love with
me had a beginning, though not an end and never shall have, and a
completeness of growth which makes it visible to my thought like the
shape of an angel. I have loved not in one way, but in every way which
the heart of man could conceive. There is no tone of love which the
heart holds for the striking which I have not heard like a bell through
my furthermost silences. I can truly say that when I rode to church
with Mary Cavendish that morning in April, though I loved in my whole
life her and her alone, and was a most solitary man as far as friends
and kinsfolk went, yet not one in the whole Kingdom of Virginia had
fuller knowledge of love in all its shades of meaning than I. For I had
loved Mary Cavendish like a father and like a lover, like a friend and
a brother, like a slave and like a master, and such love I had for her
that I could see her good beyond her pain, and would have had the
courage to bear her pain, though God knows her every pain was my
twenty. And it had been thus with me near sixteen years, since I was
fourteen and she was a little maid of two, and I lived neighbour to her
in Suffolkshire. I can see myself at fourteen and laugh at the picture.
All of us have our phases of comedy, our seasons when we are out of
perspective and approach the grotesque and furnish our own jesters for
our after lives.
At fourteen I was as ungainly a lad, with as helpless a sprawl of
legs and arms and as staring and shamefaced a surprise at my suddenly
realised height of growth, when jostled by a girl or a younger lad, and
utter discomfiture before an unexpected deepness of tone when essaying
a polite response to an inquiry of his elders, as was ever seen in
England. And I remember that I bore myself with a wary outlook for
affronts to my newly fledging dignity, and concealed all that was
stirring in me to new life, whether of nobility or natural emotion, as
if it were a dire shame, and whenever I had it in my heart to be
tender, was so brusque that I seemed to have been provided by nature
with an armour of roughness like a hedgehog. But, perhaps, I had some
small excuse for this, though, after all, it is a question in my mind
as to what excuse there may be for any man outside the motives of his
own deeds, and I care not to dwell unduly, even to my own
consideration, upon those disadvantages of life which may come to a man
without his cognisance and are to be borne like any fortune of war. But
I had a mother who had small affection for me, and that was not so
unnatural nor so much to her discredit as it may sound, since she, poor
thing, had been forced into a marriage with my father when she was long
in love with her cousin. Then my father having died at sea the year
after I was born, and her cousin, who was a younger son, having come
into the estates through the deaths of both his brothers of small-pox
in one week, she married her first love in less than six months, and no
discredit to her, for women are weak when they love, and she had
doubtless been sorely tried. They told me that my poor father was a
true man and gallant soldier, and my old nurse used to talk to me of
him, and I used to go by myself to think of him, and my eyes would get
red when I was but a little boy with reflecting upon my mother with her
new husband and her beautiful little boy, my brother John, a year
younger than I, and how my own poor father was forgotten. But there was
no discredit to my mother, who was only a weak and gentle woman and was
tasting happiness after disappointment and sorrow, in being borne so
far out by the tide of it that she lost sight, as it were, of her old
shores. My mind was never against my mother for her lack of love for
me. But it is not hard to be lenient toward a lack of love toward one's
self, especially remembering, as I do, myself, and my fine,
ruddy-faced, loud-voiced stepfather and my brother John.
A woman, by reason of her great tenderness of heart which makes her
suffer overmuch for those she loves, has not the strength to bear the
pain of loving more than one or two so entirely, and my mother's whole
heart was fixed with an anxious strain of loving care upon my
stepfather and my brother. I have seen her sit hours by a window as
pale as a statue while my stepfather was away, for those were troublous
times in England, and he in the thick of it. When I was a lad of six or
thereabouts they were bringing the king back to his own, and some of
the loyal ones were in danger of losing their heads along his proposed
line of march. And I have known her to hang whole nights over my
brother's bed if he had but a tickling in the throat; and what could
one poor woman do more?
She was as slender as a reed in this marshy country of Virginia,
and her voice was a sweet whisper, like the voice of one in a wind, and
she had a curious gracefulness of leaning toward one she loved when in
his presence, as if, whether she would or no, her heart of affection
swayed her body toward him. Always, in thinking of my mother, I see her
leaning with that true line of love toward my stepfather or my brother
John, her fair hair drooping over her delicate cheeks, her blue eyes
wistful with the longing to give more and more for their happiness. My
brother John looked like my mother, being, in fact, almost feminine in
his appearance, though not in his character. He had the same fair face,
perhaps more clearly and less softly cut, and the same long, silky wave
of fair hair, but the expression of his eyes was different, and in
character he was different. As for me, I was like my poor father, so
like that, as I grew older, I seemed his very double, as my old nurse
used to tell me. Perhaps that may have accounted for the quick glance,
which seemed almost of fear, which my mother used to give me sometimes
when I entered a room where she sat at her embroidery-work. My mother
dearly loved fine embroideries and laces, and in thinking of her I can
no more separate her from them than I can a flower from its scalloped
setting of petals.
I used to slink away as soon as possible when my mother turned her
startled blue eyes upon me in such wise, that she might regain her
peace, and sometimes I used to send my brother John to her on some
errand, if I could manage it, knowing that he could soon drive me from
her mind. One learns early such little tricks with women; they are such
tender things, and it stirs one's heart to impatience to see them
troubled. However, I will not deny that I may have been at times
disturbed with some bitterness and jealousy at the sight of my brother
and my stepfather having that which I naturally craved, for the heart
of a little lad is a hungry thing for love, and has pangs of nature
which will not be stilled, though they are to be borne like all else of
pain on earth. But after I saw Mary Cavendish all that passed, for I
got, through loving so entirely, such knowledge of love in others that
I saw that the excuse of love, for its weaknesses and its own crimes
even, is such as to pass understanding. Looking at my mother caressing
my brother instead of myself, I entered so fully into her own spirit of
tenderness that I no longer rebelled nor wondered. The knowledge of the
weakness of one's own heart goes far to set one at rights with all
When I first saw Mary Cavendish she was, as I said before, a little
baby maid of two and I a loutish lad of fourteen, and I was going
through the park of Cavendish Hall, which lay next ours, one morning in
May, when all the hedges were white and pink, and the blue was full of
wings and songs. Cavendish Hall had been vacant, save for a caretaker,
that many a day. Francis Cavendish, the owner, had been for years in
India, but he had lately died, and now the younger brother, Geoffry,
Mary's father, had come home from America to take possession of the
estate, and he brought with him his daughter Catherine by a former
marriage, a maid a year older than I; his second wife, a delicate lady
scarce more than a girl, and his little daughter Mary.
And they had left to come thither two fine estates in
Virginia?namely these two: Laurel Creek, which was Mary's mother's in
her own right, and Drake Hill; and the second wife had come with some
misgiving and attended by a whole troop of black slaves, which made all
our country fall agog at once with awe and ridicule and admiration. I
was myself full of interest in this unwonted folk, and prone to linger
about the park for a sight, and maybe a chance word with them, having
ever from a child had a desire to look farther into that which has been
hitherto unknown, whether it be in books or in the world at large. My
lessons had been learned that morning, as was easily done, for I was
accounted quick in learning, though no more so than others, did they
put themselves to it with the same wish to have it over. My tutor also
was not one to linger unduly at the task of teaching, since he was
given to rambling about by himself with a book under one arm and a
fish-pole over shoulder; a scholar of gentle, melancholy moving through
the world, with such frequent pauses of abstraction that I used often
to wonder if he rightfully knew himself whither he was bound.
But my mother was fond of him and so was my brother John, and as
for my stepfather, Col. John Chelmsford, he had too weighty matters
upon his mind, matters which pertained to Church and State and life and
death, to think much about tutors. I myself was not averse to Master
Snowdon, though he was to my mind, which was ever fain to seize
knowledge as a man and a soldier should, by the forelock instead of
dallying, too mild and deprecatory, thereby, perhaps, letting the best
of her elude him. Still Master Snowdon was accounted, and was, a
learned man, though scarcely knowing what he knew and easily shaken by
any bout of even my boyish argument, until, I think, he was in some
terror of me, and like one set free when he had heard my last page
construed, and was off with his fish-pole and his book to the green
side of some quiet pool. So I, with my book-lesson done, but my mind
still athirst for more knowledge, and, maybe, curious, for all thirst
is not for the noblest ends, crawled through a gap in the snowy May
hedge, and was slinking across the park of Cavendish Hall with long,
loose-jointed lopes like a stray puppy, and maybe with some sense of
being where I should not, though I could not have rightly told why,
since there were no warnings up against trespassers, and I had no
designs upon any hare nor deer.
Be that as it may, I was going along in such fashion through the
greenness of the park, so deep with rich lights and shadows on it that
May morning that it seemed like plunging thought-high in a green sea,
when suddenly I stopped and my heart leapt, for there sat in the grass
before me, clutching some of it with a tiny hand like a pink pearl, the
sweetest little maid that ever this world held. All in white she was,
and of a stuff so thin that her baby curves of innocence showed through
it, and the little smock slipped low down over her rosy shoulders, and
her little toes curled pink in the green of the grass, for she had no
shoes on, having run away, before she was dressed, by some oversight of
her black nurse, and down from her head, over all her tiny body, hiding
all save the merest glimmer of the loveliness of her face, fell the
most wonderful shower of gold locks that ever a baby of only two years
old possessed. She sat there with the sunlight glancing on her through
a rift in the trees, all in a web of gold, floating and flying on the
May wind, and for a minute, I, being well instructed in such lore,
thought she was no mortal child, but something more, as she was indeed,
but in another sense.
I stood there, and looked and looked, and she still pulled up tiny
handfuls of the green grass, and never turned nor knew me near, when
suddenly there burst with a speed like a storm, and a storm indeed it
was of brute life, with loud stamps of a very fury of sound which shook
the earth as with a mighty tread of thunder, out of a thicker part of
the wood, a great black stallion on a morning gallop with all the
freedom of the spring and youth firing his blood, and one step more and
his iron hoofs would have crushed the child. But I was first. I flung
myself upon her and threw her like a feather to one side, and that was
the last I knew for a while. When I knew myself again there was a
mighty pain in my shoulder, which seemed to be the centre of my whole
existence by reason of it, and there was the feel of baby kisses on my
lips. The courage of her blood was in that tiny maid. She had no
thought of flight nor tears, though she knew not but that black
thunderbolt would return, and she knew not what my ghastly silence
meant. She had crept close to me, though she might well have been
bruised, such a tender thing she was, by the rough fling I had given
her, and was trying to kiss me awake as she did her father. And I, rude
boy, all unversed in grace and tenderness, and hitherto all unsought of
love, felt her soft lips on mine, and, looking, saw that baby face all
clouded about with gold, and I loved her forever.
I knew not how to talk to a little petted treasure of life like
that, and I dared not speak, but I looked at her, and she seemed not to
be afraid, but laughed with a merriment of triumph at seeing me awake,
and something she said in the sweetest tongue of the world, which I yet
made poor shift to understand, for her baby speech, besides its
incompleteness, had also a long-drawn sweetness like the slow trickle
of honey, which she had caught from those black people which she had
about her since her birth.
I had great ado to move, though my shoulder was not disjointed,
only sorely bruised, but finally I was on my feet again, though
standing rather weakly, and with an ear alert for the return of that
wild, careering brute, and the little maid was close at my side, with
one rosy set of fingers clinging around two of my rough brown ones with
that sweet tenacity of a baby grasp which can hold the strongest thing
And she kept on jabbering with that slow murmur of sweetness, and I
stood looking down at her, catching my breath with the pain in my
shoulder, though it was out of my thoughts with this new love of her,
and then came my father, Col. John Chelmsford, and Capt. Geoffry
Cavendish, walking through the park in deep converse, and came upon us,
and stopped and stared, as well they might.
Capt. Geoffry Cavendish was a gaunt man with the hectic colour of a
fever, which he had caught in the new country, still in the hollows of
his cheeks. He was quite young, with sudden alertnesses of glances in
bright black eyes like the new colours in jewels when the light shifts.
His daughter has the same, though her eyes are blue. Moreover, through
having been in the royal navy before he got a wound which incapacitated
him from further service, and was indeed in time the cause of his
death, he had acquired a swift suppleness of silent movement, which his
daughter has inherited also.
When he came upon us he stared for but one second, then came that
black flash into his eyes, and out curved an arm, and the little maid
was on her father's shoulder, and he was questioning me with something
of mistrust. I was a gentleman born and bred, but my clothes sat but
roughly and indifferently on me, partly through lack of oversight and
partly from that rude tumble I had gotten. Indeed, my breeches and my
coat were something torn by it. Then, too, I had doubtless a look of
ghastliness and astonishment that might well have awaked suspicion, and
Capt. Geoffry Cavendish had never spoken with me in the short time
since his return. "Who may you be?" he asked, and his voice hesitated
between hostility and friendliness, and my stepfather answered for me
with a slight forward thrust of his shoulders which might have
indicated shame, or impatience, or both. "'Tis Master Harry Maria
Wingfield," answered he; then in the same breath, "How came you here,
I answered, seeing no reason why I should not, though I felt my
voice shake, being still unsteady with the pain, and told the truth,
that I had come thither to see if, perchance, I could get a glimpse of
some of the black folk. At that Captain Cavendish laughed
good-humouredly, being used to the excitement his black troop caused
and amused at it, and called out merrily that I was about to be
gratified, and indeed at that moment came running, with fat lunges, as
it were, of tremulous speed, a great black woman in pursuit of the
little maid, and heaved her high to her dark wave of bosom with hoarse
chuckles and cooings of love and delight and white rollings of
terrified eyes at her master if, perchance, he might be wroth at her
He only laughed, and brushed his dark beard against the tender
roses of the little maid as he gave her up, but my stepfather, who,
though not ill-natured, often conceived the necessity of ill-nature,
was not so easily satisfied. He stood looking sternly at my white face
and my weak yielding of body at the bend of the knees, and suddenly he
caught me heavily by my bruised shoulder. "What means all this,
sirrah?" he cried out, but then I sank away before him, for the pain
was greater than I could bear.
When I came to myself my waistcoat was off, and both men looking at
my shoulder, which the horse's hoof must have barely grazed, though no
more, or I should have been in a worse plight. Still the shoulder was a
sorry sight enough, and the great black woman with the little fair baby
in her arms stood aloof looking at it with ready tears, and the baby
herself made round eyes like stars, though she knew not half what it
meant. I felt the hot red of shame go over me at my weakness at a
little pain, after the first shock was over, and I presumably steeled
to bear it like a man, and I struggled to my feet, pulling my waistcoat
together and looking, I will venture, much like a sulky and
"What means that hurt on your shoulder, Harry ?" asked my
stepfather, Col. John Chelmsford, and his voice was kind enough then.
"I would not have laid such a heavy hand on thy shoulder had I known of
it," he added. My stepfather had never aught against me that I wot of,
having simply naught for me, and a man cannot in justice be held to
account for the limitations of his affections, especially toward a
rival's son. He spoke with all kindness, and his great ruddy face had a
heavy gleam of pity for my hurt, but I answered not one word. "How came
it so, Harry?" he asked again with growing wonder at my silence, but I
would not reply.
Then Captain Cavendish also addressed me. "You need have no fear,
however you came by the hurt, my lad," he said, and I verily believe he
thought I had somehow caught the hurt while poaching on his preserves.
I stood before them quite still, with my knees stiff enough now, and I
think the colour came back in my face by reason of the resistance of my
"Harry, how got you that wound on your shoulder ? Answer me, sir,"
said Colonel Chelmsford, his voice gathering wrath anew. But I remained
silent. I do not, to this day, know why, except that to tell of any
service rendered has always seemed to me to attaint the honour of the
teller, and how much more when it was a service toward that little
maid! So I kept my silence.
Then my stepfather's face blazed high, and his mouth straightened
and widened, and his grasp tightened on a riding-whip which he carried,
for he had left his horse grazing a few yards away. "How came you by
it, sir?" he demanded, and his voice was thick. Then, when I would not
reply, he raised the whip, and swung it over my shoulders, but I caught
it with my sound arm ere it fell, and at the same time the little maid,
Mary Cavendish, set up a piteous wail of fear in her nurse's arms.
"I pray you, sir, do not frighten her," I said, "but wait till she
be gone." And then I waved the black woman to carry her away, and with
my lame arm. When she had fled with the child's soft wail floating
back, I turned to my stepfather, Col. John Chelmsford, and he, holding
fiercely to the whip which I relinquished, still eyed me with doubt.
"Harry, why will you not tell ?" he said, but I shook my head,
waiting for him to strike, for I was but a boy, and it had been so
before, and perhaps more justly.
"Let the lad go, Chelmsford," cried Captain Cavendish. "I'll
warrant he has done no harm." But my stepfather would not heed him.
"Answer me, Harry," said he. Then, when I would not, down came the
riding-whip, but only thrice, and not hard. "Now go you home," said my
stepfather, "and show your mother the hurt, however you came by it, and
have her put some of the cooling lotion on a linen cloth to it." Then
he and Captain Cavendish went their ways, and I went toward home,
creeping through the gap in the May hedge. But I did not go far, having
no mind to show my hurt, though I knew well that my mother, being a
woman and soft toward all wounds, would make much of it, and maybe of
me on its account. But I was not of a mind to purchase affection by
complaints of bodily ills, so I lay down under the hedge in the soft
grass, keeping my bruised shoulder uppermost, and remained there
thinking of the little maid, till finally the pain easing somewhat, I
fell asleep, and was presently awakened by a soft touch on my sore
shoulder, which caused me to wince and start up with wide eyes, and
there was Catherine Cavendish.
Catherine Cavendish I had seen afar, though not to speak with her,
and she being a year my senior and not then a beauty, and I being,
moreover, of an age to look at a girl and look away again to my own
affairs, I had thought no more of her, but I knew her at once. She was,
as I said before, not a beauty at that time, being one of those maids
which, like some flowers, are slow of bloom. She had grown so fast and
far that she had outspeeded her grace. She was full of triangles
instead of curves; her shyness was so intense that it became
aggressiveness. The greenness and sallowness of immaturity that come
before the perfection of bloom were on her face, and her eyes either
shrank before one or else gleamed fiercely with the impulse of
concealment. There is in all youth and imperfection a stage wherein it
turns at bay to protect its helplessness with a vain show of inadequate
claws and teeth, and Catherine Cavendish had reached it, and I also, in
my different estate as a boy.
Catherine towered over me with her slender height, her sallow hair
falling in silky ringlets over her dull cheeks, and when she spoke her
voice rang sharp where mine would have growled with hoarseness.
"Why did you not tell ?" said she sharply, and I stared up at her
speechless, for I saw that she knew.
"Why did you not tell, and why were you whipped for it?" she
demanded again. Then, when I did not answer: "I saw it all. I hid
behind a tree for fear of the stallion. The child would have been
killed but for you. Why were you whipped for a thing like that?" Then
all at once, before I could answer, had I been minded to do so, she
burst out almost with violence with a brilliant red, surging up from
the cords of her thin neck, over her whole face. "Never mind, I like
you for it. I would not have told. I will never tell as long as I live,
and I have brought some lotion of cream and healing herbs, and a linen
cloth, and I will bind up your shoulder for you."
With that, down she was on her knees, though I strove half rudely
to prevent her, and was binding up my shoulder with a wonderful
deftness of her long fingers.
When she had done she sprang to her feet with a curious multifold
undoubling motion by reason of her great height and lack of practice
with it, and I lumbered heavily to mine, and she asked me again with a
sharpness that seemed almost venomous, so charged with curiosity it
was, though she had just expressed her approbation of me:
"Why did you not tell?"
But I did not answer her that. I only thanked her, or tried to
thank her, I dare say in such surly fashion that it was more like a
rebuff; then I was off, but I felt her standing there close to the
white-blooming hedge, staring after me with that inscrutable look of an
immature girl who questions doubly all she sees, beginning with
Although I was heir to a large estate, I had not much gold and
silver nor many treasures in my possession. I never knew rightly why;
but my mother, having control until I was come of age, and having,
indeed, the whole property at her disposal, doubtless considered it
best that the wealth should accumulate rather than be frittered away in
trifles which could be of but passing moment to a boy. But I was well
equipped enough as regarded comforts, and, as I said before, my
education was well looked after. Through never having much regard for
such small matters, it used to gall me not at all that my half-brother,
who was younger and such a fair lad that he became them like a girl,
should go clad in silks and velvets and laces, with a ready jingle of
money in his purse and plenty of sweets and trinkets to command. But
after I saw that little maid it went somewhat hard with me that I had
no bravery of apparel to catch her sweet eyes and cause her to laugh
and point with delight, as I have often seen her do, at the glitter of
a loop of gold or a jewelled button or a flash of crimson sheen from a
fold of velvet, for she always dearly loved such pretty things. And it
went hard with me that I had not the wherewithal to sometimes purchase
a comfit to thrust into her little hand, reaching of her nature for
sweets like the hands of all young things. Often I saw my brother John
win her notice in such wise, for he, though he cared in general but
little for small folk, was ravished by her, as indeed was every one who
saw her. And once my brother John gave her a ribbon stiff with threads
of gold which pleased her mightily at the time, though, the day after,
I saw it gleaming from the wet of the park grass, whither she had flung
it, for the caprices of a baby are beyond those of the wind, being
indeed human inclination without rudder nor compass. Then I did an
ungallant and ungenerous thing, for which I have always held myself in
light esteem: I gathered up that ribbon and carried it to my brother
and told him where I had found it, but all to small purpose as regarded
my jealousy, as he scarce gave it a thought, and the next day gave the
little maid a silver button, which she treasured longer. As for me, I
having no ribbons nor sweets nor silver buttons to give her, was fain
to search the woods and fields and the seashore for those small
treasures, without money and without price, with which nature is lavish
toward the poor who love her and attend her carefully, such as the
first flowers of the season, nuts and seed-vessels, and sometimes an
empty bird's nest and a stray bright feather and bits of bright stones,
which might, for her baby fancy, be as good as my brother's gold and
silver, and shells, and red and russet moss. All these I offered her
from time to time as reverently and shyly as any true lover; though she
was but a baby tugging with a sweet angle of opposition at her black
nurse's hand and I near a man grown, and though I had naught to hope
for save a fleeting grasp of her rosy fingers and a wavering smile from
her sweet lips and eyes, ere she flung the offering away with innocent
Her father, Capt. Geoffry Cavendish, seemed to regard my devotion
to his daughter with a certain amusement and good-will; indeed, I used
to fancy that he had a liking for me, and would go out of his way to
say a pleasant word, but once it happened that I took his kindness in
ill part, and still consider that I was justified in so doing.
A gentleman should not have pity thrust upon him unless he himself,
by his complaints, seems to sue for it, and that was ever far from me,
and I was already, although so young, as sensitive to all slights upon
my dignity as any full-grown man. So when, one day, lying at full
length upon the grass under a reddening oak with a book under my eyes
and my pocket full of nuts if, perchance, my little sweetheart should
come that way with her black nurse, I heard suddenly Captain
Cavendish's voice ring out loud and clear, as it always did, from his
practice on the quarter-deck, with something like an oath as of
righteous indignation to the effect that it was a damned shame for the
heir and the eldest son, and a lad with a head of a scholar and the arm
of a soldier, to be thrust aside so and made so little of. Then another
voice, smoothly sliding, as if to make no friction with the other's
opinions, asked of whom he spoke, and that smoothly sliding voice I
recognised as Mr. Abbot's, the attorney's, and Captain Cavendish
replied in a fashion which astonished me, for I had no idea to whom he
had referred?"Harry Maria Wingfield, the eldest son and heir of as fine
and gallant a gentleman as ever trod English soil, who is treated like
the son of a scullion by those who owe him most, and 'tis a damned
shame and I care not who hears me."
Then, before I had as yet fairly my wits about me, Mr. Abbot spoke
again in that voice of his which I so hated in my boyish downrightness
and scorn of all policy that it may have led me to an unjust estimate
of all men of his profession. "But Col. John Chelmsford hath no meaning
to deal otherwise than fairly by the boy, and neither, unless I greatly
mistake, hath his wife." And this he said as if both Colonel Chelmsford
and my mother were at his elbow, and for that manner of speaking I have
ever had contempt, preferring downright scurrility, and Captain
Cavendish replied with his quick agility of wrath, as precipitate
toward judgment as a sailor to the masthead in a storm:
"And what if she be? The more shame to them that they have not
enough wit to see what they do! I tell thee this poor Harry hath a
harder time of it than any slave on my plantation in Virginia, I?"
But then I was on my feet, and, facing them both with my head flung
back and my face, I dare say, red and white with wrath, and demanding
hotly what that might be to them, and if my treatment at the hands of
my stepfather and my own mother was not between them and me, and none
else, and, boy as I was, I felt as tall as Captain Cavendish as I stood
there. Captain Cavendish stared a moment and reddened and frowned, and
then his gaunt face widened with his ever ready laugh which made it
passing sweet for a man.
"Tush, lad," he cried out, "and had I known how fit thou were to
fight thy own battles I had not taken up the cudgels for thee, and I
crave thy pardon. I had not perceived that thy sword-arm was grown, and
henceforth thou shall cross with thy adversaries for all me." Then he
laughed again, and I stared at him still grimly but softened, and he
and Mr. Abbot moved on, but the attorney, in passing, laid his great
white hand on my black mane of hair as if he would bless me, and I
shrank away from under it, and when he said in that voice of his, "'Tis
a gallant lad and one to do good service for his king and country," I
would that he had struck me that I might have justly hit back.
When they had passed back on the turf I lay with my boyish heart in
a rage with the insults, both of pity and of praise, which had been
offered me; for why should pity be offered unless there be the weakness
of betrayal of suffering to warrant it, and why should there be praise
unless there be craving for it, through the weakness of wronged conceit
? Be that as it may, my book no longer interested me, and finally I
rose up and went away after having deposited all my nuts on the grass
in the hope that the little maid might chance that way and espy them.
It was both a great and a sad day for me when I came to go to
Cambridge, great because of my desire for knowledge and the sight of
the world which has ever been strong within me, and, being so strong,
should have led to more; and sad because of my leaving the little maid
without a chance of seeing her for so long a time. She was then six
years old, and a wonder both in beauty and mind to all who beheld her.
I saw much more of her in those days, for my mother, whose heart had
always been sore for a little girl, was often with Captain Cavendish's
wife, for the sake of the child, though the two women were not of the
best accord one with another. Often would I notice that my mother
caressed the child, with only a side attention for her mother, though
that was well disguised by her soft grace of manner, which seemed to
include all present in a room, and I also noticed that Madam Rosamond
Cavendish's sweet mouth would be set in a straight line with inward
dissent at some remark of the other woman's.
Madam Rosamond Cavendish was, I suppose, a beauty, though after a
strange and curious fashion, being seemingly dependent upon those
around her for it, as a chameleon is dependent for his colour upon his
surroundings. I have seen Madam Cavendish, when praised by one she
loved, or approached by the little maid, her daughter, with an
outstretch of fair little arms and a coercion of dimples toward kisses,
flash into such radiance of loveliness that, boy as I was, I was
dazzled by her. Then, on the other hand, I have seen her as dully
opaque of any meaning of beauty as one could well be. But she loved
Captain Cavendish well, and I wot he never saw her but with that
wondrous charm, since whenever he cast his eyes upon her it must have
been to awaken both reflection and true life of joy in her face. She
was so small and exceeding slim that she seemed no more than a child,
and she was not strong, having a quick cough ready at every breath of
wind, and she rode nor walked like our English women, but lay about on
cushions in the sun. Still, when she moved, it was with such a vitality
of grace and such readiness that no one, I suspect, knew how frail she
was until she sickened and died the second year of my stay in
Cambridge. When I returned home I found in her stead Madam Judith
Cavendish, the mother of Captain Cavendish, who had come from
Huntingdonshire. She was at that time well turned of threescore, but a
woman who was, as she had always been, a power over those about her.
She looked her age, too, except for her figure, for her hair was snowy
white, and the lines of her face fixed beyond influence of further
smiles or tears. My imagination has always been a mighty factor in my
estimation of the characters of others, and I have often wondered how
true to facts I might be, but verily it seemed to me that after Madam
Cavendish arrived at Cavendish Court the influence of that great
strength of character, which, when it exists in a woman, intimidates
every man, no matter who he may be, made itself evident in the very
king's highway approaching Cavendish Court, and increased as the
distance diminished, according to some of my mathematical rules.
There were in her no change and shifting to new lights of beauty or
otherwise at the estimation of those around her; she rather controlled,
as it were, all the domestic winds. Captain Cavendish bowed before his
superior on his own deck, though I believe there was much love betwixt
them, and, as for the little maid, she tempered the wilfulness which
was then growing with her growth by outward meekness at least. I used
to think her somewhat afraid of her grandmother, and disposed to cling
for protection and mother-love to her elder sister Catherine.
Catherine, in those two years, had blossomed out her beauty; her
sallowness and green pallor had become bloom, though not rosy, rather
an ineffable clear white like a lily. Her eyes, at once shy and
antagonistic, had become as steady as stars in their estimation of self
and others, and all her slender height was as well in her power of
graceful guidance as the height of a young oak tree. Catherine, in
those days, paid very little heed to me, for her one year of superior
age seemed then threefold to both of us, except as she was jealously
watchful that I win not too much of the love of her little sister. I
have never seen such love from elder to younger as there was from
Catherine Cavendish to her half-sister Mary after the little one had
lost her mother. And all that the little maid did, whether of work or
play, was with an eye toward the other's approbation, especially after
the advent of her grandmother. Catherine had lovers, but she would have
none of them. It seemed as if the maternal love of which most maids
feel the unknown and unspelled yearning, and which, perchance, may draw
them all unwittingly to wedlock, had seized upon Catherine Cavendish,
and she had, as it were, fulfilled it by proxy by this love of her
young sister, and so had her heart made cold toward all lovers. Be that
as it may, though she was much sought after by more than one of high
degree, she remained as she was.
For the last part of my stay at Cambridge I saw but little of her,
and not so much as I would fain have done of her sister. I was past the
boyish liberty of lying in wait in the park for a glimpse of her; she
was not of an age for me to pay my court, and there was little intimacy
betwixt my mother and Madam Cavendish. But I can truly say that never
for one minute did I lose the consciousness of her in the world with
me, and that at a time when my love might well be a somewhat anomalous
and sexless thing, since she was grown a little past my first
conception of love toward her, and had not yet reached my second.
But oh, the glimpses I used to catch of her at that time,
slim-legged and swift, and shrilly sweet of voice as a lark, and as
shyly a-flutter at the motion of a hand toward her, or else seated prim
as any grown maiden, with grave eyes of attention upon her task of
sampler or linen stitching!
My heart used to leap in a fashion that none would have believed
nor understood, at the blue gleam of her gown and the gold gleam of her
little head through the trees of the park, or through the oaken shadows
of the hall at Cavendish Court during my scant visits there. No maid of
my own age drew, for one moment, my heart away from her. She had no
rivals except my books, for I was ever an eager scholar, though it
might have been otherwise had the state of the country been different.
I can imagine that I might in some severe stress have had my mind,
being a hot-headed youth, diverted by the feel of the sword-hilt. But
just then the king sat on his throne, and there was naught to disturb
the public peace except his multiplicity of loves, which aroused
discussion, which salted society with keenest relish, but went no
I took high honours at Cambridge, though no higher than I should
have done, and so no pride and no modesty in the owning and telling;
and then I came home, and my mother greeted me something more warmly
than she was wont, and my stepfather, Col. John Chelmsford, took me by
the hand, and my brother John played me at cards that night, and won,
as he mostly did. John was at that time also in Cambridge, but only in
his second year, being, although of quicker grasp upon circumstances to
his own gain than I, yet not so alert at book-lore; but he had grown a
handsome man, as fair as a woman, yet bold as any cavalier that ever
drew sword?the kind to win a woman by his own strength and her own
The night after I returned, there was a ball at Cavendish Court,
the first since the death of Madam Rosamond, and my brother and I went,
and my stepfather and my mother, though she loved not Madam Cavendish.
And Mary Cavendish, at that time ten years old, was standing, when
I first entered, with a piece of blue-green tapestry work at her back,
clad in a little straight white gown and little satin shoes, and a
wreath of roses on her head, from whence the golden locks flowed over
her gentle cheeks, delicately rounded between the baby and maiden
curves, with her little hands clasped before her; and her blue eyes,
now downcast, now uplifted with utmost confidence in the love of all
who saw her. And close by her stood her sister Catherine, coldly sweet
in a splendid spread of glittering brocade, holding her head, crowned
with flowers and plumes, as still and stately as if there were for her
in all the world no wind of passion; and my brother John looked at her,
and I knew he loved her, and marvelled what would come of it, though
they danced often together.
The ball went on till the east was red, and the cocks crew, and all
the birds woke in a tumult, and then that happened which changed my
Three weeks from that day I set sail for the New World?a convict. I
will not now say how nor why; and on the same ship sailed Capt. Geoffry
Cavendish, his mother Madam Judith Cavendish, his daughter Catherine,
and the little maid Mary.
And on the long voyage Captain Cavendish's old wound broke out
anew, and he died and was buried at sea, and I, when I arrived in this
kingdom of Virginia, with the dire uncertainty and hardship of the
convict before me, yet with strength and readiness to bear it, was
taken as a tutor by Madam Judith Cavendish for her granddaughter Mary,
being by education well fitted for such a post, and she herself knowing
her other reasons for so doing. And so it happened that Mistress Mary
Cavendish and I rode to meeting in Jamestown that Sabbath in April of
Albeit I have as faithful a respect for the customs of the Church
as any man, I considered then, and consider now as well, that it was
almost beyond the power of any one to observe them according to the
fashion of the times and gain therefrom a full edification of the
Therefore, that April morning, though filled in my inmost heart
with love and gratitude toward God, as I had always been since I had
seen His handiwork in Mary Cavendish, which was my especial lesson of
His grace to meward, with sweetest rhymes of joy for all my pains, and
reasons for all my doubts; and though she sat beside me, so near that
the rich spread of her gown was over my knee, and the shining of her
beauty warm on my face, yet was I weary of the service and eager to be
out. As I said before, Parson Downs was not to my mind, neither he nor
his discourse. Still he spoke with a mighty energy and a conviction of
the truth of his own words which would have moved his hearers to better
purpose had they moved himself as regarded his daily life. But beyond a
great effervescence of the spirit, which produced a high mounting froth
of piety, like the seething top of an ale-tankard, there came naught of
it. Still was there in him some good, or rather some lack of ill; for
he was no hypocrite, but preached openly against his own vices, then
went forth to furnish new texts for his sermon, not caring who might
see and judge him. A hearty man he was, who would lend his last
shilling or borrow his neighbour's with equal readiness, forcing one to
a certain angry liking for him because of his good-will to do that for
you which you were loth to do for him. Yet if there ever was a man in
harness to Satan as to the lusts of his flesh and his pride of life, it
was Parson Downs, in despite of his bold curvets and prances of
exhortation, which so counterfeited freedom that I doubt not that they
deceived even himself; and he felt not, the while he was expanding his
great front over his pulpit, and waving his hands, on one of which
shone a precious red stone, the strain of his own leash. But I have
ever had a scorn which I could not cry down for any man who was a
slave, except by his own will.
Feeling thus, I was glad when Parson Downs was done, and letting
himself down with stately jolts of ponderosity from his pulpit, and the
folk were moving out of the church in a soft press of decorously veiled
eagerness, with a great rustling of silks and satin, and jingling of
spurs and swords, and waving of plumes, and shaking out of stronger
odours of flowers and essences and spices.
And gladder still I was when astride my horse in the open, with the
sweet broadside of the spring wind in my face, and all the white
flowering trees and bushes bowing and singing with a thousand
bird-voices, like another congregation before the Lord. I had not the
honour to assist Mistress Mary to her saddle. Sir Humphrey Hyde and
Ralph Drake, who was a far-off cousin of hers; and my Lord Estes, who
was on a visit to his kinsman, Lord Culpeper, the Governor of Virginia;
and half a score of others pressed before me, who was but the tutor,
and had no right to do her such service except for lack of another at
hand. And a fair sight it was for one who loved her as I, with no
privilege of jealousy, and yet with it astir within him, like a thing
made but of claws and fangs and stinging tongue, to see her with that
crowd of gallants about her, and the other maids going their ways
unattended, with faces of averted meekness, or haughty uplifts of brows
and noses, as suited best their different characters. Mistress Mary
was, no doubt, the fairest of them all, and yet there was more than
that in the cause for her advantage over them. She kept all her
admirers by the very looseness of her grasp, which gave no indication
of any eagerness to hold, and thus aroused in them no fear of detention
nor of wiles of beauty which should subvert their wills. And,
furthermore, Mary Cavendish distributed her smiles as impartially as a
flower its sweetness, to each the same, though but a scant allotment to
each, as beseemed a maid. I could not, even with my outlook, observe
that she favoured one more than another, unless it might have been Sir
Humphrey Hyde. I knew well that there was some confidence betwixt the
two, but whether it was of the nature of love I could not tell.
Sir Humphrey kept the road with us for some distance after we had
left the others, gazing beside the horse-block, all equally desirous of
following, but knowing well that it would not be a fair deed to the
maid to attend her homeward on the Sabbath day with a whole troop of
lovers. But Sir Humphrey Hyde leapt to his saddle and rode abreast with
no ado, being ever minded to do what seemed good to himself, unless,
indeed, his mother stood in the way of his pleasure. Sir Humphrey's
mother, Lady Clarissa Hyde, was one of those unwitting tyrants which
one sees among women, by reason of her exceeding delicacy and
gentleness, which made it seem but the cruelty of a brute to cross her,
and thus had her own way forever, and never suspected it were not
always the way of others.
Sir Humphrey was a well-set young gentleman, and he was dressed in
the farthest fashion. The broad back of his scarlet coat, rising to the
trot of his horse, clashed through the soft gold-green mists and
radiances of the spring landscape like the blare of a trumpet; his gold
buttons glittered; the long plume on his hat ruffled to the wind over
his fair periwig. Wigs were not so long in fashion, but Sir Humphrey
was to the front in his. Mary Cavendish and Sir Humphrey rode on
abreast, and I behind far enough to be cleared of the mire thrown by
their horse-hoofs, and my heart was full of that demon of jealousy
which possessed me in spite of my love. It is passing strange that I,
though loving Mary Cavendish better than myself, and having the
strength to prefer her to myself in all things, yet had not the power
to do it without pain, and must hold that ravening jealousy to my
breast. But not once did it get the better of me, and all the way was
I, even then, thinking that Sir Humphrey Hyde might be good man and
true for Mary Cavendish to wed, except for a few faults of his youth,
which might be amended, and that if such be her mind I might help her
to her happiness, since I knew that, for some reason, Madam Cavendish
had small love for Sir Humphrey, and I knew also that I had some
influence with her.
Behind us straggled the black slaves, as on our way thither, moving
unhaltingly, yet with small energy, as do folk urged hither and yon
only by the will of others and not by their own; but, presently,
through them, scattering them to the left and right, galloped a black
lad on a great horse after Sir Humphrey, with the word that his mother
would have him return to the church and escort her homeward. Then Sir
Humphrey turned, after a whispered word or two with Mistress Mary, and
rode back to Jamestown; and the black lad, bounding in the saddle like
a ball, after him.
I still kept my distance behind Mistress Mary, though often I saw
her head turn, and caught a blue flash of an eye over her mask.
Then passed us, booted and spurred, for he had gotten his priestly
robes off in a hurry, Parson Downs on the fastest horse in those parts,
and riding like a jockey in spite of his heavy weight. His horse's head
was stretched in a line with his neck, and after him rode, at near as
great speed, Capt. Noel Jaynes, who, as report had it, had won wealth
on the high seas in unlawful fashion. He was a gray old man, with the
eye of a hot-headed boy, and a satire-cut across his right cheek.
The parson saluted Mistress Mary as he passed, and so did Captain
Jaynes, with a glance of his bright eyes at her that stirred my blood
and made me ride up faster to her side.
But the two men left the road abruptly, plunging into a bridle-path
at the right, and the green walls of the wood closed behind them,
though one could still hear for long the galloping splash of their
horse's hoofs in the miry path.
Mistress Mary turned to me, and her voice rang sharp, "'Tis a
pretty parson," said she; "he is on his way to Barry Upper Branch with
Captain Jaynes, and who is there doth not know 'tis for no good, and on
the Sabbath day, too ?"
Now Barry Upper Branch belonged to brothers of exceeding ill
repute, except for their courage, which no one doubted. They had fought
well against the Indians, and also against the Government with
Nathaniel Bacon some half dozen years before. There had been a prize on
their heads and they had been in hiding, but now lived openly on their
plantation and were in full feather, and therein lay in a great measure
their ill repute.
When my Lord Culpeper had arrived in Virginia, succeeding Berkeley,
Jeffries, and Chichely, then returned the brothers Richard and Nicholas
Barry, or Dick and Nick, as they were termed among the people; and as
my Lord Culpeper was not averse to increasing his revenues, there were
those who whispered, though secretly and guardedly, that the two bold
brothers purchased their safety and peaceful home-dwelling.
Barry Upper Branch was a rich plantation and had come into full
possession of the brothers but lately, their father, Major Barry, who
had been a staunch old royalist, having died. There were acres of
tobacco, and whole fields of locust for the manufacture of metheglin,
and apple orchards from which cider enough to slack the thirst of the
colony was made. But the brothers were far from content with such
home-made liquors for their own drinking, but imported from England and
the Netherlands and Spain great stores of ale and rum and wines, and
held therewith high wassail with some choice and kindred spirits,
especially on the Sabbath.
Not a woman was there at Barry Upper Branch, except for slaves, and
such stories were told as might cause a modest maid to hesitate to
speak of the place; but Mary Cavendish was as yet but a child in her
understanding of certain things. Her blue eyes fixed me with the brave
indignation of a boy as she went on, "'Tis a pretty parson," said she
again, "and it would be the tavern, just as openly, were it on a week
I put my finger to my lip and cast a glance about, for it was
enjoined upon the people under penalty that they speak not ill of any
minister of the gospel. While I cared not for myself, having never yet
held my tongue, except from my own choice, yet was I always concerned
for this young thing, with her utter recklessness of candour, lest her
beauty and her charm might not protect her always against undesirable
results; and not only were the slaves within hearing of her voice, but
none knew how many others, for those were brave days for tale-bearers.
But Mary spoke again, and more sweetly and shrilly than ever. "A pretty
parson, forsooth! And to keep company with a pirate captain! Fie! When
he looks at me, I clutch my gold chain and turn the flash of my rings
from sight, and Dick and Nick Barry are the worst rakes in the colony!
Naught was ever heard good of them, except their following of General
Bacon, but a good cause makes not always worthy adherents." This last
she said with a toss of her head and a proud glance, for Nathaniel
Bacon was to this maid a hero of heroes, and naught but her sex and her
tender years, she being but twelve or so at the time, had kept her from
joining his ranks. But, indeed, in this I had full sympathy with her,
though chary of expressing it. Had it not been for my state of disgrace
and my outlook for the welfare of the Cavendishes, I should most
assuredly have fought with that brave man myself, for 'twas a good
cause, and one which has been good since the beginning of things, and
will hold good till the end?the cause of the poor and down-trod against
the tyranny of the rich and great. No greater man will there ever be in
this new country of America than Nathaniel Bacon, though he had but
twenty weeks in which to prove his greatness; had he been granted more
he might well have changed history. I can see now that look of high
command which none could withstand, for leaders of men are born, as
well as poets and kings, and are invincible. But it may be that the
noble wave of rebellion which he raised is even now going on, never to
quite cease in all time, for I know not the laws that govern such
things. It may be that, in consequence of that great and brief struggle
of Nathaniel Bacon, this New World will never sit. quietly for long at
the foot of any throne, but that I know not, being no prophet. However,
this I do know, that his influence was not then ceased in Virginia,
though he was six years dead, and has not yet.
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
"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.
Her bare, slender arms were clasped before her, and her long, white
neck was bent into an arch of watchful grace. Her face was the gravest
I ever saw on maid, and not to be reconciled with my first acquaintance
with her, thereby giving me always a slight doubt as of a mask, but her
every feature was as clear and fine as ivory, and her head proudly
crowned with great wealth of hair. Catherine Cavendish was esteemed a
great beauty, by both men and women, which shows, perchance, that her
beauty availed her little in some ways, else it had not been so freely
admitted by her own sex. However that may be, Catherine Cavendish had
had few lovers as compared with many a maid less fair and less dowered,
and at this time she seemed to have settled into an expectation and
contentment of singleness.
She stood looking at her sister and me as we rode toward her, and
the sun was full on her face, which had the cool glimmer of a pearl in
the golden light, and her wide-open eyes never wavered. As she stood
there she might have been the portrait of herself, such a look had she
of unchanging quiet, and the wonder and incredulity which always seized
me at the sight of her to reconcile what I knew with what she seemed,
was strong upon me.
When her young sister had dismounted and had gone up the steps, she
kissed her, and the two entered the hall, clinging together in a way
which was pretty to see. I never saw such love betwixt two where there
was not full sympathy, and that was lacking always and lacked more in
the future, through the difference in their two temperaments gotten
from different mothers.
Madam Cavendish was still in her bedchamber, and the two sisters
and I dined together in the great hall. Then, after the meal was over,
I went forth with my book of Sir William Davenant's plays, and sought a
favourite place of mine in the woods, and stayed there till sundown.
Then, rising and going homeward when the mist floated over the
marshlands like veils of silver gauze, and the frogs chorused through
it in waves of sound, and birds were circling above it, calling sweetly
with fluting notes or screaming with the harsh trumpet-clang of
sea-fowl, I heard of a sudden, just as the sun sank below the western
sky, a mighty din of horns and bells and voices from the direction of
Jamestown. I knew that the sports which a certain part of the community
would have on a Sabbath after sundown, when they felt so inclined, had
begun. Since the king had been restored such sports had been observed,
now and then, according to the humour of the governor and the minister
and the others in authority. Laws had been from time to time set forth
that the night after the Sabbath, the Sabbath being considered to cease
at sundown, should be kept with decorum, but seldom were they enforced,
and often, as now, a great din arose when the first gloom overspread
the earth. However, that night was the 30th of April, the night before
May day; and there was more merrymaking in consequence, though May was
not here as in England, and even in England not what it had been in the
first Charles's reign.
But they kept up their rollicking late that night, for the window
of my chamber being toward Jamestown, and the wind that way, I could
hear them till I fell asleep. At midnight I wakened suddenly at the
sound of a light laugh, which I knew to be Mary Cavendish's. There was
never in the maid any power of secrecy when her humour overcame her.
She laughed again, and I heard a hushing voice, which I knew to be
neither her sister's nor grandmother's, but a man's.
I was up and dressed in a trice, and sword in hand, and out of my
window, which was on the first floor, and there was Mistress Mary and
Sir Humphrey Hyde. I stepped between them and thrust aside Sir
Humphrey, who would have opposed me. "Go into the house, madam," said I
to her, and pointed to the door, which stood open. Then while she
hesitated, half shrinking before me, with her old habit of obedience
strong upon her, yet with angry wilfulness urging her to rebellion,
forth stepped her distant cousin Ralph Drake from behind a
white-flowering thicket, and demanded to know what that cursed convict
fellow did there, and had he not a right to parley with his cousin, and
was her honour not safe with her kinsman and he an English gentleman? I
perceived by Ralph Drake's voice that he had perchance been making gay
with the revellers at Jamestown, and stood still when he came
bullyingly toward me, but at that minute Mistress Mary spoke.
"I will not have such language to my tutor, Cousin Ralph," said
she, "and I will have you to understand it. He is a gentleman as well
as yourself, and you owe him an apology." So saying, she stamped her
foot and looked at Ralph Drake, her eyes flashing in the moonlight. But
Ralph Drake, whose face I could see was flushed, even in that whiteness
of light, flung away with an oath muttered under his breath, and struck
out across the lawn, his black shadow stalking before him.
Then Mistress Mary turned and bade me goodnight in the sweetest and
most curious fashion, as if nothing unusual had happened, and yet with
a softness in voice as if she would fain make amends for her cousin's
rough speech, and fluttered in through the open door like a white moth,
and left me alone with Sir Humphrey Hyde.
Sir Humphrey was but a lad to me, scarcely older than Mistress
Mary, for all his great stature. He stood before me scraping the shell
walk with the end of his riding whip. Both men had ridden hither, and I
at that moment heard Ralph Drake's horse's hard trot.
"If you come courting Mistress Mary Cavendish, 'tis for her
guardians, her grandmother, and elder sister to deal with you
concerning the time and place you choose," said I, "but if it be on any
"Good God, Harry," broke in Sir Humphrey, "do you think I am come
love-making in such fashion, and with Ralph Drake in his cups, though I
swear he fastened himself to me against my will ?"
I waited a moment. Sir Humphrey had been much about the place since
he was a mere lad, and had had, I believe, a sort of boyish good-will
toward me. Not much love had he for books, but I was accounted a fair
shot, and had some knowledge of sports of hunting and fishing, and had
given him some lessons, and he had followed me about some few years
before, somewhat to the uneasiness of his mother, who could not forget
that I was a convict.
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
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,
"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 Cavendish and Cicely Hyde, her great
gossip, and a young coloured wench, all washing their faces in the May
dew, which lay in a great flood as of diamonds and pearls over
everything. I minded well the superstition, older than I, that, if a
maid washed her face in the first May dew, it would make her skin
wondrous fair, and I laughed to myself as I peeped around the shutter
to think that Mary Cavendish should think that she stood in need of
such amendment of nature. Down she knelt, dragging the hem of her
chintz gown, which was as gay with a maze of printed posies as any
garden bed, and she thrust her hollowed hands into the dew-laden green
and brought them over her face and rubbed till sure there was never
anything like it for sweet, glowing rosiness. And Cicely Hyde, who must
have come full early to Drake Hill for that purpose, did likewise, and
with more need, as I thought, for she was a brown maid, not so fair of
feature as some, though she had a merry heart, which gave to her such a
zest of life and welcome of friends as made her a favourite. Up she
scooped the dew and bathed her face, turning ever and anon to Mary
Cavendish with anxious inquiries, ending in trills of laughter which
would not be gainsaid in May-time and youth-time by aught of so little
moment as a brown skin. "How look I now?" she would cry out. "How look
I now, sweetheart? Saw you ever a lily as fair as my face?" Then Mary,
with her own face dripping with dew, with that wonderful wet freshness
of bloom upon it, would eye her with seriousness as to any improvement,
and bid her turn this way and that. Then she would give it as her
opinion that she had best persevere, and laugh somewhat doubtfully at
first, then in a full peal when Cicely, nothing daunted by such
discouragement in her friend's eyes, went bravely to work again, all
her slender body shaking with mirth. But the most curious sight of all,
and that which occasioned the two maids the most merriment, though of a
covert and even tender and pitying sort, was Mary's black serving-wench
Sukey, a half-grown girl, who had been bidden to attend her mistress
upon this morning frolic. She was seated at a distance, square in the
wet greenness, and was plunging both hands into the May dew and
scrubbing her face with a fierce zeal, as if her heart was in that
pretty folly, as no doubt it was. And ever and anon as she rubbed her
cheeks, which shone the blacker and glossier for it, she would turn the
palms of her hands, which be so curiously pale on a negro's hands, to
see if perchance some of the darkness had stirred. And when she saw
not, then would she fall to scrubbing again.
Presently up stood Mary and Cicely, and Cicely flashed in the sun a
little silver mirror which she had brought and which had lain
glittering in the grass a little removed, and looked at herself, and
saw that her brown cheeks were as ever, with the exception of the flush
caused by rubbing, and tossed it with her undaunted laugh to Mary. "The
more fool be I!" she cried out, "instead of washing mine own face in
the May dew, better had it been had I locked thee in the clothes-press,
Mary Cavendish, and not let thee add to thy beauty, while I but gave my
cheeks the look of fever or the small-pox. I trow the skin be off in
spots, and all to no purpose! Look at thyself, Mary Cavendish, and
blush that thou be so much fairer than one who loves thee !"
And verily Mary Cavendish did for a minute seem to blush as she
cast a glance at herself in the mirror and saw her marvellous rose of a
face, but the next minute the mirror flashed in the grass and her arms
were about Cicely Hyde's neck. "'Tis the dearest face in Virginia,
Cicely," said she, in her sweet, vehement way, and laid her pink cheek
against the other's plain one. And Cicely laughed, and took her face in
her two hands and held it away that she might see it.
"What matters it to poor Cicely whether her own face be fair or
not, so long as it is dear to thee, and so long as she can see thine!"
she cried as passionately as a lad might have done, and I frowned, not
with jealousy, but with a curious dislike to such affection from one
maid to another, which I could never understand in myself. Had Cicely
Hyde had a lover, she would have said that fond speech to him instead
of Mary Cavendish, but lover she had none.
But all at once the two maids nudged one another, and turned their
faces, all convulsed with merriment, and I looked and saw that the poor
little black lass had crept on hands and knees to where the mirror
flashed in the grass, and was looking at her face therein with such
anxiety as might move one at once to tears and laughter, to see if the
dew had washed her white.
But Mary Cavendish ceased all in a minute her mirth, and went up to
the black child and took the mirror from her, and said, in the sweetest
voice of pity I ever heard, "'Tis not in one May dew nor two, nor
perchance in the dews of many years, you can wash your face white, but
sometime it will be."
Then the black wench burst into tears, and begged in that thick,
sluggishly sweet tongue of hers to know if ever the May dew would wash
her black away, and Mistress Mary answered as seriously as if she were
in the pulpit on the Sabbath day that it would sometime most surely and
she should see her face in the glass as fair as any.
Then the two maids, Mary Cavendish and Cicely Hyde, went into the
house, and left me, as I said before, to wonder at that spirit of youth
which can all in a minute disregard care and anxiety and risk of death
for the play of vanity. But, after all, which be stronger, wars and
rumours of wars or vanity? And which be older, and which fathered the
After the house door had shut behind the maidens, I too went out,
but not to wash my grim man's face in May dew, but rather for a stroll
in the morning air, and the clearing of my wits for reflection; for
much I wondered what course I should take regarding my discovery of the
night before. I went down the road toward Jamestown, and struck into
the path to the wharf, the same that we had taken the day before, but
there were no masts of the Golden Horn rising among the trees with a
surprise of straightness. She had weighed anchor and sailed away over
night, and possibly before. The more I reflected the more I understood
that Mistress Mary Cavendish, with her ready wit and supply of money
through her inheritance from her mother, might have concocted the
scheme of bringing over ammunition from England to enable us to make a
stand against the government; but the plot in the first of it could not
have been hers alone. Assuredly Ralph Drake was concerned in it, and
Sir Humphrey Hyde, and no one knew how many more. The main part for
Mistress Mary might well have been the furnishing of the powder and
shot, for Ralph Drake was poor, and lived, it was said, by his good
luck at cards; and as for Sir Humphrey Hyde, his mother held the reins
in those soft hands of hers, which would have been sorely bruised had
they been withdrawn too roughly.
I sat me down on a glittering ridge of rock near the river-bank,
and watched the blue run of the water, and twisted the matter this and
that way in my mind, for I was sorely perplexed. Never did I feel as
then the hamper of my position, for a man who was held in such esteem
as I by some and contempt by others, and while having voice had no
authority to maintain it, was neither flesh nor fowl nor slave nor
master. Madam Cavendish treated me in all respects as the equal of
herself and her family?nay, more than that, she deferred to me in such
fashion as I had never seen in her toward any one, but Catherine
treated me ever with iciness of contempt, which I at that time
conceived to be but that transference of blame from her own self to a
scapegoat of wrong-doing which is a resort of ignoble souls. They will
have others not only suffer for their own sin, but even treat them with
the scorn due themselves. And not one man was there in the colony,
excepting perhaps Sir Humphrey Hyde and Parson Downs and the brothers
Nicholas and Richard Barry, which last were not squeamish, and would
have had me as boon companion at Barry Upper Branch, having been drawn
to me by a kindred boldness of spirit and some little passages which I
had had with the Indians, which be not worth repeating. I being in such
a position in the colony, and considering the fact that Madam Cavendish
and Catherine were staunch loyalists, and would have sent all their
tobacco to the bottom of the salt sea had the king so ordained, and
regarded all disaffection from the royal will as a deadly sin against
God and the Church, as well as the throne, and knowing the danger which
Mary Cavendish ran, I was in a sore quandary. Could I have but gone to
those men whom I conceived to be in the plot, and talked with them on
an equal footing, I would have given my right hand. But I wondered, and
with reason, what hearing they would accord me, and I wondered how to
move in the matter at all without doing harm to Mistress Mary, yet
feared greatly that the non-movement would harm her more. As I sat
there I fell to marvelling anew, as I had marvelled many times before,
at that yielding on the part of the strong which makes the power of
those in authority possible. At the yielding of the weak we marvel not,
but when one sees the bending of staunch, true men, with muscles of
iron and hearts of oak, to commands which be manifestly against their
own best interests, it is verily beyond understanding, and only to be
explained by the working of those hidden springs of nature which have
been in men's hearts since the creation, moving them along one common
road of herding to one common end. As I sat there I wondered not so
much at the plot which was simply to destroy all the young tobacco
plants, that there be not an over-supply and ruinous prices therefor
next year, as at the fact that the whole colony to a man did not arise
and rebel against the order of the king in that most infamous
Navigation Act which forbade exportation to any place but England, and
load their ships for the Netherlands, and get the full worth of their
crops. Well I knew that some of the burgesses were secretly in favour
of this measure, and why should one man, Governor Culpeper, for the
king, hold for one minute the will of this strong majority in abeyance
I reasoned it out within myself that one cause might lie in that
distrust and suspicion of his neighbour as to his good-will and
identical interest with himself which is inborn with every man, and in
most cases strengthens with his growth. When a movement of rebellion
against authority is on foot, he eyes all askance, and speaks in
whispering corners of secrecy, not knowing when he strikes his first
blow whether his own brother's hand will be with him against the common
tyrant, or against himself.
Were it not for this lamentable quality of the human heart, which
will prevent forever the perfect concerting of power to one end, such a
giant might be made of one people that it could hold all the world and
all the nations thereof at its beck and call. But that cannot be, even
in England, which had known and knows now and will know again that
division of interest and doubts, every man of his brother's heart,
which weaken the arm against the common foe.
But, reflecting in such wise, I came no nearer to the answer to my
quandary as to my best course for the protection of Mary Cavendish.
I sat there on that rock glittering like frost-work in the May
sunlight and watched the river current until it seemed to me that my
rock and all Virginia were going out on the tide to sea and back to
England, where, had I landed then, I would have lost my head and all my
wondering with it, and my old astonishment, which I had had from a boy,
was upon me, that so many things that be, according to the apparent
evidence of our senses are not, and how can any man ever be sure that
he is on sea or land, or coming or going? And comes there not to all of
us some day a great shock of knowledge of the slipping past of this
world, and all the history thereof which we think of so much moment,
and that we only are that which remains ? But then verily it seemed to
me that the matter of the tobacco plot and Mary Cavendish's danger was
of more moment than aught else in the century.
"Master Wingfield," said a voice so gently and sweetly repellent
and forbidding, even while it entreated, that it shivered the air with
discord, and I looked around, and there stood Catherine Cavendish. She
stood quite near the rock where I sat, but she kept her head turned
slightly away as if she could not bear the sight of my face, though she
was constrained to speak to me. But I, and I speak the truth, since I
held it unworthy a man and a gentleman to feel aught of wrath or
contempt when he was sole sufferer by reason of any wrong done by a
woman, had nothing but that ever recurrent surprise and unbelief at the
sight of her, to reconcile what I knew, or thought I knew, with what
I rose and stepped from my rock to the green shore, and she moved a
little back with a slight courtesy. "Good-morning, Mistress Catherine,"
"What know you of what my sister hath done and the cargo that came
yesterday on the Golden Horn?" she demanded with no preface and of a
sudden; her voice rang sharp as I remembered it when she first spoke to
me by that white hedge of England, and I could have sworn that the tide
had verily borne us thither, and she was again that sallow girl and I
the blundering lout of a lad.
"That I cannot answer you, madam," said I, and bowed and would have
passed, but she stood before me. So satin smooth was her hair that even
the fresh wind could not ruffle it, and in such straight lines of
maiden modesty hung her green gown?always she wore green, and it became
her well, and 'twas a colour I always fancied?that it but fluttered a
little around her feet in the marsh grass, but her face looked out from
a green gauze hood with an expression that belied all this
steadfastness of primness and decorum. It was as if a play-actress had
changed her character and not her attire, which suited another part.
Out came her slim arm, as if she would have caught me by the hand for
the sake of compelling my answer; then she drew it back and spoke with
all the sharp vehemence of passion of a woman who oversteps the bounds
of restraint which she has set herself, and is a wilder thing than if
she had been hitherto unfettered by her will.
"I command you to tell me what I wish to know, Harry Wingfield;"
said she, and now her eyes fixed mine with no shrinking, but a
broadside of scorn and imperiousness.
"And I refuse to tell you, madam," said I.
Then indeed she caught my arm with a little nervous hand, like a
cramp of wire. "You shall tell me, sir," she declared. "This much I
know already. Yesterday the Golden Horn came in and was unladen of
powder and shot instead of the goods that my sister pretended to order,
and the cases are stored at Laurel Creek. This much do I know, but not
what is afoot, nor for what Mary had conference with Sir Humphrey Hyde
and Ralph last night, and you later on with Sir Humphrey. I demand of
you that you tell me, Harry Wingfield."
"That I cannot do, madam," said I.
She gave me a look with those great black eyes of hers, and how it
came to pass I never knew, but straight to the root of the whole she
went as if my face had been an open book.
Such quickness of wit I had often heard ascribed to women, but
never saw I aught like that, and I trow it seemed witchcraft. "'Tis
something about the young tobacco plants," quoth she. "The king would
not pass the measure to cease the planting, and the assembly of this
spring broke up with no decision. Major Beverly, who is clerk of the
assembly, hath turned against the government since Bacon died, and all
the burgesses are with him, and Governor Culpeper sails for England
soon, and what, is the lieutenant-governor to hold the reins ? There is
a plot hatching to cut down the young tobacco plants." I could but
stare at her. "There is a plot to cut down the young tobacco plants as
soon as the governor hath sailed," she said, "and my sister Mary hath
sent to England for arms, knowing that the militia will arise and there
will be fighting."
I still stared at her, not knowing in truth what to say. Then
suddenly she caught at my hands with hers, and cried out with that
energy that I saw all at once the fire of life beneath that fair show
of maiden peace and calm of hers, "Harry, Harry Wingfield, if my
grandmother, Madam Cavendish, knows this, my sister is undone; no pity
will she have. Straight to the governor will she go, though she hobble
on crutches to Jamestown! She would starve ere she would move against
the will of the king and his representative, and so would I, but I will
not have my little sister put to suffering and shame. God save her,
Harry Wingfield, but she might be thrown into prison, and worse?I pray
thee, save her, Harry! Whatever ill you have done, and however
slightingly I have held you for it, I pray you do this good deed by way
of amends, and I will put the memory of your misdeeds behind me."
Even then my bewilderment at her mention of my misdeeds, when I
verily considered that she, as well as I, knew more of her own, was
strong, but I grasped her two little hands hard, then relinquished
them, and bowed and said, "Madam, I will save your sister at whatever
"And count it not?" said she.
"No more than I have done before, madam," said I, and maybe with
some little bitterness, for sometimes a woman by persistent goading,
may almost raise herself to the fighting level of a man.
"But how ?" said she.
"That I must study."
"But I charge you to keep it from Madam Cavendish."
"You need have no fear."
"May God forgive me, but I told Madam Cavendish that the Golden
Horn had not arrived," said she, "but what have they done with the rest
of the cargo, pray?"
I started. I had, I confess, not given that a thought, though it
was but reasonable that there was more beside those powder casks, if
the revenue from the crops had been so small.
But Catherine Cavendish needed but a moment for that problem.
"'Twill return," said she. "Captain Tabor hath but sailed off a little
distance that he may return and make port, as if for the first time
since he left England, and so put them off the scent of the Sabbath
unlading of those other wares." She looked down the burnished flow of
the river as she spoke, and cried out that she could see a sail, but I,
looking also, could not see anything save the shimmer of white and
green spring boughs into which the river distance closed.
"'Tis the Golden Horn," said Catherine.
"I can see naught of white save the locust-blooms," said I.
"Locusts stand not against the wind in stiff sheets," said she.
"'Tis the sail of the Golden Horn; but that matters not. Harry, Harry
Wingfield, can you save my sister?"
"I know not whether I can, madam, but I will," said I.
Mistress Catherine and I returned together to Drake Hill, she
bearing herself with a sharp and anxious conciliation, and I with
little to say in response, and walking behind her, though she moved
more and more slowly that I might gain her side.
We were not yet in sight of Drake Hill, but the morning smoke from
the slave cabins had begun to thrust itself athwart the honeyed
sweetness of blossoms, and the salt freshness of the breath of the
tidal river, as the homely ways of life will ever do athwart the beauty
and inspiration of it, maybe to the making of its true harmony, when of
a sudden we both stopped and listened. Mistress Catherine turned palely
to me, and I dare say the thought of Indians was in her mind, though
they had long been quiet, then her face relaxed and she smiled.
"'Tis the first day of May," said she. "And they are going to set
up the May-pole in Jarvis Field."
This did they every May of late, because some of the governors and
some of the people had kept to those prejudices against the May
revelries which had existed before the Restoration, and frowned upon
the May-pole set up in the Jamestown green as if it had been, as the
Roundheads used to claim, the veritable heathen god Baal.
Jarvis Field was a green tract, clear of trees, not far from us,
and presently we met the merry company proceeding thither. First came a
great rollicking posse of lads and lasses linked hand in hand, all
crowned with flowers, and bearing green and blossomy boughs over
shoulder. And these were so swift with the wild spirit and jollity of
the day that they must needs come in advance, even before the horses
which dragged the May-pole. Six of them there were, so bedecked with
ribbons and green garlands that I marvelled they could see the road and
were not wild with fear. But they seemed to enter into the spirit of it
all, and stepped highly and daintily with proud archings of necks and
tossings of green plumed heads, and behind them the May-pole rasped and
bumped and grated, the trunk of a mighty oak yet bristling with green,
like the stubble of a shaggy beard of virility. And after the May-pole
came surely the queerest company of morris dancers that ever the world
saw, except those of which I have heard tell which danced in
Herefordshire in the reign of King James, those being composed of ten
men whose ages made up the sum of twelve hundred years. These, while
not so ancient as that, were still of the oldest men to be come at who
could move without crutches and whose estate was not of too much
dignity for such sports. And Maid Marion was the oldest and smallest of
them all, riding her hobby-horse, dressed in a yellow petticoat and a
crimson stomacher, with a great wig of yellow flax hanging down under
her gilt crown, and a painted mask to hide her white beard. And after
Maid Marion came dancing, with stiff struts and gambols, old men as
gayly attired as might be, with garlands of peach-blossoms on their
gray heads, bearing gad-sticks of peeled willow-boughs wound with
cowslips, and ringing bells and blowing horns with all their might. And
after them trooped young men and maids, all flinging their heels aloft
and waving with green and flowers, and shouting and singing till it
seemed the whole colony was up and mad.
Mistress Catherine and I stood well to one side to let them pass
by, but when the morris dancers reached us, and caught sight of
Catherine in her green robes standing among the green bushes, above
which her fair face looked, half with dismay, half with a quick leap of
sympathy with the merriment, for there was in this girl a strange
spirit of misrule beneath all her quiet, and I verily believe that, had
she but let loose the leash in which she held herself, would have
joined those dancing and singing lasses and been outdone by none, there
was a sudden halt; then, before I knew what was to happen, around her
leapt a laughing score of them, shouting that here was the true Maid
Marion, and that old John Lubberkin could now resign his post. Then off
the hobbyhorse they tumbled him, and the lads and lasses gathering
around her, and the graybeards standing aloof with some chagrin, would,
I believe, in spite of me, since they outnumbered me vastly, have
forced Catherine into that rude pageant as Maid Marion. But while I was
thrusting them aside, holding myself before her as firmly as I might,
there came a quick clatter of hoofs, and Mistress Mary had dashed
alongside on Merry Roger. She scattered the merry revellers right and
left, calling out to her sister to go homeward with a laugh. "Fie on
thee, Catherine!" she cried out. "If thou art abroad on a May morning
dressed like the queen of it, what blame can there be to these good
folk for giving thee thy queendom ?"
Catherine did not move to go when the people drew away from her,
but rather stood looking at them with that lurking fire in her eyes and
a flush on her fair cheeks. Mistress Mary sat on her horse, curbing him
with her little hand, and her golden curls floated around her like a
cloud, for she had ridden forth without her hood on hearing the sound
of the horns and bells, eager to see the show like any child, and the
merrymakers stared at her, grinning with uncouth delight and never any
resentment. There was that in Mary Cavendish's look, when she chose to
have it so, that could, I verily believe, have swayed an army, so full
of utter good-will and lovingkindness it was, and, more than that, of
such confidence in theirs in return that it would have taken not only
knaves, but knaves with no conceit of themselves, to have forsworn her
good opinion of them. Suddenly there rose a great shout and such a
volley of cheering and hallooing as can come only from English throats.
A tall lad cast a great wreath over Mistress Mary's own head, and cried
out with a shout that here, here was Maid Marion. And scores of voices
echoed his with "Maid Marion, Marion!" And then, to my great
astonishment and dismay, for a man is with no enemy so much at a loss
as with a laughing one, since it wrongs his own bravery to meet smiles
with blows, they gave forth that I was Robin Hood; that the convict
tutor, Harry Wingfield, was Robin Hood!
I felt myself white with wrath then, and was for blindly wrestling
with a great fellow who was among the foremost, shaking with mirth, an
oak wreath over his red curls making him look like a satyr, when
Mistress Mary rode between us. "Back, Master Wingfield," said she, "I
pray thee stand back." Then she looked at the folk, all smiles and
ready understanding of them, until they hurrahed again and rang their
bells and blew their horns, and she looked like a blossom tossed on the
wave of pandemonium.
I had my hand on her bridle-rein, ready to do my best should any
rudeness be offered her, when suddenly she raised her hand and made a
motion, and to my utter astonishment the brawling throng, save for some
on the outskirts, which quieted presently, became still. Then Mistress
Mary's voice arose, clear and sweet, with a childish note of innocence
"Good people," said she, "fain would I be your Maid Marion, and
fain would I be your queen of May, if you would hold with me this
Kingdom of Virginia against tyrants and oppressors."
I question if a dozen there grasped her meaning, but, after a
second's gaping stare, such a shout went up that it seemed to make the
marshes quiver. I know not what mad scheme was in the maid's head, but
I verily believe that throng would have followed her wherever she led,
and the tobacco plants might have been that morning cut had she so
But I pulled hard at her bridle, and I forgot my customary manner
with her, so full of terror for her I was. "For God's sake, child, have
done," I said, and she looked at me, and there came a strange
expression, which I had never seen before, into her blue eyes, half of
yielding as to some strength which she feared, and half of that high
enthusiasm of youth and noble sentiment which threatened to swamp her
in its mighty flow as it had done her hero Bacon before her. I know not
if I could have held her; it all passed in a second the while those
wild huzzas continued, and the crowd pressed closer, all crowned and
crested with green, like a tidal wave of spring, but another argument
came to me, and that moved her. "'Tis not yourself alone, but your
sister and Madam Cavendish to suffer with you," I said. Then she gave a
quick glance at Catherine, who was raising her white face and trying to
get near enough to speak to her, for her sister's speech had made her
frantic with alarm, and hesitated. Then she laughed, and the earnest
look faded from her face, and she called out with that way of hers
which nobody and nothing could withstand, "Nay," she said, "wait till I
be older and have as much wisdom in my head as hath the Maid Marion
whom you have chosen. The one who hath seen so many Mays can best know
how to queen it over them." So saying, she snatched the wreath with
which they had crowned her from her head and cast it with such a sweep
of grace as never I saw over the head of flax-headed and masked Maid
Marion, and reined her horse back, and the crowd, with worshipful eyes
of admiration of her and her sweetness and wit and beauty, gave way,
and was off adown the road toward Jarvis Field, with loud clamour of
bells and horns and wild dancing and wavings of their gad-sticks and
green branches. Mistress Mary rode before us at a gallop, and presently
we were all at the breakfast table in the great hall at Drake Hill,
with foaming tankards of metheglin and dishes of honey and salmon and
game in plenty. For, whatever the scarcity of the king's gold, there
was not much lack of food in this rich country.
Madam Cavendish was down that morning, sitting at table with her
stick beside her, her head topped with a great tower of snowy cap, her
old face now ivory-yellow, but with a wonderful precision of feature,
for she had been a great beauty in her day, so alert and alive with the
ready comprehension of her black eyes, under slightly scowling brows,
that naught escaped her that was within her reach of vision. Somewhat
dull was she of hearing, but that sharpness of eye did much to atone
for it. She looked up, when we entered, with such keenness that for a
second my thought was that she knew all.
"What were the sounds of merrymaking down the road ?" said she.
"'Twas the morris dancers and the May-pole; 'tis the first of May,
as you know, madam," said Mary in her sweet voice, made clear and loud
to reach her grandmother's ear; then up she went to kiss her, and the
old woman eyed her with pride, which she was fain to conceal by
chiding. "You will ruin your complexion if you go out in such a wind
without your mask," she said, and looked at the maiden's roses and
lilies with that rapture of admiration occasioned half by memory of her
own charms which had faded, and half by understanding of the value of
them in coin of love, which one woman can waken only in another.
For Catherine, Madam Cavendish had no glance of admiration nor
word, though she had tended her faithfully all the day before and half
the night, rubbing her with an effusion of herbs and oil for her
rheumatic pains. Yet for her, Madam Cavendish had no love, and treated
her with a stately toleration and no more. Mary understood no cause for
it, and often looked, as she did then, with a distressful wonder at her
grandmother when she seemed to hold her sister so slightingly.
"Here is Catherine, grandmother," said she, "and she has had a
narrow escape from being pressed as Maid Marion by the morris dancers."
Madam Cavendish made a slight motion, and looked not at Catherine, but
turned to me with that face of anxious kindness which she wore for me
alone. "Saw you aught of the Golden Horn this morning, Master
Wingfield?" asked she, and I replied truthfully enough that I had not.
Then, to my dismay, she turned to Mary and inquired what were the
goods which she had ordered from England, and to my greater dismay the
maid, with such a light of daring and mischief in her blue eyes as I
never saw, rattled off, the while Catherine and I stared aghast at her,
such a list of women's folderols as I never heard, and most of them
quite beyond my masculine comprehension.
Madam Cavendish nodded approvingly when she had done. "'Tis a wise
choice," said she, "and as soon as the ship comes in have the goods
brought here and unpacked that I may see them." With that she rose
stiffly, and, beckoning Catherine, who looked as if she could scarcely
stand herself, much less serve as prop for another, she went out,
tapping her stick heavily on one side, on the other leaning on her
I looked at Mistress Mary and she at me. We had withdrawn to the
deepness of a window, while the black slaves moved in and out, bearing
the breakfast dishes, as reasonably unheeded by us as the cup-bearers
in a picture of a Roman banquet in the time of the Caesars which I saw
once. Mistress Mary was pale with dismay, and yet her mouth twitched
with laughter at the notion of displaying, before the horrified eyes of
Madam Cavendish, those grim adornments which had arrived in the Golden
"La," said she, "when they come a-trundling in a powder-cask and I
courtesy and say, 'Madam, here is my furbelowed and gold-flowered
sacque,' I wonder what will come to pass." Then she laughed.
"My God, madam," said I, "why did you give that list?" She laughed
again, and her eyes flashed with the very light of mischief.
"I grant 'twas a fib," said she; "but I was taken unawares, and,
la, how could I recite to her the true list of my rare finery which
came to port yesterday? So I but gave the list of goods for which my
Lady Culpeper sent to England for the replenishing of her wardrobe and
her daughter's, and which is daily expected by ship. I had it from
Cicely Hyde, who had it from Cate Culpeper. The ship is due now, and
may be even now in port, and so I worded what I said, that 'twas not,
after all, a fib, except the hearer chose to make it so. I said, 'Such
goods as these are due, madam.'" Then she gave the list anew, like a
parrot, while Catherine, who had returned, stood staring at her, white
with terror, though Mary did not see her until she had finished. Then,
when she turned and caught her keenly anxious eyes, she started. "You
here, Catherine?" said she. Then, knowing not how much her sister knew
already, she tried to cover her confusion, like a child denying its
raid on the jam pots, while its lips and fingers are still sticky with
the stolen sweet. "What think you of my list, sweetheart?" cried she,
merrily. "A pair of the silk stockings and two of the breast-knots and
a mask and a flowered apron shall you have." Then out of the room she
whisked abruptly, laughing from excess of nervous confusion, and not
being able to keep up the farce longer.
Then Catherine turned to me. "She has undone herself, for Madam
Cavendish will see those goods when the Golden Horn comes in, or ferret
the mystery to its farthest hole of hiding," said she. Then she wrung
her hands and cried out sharply, "My God, Harry Wingfield, what is to
be done ?"
"Madam Cavendish would surely never betray her own flesh and
blood," said I, though doubtfully, when I reflected upon her hardness
to Catherine herself, for Madam Judith Cavendish was not one for whom
love could change the colour of the clear light of justice, and she
would see forever her own as they were.
"There is to her no such word as betray except in the service of
the king," said Catherine. Then she added in a whisper, "Know you the
story of her youngest son, my uncle Ralph Cavendish, who went over to
I nodded. I knew it well, and had heard it from a lad how Ralph
Cavendish's own mother had turned him from her door one night with the
king's troops in the neighbourhood, though it was afterward argued that
she did not know of that, and he had been taken before morning and
afterwards executed, and she had never said a word nor shed a tear that
any one saw.
"When the Golden Horn comes in she will demand to see the goods,"
"Then?the Golden Horn must not come in," said I.
Catherine looked at me with that flash of ready wit in her eyes
which was like to the flash of fire from gunpowder meeting tinder. Then
she cried out, "Quick, then, quick, I pray thee, Harry Wingfield, to
the wharf! For if ever I saw sail, I saw that, and the tide will have
turned 'm. Quick, quick!"
She waited not for any head-gear, but forth into the May sunlight
she rushed, and I with her, and shouted at the top of my lungs to the
slaves for my horse, then went myself, having no mind to wait, and
hustled the poor beast from his feed-bin, and was on his back and at a
hard gallop to the wharf, with Mistress Catherine following as fast as
she was able. Now and then, when I turned, I saw her slim green shape
advancing, looking for all the world to my fancy like some nymph who
had been changed into a river-reed and had gotten life again.
When I reached the wharf, with my horse all afoam, there was indeed
the Golden Horn down the river, coming in. The tide and the wind had
been against her, or she would have reached shore ere now. Then along
the bank I urged my horse, and in some parts, where there was no
footing and the tangle of woods too close, into the stream we plunged
and swam, then up bank again, and so on with a mighty splatter of mire
and water and rain of green leaves and blossoms from the low hang of
branches through which we tore way, till we came abreast of the Golden
Horn. Then I hallooed, first making sure that there was no one lurking
near to overhear, and waved my handkerchief, keeping my horse standing
to his fetlocks in the current, until over the water came an answering
halloo from the Golden Horn, and I could plainly see Captain Calvin
Tabor on the quarter-deck. The ship was not far distant, and I could
have swam to her, and would have, though the tide was strong, had there
been no other way.
"Halloo," shouted Captain Tabor, and two more men came running to
the side, then more still, till it was overhung by a whole row of red
"Halloo!" shouted I.
"What d'ye lack ? What's afoot ? Halloo !"
"Send a boat, for God's sake," I shouted back. "News, news; keep
where ye be. Do not land. Send a boat!"
"Is it the convict tutor, Wingfield ?" shouted the captain.
I called back yes, and repeated my demand that he send a boat for
Then I saw a great running hither and thither, and presently a boat
touched water from the side of the Golden Horn with a curious lapping
dip, and I was off my horse and tied him fast to a tree on the bank,
with loose rein that he might crop his fill of the sweet spring
herbage, and when the boat touched bank was in her and speedily aboard
Captain Tabor was leaning over the bulwarks, and his ruddy face was
pale, and his look of devil-may-care gayety somewhat subdued.
When I gained the deck forward he came and grasped me by the arm,
and led me into his own cabin, having first shouted forth to his mate
an order to drop anchor and keep the ship in midstream.
"Now, in the name of all the fiends, what is afoot?" he cried out,
though with a cautious cock of his eyes toward the deck, for English
sailors are not black slaves when it comes to discussing matters of
"There is a plot afoot against His Majesty King Charles, and you
but yesterday, that being also a day on which it is unlawful to unload
a ship, discharged a portion of your cargo, toward its furtherance and
abetting," said I.
"Hell and damnation!" he cried out, "when I trust a woman's tongue
again may I swing from my own yard-arms. What brought that fair-faced
devil into it, anyway? Be there not men enough in this colony?"
"And you keep not a civil tongue in your head when you speak of
Mistress Mary Cavendish; you will find of a surety that there be one
man in this colony, sir," said I.
He laughed in that mocking fashion of his which incensed me still
further. Then he spoke civilly enough, and said that he meant no
disrespect to one of the fairest ladies whom he had ever had the good
fortune to see, but that it was so well known as to be no more slight
in mentioning than the paint and powder wherewith a woman enhanced her
beauty, that a woman's tongue could not be trusted like a man's, and
that it were a pity that money, which were much better spent by her for
pretty follies, should be put to such grim uses, and where were the
gallants of Virginia that they suffered it, but did not rather empty
their own purses ?
I explained, being somewhat mollified, and also somewhat of his way
of thinking, that men there were, but there was little gold since the
Navigation Act. And I informed Captain Tabor how Mistress Mary
Cavendish, having an estate not so heavily charged with expenses as
some, and being her own mistress with regard to the disposal of its
revenues, had the means which the men lacked.
"But what was the news which brought you thither, sir?" demanded
"You know of the plot?" I begun, but he broke in upon me fiercely.
"May the fiends take me, but what know I of a plot ?" he cried.
"Can I not bring over gowns and kerchiefs and silken ribbons for a
pretty maid without a plot? How knew you that? There is the woman's
tongue again. But can I not bring over goods even of such sort; might I
not with good reason suppose them to be for the defence of the cause of
his most gracious Majesty King Charles against the savages, or any
malcontents in his colonies ? What plot, sirrah ?"
"The plot for the cutting down of the young tobacco plants, Captain
Tabor," said I.
His eyes blazed at me, while his face was pale and grim.
"How many know of the goods I discharged from the Golden Horn
yesterday?" he asked.
"Three men, and I know not how many more, and two women," said I.
"Two women!" he groaned out. "Pestilence on these tide-waters which
hold a ship like a trap! Two women!"
"But the concern is lest a third woman know," said I.
"If three women know, then God save us all, for their triple
tongues will carry as far as the last trump!" cried Captain Tabor.
Perturbed as he was, he never lost that air of reckless daring which
compelled me to a sort of liking for him. "Out with the rest of it,
sir," he said.
Then I told my story, to which he listened, scowling, yet with that
ready laugh at his mouth. "'Tis a scurvy trick to serve a woman, both
for her sake and the rest of us, to let her meddle with such matters,"
he said, "and so I told that cousin of hers, Master Drake, who came
with her to give the order ere I sailed for England."
"Came any man save Ralph Drake with her then ?" I asked.
"The saints forbid," he replied. "A secret is a secret only when in
the keeping of one; with two it findeth legs, but with three it
unfoldeth the swiftest wings of flight in all creation, and is
everywhere with no alighting. Had three come to me with that mad order
to bring powder and shot in the stead of silk stockings and garters and
cambric shifts and kerchiefs, I would have clapped full sail on the
Golden Horn, though?" he hesitated, then spoke in a whisper?"my mind is
against tyranny, to speak you true, though I care not a farthing
whether men pray on their knees or their feet, or in gowns or the
fashion of Eden. And I care not if they pray at all, nor would I for
the sake of that ever have forsaken, had I stood in my grandfather's
shoes, the flesh-pots of old England for that howling wilderness of
Plymouth. But for the sake of doing as I willed, and not as any other
man, would I have sailed or swam the seas had they been blood instead
of water. And so am I now with a due regard to the wind and the trim of
my sails and the ears of tale-bearers, for a man hath but one head to
lose with you of Virginia. But, the Lord, to make a little maid like
that run the risk of imprisonment or worse, knew you aught of it, sir
I shook my head.
Captain Tabor laughed. "And yet she rode straight to the wharf with
you yesterday," said he. "Lord, what hidden springs move a woman! I'll
warrant, sir, had you known, you might have battened down the hatches
fast enough on her will, convict though you be, and, faith, sir, but
you look to me like one who is convict or master at his own choosing
and not by the will of any other." So saying, he gave me a look so
sharp that for a second I half surmised that he guessed my secret, but
knew better at once, and said that our business was to deal not with
what had been, but with what might be.
"Well," said he, "and what may that be, Master Wingfield, in your
opinion? You surely do not mean to hold the Golden Horn in midstream
with her cargo undischarged until the day of doom, lest yon old beldame
offer up her fair granddaughter on the altar of her loyalty, with me
and my hearties for kindling, to say naught of yourself and a few of
the best gentlemen of Virginia. I forfeit my head if I set sail for
England; naught is left for me that I see that shall save my neck but
to turn pirate and king it over the high seas. Having swallowed a small
morsel of my Puritan misgivings, what is to hinder my bolting the
whole, like an exceeding bitter pill, to my complete purging of danger?
What say you, Master Wingfield? Small reputation have you to lose, and
sure thy reckoning with powers that be leaves thee large creditor. Will
you sail with me? My first lieutenant shall you be, and we will share
He laughed, and I stared at him that he should stoop to jest, yet
having a ready leap of comradeship toward him for it; then suddenly his
mood changed. Close to me he edged, and began talking with a serious
shrewdness which showed his mind brought fully to bear upon the
situation. "You say, sir," said he, "that Mistress Mary Cavendish, in a
spirit of youthful daring and levity, gave her grandmother a list of
the goods which my Lady Culpeper ordered from England, and which even
now is due ?" I nodded.
"Know you by what ship ?"
"The Earl of Fairfax," I replied, and recalled as I spoke a rumour
that my Lord Culpeper designed his daughter Cate for the eldest son of
the earl, and had so named his ship in honour of him.
"You say that the Earl of Fairfax is even now due ?" said Captain
I replied that she was hourly expected by what I had learned; then
Captain Tabor, sitting loosely hunched with that utter abandon of all
the muscles which one sees in some when they are undergoing a fierce
strain of thought, remained silent for a space, his brows knitted. Then
suddenly my shoulder tingled with the clap which he gave it, and the
cabin rang and rang again with a laugh so loud and gay that it seemed a
very note of the May day. "You are merry," I said, but I laughed
myself, though somewhat doubtfully, when he unfolded his scheme to me,
which was indeed both bold and humorous. He knew well the captain of
the Earl of Fairfax, who had been shipmate with him.
"Many a lark ashore have we had together," said Calvin Tabor, "and,
faith, but I know things about him now which compel him to my turn; the
devil's mess have we both been in, but I need not use such means of
persuasion, if I know honest Dick Watson." The scheme of which Captain
Tabor delivered himself, with bursts of laughter enough to wake the
ship, was, to speak briefly, that he should go with a boat, rowing
against the current, by keeping close to bank and taking advantage of
eddies, and meet the Earl of Fairfax before she reached Jamestown,
board her, and persuade her captain to send the cases of my Lady
Culpeper's goods under cover of night to the Golden Horn, whence he
would unload them next morning, and Mistress Mary could show them to
her grandmother, and then they were to be reshipped with all possible
speed and secrecy, the Earl of Fairfax meanwhile laying at anchor at
the mouth of the river, and then delivered to my Lady Culpeper.
There was but one doubt as to the success of this curious scheme in
my mind, and that was that Mistress Mary might not easily lend herself
to such deception. However, Captain Tabor, with a skill of devising
concerning which I have often wondered whether it may be more common in
the descendants of those who settled in New England, who were in such
sore straits to get their own wills, than with us of Virginia, provided
a way through that difficulty.
"'Tis full easy," said he. "You say that the maid's sister will say
naught against it?and you ?"
"I will say naught against her safety," said I. "What think you I
care for any little quibbles of the truth when that be in question?"
"Well," said Captain Tabor, "then must you and Mistress Catherine
Cavendish show the goods to the maid, and say naught as to the means by
which you came by them; tell her they are landed from the Golden Horn,
as indeed they will be; let her think aught she chooses, that they are
indeed her own, purchased for her by her sister or her lovers, if she
choose to think so, and bid her display them with no ado to Madam
Cavendish, if she value the safety of the others who are concerned in
this. Betwixt the mystery and the fright and the sight of the trinkets,
if she be aught on the pattern of any other maid, show them she will,
and hold her tongue till she be out of her grandmother's presence."
"It can be but tried," said I.
Then the captain sprang out on deck, and ordered a boat lowered,
and presently had set me ashore, and was himself, with a half-dozen
sailors, fighting way down-stream.
I found my horse on the bank where I had left him, and by him,
waiting anxiously, Catherine Cavendish. She listened with deepening
eyes while I told her Captain Tabor's scheme, and when I had done
looked at me with her beautiful mouth set and her face as white as a
white flower on a bush beside her. "Mary shall show the goods," said
she. "Such a story will I tell her as will make her innocent of aught
save bewilderment, and as for you and me, we are both of us ready to
burn for a lie for the sake of her."
I know not how Capt. Calvin Tabor managed his part to tranship
those goods without discovery, but he had a shrewd head, and no doubt
the captain of the Earl of Fairfax another, and by eight o'clock that
May day the Golden Horn lay at her wharf discharging her cargo right
lustily with such openness of zeal and shouts of encouragement and
groans of labour 'twas enough to acquaint all the colony. And
straightway to the great house they brought my Lady Culpeper's fallals,
and clamped them in the hall where we were all at supper. Mistress Mary
sprang to her feet, and ran to them and bent over them. "What are
these?" she said, all in a quiver.
"The goods which you ordered, madam," spoke up one of the sailors,
with a grin which he had copied from Captain Tabor, and pulled a
forelock and ducked his head.
"The goods," said she, speaking faintly, for hers was rather the
headlong course of enthusiasm than the secret windings of diplomacy.
"Art thou gone daft, sweetheart? The goods of which you gave the
list this morning, which have but now come in on the Golden Horn,"
spake up Catherine, sharply. I marvelled as I heard her whether it be
ease or tenderness of conscience which can appease a woman with the
letter and not the substance of the truth, for I am confident that her
keeping to the outward show of honesty in her life was no small comfort
to Catherine Cavendish.
Madam Cavendish was at table that night, though moving with
grimaces from the stiffness of her rheumatic joints, and she ordered
that the sailors be given cider, the which they drank with some haste,
and were gone. Then Madam Cavendish asked Mistress Mary, with her
wonderful keenness of gaze, which I never saw excelled, "Are those the
goods which you ordered by the Golden Horn ?" But I answered for her,
knowing that Madam Cavendish would pardon such presumption from me.
"Madam, those are the goods. I have it from Capt. Calvin Tabor
himself." I spoke with no roundings nor glossings of subterfuge, having
ever held that all the excuse for a lie was its boldness in a good
cause, and believing in slaying a commandment like an enemy with a
clean cut of the sword.
Mistress Mary gave a little gasp, and looked at me, and looked at
her sister Catherine, and well I knew it was on the tip of her tongue
to out with the whole to her grandmother. And so she would doubtless
have done had not her wonderment and suspicion that maybe in some wise
Catherine had conspired to buy for her in England the goods of which
she had cheated herself, and the terror of doing harm to her sister and
me. But never saw I a maid go so white and red and make the strife
within her so evident.
We were well-nigh through supper when the goods arrived, and Madam
Cavendish ordered some of the slaves to open the cases, which they did
forthwith, and all my Lady Culpeper's finery was displayed.
Never saw I such a rich assortment, and calling to mind my Lady
Culpeper's thin and sour visage, I wondered within myself whether such
fine feathers might in her case suffice to make a fine bird, though
some of them were for her daughter Cate, who was fair enough. Nothing
would do but Mistress Mary, with her lovely face still strange to see
with her consternation of puzzlement, should severally display every
piece to her grandmother, and hold against her complexion the rich
stuffs to see if the colours suited her. Madam Cavendish was pleased to
express her satisfaction with them all, though with some demur at the
extravagance. "'Tis rich enough a wardrobe for my Lady Culpeper," said
she, at which innocent shrewdness I was driven to hard straits to keep
my face grave, but Mistress Catherine was looking on with a countenance
as calm as the moon which was just then rising.
Madam Cavendish was pleased especially with one gown of a sky
colour, shot with silver threads, and ordered that Mistress Mary should
wear it to the ball which was to be given at the governor's house the
When I heard that I started, and Catherine shot a pale glance of
consternation at me, but Mistress Mary flushed rosy-red with rebellion.
"I have no desire to attend my Lord Culpeper's ball, madam," said
"Lord Culpeper is the representative of his Majesty here in
Virginia," said Madam Cavendish, with a high head, "and no
granddaughter of mine absents herself with my approval. To the ball you
go, madam, and in that sky-coloured gown, and no more words. Things
have come to a pretty pass." So saying, she rose and, leaning heavily
on her stick, with her black maid propping her, she went out. Then
turned Mistress Mary imperiously to us and demanded to know the meaning
of it all. "Whence came these goods ?" said she to Catherine.
"On the Golden Horn, sweetheart; 'tis the list you gave this
morning," replied Catherine, without a change in the fair resolve of
"Pish!" cried Mary Cavendish. "The list I gave this morning was my
Lady Culpeper's, and you know it. Whence came these?" and she spurned
at a heap of the rich gleaming things with the toe of her tiny foot.
"I tell you, sweetheart, on the Golden Horn," replied Catherine.
Then she turned to me in a rage. "The truth I will have," she cried
out. "Whence came these goods?"
"On the Golden Horn, madam," I said.
She stamped her foot, and her voice rang so shrill that the black
slaves, carrying out the dishes, rolled alarmed eyes at her. "Think you
I will be treated like a child?" she cried out. "What means all this?"
Then close to her went Catherine, and flung an arm around her, and
leaned her smooth, fair head against her sister's tossing golden one.
"For the sake of those you love and who love thee, sweetheart," she
But Mistress Mary pushed her away and looked at her angrily. "Well,
what am I to do for their sakes ?" she demanded.
"Seek to know no more than this. The goods came on the Golden Horn
but now, and 'tis the list you gave this morning."
"But it was not my list, and I deceived my grandmother, and I will
go to her now and out with the truth. Think you I will have such a
falsehood on my soul ?"
Catherine leaned closer to her and whispered, and Mary gave a
quick, wild glance at me, but I know not what she said. "I pray thee
seek to know no more than that the goods came but now in a boat from
the Golden Horn, and 'tis the list you gave this morning," said
"They are not mine by right, and well you know it." Then a thought
struck me, and I said with emphasis, "Madam, yours by right they are
and shall be, and I pray you to have no more concern in the matter."
Then so saying, I hastened out and went through the moonlight to
the wharf to seek Captain Tabor and the captain of the Earl of Fairfax,
who had come with his goods to see to their safety. Both men were
pacing back and forth, smoking long pipes, and Captain Watson, of the
Earl of Fairfax, a small and eager-spoken man, turned on me the minute
I came within hearing. "Where be my Lady Culpeper's goods ?" said he;
"'tis time they were here and I on my way to the ship. Devil take me if
I run such a risk again for any man."
Then I made my errand known. I had some fifty pounds saved up from
the wreck of my fortunes; 'twas a third more than the goods were worth.
Would he but take it, pay the London merchant who had furnished them,
and have the remainder for his trouble?
"Trouble, trouble !" he shouted out, "trouble ! By all the foul
fiends, man, what am I to say to my Lady Culpeper ? Have you ever had
speech with her that you propose such a game with her?"
Captain Tabor burst out with a loud guffaw of laughter. "You have
not seen the maid for whom you run the risk, Dick," said he. "'Tis the
"What care I for fair maids ?" demanded the other. "Have I not a
wife and seven little ones in old England ? What think you a dimple or
a bright eye hath of weight with me?"
"Time was, Dick," laughed Captain Tabor.
"Time that was no longer is," answered the other, crossly; then to
me, "Send down my goods by some of those black fellows, and no more
"But, sir," I said, "'twill be a good fifteen pound for Mistress
Watson and the little ones when the merchant be paid."
"Go to," he growled out, "what will that avail if I be put in
prison? What am I to say to my Lady Culpeper for the non-deliverment of
her goods ? Answer me that." Then came Captain Tabor to my aid with his
merry shrewdness. "'Tis as easy as the nose on thy face, Dick," said
he. "Say but to my lady that you have searched and the goods be not in
the hold of the Earl of Fairfax, and must have miscarried, as faith
they have, and say that next voyage you will deliver them and hold
thyself responsible for the cost, as you well can afford with Master
"Hast ever heard my Lady Culpeper's tongue?" demanded the other.
"'Tis easy to advise. Would you face her thyself without the goods in
hand, Calvin Tabor ?"
"Faith, and I'd face a dozen like her for fifteen pound," declared
Captain Tabor. Then, with another great laugh. "I have it; send thy
mate, send thy deaf mate, Jack Tarbox, man."
"But she will demand to see the captain."
"Faith, and the captain will be on board the Earl of Fairfax seeing
to a leak which she hath sprung, and cannot leave her," said Tabor.
"But in two days' time the governor sails in my ship for England."
"Think ye the governor will concern himself about my lady's
adornments when he be headed for England and out of reach of her
"But how to dodge her for so long ?"
"Dick," said the other, solemnly, "much I have it in mind that a
case of fever will break out upon the Earl of Fairfax by to-morrow or
"Then think you that my lady will allow her lord the governor to
"Dick," laughed Captain Tabor, "governors be great men and you but
a poor sailor, but when it comes to coin in wifely value, thy weight in
the heart of thy good Bridget would send the governor of Virginia
higher than thy masthead. None but my Lady Culpeper need have hint of
"I have a sailor ailing," said the other, doubtfully, "but he hath
no sign of fever."
"'Tis enough," cried the other, gayly. "His fever will rage in
twelve hours enough to heat the 'tween decks."
"But," said Captain Watson, speaking angrily, and yet with a
certain timidity, as men will do before a scoffing friend and their own
accusing conscience, "you ask me to forswear myself."
"Nay, that I will not," cried the other. "By the Lord, I forgot thy
conscience, good Dick. Well, I have enough from my ancestors of
Plymouth to forswear and forswear again, and yet have some to spare.
I?I will go to my Lady Culpeper with the tale and save thy soul thy
scruples, and thy ears the melody of her tongue. I will acquaint her
with the miscarriage of the goods, and whisper of the sick sailor, and
all thou hast to do is to loiter about Jamestown, keeping thy Bridget
well in mind the while, and load thy ship with the produce of the soil
which the beggars of Virginia give of their loyalty to His Majesty King
Charles, and then to take on board my Lord Culpeper and set sail."
"'Tis a fearful risk," groaned the other, "though I am a poor man,
and I will admit that my Bridget?"
"'Tis a fearful risk for you, Captain Tabor, and through you for my
mistress," I interrupted, for I did not half like the plan.
"Our ships lay alongside, and I am hailed by a brother mariner in
distress both at the prospect of the displeasure of a great and noble
lady and the suspicion of his honesty; but for that latter will I vouch
with my own, and, if needs be, will give surety that the list of goods
which she ordered shall be delivered next voyage," said Calvin Tabor.
"Her tongue, you know not her tongue," groaned the other.
"Even that will I dare for thee, Dick, for thee and that fair
little maid who is dabbling her pretty fingers in that flaming pudding
with which only the tough ones of a man should meddle," said Captain
Tabor. "And as for risk for me, my sailormen be as much in the toils
for Sabbath-breaking as their captain, should yesterday's work leak
out; and not a man of them knoweth the contents of those cases, though,
faith, and I heard them marvelling among themselves at the weight of
feathers and silken petticoats, and I made port in the night-time
before, and not a soul knew of it nor the unlading, save those which be
bound to keep the secret for their own necks, and, and?well, Captain
Tabor be not averse to somewhat of risk; it gives a savour to life." So
saying, he rolled his bright-blue eyes at me and Captain Watson with
such utter good-nature and dare-deviltry as I have never seen equalled.
It was finally agreed that Captain Tabor's plan should be carried
out, and I wended my way back to Drake Hill with a feeling of triumph,
to which I of late years had been a stranger. I know of nothing in the
poor life of a man equal to that great delight of being of service to
I reflected with such ever-increasing joy that it finally became an
ecstasy, and I could almost, it seemed, see the colours of it in my
path; how, had it not been for me, Mary Cavendish might have been in
sore straits; and I verily believe I was as happy for the time as if
she had been my promised sweetheart and was as proud of myself.
When about half-way to Drake Hill I heard afar off a great din of
bells and horns and voices, which presently came nearer. Then the road
was filled up with the dancing May revellers, and verily I wondered not
so much at those decrees against such practices before the Restoration,
for it was as if the savages which they do say are underneath the outer
gloss of the best of us had broke loose, and I wondered if it might not
be like those mad and unlawful orgies which it was said the god Pan led
himself in person through Thessalian groves. Those honest country
maids, who in the morning had advanced with rustic but innocent
freedom, with their glossy heads crowned with flowers, and those lusty
youths, who were indeed something boisterous, yet still held in a tight
rein by decency, had seemingly changed their very natures, or rather,
perhaps, had come to that pass when their natures could be no longer
concealed. Along the road in the white moonlight they stamped as
wantonly as any herd of kine; youths and maids with arms about each
other, and all with faces flushed with ale-drinking, and the maids with
tossing hair and draggled coats, and all the fresh garlands withered or
scattered. And the old graybeard who was Maid Marion was riotously
drunk, and borne aloft with mad and feeble gesturings on the shoulders
of two staggering young men, and after him came the aged morris
dancers, only upheld from collapse in the mire by mutual upholdings,
until they seemed like some monstrous animal moving with uncouth
sprawls of legs as multifold as a centipede, and wavering drunkenly
from one side of the road to the other, lurching into the dewy bushes,
then recovering by the joint effort of the whole.
I stood well back to let them pass, being in that mood of
self-importance, by reason of my love and the service rendered by it,
that I could have seen the whole posse led to the whipping-block with a
relish, when suddenly from their tipsy throats came a shout of such
import that my heart stood still. "Down with the king !" hallooed one
mad reveller, in a voice of such thickness that the whole sentence
seemed one word; then the others took it up, until verily it seemed to
me that their heads were not worth a farthing. Then, "Down with the
governor! down with Lord Culpeper!" shouted that same thick voice of
the man who was leading the wild crew like a bell-wether. He forged
ahead, something more steady on his legs, but all the madder of his
wits for that, with an arm around the waist of a buxom lass on either
side, and all three dancing in time. Then all the rest echoed that
shout of "Down with the governor!" Then out he burst again with, "Down,
down with the tobacco, down with the tobacco!" But the volley of that
echo was cut short by five horsemen galloping after the throng and
scattering them to the right and left. Then a great voice of authority,
set out with the strangest oaths which ever an imagination of evil
compassed, called out to them to be still if they valued their heads,
and cursed them all for drunken fools, and as he spoke he lashed with
his whip from side to side, and his face gleamed with wrath like a
demon's in the full light, and I saw he was Captain Noel Jaynes, and
well understood how he had made a name for himself on the high seas.
After him rode the brothers, Nicholas and Richard Barry, two great men,
sticking to their saddles like rocks, with fair locks alike on the head
of each flung out on the wind, and then came Ralph Drake rising in his
stirrups and laughing wildly, and last Parson Downs, but only last
because the road was blocked, for verily I thought his plunging horse
would have all before him under his feet. They were all past me in a
trice like a dream, the May revellers scattering and hastening forward
with shrieks of terror and shouts of rage and peals of defiant
laughter, and Captain Jaynes' voice, like a trumpet, overbearing
everything, and shouts from the Barry brothers echoing him, and now and
then coming the deep rumble of expostulations from the parson's great
chest, and Ralph Drake's peals of horse-laughter, and I was left to
consider what a tinder-box this Colony of Virginia was, and how ready
to leap to flame at a spark even when seemingly most at peace, and to
regard with more and more anxiety Mary Cavendish's part in this brewing
After the shouting and hallooing throng had passed I walked along
slowly, reflecting, as I have said, when I saw in the road before me
two advancing?a woman, and a man leading a horse by the bridle, and it
was Mary Cavendish and Sir Humphrey Hyde.
And when I came up with them they stopped, and Humphrey addressed
me rudely enough, but as one gentleman might another when he was
angered with him, and not contemptuously, for that was never the lad's
way with me. "Master Wingfield," he said, standing before me and
holding his champing horse hard by the bits, "I pray you have the grace
to explain this matter of the goods."
I saw that Mistress Mary had been acquainting him with what had
passed and her puzzlement over it.
"There is naught to explain, Sir Humphrey," said I. "'Tis very
simple: Mistress Mary hath the goods for which she sent to England."
"Master Wingfield, you know those are my Lady Culpeper's goods, and
I have no right to them," cried Mary. But I bowed and said, "Madam, the
goods are yours, and not Lady Culpeper's."
"But I?I lied when I gave the list to my grandmother," she cried
out, half sobbing, for she was, after all, little more than a child
tiptoed to womanhood by enthusiasm.
"Madam," said I, and I bowed again. "You mistake yourself; Mistress
Mary Cavendish cannot lie, and the goods are in truth yours."
She and Sir Humphrey looked at each other; then Harry made a stride
forward, and forcing back his horse with one hand, grasped me with the
other. "Harry, Harry," he said in a whisper. "Tell me, for God's sake,
what have you done."
"The goods are Mistress Mary Cavendish's," said I. They looked at
me as I have seen folk look at a page of Virgil.
"Were they, after all, not my Lady Culpeper's ?" asked Sir
"They are Mistress Mary Cavendish's," said I.
Mary turned suddenly to Sir Humphrey. "'Tis time you were gone now,
Humphrey," she said, softly. "'Twas only last night you were here, and
there is need of caution, and your mother?"
But Humphrey was loth to go. "'Tis not late," he said, "and I would
know more of this matter."
"You will never know more of Master Wingfield, if that is what you
wait for," she returned, with a half laugh, "and, Humphrey, your sister
Cicely said but this morning that your mother was over-curious. I pray
you, go, and Master Wingfield will take me home. I pray you, go!"
Sir Humphrey took her hand and bent low over it, and murmured
something; then, before he sprang to his saddle, he came close to me
again. "Harry," he whispered, "she should not be in this business, and
I would have not had it so could I have helped it, and, I pray you,
have a care to her safety." This he spoke so low that Mary could not
hear, and, moreover, she, with one of those sudden turns of hers that
made her have as many faces of delight as a diamond in the sun, had
thrown an arm around the neck of Sir Humphrey's mare, and was talking
to her in such dulcet tones as her lovers would have died for the sake
of hearing in their ears.
"Have no fears for her safety," I whispered back. "So far as the
goods go, there is no more danger."
"What did you, Harry ?"
"Sir Humphrey," I whispered back, while Mary's sweet voice in the
mare's delicate ear sounded like a song, "sometimes an unguessed riddle
hath less weight than a guessed one, and some fish of knowledge had
best be left in the stream. I tell thee she is safe." So saying, I
looked him full in his honest, boyish face, which was good to see,
though sometime I wished, for the maid's sake, that it had more
shrewdness of wit in it. Then he gave me a great grasp of the hand, and
whispered something hoarsely. "Thou art a good fellow, Harry, in spite
of, in spite of?" then he bent low over Mary's hand for the second
time, and sprang to his saddle, and was off toward Jamestown on his
white mare, flashing along the moonlit road like a whiter moonbeam.
Then Mary came close to me, and did what she had never before done
since she was a child. She laid her little hand on my arm of her own
accord. "Master Wingfield," said she, softly, "what about the goods ?"
"The goods for which you sent to England are yours and in the great
house," said I, and I heard my voice tremble.
She drew her hand away and stood looking at me, and her sweet
forehead under her golden curls was all knitted with perplexity.
"You know, you know I?lied," she whispered like a guilty child.
"You cannot lie," I answered, "and the goods are yours."
"And not my Lady Culpeper's ?"
"And not my Lady Culpeper's."
Mary continued looking at me, then all at once her forehead
"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
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
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, on a chair at her
side, but Catherine span with her fair face set to some steady course
of thought, though she too was fond of books. Never a lesson had she
taken of me, holding me in such scorn, but I questioned much at the
time, and know now, that she was well acquainted with whatever
knowledge her sister had got, having been taught by her mother and then
keeping on by herself with her tasks. When I entered the hall, having
been to Jamestown after breakfast and just returned, both maids looked
up, and suddenly one of the wheels ceased its part in the duet, and
Catherine was on her feet and her thread fallen whither it would.
"Master Wingfield," said she, "I would speak with you."
"Madam, at your service," said I, and followed her, leading out on
the green before the house. "What means this, what means this, sir?"
she began when she was scarcely out of hearing of her sister.
"What did you about the goods ? Did you, did you??"
She gasped for further speech, and looked at me with such a
haughtiness of scorn as never I had seen. It is hard for any man to be
attacked in such wise by a woman, and be under the necessity of keeping
his weapons sheathed, though he knoweth full well the exceeding
convincing of them and their fine point to the case in hand. I bowed.
"Did you, did you?" she went on?"did you purchase those goods
yourself for my sister? Did you?"
I bowed again. "Madam," said I, "whatever I have, and my poor flesh
and blood and soul also, are at the service of not only your sister but
I marvelled much as I spoke thus to see no flush of shameful
consciousness overspread the maid's face, but none did, and she
continued speaking with that sharpness of hers, both as to pale look
and voice, which wounded like cold steel, which leaves an additional
sting because of the frost in it. "Know you not, sir," said she, "that
we cannot suffer a man in your position, a?a?to purchase my sister's
wardrobe ?" Then, before I knew what she was about to do, in went her
hand to a broidered pocket which hung at her girdle, and out she drew a
flashing store of rings and brooches, and one long necklace flashing
with green stones. "Here, take these," she cried out. "I have no money,
but such an insult I will not suffer, that my sister goes clad at your
expense to the ball to-night. Take these; they are five times the value
of the goods."
I would in that minute have given ten years of my life had Mistress
Catherine Cavendish been a man and I could have felled her to the
ground, and no man knowing what I believed I knew could have blamed me.
The flashes of red and green from those rings and gewgaws which she
held out seemed to pass my eyes to my very soul.
"Take them," she said. "Why do you not take them, sir ?"
"I have no need of jewels, madam," I said, "and whatever the
servant hath is his master's by right, and his master doth but take his
own, and no discredit to him."
She fairly wrung her hands in her helpless wrath, and the gems
glittered anew. "But, but," she stammered out, "know you the full
result of this, Harry Wingfield ? She, my sister Mary, thinks that
I?I?sent to England for the goods for her; she knows that I have some
acquaintance with what she hath done, and she?she is blessing me for
it, and I cannot deny what she thinks. I?I?cannot tell her what you,
you have done, lest, lest?" To my great astonishment she stopped short
with such a flame of blushes as I had never seen on her face before,
and I was at a loss to know what she might mean, but supposed that she
considered that the shame of Mistress Mary's wearing finery which had
been paid for out of a convict's purse would be more than she could put
upon her, and yet that she dared not inform her, lest she refuse to
wear the sky-blue robe to the governor's ball, and so anger Madam
"Madam," I said, "your sister is but blessing you for what you
would have done, and wherefore need you fret ?"
"God knows I would," she broke out, passionately. "Every jewel I
possess, the very gown from my back, would I have sold to save her
this, had I but known. Why did she not tell me, why did not she tell me
? Oh, Harry, I pray you to take these jewels."
"I cannot take them, madam," I said. Yet such was her distress I
was sorry for her, though I believed it to be rooted and grounded in
falsity, and that she had no need to regard with such disapprobation
her sister's being indebted to an English gentleman who gave her in all
honour the best he had. Yet could I not yield and take those jewels,
for more reasons than one; not only should I have lost the dear delight
of having served Mary Cavendish, but I had a memory of wrong which
would not suffer me to touch those rings, nor to allow that innocent
maid to be benefited by them, since I cannot say what dark suspicions
seized me when I looked at them.
"My God!" she said, "was ever such a web of falsehood as this ?
Here must I hear my sister's blessings upon me for what I have done,
and I knowing all the time that 'twas you, and yet she must not know."
Then again that flame of red overspread her face and neck to the meet
of her muslin kerchief, and I knew not why.
"Madam," I said, "one deception opens the way for a whole flock,"
and I spoke with something of a double meaning, but she only cried out,
with apparently no understanding of it, that things had come to a cruel
pass, and back to the house she went; and I presently followed her to
get my gun, having a mind to shoot a few wild fowl, since my pupil was
at her wheel. And there the two sat, keeping up that gentle drone of
industry which I have come to think of as a note of womanhood, like the
hum of a bee or the purr of a cat or the call of a bird. They sat
erect, the delicate napes of their necks showing above their muslin
kerchiefs under their high twists of hair, for even Mary had her golden
curls caught up that morning on account of the flax-lint, and from
their fair, attentive faces nobody would have gathered what stress of
mind both were in. Of a surety there must be a quieting and calming
power in some of the feminine industries which be a boon to the soul.
But, as I passed through the hall, up looked Mary, and her
beautiful face flashed out of peace into a sunlight of love and
"Oh," she cried out, "oh, was there ever anyone like my sweetheart
Catherine? To think what she hath done for me, to think, to think! And
she, dear heart, loving the king! But better she loves her little
sister, and will stand by her in her disloyalty, for the love of her.
Was there ever any one like her, Master Wingfield ?"
And I laughed, though maybe with some slight bitterness, for I was
but human, and that outburst of loving gratitude toward another, and
another whom I held in slight esteem, when it was I who had given the
child my little all, and presently, when my term was expired, would
have to return to England without a farthing betwixt me and starvation,
and maybe working my way before the mast to get there at all, had a
sting in it. 'Twas a strange thing that anything so noble and partaking
of the divine as the love of an honest man for a woman should have any
tincture of aught ignoble in it, and one is caused thereby to decry
one's state of mortality, which seems as inseparable from selfish ends
as the red wings of a rose from the thorny stem which binds it to
earth. Truly the longer I live the more am I aware of the speck which
mars the completeness of all in this world, and ever the desire for a
better, and that longing which will not be appeased groweth in my soul,
until methinks the very keenness of the appetite must prove the food.
"Was there ever one like her ?" repeated Mary Cavendish, and as she
spoke, up she sprang and ran to her sister and flung a fair arm around
her neck, and drew her head to her bosom, and leaned her cheek against
it, and then looked at me with a sidewise glance which made my heart
leap, for curious meanings, of which the innocent thing had no
reckoning, were in it.
I know not what I said. Truly not much, for the mockery of it all
was past my power of dealing with and keeping my respect of self.
I got my fowling-piece from the peg on the wall, and was forth and
ranging the wooded shores, with my eyes intent on the whirring flight
of the birds, and my mind on that problem of the times which always
hash, and cloth, and always will, encounter a man who lives with any
understanding of what is about him, but not always as sorely as in my
case, who faced, as it were, an army of difficulties, bound hand and
foot. But after a while the sport in which I was fairly skilled, and
that sense of power which cometh to one from the proving of his
superiority over the life and death of some weaker creation, and the
salt air in my nostrils, gave me, as it were, a glimpse of a farther
horizon than the present one of Virginia in 1682, and mine own little
place in it. Then verily I could seem to see and scent like some keen
hound a smoothness which should later come from the tangled web of
circumstances, and a greatness which should encompass mine own
smallness of perplexity.
When I was wending my way back to Drake Hill, with my gun over
shoulder and some fine birds in hand, I met Sir Humphrey Hyde.
We were near Locust Creek, and the great house stood still and
white in the sunlight, and there was no life around it except for the
distant crawl of toil over the green of the tobacco fields and the
great hum of the bees in the flowering honey locusts which gave, with
the creek, the place its name. Sir Humphrey was coming from the
direction of the house, riding slowly, stooping in the saddle as if
with thought, and I guessed that he had been to see to the safety of
the contraband goods. When he saw me he halted and shouted, in his
hearty, boyish way, "Halloo, halloo, Harry, and what luck?" as if all
there was of moment in the whole world, and Virginia in particular, was
the shooting of birds on a May morning. But then his face clouded, and
he spoke earnestly enough. "Harry, Harry," he said, in a whisper,
though there was no life nearer than the bees, and they no bearers of
secrets, except those of the flowers, "I pray thee, come back to the
hall with me, and let us consult together."
I followed him back to the house, and he sprang from his saddle,
had a shutter unhasped in a twinkling, knowing evidently the secret of
it, and we were inside, standing amongst the litter of casks and cases
in the great silent desertion of the hall of Locust Creek. Then he
grasped me hard by both hands, and cried out, "Harry, Harry Wingfield,
come to thee I must, for, convict though thou be, thou art a man with a
head packed with wit, and Ralph Drake is half the time in his cups, and
Parson Downs riding his own will at such a hard gallop that 'twill
surprise me not if he leave his head behind, and as for Dick and Nick
Barry, and Captain Dickson, and?and Major Robert Beverly, and all the
others, what is it to them about this one matter which is more to me
than the whole damned hell-broth ?"
"You mean ?" I said, and pointed to the litter on the hall floor.
"Yes," and then, with a great show of passion, "My God, Harry
Wingfield, why, why did we gentlemen and cavaliers of Virginia allow a
woman to be mixed in this matter? If, if?these goods be traced to her?"
"And, faith, and I see no reason why they should not be, with a
whole colony in the secret of it," I said, coldly.
"Nay, none but me and Nick and Dick Barry, and the parson since
yesterday, and Major Beverly and Capt. Noel Jaynes and you and the
captain and sailors on the Golden Horn, who value their own necks. As
God is my witness, none beside, Harry."
I could scarcely help laughing at the length of the list and the
innocence of the lad. "Her sister Catherine, Sir Humphrey," said I.
"Hath she told her, Harry ?"
"And the captain of the Earl of Fairfax."
"The governor's ship? Well, then, let us go through Jamestown
proclaiming it with a horn," he gasped out, and made more of the two
last than his own long list.
"Nay, the two last are as safe as we," said I. "Mistress Catherine
holds her sister dearer than herself, and as for the captain of the
governor's ship, lock a man's tongue with the key of his own interest
if you wish it not to wag. But these goods must be moved from here."
"That is what I well know, Harry," he said, eagerly. "All night did
I toss and study the matter. But where?"
"Not in any place on Madam Cavendish's plantation," I said, and did
not say, as I might have, for 'twas the truth, that I had also tossed
and studied, but as yet to no result.
"No, nor on mine, though I swear to thee, were I the only one to
consider, I would have them there in a twinkling, but I cannot put my
mother and sister in jeopardy even for?"
"Barry Upper Branch ?"
"Nick and Dick swear they will not run the risk; that they have but
too lately escaped with their lives, and are too close watched, and as
for the parson, 'tis out of the question, and Ralph Drake hath no
hiding-place, and as for the others, they one and all refuse, and say
this is the safest place in the colony, it being a household of women,
and Madam Cavendish well known for her loyalty."
He looked at me and I at him, and again the old consideration, as I
saw his handsome, gallant young face that perchance Mary Cavendish
might love him and do worse than to wed him, came over me.
"I will find a place for the goods," said I.
"You, Harry ?"
"Yes, I," I said.
"But where, Harry?"
"Wait till the need for them come, lad." Then I added, for often in
my perplexity the wish that the whole lot were at the bottom of the
river had seized me, "There is need of them, I suppose?"
But Sir Humphrey said yes, with a great emphasis to that.
"There is sure to be fighting," he said, "and never were powder and
shot so scarce. 'Tis well the Indians are quiet. This poor Colony of
Virginia hath not enough powder to guard her borders, nor, were it not
for her rich soil, enough of food to feed her children since the
"Oh, God, Harry, if but Nathaniel Bacon had lived!"
"Amen," I said, and felt as I said it, that if indeed that hero
were alive, this plot for the destroying of the young tobacco plants
might be the earthquake which threw off a new empire; but as it were,
remembering the men concerned, who had none of the stuff of Bacon in
them, I wondered if it would prove aught more than a wedge in the
scheme of liberty.
"There are those who would be ready to say that we gentlemen of
Virginia, like Bacon, are all ready to shelter ourselves behind women's
aprons," said Sir Humphrey Hyde, with a shamed glance at the goods,
referring to that stationing of the ladies of the Berkeley faction, all
arrayed in white aprons, on the earthworks before the advance of the
sons and husbands and brothers in the Bacon uprising.
"And if you hear any man say that, shoot him dead, Sir Humphrey
Hyde," I said, for, through liking not that story about Bacon, I was
fiercer in defence of it.
"Faith, and I will, Harry," cried Sir Humphrey, "and Bacon was a
greater man than the king, if I were to swing for it; but, Harry, you
cannot by yourself move these. What will you do ?"
But I begged him to say no more, and started toward the window, the
door being fast locked as Mistress Mary had left it, when suddenly the
boy stopped me and caught me by the hand, and begged me to tell him if
I thought there might be any hope for him with Mary Cavendish, being
moved to do so by her sending him away so peremptorily the night
before, which had put him in sore doubt. "Tell me, Harry," he pleaded,
and the great lad seemed like a child, with his honest outlook of blue
eyes, "tell me what you think, I pray thee, Harry; look at me, and tell
me, if you were a maid, what would you think of me?"
Loving Mary Cavendish as I did, and striving to look at him with
her eyes, a sort of tenderness crept into my heart for this simple
lover, who was as brave as he was simple, and I clapped a hand on his
fair curls, for though he was so tall I was taller, and laughed and
said, "If I were a maid, though 'tis a fancy to rack the brain, but, if
I were a maid, I would love thee well, lad."
"My mother thinketh none like me, and so tells me every day, and
says that I am like my father, who was the handsomest man in England;
but then mothers be all so, and I know not how much of it to trust, and
my sister Cicely loves Mary so well herself that she is jealous, and
often tells me?" then the lad stopped and stared at me, and I at him,
perplexed, not dreaming what was in his mind.
"Tells you what, Sir Humphrey ?" said I.
"That, that?oh, confound it, Harry, there is no harm in saying it,
for you as well as I know the folly of it, and that 'tis but the
jealous fancy of a girl. Faith, but I think my sister Cicely is as much
in love with Mary Cavendish as I. 'Tis but?my sister Cicely, when she
will tease me, tells me 'tis not I but you that Mary Cavendish hath set
her heart upon, Harry."
I felt myself growing pale at that, and I could not speak because
of a curious stiffness of my lips, and I heard my heart beat like a
clock in the deserted house. Sir Humphrey was looking at me with an
anxiety which was sharpening into suspicion. "Harry," he said, "you do
"'Tis sheer folly, lad," I burst out then, "and let us have no more
of it. 'Tis but the idle prating of a lovesick girl, who should have a
lover, ere she try to steal a nest in the heart of one of her own sex.
'Tis folly, Sir Humphrey Hyde."
"So said I to Cicely," Sir Humphrey cried, eagerly, too interested
in his own cause to heed my slighting words for his sister. "'Tis the
rankest folly, I told her. Here is Harry Wingfield, old enough almost
to be Mary's father, and beside, beside?oh, confound it, Harry," the
generous lad burst out. "I would not like you for a rival, for you are
a good half foot taller than I, and you have that about you which would
make a woman run to you and think herself safe were all the Indians in
Virginia up, and you are a dark man, and I have heard say they like
that, but, but?oh, I say, Harry, 'tis a damned shame that you are here
as you are, and not as a gentleman and a cavalier with the rest of us,
for all the evidence to the contrary and all the government to the
contrary, 'tis, 'tis the way you should be, and not a word of that
charge do I believe. May the fiends take me if I do, Harry!" So saying,
the lad looked at me, and verily the tears were in his blue eyes, and
out he thrust his honest hand for me to grasp, which I did with more of
comfort than I had had for many a day, though it was the hand of a
rival, and the next minute forth he burst again: "Say, Harry, if it be
true that thou art out of the running, and I believe it must be so, for
how could ??say, Harry, think you there is any chance for me ?"
"I know of no reason why there should not be, Sir Humphrey," I
"Only, only?that she is what she is, and I but myself. Oh, Harry,
was there ever one like that girl? All the spirit of daring of a man
she has, and yet is she full of all the sweet ways of a maid. Faith,
she would draw sword one minute and tie a ribbon the next. She would
have followed Bacon to the death, and sat up all night to broider
herself a kerchief. Comrade and sweetheart both she is, and was there
ever one like her for beauty? Harry, Harry, saw you ever such a beauty
as Mary Cavendish ?"
"No, and never will," cried I, so fervently and so echoing to the
full his youthful enthusiasm that again that keen look flashed into his
eyes. "Harry," he stammered out, "you do not?say, for God's sake,
Harry, you are a man if you are a?a?, and every day have you seen that
angel, and?and?Harry, may the devil take me if I would go against thee
if she?you know I would not, Harry, for I remember well how you taught
me to shoot, and, and?I love thee, Harry, not in such fool fashion as
my sister loveth Mary, but I love thee, and never would I cross thee."
"Sir Humphrey," said I, "it is not what you would, nor what I
would, nor what any other man would, but what be best for Mary
Cavendish, and her true happiness of life, that is to consider, whether
you love her, or I love her, or any other man love her."
"Faith, and a score do," he said, gloomily. "There be my Lord Estes
and her cousin Ralph, and I know not how many more. Faith, I would not
have her less fair, but sometimes I would that a few were colour-blind.
But 'tis different when it comes to thee, Harry. If she?"
"Sir Humphrey," I said, "were Mary Cavendish thy sister and I
myself, and loving her and she me, and you having that affection which
you say you have for me, would you yet give her to me in marriage and
think it for her good ?"
Then the poor lad coloured and stammered, and could not look me in
the face, but it was enough. "Let there be no more talk betwixt you and
me as to that matter, Sir Humphrey," I said. "There is never now nor at
any other time any question of marriage betwixt Mistress Mary Cavendish
and her convict tutor, and if he perchance had been not colour-blind
and had learned to appraise her at her rare worth, the more had he been
set against such. And all that he can do for thee, lad, he will do."
Sir Humphrey was easily pacified, having been accustomed from his
babyhood to masterly soothing of his mother into her own ways of
thought. Again, in spite of his great stature, he looked up at me like
a very child. "Harry," he whispered, "heard you her ever say anything
pleasant concerning me ?"
"Many a time," I answered, quite seriously, though I was inwardly
laughing, and could not for the life of me remember any especial favour
which she had paid him in her speech. But I have ever held that a bold
lover hath the best chance, and knowing that boldness depends upon
assurance of favour, I set about giving it to Sir Humphrey, even at
some small expense of truth.
"When, when, Harry ?"
"Oh, many a time, Sir Humphrey."
"But what? I pray thee, tell me what she said, Harry."
"I have not charged my mind, lad."
"But think of something. I pray thee, think of something, Harry."
He looked at me with such exceeding wistfulness that I was forced to
cudgel my brains for something which, having a slight savour of truth,
might be seasoned to pungency at fancy. "Often have I heard her say
that she liked a fair man," I replied, and indeed I had, and believed
her to have said it because I was dark, and seemingly inattentive to
some new grace of hers as to the tying of her hair or fastening of her
"Did she indeed say that, Harry, and do you think she had me in
mind ?" cried Sir Humphrey.
"Are you not a fair man ?"
"Yes, yes, I am a fair man, am I not, Harry? What else? Sure you
have heard her say more than that."
"I have heard her say she liked a hearty laugh, and one who counted
not costs when his mind were set on aught, but rode straight for it
though all the bars were up."
"That sure is I, Harry, unless my mother stand in the way. A man
cannot bring his mother's head low, Harry, but sure if she forbid nor
know not, as in this case of this tobacco plot, I stop for naught. Sure
she meant me, then, Harry."
"And I have heard her say that she liked a young man, a man no
older than she."
"Sure, sure she meant me by that, Harry, for I am the youngest of
them all?not yet twenty. Oh, dear Harry, she had me in mind by that. Do
you not think so ?"
"I know of no one else whom she could have had in mind," I
The lad was blushing with delight and confusion like a girl. He
cast down his eyes before me; he stammered when he spoke. "Harry, if
she but love me, I swear I could do as brave deeds as Bacon," he said.
"I would die would she but carry about a lock of my hair on her bosom
as she does his. I would, Harry. And you think I have some chance?"
My heart smote me lest I had misled him, for I knew with no
certainty the maid's mind. "As much chance as any, and more than many,
lad," I said, "and I will do what I can for thee."
"Harry," he said, then paused and blushed and twisted his great
body about as modestly as a girl, "Harry."
"What, Sir Humphrey?"
"Once, once?I never told of it, and no one ever knew since I was
alone, and it would have been boasting?but once?I?fought single-handed
with that great Christopher Little, whom I met by chance when I was out
in the woods, and 'twas two years since, and I, with scarce my full
growth, and he pleading for mercy at the second round, with an eye like
a blackberry and a nose like a gillyflower, and?and?Harry, you might
tell her of it, and say not where you got the news, if you thought it
no harm. And, Harry, you will mind the time when I killed the wolf with
naught but an oak club for weapon, and she, maybe, hath not heard of
that. And should have been to the front with Bacon, boy as I was, had
it not been for my mother?that you know well and could make her sure
of. And, and?oh, confound it, Harry, little book wit have I in my head,
and she is so clever as never was, and all I have to win her notice be
in my hands and heels, for, Harry, you will remember the race I ran
with Tom Talbot that Mayday; think you she knows of that? And?but she
must know how I rode against Nick Barry last St. Andrew's, and, and?oh,
Lord, Harry, what am I that she should think of me? But at all odds,
whether it be me or you or any other man, see to it that these goods be
moved and she not be drawn into this which is hatching, for it may be
as big a blaze as Bacon started before we be done with it; but shall I
not help thee, Harry, and when will you move them and where?"
"I want no help, lad," I said, and was indeed firmly set in my mind
that he should know nothing about the disposal of the goods lest
Mistress Mary come to grief through her love for him, and reasoning
that ignorance was his best safeguard and hers.
We went forth from Locust Creek, I having promised that I would do
all that I could to further his suit with Mary Cavendish, and when we
reached the bend of the road, he having walked beside me, hitherto
leading his horse, he was in his saddle and away, having first
acquainted me anxiously with the fact that he was to wear that night to
the governor's ball a suit of blue velvet with silver buttons, and
asking me if I considered that it would become him in Mistress Mary's
eyes. Then I went home to Drake Hill, passing along such a wonderful
aisle of bloom of locust and peach and mulberry and honeysuckle and
long trails of a purple vine of such a surprise of beauty as to make
one incredible that he saw aright?bushes pluming white to the wind, and
over all a medley of honey and almond and spicy scents seeming to
penetrate the very soul, that I was set to reflecting in the midst of
my sadness of renunciation of my love, and my anxiety for her if, after
all, such roads of blessing which were set for our feet at every turn
led not of a necessity to blessed ends, and if our course tended not to
happiness, whether we knew it or not, and along whatever byways of
I have seen many beautiful things in my life, as happens to every
one living in a world which hath little fault as to its appearance, if
one can outlook the shadow which his own selfishness of sorrow and
disappointment may cast before him; but it seemed that evening, when I
saw Mary Cavendish dressed for the governor's ball, that she was the
crown of all. I verily believe that never since the world was made, not
even that beautiful first woman who comprehended in herself all those
witcheries of her sex which have been ever since to our rapture and
undoing, not even Eve when Adam first saw her in Paradise, nor Helen,
nor Cleopatra, nor any of those women whose faces have made powers of
them and given them niches in history, were as beautiful as Mary
Cavendish that night. And I doubt if it were because she was beheld by
the eyes of a lover. I verily believe that I saw aright, and gave her
beauty no glamour because of my fondness for her, for not one whit more
did I love her in that splendour than in her plainest gown. But, oh,
when she stood before her grandmother and me and a concourse of slaves
all in a ferment of awe and admiration, with flashings of white teeth
and upheavals of eyes and flingings aloft of hands in half-savage
gesticulation, and courtesied and turned herself about in innocent
delight at her own loveliness, and yet with the sweetest modesty and
apology that she was knowing to it! That stuff which had been sent to
my Lady Culpeper and which had been intercepted ere it reached her was
of a most rich and wonderful kind. The blue of it was like the sky, and
through it ran the gleam of silver in a flower pattern, and a great
string of pearls gleamed on her bosom, and never was anything like that
mixture of triumph in, and abashedness before, her own exceeding beauty
and her perception of it in our eyes in her dear and lovely face. She
looked at us and actually shrank a little, as if our admiration were
something of an affront to her maiden modesty, and blushed, and then
she laughed to cover it, and swept a courtesy in her circling shimmer
of blue, and tossed her head and flirted a little fan, which looked
like the wing of a butterfly, before her face.
"Well, how do you like me, madam?" said she to her grandmother,
"and am I fine enough for the governor's ball?"
Madam Cavendish gazed at her with that rapture of admiration in a
beloved object which can almost glorify age to youth. She called Mary
to her and stroked the rich folds of her gown; she straightened a
flutter of ribbon. "'Tis a fine stuff of the gown," she said, "and blue
was always my colour. I was married in it. 'Tis fine enough for the
governor's wife, or the queen for that matter." She pulled out a fold
so that a long trail of silver flowers caught the light and gleamed
like frost. No misgivings and no suspicions she had, and none, by that
time, had Mary, believing as she did that her sister had bought all
that bravery for her, and that it was hers by right, and only troubled
by the necessity of secrecy with her grandmother lest she discover for
what purpose her own money had been spent. But Catherine eyed her with
such exceedingly worshipful love, admiration, and yet distress that
even I pitied her. Catherine herself that night did no discredit to her
beauty, her dress being, though it was an old one, as rich as Mary's,
of her favourite green with a rose pattern broidered on the front of
it, and a twist of green gauze in her fair hair, and that same necklace
of green stones which she had shown me in the morning around her long
throat, and her long, milky-white arms hanging at her sides in the
green folds of her gown, and that pale radiance of perfection in her
every feature that made many call her the pearl of Virginia, though, as
I have said before, she had no lovers. She and Mary were going to the
ball, and a company of black servants with them. As for me, balls were
out of the question for a convict tutor, and I knew it, and so did
they. But suddenly, to my great amazement, Madam Cavendish turned to
me: "And wherefore are you not dressed for the ball, Master Wingfield
?" she said.
I stared at her, as did also Catherine and Mary, almost as if they
suspected she had gone demented. "Madam," I stammered, scarce thinking
I had understood her rightly.
"Why are you not dressed for the ball ?" she repeated.
"Madam," I said, "pardon me, but you are well acquainted with the
fact that I am not a welcome guest at the governor's ball."
"And wherefore?" cried she imperiously.
"Wherefore, madam ?"
Mary and Catherine both looked palely at their grandmother, not
knowing what had come to her.
"Madam," I said, "do you forget?"
"I forget not that you are the eldest son and heir of one of the
best families in England, and as good a gentleman as the best of them,"
she cried out. "That I do not forget, and I would have you go to the
ball with my granddaughters. Put on thy plum-coloured velvet suit,
Harry, and order thy horse saddled."
For the first time I seemed to understand that Madam Judith
Cavendish had, in spite of her wonderful powers of body and mind,
somewhat of the childishness of age, for as she looked at me the tears
were in her stern eyes and a flush was on the ivory white of her face,
and her tone had that querulousness in it which we associate with
childhood which cannot have its own will.
"Madam, '' I said, gently, "you know that it is not possible for me
to do as you wish, and also that my days of gayeties are past, though
not to my regret, and that I am looking forward to an evening with my
books, which, when a man gets beyond his youth, yield him often more
pleasure than the society of his kind."
"But, Harry," she said piteously, and still like a child, "you are
young, and I would not have?" Then imperiously again: "Get into thy
plum-coloured velvet suit, Master Wingfield, and accompany my
But then I affected not to hear her, under pretence of seeing that
the sedan chairs were ready, and hallooed to the slaves with such zeal
that Madam Cavendish's voice was drowned, though with no seeming
rudeness, and Mary and Catherine came forth in their rustling spreads
of blue and green, and the black bearers stood grinning whitely out of
the darkness, for the moon was not up yet, and I aided them both into
the chairs, and they were off. I stood a few moments watching the
retreating flare of flambeaux, for runners carrying them were necessary
on those rough roads when dark, and the breath of the dewy spring night
fanned my face like a wing of peace, and I regretted nothing very much
which had happened in this world, so that I could come between that
beloved girl and the troubles starting up like poisonous weeds on her
But when I entered the hall Madam Cavendish, having sent away the
slaves, even to the little wench who had been fanning her, with verily
I believe no more of consciousness as to what was going on about her
than a Jimson weed by the highway, called me to her in a voice so
tremulous that I scarce knew it for hers.
"Harry, Harry," she said, "I pray thee, come here." Then, when I
approached, hesitating, for I had a shrinking before some outburst of
feminine earnestness, which has always intimidated me by its fire of
helplessness and futility playing against some resolve of mine which I
could not, on account of my masculine understanding of the requirements
of circumstances, allow to melt, she reached up one hand like a little
nervous claw of ivory, and caught me by the sleeve and pulled me down
to a stool by her side. Then she looked at me, and such love and even
adoration were in her face as I never saw surpassed in it, even when
she regarded her granddaughter Mary, yet withal a cruel distress and
self-upbraiding and wrath at herself and me. "Harry, Harry," she said,
"I can bear no more of this."
Then, to my consternation, up went her silken apron with a fling to
her old face, and she was weeping under it as unrestrainedly as any
I did not know what to do nor say. "Madam," I ventured, finally,
"if you distress yourself in such wise for my sake, 'tis needless, I
assure, 'tis needless, and with as much truth as were you my own
"Oh, Harry, Harry," she sobbed out, "know you not that is why I
cannot bear it longer, because you yourself bear it with no complaint?"
Then she sobbed and even wailed with that piteousness of the grief of
age exceeding that of infancy, inasmuch as the weight of all past
griefs of a lifetime go to swell it, and it is enhanced by memory as
well as by the present and an unknown future. I knew not what to do,
but laid a hand somewhat timidly on one of her thin silken arms, and
strove to draw it gently from her face; "Madam Cavendish," I said,
"indeed you mistake if you weep for me. At this moment I would change
places with no man in Virginia."
"But I would have?I would have you!" she cried out, with the ardour
of a girl, and down went her apron, and her face, like an aged mask of
tragedy, not discoloured by her tears, as would have happened with the
tender skin of a maid, confronted me. "I would have you the governor
himself, Harry. I would have you? I would have?" Then she stopped and
looked at me with a red showing through the yellow whiteness of her
cheeks. "You know what I would have, and I know what you would have,
and all the rest of my old life would I give could it be so, Harry,"
she said, and I saw that she knew of my love for her granddaughter
Mary. Then suddenly she cried out, vehemently: "Not one word have I
said to you about it since that dreadful time, Harry Wingfield, for
shame and that pride as to my name, which is a fetter on the tongue,
hath kept me still, but at last I will speak, for I can bear it no
longer. Harry, Harry, I know that you are what you are, a convict and
an exile, to shield Catherine, to shield a granddaughter of mine, who
should be in your place. Harry Wingfield, I know that Catherine
Cavendish is guilty of the crime for which you are in punishment, and,
woe is me, such is my pride, such is my wicked pride, that I have let
you suffer and said never one word."
I put her hand to my lips. "Madam," I said, "you mistake; I do not
suffer. That which you think of as my suffering and my disgrace is my
glory and happiness."
"Yes, and why, and why? Oh, Harry, 'tis that which is breaking my
heart. 'Tis because you love Mary, 'tis because, I verily believe, you
have loved her from the first minute you set eyes on her, though she
was but a baby in arms. At first I thought it was Catherine, in spite
of her fault, but now I know it was for the sake of Mary that you
sacrificed yourself?for her sister, Harry, I know, I know, and I would
to God that I could give you your heart's desire, for 'tis mine also!"
Then, so saying, this old woman, who had in her such a majesty of
character and pride that it held folk aloof at a farther distance than
loud swaggerings of importance of men high in office, drew down my head
to her withered shoulder and touched my cheek with a hand of
compassionate pity and blessing, as if I had been in truth her son, and
caught her breath again and again with a sobbing sigh. All that I could
say to comfort her I said, assuring her, as was indeed the truth, that
no woman could justly estimate the view which a man might take of such
a condition as mine, and how the power of service to love might be
enough to content one, and he stand in no need of pity, but she was not
much consoled. "Harry," she said, "Harry, thou art like a knight of
olden times about whom a song was written, which I heard sung in my
girlhood, and which used to bring the tears, though I was never too
ready with them. Woe be to me that I, knowing what I know, have yet not
the courage to sacrifice my pride and my unworthy granddaughter, and
see you free. Oh, Harry, that thou shouldst sit at home when thou art
fitted by birth and breeding to go with the best of them! Harry, I pray
thee, put on thy plum-coloured suit and go to the ball."
"Dear Madam Cavendish," I said, half laughing, for she seemed more
and more like a child, "you know that it cannot be, and that I have no
desire for balls."
"But I would have thee go, Harry."
"But I am not asked," I said.
"What matters that? 'Tis almost with open doors, since it is a
farewell of my Lord Culpeper before sailing for England. Harry, go,
and?a?and?I swear if any exception be taken to it, I?I?will tell the
"Dear madam, it cannot be," I said, "and the truth is to be
concealed not only for your sake, but for that of others."
Then she broke out in another paroxysm of childish wailing that
never was such a wretched state of matters, such a wretched old woman
handicapped from serving one by her love for another. "Harry, I cannot
clear thee unless I convict my own granddaughter Catherine," she said,
piteously, "and if I spared her not, neither her nor my pride, what of
Mary? Catherine hath been like a mother to the child, and she loves her
better than she loves me. 'Twould kill her, Harry. And, Harry, how can
I give Mary to thee, and thou under this ban? Mary Cavendish cannot wed
"That she cannot and shall not," I said; "she shall wed a much
worthier man and be happy, and sure 'tis her happiness that is the
But Madam Cavendish stared at me with unreasoning anger, not
understanding, since she was a woman, and unreasoning as a woman will
be in such matters. "If you love not my granddaughter, Harry
Wingfield," she cried out, "'tis not her grandmother will fling her at
your head. I will let you know, sir, that she could have her pick in
the colony if she so chose, and it may be that she might not choose
you, Master Harry Wingfield."
I laughed. "Madam Cavendish," I said, rising and bowing, "were I a
king instead of a convict, then would I lay my crown at Mary
Cavendish's feet; as it is, I can but pave, if I may, her way to
happiness with my heart."
"Then you love her as I thought, Harry?"
"Madam," I said, "I love her to my honour and glory and never to my
discontent, and I pray you to believe with a love that makes no account
of selfish ends, and that I am happier at home with my books than many
a cavalier who shall dance with her at the ball."
"But, Harry," she said, piteously, "I pray thee to go."
I laughed and shook my head, and went away to my own quarters and
sat down to my books, but, at something past midnight, Madam Cavendish
sent for me in all haste. She had gone to bed, and I was ushered to her
bedroom, and when I saw her thin length of age scarce rounding the
coverlids, and her face frilled with white lace, and her lean neck
stretching up from her pillows with the piteous outreaching of a bird,
a great tenderness of compassion for womanhood, both in youth and
beauty and age and need, beyond which I can express, came over me. It
surely seems to me the part of man to deal gently with them at all
times, even when we suffer through them, for there is about them a
mystery of helplessness and misunderstanding of themselves which should
give us an exceeding patience. And it seems to me that, even in the
cases of those women who are perhaps of greater wit and force of
character than many a man, not one of them but hath her helplessness of
sex in her heart, however concealed by her majesty of carriage. So,
when I saw Madam Cavendish, old and ill at ease in her mind because of
me, and realised all at once how it was with her in spite of that clear
head of hers and imperious way which had swayed to her will all about
her for near eighty years, I went up to her, and, laying a gentle hand
upon her head, laid it back upon the pillow, and touched her poor
forehead, wrinkled with the cares and troubles of so many years, and
felt all the pity in me uppermost. "'Tis near midnight, and you have
not slept, madam," I said. "I pray you not to fret any longer about
that which we can none of us mend, and which is but to be borne as the
will of the Lord."
"Nay, nay, Harry," she cried out, with a pitiful strength of anger.
"I doubt if it be the will of the Lord. I doubt if it be not the
devil?Catherine, Catherine?Harry, my brain reels when I think that she
should have done it?a paltry ring, and to let you?"
"It may be that she had not her wits," I said. "Such things have
been, I have heard, and especially in the case of a woman with jewels.
It may be that she knew not what she did, and in any case I pray you to
think no more of it, dear madam." And all the time I spoke I was
smoothing her old forehead under the flapping frills of her cap.
One black woman was there in the room, sitting in the shadow of the
bed-curtains, fast asleep and making a strange purring noise like a cat
as she slept.
Suddenly Madam Cavendish clutched hard at my hand. "Harry," she
said, "I sent for you because I have lain here fretting lest Mary and
Catherine get not home in safety with only the black people to guard
them. I fear lest the Indians may be lurking about."
"Dear Madam Cavendish," I said, "you know that we stand in no more
danger from the Indians."
"Nay," she persisted, "we can never tell what plans may be brewing
in such savage brains. I pray thee, Harry, ride to meet them and see if
they be safe."
I laughed, for the danger from Indians was long since past, but
said readily enough that I would do as she wished, being, in fact, glad
enough of a gallop in the moonlight, with the prospect of meeting Mary.
So in a few minutes I was in the saddle and riding toward Jamestown.
The night was very bright with the moon, and there was a great mist
rising from the marshy lands, and such strangely pale and luminous
developments in the distances of the meadows, marshalling and advancing
and retreating, like companies of spectres, and lingering as if for
consultation on the borders of the woods, with floating draperies
caught in the boughs thereof, that one might have considered danger
from others than Indians. And, indeed, I often caught the note of an
owl, and once one flitted past my face and my horse shied at the evil
bird, which is thought by the ignorant to be but a feathered cat and of
ill omen, and indeed is considered by many who are wise to have
presaged ill oftentimes, as in the cases of the deaths of the emperors
Valentinian and Commodus. Be that as it may, I, having a pistol with
me, shot at the bird, and, though I was as good a shot as any
thereabouts, missed, and away it flew, with a great hoot as of
laughter, which I am ready to swear I heard multiplied in a trice, as
if the bird were joined by a whole company, and my horse shied again
and would have bolted had I not held him tightly. Now, this which I am
about to relate I am ready to swear did truly happen, though it may
well be doubted. I had come within a short distance of Jamestown when I
reached two houses of a small size, not far apart, not much removed
from the fashion of the negro cabins, but inhabited by English folk. In
the one dwelt a man who had been transported for a grievous crime,
whether justly or not I cannot say, but his visage was such as to
condemn him, and he was often in his cups and had spent many days in
the stocks, and had made frequent acquaintance with the whipping-post,
and with him dwelt his wife, an old dame with a tongue which had once
earned her the ducking-stool in England. As I passed the house I saw
over the door a great bunch of dill and vervain and white thorn, which
is held to keep away witches from the threshold if gathered upon a May
day. And I knew well the reason, for not many rods distant was the hut
where dwelt one Margery Key, an ancient woman, who had been verily tied
crosswise and thrown in a pond for witchcraft and been weighed against
the church Bible, and had her body searched for witch-marks and the
thatch of her house burned. I know not why she had not come to the
stake withal, but instead she had fled to Virginia, where, witches
being not so common, were treated with more leniency. It may have been
that she had escaped the usual fate of those of her kind by being
considered by some a white witch, and one who worked good instead of
ill if approached rightly, though many considered that they who
approached a white witch for the purpose of profiting by her advice or
warning, were of equal guilt, and that it all led in the end to
mischief. Be that as it may, this old dame Margery Key dwelt there
alone in her little hut so over-thatched and grown by vines, and scarce
showing the shaggy slant of its roof above the bushes, that it
resembled more the hole of some timid and wary animal than a human
habitation. And if any visited her for consultation it was by night and
secretly, and no one ever caught sight of her except now and then the
nodding white frill of her cap in the green gloom of a window or the
painful bend of her old back as she gathered sticks for her fire in the
woods about. How she lived none knew. A little garden-patch she had,
and a hive or two of bees, and a red cow, which many affirmed to have
the eye of a demon, and there were those who said that her familiars
stole bread for her from the plantation larders, and that often a prime
ham was missed and a cut of venison, with no explanation, but who can
say? Without doubt there are strange things in the earth, but we are
all so in the midst of them, and even a part of their workings, that we
can have no outside foothold to take fair sight thereof. Verily a man
might as well strive to lift himself by his boot-straps over a stile.
But this much I will say, that, as I was riding along, cogitating
something deeply in my mind as to the best disposal of the powder and
the shot which Mary Cavendish had ordered from England, I, coming
abreast of Margery Key's house, saw of a sudden a white cat, which many
affirmed to be her familiar, spring from her door like a white arrow of
speed and off down a wood-path, and my horse reared and plunged, and
then, with my holding him of no avail, though I had a strong hand on
the bridle, was after her with such a mad flight that I had hard work
to keep the saddle. Pell-mell through the wood we went, I ducking my
head before the mad lash of the branches and feeling the dew therefrom
in my face like a drive of rain, until we came to a cleared space, then
a great spread of tobacco fields, overlapping silver-white in the
moonlight, and hamlet of negro cabins, and then Major Robert Beverly's
house, standing a mass of shadow except for one moonlit wall, for all
the family were gone to the governor's ball. Then, as I live, that
white cat of Margery Key's led me in that mad chase around Beverly's
house, and when I came to the north side of it I saw a candle gleam in
a window and heard a baby's wail, and knew 'twas where his infant
daughter was tended, and as we swept past out thrust a black head from
the window, and a screech as savage as any wild cat's rent the peace of
the night, and I believe that the child's black nurse took us, no
doubt, for the devil himself. Then all the dogs howled and bayed,
though not one approached us, and a great bat came fanning past, like a
winged shadow, and again I heard the owl's hoot, and ever before us,
like a white arrow, fled that white cat, and my horse followed in spite
of me. Then, verily I speak the truth, though it may well be
questioned, did that white cat lead us straight to the tomb which Major
Beverly had made upon his plantation at the death of his first wife,
and in which she lay, and 'twas on a rising above the creek, and then
the cat, with a wail which was like nothing I ever heard in this world,
was away in a straight line toward the silver gleam of the creek,
though every one knows well how cats hate water, and had disappeared.
But, though to this I will not swear, I thought I saw a white gleam
aloft, and heard a wail of a cat skyward along with the owl-hoots. And
then my horse stood and trembled in such wise that I thought he would
fall under me, and I dismounted and stroked his head and tried as best
I could to soothe him, and we were all the time before the tomb, which
was a large one. Then of a sudden it came to me that here was the
hiding-place for the powder and shot, for what safer hiding-place can
there be than the tomb of the first wife, when the second hath reigned
but a short time, and is fair, and hath but just given her lord that
little darling whose cries of appealing helplessness I could hear even
there ? So I gave the tomb-door a pull, knowing that I should not, by
so doing, disturb the slumbers of the poor lady within, and decided
with myself that it would be easy enough to force it, and mounted and
rode back as best I might to the road. And when I came to the little
dwelling of Margery Key a thought struck me, and I rode close, though
my horse shuddered as if with some strange fright of something which I
could not see. I bent in my saddle and looked in the door, but naught
could I see. Then I dismounted and tied my horse to a tree near by, and
entered the house and looked about the sorry place as well as I could
in the pale sift of moonlight, and?the old woman was not there. But one
room there was, with a poor pallet in a corner and a chest against the
wall and a stool, and a kettle in the fireplace, with a little pile of
sticks and a great scattering of ashes, but no one there, and also, if
I may be believed, no broom. All this I tell for what it may be worth
to the credulity of them who hear; the facts be such as I have said.
But whether believing it myself or not, yet knowing that that white
cat, though it had been Margery Key in such guise, or her familiar imp
on his way to join her at some revel whither she had ridden her broom,
had done me good service, and, seeing the piteous smallness of the pile
of sticks on the hearth, and reflecting upon the distressful bend of
the old soul's back, whether she had sold herself to Satan or not, I
lingered a minute to break down a goodly armful of brush in the wood
outside and carry inside for the replenishment of her store. And as I
came forth, having done so, I heard the door of the nearby house open,
and saw two white faces peering out at me, and heard a woman's voice
shriek shrilly that here was the devil seeking the witch, and though I
called out to reassure them, the door clapped to with a bang like a
pistol-shot, and my horse danced about so that I could scarcely mount.
Then I rode away, something wondering within myself, since I had been
taken for the devil, how many others might have been, and whether men
made their own devils and their own witches, instead of the Prince of
Evil having a hand in it, and yet that happened which I have related,
and I have told the truth.
Such a blaze of light as was the governor's mansion house that
night I never saw, and I heard the music of violins, and hautboys, and
viola da gambas coming from within, and a silvery babble of women's
tongues, with a deeper undertone of men's, and the tread of dancing
feet, and the stamping of horses outside, with the whoas of the negro
boys in attendance, and through the broad gleam of the moonlight came
the flare and smoke of the torches. It seemed as if the whole colony
was either dancing at the governor's ball or standing outside on tiptoe
with interest. I sat waiting for some time, holding my restive horse as
best I might, but there coming no cessation in the music, I dismounted,
and seeing one of Madam Cavendish's black men, gave him the bridle to
hold, and went up to the house and entered, though not in my
plum-coloured velvet, and, indeed, being not only in my ordinary
clothes, but somewhat splashed with mire from my mad gallop through the
woods. But I judged rightly that in so much of a crowd I should pass
unnoticed both as to myself and my apparel. I stood in the great room
near the door and watched the dance, and 'twas as brilliant a scene as
ever I had seen anywhere even in England. The musicians in the gallery
were sawing away for their lives on violins, and working breathlessly
at the hautboys, and all that gay company of Virginia's best, spinning
about in a country dance of old England. Such a brave show of velvet
coats, and breeches, and flowered brocade waistcoats, and powdered
wigs, and feathers, and laces, and ribbons, and rich flaunts of
petticoats revealing in the whirl of the dance clocked hose on slender
ankles, and high-heeled satin shoes, would have done no discredit to
the court. But of them all, Mistress Mary Cavendish was the belle and
the star. She was dancing with my Lord Estes when I entered, and such a
goodly couple they were, that I heard many an exclamation of delight
from the spectators, who stood thickly about the walls, the windows
even being filled with faces of black and white servants. My Lord Estes
was a handsome dark man, handsomer and older than Sir Humphrey Hyde,
who, though dancing with the governor's daughter Cate, had, I could
see, a rueful eye of watchfulness toward Mary Cavendish. As he and Cate
Culpeper swung past me, Sir Humphrey's eyes fell on my face and he gave
a start and blush, and presently, when the dance was over and his
partner seated, came up to me with hand extended, as if I had been the
noblest guest there. "Harry, Harry," he whispered eagerly, "she hath
danced with me three times tonight, and hath promised again, and Harry,
saw you ever any one so beautiful as she in that blue dress ?"
I answered truthfully that I never had. Sir Humphrey, in his blue
velvet suit with the silver buttons, with his rosy face and powdered
wig, was one to look at twice and yet again, and I regarded him as
always, with that liking for him and that fury of jealousy.
I looked at him and loved him as I might have loved my son, with
such a sweet and brave honesty of simplicity he eyed me, and for the
sake of Mary Cavendish, who might find his love for her precious, and I
wished with all my heart that I might fling him to the floor where he
stood; every nerve and muscle in me tingled with the restraint of the
desire, for such an enhancement of a woman's beauty as was Mary
Cavendish's that night, will do away with the best instincts of men,
whether they will or not.
The next dance was the minuet, and Mary Cavendish danced it with my
Lord Culpeper, the Governor of Virginia. The governor, though I liked
him not, was a most personable man with much grace of manner, which had
additional value from a certain harshness of feature which led one not
to expect such suavity, and he was clad most richly in such a dazzle of
gold broidery and fling of yellow laces, and glitter of buttons, as
could not be surpassed.
My Lord was in fact clad much more richly than his wife and
daughter, whose attire, though fair enough, was not of the freshest. It
was my good luck to overhear my Lady Culpeper telling in no very
honeyed tones, a gossip of hers, the lady of one of the burgesses, that
her goods, for which she had sent to England, had miscarried, and were
it not for the fact that there was a whisper of fever on the ship, she
would have had the captain herself for a good rating, and had my Lord
Culpeper not been for him, saying that the man was of an honest record,
she would have had him set in the stocks for his remissness, that he
had not seen to it that her goods were on board when the ship sailed.
"And there goes poor Cate in her old murrey-coloured satin petticoat,"
said my lady with a bitter lengthening of her face, "and there is Mary
Cavendish in a blue-flowered satin with silver, which is the very twin
of the one I ordered for Cate, and which came in on the Cavendish
"Well," said the other woman, who was long and lean, and had wedded
late in life a man she would have scorned in her girlhood, and could
not forgive the wrong she had done herself, and was filled with an
inconsistency of spleen toward all younger and fairer than she, and
who, moreover, was a born toad-eater for all in high places, "'tis fine
feathers make fine birds, and were thy Cate arrayed in that same gown
in Mistress Cavendish's stead?"
"As I believe, she would not have had the dress had not Cate told
Cicely Hyde, who is so intimate with Mary Cavendish," said my Lady
Culpeper. "I had it from my lord's sister that 'twas the newest fashion
in London. How else would the chit have heard of it, I pray ?"
"How else, indeed?" asked the burgess's wife.
"And here my poor Cate must go in her old murrey-coloured
petticoat," said my lady.
"But even thus, to one who looks at her and not at her attire, she
outshines Mary Cavendish," said the other. That was, to my thinking, as
flagrant hypocrisy as was ever heard, for if those two maids had been
clad alike as beggars, Mary Cavendish would have carried off the palm,
with no dissenting voice, though Cate Culpeper was fair enough to see,
with her father's grace of manner, and his harshness of feature
softened by her rose-bloom of youth.
Catherine Cavendish was dancing as the others, but seemingly with
no heart in it, whereas her sister was all glowing with delight in the
merriment of it, and her sense of her own beauty, and the admiration of
all about her, and smiling as if the whole world, and at life itself,
with the innocent radiance of a child.
As I stood watching her, I felt a touch on my arm, and looked, and
there stood Mistress Cicely Hyde, and her brown face was so puckered
with wrath and jealousy that I scarcely knew her. "Did not Mary's
grandmother send you to escort her home, Master Wingfield?" said she in
a sharp whisper, and I stared at her in amazement. "When the ball is
over, Mistress Hyde," I said.
"'Tis time the ball was over now," said she. "'Tis folly to keep it
up so late as this, and Mary hath not had a word for me since we came."
"But why do you not dance yourself, Mistress Hyde ?"
"I care not to dance," said she pettishly, and with a glance of
mingled wrath and admiration at Mary Cavendish that might have matched
mine or her brother's, and I marvelled deeply at the waywardness of a
maid's heart. But then came Ralph Drake, who had not drunken very
deeply, being only flushed, and somewhat lost to discrimination, and
disposed to dance with another since he could not have his cousin Mary,
and he and Cicely went away together, and presently, when the minuet
was over and another dance on, I saw them advancing in time, but always
Cicely had that eye of watchful injury upon Mary.
It was late when the ball was done, but Mary would have stayed it
out had it not been for Catherine, who almost swooned in the middle of
a dance and had to be revived with aromatic vinegar, and lie for a
while in my Lady Culpeper's bedchamber, with a black woman fanning her,
until she was sufficiently recovered to go home. Mary did not espy me
until, returning from her sister's side to order the sedan chairs, she
jostled against me. Then such a blush of delight and relief came over
her face as made my heart stand still with rapture and something like
fear. "You here, you here, Harry?" she cried, and stammered and blushed
again, and Sir Humphrey and Cicely, who were pressing up, looked at me
"I am here at your grandmother's request, Mistress Mary," I said.
Then my Lord Estes came elbowing me aside, and made no more of me
than if I were a black slave, and hoarsely shouting for the sedan
chairs and the bearers, and after him Ralph Drake and half a score of
others, and all cursing at me for a convict tutor and thrusting at me.
Then truly that temper of mine, which I have had some cause to lament,
and yet I know not if it be aught I can help, it being seemingly as
beyond the say of my own will as the recoil of a musket or the rebound
of a ball, sent me forth into the midst of that gallant throng, and I
would not say for certain, but at this late date I am inclined to
believe that I saw Ralph Drake, who came in my way with a storm of
curses, raising himself sorely from a pool of mud, which must have
worked havoc with his velvets, and my Lord Estes struggling forth from
a thorny rose bush at the gate, with much rending of precious laces.
Then I, convict though I was, yet having, when authorised by the very
conditions of my servitude, that resolution to have my way, that a
king's army could not have stopped me, had the sedan chairs, and the
bearers to the fore, and presently we were set forth on the homeward
road, I riding alongside. All the road was white with moonlight, and
when we came alongside Margery Key's house, as I live, that white cat
shot through the door, and immediately after, I, looking back, saw the
old dame herself standing therein, though it was near morning, and she
quavered forth a blessing after me. "God bless thee, Master Wingfield,
in life and death, and may the fish of the sea come to thy line, may
the birds of the air minister to thee, and all that hath breath of
life, whether it be noxious or guileless, do thy bidding. May even He
who is nameless stand from the path of thy desire, and hold back from
thy face the boughs of prevention whither thou wouldst go." This said
old Margery Key in a strange, chanting-like tone, and withdrew, and a
light flashed out in the next house, and the woman who dwelt therein
screamed, and Mistress Mary, thrusting forth her head from the chair,
called me to come close.
As for Catherine, she was borne along as silently as though she
slept, being, I doubt not, still exhausted with her swoon. When I came
close to Mistress Mary's chair, forth came her little hand, shining
with that preciousness of fairness beyond that of a pearl, and "Master
Wingfield," said she in a whisper, lest she disturb Catherine, "what,
what, I pray thee, was it the witch-woman said ?"
I laughed. "She was calling down a blessing upon my head, Madam," I
"A blessing and not a curse?"
"As I understood it, though I know not why she should have blessed
"They say she is a white witch, and worketh good instead of harm,
and yet?" said Mistress Mary, and her voice trembled, showing her fear,
and I could see the negroes rolling eyes of wide alarm at me, for they
were much affected by all hints of deviltry.
"I pray you, Madam, to have no fear," I said, and thought within
myself that never should she know of what had happened on my way
"They say that her good deeds work in the end to mischief," said
Mary, "and, and?'tis sure no good whatever can come from unlawful
dealing with the powers of evil even in a good cause. I wish the
witch-woman had neither cursed thee nor blessed thee, Harry."
I strove again to reassure her, and said, as verily I begun to
believe, that the old dame's words whether of cursing or blessing were
of no moment, but presently Mistress Mary declared herself afraid of
riding alone shut within her sedan chair, and would alight, and have
one of the slaves lead my horse, and walk with me, taking my arm the
remainder of the way.
I had never known Mistress Mary Cavendish to honour me so before,
and knew not to what to attribute it, whether to alarm as she said, or
not. And I knew not whether to be enraptured or angered at my own
rapture, or whether I should use or not that authority which I had over
her, and which she could not, strive as best she could, gainsay, and
bid her remain in her chair.
But being so sorely bewildered I did nothing, but let her have her
way, and on toward Drake Hill we walked, she clinging to my arm, and
seemingly holding me to a slow pace, and the slaves with the chairs,
and my horse, forging ahead with ill-concealed zeal on account of that
chanting proclamation of Margery Key, which, I will venture to say, was
considered by every one of the poor fellows as a special curse directed
toward him, instead of a blessing for me.
As we followed on that moonlight night, she and I alone, of a
sudden I felt my youth and love arise to such an assailing of the joy
of life, that I knew myself dragged as it were by it, and had no more
choosing as to what I should not do. Verily it would be easier to lead
an army of malcontents than one's own self. And something there was
about the moonlight on that fair Virginian night, and the heaviness of
the honey-scents, and the pressure of love and life on every side, in
bush and vine and tree and nest, which seemed to overbear me and sweep
me along as on the crest of some green tide of spring. Verily there are
forces of this world which are beyond the overcoming of mortal man so
long as he is encumbered by his mortality.
Mary Cavendish gathered up her blue and silver petticoats about her
as closely as a blue flower-bell at nightfall, and stepped along
daintily at my side, and the feel of her little hand on my arm seemed
verily the only touch of material things which held me to this world.
We came to a great pool of wet in our way, and suddenly I thought of
her feet in her little satin shoes. "Madam, you will wet your feet if
you walk through that pool in your satin shoes," I said, and my voice
was so hoarse with tenderness that I would not have known it for my
own, and I felt her arm tremble. "No," she said faintly. But without
waiting for any permission, around her waist I put an arm, and had her
raised in a twinkling from the ground, and bore her across the pool,
she not struggling, but only whispering faintly when I set her down
after it was well passed. "You?you should not have done that, Harry."
Then of a sudden, close she pressed her soft cheek against my
shoulder as we walked, and whispered, as though she could keep silent
no longer, and yet as if she swooned for shame in breaking silence:
"Harry, Harry, I liked the way you thrust them aside when they were
rude with you, to do me a service, and Harry, you are stronger,
and?and?than them all."
Then I knew with such a shock of joy, that I wonder I lived, that
the child loved me, but I knew at the same time as never I had known it
before, my love for her.
"Mistress Mary," I said, "I but did my duty and my service, which
you can always count upon, and I did no more than others would have
done. Sir Humphrey Hyde?"
But she flung away from me at that with a sudden movement of
amazement and indignation and hurt, which cut me to the quick. "Yes,"
she said, "yes, Master Wingfield, truly I believe that Sir Humphrey
Hyde would do me any service that came in his way, and truly he is a
brave lad. I have a great esteem for Humphrey?I have a greater esteem
for Humphrey than for all the rest?and I care not if you know it,
So saying she called to the bearers of her chair, and would have a
slave assist her to it instead of me, and rode in silence the rest of
the way, I following, walking my horse, who pulled hard at his bits.
It was dawn before we were abed, but I for one had no sleep, being
strained to such a pitch of rapture and pain by what I had discovered.
The will I had not, to take the joy which I seemed to see before me
like some brimming cup of the gods, but not yet, in the first surprise
of knowing it offered me, the will to avoid the looking upon it, and
the tasting of it in dreams. Over and over I said to myself, and every
time with a new strengthening of resolution, that Mary Cavendish should
not love me, and that in some way I would force her to obey me in that
as in other things, never doubting that I could do so. Well I knew that
she could not wed a convict, nor could I clear myself unless at the
expense of her sister Catherine, and sure I was that she would not
purchase love itself at such a cost as that. There remained nothing but
to turn her fancy from me, and that seemed to me an easy task, she
being but a child, and having, I reasoned, but little more than a
childish first love for me, which, as every one knows, doth readily
burn itself out by its excess of wick, and lack of substantial fuel.
And yet, as I lay on my bed with the red dawn at the windows, and the
birds calling outside, and the scent of the opening blossoms entering
invisible, such pangs of joy and ecstasy beyond anything which I had
ever known on earth overwhelmed me that I could not resist them.
Knowing well that in the end I should prove my strength, for the time I
gave myself to that advance of man before the spur of love, which I
doubt not is after the same fashion as the unfolding of the flowers in
the spring, and the nesting of the birds, and the movement of the world
itself from season to season, and would be as uncontrollable were it
not that a man is mightier even than that to which he owes his own
existence, and hath the power of putting that which he loves before his
own desire of it. But for the time, knowing well that I could at any
time take up the reins to the bridling of myself, I let them hang
loose, and over and over I whispered what Mary Cavendish had said, and
over and over I felt that touch of delicate tenderness on my arm, and I
built up such great castles that they touched the farthest skies of my
fancy, and all the time braving the knowledge that I should myself dash
them into ruins.
But when I looked out of my window that May morning, and saw that
wonderful fair world, and that heaven of blue light with rosy and
golden and green boughs blowing athwart it, and heard the whir of
looms, the calls and laughs of human life, the coo of dove, the hum of
bees, the trill of mock birds, outreaching all other heights of joy,
the clangour of the sea-birds, and the tender rustle of the new-leaved
branches in the wind, that love for me which I had seen in the heart of
the woman I had loved since I could remember, seemed my own keynote of
the meaning of life sounding in my ears above all other sounds of bane
But the strength I had to act in discord with it, and thrust my joy
from me, and I went to planning how I could best turn the child's fancy
from myself to some one who would be for her best good. And yet I was
not satisfied with Sir Humphrey Hyde, and wished that his wits were
quicker, and wondered if years might improve them, and if perchance a
man as honest might be found who had the keenness of ability to be the
worst knave in the country. But the boy was brave, and I loved his love
for Mary Cavendish, and I could think of no one to whom I would so
readily trust her, and it seemed to me that perchance I might, by some
praising of him, and swerving her thoughts to his track, lead her to
think favourably of his suit. But a man makes many a mistake as to
women, and one of the most frequent is that the hearts of them are like
wax, to be moulded into this and that shape. That morning, when I met
Mistress Mary at the breakfast table, she was pale and distraught, and
not only did not speak to me nor look at me, but when I ventured to
speak in praise of Sir Humphrey's gallant looks at the ball, she turned
upon me so fiercely with encomiums of my Lord Estes, whom I knew to be
not worthy of her, that I held my tongue. But when Sir Humphrey came
riding up a little later, she greeted him with such warmth as at once
put me to torture, and aroused that spirit of defence of her against
myself which hath been the noblest thing in my poor life.
So I left them, Mistress Catherine at the flax-wheel, and Mary out
in the garden with Sir Humphrey, gathering roses for the potpourri
jars, and the distilling into rosewater, for little idleness was
permitted at Drake Hill even after a ball. I got my horse, but as I
started forth Madam Cavendish called?a stiffly resolute old figure
standing in the great doorway, and I dismounted and went to her,
leading my horse, which I had great ado to keep from nibbling the
blossoms of a rose tree which grew over the porch. "Harry," she said in
a whisper, "where is Mary ?"
"In the garden with Sir Humphrey Hyde," I answered.
Then Madam Cavendish frowned. "And why is she not at her lessons ?"
she asked sternly.
"The lessons are set for the afternoon, and this morning she is
gathering rose leaves, Madam," I answered; but that Madam Cavendish
knew as well as I, having in truth so ordered the hours of the lessons.
"But," she said, hesitating, then she stopped, and looked at me
with an angry indecision, and then at the garden, where the top of
Mary's golden head was just visible above the pink mist of the roses,
and Sir Humphrey's fair one bending over it. "Harry," she said,
frowning, and yet with a piteous sort of appeal. "Why do you not go out
into the garden and help to gather the rose leaves ?" Then, before I
could answer, as if angry with herself at her own folly, she called out
to Mary's little black maid, Sukey, to bid her mistress come in from
the garden and spin. But before the maid started I said low in Madam
Cavendish's ear: "Madam, think you not that the sweet air of the garden
is better for her after the ball, than the hot ball and the labour at
the wheel?" And she gave one look at me, and called out to Sukey that
she need not speak to her mistress, and went inside to her own work and
left me to go my way. I was relieved in my mind that she did not ask me
whither, since, if she had, I should have been driven to one of those
broadsides of falsehood in a good cause for which I regret the
necessity, but admit it, and if it be to my soul's hurt, I care not, so
long as I save the other party by it.
I was bound for Barry Upper Branch, and rode thither as fast as I
could, for I contemplated asking the Barry brothers to aid me in the
removal of Mistress Mary's contraband goods, and was anxious to lose no
more time about that than I could avoid.
I was set upon Major Robert Beverly's tomb as a most desirable
hiding place for them, and knowing that there was a meeting of the
Assembly that evening at the governor's, to discuss some matters in
private before he sailed for England, Major Beverly being clerk, I
thought that before the moon was up would be a favourable time for the
removal, but I could not move the goods alone, remembering how those
sturdy sailors tugged at them, and not deeming it well to get any aid
from the slaves.
So I rode straight to Barry Upper Branch, and a handsome black
woman in a flaunting gown, with a great display of beads, and an orange
silk scarf twisted about her head, came to parley with me, and told me
that both the brothers were away, and added that she thought I should
find them at the tavern.
The tavern was a brick building abounding in sharp slants of roof,
and dimmed in outline by a spreading cloud of new-leaved branches, and
there was one great honey-locust which was a marvel to be seen, and
hummed with bees with a mighty drone as of all the spinning-wheels in
the country, and the sweetness of it blew down upon one passing under,
like a wind of breath. And before the tavern were tied, stamping and
shaking their heads for the early flies, many fine horses, and among
them Parson Downs' and the Barry brothers', and from within the tavern
came the sound of laughter in discordant shouts, and now and then a
snatch of a song. Then a great hoarse rumble of voice would cap the
rest, telling some loose story, then the laughter would follow?enough,
it seemed, to make the roof shake?and all the time the hum of the bees
in the honey-locust outside went on. Verily at that time in Virginia,
with all the spirit of the people in a ferment of rebellion against the
established order of things, being that same ferment which the ardour
of Nathaniel Bacon had set in motion, and which, so far as I see now,
was the beginning of an epoch of history, there was nothing after all,
no plotting nor counterplotting, no fierce inveighing against
authority, nor reckless carousing on the brinks of precipices, which
could for a second stay the march of the mightiest force of all?the
spring which had returned in its majesty of victory, for thousands of
years, and love which had come before that.
I tied my horse with the others, with a tight halter, for he was
apt to pick quarrels, having always a theory that such discomforts as
flies or a long weariness of standing were in some fashion to be laid
to the doors of other horses, and indeed made always of his own kind
his special scapegoat of the dispensation of Providence. 'Tis little I
know about that great mystery of the animal creation and its relation
toward the human race, but verily I believe that that fine horse of
mine, from his propensity for kicking and lashing out from his
iron-bound hoofs at whatever luckless steed came within his reach
whenever the world went not to his liking, could not see an inch beyond
the true horizon limit of the horse race, and attributed all that
happened on earth, including man, to the agency of his own sort. Sure I
was, from the backward glance of viciousness which he cast at the other
stamping steeds as soon as I dismounted, that he concluded with no
hesitation they had in some way led me to ride him thither instead of
to his snug berth in the Cavendish stables, with his eager nose in his
Before I entered the tavern, out burst Parson Downs, and caught
hold of me, with a great shout of welcome. Half-drunk he was, and yet
with a marvellous steadiness on his legs, and a command of his voice
which would have done him credit in the pulpit. It was said that this
great parson could drink more fiery liquor and not betray it than any
other man in the colony, and Nick Barry, who was something of a wag,
said that the parson's wrestlings with spirits of another sort had
rendered him powerful in his encounters with these also. Be that as it
may, though I doubt not Parson Downs had drunk more than any man there,
no sign of it was in his appearance, except that his boisterousness was
something enhanced, and his hand on my shoulder fevered. "Good day,
good day, Master Harry Wingfield," he shouted. "How goes the time with
ye, sir? And, I say, Master Wingfield, what will you take for thy horse
there? One I have which can beat him on any course you will pick, with
all the creeks in the country to jump, and the devil himself to have a
shy at, and even will I trade and give thee twenty pounds of tobacco to
boot. 'Tis a higher horse than thine, Harry, and can take two strides
to one of his; and mine hath four white feet, and thine but one, which,
as every one knoweth well, is not enough. What say you, Harry?"
"Your reverence," I said, laughing, "the horse is not mine, as you
"Nay, Harry," he burst forth, "that we all know, and you know that
we all know, is but a fable. Doth not Madam Cavendish treat you as a
son, and are you not a convict in name only, so far as she is
concerned? I say, Harry, you can ride my horse to the winning on Royal
Oak Day, at the races. What think you, Harry ?"
"Your reverence," I said, "I pray you to give me time," for well I
knew there was no use in reasoning with the persistency to which
frequent potations had given rise.
Up to my horse he went with that oversteadiness of the man in his
cups, who moves with the stiffness of a tree walking, as if every lift
of a heavy foot was the uplifting of a root fast in the ground, and
went to stroking his head; when straightway, my horse either not liking
his touch or the smell of his liquored breath, and judging as was his
wont that the fault must by some means lie with his own race,
straightway lashed out a vicious hind leg like a hammer, and came
within an ace of the parson's own valuable horse?not the one which he
proposed trading for mine?and the wind of the lash frighted the
parson's horse, and he in his turn lashed out, and another horse at his
side sprang aside; and straightway there was such a commotion in the
tavern yard as never was, and slaves and white servants shouting, and
forcing rearing horses to their regular standing, and I stroking my
beast, and striving as best I could to bring his pure horse wits to
comprehend the strong pressure and responsibility of humanity for the
situation; and the Barry brothers and Captain Jaynes came running
forth, Captain Jaynes swearing in such wise that it was beyond the
understanding of any man unversed in that language of the high seas;
and Nick Barry, laughing wildly, and Dick, glooming, as was the
difference with the two brothers when in liquor. And the landlord, one
John Halpin, stood in his tavern doorway with his eyebrows raised, but
no other sign of consternation, knowing well enough that all this could
not affect his custom, and being one of the most toughly leather-dried
little men whom I have ever seen, and his face so hardened into its
final lines of experience, that it had no power of changing under new
ones. And behind him stood peering, some with wide eyes of terror, and
some with ready laughs at nothing, the few other roisters in the tavern
at that hour. 'Twas not the best time of day for the meeting of those
choice spirits for the discussion of the other spirits which be raised,
willy-nilly, from the grape and the grain, for the enhancing of the joy
of life, and defiance of its miseries; but the Barrys and Captain
Jaynes and the parson were nothing particular as to the time of day.
When the horses were something quieted, I, desiring not to unfold
my errand in the tavern, got hold of Parson Downs by his mighty arm,
and elbowed Dick Barry, who cursed at me for it, and cut short Captain
Jaynes's last string of oaths, and hallooed to Nick Barry, and asked if
I could have a word with them. Captain Jaynes, though, as I have said,
being in the main curiously well disposed toward me, swore at first
that he would be damned if he would stop better business to parley with
a damned convict tutor; but the end of it was that he and the Barry
brothers and Parson Downs and I stood together under that mighty
humming locust tree, and I unfolded my scheme of moving the powder and
shot from Locust Creek to Major Robert Beverly's tomb. Noel Jaynes
stared at me a second, with his hard red face agape, and then he
clapped me upon the shoulder, and shouted with laughter, and swore that
it should be done, and that it was a burning hell shame that the goods
had been put where they were to the risk of a maid of beauty like Mary
Cavendish, and that he and the Barrys would be with me that very night
before moonrise to move them.
Then the parson, who had a poetical turn, especially when in his
cups, added, quite gravely, that no safer place could there be for
powder than the tomb of love whose last sparks had died out in ashes;
and Dick Barry cried with an oath that it would serve Robert Beverly
rightly for his action against them in the Bacon rising, for though he
was to the front with the oppressed people in this, his past foul
treachery against them was not forgot, and well he remembered that when
he was in hiding for his life?
But then his brother hushed him and said, with a shout of dry
laughter, that the past was past, and no use in dwelling upon it, but
that when it came to a safe hiding-place for goods which were to set
the kingdom in a blaze, and maybe hang the ringleaders, he knew of none
better than the tomb of a first wife, which, when the second was in
full power, was verily back of the farthest back door of a man's
So it was arranged that the four were to meet me that very night
after sunset and before moonrise, and move the goods, and I mounted and
rode away, with Parson Downs shouting after me his proposition to trade
horses, and even offering ten pounds to boot when he saw the splendid
long pace of my thoroughbred flinging out his legs with that freest
motion of anything in the world, unless it be the swift upward cleave
of a bird when the fluttering of wing wherewith he hath gained his
impetus hath ceased, and nothing except that invincible rising is seen.
The first man my eyes fell upon was Parson Downs, lolling in a
chair by the fireless hearth, for there was no call for fire that May
night. His bulk of body swept in a vast curve from his triple chin to
the floor, and his great rosy face was so exaggerated with merriment
and good cheer that it looked like one seen in the shining swell of a
silver tankard. When Nick Barry finished a roaring song, he stamped and
clapped and shouted applause till it set off the others with applause
of it, and the place was a pandemonium. Then that same coloured woman
who had parleyed with me the other day, and was that night glowing like
a savage princess?as in truth she may have been, for she had a high
look as of an unquenched spirit, in spite of her degradation of body
and estate?went about with a free swinging motion of hips, bearing a
tray filled with pewter mugs of strong spirits. Around this woman's
neck glittered row on row of beads, and she wore a great flame-coloured
turban, and long gold eardrops dangled to her shoulders against the
glossy blackness of her cheeks, and bracelets tinkled on her polished
arms, which were mighty shapely, though black. In faith, the wench, had
she but possessed roses and lilies for her painting, instead of that
duskiness as of the cheek of midnight, had been a beauty such as was
seldom seen. Her dark face was instinct with mirth and jollity, and,
withal, a fierce spark in the whitening roll of her eyes under her
flame-coloured turban made one think of a tiger-cat, and roused that
knowledge of danger which adds a tingle to interest. A man could scarce
take his eyes from her. though there were other women there and not
uncomely ones. Another black wench there was, clad as gayly, but sunk
in a languorous calm like a great cat, with Nick Barry, now his song
was done, lolling against her, and two white women, one young and well
favoured, and the other harshly handsome, both with their husbands
present, and I doubt not decent women enough, though something violent
of temper. As I entered, Mistress Allgood, one of them, begun a
harangue at the top of a shrill voice, with her husband plucking vainly
at her sleeve to temper her vehemence. Mistress Allgood was long and
lean, and gaunt, with red fires in the hollows of her cheeks and a
compelling flash of black eyes under straight frowning brows.
"Gentlemen," said she?"be quiet, John Allgood, my speech I will have,
since thou being a man hath not the tongue of one. I pray ye, gentlemen
listen to my cause of complaint. Here my goodman and me did come to
this oppressed colony of Virginia, seven years since, having together
laid by fifty pound from the earnings of an inn called the Jolly Yeoman
in Norfolkshire, in which for many years we had run long scores with
little return, and we bought a small portion of land and planted
tobacco, and set out trees. Then came the terror of the Indians, and
Governor Berkeley, always in wait for the word of the king, and doing
nothing, and once was our house burned, and we escaped barely with our
lives, and then came Nat Bacon, and blessings upon him, for he made the
beginning of a good work. And then did the soldiers riding to meet him,
so trample down our tobacco fields with horse hoofs, that the leaves
lay in a green pumice, and that crop lost. And then this Navigation
Act, which I understand but little of except that it be to fill the
king's pockets and empty ours, has made our crops of no avail, since we
but sent the tobacco as a gift to the king, so little we have got in
return. And look, look!" she shrieked, "I pray ye look, and sure this
is the best I have, and me always going as well attired as any of my
station in England. I pray ye look! Sure 'tis past mending, and the
stitches and the cloth go together, as will the colony, unless somewhat
be done in season to mend its state." So saying, up she flung her arm,
and all the under side of the body of her gown was in rags, and up she
flung the other, and that was in like case.
Then the other woman, who was a strapping lass, and had been a
barmaid ere she came to Virginia in search of a husband, where she had
found one Richard Longman afraid not to do her bidding and wed her,
since he was as small and mild a man as ever was, joined in: "I say
with Mistress Allgood," she shrieked out, and flung her own buxom arms
aloft with such disclosures that a roar of laughter spread through the
hall, and her husband blushed purple, and a protest gurgled in his
throat. But at that his wife, who verily was a shrew, seized upon him
by both of his little shoulders, and shook him until his face wagged
like a rag baby with an utter limpness of helplessness, and shouted
out, amid peals of laughter that seemed to shake the roof, that here
was a pretty man, here forsooth was a pretty man. Here was her own
husband, who let his own lawful wife go clad in such wise and lifted
not a finger! Yes, lifted not a finger, and had to be dragged into the
present doings by the very hair of his head by his wife, and that was
not all. Yes, that was not all. Then, with that, up she flung one stout
foot, and lo, a great hole was in the heel of her stocking, and the
other, and then she flirted the hem of her petticoat into sight, and
that was all of a fringe with rags. "Look, look!" she shrieked out. "I
tell ye, Thomas Longman, I will have them look, and see to what a pass
that cursed Navigation Act and the selling of the tobacco for naught,
hath brought a decent woman. How long is it since I had a new petticoat
? How long, I pray ? Oh, Lord, had the men of this colony but the
spirit of the women! Had but brave Nat Bacon lived!" With that, this
woman, who had been perchance drinking too much beer for her head,
though she was well used to it, burst into a storm of tears, and sprang
to her feet, and cried out in a wild voice like a furious cat's: "Up
with ye, I say! And why do ye stop and parley? And why do ye wait for
my Lord Culpeper to sail ? I trow the women be not afraid of the
governor, if the men be! Up with ye, and this very night cut down the
young tobacco-plants, and cheat the king of England, who reigns but to
rob his subjects. Who cares for the Governor of Virginia? Who cares for
the king? Up with ye, I say!" With that she snatched a sword from a peg
on the wall and swung it in a circle of flame around her head, and what
with her glowing eyes and streaming black locks, and burning beauty of
cheeks, and cat-like shriek of voice, she was enough to have made the
governor, and even the king himself, quail, had he been there, and all
the time that mild husband of hers was plucking vainly at her gown. But
the men only shouted with laughter, and presently the woman, with a
savage glare at them, sank into her chair again, and Mistress Allgood
went up to her, and the two whispered with handsome, fiercely wagging
heads. Then entered another woman, after a clatter of horse's hoofs in
the drive, and she had a presence that compelled all the men except one
to their feet, though there was about her that foolishness which, in my
mind, doth always hamper the extreme of enthusiasm. This woman, Madam
Tabitha Story, was a widow of considerable property, owning a
plantation and slaves, and she had, as was well known, gone mad with
zeal in the cause of Nathaniel Bacon, and had furnished him with money,
and would herself have fought for him had she been allowed. But Bacon,
though no doubt with gratitude for her help, had, as I believe is the
usual case with brave men, when set about with adoring women, but
little liking for her. It was, in faith, a curious sight she presented
as she entered that hall of Barry Upper Branch with the men rising and
bowing low, and the other women eyeing her, half with defiant glares as
of respectability on the defence, and half with admiration and
comradeship, for she was to the far front in this rebellion as in the
other. Madam Story was a woman so tall that she exceeded the height of
many a man, and she was clad in black, and crowned with a great hat
feathered with sable like a hearse, and her skin was of a whiteness
more dazzling against the black than any colour. Her face had been
handsome had it not been so elongated and strained out of its proper
lines of beauty, and her forehead was of a wonderful height, a smooth
expanse between bunches of black curls, and in the midst was set that
curious patch which she had worn ever since Bacon's untimely death, it
being, as I live, nothing more nor less than a mourning coach and four
horses, cut so cunningly out of black paper that it was a marvel of
She stared with scorn at the one black woman approaching her with
the silver tray, then she turned and stared at Nick Barry, sitting half
overcome with drink, lolling against the other. He cast a look of utter
sheepishness at her, and then straightened himself, and rose like the
other men, and Dick Barry motioned to both of the black women to
withdraw, which they did, slinking out darkly, both with a fine rustle
of silks. Then Madam Story saluted the other women, though somewhat
stiffly, and Dick Barry, who was never lacking in a certain gloomy
dignity, though they said him to be the worse of the two brothers,
stepped forward. "Madam," he said, "I pray you to be seated." With that
he led her with a courtly air to a great carved chair, in which his
father had been used to sit, and she therein, somewhat mollified, her
black length doubled on itself, and that mourning coach on her forehead
was a wonderful sight.
Then arrived Major Robert Beverly and an other notable man, one of
the burgesses, whose name I do to this day conceal, in consequence of a
vow to that effect, and then two more. Then Major Beverly, who was in
fact running greater risks than almost any, inasmuch as he was Clerk of
the Assembly, and was betraying more of trust, after he had saluted
Madam Story conferred privately with Dick Barry, and my Lord Estes, and
Parson Downs, with this effect. Dick Barry, with such a show of
gallantry and seriousness as never was, prevailed upon the three ladies
to forgive him his discourtesy, but hinted broadly that in an
enterprise fraught with so much danger, it were best that none but the
ruder sex should confer together, and they departed; Mistress Longman
enjoining upon her husband to remain and deport himself like a man of
spirit, and Mistress Allgood whispering with a sharp hiss into her
goodman's alarmed ear, he nodding the while in token of assent.
But Madam Tabitha Story paused on the threshold ere she departed,
standing back on her heels with a marvellous dignity, and waving one
long, black-draped arm. "Gentlemen of Virginia," said she, in a voice
of such solemnity as I had never heard excelled, "I beseech you to
remember the example which that hero who has departed set you. I
beseech you to form your proceedings after the fashion of those of the
immortal Bacon, and remember that if the time comes when a woman's arm
is needed to strike for freedom, here is one at your service, while the
heart which moves it beats true to liberty and the great dead!"
Nick Barry was chuckling in a maudlin fashion when the door closed
behind her, and Parson Downs' great face was curving upward with smiles
like a wet new moon, but the rest were sober enough in spite of some
over-indulgence, for in truth it was a grave matter which they had met
to decide, and might mean the loss of life and liberty to one and all.
Major Robert Beverly turned sharply upon me as soon as the women
were gone, and accosted me civilly enough, though the memory of my
convict estate was in his tone. "Master Wingfield," said he, "may I
inquire?" "Sir," I replied, for I had so made up my mind, "I am with
you in the cause, and will so swear, if my oath be considered of
I know not how proudly and bitterly I said that last, but Major
Beverly looked at me, and a kindly look came into his eyes. "Master
Wingfield," he said, "the word of any English gentleman is sufficient,"
and I could have blessed him for it, and have ever since had remorse
for my taking advantage of his dark closet of an old love for the
hiding of the secret of the ammunition.
Then as we sat there, in a blue cloud of tobacco-smoke, through
which the green bayberry candles gleamed faintly, and which they could
not overcome with their aromatic breath of burning, the plot for the
rooting up of the young crop was discussed in all its bearings.
I wondered somewhat to see Major Beverly, and still others of the
burgesses who presently arrived, placing their lives in jeopardy with
men of such standing as some present. But a common cause makes common
confidence, and it might well have been, hang one, hang all. Major
Robert Beverly spoke at some length, and his speech was, according to
my mind, both wise and discreet, though probably somewhat inflamed by
his own circumstances. The greatest store of tobacco of any one in the
colony had Major Robert Beverly, and a fair young wife who loved that
which the proceeds could buy. And as he spoke there was a great uproar
outside, and the tramp of horses and jingle of swords and spurs, and a
whole troop of horse came riding into the grounds of Barry Upper
Branch. And some of those in the hall turned pale and looked about for
an exit, and some grasped their swords, and some laughed knowingly, and
Major Beverly strode to the door, and behind him Parson Downs, and
Capt. Noel Jaynes, and the Barry brothers, and some others, and I,
pressing close, and there was a half-whispered conference between Major
Beverly and the leader of the horse.
Then Major Beverly turned to us. "Gentlemen," he said, "I am
assured that in case of a rising we have naught to fear from the
militia, who are in like case with the other sufferers from the
proceedings of the government, being about to be disbanded in arrears
of their pay. Gentlemen, I am assured by Capt. Thomas Marvyn that his
men are with us in heart and purpose, and though they may not help,
unless the worse come to the worse, they will not hinder."
Then such a cheer went up from the conspirators in the hall of
Barry Upper Branch, and the troop of horse outside, as it seemed, might
have been heard across the sea which divided us from that tyranny which
ruled us, and Nick Barry shouted to some of his black slaves, and
presently every man of the soldiers was drinking cider made from the
apples of Virginia, and with it, treason to the king and success to the
I had not formed my plan of taking part in the coming insurrection
without many misgivings lest I should by so doing bring harm upon the
Cavendishes. But on discussing the matter in all its bearings with
Major Robert Beverly, whom I had ever held to be a man of judgment, he
assured me that in his opinion there could no possible ill result come
to such a household of women, especially when the head of it was of
such openly-avowed royalist leanings. Unless, indeed, he admitted, the
bringing over of the arms and the powder was to be traced to Mistress
Mary Cavendish. This he said, not knowing the secret of his first
wife's tomb, and I feeling, as indeed I was, an arch deceiver. But what
other course is left open to any man, when he can shield the one he
loves best in the whole world only at the expense of some one else? Can
he do otherwise but let the other suffer, and even forfeit his sense of
plain dealing? I have lived to be an old man, and verily nothing hath
so grown in the light of my experience as the impossibility of serving
love except at a loss, not only to others, but to oneself. But that
truth of the greatest importance in the whole world hath also grown
upon me, that love should be served at whatever cost. I cared not then,
and I care not now, who suffered and who was wronged, if only that
beloved one was saved.
I went home that night from Barry Upper Branch riding a horse which
Dick Barry lent me, on learning that I had come thither without one,
though not in what mad fashion, and Sir Humphrey rode with me until our
roads parted. Much gaming was there that night after we left; we
leaving the Barrys and my Lord Estes and Drake and Captain Jaynes and
many others intent upon the dice, but Humphrey and I did not linger, I
having naught to stake, and he having promised his mother not to play.
"Sometimes I wish that I had not so promised my mother," he said,
looking back at me over his great boyish shoulder as he rode ahead,
"for sometimes I think 'tis part of the estate of a man to put up
stakes at cards, and to win or lose as beseems a gentleman of Virginia
and a cavalier. But, sure, Harry, a promise to a man's mother is not to
be broke lightly, and indeed she doth ask me every night when I return
late, and I shall see her face at the window when I ride in sight of
the great house; but faith, Harry, I would love to win in something, if
not in hearts, in a throw of the dice. For sure I am a man grown, and
have never had my own will in aught that lies near my heart."
With that he gave a great sigh, and I striving to cheer him, and
indeed loving the lad, replied that he was but young, and there was
still time ahead, and the will of one's heart required often but a
short corner of turning. But he was angry again at me for that, and
cried out I knew not for all I was loved in return, the heart of a
certain maid as well as he who was despised, and spurred his horse and
rode on ahead, and when we had come to the division of the road,
saluted me shortly, and was gone, and the sound of his galloping died
away in the distance, and I rode home alone meditating.
And when I reached Drake Hill a white curtain fluttered athwart a
window, and I caught a gleam of a white arm pulling it to place, and
knew that Mistress Mary had been watching for me?I can not say with
what rapture and triumph and misgivings.
It was well toward morning, and indeed a faint pallor of dawn was
in the east, and now and then a bird was waking. Not a slave on the
plantation was astir, and the sounds of slumber were coming from the
quarters. So I myself put my borrowed horse in stable, and then was
seeking my own room, when, passing through the hall, a white figure
started forth from a shadow and caught me by the arm, and it was
Catherine Cavendish. She urged me forth to the porch, I being
bewildered and knowing not how, nor indeed if it were wise, to resist
her. But when we stood together there, in that hush of slumber only
broken now and then by the waking love of a bird, and it seemed verily
as if we two were alone in the whole world, a sense of the situation
flashed upon me. I turned on my heel to reenter the house. "Madam," I
said, "this will never do. If you remain here with me, your
"What think you I care for my reputation?" she whispered. "What
think you ? Harry Wingfield, you cannot do this monstrous thing. You
cannot be so lost to all honour as to let my sister?You cannot, and you
Then, indeed, for the first time in my life and the last I answered
a woman as if she were a man, and on an equal footing of antagonism
with me. "Madam," I replied, "I will maintain my honour against your
own." But she seemed to make no account of what I said. Indeed I have
often wondered whether a woman, when she is in pursuit of any given
end, can progress by other methods than an ant, which hath no power of
circuitousness, and will climb over a tree with long labour and pain
rather than skirt it, if it come in her way. Straight at her purpose
she went. "Harry, Harry," she said, still in that sharp whisper, "you
will not, you cannot?she is but a child."
Before I could reply, out ran Mary Cavendish herself, and was close
at my side, turning an angry face upon her sister.
"Catherine," she cried out, "how dare you? I am no child. Think you
that I do not know my own mind ? How dare you ? You shall not come
between Harry and me! I am his before the whole world. I will not have
Then Catherine Cavendish, awakening such bewilderment and dismay in
me as I had never felt, looked at her sister, and said in a voice which
I can hear yet: "Have thy way then, sister; but 'tis over thy own
"What mean you ?" Mary asked breathlessly.
"I love him!" said Catherine.
I felt the hot blood mount to my head, and I knew what shame was. I
turned to retreat. I knew not what to do, but Mary's voice stopped me.
It rang out clear and pitiless, with that pitilessness of a great love.
"And what is that to me, Catherine?" she cried out. "Sure it is but
to thy shame if thou hast loved unsought and confessed unasked. And if
I had ten thousand sisters, and they all in love with him, as well they
might be, for there is no one like him in the whole world, over all
their hearts would I go, rather than he should miss me for but a
second, if he loved me. Think you that aught like that can make a
difference? Think you that one heart can outweigh two, and the misery
of one be of any account before that of three ?"
Then suddenly she looked sharply at her sister and cried out
"Catherine Cavendish, I know what this means. 'Tis but another
device to part us. You love him not. You have hated him from the first.
You have hated him, and he is no more guilty than you be. 'Tis but a
trick to turn me from him. Fie, think you that will avail ? Think you
that a sister's heart counts with a maid before her lover's? Little you
know of love and lovers to think that."
Then to my great astonishment, since I had never seen such weakness
in her before, Catherine flung up her hands before her face and burst
into such a storm of wild weeping as never was, and fled into the
house, and Mary and I stood alone together, but only for a second, for
Mary, also casting a glance at me, then about her at the utter
loneliness and silence of the world, fled in her turn. Then I went to
my room, but not to sleep nor to think altogether of love, for my Lord
Culpeper was to sail that day, and the next night was appointed for the
beginning of the plant cutting.
I know not if my Lord Culpeper had any inkling of what was about to
happen. Some were there who always considered him to be one who
feathered his own nest with as little risk as might be, regardless of
those over and under him, and one who saw when it behooved him to do
so, and was blind when it served his own ends, even with the glare of a
happening in his eyes. And many considered that he was in England when
it seemed for his own best good without regard to the king or the
colony, but that matters not, at this date. In truth his was a ticklish
position, between two fires. If he remained in Virginia it was at great
danger to himself, if he sided not with the insurgents; and on the
other hand there was the certainty of his losing his governorship and
his lands, and perhaps his head, if he went to tobacco-cutting with the
rest of us. He was without doubt better off on the high sea, which is a
sort of neutral place of nature, beyond the reach for the time, of mobs
or sceptres, unless one falls in with a black flag. At all events, off
sailed my Lord Culpeper, leaving Sir Henry Chichely as
Lieutenant-Governor, and verily he might as well have left a
weather-cock as that well-intentioned but pliable gentleman. Give him
but a head wind over him and he would wax fierce to order, and well he
served the government in the Bacon uprising, but leave him to his own
will and back and forth he swung with great bluster but no stability.
None of the colony, least of all the militia, stood in awe of Sir Henry
Chichely, nor regarded him as more than a figure-head of authority when
my Lord Culpeper had set sail.
The morning of the day after the sailing, the people of Jamestown
whom one happened to meet on the road had a strange expression of
countenance, and I doubt not that a man skilled in such matters could
have read as truly the signs of an eruption of those forces of human
passion in the hearts of men, as of an earthquake by the belching forth
of smoke and fire from the mouth of a volcano. Everybody looked at his
neighbour with either a glare of doubt and wariness, or with covert
understanding, and some there were who had a pale seriousness of
demeanour from having a full comprehension of the situation and of what
might come of it, though not in the least drawing back on that account,
and some were all flushed and glowing with eagerness and laughing from
sheer delight in danger and daring, and some were like stolid beasts of
the field watching the eye of a master, ready at its wink to leap forth
to the strain of labour or fury. Many of these last were of our English
labourers, whom I held in some sort of pity, and doubt as to whether it
were just and merciful to draw them into such a stew kettle, for in
truth many of them had not a pound of tobacco to lose by the Navigation
Act, and no more interest in the uprising than had the muskets stacked
in Major Robert Beverly's first wife's tomb. Yet, I pray, what can men
do without tools, and have not tools some glory of their own which we
take small account of, and yet which may be a recompense to them ?
Nevertheless, I saw with some misgivings these honest fellows
plodding their ways, ready to leap to their deaths maybe at the word of
command, when it did not concern their own interests in the least, and
especially when they had not that order of mind which enables a man to
have a delight in glory and in serving those broad ends of humanity
which include a man to his own loss.
Early that morning the news spread that Colonel Kemp of the
Gloucester militia and a troop of horse and foot had been sent secretly
against some plant-cutters in Gloucester County who had arisen before
us, and had taken prisoners some twenty-two caught in the act. The news
of the sending came first, I think, from Major Robert Beverly, the
Clerk of the Assembly, who had withheld the knowledge for some time,
inasmuch as he disliked the savour of treachery, but being in his cups
that night before at Barry Upper Branch, out it came. 'Twas Dick Barry
who told me. I fell in with him and Captain Jaynes on the Jamestown
road that morning. "Colonel Kemp hath ridden against the rioters in
Gloucester with foot and horse, by order of the general court, and
Beverly hath been knowing to it all this time," he said gloomily. Then
added that a man who served on two sides had no strength for either,
and one who had raised his hand against Bacon had best been out of the
present cause. But Captain Jaynes swore with one of his broadsides of
mighty oaths that 'twas best as 'twas, since Beverly had some influence
over the militia, and that he was safe enough not to turn traitor with
his great store of tobacco at stake, and that should the court proceed
to extremes with the Gloucester plant-cutters, such a flame would leap
to life in Virginia as would choke England with the smoke of its
We knew no more than the fact of the sending, but that afternoon
came riding into Jamestown colonel Kemp with a small body of horse,
having left the rest and the foot in Gloucester, there to suppress
further disorder, and with him, bound to their saddles, some twenty-two
prisoners, glaring about them with defiant faces and covered with dust
and mire, and some with blood.
Something there was about that awful glow of red on face, on hand,
or soaking through homespun sleeve or waistcoat, that was like the
waving of a battle-flag or the call of a trumpet. Such a fury awoke in
us who looked on, as never was, and the prisoners had been then and
there torn from their horses and set free, had it not been for the
consideration that undue precipitation might ruin the main cause. But
the sight of human blood shed in a righteous cause is the spur of the
brave, and goads him to action beyond all else. Quite silent we kept
when that troop rode past us on their way to prison, though we were a
gathering crowd not only of some of the best of Virginia, but some of
her worst and most uncontrolled of indenture white slaves, and
convicts, but something there must have been in our looks which gave
heart to those who rode bound to their horses, for one and then another
turned and looked back at us, and I trow got some hope.
However, before the night fairly fell, twenty of the prisoners,
upon giving assurance of penitence, were discharged, and but two, the
ringleaders, were committed and were in the prison. The twenty-two,
being somewhat craven-hearted, and some of them indisposed by wounds,
were on their ways homeward when we were afield.
We waited for the moon to be up, which was an hour later that
night. I was all equipped in good season, and was stealing forth
secretly, lest any see me, for I wished not to alarm the household, nor
if possible to have any one aware of what I was about to do, that they
might be acquit of blame through ignorance, when I was met in the
threshold of an unused door by Mary Cavendish. And here will I say,
while marvelling at it greatly, that the excitement of a great cause,
which calls for all the enthusiasm and bravery of a man, cloth, while
it not for one moment alters the truth and constancy of his love, yet
allay for the time his selfish thirst for it. While I was ready as ever
to die for Mary Cavendish, and while the thought of her was as ever in
my inmost soul, yet that effervescence of warlike spirit within me had
rendered me not forgetful, but somewhat unwatchful of a word and a look
of hers. And for the time being that sad question of our estates, which
forbade more than our loves, had seemed to pale in importance before
this matter of maybe the rising or falling of a new empire. Heart and
soul was I in this cause, and gave myself the rein as I had longed to
do for the cause of Nathaniel Bacon.
But Mary met me at the northern door, which opened directly on a
locust thicket and was little used, and stood before me with her
beautiful face as white as a lily but a brave light in her eyes. "Where
go you, Harry?" she whispered.
Then I, not knowing her fully, and fearing lest I disquiet her,
answered evasively somewhat about hunting and Sir Humphrey. Some reply
of that tenor was necessary, as I was, beside my knife for the tobacco
cutting, armed to the teeth and booted to my middle. But there was no
deceiving Mary Cavendish. She seized both my hands, and I trow for the
minute, in that brave maiden soul of hers, the selfishness of our love
passed as well as with me.
"I pray thee, Harry, cut down the tobacco on Laurel Creek first,"
she whispered, "as I would, were I a man. Oh! I would I were a man!
Harry, promise me that thou wilt cut down first the tobacco on my
plantation of Laurel Creek."
But I had made up my mind to touch neither that nor the tobacco on
Drake Hill, lest in some way the women of the Cavendish family be
"There be enough, and more than enough, for to-night," I answered,
and would have passed, but she would not let me.
"Harry," she cried, so loud that I feared for listening ears, "if
you cut not down my tobacco, then will I myself! Harry, promise me!"
No love nor fear for me was in her eyes as she looked at me, only
that enthusiasm for the cause of liberty, and I loved her better for
it, if that could be. A man or woman who is but a bond slave to love
and incapable of aught but the longing for it, is but a poor lover.
"I tell thee, Harry, cut down the plants on Laurel Creek!" she
cried again, and I answered to appease her, not daring violent
contradiction lest I rouse her to some desperate act, this wild, young
maid with Nathaniel Bacon's hair in the locket against her heart, and
as fiery blood as his in her veins, that it should come in good time,
but that I was under the leadership of others and not my own.
"Then as soon as may be, Harry," she persisted, "for sure I should
die of shame were my plants standing and the others cut, and Harry,
sure it could not be at all, were it not for my fine gowns which the
'Golden Horn' brought over from England!"
With that she laughed, and stood aside to let me pass, but
suddenly, as I touched her in the narrow way, her mood changed, and the
woman in her came uppermost, though not to her shaking. But she caught
hold of my right arm with her two little hands and pressed her fair
cheek against my shoulder with that modest boldness of a maid when she
is assured of love, and whispered: "Harry, if the militia is ordered
out they say they will not fire, but?if thou be wounded, Harry, 'tis I
will nurse thee, and no other, and?Harry, cut all the plants that thou
art able, before they come."
Then she let me go, and I went forth thinking that here was a
helpmeet for a soldier in such times as these, and how I gloried in her
because she held her love as one with glory. Round to the stable for my
horse I stole, and it was very dark, with a soft smother of darkness
because of a heavy mist, and the moon not up, and I had backed my horse
out of his stall and was about to mount him, before I was aware of a
dark figure lurking in shadow, and made out by the long sweep of the
garments that it was a woman. I paused, and looked intently into the
shadow, where she stood so silently that she might have deceived me had
it not been for a flutter of her cloak in a stray wind.
"Who goes there?" I called out softly, but I knew well enough. 'Tis
sometimes a stain on a man's manhood, the hatred he can bear to a woman
who is continually between him and his will, and his keen apprehension
of her as a sort of a cat under cover beside his path. So I knew well
enough it was Catherine Cavendish, and indeed I marvelled that I had
gotten thus far without meeting her. She stepped forward with no more
ado when I accosted her, and spoke, but with great caution.
"What do you, Master Wingfield ?" she whispered. "I go on my own
business, an it please you, Madam," I answered something curtly, and I
have since shamed myself with the memory of it, for she was a woman.
"It pleases me not, nor my grandmother, that one of her household
should go forth on any errand of mystery at such a time as this, when
whispers have reached us of another insurrection," she replied. "Master
Wingfield, I demand to know, in the name of my Grandmother Cavendish,
the purpose of your riding forth in such fashion ?"
"And that, Madam, I refuse to tell you," I replied, bowing low.
"You presume too greatly on your privileges," she burst out. "You think
because my grandmother holds you in such strange favour that she seems
to forget, to forget?"
"That I am a convict, Madam," I finished for her, with another low
"Finish it as you will, Master Wingfield," she said haughtily, "but
you think wrongly that she will countenance treason to the king in her
own household, and 'tis treason that is brewing tonight."
"Madam," I whispered, "if you love your grandmother and value her
safety, you will remain in ignorance of this."
Then she caught me by the arm, with such a nervous ardour that
never would I have known her for the Catherine Cavendish of late years.
"My God, Harry, you shall not go," she whispered. "I say you shall
not! I?I?will go to my grandmother. I will have the militia out. Harry,
I say you shall not go!"
But then my blood was up. "Madam," I said, "go I shall, and if you
acquaint your grandmother, 'twill be to her possible undoing, and yours
and your sister's, since the having one of the rioters in your own
household will lay you open to suspicion. Then besides, your sister's
bringing over of the arms may be traced to her if the matter be
Then truly the feminine soul of this woman leapt to the surface
with no more ado.
"Oh, my God, Harry !" she cried out. "I care not for my
grandmother, nor my sister, nor the king, nor Nathaniel Bacon, nor
aught, nor aught?I fear, I fear?Oh, I fear lest thou be killed, Harry!"
"Lest my dead body be brought home to thy door, and the accusation
of having furnished a traitor to the king be laid to thee, Madam?" I
said, for not one whit believed I in her love for me. But she only
sobbed in a distracted fashion.
"Fear not, Madam," I said, "if the militia be out, and I fall, it
will go hard that I die before I have time to forswear myself yet again
for the sake of thy family. But, I pray thee, keep to thyself for the
sake of all."
With that I was in my saddle and rode away, for I had lingered, I
feared, too long, and as God is my witness I had no faith that
Catherine Cavendish did more than assume such interest in me for her
own ends, for love, as I conceived it, was not thus.
I hastened on my way to Barry Upper Branch, where was the
rendezvous, and on my way had to pass the house where dwelt that woman
of strange repute, Margery Key, and it was naught but a solidity of
shadow beside the road except for a glimmer of white from the breast of
her cat in the doorway. But as I live, as I rode past, a voice came
from that house, though how she knew me in that gloom I know not.
"Good speed to thee, Master Wingfield, and the fagots that thou
didst gather for the despised and poor shall turn into blessings, like
bars of silver. That which thou hast given, hast thou forever. Go on
and fear not, and strike for liberty, and no harm shall come nigh
thee." As she spoke I saw the bent back of the poor old crone in the
doorway beside her cat, and partly because of her blessing, and partly
because, as I said before, whether witch or not, she was aged and
feeble, and ill fitted for such work, I leapt from my saddle and
gathered her another armful of fagots, and laid them on her hearth. I
left the old soul shedding such tears of gratitude over that slight
service and calling down such childish blessings upon my head that I
began to have little doubt that she was no witch, but only a poor and
solitary old woman, which to my mind is the forlornest state of
humanity. How a man fares without those of his own flesh and blood I
can understand, since a man must needs have some comfort in his own
endurance of hardships, but what a woman can do without chick or child,
and no solace in her own dependency, I know not. Verily I know not that
such be to blame if they turn to Satan himself for a protector, as they
suspected Margery Key of doing.
I rode away from Margery Key's, having been delayed but a moment,
and the quaver of her blessings was yet in my ears, when verily I did
see that which I have never understood. As I live, there passed from
the house of that ne'er-do-well next door, which was closed tightly as
if to assure folk that all therein were sound asleep, a bright light
like a torch, but no man carried it, and it crossed the road and was
away over the meadows, and no man whom I saw carried it, and it waved
in the wind like a torch streaming back, and I knew it for a corpse
candle. And that same night the man who dwelt in that house was slain
while pulling up the tobacco plants.
I rode fast, marvelling a little upon this strange sight, yet,
though marvelling, not afraid, for things that I understand not, and
that seem to savour of something outside the flesh, have always rather
aroused me to rage as of one who was approached by other than the given
rules of warfare rather than fear. I have always argued that an
apparition should attack only his own kind, and hath no right to leave
his own battlefield for ours, when we be at a disadvantage by our lack
of understanding as to weapons. So if I had time I would have ridden
after that corpse candle and gotten, if I could, a sight of the bearer
had he been fiend or spook, but I knew that I had none to lose. So I
rode on hard to Barry Upper Branch.
There was an air of mystery about the whole place that night,
though it were hard to see the use of it. Whereas, generally speaking,
there was a broad blazon of light from all the windows often to the
revealing of strange sights within, the shutters were closed, and only
by the lines of gold at top and bottom would one have known the house
was lit at all. And whereas there were always to be seen horses
standing openly before the porch, this night one knew there were any
about only by the sound of their distant stamping. And yet this was the
night when all mystery of plotting was to be resolved into the wind of
I entered and found a great company assembled in the hall, and all
equipped with knives for the cutting of the tobacco plants, and arms,
for the militia, as was afterwards proved, was an uncertain quantity.
One minute the soldiers were for the government, when the promises as
to their pay were specious, and the next, when the pay was not
forthcoming, for the rioters, and there was no stability either for the
one cause or the other in them.
There was a hushed greeting from one or two who stood nearest?Sir
Humphrey Hyde among them?as I entered, then the work went on. Major
Robert Beverly it was who was taking the lead of matters, though it was
not fully known then or afterward, but sure it can do no harm at this
late date to divulge the truth, for it was a glorious cause, and to the
credit of a man's honour, if not to his purse, and his standing with
Major Beverly stood at the head of the hall with a roll of
parchment in his hand, wherefrom he read the names of those present,
whom he was dividing into parties for the purpose of the plant-cutting,
esteeming that the best plan to pursue rather than to march out openly
in a great mob. Thus the whole company there assembled was divided into
small parties, and each put under a leader, who was to give directions
as to the commencement of the work of destruction.
My party was headed by Capt. Noel Jaynes, something to my
discontent, for the hardest luck of choosing in the world to my mind is
that of choosing a leader, for the leader is in himself a very
gall-stone. Never had it pleased me to follow any man's bidding, and in
one way only could I comfort myself and retain my respect of self, and
that was by the consideration that I followed by my own will, and so in
one sense led myself.
When at last we set forth, some of us riding, and some on foot,
with that old pirate captain to the front hunched to his saddle, for he
never could sit a horse like a landsman, but clung to him as if he were
a swaying mast, and worked his bridle like a wheel with the result of
heavy lunges to right or left, I felt for the first time since I had
come to Virginia like my old self.
We hurried along the moonlit road, then struck into a bridle-path,
being bound for Major Robert Beverly's plantation, he being supposed to
know naught of it, and indeed after his issuing of orders he had ridden
to Jamestown, to see Sir Henry Chichely, and keep him quiet with a game
at piquet, which he much affected.
As we rode along in silence, if any man spoke, Captain Jaynes
quieted him with a great oath smothered in his chest, as if by a bed of
feathers, and presently I became aware that there were more of us than
when we started. We swarmed through the woods, our company being
swelled invisibly from every side, and not only men but women were
there. Both Mistress Allgood and Mistress Longman were pressing on with
their petticoats tucked up, and to my great surprise both of the black
women who lived at Barry Upper Branch. They slunk along far to the
rear, with knives gleaming like white fire at their girdles, keeping
well out of sight of the Barry brothers, who were both of our party,
and looking for all the world like two female tigers of some savage
jungle in search of prey, since both moved with a curious powerful
crouch of secrecy as to her back and hips, and wary roll of fierce
When we were fairly in the open of Major Beverly's plantation some
few torches were lit, and then I saw that we were indeed a good hundred
strong, and of the party were that old graybeard who had played Maid
Marion on Mayday, and many of the Morris dancers, and those lusty lads
and lasses, and they had been at the cider this time as at the other,
but all had their wits at their service.
Not a light was in Major Beverly's great house, not a stir in the
slave quarters. One would have sworn they were all asleep or dead. But
Captain Jaynes called a halt, and divided us into rank and file like a
company of reapers, and to work we went on the great tobacco fields.
I trow it seemed a shame, as it ever does, to invoke that terrible
force of the world which man controls, whether to his liberty or his
slavery 'tis the question, and bring destruction upon all that fair
inflorescence of life. But sometimes death and destruction are the
means to life and immortality. Those great fields of Major Robert
Beverly's lay before us in the full moonlight, overlapping with the
lusty breadth of the new leaves gleaming with silver dew, and upon them
we fell. We hacked and cut, we tore up by the roots. In a trice we were
bedlam loosened?that is, the ruder part of us. Some of us worked with
no less fury, but still with some sense of our own dignity as
destroyers over destruction. But the rabble who had swelled our ranks
were all on fire with rage, and wasted themselves as well as the
tobacco. They filled the air with shouts and wild screams and peals of
laughter. That fiercest joy of the world, the joy of destruction, was
upon them, and sure it must have been one of the chiefest of the joys
of primitive man, for all in a second it was as if the centuries of
civilisation and Christianity had gone for naught, and the great gulf
which lies back of us to the past had been leapt. One had doubted it
not, had he seen those old men tearing up the tobacco plants, their
mouths dribbling with a slow mutter of curses, for they had drunk much
cider, and being aged, and none too well fed, it had more hold on them
than on some of the others; and to see the women lost to all sense of
decency, with their petticoats girded high on account of the dew,
striding among the plants with high flings of stalwart legs, then
slashing right and left with an uncertainty of fury which threatened
not only themselves but their neighbours as well as the tobacco, and
shrieking now and then, regardless of who might hear, "Down with the
Often one cut a finger, but went on with blood flowing, and their
hair begun to fly loose, and they smeared their faces with their cut
hands, and as for the two black women, they pounced upon those green
plants with fierce swashes of their gleaming knives, and though they
could have sensed little about the true reason for it all, worked with
a fury of savagery which needed no motive only its first impetus of
Captain Jaynes rode hither and thither striving to keep the mob in
order, and enjoining silence upon them, and now and then lashing out
with his long riding whip, but he had set forces in motion which he
could not stop. Fire and flood and wind and the passions of men,
whether for love or rage, are beyond the leading of them who invoke
them, being the instruments of the gods.
Sir Humphrey Hyde, who was beside me, slashing away at the plants,
whispered: "My God, Harry, how far will this fire which we have kindled
spread?" but not in fear so much as amazement.
And I, bringing down a great ring of the green leaves, replied, and
felt as I spoke as if some other than I had my tongue and my voice:
"Maybe in the end, before it hath quite died out, to the destroying
of tyranny and monarchy, and the clearing of the fields for a new
government of equality and freedom."
But Sir Humphrey stared at me.
"Sure," he said, "it can do no more than to force the king to see
that his colony hath grown from infancy to manhood, and hath an arm to
be respected, and compel him to repeal the Navigation Act. What else,
Then I, speaking again as if some other moved my tongue, replied
that none could say what matter a little fire kindleth, but those that
came after us might know the result of that which we that night begun.
But Sir Humphrey shook his head.
"If but Nat Bacon were alive!" he sighed. "No leader have we,
Harry. Oh, Harry, if thou wert not a convict! Captain Jaynes is sure
out of his element in defending the rights of the oppressed, and should
be on his own quarter-deck with his cutlass in hand and his
rapscallions around him, slaying and robbing, to be in full feather.
Naught can he do here. Lord, hear those women shriek! Why did they let
women come hither, Harry ? Sure Nick Barry is in his cups. Not thus
would matters have been were Bacon alive. The women would have been at
home in their beds, and no man in liquor at work, for I trust not the
militia. Would Captain Bacon were alive, as he would have been, had he
not been foully done to death."
This he said believing, as did many, that Bacon's death was due to
treachery and not fever, nor, as many of his enemies affirmed, from
over-indulgence in strong spirits, and I must say that I, remembering
Bacon's greatness of enthusiasm and fixedness of purpose, was of the
As he spoke I seemed to see that dead hero as he would have looked
in our midst with the moonlight shining on the stern whiteness of his
face, and that look of high command in his eyes which none dared
gainsay. And I answered again and again, as with an impulse not my own,
"And maybe Bacon in truth leads us still, if not by his own chosen
ways, to his own ends."
"Truly, Harry," Sir Humphrey agreed, "had it not been for Bacon, I
doubt if we had been at this night's work."
All the time we talked, we advanced in our slashing swath up the
field, and all the time that chorus of wild laughter and shrieks of
disloyalty kept time with the swash of the knives, and all the time
rose Captain Jaynes' storm of fruitless curses and commands, and now
and then the stinging lash of his riding whip, and also Dick Barry's.
As for Nick Barry, he lay overcome with sleep on a heap of the cut
And all the time not a light shone in any of Major Robert Beverly's
windows, and the slave quarters were as still as the tomb.
The store of ammunition in the tomb had been secretly removed and
portioned out to the plant-cutters at nightfall.
It was no slight task for even a hundred to cut such a wealth of
tobacco as Major Robert Beverly had planted, work as fast as they
might, and proceed over the fields in a fierce crawl of destruction,
like an army of locusts, and finally they begun to wax impatient. And
finally up rose that termagant, Mistress Longman, straightening her
back with a spring as if it were whalebone, showing us her face
shameless with rage, and stained green with tobacco juice, and here and
there red with blood, for she had slashed ruthlessly. She flung back
her coarse tangle of hair, threw up her arms with a wild hurrahing
motion, and screamed out in such a volume of shrillness that she
overcapped all the rest of the tumult:
"To the stables, to the stables ! Let out Major Beverly's horses,
and let them trample down the tobacco."
Then such a cry echoed her that I trow it might have proceeded from
a thousand throats instead of one hundred odd, and in spite of all that
Captain Jaynes could do, seconded by some few of us gentlemen who
rallied about him, but were helpless since we could not fire upon our
coadjutors, that mob swept into Beverly's stables, and presently out
leapt, plunging with terror, all his fine thoroughbreds, the mob riding
them about the fields in wild career. And one of the maddest of the
riders, sitting astride and flogging her steed with a locust branch,
was Mistress Longman, while her husband vainly fled after her,
beseeching her to stop, and those around were roaring with laughter.
Then some must let out the major's hogs, and they came rooting and
tumbling with unwieldy gambols. And with this wild troop of animals,
and the mob shrieking in a frenzy of delight, and now and then a woman
in terror before the onslaught of a galloping horse, and now and then a
whole group of cutters overset by a charging hog, and up and after him,
and slaying him, and his squeals of agony, verily I had preferred a
battlefield of a different sort. And all this time Major Robert
Beverly's house stood still in the moonlight, and not a noise from the
slave quarters, and the fields were all in a pumice of wasted plant
life, and we were about to go farther when I heard again the cry of the
little child coming from a chamber window. I trow they had given her
some quieting potion or she had broken silence before.
With all our efforts the mob could not be persuaded to return Major
Beverly's horses to his stables, which circumstance was afterward to
the saving of his neck, since it was argued that he would not have
abetted the using of his fine stud in such wise, some of the horses
being recovered and some being lamed and cut.
So out of the Beverly plantation we swept; those on horseback at a
gallop and those on foot tramping after, and above the tumult came that
farthest-reaching cry of the world?the cry of a little child frantic
Then they were for going to another large plantation belonging to
one Richard Forster, who had gone in Ralph Drake's party, when all of a
sudden the horses of us who were leading swerved aside, and there was
Mistress Mary Cavendish on her Merry Roger, and by her side, pulling
vainly at her bridle, her sister Catherine.
Mary Cavendish raised her voice high until it seemed to me like a
silver trumpet, and cried out with a wave of her white arm to them all:
"On to Laurel Creek, I pray you! Oh, I pray you, good people, on to
Laurel Creek, and cut down my tobacco for the sake of Virginia and the
honour of the Colony."
It needed but a puff of any wind of human will to send that fiery
mob leaping in a new direction. Straightway, they shouted with one
accord: "To Laurel Creek, to Laurel Creek! Down with the tobacco, down
with the governor, down with the king! To Laurel Creek!" and forged
ahead, turning to the left instead of the right, as had been ordered,
and Mary was swept along with them, and Catherine would have been
crushed, had not a horseman, whom I did not recognise, caught her up on
the saddle with him with a wonderful swing of a long, lithe arm, and
then galloped after, and as for myself and Captain Jaynes, and Sir
Humphrey, and others of the burgesses, whom I had best not call by
name, we went too, since we might as well have tried to hold the
current of the James River, as that headlong company.
But as soon as might be, I shouted out to Sir Humphrey above the
din that our first duty must be to save Mary and Catherine. And he
answered back in a hoarse shout, "Oh, for God's sake, ride fast, Harry,
for should the militia come, what would happen to them?"
But I needed no urging. I know not whom I rode down, I trust not
any, but I know not; I got before them all in some wise, Sir Humphrey
following close behind, and Ralph Drake also, swearing that he knew not
what possessed the jades to meddle in such matters, and shouting to the
rabble to stop, but he might as well have shouted to the wind. And by
that time there were more than a hundred of us, though whence they had
come, I know not.
We gentlemen kept together in some wise, and gradually gained on
Mary, who had had the start, and there were some seven of us, one of
the Barrys, Sir Humphrey Hyde, Ralph Drake, Parson Downs, in such guise
for a parson that no one would have known him, booted and spurred, and
riding harder than any by virtue of his best horse in the Colony,
myself, and two of the burgesses. We seven gaining on the rabble, in
spite of the fact that many of them were mounted upon Major Robert
Beverly's best horses, through their having less knowledge of
horsemanship, closed around Mary Cavendish on Merry Roger, clearing the
ground with long galloping bounds, and Catherine with the strange
horseman was somewhat behind.
As we came up with Mary, she looked at us over her shoulder with a
brightness of triumph and withal something of merriment, like a child
successful in mischief, and laughed, and waved her hand in which, as I
live, she held a sword which had long graced the hall at Drake Hill,
and I believe she meditated cutting the tobacco herself.
Then a great cheer went up for her, in which we, in spite of our
misgivings, joined. Something so wonderful and innocent there was in
the fresh enthusiasm of the maid. Then again her sweet voice rang out:
"Down with the tobacco, gentlemen of Virginia, and down with all
tyranny. Remember Nathaniel Bacon, remember Nathaniel Bacon!"
Then we all caught up that last cry of hers, and the air rang with
"Remember Nathaniel Bacon!"
But as soon as might be, I rode close enough to speak with Mary
Cavendish, and Sir Humphrey, who was on the other side, each with our
jealousy lost sight of, in our concern for her.
"Child, thou must turn and go home," I said, and I fear my voice
lost its firmness, for I was half mad with admiration, and love, and
apprehension for her.
Then Sir Humphrey echoed me.
"The militia will be upon us presently," he shouted in her ear
above the din. "Ride home as fast as you may."
She looked from one to the other of us, and laughed gayly and shook
her head, and her golden curls flew to the wind, and she touched Merry
Roger with her whip and he bounded ahead, and we had all we could do to
keep pace, he being fresh. Then Parson Downs pelted to her side and
besought her to turn, and so did Captain Jaynes, though he was half
laughing with delight at her spirit, and his bright eyes viewed her in
such wise that I could scarce keep my fingers from his throat. But Mary
Cavendish would hear to none, and no way there was of turning her, lest
we dragged her from her saddle.
Again I rode close and spoke so that no one beside her could hear.
"Go home, I pray you, if you love me," I said.
But she looked at me with a proud defiance, and such a spirit of a
man that I marvelled at her.
"'Tis no time to talk of love, sir," said she. "When a people
strike for liberty, they stop not for honey nor kisses."
Then she cried again, "Remember Nathaniel Bacon !" And again that
wild shout echoed her silver voice.
But then I spoke again, catching her bridle rein as I rode.
"Then go, if not because you love me, because I love thee," I said
close to her ear with her golden hair blowing athwart my face.
"I obey not the man who loves me, but the man who weds me, and that
you will not do, because you hold your pride dearer than love," said
"Nay, because I hold thee dearer than my love," said I.
"'Tis a false principle you act upon, and love is before all else,
even that which may harm it, and thou knowest not the heart of a woman
if thou dost love one, sir," said she. Then she gave a quick glance at
my face, so close to hers in the midst of that hurrying throng, and her
blue eyes gleamed into mine, and she said, with a bright blush over her
cheeks and forehead and neck, but proudly as if she defied even her
maiden shame in the cause of love, "But thou shalt yet know one,
Then, as if she had said too much, she pulled her bridle loose from
my detaining hand with a quick jerk, and touched her horse, and we were
on that hard gallop to Locust Creek.
Locust Creek was not a large plantation, but the fields of tobacco
were well set, and it was some task to cut them. Captain Jaynes essayed
to form the cutters into ranks, but with no avail, though he galloped
back and forth, shouting like a madman. Every man set to work for
himself, and it was again bedlam broke loose as at the other
plantation. Then indeed for the first time I saw Mary Cavendish shrink
a little, as if she were somewhat intimidated by the fire which she had
lighted, and she resisted not, when Sir Humphrey, and her Cousin Ralph
and I, urged her into the house. And as she entered, there was
Catherine, having been brought thither by that stranger who had
disappeared. And we shut the door upon both women, and then felt freer
in our minds. Capt. Noel Jaynes swore 'twas a jade fit to lead an army,
then inquired what in hell brought her thither, and why women were to
the front in all our Virginian wars, whether they wore white aprons or
As he spoke Ralph Drake shouted out with a great laugh, that maybe
'twas for the purpose of carrying the men, and pointed, and there was
one of the black wenches bringing Nick Barry, who else had fallen, upon
her back to the field. Then she set him down in the tobacco and gave
him a knife, and he went to cutting, having just enough wit to do that
for which his mind had been headed, and naught else.
The mob took a fancy to that new cry of Mary Cavendish's, and every
now and then the field rang with it. "Remember Nathaniel Bacon,
remember Nathaniel Bacon!" It had a curious effect, through starting in
a distant quarter, where some of the fiercest of the workers were
grouped, then coming nearer and nearer, till the whole field rang with
that wide overspread of human voice, above the juicy slashing of the
We had been at work some little time when a tall woman in black on
a black horse came up at a steady amble, her horse being old. She
dismounted near me and her horse went to nibbling the low-hanging
boughs of a locust nearby, and the moon shone full on her face, and I
saw she was the Widow Tabitha Story, with that curious patch on her
forehead. Down to the tobacco she bent and went to work stiffly with
unaccustomed hands to such work, and then again rang that cry of
"Remember Nathaniel Bacon !" And when she heard that, up she reared
herself, and raised such a shrill response of "Remember Nathaniel
Bacon!" in a high-sobbing voice, as I never heard.
And after that for a minute the field seemed to fairly howl with
that cry of following, and memory for the dead hero, always Madam
Tabitha Story's voice in the lead, shrieking over it like a cat's.
"Lord, have mercy on us," said Parson Downs at my elbow. "She will
have all England upon us, and wherefore could not the women have kept
out of this stew ?"
With that he went over to the widow and strove to quiet her, but
she only shrieked with more fury, with Mistresses Longman and Allgood
to aid her, and then?came in a mad rush upon us of horse and foot, the
militia, under Capt. Robert Waller.
I have seen the same effect when a stone was thrown into a boil of
river-rapids; an enhancement and marvellous entanglement of swiftness
and fury, and spread of broken circles, which confused the sight at the
time and the memory afterwards.
It was but a small body of horse and foot, which charged us whilst
we were cutting the tobacco on the plantation of Laurel Creek, but it
needed not a large one to put to rout a company so overbalanced by
enthusiasm, and cider, and that marvellous greed of destruction. No
more than seven gentlemen of us there were to make a stand, and not
more than some twenty-five of the rabble to be depended upon.
As for me, the principal thought in my mind when the militia burst
upon us, was the safety of Mary Cavendish. Straight to the door of the
great house I rushed, and Sir Humphrey Hyde was with me. As for the
other gentlemen, they were fighting here and there as they could,
Captain Jaynes making efforts to keep the main body of the defenders at
his back, but with little avail. I stood against the door of the house,
resolved upon but one course?that my dead body should be the threshold
over which they crossed to Mary Cavendish. It was but a pitiful
resolve, for what could I do single-handed, except for the boy Humphrey
Hyde, against so many. But it was all, and a man can but give his all.
I knew if the militia were to find Mary and Catherine Cavendish in that
house, grave harm might come to them, if indeed it came not already
without that. So I stood back against the door which I had previously
tried, and found fast, and Sir Humphrey was with me. Then came a hush
for a moment whilst the magistrate with Captain Waller, and others
sitting on their horses around him, read the Riot Act, and bade us all
disperse and repair to our homes, and verily I wonder, if ever there
hath been in all the history of England such a farce and mummery as
that same Riot Act, and if ever it were read with much effect when a
riot were well under way.
Scarcely time they gave the worthy man to finish, and indeed his
voice trembled as if he had the ague, and he seemed shrinking for
shelter under his big wig, but they drowned out his last words with
hisses, then there was a wild rush of the rabble and a cry of "Down
with the tobacco!" and "A Bacon, A Bacon!" Then the militia charged,
and there were the flashes of swords and partisans and the thunder of
I stood there, feeling like a deserter from the ranks, yet bound to
keep the door of Laurel Creek, and I had a pistol in either hand and so
had Sir Humphrey Hyde, but for a minute nobody seemed to heed us. Then
as I stood there, I felt the door behind me yield a bit and a hand was
thrust out, and a voice whispered, "Harry, Harry, come in hither; we
can hold the house against an army."
My heart leapt, for it was Mary, and, quicker than a flash, I had
my mind made up. I turned upon Sir Humphrey and thrust him in before he
knew it, through the opening of the door, and called out to him to bar
and bolt as best he could inside, while I held the door. He, whether he
would or not, was in the house, and seeing some of the soldiers riding
our way with Captain Waller at their head, was forced to clap to the
door, and shoot the bolts, but as he did so I heard a woman's shrill
cry of agony ring out.
I stood there, and Captain Waller rode up with his soldiers, and
flashing his sword before my face like a streak of fire, bade me
surrender in the name of his Majesty, and stand aside. But I stood
still with my two pistols levelled, and had him full within range.
Captain Waller was a young man, and a brave one, and never to my dying
day shall I forget that face which I had the power to still with death.
He looked into the muzzles of my two pistols, and his rosy colour never
wavered, and he shouted out again to me his command to surrender and
stand aside in the name of the King, and I stood still and made no
reply. I knew that I could take two lives and then struggle unarmed for
perhaps a moment's space, and that all the time saved might be precious
for those in the house. At all events, it was all that I could do for
I held my pistols and watched his eyes, knowing well that all
action through having its source in the brain of man, gives first
evidence in the eyes. Then the time came when I saw his impulse to
charge start in his eyes, and I fired, and he fell. Then I fired again,
but wildly, for everything was in motion, and I know not whom I hit, if
any one, then I felt my own right leg sink under me and I knew that I
was hit. Then down on my knees I sank and put one arm through the great
latch of the door, and thrust out with my knife with the free hand, and
stout arms were at my shoulders striving to drag me away, but they
might as well for a time have tried to drag a bar of steel from its
fastenings. I thrust out here and there, and I trow my steel drew
blood, and I suppose my own flowed, for presently I was kneeling in a
widening circle of red. I cut those forcing hands from my arm, and
others came. It was one against a multitude, for the rabble after
hitting wild blows as often at their friends as at their enemies had
broken and fled, except those who were taken prisoners. But the women
stayed until the last and fought like wild cats, with the exception of
Madam Tabitha Story, who quietly got upon her old horse, and ambled
away, and cut down her own tobacco until daybreak, pressing her slaves
As for the other gentlemen, they were fighting as best they could,
and all the time striving vainly to gather the mob into a firm body of
resistance. None of them saw the plight I was in, nor indeed could have
helped me had they done so, since there were but seven gentlemen of us
in all, and some by this time wounded, and one dead.
I knelt there upon the ground before the door, slashing out as best
I could with one hand, and they closed faster and thicker upon me, and
at last I could no more. I felt a stinging pain in my right shoulder,
and then for a minute my senses left me. But it was only for a moment.
When I came to myself I was lying bound with a soldier standing
guard over me, though there was small need of it, and they were raining
battering blows upon the door of Laurel Creek. Somehow they had
conceived the idea that there was something of great import therein, by
my mad and desperate defence. I know not what they thought, but
gradually all the militia were centred at that point striving to force
the door. As for the shutters, they were heavily barred, and offered no
easier entrance. Indeed the whole house had been strengthened for
defence against the Indians before the Bacon uprising, and was near as
strong as a fort. It would have been well had we all entered and
defended it, though we could not have held out for long, through not
At last Captain Jaynes and the other gentlemen begun to conceive
the situation and I caught sight of them forcing their way toward me,
and shouted to them with a failing voice, for I had lost much blood, to
come nearer and assist me to hold the door. Then I saw Captain Jaynes
sink in his saddle, and I caught a glimpse of a mighty retreat of
plunging haunches of Parson Downs' horse, and indeed the gist of the
blame for it all was afterward put upon the parson's great fiery horse,
which it was claimed had run away with him first into the fight, then
away from it, such foolish reasons do men love to give for the lapses
of the clergy.
As for me, I believe in coming out with the truth about the clergy
and laymen, and King and peasant, alike, whether it be Cain or King
David, or Parson Downs or his Majesty King Charles the Second.
However, to do the parson justice, he did not fly until he saw the
day was lost, and I trow did afterward better service to me than he
might have done by staying. As for the burgesses, I know not whither
nor when they had gone, for they had melted away like shadows, by
reason of the great obloquy which would have attached to them, should
men in their high office have been discovered in such work. Ralph Drake
was left, who made a push toward me with a hoarse shout, and then he
fell, though not severely wounded, and then the soldiers pressed
closer. And then I felt again the door yield at my back, and before I
knew it I was dragged inside, and, in spite of the pressure of the mob,
the door was pushed to with incredible swiftness by Humphrey Hyde's
great strength, and the bolt shot.
There I lay on the floor of the hall well-nigh spent, and Mary
Cavendish was chafing my hands, bandaging my wounds with some linen
got, I knew not whence, and Catherine was there, and all the time the
great battering blows upon the door were kept up, and also on the
window-shutters, and the door began to shake.
Then I remembered something. There was behind the house a creek
which was dry in midsummer, but often, as now, in springtime, swollen
with rains, and of sufficient depth and force to float a boat. And when
it was possible it had been the custom to send stores of tobacco for
lading on shipboard to England, by this short cut of the creek which
discharged itself into the river below, and there was for that purpose
a great boat in the cellar, and also a door and a little landing.
I, remembering this, whispered to Mary Cavendish with all the
strength which he could muster.
"For God's sake," I cried, "go you to the cellar, the boat, the
boat, the creek."
But Mary looked at me, and I can see her face now.
"Think you I did not know of that way ?" she said, "and think you I
would leave you here to die ? No, let them come in and do their worst."
Then I turned to Catherine and pleaded with her as well as I could
with those thundering blows upon the door, and I well-nigh fainting and
my blood flowing fast, and she did not answer at all but looked at me.
Then I turned to Sir Humphrey Hyde. "For God's sake, lad," I cried,
"if you love her, save her. Only a moment and they will be in here.
Hear the door tremble, and then 'twill be arrest and imprisonment,
and?I tell thee, lad, leave me, and save them."
"They can do as they choose," cried Mary. Then she turned to Sir
Humphrey. "Take Catherine, and she will show you the way out by the
creek," she said. "As for me, I remain here."
Catherine bent over me and tightened a bandage, but she did not
speak. Sir Humphrey looked at me palely and doubtfully.
"Harry," he said, "I can carry thee to the boat and we can all
escape in that way."
"Yes," I replied, "but if I escape through them, 'twill serve to
convict them, and?and?besides, lad, I cannot be moved for the bleeding
of my wounds, such a long way; and besides, it is at the best arrest
for me, since I have been seen by the whole posse and have shot down
Captain Waller. Whither could I fly, pray? Not back to England. Me they
will take in custody in any case, and they will not shoot a wounded
captive. My life is safe for the time being. Humphrey?" With that I
beckoned him to lean over me, which he did, putting his ear close.
"Seize Mary by force and bear her away, lad," I whispered, "down
cellar to the boat. Catherine will show thee the way."
"I cannot, Harry," he whispered back, and as I live the tears were
in the boy's eyes. "I cannot leave thee, Harry."
"You must; there is no other way, if you would save her," I
whispered back. "And what good can you do by staying ? The four of us
will be taken, for you can do nothing for me single-handed. Captain
Jaynes is killed?I saw him fall?and the parson has fled, and?and?I know
not where be the others. For God's sake, lad, save her !"
Then Sir Humphrey with such a look at me as I never forgot, but
have always loved him for, with no more ado, turned upon Mary
Cavendish, and caught her, pinioning both arms, and lifted her as if
she had been an infant, and Catherine would have gone to her rescue,
but I caught at her hand, which was still at work on my bandage.
"Go you with them and show the way to the boat," I whispered. She
set her mouth hard and looked at me. "I will not leave thee," she said.
"If you go not, then they will be lost," I cried out in
desperation. For Mary was shrieking that she would not go, and I knew
that Humphrey did not know the way, and could not find it and launch
the boat in time with that struggling maid to encumber him, for already
the door trembled as if to fall.
"I tell you they will not harm a wounded man," I cried. "If you
leave me I am in no more worse case than now, and if you remain, think
of your sister. You know what she hath done to abet the rebellion.
'Twill all come out if she be found here. Oh, Catherine, if you love
her, I pray thee, go."
Then Catherine Cavendish did something which I did not understand
at the time, and perhaps never understood rightly. Close over me she
bent, and her soft hair fell over my face and hers, hiding them, and
she kissed me on my forehead, and she said low, but quite clearly,
"Whatever thou hast done in the past, my scorn henceforth shall be for
the deed, not for thee, for thou art a man."
Then to her feet she sprang and caught hold of Mary's struggling
right arm, though it might as well have struggled in a vise as in Sir
Humphrey Hyde's reluctant, but mighty grasp.
"Mary," she said, "listen to me. 'Tis the best way to save him, to
Then Mary rolled her piteous blue eyes at her over Sir Humphrey's
shoulder from her gold tangle of hair.
"What mean you?" she cried. "I tell you, Catherine, I will never
"If we remain, we shall all be in custody," replied Catherine in
her clear voice, though her face was white as if she were dead, "and
our estates may be forfeited, and we have no power to help him. And he
must be taken in the end in any case. And if we be free, we can save
"I will not go without him," cried Mary. "Set me down, Humphrey,
and take up Harry, and I will help thee carry him. Do as I tell thee,
"Harry will be taken in any case," replied Catherine, "and if you
take him, you will be arrested with him, and then we can do nothing for
him. I tell thee, sweet, the only way to save him is to leave him."
Then Mary gave one look at me.
"Harry, is this the truth they tell me?" she cried.
"As God is my witness, dear child," I replied. Then she twisted her
white face around toward Sir Humphrey's, who stood pinioning her arms
with a look himself as if he were dying.
"Let me loose, Humphrey," she said, "let me loose, then I swear I
will go with you and Catherine."
Then Sir Humphrey loosed her, and straight to me she came and bent
over me and kissed me. "Harry," she said in a whisper which was of that
strange quality that it seemed to be unable to be heard by any in the
whole world save us two, though it was clear enough?"I leave thee
because thou tellest me that this is the only way to save thee, but I
am thine for life and for death, and nothing shall ever come forever
between thee and me, not even thine own self, nor the grave, nor all
the wideness of life."
Then she rose and turned to Sir Humphrey and Catherine.
"I am ready," said she, and Sir Humphrey gave my hand one last
wring, and said that he would stand by me. Then they fled and, as I lay
there alone, I heard their footsteps on the cellar stairs, and
presently the dip of the boat as she was launched, and heard it above
all the din outside, so keen were my ears for aught that concerned her.
Then that sound and all others grew dim, for I was near swooning,
and when the door fell with a mighty crash near me, it might have been
the fall of a rose leaf on velvet, and I had small heed of the fierce
faces which bent over me, yet the hands extended toward my wounds were
tender enough. And I saw as in a dream, Capt. Robert Waller, with his
arm tied up, and wondered dimly if we were both dead, for I verily
believed that I had killed him, and I heard him say, and his voice
sounded as if a sea rolled between us, "'Tis the convict tutor,
Wingfield, who held the door, and unless I be much mistaken, he hath
his death-wound. Make a litter and lift him gently, and five of you
search the house for whatever other rebels be hid herein."
And as I live, in the midst of my faintness, which made all sounds
far away as from beyond the boundary of the flesh, and beyond the din
of battle, which was still going on, though feebly, like a fire burning
to its close, I heard the dip of oars on the creek, and knew that Mary
Cavendish was safe.
A litter they fashioned from a lid of a chest while the search was
going on, and I was lifted upon it with due regard to my wounds, which
I thought a generous thing of Captain Waller, inasmuch as his own face
was frowning with the pain of the wound which I had given him, but he
was a brave man, and a brave man is ever a generous foe.
But when I was on the litter, breathing hard, yet with some
consciousness, he bent close over me, and whispered "Sir, your wounds
are bound up with strips torn from a woman's linen. I have a wife, and
I know. Who was in hiding here, sir ?"
My eyes flew wide open at that.
"No one," I gasped out. "No one as I live."
But he laughed, and bending still lower, whispered, "Have no fear
as to that, Master Wingfield. Convict or not, you are a brave man, and
that which you perchance gave your life to hide, shall be hidden for
all Robert Waller."
So saying he gave the order to carry me forth with as little
jolting as might be, and stationed himself at my side lest I come to
harm from some over-zealous soldier. But in truth the militia and the
officers in those days were apparently of somewhat uncertain quantity
as regarded their allegiance to the King or the Colony.
The sympathy of many of them was with the colonists who made a
stand against tyranny, and they were half-hearted, if whole-handed, for
Just before they bore me across the threshold of Laurel Creek,
those troopers who had been sent to search the house, clattered down
the stair and swore that not so much as a mouse was in hiding there,
then we all went forth.
Captain Waller, though walking somewhat weakly himself, kept close
to my side. And he did not mount horse until we were out in the
The grounds of Laurel Creek and the tobacco fields were a most
lamentable sight, though I seemed to see everything as through a mist.
Here and there one lay sprawled with limbs curled like a dead spider,
or else flung out at a stiff length of agony. And Capt. Noel Jaynes lay
dead with a better look on his gaunt old face in death than in life. In
truth Capt. Noel Jaynes might almost have been taken for a good man as
he lay there dead. And the outlaw who lived next door to Margery Key
was doubled up where he fell in a sulky heap of death, and by his side
wept his shrewish wife, shrilly lamenting as if she were scolding
rather than grieving, and I trow in the midst of it all, the thought
passed through my mind that it was well for that man that he was past
hearing, for it seemed as if she took him to task for having died.
Of Dick Barry was no sign to be seen, but Nick lay not dead, but
dead drunk, and over him was crouched one of those black women with a
knife in her hand, and no one molested her, thinking him dead, but dead
he was not, only drunk, and she was wounded herself, with the blood
trickling from her head, unable to carry him from the field as she had
They carried me past them, and the black woman's eyes rolled up at
us like a wild beast's in a jungle defending her mate, and I remember
thinking, though dimly, as a man will do when he has lost much blood,
that love was love, and perhaps showed forth the brighter and whiter,
the viler and blacker the heart which held it, and then I knew no more
for a space.
When I came to a consciousness of myself again, the first thing of
which I laid hold with my mind as a means whereby to pull my
recollections back to my former cognisance of matters was a broad shaft
of sunlight streaming in through the west window of the prison in
Jamestown. And all this sunbeam was horribly barred like the body of a
wasp by the iron grating of the window, and had a fierce sting of heat
in it, for it was warm though only May, and I was in a high fever by
reason of my wounds. And another thing which served to hale me back to
acquaintance with my fixed estate of life was a great swarm of flies
which had entered at that same window, and were grievously tormenting
me, and I was too weak to disperse them. All my wounds were dressed and
bandaged and I was laid comfortably enough upon a pallet, but I was all
alone except for the flies which settled upon me blackly with such an
insistence of buzzing that that minor grievance seemed verily the
greatest in the world, and for the time all else was forgot.
For some little time I did not think of Mary Cavendish, so hedged
about was I as to my freedom of thought and love by my physical ills,
for verily after a man has been out of consciousness with a wound, it
is his body which first struggles back to existence, and his heart and
soul have to follow as they may.
So I lay there knowing naught except the weary pain of my wounds,
and that sense of stiffness which forbade me to move, and the fretful
heat of that fierce west sunbeam, and the buzzing swarm of flies, for
some little time before the memory of it all came to me.
Then indeed, though with great pain, I raised myself upon my elbow,
and peered about my cell, and called aloud for some one to come,
thinking some one must be within hearing, for the sounds of life were
all about me: the tramp of horses on the road outside, the even fall of
a workman's hammer, the sweet husky carol of a slave's song, and the
laughter of children at play.
So I shouted and waited and shouted again, and no one came. There
was in my cell not much beside my pallet, except a little stand which
looked like one from Drake Hill, and on the stand was a china dish like
one which I had often seen at Drake Hill, with some mess therein, what,
I knew not, and a bottle of wine and some medicine vials and glasses. I
was not ironed, and, indeed, there was no need of that, since I could
not have moved.
Between the wound in my leg and various sword-cuts, and a general
soreness and stiffness as if I had been tumbled over a precipice, I was
well-nigh as helpless as a week-old babe.
I called again, but no one came, and presently I quit and lay with
the burning eye of the sun in my face and that pestilent buzz of flies
in my ears, and my weakness and pain so increasing upon my
consciousness, that I heeded them not so much. I shut my eyes and that
torrid sunbeam burned red through my lids, and I wondered if they had
found out aught concerning Mary Cavendish, and I wondered not so much
what they would do with me, since I was so weak and spent with loss of
blood that nothing that had to do with me seemed of much moment.
But as I lay there I presently heard the key turn in the lock, and
one Joseph Wedge, the jailor, entered, and I saw the flutter of a woman
s draperies behind him, but he shut the door upon her, and then without
my ever knowing how he came there, was the surgeon, Martyn Jennings,
and he was over me looking to my wounds, and letting a little more
blood to decrease my fever, though I had already lost so much, and
then, since I was so near swooning, giving me a glass of the Burgundy
on the stand. And whilst that was clouding my brain, since my stomach
was fasting, and I had lost so much blood, entered that woman whom I
had espied, and she was not Mary, but Catherine Cavendish, and there
was a gentleman with her who stood aloof, with his back toward me,
gazing out of the window, and of that I was glad since he screened that
flaming sunbeam from me, and I concerned myself no more about him.
But at Catherine I gazed, and motioned to her to bend over me, and
whispered that the jailor might not hear, what had become of Mary. Then
I saw the jailor had gone out, though I had not seen him go, and she
making a sign to me that the gentleman at the window was not to be
minded, went on to tell me what I thirsted to know; that she and Mary
and Sir Humphrey had escaped that night with ease, and she and Mary had
returned to Drake Hill before midnight, and had not been molested.
If Mary were suspected she knew not, but Sir Humphrey was then
under arrest and was confined on board a ship in the harbour with Major
Beverly, and his mother was daily sending billets to him to return
home, and blaming him, and not his jailors, for his disobedience. She
told me, furthermore, that it was Cicely Hyde who had led the militia
to our assembly at Laurel Creek that night, and was now in a low fever
through remorse, and though she told me not, I afterward knew why that
mad maid had done such a thing?'twas because of jealousy of me and Mary
Cavendish, and she pulled down more upon her own head thereby than she
All this Catherine Cavendish told me in a manner which seemed
strangely foreign to her, being gentle, and yet not so gentle as
subdued, and her fair face was paler than ever, and when I looked at
her and said not a word, and yet had a question in my eyes which she
was at no loss to interpret, tears welled into her own, and she bent
lower and whispered lest even the stranger at the window should hear,
that Mary "sent her dear love, but, but?"
I raised myself with such energy at that that she was startled, and
the gentleman at the window half turned.
"What have they done with her?" I cried. "If they dare?"
"Hush," said Catherine. "Our grandmother hath but locked her in her
chamber, since she hath discovered her love for thee, and frowns upon
it, not since thou art a convict, but since thou hast turned against
the King. She says that no granddaughter of hers shall wed a rebel, be
he convict or prince. But she is safe, Harry, and there will no harm
come to her, and indeed I think that if they in authority have heard
aught of what she hath done, they are minded to keep it quiet,
Then to my exceeding bewilderment down on her knees beside me went
that proud maid and begged my pardon for her scorn of me, saying that
she knew me guiltless, and knew for what reason I had taken such
obloquy upon myself.
Then the gentleman at the window turned when she appealed to him,
and came near, and I saw who he was?my half-brother, John Chelmsford.
It was six years and more since I had seen my half-brother, and I
should scarcely have known him, for time had worked great changes in
both his face and form. He was much stouter than I remembered him, and
wore a ruddy point of beard at his chin, and a great wig, whereas I
recalled him as smooth of face, with his own hair.
But he was a handsome man, as I saw even then, lying in so much
pain and weakness, and he came and stood over me, and looked at me more
kindly than I should have expected, and I could see something of our
common mother in his blue eyes. He reached down his hand and shook the
one of mine which I could muster strength to raise, and called me
brother, and hoped that I found myself better, and gave me very many
tender messages of our mother, and of his father likewise, which
puzzled me exceedingly, until matters were explained. Colonel
Chelmsford had parted with me when I left England with but scant
courtesy, and as for my poor mother, I had not seen her at all, she
being confined to her chamber with grief over my disgrace, and not one
word had I received from them since that time. So when John Chelmsford
said that our mother sent her dear love to her son Harry, and that
nothing save her delicate health had prevented her from sailing to
Virginia in the same ship to see the son from whom she had been so long
parted, I gasped, and felt my head reel, and I called up my mother's
face, and verily I felt the tears start in my eyes, but I was very
Then forth from her pocket Catherine drew a ring, and it flashed
green with a great emerald, and particoloured with brilliants, before
my eyes, and I was well-nigh overcome by the sight of that and
everything turned black before me, for it was my Lord Robert Ealing's
great ring of exceeding value, for the theft of which I had been
Straightway Catherine saw that it was too much for me, for she
knelt down beside me and called John to give her a flask of sweet
waters which stood on the table, and began bathing my forehead, the
while my brother looked on with something of a jealous frown.
"'Twas thoughtless of me, Harry," she whispered, "but they say joy
does not kill, and?and?dost thou know the ring?"
I nodded. It seemed to me that no jewels could ever be mined which
I would know as I knew that green star of emerald and those encircling
brilliants. That ring I knew to my cost.
"My Lord Ealing is dead," she said, "and thou knowest that he was a
kinsman of the Chelmsfords, and after his funeral came this ring and a
letter, and?and?thou art cleared, Harry. And?and?now I know why thou
didst what thou did, Harry, 'twas?'twas?to shield me." With that she
burst into a great flood of tears, even throwing herself upon the floor
of my cell in all her slim length, and not letting my brother John
raise her, though he strove to do so.
"'Tis here, 'tis here I belong, John," she cried out wildly, "for
you know not, you know not what injustice I have done this innocent
man. Never can I make it good with my life."
It is here that I shall stop the course of my story to explain the
whole matter of the ring, which at the time I was too weak and spent
with pain to comprehend fully as Catherine Cavendish related it. It was
a curious and at the same time a simple tale, as such tales are wont to
be, and its very simplicity made it seem then, and seem now, well-nigh
incredible. For it is the simple things of this world which are always
most unbelievable, perhaps for this reason: that men after Eden and the
Serpent, expect some subtlety of reasoning to account for all
happenings, and always comes the suspicion that somewhat beside two and
two go to make four.
My Lord Robert Ealing who had come to the ball at Cavendish Court
that long last year, was a distant kinsman of our family, and unwedded,
but a man who went through the world with a silly leer of willingness
toward all womenkind. And 'twas this very trait, perhaps, which
accounted for his remaining unwedded, although a lord, though the fact
that his estates were incumbered may have had somewhat to do with it.
Be that as it may, he lived alone, except for a few old servants, and
was turned sixty, when, long after my transportation, he wedded his
cook, who gave him three daughters and one son, to whom the estate
went, but the ring and the letter came to the Chelmsfords. The letter,
which I afterwards saw, was a most curious thing, both as to
composition and spelling and chirography, for his lordship was no
scholar. And since the letter is but short, I may perhaps as well give
it entire. After this wise it ran, being addressed to Col. John
Chelmsford, who was his cousin, though considerably younger.
"Dear Cousin.?(So wrote my Lord Ealing.) When this reaches you I
shall be laid in silent tomb, where, perchance, I shall be more at
peace than I have ever ben in a wurld, which either fitted me not, or I
did not fit. At all odds there was a sore misfit betwixt us in some
way. If it was the blam of the world, good ridance and parden, if it
was my blam, let them which made me come to acount for't. I send
herewith my great emruld ringg, with dimends which I suspect hath been
the means of sending an inosent man into slavery. I had a mind some
years agone to wed with Caterin Cavendish, and she bein a hard made to
approche, having ever a stiff turn of the sholder toward me, though I
knew not why, I was not willin to resk my sute by word of mouth, nor
having never a gift in writin by letter. And so, knowin that mades like
well such things, I bethought me of my emruld ring, and on the night of
the ball, I being upstair in to lay off my hatt and cloak, stole
privily into Catherin's chamber, she being a-dancin below, and I laid
the ring on her dresing table, thinkin that she would see it when she
entered, and know it for a love token.
"And then I went myself below, and Caterin, she would have none of
me, and made up such a face of ice when I approached, that methought I
had maybe wasted my emruld ring. So after a little up the stare I
stole, and the ring was not where I had put it. Then thinkin that the
ring had been stole, and I had neither that nor the made, I raised a
great hue and cry, and demanded that a search be maid, and the ring was
found on Master Wingfield, and he was therefor transported, and I had
my ring again, and myself knew not the true fact of the case until a
year agone. Then feeling that I had not much longer to live, I writ
this, thinking that Master Wingfield was in a rich country, and not in
sufferin, and a few months more would make not much odds to him. The
facs of the case, cousin, I knew from Madam Cavendish's old servant
woman Charlotte who came to my sister when the Cavendishs left for
Virginia, having a fear of the sea, and later when my sister died, to
my wife, and died but a year agone, and in her deathbed told me what
she knew. She told me truly, that she did see Madam Cavendish on the
night of the ball go into Caterin's chamber, and espying my emruld ring
on her dressing-table, take it up and look at it with exceeding
astonishment, and then lay it down not on the spot whereon I had left
it, but on the prayer-book on the little stand beside her bed, and then
go down stairs, frowning. Then this same Charlotte, having litle
interest in life as to her own affairs, and forced to suck others, if
she would keep her wits nourished, being watchful, saw me enter, and
miss the ring, and heard the hue and cry which I raised. And then she,
still watching, saw Master Harry Wingfield, who with others was
searching the house for the lost treasure, stop as he was passing the
open door of Caterin's chamber, because the green light of the emruld
fixed his eyes, and rush in and secrete the ring upon his person. This
Charlotte saw, and told Madam Cavendish, who bound her over to secresy
to save the honour of the family, believing that her own granddaughter
Caterin was the thief. This epistle, cousin, is to prove to you that
Caterin was no thief, but simply a cold maid, who hath no love for
either hearts or gems, but of that I complain not, havin as I believe,
wedded wisely, if not to please my famly, and three daughters and a
son, hath my Betty given me, and most exceedin fine tarts hath she
made, and puddens, and I die content, with this last writ to thee,
cousin to clear Caterin Cavendish, and may be of an innosent gentleman
"No more from thy cousin, "Ealing."
One strange feature was there about this letter, which the writer
had not foreseen, while it cleared me well enough in the opinion of the
family, to strangers it cleared me not at all, for who was to know for
what reason I had entered Catherine's chamber, and took and secreted
that ring of his lordship's ? Strict silence had I maintained, and so
had Madam Cavendish all these years, and naught in that letter would
clear me before any court of law. Catherine being the only one whose
innocence was made plain, I could now tell my story with no fear of
doing her harm, but let those believe my part of it who would! Still I
may say here, that I verily believe that I was at last cleared in the
minds of all who knew me well, and for others I cared not. My term
expired soon after that date, and though I chose to remain in Virginia
and not return to England, yet my property was restored to me, for my
half-brother, John Chelmsford, when confronted by any gate of injustice
leapt it like an English gentleman, with no ado. And yet after I heard
that letter, I knew that I was a convict still, and knew that for some
I would be until the end of the chapter, and when I grew a little
stronger, that wild hope that now I might have Mary, dimmed within me,
for how could I allow her to wed a man with a stain upon his honour ?
And even had I been pardoned, the fact of the pardon had seemed to
prove my guilt.
It was three days after this, my brother and various others
striving all the time, but with no effect, to secure my release, that
Mary herself came to see me. Catherine, as I afterward discovered, had
unlocked her chamber door and set her free while her grandmother slept,
and the girl had mounted Merry Roger, and come straight to me, not
caring who knew.
I heard the key grate in the lock, and turned my eyes, and there
she was: the blessing of my whole life, though I felt that I must not
take it. Close to me she came and knelt, and leaned her cheek against
mine, and stroked back my wild hair.
"Harry, Harry," she whispered, and all her dear face was tremulous
with love and joy.
"Thou art no convict, Harry," she said. "Thou didst not steal the
ring, but that I knew before, and I know not any better now, and I love
thee no better now. And I would have been thine in any case."
"I am still a convict, sweetheart," I said, but I fear weakly.
"Harry," she cried out, "thou wilt not let that stand betwixt us
"How can I let thee wed with a convict, if I love thee ?" I said.
"And know you not that this letter of my Lord Ealing's clears me not
"That I know," she answered frowning, "because thy brother hath
consulted half the lawyers in England ere he came. I know that, my poor
Harry, but what is that to us ?"
"I cannot let thee wed a convict; a man with his honour stained,
dear heart," I said.
Then she fixed her blue eyes upon mine with such a look as never I
saw in mortal woman. She knew at that time what sentence had been fixed
upon me for my share in the tobacco riot, but I did not know, and then
and there she formed such a purpose, as sure no maid, however great her
love for a man, formed before.
"Wait and see what manner of woman she is who loves thee, Harry,"
I lay in prison until the twenty-ninth day of May, Royal Oak Day. I
know not quite how it came to pass, but none of my brother's efforts
toward my release met with any success. I heard afterward some whispers
as to the cause, being that so many of high degree were concerned in
the riots, and that if I, a poor devil of a convict tutor, were let off
too cheaply, why then the rest of them must be let loose only at a
rope's end, and that it would never do to send me back to Drake Hill
scot free, while Sir Humphrey Hyde and Major Robert Beverly and my Lord
Estes, and others, were in durance, and some high in office in great
danger of discovery. At all events, whatever may have been the reason,
my release could not be effected, and in prison I lay for all those
days, but with more comfort, since either Catherine or Mary?Mary I
think it must have been?made a curtain for my window, which kept out
that burning eye of the western sun, and also fashioned a gnat veil to
overspread my pallet, so the flies could not get at me. I knew there
were others in prison, but knew not that three of them were led forth
to be hung, which might have been my fate, had I been a free man, nor
knew that another was released on condition that he build a bridge over
Dragon's Swamp. This last chance, my friends had striven sorely to get
for me, but had not succeeded, though they had offered large sums, my
brother being willing to tax the estate heavily. Some covert will there
was at work against me, and it may be I could mention it, but I like
not mentioning covert wills, but only such as be downright, and
exercised openly in the faces of all men. I lay there not so
uncomfortably, being aware of a great delight that the tobacco was cut,
whether or no, as indeed it was on many plantations, and the King
cheated out of great wealth.
This end of proceedings, with no Bacon to lead us, did not surprise
nor disappoint me. Then, too, the fact that I was cleared of suspicion
of theft in the eyes of her I loved and her family, at least, filled me
with an ecstasy which sometimes awoke me from slumber like a pain. And
though I was quite resolved not to let that beloved maid fling away
herself upon me, unless my innocence was proven world-wide, and to
shield her at all costs to myself, yet sometimes the hope that in after
years I might be able to wed her and not injure her, started up within
me. She came to see me whenever she could steal away, Madam Cavendish
being still in that state of hatred against me, for my participation in
the riot, though otherwise disposed enough to give her consent to our
marriage on the spot. And every day came my brother John and Catherine,
and now and then Parson Downs. And the parson used to bring me choice
spirits in his pocket, and tobacco, though I could touch only the
latter for fear of inflaming my wounds, and he used to sit and read me
some of Will Shakespeare's Plays, which he bore under his cassock, and
a prayer-book openly in hand, that being the only touch of hypocrisy
which ever I saw about Parson Downs.
"Lord, Harry, thou dost not want prayers," he would say, "but
rather being fallen as thou art, in an evil sink of human happenings,
somewhat about them, and none hath so mastered the furthest roots of
men's hearts as Will Shakespeare. 'Tis him and a pipe thou needst,
lad." So saying, down he would sit himself betwixt me and the fiery
western window, and I got to believe more in his Christianity, than
ever I had done when I had heard him hold forth from the pulpit.
'Twas from him I knew the sad penalty which they fixed upon for me,
for the 29th of May, that being Royal Oak Day, when they celebrated the
Restoration in England, and more or less in the colonies, and on which
a great junketing had been arranged, with races, and wrestling, and
Parson Downs came to me the afternoon of the 28th, and sat gazing
at me with a melancholy air, nor offered to read Will Shakespeare,
though he filled my pipe and pressed hard upon me a cup of Burgundy.
"'Twill give thee heart, Harry," he said, "and surely now thy
wounds be so far healed, 'twill not inflame them, and in any case, why
should good spirit inflame wounds? Faith, and I believe not in so much
bleeding and so little stimulating. I'll be damned, Harry, if I see
what is left to inflame in thee, not a hint of colour in thy long face.
Stands it not to reason, that if no blood be left in thee for the
wounds to work upon, they must even take thy vitals? But I am no
physician. However, smoke hard as thou canst, poor Harry, if thou wilt
not drink, for I have something to tell thee, and there is that about
our good tobacco of Virginia?now we have rescued it, betwixt you and
me, from royal freebooters?which is soothing to the nerves and tending
to allay evil anticipations."
Then, as I lay puffing away something feebly at my pipe, still with
enjoyment, he unfolded his evil news to me. It seemed that my brother
had commissioned him so to do.
"'Tis a shame, Harry," he said, "and I will assure thee that all
that could be done hath been, and if now there were less on guard, and
a place where thou couldst hide with safety, the fleetest horse in the
Colony is outside, if thou wert strong enough to sit him. And so thou
escaped, I would care not if never I saw him again, though I paid a
pretty penny for him and love him better than ever I loved any woman,
since he springs to order and stands without hitching, and with never a
word of nagging in my ears to make me pay penance for the service. What
a man with a good horse, and good wine, and good tobacco, wanteth a
wife for, passeth my understanding, but I know thou art young, and the
maid is a fair one. Faith, and she was in such sore affliction this
morning because of thee, Harry, as might well console any man. Had she
been Bacon's widow, she had not wedded again, but gone widow to her
death. Thou shouldst have seen her, lad, when I ventured to strive to
comfort her with the reflection that her suffering in thy behalf was
not so grievous as was Bacon's wife's for his death, for thou art to
have thy life, my poor Harry, and no great hurt, though it may be
somewhat wearisome if the sun be hot. But Mistress Mary Cavendish flew
out at me in such wise, though she hath known all along to what fate
thou wert probably destined, and said such harsh things of poor Madam
Bacon, that I was minded to retreat. Keep Mary Cavendish's love, when
she be wedded to thee, Harry, for there is little compromise with her
for faults, unless she loveth, and she hath found out that Cicely Hyde
betrayed the plans of the plant-cutters, and for her and Madam Bacon
her sweet tongue was like a fiery lash, and Catherine was as bad,
though silent. Catherine, unless I be greatly mistaken, will wed thy
brother John, but unless I be more greatly mistaken, she loveth thee,
and now, my poor Harry, wouldst know what they will do to thee
I nodded my head.
"They will even set thee in the stocks, Harry, at the new field,
before all the people at the sports," said Parson Downs.
I truly think that if Parson Downs had informed me that I was to be
put to the rack or lose my head it would not have so cut me to the
heart. Something there was about a gentleman of England being set in
the stocks which detracted not only from the dignity of the punishment,
but that of the offence. I would not have believed they would have done
that to me, and can hardly believe it now. Such a punishment had never
entered into my imagination, I being a gentleman born and bred, and my
crime being a grave one, whereas the stocks were commonly regarded for
the common folk, who had committed petty offences, such as swearing or
Sabbath-breaking. I could not for some time realise it, and lay staring
at Parson Downs, while he tried to force the Burgundy upon me and
stared in alarm at my paleness.
"Why, confound it, Harry," he cried, "I tell thee, lad, do not look
so. Hadst thou killed Rob Waller instead of wounding him, it would have
been thy life instead of thy pride thou hadst forfeited."
"I wish to God I had!" I burst out, yet dully, for still I only
half realised it all.
"Nay, Harry," declared the parson, "thy life is of more moment than
thy pride, and as to that, what will it hurt thee to sit in the stocks
an hour or so for such a cause? 'Twill be forgot in a week's time. I
pray thee have some Burgundy, Harry, 'twill put some life into thee."
"'Twill never be forgot by me," said I, and indeed it never has
been, and I know not why it seemed then, and seems now, of a finer
sting of bitterness than my transportation for theft.
Presently I, growing fully alive to the state of the matters,
wrought up myself into such a fever of wrath and remonstrance that it
was a wonder that my wounds did not open. I swore that submit to such
an indignity I would not, that all the authorities in the Colony should
not force me to sit in the stocks, that I would have my life first, and
I looked about wildly for my own sword or pistols, and seeing them not,
besought the parson for his. He strove in vain to comfort me. I was
weakened by my wounds, and there was, I suppose, something of fever
still lingering in my veins for all the bleeding, and for a space I was
like a madman at the thought of the ignominy to which they would put
me. I besought that the lieutenant-governor should be summoned and be
petitioned to make my offence a capital one. I strove to rise from my
couch, and the vague thought of finding a weapon and committing some
crime so grave that the stocks would be out of the question as a
punishment for it, was in my fevered brain.
"As well go to a branch of a locust-tree blown by the May wind with
honey for all seeking noses, as to Chichely," said Parson Downs. "And
as for the burgesses, they are afraid of their own necks, and some of
us there be would rather have thee sit in stocks than lose thy life,
for we hold thy life dear, Harry, and some punishment it must be for
thee, for thou didst shoot a King's officer, though with a damned poor
Then I said again, with my heart like a drum in my ears, that I
wished it had been better, though naught I had against Robert Waller,
and as I learned afterward he had striven all he dared for my release,
but the militia, being under some suspicion themselves, had to act with
caution in those days.
Presently, while the parson was yet with me, my brother John came
in, and verily, for the first time, I realised that we were of one
blood. Down on his knees beside me he went.
"Oh, my God, Harry," he cried, "I have done all that I could for
thee, and vengeance I will have of some for this, and they shall suffer
for it, that I promise thee. To fix such a penalty as this upon one of
"John," I whispered, grasping his hand hard, "I pray thee?"
But he guessed my meaning. "Nay, Harry," he cried, "better this,
for if I went back to our mother and told her that thou wert dead,
after her long slight of thee and the long wrong we have all done thee,
it would be a sorer fate for her than the stocks for thee."
But I pleaded with him by the common blood in our veins to save me
from this ignominy, and my fever increased, and he knew not how to
quiet me. Then in came Catherine Cavendish, and what she said had some
weight with me.
"For shame!" she said, standing over me, with her face as white as
death, but with resolution in her eyes, "for shame, Harry Wingfield!
Full easy it is to be brave on the battlefield, but it takes a hero to
quail not when his vanity be assailed. Have not as good men as thou,
and better, sat in the stocks? And think you that it will make any
difference to us, except as we suffer with you? And 'tis harder for my
poor sister than for thee, but she makes no complaint, nor sheds a
tear, but goes about with her face like the dead, and such a look in
her eyes as never I saw there before. And she told me to say to thee
that she could not come to-day, but that she would make amends, and
that thou hadst no cause to overworry, and I know not what she meant,
but this much I do know, a brave man is a brave man whether it be the
scaffold or the stocks, and?and?thou hast gotten thyself into a fever,
With that she bade my brother John get some cool water from the
jailer, and she bathed my head and arranged my bandages with that same
skill which she had showed at the time when I was bruised by the mad
horse, and my brother looked on as if only half pleased, yet full of
pity. And Catherine, as she bathed my head, told me how Major Beverly
and Sir Humphrey were yet confined on shipboard, and Dick Barry was in
the prison not far from me, and Nick and Ralph Drake were in hiding,
but my Lord Estes was scot-free on account of his relationship to
Governor Culpeper and had been to Drake Hill, but Mary would not see
him. And she said, furthermore, that her grandmother did not know that
I was to be set in the stocks, and they dared not tell her, as she was
grown so feeble since the riot?at one time inveighing against me for my
disloyalty, and saying that I should never have Mary, though I was
cleared of my disgrace and no more a convict, and at another time
weeping like a child over her poor Harry, who had already suffered so
much and was now in prison.
Catherine in that way, which none but a woman hash, since it
pertains both to love and authority, brought me to my senses, and I
grew both brave and shamed at the same time, and yet after she had
gone, never was anything like the sting of that ignominy which was
prepared for me on the morrow. Many a time had I seen men in the
stocks, and passed them by with no ridicule, for that, it seemed to me,
belonged to the same class of folk as the culprits, but with a sort of
contempt which held them as less than men and below pity even. The
thought that some day I, too, was to sit there, had never entered my
head. I looked at my two feet upholding the coverlid, and pictured to
myself how they would look protruding from the boards of the stocks. I
recalled the faces of all I had ever seen therein, and wondered whether
I would look like this or that one. I remembered seeing them pelted by
mischievous boys, and as the dusk thickened, it seemed alive with
jeering faces and my ears rang with jibes. I said to myself that now
Mary Cavendish was farther from me than ever before. Some dignity of
wretchedness there might be in the fate of a convict condemned
unjustly, but none in the fate of a man who sat in the stocks for all
the people to gaze and laugh at.
I said to myself that that cruelest fate of any?to be made
ridiculous in the eyes of love?was come to me, and love henceforth was
over and gone. And thinking so, those grinning and jibing faces
multiplied, and the air rang with laughter, and I trow I was in a high
fever all night.
The sports and races of Royal Oak Day were to be held on the "New
Field" (so called), adjoining the plantation of Barry Upper Branch. The
stocks had been moved from their usual station to this place to remind
the people in the midst of their gayety that the displeasure of the
King was a thing to be dreaded, and that they were not their own
masters, even when they made merry.
On the morning of that day came my brother John's man-servant to
shave and dress me, and the physician to attend to my wounds. It was a
marvel that I was able to undergo the ordeal, and indeed, my brother
had striven hard to urge my wounds as a reason for my being released.
But such a naturally strong constitution had I, or else so faithfully
had the physician tended me, with such copious lettings of blood and
purges, that except for an exceeding weakness, I was quite myself.
Still I wondered, after I had been shaven and put into my clothes,
which hung somewhat loosely upon me, as I sat on a bench by the window,
however I was to reach the New Field.
It was a hot and close day, with all the heaviness of sweetness of
the spring settling upon the earth, and my knees had knocked together
when my brother's man-servant and the physician, one on each side of
me, led me from the bed to the bench.
So very weak was I that morning, after my feverish night, that,
although the physician had let a little more blood to counteract it, I
verily seemed almost to forget the stocks and what I was to undergo of
disgrace and ignominy, being principally glad that the window was to
the west, and that burning sun which had so fretted me, shut out.
The physician, long since dead, and an old man at that date, was
exceeding silent, eyeing everybody with an anxious corrugation of brows
over sharp eyes, and he had always a nervous clutch of his hands to
accompany the glance, as if for lancets or the necks of
medicine-flasks, never leaving a patient, unless he had killed or
cured. He had visited me with as much faithfulness as if I had been the
governor, and yet with no kindness, and I know not to this day, whether
he was for or against the King, or bled both sides impartially. He
looked at me with no compassion, and I might, from his manner, as well
have been going to be set on a throne as in the stocks, but he counted
my pulse-beats, and then bled me.
My brother John's man, however, whom he had brought from England,
and whom I had known as a boy, and sometimes stolen away to hunt with,
he being one of the village-lads, shaved me as if it had been for my
execution, and often I, somewhat dazed by the loss of blood, looking at
him, saw the great tears trickling down his cheeks. A soft-hearted man
he was, who had met with sore troubles, having lost his family, a wife
and three little ones, after which he returned to England and entered
my brother's service, though he had been brought up independently,
being the son of an inn-keeper.
Something there was about this gentle, downcast man, adding the
weight of my sorrow to his own, which would have aroused me to courage,
if, as I said before, I had not been in such a state of body, that for
the time my consciousness of what was to come was clouded.
There I sat on my bench, leaning stiffly back against the prison
wall, a strange buzzing in my ears, and I scarcely knew nor sensed it
when Parson Downs entered hurriedly, and leant over me, whispering that
if I would, and could, my chance to escape was outside.
"The fleetest horse in the Colony," said he, "and, Harry, I have
seen Dick Barry, and if thou canst but ride to the turn of the road,
thou wilt be met by Black Betty and guided to a safe place; and the
jailer hath drank over much Burgundy to which I treated him, and?and if
thou canst, Harry?"
Then he stopped and looked at me and turned angrily to the
physician who was packing up his lancets and vials to depart. "My God,
sir," he cried, "do you kill or cure? You have not bled him again ?
Lord, Lord, had I but a lancet and a purge for the spirit as you for
the flesh, there would be not only no sin but no souls left in the
Colony! You have not bled him again, sir?"
But Martyn Jennings paid no more heed to him than if he had been a
part of the prison wall, and, indeed, I doubt if he ever heeded any one
who had not need of either his nostrums or his lancet, and after a last
look at my bandages he went away.
Then Parson Downs and my brother's man looked at each other.
"It is of no use, sir," said the man, whose name was Will Wickett.
"Poor Master Wingfield cannot ride a horse; he is far too weak." And
with that verily the tears rolled down his cheeks, so womanish had he
grown by reason of the sore trials to which he had been put.
"Faith, and I believe he would fall off at the first motion of the
horse," agreed Parson Downs with a great scowl. I looked at, and
listened to them both, with a curious feeling that they were talking
about some one else, such was my weakness and giddiness from that last
Then Parson Downs, with an exclamation which might have sounded
oddly enough if heard from the pulpit, but which may, after all, have
done honour to his heart, fetched out a flask of brandy from his
pocket, and bade Will Wickett find a mug somewhere, which he did
speedily, and he gave me a drink which put new life into me, though it
was still out of the question for me to ride that fiery horse which
stood pawing outside the prison. And just here I would like to say that
I never forgot, nor ceased to be grateful for the kindly interest in
me, and the risk which the parson was disposed to take for my sake that
day. A great risk indeed it would have been, and would doubtless have
cost him his living, had I ridden across country on that famous horse
of his; but he seemed not to think of that, but shook his head sadly
after I had swallowed the brandy, and then my brother John came in and
he turned to him.
"A fine plan for escape I had with the jailer drunk and the
sentries blinded by my last winnings at cards, but Harry is too weak to
ride," he said.
Then I, being somewhat restored by the brandy, mustered up strength
enough to have a mind and speak it, and declared that I would not in
any case avail myself of his aid to escape, since I should only bring
trouble upon him who aided me, and should in the end be caught. And
just as I spoke came a company of soldiers to escort me to the stocks,
and the chance, for what it was worth, was over.
This much however had my brother gained for me, since I was
manifestly unable to walk or ride: one of the Cavendish chairs which
they had brought from England, was at the prison door, and some of our
black men for bearers, half blubbering at the errand upon which they
Somebody had rigged a curtain of thin silk for the chair, so that
I, when I was set therein, had great privacy, though I knew by the
sounds that I was attended by the motley crowd which usually is in
following at such affairs, beside the little troop of horse which was
my escort, and my brother and Parson Downs riding on either side.
Parson Downs, though some might reckon him as being somewhat
contumelious in his manner of leaving the tobacco-cutting, yet was not
so when there was anything to be gained by his service. He was moreover
quit of any blame by his office of spiritual adviser, though it was not
customary for a criminal to be attended to the stocks by a clergyman,
but only to the scaffold. But, as I began to gather some strength
through that fiery draught which I had swallowed, and the fresh air, it
verily seemed to me, though I had done with any vain complaints and was
of a mind to bear my ignominy with as much bravery as though it were
death, that it was as much of an occasion for spiritual consolation. I
could not believe?when we were arrived at the New Field, and I was
assisted from my chair in the midst of that hooting and jeering throng,
which even the soldiers and the threatening gestures of the parson and
my brother served but little to restrain?that I was myself, and still
more so, when I was at last seated in that shameful instrument, the
Ever since that time I have wondered whether mankind hath any
bodily ills which are not dependent upon the mind for their existence,
and are so curable by some sore stress of it. For verily, though my
wounds were not healed, and though I had not left my bed for a long
time, and my seat was both rough and hard, and my feet were rudely
pinioned between the boards, and the sun was blistering with that damp
blister which frets the soul as well as the flesh, I seemed to sense
nothing, except the shame and disgrace of my estate. As for my bodily
ailments, they might have been cured, for aught I knew of them. To this
time, when I lay me down to sleep after a harder day's work than
ordinary, I can see and hear the jeers of that rude crowd around the
stocks. Truly, after all, a man's vanity is his point of vantage, and I
wonder greatly if that be not the true meaning of the vulnerable spot
in Achilles's heel. Some slight dignity, though I had not so understood
it, I had maintained in the midst of my misfortunes. To be a convict of
one's free will, to protect the maid of one's love from grief, was one
thing, but to sit in the stocks, exposed to the jibes of a common
crowd, was another. And more than aught else, I felt the sting of the
comedy in it. To sit there with my two feet straight out, soles to the
people, through those rude holes in the boards, and all at liberty to
gaze and laugh at me, was infinitely worse than to welter in my blood
upon the scaffold. How many times, as I sat there, it came to me that
if it had been the scaffold, Mary Cavendish could at least have held my
memory in some respect; as it was, she could but laugh. Full easy it
may be for any man with the courage of a man to figure in tragedy, but
try him in comedy, if you would prove his mettle.
Shortly after I arrived there in the New Field, which was a wide,
open space, the sports began, and I saw them all as in a dream, or
worse than a dream, a nightmare. First came Parson Downs, whispering to
me that as long as he could do me no good, and was in sore need of
money, and, moreover, since he would by so doing divert somewhat the
public attention from me, he would enter the race which was shortly to
come off for a prize of five pounds.
Then came a great challenge of drums, and the parson was in his
saddle and the horses off on the three-mile course, my eyes following
them into the dust-clouded distance, and seeing the parson come riding
in ahead to the winning post, with that curious uncertainty as to the
reality, which had been upon me all the morning. That is, of the
uncertainty of aught save my shameful abiding in the stocks.
As I said before, it was a hot day, and all around the field waved
fruit boughs nearly past their bloom, with the green of new leaves
overcoming the white and red, and the air was heavy with honey-sweet,
and, as steady as a clock-tick through all the roaring of the
merrymakers, came the hum of the bees and the calls of the birds. A
great flag was streaming thirty feet high, and the gay dresses of the
women who had congregated to see the sports were like a flower-garden,
and the waistcoats of the men were as brilliant as the breasts of
birds, and nearly everybody wore the green oak-sprig which celebrated
Then again, the horses, after the challenge of the drums, sped
around the three-mile course, and attention was diverted somewhat from
me. There had been mischievous boys enough for my torment, had it not
been for my brother John, who stood beside the stocks, his face white
and his hand at his sword. Many a grinning urchin drew near with a
stone in hand and looked at him, and looked again, then slunk away, and
made as if he had no intention of throwing aught at me.
After the horse-racing came music of drums, trumpets, and hautboys,
and then in spite of my brother, the crowd pressed close about me, and
many scurrilous things were said and many grinning faces thrust in
mine, and thinking of it now, I would that I had them all in open
battlefield, for how can a man fight ridicule? Verily it is like
duelling with a man of feathers. Quite still I sat, but felt that
dignity and severity of bearing but made me more vulnerable to
ridicule. Utterly weaponless I was against such odds.
I was glad enough when the drums challenged again for a race of
boys, who were to run one hundred and twelve yards for a hat. Everybody
turned from me to see that, and I watched wearily the straining backs
and elbows of the little fellows, and the shouts of encouragement and
of triumph when the winner came in smote my ears as through water, with
curious shocks of sound.
Then ten fiddlers played for a prize, and while they played, the
people gathered around me again, for races more than music have the
ability to divert the minds of English folk; but they left me again,
when there was a wrestling for a pair of silver knee-buckles. I
remember to this day with a curious dizziness of recollection, the
straining of those two stout wrestlers over the field, each forcing the
other with all his might, and each scarce yielding a foot, and finally
ending the strife in the same spot as where begun. I can see now those
knotted arms and writhing necks of strength, and hear those quick pants
of breath, and again it seems as then, a picture passing before my
awful reality of shame. Then two young men danced for a pair of shoes,
and the crowd gathered around them, and I was quite deserted, and could
scarcely see for the throng the rhythmic flings of heels and tosses of
heads. But when that sport was over, and the winner dancing merely away
in his new shoes, the crowd gathered about me again, and in spite of my
brother, clods of mud began to fly, and urchins to tweak at my two
Then that happened, which verily never happened before nor since in
Virginia, and can never happen again, because a maid like Mary
Cavendish can never live again.
Slow pacing into the New Field in that same blue and silver gown
which she had worn to the governor's ball, with a wonderful plumed hat
on her head, and no mask, and her golden hair flowing free, behind her
Catherine and Cicely Hyde, like two bridesmaids, came my love, Mary
And while I shrank back, thinking that here was the worst sting of
all, like the sting of death, that she should see me thus, straight up
to the stocks she came, and gathering her blue and silver gown about
her, made her way in to my side, and sat there, thrusting her two tiny
feet, in their dainty shoes, through the apertures next mine, for the
stocks were made to accommodate two criminals.
And then I looked at her, and would have besought her to go, but
the words died on my lips, for in that minute I knew what love was, and
how it could triumph over, not only the tragedy, but that which is more
cruel, the comedy of life. Surely no face of woman was ever like Mary
Cavendish's, as she sat there beside me, with such an exaltation of
love, which made it like the face of an angel. Not one word she said,
but looked at me, and I knew that after that she was mine forever, in
spite of my love, which would fain shield her from me lest I be for her
harm, and I realised that love, when it is at its best, is past the
consideration of any harm, being sufficient unto itself for its own
bliss and glory.
But presently, I, looking at her, felt my strength failing me
again, and her face grew dim, and she drew my head to her shoulder and
sat so facing the multitude, and such a shout went up as never was.
And first it was half derision, and Catherine and Cicely Hyde stood
near us like bridesmaids, and my brother John kept his place. Then came
Madam Judith Cavendish in a chair, and she was borne close to us
through the throng and was looking forth with the tears running over
her old cheeks, and extending her hands as if in blessing, and she
never after made any opposition to our union. Then came blustering up
Parson Downs and Ralph Drake, who afterward wedded Cicely Hyde, and the
two Barrys who had braved leaving hiding, and the two black wenches who
dwelt with them, one with a great white bandage swathing her head, and
Sir Humphrey Hyde, who had just been released, and who, while I think
of it, wedded a most amiable daughter of one of the burgesses within a
year. And Madam Tabitha Storey, with that mourning patch upon her
forehead, was there, and Margery Key, with?marvellous to relate in that
crowd?the white cat following at heel, and Mistresses Allgood and
Longman with their husbands in tow. All these, with others whom I will
not mention, who were friendly, gathered around me, the while Mary
Cavendish sat there beside me, and again that half-derisive shout of
the multitude went up.
But in a trice it all changed, for the temper of a mob is as
subject to unexplained changes as the wind, and it was a great shout of
sympathy and triumph instead of derision. Then they tore off the
oak-sprigs with which they had bedecked themselves in honour of the
day, and by so doing showed disloyalty to the King, and the militia
making no resistance, and indeed, I have always suspected, secretly
rejoicing at it, they had me released in a twinkling, and foremost
among those who wrenched open the stocks was Capt. Calvin Tabor. Then
Mary Cavendish and I stood together there before them all.
It was all many years ago, but never hath my love for her dimmed,
and it shall live after Jamestown is again in ashes, when the sea-birds
are calling over the sunset-waste, when the reeds are tall in the
gardens, when even the tombs are crumbling, and maybe hers and mine
among them, when the sea-gates are down and the water washing over the
sites of the homes of the cavaliers. For I have learned that the blazon
of love is the only one which holds good forever through all the
wilderness of history, and the path of love is the only one which those
that may come after us can safely follow unto the end of the world.