The Heart's Highway
A Romance of Virginia in the Seventeeth Century
Mary E. Wilkins
The Heart's Highway
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
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 through.
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
"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 it was.
"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 wine?
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
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 like guns.
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
"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
"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 if necessary.
"Tell me, Madam," said I, "what was in those cases?"
"Have I not told you?" said she, and I knew that she whitened under
"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
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 furbelow boxes.
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
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 own heart.
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 pang 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
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
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 others.
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
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
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
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 on earth.
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, sir?"
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
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 ill-conditioned lad.
"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 spirit.
"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
"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
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,
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
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 farther.
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 arts.
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
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
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 1682.
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 sabre-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
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 day."
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
"'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 waved 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 fashion.
"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
"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
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 other errand—"
"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," cried 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
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
"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 other?
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
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
"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 she seemed.
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," I said.
"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
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
"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
"'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 hobby-horse 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 in it:
"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 willed.
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
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 granddaughter's shoulder.
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 Horn.
"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
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
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
"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 English faces.
"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 the ship.
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
"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
"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
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 the booty."
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
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
"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 next night.
When I heard that I started, and Catherine shot a pale glance of
consternation at me, but Mistress Mary flushed rosy-red with
"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
"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
"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
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,"
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
"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 Wingfield's money."
"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 next day."
"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 the fever."
"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 one beloved.
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 Humphrey.
"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 cleared.
"Catherine, 'twas Catherine," she cried out. "She said not, but well
I know her; she would not own to it—the sweetheart. Sure a
falsehood to hide a loving deed is the best truth of the world.
'Twas Catherine, 'twas Catherine, the sweetheart, the darling. She
sent for naught for herself, and hath been saving for a year's time
and maybe sold a ring or two. Somehow she discovered about the plot,
what I had done. And she hath heard me say, that I know well, that I
thought 'twas a noble list of Lady Culpeper's, and I wished I were a
governor's wife or daughter, that I could have such fine things. I
remember me well that I told her thus before ever the Golden Horn
sailed for England, that time after Cicely Hyde slept with me and
told me what she had from Cate Culpeper. A goodly portion of the
goods were for Cate. 'Twas Catherine. Oh, the sweetheart, the
darling! Was there ever sister like her?"
It was an industrious household at Drake Hill both as to men and
women folk. The fields were full of ebony backs and plying arms of
toil at sunrise, and the hum and whir of loom and spinning-wheels
were to be heard in the negro cabins and the great house as soon as
Madam Judith Cavendish was a stern task-mistress, and especially for
these latter duties. Had it not been for the stress of favour in
which she held me, I question if my vocation as tutor to Mistress
Mary would have had much scope for the last year, since her
grandmother esteemed so highly the importance of a maid's being
versed in all domestic arts, such as the spinning and weaving of
flax and wool, and preserving and distilling and fine needlework.
She set but small store by Latin and arithmetic for a maid, not even
if she were naturally quick at them, as was Mistress Mary; and had
it not been that she was bent upon keeping me in her service at
Drake Hill, I doubt not that she would have clapped together the
maid's books, whether or no, and set her to her wheel. As it was, a
goodly part of every day was passed by her in such wise, but so fond
was my pupil of her book that often I have seen her with it propped
open, for her reference, on a chair at her side.
It was thus the next morning, the morning of the day of my Lord
Culpeper's ball. It was a warm morning, and the doors and windows of
the hall were set wide open, and all the spring wind and scent
coming in and dimity curtains flying like flags, and the gold of
Mistress Mary's hair tossing now and then in a stronger gust, and
she and Catherine cramming down their flax baskets, lest the flax
take wings to itself and fly away. Both Mary and Catherine were at
their flax-wheels, but Madam Cavendish was in the loom-room with
some of the black women. Mary had her Latin book open, as I have
said before, 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 her family."
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 Cavendish.
"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 enthusiasm.
"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 hath, and doth, 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
"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.
"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
"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 not think—"
"'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 said.
"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
"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 kerchief.
"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
"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 answered.
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
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 I
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 sorrow.
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.
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 path.
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 child.
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 truth."
"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 a convict."
"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
"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
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 this 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
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 to-night, 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 ship."
"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
"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
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 jealously.
"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,
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
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, Master Wingfield."
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
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 or blessing.
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
"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 feed trough.
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
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
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 skill.
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 another 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 sufficient moment."
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
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
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 rebels.
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
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
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 reputation—"
"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 a convict—"
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."
Then, 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 it, Catherine!"
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 sister's heart."
"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
"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 burning.
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,
doth, 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
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
"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
"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
"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 to-night."
"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 agitated."
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 action.
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 the government.
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 eyes.
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
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 motion.
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
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
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 same belief.
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 tobacco.
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
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 with terror.
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
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
"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, Harry."
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 not?
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
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 tobacco plants.
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
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 Mary Cavendish.
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 into service.
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 being provisioned.
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 I 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
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
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
"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
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
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 brought him.
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
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 wot of.
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, and—and—"
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
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 weak.
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
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
"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 fo'rt. 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
"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 likewise.
"No more from thy cousin,
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 various sports.
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 to-morrow?"
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
"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
"'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 aim, Harry."
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 our blood!"
"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, Harry."
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 hath, 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
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
"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
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 were bound.
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 the Restoration.
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 merrily 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 extended feet.
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 Cavendish.
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.