The Heart's Highway
Mary E. Wilkins
Part 4 out of 4
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 he could muster.
"For God's sake," I cried, "go you to the cellar, the boat, the
boat, the creek."
But Mary looked at me, and I can see her face now.
"Think you I did not know of that way?" she said, "and think you I
would leave you here to die? No, let them come in and do their
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 for't. I
send herewith my great emruld ringg, with dimends which I suspect
hath been the means of sending an inosent man into slavery. I had a
mind some years agone to wed with Caterin Cavendish, and she bein a
hard made to approche, having ever a stiff turn of the sholder
toward me, though I knew not why, I was not willin to resk my sute
by word of mouth, nor having never a gift in writin by letter. And
so, knowin that mades like well such things, I bethought me of my
emruld ring, and on the night of the ball, I being upstair in to lay
off my hatt and cloak, stole privily into Catherin's chamber, she
being a-dancin below, and I laid the ring on her dresing table,
thinkin that she would see it when she entered, and know it for a
"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
After the horse-racing came music of drums, trumpets, and hautboys,
and then in spite of my brother, the crowd pressed close about me,
and many scurrilous things were said and many grinning faces thrust
in mine, and thinking of it now, I would that I had them all in open
battlefield, for how can a man fight ridicule? Verily it is like
duelling with a man of feathers. Quite still I sat, but felt that
dignity and severity of bearing but made me more vulnerable to
ridicule. Utterly weaponless I was against such odds.
I was glad enough when the drums challenged again for a race of
boys, who were to run one hundred and twelve yards for a hat.
Everybody turned from me to see that, and I watched wearily the
straining backs and elbows of the little fellows, and the shouts of
encouragement and of triumph when the winner came in smote my ears
as through water, with curious shocks of sound.
Then ten fiddlers played for a prize, and while they played, the
people gathered around me again, for races more than music have the
ability to divert the minds of English folk; but they left me again,
when there was a wrestling for a pair of silver knee-buckles. I
remember to this day with a curious dizziness of recollection, the
straining of those two stout wrestlers over the field, each forcing
the other with all his might, and each scarce yielding a foot, and
finally ending the strife in the same spot as where begun. I can see
now those knotted arms and writhing necks of strength, and hear
those quick pants of breath, and again it seems as then, a picture
passing before my awful reality of shame. Then two young men danced
for a pair of shoes, and the crowd gathered around them, and I was
quite deserted, and could scarcely see for the throng the rhythmic
flings of heels and tosses of heads. But when that sport was over,
and the winner dancing merely away in his new shoes, the crowd
gathered about me again, and in spite of my brother, clods of mud
began to fly, and urchins to tweak at my two 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.
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