The Real America in Romance, Volume 6; A Century Too Soon (A Story
John R. Musick
Part 3 out of 6
snow-white flaxen apron, which, primly starched and ironed, was worn on
public days. There was no revolution except from the time of sowing to
the time of reaping, from the plain dress of the week to the more trim
attire of Sunday. Every family was taught to look to the fountain of
Life was not all sombre. Frolic mingled with innocence. Sometimes
religion itself wore the garb of gayety, and the annual thanksgiving to
God was, from primitive times, as joyous as it was sincere. Nature
always asserts her rights, and Christianity means gladness.
The English colonies of the south after the restoration began to show
evidence of improvement. Mr. William Drummond, the sturdy Scotch
emigrant to Virginia, having been appointed governor of North Carolinia
brought that country into the favorable notice of the world. Clarendon
gained for Carolinia a charter which opened the way for religious
freedom. One clause held out to the proprietaries a hope of revenue from
colonial customs, to be imposed in colonial ports by Carolinia
legislatures. Another gave them authority to erect cities and manors,
counties and baronies, and to establish orders of nobility with other
than English titles. The power to levy troops, to erect fortifications,
to make war by sea and land on their enemies, and, in cases of
necessity, to exercise martial law was granted them. Every favor was
extended to the proprietaries, nothing being neglected but the interests
of the English sovereign and rights of the colonists. Imagination
encouraged every extravagant hope, and Ashley Cooper, Earl of
Shaftesbury, the most active and the most able of the corporators, was
deputed by them to frame for the dawning states a perfect constitution,
worthy to endure throughout all ages.
The constitutions for Carolinia merit attention as the only continued
attempt within the United States to connect political power with
hereditary wealth. America was singularly rich in every form of
representative government. Its political life was so varied that, in
modern constitutions, hardly a method of constituting an upper or
popular house has thus far been suggested, of which the character and
operation had not already been tested in the experience of our fathers.
In Carolinia the disputes of a thousand years were crowded into a
"Europe suffered from absolute but inoperative laws. No statute of
Carolinia was to bind beyond a century. Europe suffered from the
multiplication of law-books and the perplexities of the law. In
Carolinia not a commentary might be written on the constitutions, the
statutes, or the common law. Europe suffered from the furies of bigotry.
Carolinia promised not equal rights, but toleration to 'Jews, heathens
and other dissenters,' to 'men of any religion.' In other respects, 'the
interests of the proprietors,' the desires of 'a government most
agreeable to monarchy,' and the dread of 'a numerous democracy,' are
avowed as the motives for forming the fundamental constitutions of
"The proprietaries, as sovereigns, constituted a close corporation of
eight, a number which was never to be diminished or increased. The
dignity was hereditary, but in default of heirs, the survivors elected a
successor. Thus was formed an upper house, self-elected and immortal."
[Footnote: Bancroft, vol. i., page 495.]
Carolinia was an aristocracy, the instincts of which dreads the moral
power of proprietary cultivators of the soil, so enacted their perpetual
degradation. The leet-men, or tenants holding ten acres of land at a
fixed rent, were not only destitute of political franchises, but were
adscripts to the soil: "Under the jurisdiction of their lord, without
appeal," and it was added: "all children of leet-men shall be leet-men,
and so to all generations."
In 1665, Albemarle had been increased by fresh emigrants from New
England and by a colony of ship-builders from the Bermudas, who lived
contentedly with Stevens as chief magistrate, under a very wise and
simple form of government. A council of twelve, six named by the
proprietaries, and six chosen by the assembly. An assembly, composed of
the governor, the council, and twelve delegates from the freeholders of
the incipient settlements, these formed a government which enjoyed
popular confidence. No interference from abroad was anticipated, for
freedom of religion, and security against taxation, except by the
colonial legislature, were conceded. As their lands were confirmed to
them on their own terms, the colonists were satisfied.
The authentic record of the legislative history of North Carolinia
begins with the autumn of 1666, when the legislators of Albemarle,
ignorant of the scheme which Locke and Shaftesbury were maturing, formed
a few laws, which, however open to objection, were united to the
character and manner of the inhabitants. While freedom struggled in the
hearts of the common people to assert its rights and declare that all
men were equal and ought to be free, scheming nobles sought to enchain
them in one form or another of slavery.
THE FUGITIVE AND HIS CHILD.
"Adieu! adieu! My native shore
Fades o'er the waters blue.
The night winds sigh, the breakers roar,
And shrieks the wild sea-mew."
At the close of a July day in the year of the restoration, a man,
travelling on foot and leading a little girl six years of age, entered
the town of Boston. The few inhabitants on the streets and at their
doors and windows regarded the travellers with amazement and even
suspicion, for both were strangers in this part of the world. It would
be difficult to meet wayfarers of more wretched appearance. He was tall,
muscular and robust, and in the full vigor of life. His age might be
anywhere from thirty-five to forty-five, for while his eye possessed the
fire of youth, there were streaks of gray in his long hair and beard.
His ruffled shirt of well-worn linen was met at the neck by a modest
ruff faded and torn like the shirt, and both sadly in need of washing.
On his head he wore a round black cap which, if it ever had a peak, had
lost it. The trousers of dark stuff came just below the knee, Puritan
fashion, and were met by coarse gray stockings. The feet were encased in
coarse shoes with steel buckles, and a sable blouse well worn was held
close to the body by a belt. His only visible weapon was a knotted
stick. Perspiration, heat, exhaustion from travelling on foot, with
dust, added something sordid to his general wretched appearance.
No less interesting than the man was the child he led at his side. Her
great, dark brown eyes and golden hair were indications of beauty,
despite the careworn look and dust-covered features. She wore a hood and
frock, stockings and thick English shoes of the period. Like the man,
the child had a haggard look, and her clothing was faded and worn. There
were leaves and dust in that golden hair, as if her pillow had been the
earth, and her beautiful brown eyes had a terrified look, as if some
dread possessed her mind.
The appearance of these two travel-stained strangers occasioned much
comment in Boston. No one knew them. Where did they come from? The
south, perhaps the seaboard, for they made their entrance from the
Plymouth and Rhode Island roads. But why had they come by land when
travel by water was so much easier? They must have been walking all
day, for the child seemed very tired. Some women, who had seen them
enter the old suburb at the lower part of the town, asserted that the
stranger was carrying the child in his arms when he came to the town.
They saw him halt under some trees by the big spring and both man and
child drink of the pure sweet waters. On reaching the corner of what is
now Washington Street he paused a moment and glanced toward the house of
the governor as if he would go there; but, after a few whispered words
with the child, he shook his head and turned his attention toward the
principal inn of the town.
The child evidently caused this change in his mind, for Mrs. Alice
Stevens, who from her window was watching the pair with no little
interest, thought the little girl looked hungry and tired. She was on
the point of going out to offer her some refreshments and ask the
wanderers to come in and rest, when they went on. The travellers must
have been very thirsty, for the children who followed them saw them
pause at the town-pump and drink again.
There was at this time in Boston a very respectable inn, at which
Bradford the governor of New Plymouth had been entertained by the elder
governor Winthrop. The man and child proceeded to this inn, the best in
the town, and entered the broad piazza which was on a level with the
street. All the ovens were heated, and the host, who was also chief
cook, was preparing supper. The savory smell of cooked meats and
vegetables filled the air with an odor which seemed to increase the
child's hunger. The man and child without a word sank down upon the
wooden benches and listened to the conversation of some men who were
drinking in the tap-room. The peals of laughter and loud talk certainly
were very unlike the staid Puritans of New England. Anon, one of them
struck up a cavalier song very popular among that sect at the period,
and ended with:
"God save the King!"
No war-horse ever heard the blast of a trumpet with more fire in his
soul than did the stranger sitting on the porch holding his child by one
hand, and his knotted stick in the other, hear that cry. His hand
involuntarily clutched the stick as if it were a sword, and his breath
came hard and quick, as if he were eager to rush into battle. The child
seemed instinctively to catch the idea of her father and clutched his
arm with both her hands, while her soft brown eyes were fixed on his in
mute appeal, and he sat enduring the insult without a murmur.
The kitchen was not so far away but that the partridges, grouse and
trout on spits and in the oven gave forth their fumes as they browned
to tempting perfection. The little girl had not yet spoken since they
had entered the town; but now she fixed her eyes on her parent and
"I am very hungry."
He turned his great brown eyes on her tenderly, and made no answer. At
this moment a tow-headed son of the host espied the strangers on the
porch and went to his father to report. The landlord, with flushed face
and greasy apron, appeared on the porch and asked:
"What do you want?"
"Supper and bed," was the answer, and the little girl raised her eyes to
the host, giving him a tired hungry stare.
The proprietor of the inn looked at them suspiciously for a moment, and
then, as if doubting their ability to remunerate him for his
"Have you money to pay for that which you ask?"
"I have," and the mysterious stranger drew from an inside pocket of his
blouse a heavy leathern purse. Unfastening its strings he emptied its
contents, golden guineas, into his own hands, as if to prove that he had
the wherewithal to pay for himself and child. The sight of so much gold
caused the landlord's eyes to sparkle with delight, and he said:
"You can have what you ask!"
The stranger returned his money to his purse and put it in the pocket of
his blouse. There was an air of mystery about the stranger which puzzled
the landlord, and he stood gazing at him, his brow gathered into a knot
of wrinkles as if trying to solve some intricate problem. The man was
sparing of his words; but when he did speak there was something terrible
in his voice; it was deep and heavy like the roar of a cannon. While the
landlord was gazing at him, lost in a sort of revery, he was suddenly
startled by the awful voice asking:
"Will supper be ready soon?"
The host, being thus recalled to his duty, wheeled about to return to
the kitchen. On his way he was met by his wife, whose face was the very
picture of terror and superstitious dread.
"Have nought to do with them! Have nought to do with them!"
"Wherefore, good wife, do you say as much?"
She whispered a few words in his ears which made him turn pale, and with
eyes starting from their sockets, he asked:
"How know you this?"
"Mrs. Johnson hath told me."
The whole demeanor of the landlord underwent an immediate change, his
eyes no longer sparkled with delight at thought of the golden guineas,
and he would sooner have handled a red-hot toasting-fork than have
touched one of them. For a moment he stood hesitating and actually
quaking, and then he appealed to his wife with:
"What must be done?"
"Be done with them at once. Marry! send them hence without delay."
The good dame ruled the household, and he hastily returned to the porch
where the stranger and his child were sitting, and said:
"I cannot make room for you!"
Half starting from his seat, the traveller fixed his terrible eyes on
the host and asked:
"What mean you? Be you afraid of your payment? Verily, I will give you
the money before I eat your bread," and once more he put his hand into
the pocket of the blouse to pull forth the purse; but the landlord
raised his own hand and, with a restraining gesture and averted his
head, as if he dreaded a sight of the other's gold, answered:
"Nay, it is not that."
"Pray, what is it?"
"I doubt not that you have the money."
"Then why refuse me what I ask?"
"I have no spare beds. When I said you could remain, I knew not that all
my rooms were taken."
The child raised her beautiful but dirt-stained face to the host in
mute appeal, while her father quietly continued:
"Put us in the stables; we are used to it."
"Pray why not? Surely the enemies of the son of God would not refuse him
The host started at the awful reply, which to him was sacrilege, and
answered in a faltering voice:
"The horses take up all the room."
The stranger seemed not entirely put out by the persistent refusal of
the landlord and said:
"We will find some corner in which to lie after supper."
"I will give you no supper."
This declaration, made in a firm tone, brought the mysterious traveller
to his feet.
"Can you, a Christian, speak thus?" he cried. "We are dying of hunger. I
have been on my legs since sunrise, and have walked ten leagues to-day,
for most part carrying my child on my back. I have the money, I am
hungry, and I will have food."
"I have none for you," said the landlord.
"What are you cooking in your kitchen, the savory odors of which are
maddening to a hungry man?"
"It is all ordered."
"Merchants and travellers from Plymouth and New Amsterdam."
"You can surely spare a crust for my child, she is starving."
The stern landlord hesitated, when a loud authoritative "Ahem!" from his
invisible wife strengthened him, and he said:
"I have not a morsel to spare."
"I am at an inn. I am hungry, I have money, and I shall remain,"
answered the stranger, sitting by the side of the little girl, who
nervously clutched his arm. The landlord seemed quite put out, if not a
little awed by the determined manner of the stranger, and turning about
re-entered the house, where he held a whispered consultation with some
one. Terror overcame the hunger of the tired child, and, clinging to her
father, she whispered:
"Let us go from this house. I am not hungry now, let us go to some other
place where we will not be injured."
He laid his hard, rough hand assuringly on the shoulder of the
frightened child and sought to soothe her fears. At this moment the
landlord, who had had his courage renewed by his wife, came quite up to
the stranger and, in a voice that was terribly in earnest, said:
"I know more of you by far than you realize. I am usually polite to
everybody, so pray be off."
For a single instant a flash blazed from the eyes of the stranger, then
his face grew deathly white, and he rose, taking the hand of his child
in his own and went off. They walked along the streets at hap-hazard,
keeping close to the houses like a sad and humiliated pair. His tired
child was at his side, uncomplaining, though scarcely able to drag one
weary little foot after the other. They did not look back once. Had they
done so they would have seen that the landlord stood with all his guests
and the passers-by, talking eagerly and pointing to them. Judging from
the looks of suspicion and terror, they might have guessed that ere long
their arrival would be the event of the whole town. They saw nothing of
this, for people who are oppressed do not look back, they know too well
that evil destiny is following them.
Though sad and humiliated, the man was proud, and had the consciousness
of right on his side. Only for his child, he might have defied the
landlord and all the people, but the dread of leaving her alone and
uncared for almost made a coward of a lion. They walked on for a long
time, turning down streets new and strange to them, and in their sorrow
forgetting their fatigue. The sun had set and darkness was falling over
the landscape, when the father, roused once more to a sense of duty for
his child, began to look around for some sort of shelter. The best inn
was closed against them, so he sought a very humble ale-house, a
wretched den which he would have shuddered to have his child enter under
other circumstances. The candles had been lighted and the travellers
paused for a moment to look through the windows. Even that miserable
place had something cheerful and inviting about it. Some cavaliers who
had come from England since the restoration were drinking beer, while
over the fire in the broad chimney bubbled a caldron hanging from an
iron hook. The traveller went to the front entrance and timidly raised
the latch and entered the room, bringing his child after him.
"Who is there?" the landlord asked.
"A traveller and his child who want supper and bed."
"Very good. They are to be had here."
A long wooden bench was in the room, and the traveller sat down on it
and stretched out his tired feet, swollen with fatigue. The child fell
into the seat at his side and, laying her soft curly head on his lap,
despite the fact she had travelled all day without food, fell asleep. As
the stranger sat there in the gloom of twilight, for no candle had been
brought into the room, all that could be distinguished of his face was
his prominent nose, and firm mouth covered with beard. It was a firm,
energetic and sad profile. The face was strangely composed, for it began
by being proud and ended with humility, it commenced in stern austerity
and ended in kindness. One moment the eyes beneath the shaggy eyebrows
gleamed with fires of hate, next they were softened in love as the
glance fell on the sleeping, supperless child. The hand was hardened by
grasping the sword-hilt, and the heart, which had so often defied the
bullets of the enemy, was humble and child-like in the presence of the
The landlord was about to prepare supper for the hungry wanderers, when
a man suddenly entered by the kitchen door, quite out of breath with
running. His eyes were opened wide with terror, and he was trembling
from head to foot. He proceeded to whisper some words in the ears of the
landlord, which caused him to start and quake with dread.
"What would I better do?" asked the landlord in amazement.
"Drive them hence. No good ever comes to one harboring such."
This being made the plain Christian duty of the landlord, he was not
slow to act. He went into the adjoining room, walked up almost to the
stranger, holding his sleeping child on his knee, and said:
"You must be off."
At first the eyes glared at the host fiercely, then became more gentle,
as he remarked:
"You know me?"
"We were turned away from the other inn."
"So you will be from this."
"Where would you have us go?"
"Anywhere so you leave my house."
The stranger had made no effort as yet to rise, and the child who sat at
his side with her head on his knee still slept. Someone brought in a
lighted wax taper, and the strange man, gazing on the face of the
sleeping child, asked:
"Can she remain? See, she has had no food all day and has journeyed, oh,
so far! Won't you let her remain?"
"No, I will have none of you with me."
"But she hath done no wrong," persisted the father.
The stubborn landlord shook his head and answered:
"It brings ill luck to one having such about. You must away and take her
The large, sad-eyed man bent over the sleeping child and whispered:
She awoke in a moment and cast a bewildered glance about the room, as a
child will on being suddenly aroused.
"We must go," the father said, sadly.
She made no complaint, but, rising, with a feminine instinct common even
in a girl of her tender years, adjusted her ruffled hood and dress.
They went out into the night, for the sun had long since set, and the
far-off stars one by one opened their little eyes, until the heavens
were glittering with diamonds. They entered a small street in which
there were numerous gardens, some being merely enclosures with stone
fences. Among these gardens and fences he saw a house the window of
which was illuminated, and he looked through the open casement as he had
done at the inn. It was a cozy, whitewashed room, with a bed, a rude
cradle, a few chairs and an old-fashioned matchlock hanging on a rack
made of deer's antlers on the wall. A plain table was laid for supper in
the middle of the room, a wax taper burned on the mantel lighting up the
interior of the Puritan's home. A man forty years of age sat at the
table with a baby on his knee. Two children, one four and the other two
years old, sat at his side, while the mother was placing supper on the
table. What a tempting sight for a hungry man! Could one conceive a
more happy family picture? The travellers looked on, and the father was
almost maddened when he glanced at his own child.
"Papa, I am so hungry and so tired," she whispered. "Won't you ask them
if we can stay here?"
Fugitives from the law must have a care where they go, and to whom they
appeal, yet Ester's father was growing more desperate every moment. He
went boldly to the door and gave a timid rap with his knuckle. That hand
once bold enough to strike a king from his throne was weak and trembling
on this night. At sound of the knock, the husband and father seemed to
have suddenly changed. The lion may sport and play with his whelps in
his lair, but when the intruder enters his domestic abode, all is
changed. He rose, took up the light and went to the door. He was a tall
man and, judging from his charcoal-begrimed features, a blacksmith, and
he wore a large leathern apron which came quite to his shoulder. As he
threw back his head the shirt-front opened, displaying his bare neck and
hairy chest. His face was sullen, with a bull-dog expression on it.
Without a moment's hesitation, the stranger began:
"I am weary, and my child hath had no food to-day. Would you, for money,
give us a morsel to eat and a blanket and corner in which to sleep?"
"Who are you?" asked the smith.
"We came from New Plymouth, and have walked all day. I will pay you well
for what you give us."
The blacksmith loved money; but those were troublesome times, and people
had to be careful whom they admitted into their houses. The king had
been restored and was pursuing his enemies with a vengeance, and to
harbor a _regicide_ might mean death on the scaffold. The smith thought
of all this, and asked:
"Why do you not go to one of the inns?"
"There is no room there."
"Nonsense! that is impossible. Have you been to Robinson's?"
"I have been to all."
The traveller continued with some hesitation, "I do not know why; but
they all refuse to take us in."
The man knew there was something wrong with the travellers, and turning
about, he held a whispered consultation with his wife. She was heard to
say in a faint whisper: "It is the same, a man with a child." Then the
smith turned on the stranger, and said:
The proud eye of a daring trooper in despair is the saddest sight one
ever gazed upon. Such was the look of the humiliated man, as, with his
starving child, he turned from the last door. At times the spirit of
revenge rose in his breast, and he was inclined to turn on the men who
refused his child food, drink and shelter, and with his stout knotted
stick beat out their brains; but, on second thought, he restrained
himself and said:
"No--no; I will not make an outlaw of myself. I am not a robber."
He who had been the commander of thousands, the king of the
battle-field, at whose name princes grew pale and thrones tottered, was
now a wanderer from house to house, rejected at every door.
"I am so hungry," murmured Ester. "If I had but a morsel of food, I
could sleep under a tree."
He heard the plaintive appeal, and it wrung his fatherly heart. Through
his teeth he hissed:
"If I am made a savage let all the world beware."
They were climbing a hill to enter another part of the town, when they
came upon a kind old Puritan woman, who paused to gaze in compassion on
the wayfarers. If others kept off from them as though they were
creatures to contaminate by a touch, she seemed to entertain no such
fears. Coming quite close, she said:
"Prythee, friend, why do you not get this child to bed?"
"I would, good woman, had I a bed for her; but, alas, all doors are shut
"Surely not all!"
"I have tried the inns and the home of the smith; but they seem to fear
us, as if we were polution."
"Have you called at that house?" she asked, pointing to a steep-roofed
building, the top of which was just visible over the hill in the light
of the rising moon.
"No, who lives there?"
"Mathew Stevens, a very good old man."
"Has he a heart? Is he brave?"
"He has a heart tender enough, and he is brave enough to shelter the
oppressed, in spite of other people's opinions."
The woman went her way, and the traveller and his weary child went
slowly over the hill to the house. It seemed a great distance. Many a
time after that Ester traversed the distance alone and thought it short;
but on that night rods were lengthened out into miles. As they were
passing the window, Ester saw a man about the age of her father reading
a Bible. He sat at a table on which burned a taper, and his wife and
children were gathered about listening. Surely a man who would read the
Bible would not refuse them food and shelter. She staggered up to the
door by her father's side, in a dazed, half-conscious manner, and was
cognizant of his knocking, and the door being opened. Their story was
told briefly, and then warm arms encircled the little fugitive, a
colored slave prepared a supper, and Ester was awakened to eat it, after
which she sank into slumber on her father's breast.
TYRANNY AND FLIGHT.
"Oh, for a lodge in some vast wilderness,
Some boundless contiguity of shade,
Where rumor of oppression and deceit,
Of successful or unsuccessful war,
Might never reach me more."
When Virginia came back to the royal fold, her people little suspected
that she was to be fleeced by the very men for whom they had clamored.
No event worthy of note had occurred in the colony until September,
1663, when what was known as the "Oliverian Plot" was concocted. A
number of indented servants conspired to "anticipate the period of their
freedom," and made an appointment to assemble at Poplar Spring in
Gloucester, with what precise designs is not known. They were betrayed
by one of their number, and Berkeley, who already seemed to thirst for
blood, had the four ringleaders hung.
Jamestown was the gay city of the South; but the halcyon days promised
on the restoration of Virginia to royalty were never realized. The
common people were made worse for the change, and only the favorite few
At the home of Mrs. Dorothe Price matters went on fairly well. Her
children from the first seemed to whisper rebellion; but the stern
cavalier husband met them with firmness. Robert Stevens, who had
incurred the man's dislike before he had wed his mother, realized that
his stepfather had not forgotten and was not likely to forget the
assault. His face, which at times could be pleasant, was firm and
immovable with Robert. He never smiled on the boy nor gave him one
When the cavaliers and ladies assembled at the house, the children were
sent away. Robert was strong and athletic. His early hardships had bred
in him a spirit of fearless independence and freedom, which few of his
age realized. Mr. Price saw that unless he early mastered him, he would
not be able to do so, for Robert was rapidly growing larger. The gloomy
taint in Hugh Price's blood was his religion, which was austere and
wrathful. He could assume a character of firmness when he chose to do
so, and then, despite his silk, lace, and ruffles, he became terrible.
One day when Robert had exhibited a strong spirit of insubordination, he
took his arm and, sitting on a chair, held him standing before him for
a long time, gazing into his face. The little fellow met his glance
without quailing, though he could feel his heart within his bosom giving
"Robert," he said, pressing his lips firmly together, "do you know what
I do if my horse or dog will not obey me?"
"No," was the answer.
"I beat him and make him smart until I have conquered him. I would drain
every drop of blood from his veins, but I would conquer him."
Glaring at him with a fury that made the strong man wince, the lad
"If you beat me I will kill you."
For several minutes the stepfather sat glaring at Robert who met his
gaze with defiance. Hugh Price read in the face of the child hate, and
inwardly realized that there was a struggle in the near future which
might end in the death of one or the other; but if those forebodings
were in his mind, he did not let the boy see them, and in a voice quite
calm and intended to be gentle, he said:
"Go away, Robert, until you are more reasonable."
Robert Stevens might have been improved for his whole life by a single
kind word at that moment; but the haughty cavalier would not bow to the
will of any one, much less to the boy he already hated. A word of
encouragement, explanation, pity for his childish ignorance, of
reassurance that his mother's roof was to be his home, might have made
him really dutiful.
On his way out he heard a sob, and, going into his mother's room, found
her on her knees weeping bitterly. Tenderly he wound his arms around
that weak mother, whom he loved with all the fervency of his young soul,
and his own tears mingled with hers. They were in this position when
Hugh Price, on his way to mount his horse, paused a single instant to
gaze on the scene, and then, muttering something about weakness of
women, added an oath and hurried from the house.
When he was gone, Dorothe rose from her knees and, clasping Robert in
her arms, cried:
"Oh, Robert, I heard it all!"
"Mother, I mean it!" he answered.
"No, no; for my sake, promise me you will not, Robert."
"Mother," said the boy, "my own father never struck me a blow. He who
had the right to punish me never found it necessary, and he shall not."
Dearly as Robert loved his mother, he would not yield to Hugh Price. He
would have suffered torture rather than caused his mother a single tear;
but to yield to the haughty cavalier was impossible.
Public schools were unknown in that day, and what little learning was
to be acquired was by private tutors. Sometimes Price talked of sending
the boy to England to school, more to get rid of him than from any real
desire to improve his mind. The mother objected to this. Then the
stepfather tried to effect a compromise by sending him to Harvard
College in Massachusetts, for he had relatives in Boston who might keep
an eye on the incorrigible youth; but the fond mother clung to her son,
and having a fair education herself, Robert and his sister, a pale
little creature, whose great dark eyes were like her mother's, became
pupils with the mother for teacher. She was an indulgent preceptress
and, for a short season, renounced the pleasures and follies grown so
dear to her heart, and devoted herself to the improvement of her
children's mind. Mrs. Price was so blind as to believe that it was her
husband's real interest in Robert's welfare that made him wish to send
the boy away. She soon found her labor as teacher irksome. She employed
a private tutor and again mingled with the lords and ladies, and became
one of the sparkling lights of Greensprings Manor.
Hugh Price was kind and indulgent to her. Her temperament suited his own
ideas of living, and but for the children they might have been happy.
It is possible that Mr. Price entertained some fear that Robert would
execute his threat and kill him, for though he often laid his hand on
the slender cane as if he would like to use it on the boy, he had thus
far refrained; but a crisis was coming. Price not only entertained an
aversion to Robert, but disliked Rebecca. She shrank from him in a way
that increased the dislike, although he made some efforts to reconcile
her to him.
One day, a year and a half after his marriage, he accosted the child,
and she, shrinking with dread, failed to do his bidding. He boxed her
ears, and she cried out with pain.
That scream roused Robert, and he flew tooth and nail at the stepfather.
Hugh Price, unprepared for this violent attack, shook the lad off, held
him at arm's length for a moment and said:
"I may as well do it now as ever."
Robert was in a maze, and to him it seemed a dream. His mother was
weeping and imploring, his sister screaming, and the faithful slave
Dinah howling. As Price took him toward the door, his mother ran toward
them; but the husband angrily raised his disengaged hand and growled:
"Dorothe, you are a perfect fool!"
Robert saw her stop her ears, then heard her crying, as he was led
slowly and gravely to his room. The supreme moment had arrived when Mr.
Hugh Price was to glut his vengeance. Price was delighted with this
formal parade to the execution of justice, for he had made up his mind
to conquer the lad's spirit or break it, and when Robert's room was
reached, he suddenly twisted his head under his arm, saying:
"The moment has arrived, Robert, when I must convince you that I am
master of the house."
"Mr. Price, beware! Pray don't beat me, it will only make matters worse.
I could not see you strike my sister; but if you will not beat us, we
will try to obey you in the future."
"No, no, indeed, Robert!" he answered. "The time has come to convince
you that I am master."
He held the boy's arm until it ached with pain, but Robert continued to
gaze in his face and implore him for the sake of the future not to
strike him. The stepfather was in a rage, and at that moment little
cared what he roused in the breast of the boy. Heedless of his pleading,
he raised his slender cane and struck at him, but the active lad dodged
the blow and caught his arm with his sharp teeth.
It now became a fight to the finish. Hugh Price was enraged and struck
fast and furious. Above the din of the combatants in the room, the
angry, smarting boy could hear the darkies flying in terror from room to
room, and his little sister at the door imploring mercy for her brother.
Mingled with this noise were the screams and supplications of his mother
until she fainted in the arms of the negress, after which came only the
shrill cries of little Rebecca. Then the stepfather was gone, and the
door bolted on the outside. The badly bruised lad lay raging and sobbing
on the floor, breathing threats of vengeance. By degrees he became quiet
and listened. A strange, unnatural silence reigned throughout the whole
house. When his smarting began to subside his passion cooled a little,
yet he felt wicked; and, rolling on the floor, vowed he would kill his
After a while he sat up and listened for a long time; but there was not
a sound. He crawled from the floor, and the wounds made by the cane of
the cavalier were so fresh and sore that they made him weep anew.
He sat by the window. It had began to grow dark, and he was turning away
to lie on the couch, when he heard the clatter of hoofs and saw Hugh
Price mounted on his favorite black charger, riding toward Greensprings.
Shortly after, Dinah's step was heard on the stairway, and his door
"Where is Rebecca?" he asked.
"Waiten," was the answer.
"Waiting for what?"
"For you, Massa Robert. You is gwine away."
The negress did not know; but Robert soon learned that their uncle from
Flower De Hundred had come to Jamestown and agreed to take the children
and rear them.
"When are we to go, Dinah?"
"Is that why Mr. Price left?"
"Yes um. Him say neber want to see you again."
"Shall I see mother?"
"Yes, in de mornin'. Heah am yer suppah chile; now eat it an den go to
sleep, honey, for it am all ober."
Consequently next morning at early daylight the children were mounted on
horses, the chief mode of travel in Virginia at that time, and,
accompanied by their aunt's husband and two negro slaves, they set off
on the long journey. Mrs. Price kissed them a tearful adieu and wept as
if her heart would break. This unfortunate woman was more weak than bad.
By one who has not made a study of the human heart and is incapable of
an analysis of woman, Mrs. Price will not be understood. There are many
women like her, and, disagreeable as the type may seem, it exists, and
the artist who is true to nature must paint nature as he finds it.
Three years were passed by Robert and his sister at the home of their
relative, and in those three years Robert imbibed a spirit of
republicanism which at that time was rapidly growing in Virginia. As
Robert's uncles were republicans, he learned the doctrine from them. If
for no other reason than that his stepfather was a royalist, he would
have been a republican.
Nothing is more uncertain than political friendship, a friendship
selfish and treacherous. It assumes all things, absorbs all things,
expects all things, and disappoints in everything. A merely political
friend can never be trusted. Robert was seventeen or eighteen years of
age, when he became acquainted with Giles Peram, a young man two or
three years his senior. Peram was a caricature on nature. He was short
of stature, had a round, fat face, eyes that bulged from his head like
those of a toad, a corpulent body, and a walk about as graceful as the
waddling of a duck. His short legs and arms gave him a decidedly comical
He was egotistical, with flexible opinions and liable to be swayed in
any course. When he was at Flower De Hundred, living in the atmosphere
of liberalists and republicans, he was one of the most outspoken of all.
He would strut for hours before any one who would listen to his
senseless twaddle and would harangue and discourse on the rights of
"Are you favorable to royalty?" he asked Robert one day. "Don't you
believe in the rights of the common people?"
"I certainly do," Robert answered, for he was thoroughly democratic.
"So do I--ahem--so do I;" and then the angry little fellow shook his
fist at an imaginary foe. "Would you fight for such principles?"
"So would I--ahem, so would I," cried Mr. Peram. Giles had a very
disagreeable habit of repeating his words. A wag once said that his
ideas were so few and his words so many that he was forced to repeat. "I
will fight for the rights of the people. I will lead an army myself and
hurl King Charles from his throne."
Robert laughed. The idea of this insipid pigmy leading an army to
overthrow the king was as ridiculous as Don Quixote charging the
"Give o'er such thoughts, Giles, or perchance the king will hang you."
"Hang me! I defy him!" cried Mr. Peram.
His manner was earnest, and Robert, who hated Governor Berkeley,
suggested they had better begin their republic by overthrowing
"Do you mean it?" asked Giles. "Aye, do you mean it? Then why not hurl
Berkeley from power."
"Verily, you could not more nearly conform to my wishes," answered
Then Giles, in his impetuous enthusiasm, embraced Robert. Giles Peram
was not a spy, and at that time he believed himself a stanch republican.
A few days later he went to Jamestown. Robert little dreamed that his
remark would bring trouble upon himself.
At this time Governor Berkeley was growing uneasy. He felt that he stood
above a burning volcano, from which an eruption was liable to take place
at any moment. He trembled at the slightest whispers of freedom, for
royalty dreads independence, and the idle boasts of Giles Peram startled
him. He summoned Hugh Price and consulted with him on the boldness
"Fear him not, my lord," said Hugh. "He is but an idle, boasting,
half-witted fellow, as harmless as he is silly. There is a plot, I am
sure; but of it I will learn the particulars and advise you."
Hugh Price was shrewd, and, by a little flattery, he won over the
vacillating Giles Peram to the royalists' side.
"Yes, sir, I will draw my sword for the king, ahem--draw my sword for
the king at any moment. I am a loyal cavalier of his majesty, Charles
II., and woe to the man who says aught against him or his majesty's
Then Hugh told him that there was certainly a deep-laid plot against
Governor Berkeley, and he asked the aid of Peram in ferreting out the
leaders. There were no leaders and no plot; but Peram, after cudgeling
his brain, remembered that Robert Stevens had spoken treasonable words
against the governor. Having changed his politics, he was no longer the
friend of Robert and was willing to aid in his downfall.
Price received the intelligence with joy. He hated Robert, and this was
a good way to get rid of him. Often the cavalier had declared:
"Marry! he is a merry rogue. He will yet ornament the gibbet."
His predictions seemed on the verge of realization. Berkeley, grown
petulant and merciless in his old age, would not hesitate to hang Robert
One evening as Robert was going from his mother's house he noticed three
or four persons coming down the street. Their manner might have excited
the suspicion of a guilty man; but as Robert had committed no crime, he
relied wholly on his innocence. No sooner had he stepped on the street,
however, than he was arrested.
"Of what offence am I accused?" he asked.
"Treason! it is false; I am guilty of no treason."
The mother and sister, hearing the angry words without, hurried to the
street to find him in custody. Wringing their hands in an agony of
distress, they demanded to know the cause of the arrest, and were
informed that Robert had been accused of treason to the governor and
must be committed to jail.
Robert slept behind iron bars that night. He had many friends in the
town, who no sooner learned of his arrest, than they began to appeal to
the governor for his release. Among them was Drummond, Cheeseman and
Lawerence; but all supplications and entreaties were of no avail. Hugh
Price made a pretence of defending his wife's son; but the hollow show
of his pretended interest was apparent.
One night, as he was lying on his hard prison bunk, Robert heard the
sound of footsteps without. Some persons were working at the front door
with a key. They seemed to be exercising due caution, and soon the
door was open.
They came to the door of his cell. For a long time it seemed to baffle
them, but at last it yielded, and the door opened.
"Who are you?" asked the prisoner, as three dark forms appeared before
"Friends," a voice which he recognized as Mr. Edward Cheeseman's
whispered. "We have come to liberate you."
He was led from the jail, and then, by the dim light of the stars, he
recognized William Drummond, Edward Cheeseman and Mr. Lawerence.
"There is a ship in the harbor ready to sail for Boston," said Mr.
Lawerence. "You will go aboard of her and escape."
"Can I see my mother and sister before I go?"
"They are waiting on the beach," Drummond answered.
Thanking his liberators, he followed them from the jail to the beach. It
was midnight, and the stars looked coldly down on the youth as he
hurried from the prison. His proud spirit rebelled at flying from home.
He had done no wrong and consequently had nothing to fly from; but when
his mother threw her arms about his neck and implored him to go,
"I shall appeal to the king, show him my wrong and obtain my right."
"Have you money?" asked Mr. Drummond.
"Here is some," and Drummond placed in the hand of Robert a well-filled
"My friend, how can one so poor as I repay you?"
"Talk not of repayment," Drummond answered, "but go on, and when you
are away, remember us in kindness."
The boat was waiting on the beach, and the sailors sat at their oars
ready to take him away to the vessel which lay at anchor. Drummond,
Cheeseman and Lawerence withdrew, leaving Robert alone with his mother
and sister. A few silent tears, a few silent embraces, and then he bade
them adieu, entered the boat, and was rowed away into the darkness.
THE DAUGHTER OF A REGICIDE.
When thy beauty appears
In its graces and airs,
All bright as an angel new dropped from the sky
At a distance I gaze and am awed at my fears,
So strangely you dazzle my eyes.
One bright morning in autumn a ship from Virginia entered Boston Harbor.
The appearance of a vessel was not an uncommon sight, and this one
attracted little more than passing comment. Passengers were coming
ashore and among them a stalwart youth of eighteen. His eyes wandered
about over the town while the breeze played with his long hair hanging
about his shoulders. He wore the costume of a cavalier, with a
low-crowned, broad-brimmed hat and plume; but his face had all the grave
aspect of a Puritan.
He asked no questions on landing, but went up to the Common, where a
fencing-master had erected a stage and was walking back and forth upon
it with a rapier in his hand, saying:
"Come, any who will, and fight me with swords."
Near him were a dozen or two swords of all kinds. The new-comer paused
near the platform on which the boaster stood and gazed at him in wonder.
"I have been on this platform for several days, defying any man to fence
with me. Have you no one in Boston brave enough?"
"I will," a voice cried at this moment. All turned at the sound, for the
voice was deep and commanding, sounding like the boom of a cannon.
This stranger to all assembled on the Common was most singularly armed
and equipped for a fight. On his left arm, wrapped in a linen cloth, was
a large cheese for a shield, while he carried, instead of a sword, a mop
dipped in muddy water.
"Who is he?"
"Beware of him, and allow him not to go on the stage," cried another.
But the stranger, with an agility not to be expected in one of his
years, sprang upon the platform. The fencing-master evidently thought he
had an easy victory, for a smile curled his lip, as he asked:
"Are you ready?"
"Yes," was the answer.
He sprang at the fencing-master, who made a thrust at him, burying the
point of his sword in the cheese, where the white-haired man held it,
while he smeared the face of his opponent with the mud on his mop.
[Illustration: "ARE YOU READY?"]
"Zounds! master what are you about?" cried the fencing-master.
"Marry! I am teaching you new tactics." Releasing his sword, the
fencing-master ran to the other end of the platform and, seizing a
"I will have it out with you with these."
At this, the old man cried in a terrible voice:
"Stop, sir! hitherto you see I have only played with you and done you
no hurt; but if you come at me with the broadsword, I will take
The alarmed fencing-master cried out:
"Who can you be? You must be either Goffe, Whalley, or the devil, for
there are no others in England who could beat me."
In order to fully explain the meaning of the fencing-master's words, we
beg leave to step aside from our story for a moment and recall some
historical events which have a bearing upon it. Of the judges who tried
and condemned Charles I. three escaped to America. One was Edward
Whalley, who had first won laurels in the field at Naseby, had even
enjoyed the confidence of Cromwell, and remained a friend of the
Independents; one was William Goffe, a firm friend of the family of
Cromwell, a good soldier and an ardent partisan, but ignorant of the
true principles of freedom. Endicott was governor when these two arrived
in Boston. Goffe, with his child, came first, but was known as soon as
he entered the town, and lodging was refused him at every house until he
came to the home of the kind Puritan, Mathew Stevens, who sheltered the
man and his child, though it might endanger his own head.
Charles II. pursued the murderers of his father with unrelenting fury.
Whalley and Goffe both had been generals in the army of Cromwell and
were men of undoubted courage. When warrants came for them from England,
they hurried across the country to New Haven, where it was esteemed a
crime against God to betray a wanderer or give up an outcast; yet such
diligent search was made for them, that they never knew security. For a
time they went in secrecy from house to house, for awhile concealing
themselves in a mill, sometimes in clefts of rocks by the seaside, and
for weeks together, and even for months, they dwelt in a cave in the
forest. Great rewards were offered for their apprehension. Indians as
well as English were urged to scour the woods in quest of their
John Dixwell, the third regicide, was more fortunate. He was able to
live undiscovered and, changing his name, was absorbed among the
inhabitants of New Haven. He married and lived peacefully and happily.
Raleigh's history of the world, written during his imprisonment, while
he was under sentence of death, was his favorite study. It is said that
to the day of his death he retained a firm belief that the spirit of
English liberty would demand a new revolution, which was achieved in
England while he was on his death-bed.
Another victim of the restoration, selected for his genius and
integrity, was Sir Henry Vane, the benefactor of Rhode Island. This ever
faithful friend of New England and liberty adhered with undaunted
firmness to "the glorious cause" of popular liberty, and, shunned by
every one who courted the returning monarch, he became noted for his
unpopularity. When the Unitarians were persecuted, not as a sect but as
blasphemers, Vane interceded for them. He also pleaded for the liberty
of the Quakers, and as a legislator he demanded justice in behalf of the
Roman Catholics. When monarchy was overthrown and a Commonwealth
attempted, Vane reluctantly filled a seat in the council, and, resuming
his place as a legislator, amidst the floating wrecks of the English
constitution, he clung to the existing parliament as to the only
fragment on which it was possible to rescue English liberty. His ability
enabled Blake to cope with Holland on the sea.
[Illustration: SIR HENRY VANE.]
After the restoration, parliament had excepted Sir Henry Vane from the
indemnity, on the king's promise that he should not suffer death. It was
resolved to bring him to trial, and he turned his trial into a triumph.
Though he had always been supposed to be a timid man, he appeared
before his judges with animated fearlessness. Instead of offering
apologies for his career, he denied the imputation of treason with
scorn, defended the right of Englishmen to be governed by successive
representatives, and took glory to himself for actions which promoted
the good of England and were sanctioned by parliament as the virtual
sovereign of the realm. "He spoke not for his life and estate, but for
the honor of the martyrs to liberty that were in their graves, for the
liberties of England, for the interest of all posterity to come." When
he asked for counsel, the solicitor said:
"Who will dare speak for you, unless you can call down from the gibbet
the heads of your fellow-traitors?"
"I stand single," Vane defiantly answered. "Yet, being thus left alone,
I am not afraid, in this great presence, to bear my witness to the
glorious cause, nor to seal it with my blood."
Stimulated by the magnanimity of this noble spirit, his enemies clamored
for his life. The king wrote:
"Certainly Sir Henry Vane is too dangerous a man to let live, if we can
honestly put him out of the way."
Though he could not be honestly put out of the way, it was resolved that
he should die. The day before his execution his friends were admitted
to his prison, and sought to cheer his drooping spirits. He calmly
reviewed his political career, and in conclusion said:
"I have not the least recoil in my heart as to matter or manner of what
I have done. Why should we fear death? I find it rather shrinks from me
than I from it." His children gathered around him, and he stopped to
embrace them, mingling consolation with his kisses. "The Lord will be a
better father to you than I could have been. Be not you troubled, for I
am going to my father."
His farewell counsel was:
"Suffer anything from men rather than sin against God." When his family
had withdrawn, he declared: "I leave my life as a seal to the justness
of that quarrel. Ten thousand deaths, rather than defile the chastity of
my conscience; nor would I, for ten thousand worlds, resign the peace
and satisfaction I have in my heart."
He was beheaded at the block, and Charles II. smiled when news was
brought to him of the execution. We must not regard Charles II. as a
bloodthirsty man. In fact, he was rather good-natured, thinking more of
pleasures and beautiful mistresses than of vengeance; but it was only
natural that he should feel anxious to bring the murderers of his father
to the scaffold.
He had no love for Puritan Massachusetts and threatened to deprive them
of their liberties, demanding the retiring of the charter, which they
refused to surrender. Various rumors went to England to the detriment of
the people of Massachusetts. The New Englanders were not ignorant of the
great dangers they incurred by refusing to comply with the demand of the
sovereign. In January, 1663, the council for the colonies complained
that the government there had withdrawn all manner of correspondence, as
if intending to suspend their obedience to the authority of the king. It
was currently reported in England that Whalley and Goffe were at the
head of an army. The union of the four New England colonies was believed
to have had its origin in the express "purpose of throwing off
dependence on England."
Friends of the colonies denied the reports and assured the king that New
England was loyal; but despite the fact of their assertions, Whalley and
Goffe were still at large.
Even when their pursuers were close on their trail, Goffe, with a daring
that was reckless, frequently appeared in Boston, usually in disguise.
Long sojourn in rocks and caves had given him a natural disguise, in the
long, snowy hair and beard.
It was on one of his daring visits to Boston, that he met and conquered
the fencing-master as narrated in the opening of this chapter. Having
humbled the boaster, the man with the cheese and mop descended from the
platform, threw away his weapons and advanced toward the youth who had
been an amazed spectator of the scene.
"Good morrow, friend. Do you belong here?" he asked, taking his hand.
"No, sir, I just came in on the vessel."
"Whom do you wish to see?"
"Some relatives named Stevens."
"Is your name Stevens?"
"It is, sir."
"And you are from Virginia?" the old man asked.
"Verily, you have guessed it, sir. Who may you be?"
Without answering him, the strange swordsman seized his arm, saying:
"Come with me; I am going to the house of Mathew Stevens. What is your
"John Stevens was his name; but he is dead. He went on a voyage and was
lost at sea when I was quite young."
"And your grandfather was--"
"Philip Stevens, the friend of Captain John Smith."
"I know of him. We will go to the home of your relatives." He led Robert
over the hill toward a neat looking house, one of the best in Boston.
The old man was nervous and frequently halted to look about, as if
"Surely you have no one to fear?" said Robert.
"Whom should I fear--the man whose face I plastered with mud? I carry a
sword at my side, and he could not fight me in a single combat."
"But he said something. He called you a name."
"What know you of Goffe, pray?"
"I have heard of him. My mother's husband frequently spoke of him as a
The swordsman gazed on him for a moment, and asked:
"Do you know what a regicide is?"
"Well, my young cavalier, when a king has been convicted of treason,
should he not suffer death as the humblest peasant in the land?"
"He should," cried Robert, on whose republican soul the argument fell
with a delightful sensation. "A king is but a man and no better than the
poorest in the realm."
"Ha! young cavalier from Virginia, dare you utter those words in your
"No; I left my colony because I could not abide there."
"What! a fugitive?"
"I escaped prison by the aid of friends and fled to Boston."
"And wherefore, pray, were you imprisoned?"
"On the charges of my mother's husband and a false friend in whom I
General Goffe shook his white locks and said:
"So young, and made to feel the grinding heel of the despot! Verily the
suffering race of Adam will claim their rights some time."
They reached the home of Mathew Stevens, a large old-fashioned New
England house, and were admitted at once.
Robert was conscious of being in the presence of several strange but
kindly faces. There was an old man and woman with some young people of
his own age. Then he noticed among them a beautiful, fairy-like little
creature, some four years younger than himself, who, at sight of the
white-haired man, rushed toward him and, placing her arms about his
"Father, father, father!"
"Ester, my child," the swordsman returned, "have you been happy?"
"Happy as one could be with father away."
"Now that I have returned, you need sorrow no more."
All the while Robert Stevens was standing on the threshold waiting an
invitation to enter. The aged patriarch at last seized the arm of
General Goffe and asked:
"Whom have we here?"
The general, in the joy of meeting his daughter from whom he had been
separated, had forgotten Robert.
"This is Robert Stevens, your relative from Virginia."
"Robert, I knew your father; I heard he was lost at sea."
"He was," Robert answered sadly.
"And your mother?"
"Has married Hugh Price, a cavalier."
Robert told a part of his story, ending with the announcement that he
was forced to fly from home to escape prosecution for treason. This he
told with much reluctance, for it was a poor recommendation that he was
an escaped prisoner.
When all was known, Robert found an abundance of sympathy, and was told
that he might make his home with his relatives, until he could be
Then followed long weeks, months and years of the most delightful period
of his life. His relatives were kind. Their home was attractive; but
kind relatives and an attractive home were not the chief magnets which
attracted him to the spot. It was the joy of a pair of soft brown eyes
which held him. Ester Goffe was the most interesting person at Boston.
She was a creature born to inspire one with love. She was young, hardly
yet budded into womanhood, when first he saw her. Day by day and week by
week she seemed to him to grow in beauty and goodness.
The third day after his arrival, General Goffe mysteriously disappeared.
He had been gone almost a week, when Robert asked Ester where her
"He is gone," she answered. "The king's men learned that he was here,
and were coming after him, when he escaped."
"Whither has he gone?"
"Alas, I know not."
"What would be his fate if he should be taken?"
"He would suffer as did Sir Henry Vane. No mercy will be shown to a
"You must suffer uneasiness."
"I am in constant dread, though my father is brave and shrewd, while the
king's officers are but lazy fellows with dull wits, who do not care to
exert themselves, yet some unseen accident might place him in
Then he induced her to tell the sad story of their flight from the wrath
of an angry king, and how they had walked all the way from Plymouth
The year 1675 came, just one century before the shots at Lexington were
heard around the world.
There was a restless feeling in all the colonies. The governor of
Virginia was a tyrant. The Indians were becoming restless, and a general
outbreak was expected.
Robert had been informed by his mother that his friends had procured his
pardon from Governor Berkeley, and he was urged to come home. Robert was
now twenty-six years of age. Ester was twenty-two, and they were
betrothed. Their love was of that kind which grows quickly, but is as
eternal as the heavens. The regicide had been home very little for the
last five years. He came one night to spend a short time with his
daughter. They had scarce time to whisper a few words of affection, when
Robert ran to them, saying:
"The king's men are coming."
In a few moments a dozen cavaliers with swords and pistols rushed on
"Do not surrender; I will defend you," cried Robert.
He drew his sword and assailed the foremost of the cavaliers with such
implacable fury that they fell back. General Goffe took advantage of the
moment to mount a swift horse and fly. A few pistol shots were fired at
him; but he escaped, and Robert conducted the half-fainting Ester home.
It was nearly midnight when a friend came to inform Robert that the
king's men had procured a warrant against him for resisting his
majesty's officers, and he must fly for his life. There was a flutter of
hushed excitement. Everybody was awakened. Robert hurriedly gathered up
his effects, which were taken to a brigantine ready to sail for
Virginia. There was a silent, tearful farewell with Ester; vows were
renewed, and he swore when the clouds had rolled away to come and make
her his wife.
Then a last embrace, a hasty kiss, and he hurried away to the bay. Ten
minutes later the house was surrounded by soldiers.
Yes, 'twill be over soon,--This sickly dream
Of life will vanish from my brain;
And death my wearied spirit will redeem
From this wild region of unvaried pain.
For fifteen years John Stevens and Blanche Holmes had lived on the
Island of Desolation, and in all that time not a sign of a sail had
appeared on the vast ocean. Not a sight of a human being had greeted
their eyes, and they had become somewhat reconciled to the idea of
passing their lives on this island. The soil in the valley was fertile
and yielded abundance to moderate tillage. John studied the seasons and
knew when to plant to receive the benefits of the rains. There was no
winter in this tropical clime, the rainy season taking the place of
winter. The sails and clothing which they had brought from the wreck had
been husbanded and made to last as long as possible; and then Blanche,
who was industrious, spun and wove cloth for both from the fibre of a
coarse weed like hemp. Her wheel and loom were rude affairs constructed
by John Stevens, who, thanks to his early experience as a pioneer, knew
how to make all useful household implements. When their shoes were worn
out he tanned the skins of goats and made them moccasins, and he even
wore a jacket of goat's skin.
For a covering for his head, he shot a fox and dressing the skin
fashioned himself a cap. In fact, the castaways lived as comfortably as
the pioneers of Virginia. John had his days of despondency, however. For
fifteen years he had climbed the hill and gazed beyond the reef-girt
shore at the broad sea in the vain hope of descrying a sail. He always
heaved a sigh of disappointment when he swept the sailless ocean with
One morning when he had made his fruitless pilgrimage to his point of
observation, he sat down upon a stone and, passing his hand over his
eyes, brushed away a tear which came unbidden there.
"Alas, I am doomed to pass my life here. Never more can I see my home,
friends or kindred; but on this desolate shore I must end my existence.
Fifteen years have come and gone--fifteen long years since I left my
home. My wife, no doubt, believing me dead, has ceased to mourn for me.
Perhaps--but no, Dorothe never believed in it. God knows what they may
have suffered. I am powerless to aid them, and to His hands I
Heaving a deep sigh, he resumed his painful ruminations:
"It might be worse; yes, it might be worse. I might have perished with
the others, or I might not have been spared a single companion. God has
given me one, and with her I could almost be happy."
Returning to his humble cabin he was met by Blanche, who greeted him
with a sweet smile. Blanche seemed to grow in goodness and beauty. She
was his consoler in his hour of grief. When he was ill with a fever, she
held his burning head in her tender arms and soothed his pain. She
administered the simple remedies with which they were provided and
nursed him back to health. Once, when he was only half conscious, he
thought he felt her tears fall on his face and her soft warm lips press
his; but it might have been a dream.
"You saw no sail this morning, I know; but, there, don't despair, you
may yet go home," she said.
"No, Blanche, no; I have given up all hope of ever going home. We must
end our days here."
She looked at him with her great blue eyes so soft and tender, and
"I am sorry for you."
"Are you not sorry for yourself?"
"No, no; I am not thinking of myself. I am all alone in the world, and
it makes little difference where I am." Her voice faltered, and he saw
that she was almost choking with grief, and John Stevens, feeling that
he had been too selfish all along, said:
"Blanche, forgive me. I have had no thought for any one save myself. I
have been cruel to neglect you as I have."
"Do not blame yourself," she sighed. "Your anxiety for your wife and
children outweighs every other consideration."
"But when I think how kind and how gentle you have been throughout all
these years, how, when the fever burned my brow, it was your soft hand
which cooled it and nursed me back to life and reason, and how I have
neglected and forgotten you, I feel I have been selfish. Surely you are
an angel whom God hath sent me in these hours of loneliness."
His natural impulse was to embrace the heroic woman; but he restrained
such unholy emotions, and she, with her heart overflowing, sat
weeping for joy.
In order to change the subject, he said:
"Blanche; I have thought that the time has come to explore the peak of
Snow-Top." (Snow-Top was the name they had given the tallest mountain in
the valley.) "It is the loftiest peak on the island, and from it we
might see other islands and continents, and with this glass, perchance,
we might get a view of a distant sail."
The exploration of this mountain had been the pet scheme for years. The
sides were steep and the ascension difficult. He had spoken of it
before, and she had approved of it.
"When do you think of going?" she asked.
"The day after to-morrow, if I can get ready."
"I will go with you."
"No, no, Blanche; the journey will be too great for you. You cannot go
With a smile, she answered:
"Surely, as I have gone with you on so many perilous journeys, you will
not deny me this."
"Deny you, Blanche? I can deny you nothing; but I fear the journey will
overtax your strength."
"I can go wherever you do," she answered.
He made no further objection, and next day they prepared to scale those
heights which human feet had never trod. John had made for each a pair
of stout shoes, the soles of which were of a kind of wood almost as
elastic as leather and the tops of tanned goat-skins. Their shoes were
well suited for travel through the wilderness and in stony countries.
Knowing what a fatiguing journey lay before them, John travelled slowly
and at the end of the first day halted at the foot of the mountain,
where he built a fire, and they slept in perfect security.
The island was free from poisonous reptiles and insects, and since the
foxes had been nearly exterminated, there was not a dangerous animal on
the island. When morning came, they breakfasted and prepared to ascend
the mountain. At the base was a dense tangled growth of tropical trees
through which they pushed their way, sometimes being compelled to cut
their way through. The tall grass, the palms, the matted mangroves and
vines made travel difficult.
On and on, up the thorny steep they pressed. The palms and mangroves
gave place to scrub oaks, and they in turn to pine and cedar. As they
ascended, there was a change in soil, vegetation and climate.
At the base of the mountain grew only the trees and plants of the
tropics. Three hours' upward travel brought them into the regions of the
temperate zone, and they plucked wild strawberries such as grew in New
England. Pressing on up the steep side, scaling cliffs and rocks, which
at times almost defied their skill and strength, the air grew cooler.
The vegetation was less rank. The grass grew short and in places there
was none at all.
"Are you tired?" John asked.
"Let us sit and rest."
"The sun has almost reached the meridian, and we are not half-way up the
"Yet you must have a few moments' rest, Blanche."
They rested but a moment and again pressed on. They had now reached a
great altitude, and the valley below looked like a fairy-land. They
found up here a species of mountain goats which they had not seen
before. They were very shy of the intruders and went bounding away from
cliff to cliff and rock to rock at a speed which defied pursuit.
John shot one. The report of his musket in this lofty region was so
slight as to be heard but a short distance, but the birds, soaring
aloft, screamed with fear and went still higher up the mountain sides.
Here they found squirrels more abundant than in the valley. The oaks and
hickory trees bore an abundance of nuts for them. Further on the
nut-bearing trees gave place to grass, and they found themselves on a
Every hour seemed bringing them to new and unexplored regions. Old
Snow-Top, as they called the mountain, contained wonders. The trees had
dwindled to dwarfs, and the animals degenerated in proportion. Some
fur-bearing animals were found in these lofty regions, and the eyrie of
the eagle was in the cold, dark cliffs.
There was a perceptible change in the climate. The clothing suitable for
the valley was uncomfortably light in this region.
"Blanche, are you cold?" he asked.
She, smiling, answered:
"Never mind me, I can stand it."
"The air is chill."
"It always is so in ascending a lofty mountain."
"The ascent is more difficult than I supposed; behold the cliff before
"I see it."
"It seems almost perpendicular."
"So it does."
"I see no way to scale it from here."
"Yet, like all other ills in this world, the difficulties may disappear
at our approach."
When they advanced toward the cliff, fully two hundred feet in height, a
narrow rocky slope was seen ascending on the left, like a flight of
winding stairs, to the plateau above. Even with this aid the ascent was
The rocks were rough, hard and sharp at the edges and corners, yet they
climbed on and on. Each succeeding ledge to which they mounted grew
narrower until scarce room for the foot could be found.
When the plateau was gained, it was but a bleak, desolate plain of four
or five acres of uneven ground, swept by the winds of eternal winter and
presenting a drear and melancholy aspect.
[Illustration: "OUR JOURNEY IS NOT ONE-HALF OVER."]
Close under a stone they sat down to partake of the noonday meal,
listening to the shrill winds sweeping over the dreary waste and gazed
at the cloud-capped peak above. The only cheerful object was a noisy
cataract thundering down the mountain, fed by the melting snows.
"Do you feel equal to the task?" he asked.
"Our journey is not one-half over."
"I know it."
"And the last half will be more trying than the first."
"I will go with you," she answered cheerfully.
To one living in a mountainless country the difficulties and fatigues of
mountain scaling is unknown. An ascent, which, to the unpractised cliff
climber, might seem the work of an hour, will consume an entire day.
Having finished their meal, they resumed the upward march. Reaching a
small cluster of stunted and gnarled pines, they pressed through it and
emerged on a great, bleak hillside, almost bare of vegetation. Only here
and there grew a tuft of stunted grass or a dwarfed shrub. The temperate
zone had given way to the regions of eternal winter. Again and again
they were compelled to pause for breath.
"Here it is," John cried, almost gleefully, as a snow-flake fell on his
A little further up, they found snow drifted under a ledge of the rock,
while little rivulets, running from the melting snow, joined mountain
torrents and cataracts that thundered down below. At last the great
summit was gained, and they paused to gaze afar on the land and sea
below. John drew his glass and swept the horizon. The slight clouds,
from which an occasional flake had fallen, cleared away at sunset, and
they had an excellent view as far as the eye could reach.
"Do you see any sail?" she asked.
"Then we must be in an ocean as unexplored and unknown as the great
south sea which Balboa discovered."
"I know not where we are."
The sun set, dipping into the sea and leaving a great, broad
phosphorescent light where it disappeared, which broadened and radiated
toward the east until it was lost in gloom.
"We cannot return home to-night," said Blanche.
"No; we will seek some suitable spot for passing the night further down
The mountain top was covered with snow, and they went down a mile or
more before they found the ground free from snow, slush, ice or water.
Here, on a mantle made of goat-skins, John induced the shivering Blanche
to lie down, while he gathered some stunted brush, small pines and dead
grass and built a fire to keep her warm. During the night the sky became
obscured, and a cold rain fell. Their condition was miserable enough,
for they were soaked to the skin and shivering. There was no shelter
near enough for them to reach it, and it was too dark to travel.
"I am freezing," said Blanche, through her chattering teeth. John tried
to muffle her in the robe of goat-skin; but it was wet and worse than no
covering. His soaked garments were placed about her; but she still shook
with cold, until he became alarmed and held her in his arms, endeavoring
to instill some warmth in her from his own body.
All things must have an end, and so did that dreary night. Day dawned at
last, and the rising sun chased away the clouds, and they saw, far, far
below them, the low, green valley which they called home. The morning
air was chill and piercing, and John began to fear for Blanche; but she
assured him that soon they would reach lower land and warmer
temperature. They did not wait for breakfast, but hurried down the
mountain just as soon as it was light enough to see. She was weak, and
he offered to carry her in his strong arms.
"No, no; I can walk," she said.
"But you are so chilled and so weak."
"Exercise will warm me and give me strength," she answered. It did, and
when they reached the valley she was quite herself again. It was the
middle of the afternoon when they entered the valley, and gazing back at
old Snow-Top, with his towering summit piercing the skies, they thanked
God for their deliverance. About the snowy peak there clung a rift of
vapor, as if some passing cloud had caught upon it and torn off
"I don't care to venture up there again," said John.
"Nor do I," sighed his companion. "So peaceful, so sweet and so dear is
our little home, that I am almost content with it."
"I am, likewise."
For two or three days no evil effects were perceivable from their
journey save a weariness on the part of Blanche, which John flattered
himself would pass away. He sat with her and talked more than had been
his custom. She seemed to grow better in his eyes, for he had seen how
uncomplaining she was, and how she nobly struggled to make his burden
lighter. She spoke encouraging words of Virginia, told him of his wife
and children, who had been described so often to her that she had a
faithful picture of them in her mind. She would say:
"Your little Rebecca is now sixteen years of age, quite a young lady.
She is beautiful, too. I know she is beautiful, for she has the dark
eyes and hair of her mother."
"Blanche, beauty is not confined to black eyes and hair alone," said
She went on:
"And your little boy is a man now, twenty years of age, and he is no
doubt strong, brave, gallant and noble. Surely you must be proud of such
a son. Your wife has grown more wise with her distress, and she still
looks to the ocean for the return of one for whom she will wait until
the angel of death summons her to meet him in Heaven."
"Blanche, Blanche, how strangely you talk!"
"I fancy I can see them, and they are happy in their little home. The
son supports his mother. Oh, they are happy!"
"Blanche, Blanche, your cheeks are flushed, your eyes are unnaturally
bright; you have a fever."
She laughingly answered:
"It is only a slight cold, the result of our visit to the peak of old
He administered such simple remedies as they had at hand, tucked her up
warmly in bed and sat by her side until she was asleep. Then he made a
bed on the floor in the adjoining room, where he might be within call,
and lay down to sleep. Being wearied with the toils of the day, he was
soon asleep, and it was after midnight when he was awakened by a cough
from Blanche's bed. It was followed by an exclamation of pain.
In a moment he was at her side.
"What is the matter, Blanche?" he asked, uneasily.
"I have a pain in my side."
He stooped over her, put his hand on her face and was startled to find
it so dry and hot. Groping about he found a rude lamp, which he had
fashioned from an old pewter pot brought from the wreck. Within the lamp
was a wick made from the lint of wild hemp, fed with goat's fat. Seizing
his flint and steel he kindled a light and found Blanche in a
"Blanche, Blanche, you are ill!" said John.
"I am so hot, I burn with thirst," she answered.
"You shall have water." There was a spring of clear, cold water flowing
down from the mountain, and John took an earthen jar, and ran to
"It is so good of you," the sick woman sighed, as he moistened her
John Stevens was now very anxious about her, for she was growing rapidly
worse. He knew a little about medicine and had brought some remedies
from the ship; but the disease which had fastened itself on Blanche
defied his skill. She was at times seized with a fit of coughing which
almost took away her breath. When he had exhausted all his efforts, she
"You can do no more."
"Blanche, Blanche," he almost sobbed, "Heaven knows I would give my life
to spare you one pang."
"I know it," she answered.
"What will you have me do?"
"Sit by my side."
He brought a stool and sat by her bedside.
"Hold my hand, I have such frightful dreams, and I want you near."
He took the little fevered hand in his own and for hours sat by her
Morning came and went, came and went again, and she grew worse.
John never left her save to bring cold water to slake her burning
thirst, or prepare some remedy to check the ravages of the fever.
"Oh, God! to be left alone--to be left all alone! Can I endure it?" he
sighed. When he was at her side, he said:
"It was the journey to Snow-Top. It was too much for you, Blanche, I am
to blame for this."
"No, no, blame not yourself. I it was who insisted on going."
She rapidly grew worse, and John Stevens saw that she must die.
Occasionally she fell asleep, and then he thought how beautiful she was.
Once she murmured his name and sweetly smiled. She awoke and was very
weak. Raising her eyes, she saw him at her side, and with that same
happy smile on her face, she said:
"Oh, I had such a delightful dream. It may be wicked; but it was
delightful. I dreamed that I was she."
"Kiss me, brother--I am going--rapidly going."
He entwined his arms about the being who, for fifteen years, had been
his only companion, and pressed his lips to hers.
"Blanche, Blanche, you must not die; for my sake live."
"No, no; I will soon be gone; then you will be all alone. Don't leave me
until all is over."
"I shall not, Blanche; I shall not," cried Stevens, holding her tightly
clasped in his strong arms.
"It may be wrong--but we have been here so long--meet me in heaven,
"God grant that I may, poor girl."
"Pray with me."
He knelt at her side, and the lips of both moved in prayer. When he
rose, she laid her little hand, all purple with fever, in his and said:
"Brother--when I am gone, bury me in that beautiful valley near the
spring, where the wild flowers grow close by the white stone. On the
stone write: 'Here lies my beloved sister, Blanche Holmes.'"
An hour later John Stevens knelt beside a corpse. The gentle spirit had
Midnight--and the castaway, despairing, half-crazed with grief, still
knelt by the dead body, tearing his hair, and groaning:
THE TREASURE SHIP.
"O gentle wind ('tis thus she sings)
That blowest to the west,
Oh, couldst thou waft me on thy wings
To the land that I love best,
How swiftly o'er the-ocean's foam,
Like a sea-bird I would sail."
When the heart is full, there seems some relief in pouring out the story
of woe into a sympathetic ear; but when one is alone, with no human
being to listen or sympathize, grief is a hundredfold greater.
Day dawned and found John Stevens still kneeling by the side of the cold
form of the only being who had shared his unhappy lot. How seldom we
realize the worth of companions or friends until they are forever gone,
and then, as if to mock our grief, each kind act, each little delicate
attention seems to start out as if emblazoned on stone before us. At
last the broken-hearted castaway rose and with folded arms gazed on the
dead face, still beautiful and holy even in death.
"Blanche, Blanche, must I give you up, you who have so long cheered my
lonely life? Must I never listen to the sweet music of your
John roused himself at last from the feeling of despair and, taking the
best boards left from the wreck, constructed a neat coffin. He dug the
grave at the white stone as she had directed and laid her to rest. No
one but God listened to him as he read the solemn and impressive burial
service, according to the established church. No one but God saw those
tears flow in silence as he gazed for the last time on her face. Then,
fastening down the lid, he covered the coffin over with boards and began
slowly and mournfully shovelling the earth upon it. He heaped up the
earth and placed the soft green, sod over the mound. Then he cut the
inscription on the stone as she had requested at the head of the
"Sweet sister, rest in peace, until Christ comes to claim his own, when
there will be a crown given you which outshines the sun." To go about
his daily routine of life, to feel that heavy aching load on his heart
crushing and consuming him, made his existence almost unbearable.
He lost all interest in the little field, the tame goats and birds, and
for two or three days even neglected to take food himself. An appalling
silence had fallen upon the island. He seemed to still hear her voice
in the house and about it, and when he closed his eyes in sleep, after
being utterly exhausted, he saw her sweet face bending over him and felt
the sunshine of her smile on him. It was so hard to realize that she was
gone, and he could scarcely believe that he would not find her down on
the beach gathering shells, as he had so often seen her.
Frequently when alone in the cabin he would start, half expecting to see
her enter with her cheering smile; but she was gone forever; her sweet
smiles and cheering voice would no more be heard on earth.
It required long months before he could settle down to that life of
loneliness. Hitherto he had not lived the life of a Crusoe or Selkirk;
but now he was destined to know what real solitude was. John Stevens at
last began to take some interest in his domestic affairs. He sadly
missed the thousand little attentions which feminine instincts suggested
for his comfort; but anon he became accustomed to being alone. He grew
morose and melancholy, even wicked, for at times he blamed Providence,
first for casting him away on this lonely island, and lastly for taking
from him the companion he had failed to appreciate, until he felt her
loss; but soon he turned to God and prayed for light.
He read the Bible and from this living fountain of consolation drank
deep draughts of that which, to his starving soul, was the elixir of
life. Strange as it may seem, in the first ebullition of his grief, John
Stevens seemed to forget his wife and children. So long had he been from
them, that they had lost their place in his thoughts. Time, the great
healer of all wounds, the great reconciler to all fates, the great
arbitrator of all disputes, had almost lost to him those tenderest ties
which had lacerated his poor heart.
To the fatalist, John Stevens would seem to be one of those unfortunate
beings doomed to be made the sport of a capricious fortune. His domestic
relations in Virginia were a strange intermixture of good and bad. His
business had been decidedly prosperous, he had married into a
respectable family, and his wife was popular. His children were
beautiful and healthy; but his wife was extravagant and foolish and had
swept away his fortune faster than he could accumulate it. Then his
voyage and shipwreck seemed the hand of fate. His father had been a
sailor by profession and had never been shipwrecked, while he, on his
first voyage, was cast away upon an unknown island. Fate gave him at
first a companion and, just as he began to appreciate her, snatched
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