To Have and To Hold:
Part 6 out of 7
long and touching speech with much reference to calumets and
buried hatchets. When he had finished a chief talked of
Opechancanough's love for the English, "high as the stars, deep as
Popogusso, wide as from the sunrise to the sunset," adding that the
death of Nemattanow last year and the troubles over the hunting
grounds had kindled in the breasts of the Indians no desire for
revenge. With which highly probable statement he made an end,
and all sat in silence looking at me and waiting for my
contribution of honeyed words. These Pamunkeys, living at a
distance from the settlements, had but little English to their credit,
and the learning of the Paspaheghs was not much greater. I sat and
repeated to them the better part of the seventh canto of the second
book of Master Spenser's "Faery Queen." Then I told them the
story of the Moor of Venice, and ended by relating Smith's tale of
the three Turks' heads. It all answered the purpose to admiration.
When at length they went away to change their paint for the
coming feast Diccon and I laughed at that foolery as though there
were none beside us who could juggle with words. We were as
light-hearted as children - God forgive us!
The day wore on, with relay after relay of food which we must
taste at least, with endless smoking of pipes and speeches that
must be listened to and answered. When evening came and our
entertainers drew off to prepare for the dance, they left us as
wearied as by a long day's march.
The wind had been high during the day, but with the sunset it sank
to a desolate murmur. The sky wore the strange crimson of the past
year at Weyanoke. Against that sea of color the pines were drawn
in ink, and beneath it the winding, threadlike creeks that pierced
the marshes had the look of spilt blood moving slowly and heavily
to join the river that was black where the pines shadowed it, red
where the light touched it. From the marsh arose the cry of some
great bird that made its home there; it had a lonely and a boding
sound, like a trumpet blown above the dead. The color died into an
ashen gray and the air grew cold, with a heaviness beside that
dragged at the very soul. Diccon shivered violently, turned
restlessly upon the log that served him as settle, and began to
mutter to himself.
"Art cold?" I asked.
He shook his head. "Something walked over my grave," he said. "I
would give all the pohickory that was ever brewed by heathen for a
toss of aqua vit‘!"
In the centre of the village rose a great heap of logs and dry
branches, built during the day by the women and children. When
the twilight fell and the owls began to hoot this pile was fired, and
lit the place from end to end. The scattered wigwams, the
scaffolding where the fish were dried, the tall pines and
wide-branching mulberries, the trodden grass, - all flashed into
sight as the flame roared up to the top-most withered bough. The
village glowed like a lamp set in the dead blackness of marsh and
forest. Opechancanough came from the forest with a score of
warriors behind him, and stopped beside me. I rose to greet him, as
was decent; for he was an Emperor, albeit a savage and a pagan.
"Tell the English that Opechancanough grows old," he said. "The
years that once were as light upon him as the dew upon the maize
are now hailstones to beat him back to the earth whence he came.
His arm is not swift to strike and strong as it once was. He is old;
the warpath and the scalp dance please him no longer. He would
die at peace with all men. Tell the English this; tell them also that
Opechancanough knows that they are good and just, that they do
not treat men whose color is not their own like babes, fooling them
with toys, thrusting them out of their path when they grow
troublesome. The land is wide and the hunting grounds are many.
Let the red men who were here as many moons ago as there are
leaves in summer and the white men who came yesterday dwell
side by side in peace, sharing the maize fields and the weirs and
the hunting grounds together." He waited not for my answer, but
passed on, and there was no sign of age in his stately figure and his
slow, firm step. I watched him with a frown until the darkness of
his lodge had swallowed up him and his warriors, and mistrusted
him for a cold and subtle devil.
Suddenly, as we sat staring at the fire we were beset by a band of
maidens, coming out of the woods, painted, with antlers upon their
heads and pine branches in their hands. They danced about us, now
advancing until the green needles met above our heads, now
retreating until there was a space of turf between us. Their slender
limbs gleamed in the firelight; they moved with grace, keeping
time to a plaintive song, now raised by the whole choir, now fallen
to a single voice. Pocahontas had danced thus before the English
many a time. I thought of the little maid, of her great wondering
eyes and her piteous, untimely death, of how loving she was to
Rolfe and how happy they had been in their brief wedded life. It
had bloomed like a rose, as fair and as early fallen, with only a
memory of past sweetness. Death was a coward, passing by men
whose trade it was to out-brave him, and striking at the young and
lovely and innocent. . . .
We were tired with all the mummery of the day; moreover, every
fibre of our souls had been strained to meet the hours that had
passed since we left the gaol at Jamestown. The elation we had felt
earlier in the day was all gone. Now, the plaintive song, the
swaying figures, the red light beating against the trees, the
blackness of the enshrouding forest, the low, melancholy wind, -
all things seemed strange, and yet deadly old, as though we had
seen and heard them since the beginning of the world. All at once
a fear fell upon me, causeless and unreasonable, but weighing
upon my heart like a stone. She was in a palisaded town, under the
Governor's protection, with my friends about her and my enemy
lying sick, unable to harm her. It was I, not she, that was in danger.
I laughed at myself, but my heart was heavy, and I was in a fever
to be gone.
The Indian girls danced more and more swiftly, and their song
changed, becoming gay and shrill and sweet. Higher and higher
rang the notes, faster and faster moved the dark limbs; then, quite
suddenly, song and motion ceased together. They who had danced
with the abandonment of wild priestesses to some wild god were
again but shy brown Indian maids who went and set them meekly
down upon the grass beneath the trees. From the darkness now
came a burst of savage cries only less appalling than the war
whoop itself. In a moment the men of the village had rushed from
the shadow of the trees into the broad, firelit space before us. Now
they circled around us, now around the fire; now each man danced
and stamped and muttered to himself. For the most part they were
painted red, but some were white from head to heel, - statues come
to life, - while others had first oiled their bodies, then plastered
them over with small bright-colored feathers. The tall headdresses
made giants of them all; as they leaped and danced in the glare of
the fire they had a fiendish look. They sang, too, but the air was
rude, and broken by dreadful cries. Out of a hut behind us burst
two or three priests, the conjurer, and a score or more of old men.
They had Indian drums upon which they beat furiously, and long
pipes made of reeds which gave forth no uncertain sound. Fixed
upon a pole and borne high above them was the image of their
Okee, a hideous thing of stuffed skins and rattling chains of
copper. When they had joined themselves to the throng in the
firelight the clamor became deafening. Some one piled on more
logs, and the place grew light as day. Opechancanough was not
there, nor Nantauquas.
Diccon and I watched that uncouth spectacle, that Virginian
masque, as we had watched many another one, with disgust and
weariness. It would last, we knew, for the better part of the night.
It was in our honor, and for a while we must stay and testify our
pleasure; but after a time, when they had sung and danced
themselves into oblivion of our presence, we might retire, and
leave the very old men, the women, and the children sole
spectators. We waited for that relief with impatience, though we
showed it not to those who pressed about us.
Time passed, and the noise deepened and the dancing became
more frantic. The dancers struck at one another as they leaped and
whirled, the sweat rolled from their bodies, and from their lips
came hoarse, animal-like cries. The fire, ever freshly fed, roared
and crackled, mocking the silent stars. The pines were bronze-red,
the woods beyond a dead black. All noises of marsh and forest
were lost in the scream of the pipes, the wild yelling, and the
beating of the drums.
From the ranks of the women beneath the reddened pines rose
shrill laughter and applause as they sat or knelt, bent forward,
watching the dancers. One girl alone watched not them, but us.
She stood somewhat back of her companions, one slim brown
hand touching the trunk of a tree, one brown foot advanced, her
attitude that of one who waits but for a signal to be gone. Now and
then she glanced impatiently at the wheeling figures, or at the old
men and the few warriors who took no part in the masque, but her
eyes always came back to us. She had been among the maidens
who danced before us earlier in the night; when they rested
beneath the trees she had gone away, and the night was much older
when I marked her again, coming out of the firelit distance back to
the fire and her dusky mates. It was soon after this that I became
aware that she must have some reason for her anxious scrutiny,
some message to deliver or warning to give. Once when I made a
slight motion as if to go to her, she shook her head and laid her
finger upon her lips.
A dancer fell from sheer exhaustion, another and another, and
warriors from the dozen or more seated at our right began to take
the places of the fallen. The priests shook their rattles, and made
themselves dizzy with bending and whirling about their Okee; the
old men, too, though they sat like statues, thought only of the
dance, and of how they themselves had excelled, long ago when
they were young.
I rose, and making my way to the werowance of the village where
he sat with his eyes fixed upon a young Indian, his son, who bade
fair to outlast all others in that wild contest, told him that I was
wearied and would go to my hut, I and my servant, to rest for the
few hours that yet remained of the night. He listened dreamily, his
eyes upon the dancing Indian, but made offer to escort me thither.
I pointed out to him that my quarters were not fifty yards away, in
the broad firelight, in sight of them all, and that it were a pity to
take him or any others from the contemplation of that whirling
Indian, so strong and so brave that he would surely one day lead
the war parties.
After a moment he acquiesced, and Diccon and I, quietly and yet
with some ostentation, so as to avoid all appearance of stealing
away, left the press of savages and began to cross the firelit turf
between them and our lodge. When we had gone fifty paces I
glanced over my shoulder and saw that the Indian maid no longer
stood where we had last seen her, beneath the pines. A little farther
on we caught a glimpse of her winding in and out among a row of
trees to our left. The trees ran past our lodge. When we had
reached its entrance we paused and looked back to the throng we
had left. Every back seemed turned to us, every eye intent upon the
leaping figures around the great fire. Swiftly and quietly we
walked across the bit of even ground to the friendly trees, and
found ourselves in a thin strip of shadow between the light of the
great fire we had left and that of a lesser one burning redly before
the Emperor's lodge. Beneath the trees, waiting for us, was the
Indian maid, with her light form, and large, shy eyes, and finger
upon her lips. She would not speak or tarry, but flitted before us as
dusk and noiseless as a moth, and we followed her into the
darkness beyond the firelight, well-nigh to the line of sentinels. A
wigwam, larger than common and shadowed by trees, rose in our
path; the girl, gliding in front of us, held aside the mats that
curtained the entrance. We hesitated a moment, then stooped and
entered the place.
CHAPTER XXXIII IN WHICH MY FRIEND BECOMES MY FOE
IN the centre of the wigwam the customary fire burned clear and
bright, showing the white mats, the dressed skins, the implements
of war hanging upon the bark walls, - all the usual furniture of an
Indian dwelling, - and showing also Nantauquas standing against
the stripped trunk of a pine that pierced the wigwam from floor to
roof. The fire was between us. He stood so rigid, at his full height,
with folded arms and head held high, and his features were so
blank and still, so forced and frozen, as it were, into composure,
that, with the red light beating upon him and the thin smoke
curling above his head, he had the look of a warrior tied to the
"Nantauquas!" I exclaimed, and striding past the fire would have
touched him but that with a slight and authoritative motion of the
hand he kept me back. Otherwise there was no change in his
position or in the dead calm of his face.
The Indian maid had dropped the mat at the entrance, and if she
waited, waited without in the darkness. Diccon, now staring at the
young chief, now eyeing the weapons upon the wall with all a
lover's passion, kept near the doorway. Through the thickness of
the bark and woven twigs the wild cries and singing came to us
somewhat faintly; beneath that distant noise could be heard the
wind in the trees and the soft fall of the burning pine.
"Well!" I asked at last. "What is the matter, my friend?"
For a full minute he made no answer, and when he did speak his
voice matched his face.
"My friend," he said, "I am going to show myself a friend indeed to
the English, to the strangers who were not content with their own
hunting grounds beyond the great salt water. When I have done
this, I do not know that Captain Percy will call me 'friend' again."
"You were wont to speak plainly, Nantauquas," I answered him. "I
am not fond of riddles."
Again he waited, as though he found speech difficult. I stared at
him in amazement, he was so changed in so short a time.
He spoke at last: "When the dance is over, and the fires are low,
and the sunrise is at hand, then will Opechancanough come to you
to bid you farewell. He will give you the pearls that he wears about
his neck for a present to the Governor, and a bracelet for yourself.
Also he will give you three men for a guard through the forest. He
has messages of love to send the white men, and he would send
them by you who were his enemy and his captive. So all the white
men shall believe in his love."
"Well," I said dryly as he paused. "I will take his messages. What
"Those are the words of Opechancanough. Now listen to the words
of Nantauquas, the son of Wahunsonacock, a war chief of the
Powhatans. There are two sharp knives there, hanging beneath the
bow and the quiver and the shield. Take them and hide them."
The words were scarcely out of his mouth before Diccon had the
two keen English blades. I took the one he offered me, and hid it in
"So we go armed, Nantauquas," I said. "Love and peace and
goodwill consort not with such toys."
"You may want them," he went on, with no change in his low,
measured tones. "If you see aught in the forest that you should not
see, if they think you know more than you are meant to know, then
those three, who have knives and tomahawks, are to kill you,
whom they believe unarmed."
"See aught that we should not see, know more than we are meant
to know?" I said. "To the point, friend."
"They will go slowly, too, through the forest to Jamestown,
stopping to eat and to sleep. For them there is no need to run like
the stag with the hunter behind him."
"Then we should make for Jamestown as for life," I said, "not
sleeping or eating or making pause?"
"Yea," he replied, "if you would not die, you and all your people."
In the silence of the hut the fire crackled, and the branches of the
trees outside, bent by the wind, made a grating sound against the
"How die?" I asked at last. "Speak out!"
"Die by the arrow and the tomahawk," he answered, - "yea, and by
the guns you have given the red men. To-morrow's sun, and the
next, and the next, - three suns, - and the tribes will fall upon the
English. At the same hour, when the men are in the fields and the
women and children are in the houses, they will strike, -
Kecoughtans, Paspaheghs, Chickahominies, Pamunkeys,
Arrowhatocks, Chesapeakes, Nansemonds, Accomacs, - as one
man will they strike; and from where the Powhatan falls over the
rocks to the salt water beyond Accomac, there will not be one
white man left alive."
He ceased to speak, and for a minute the fire made the only sound
in the hut. Then, "All die?" I asked dully. "There are three
thousand Englishmen in Virginia."
"They are scattered and unwarned. The fighting men of the
villages of the Powhatan and the Pamunkey and the great bay are
many, and they have sharpened their hatchets and filled their
quivers with arrows."
"Scattered," I said, " strewn broadcast up and down the river, - here
a lonely house, there a cluster of two or three; they at Jamestown
and Henricus off guard, - the men in the fields or at the wharves,
the women and the children busy within doors, all unwarned - O
Diccon strode over from the doorway to the fire. "We'd best be
going, I reckon, sir," he cried. "Or you wait until morning; then
there'll be two chances. Now that I've a knife, I'm thinking I can
give account of one of them damned sentries, at least. Once clear
of them" -
I shook my head, and the Indian too made a gesture of dissent.
"You would only be the first to die."
I leaned against the side of the hut, for my heart beat like a
frightened woman's. "Three days!" I exclaimed. "If we go with all
our speed we shall be in time. When did you learn this thing?"
"While you watched the dance," he answered, "Opechancanough
and I sat within his lodge in the darkness. His heart was moved,
and he talked to me of his own youth in a strange country, south of
the sunset, where he and his people dwelt in stone houses and
worshiped a great and fierce god, giving him blood to drink and
flesh to eat. To that country, too, white men had come in ships.
Then he spoke to me of Powhatan, my father, - of how wise he was
and how great a chief before the English came, and how the
English made him kneel in sign that he held his lands from their
King, and how he hated them; and then he told me that the tribes
had called me 'woman,' 'lover no longer of the warpath and the
scalp dance,' but that he, who had no son, loved me as his son,
knowing my heart to be Indian still; and then I heard what I have
"How long had this been planned?"
"For many moons. I have been a child, fooled and turned aside
from the trail; not wise enough to see it beneath the flowers,
through the smoke of the peace pipes."
"Why does Opechancanough send us back to the settlements?" I
demanded. "Their faith in him needs no strengthening."
"It is his fancy. Every hunter and trader and learner of our tongues,
living in the villages or straying in the woods, has been sent back
to Jamestown or to his hundred with presents and with words that
are sweeter than honey. He has told the three who go with you the
hour in which you are to reach Jamestown; he would have you as
singing birds, telling lying tales to the Governor, with scarce the
smoking of a pipe between those words of peace and the war
whoop. But if those who go with you see reason to misdoubt you,
they will kill you in the forest."
His voice fell, and he stood in silence, straight as an arrow, against
the post, the firelight playing over his dark limbs and sternly quiet
face. Outside, the night wind, rising, began to howl through the
naked branches, and a louder burst of yells came to us from the
roisterers in the distance. The mat before the doorway shook, and a
slim brown hand, slipped between the wood and the woven grass,
beckoned to us.
"Why did you come?" demanded the Indian. "Long ago, when
there were none but dark men from the Chesapeake to the hunting
grounds beneath the sunset, we were happy. Why did you leave
your own land, in the strange black ships with sails like the
piled-up clouds of summer? Was it not a good land? Were not your
forests broad and green, your fields fruitful, your rivers deep and
filled with fish? And the towns I have heard of - were they not
fair? You are brave men: had you no enemies there, and no
warpaths? It was your home: a man should love the good earth
over which he hunts, upon which stands his village. This is the red
man's land. He wishes his hunting grounds, his maize fields, and
his rivers for himself, his women and children. He has no ships in
which to go to another country. When you first came we thought
you were gods; but you have not done like the great white God
who, you say, loves you so. You are wiser and stronger than we,
but your strength and wisdom help us not: they press us down from
men to children; they are weights upon the head and shoulders of a
babe to keep him under stature. Ill gifts have you brought us, evil
have you wrought us" -
"Not to you, Nantauquas!" I cried, stung into speech.
He turned his eyes upon me. "Nantauquas is the war chief of his
tribe. Opechancanough is his king, and he lies upon his bed in his
lodge and says within himself: 'My war chief, the Panther, the son
of Wahunsonacock, who was chief of all the Powhatans, sits now
within his wigwam, sharpening flints for his arrows, making his
tomahawk bright and keen, thinking of a day three suns hence,
when the tribes will shake off forever the hand upon their
shoulder, - the hand so heavy and white that strives always to bend
them to the earth and keep them there.' Tell me, you Englishman
who have led in war, another name for Nantauquas, and ask no
more what evil you have done him."
"I will not call you 'traitor,' Nantauquas," I said, after a pause.
"There is a difference. You are not the first child of Powhatan who
has loved and shielded the white men."
"She was a woman, a child," he answered. "Out of pity she saved
your lives, not knowing that it was to the hurt of her people. Then
you were few and weak, and could not take your revenge. Now, if
you die not, you will drink deep of vengeance, - so deep that your
lips may never leave the cup. More ships will come, and more; you
will grow ever stronger. There may come a moon when the deep
forests and the shining rivers know us, to whom Kiwassa gave
them, no more." He paused, with unmoved face, and eyes that
seemed to pierce the wall and look out into unfathomable
distances. "Go!" he said at last. "If you die not in the woods, if you
see again the man whom I called my brother and teacher, tell him .
. . tell him nothing! Go!"
"Come with us," urged Diccon gruffly. "We English will make a
place for you among us" - and got no further, for I turned upon him
with a stern command for silence.
"I ask of you no such thing, Nantauquas," I said. "Come against us,
if you will. Nobly warned, fair upon our guard, we will meet you
as knightly foe should be met."
He stood for a minute, the quick change that had come into his
face at Diccon's blundering words gone, and his features sternly
impassive again; then, very slowly, he raised his arm from his side
and held out his hand. His eyes met mine in sombre inquiry, half
eager, half proudly doubtful.
I went to him at once, and took his hand in mine. No word was
spoken. Presently he withdrew his hand from my clasp, and,
putting his finger to his lips, whistled low to the Indian girl. She
drew aside the hanging mats, and we passed out, Diccon and I,
leaving him standing as we had found him, upright against the
post, in the red firelight.
Should we ever go through the woods, pass through that gathering
storm, reach Jamestown, warn them there of the death that was
rushing upon them? Should we ever leave that hated village?
Would the morning ever come? When we reached our hut, unseen,
and sat down just within the doorway to watch for the dawn, it
seemed as though the stars would never pale. Again and again the
leaping Indians between us and the fire fed the tall flame; if one
figure fell in the wild dancing, another took its place; the yelling
never ceased, nor the beating of the drums.
It was an alarum that was sounding, and there were only two to
hear; miles away beneath the mute stars English men and women
lay asleep, with the hour thundering at their gates, and there was
none to cry, "Awake!" When would the dawn come, when should
we be gone? I could have cried out in that agony of waiting, with
the leagues on leagues to be traveled, and the time so short! If we
never reached those sleepers - I saw the dark warriors gathering,
tribe on tribe, war party on war party, thick crowding shadows of
death, slipping though the silent forest . . . and the clearings we
had made and the houses we had built . . . the goodly Englishmen,
Kent and Thorpe and Yeardley, Maddison, Wynne, Hamor, the
men who had striven to win and hold this land so fatal and so fair,
West and Rolfe and Jeremy Sparrow . . . the children about the
doorsteps, the women . . . one woman . . .
It came to an end, as all things earthly will. The flames of the great
bonfire sank lower and lower, and as they sank the gray light
faltered into being, grew, and strengthened. At last the dancers
were still, the women scattered, the priests with their hideous Okee
gone. The wailing of the pipes died away, the drums ceased to
beat, and the village lay in the keen wind and the pale light, inert
and quiet with the stillness of exhaustion.
The pause and hush did not last. When the ruffled pools amid the
marshes were rosy beneath the sunrise, the women brought us
food, and the warriors and old men gathered about us. They sat
upon mats or billets of wood, and I offered them bread and meat,
and told them they must come to Jamestown to taste of the white
Scarcely was the meal over when Opechancanough issued from his
lodge, with his picked men behind him, and, coming slowly up to
us, took his seat upon the white mat that was spread for him. For a
few minutes he sat in a silence that neither we nor his people cared
to break. Only the wind sang in the brown branches, and from
some forest brake came a stag's hoarse cry. As he sat in the
sunshine he glistened all over, like an Ethiop besprent with silver;
for his dark limbs and mighty chest had been oiled, and then
powdered with antimony. Through his scalp lock was stuck an
eagle's feather; across his face, from temple to chin, was a bar of
red paint; the eyes above were very bright and watchful, but we
upon whom that scrutiny was bent were as little wont as he to let
our faces tell our minds.
One of his young men brought a great pipe, carved and painted,
stem and bowl; an old man filled it with tobacco, and a warrior lit
it and bore it to the Emperor. He put it to his lips and smoked in
silence, while the sun climbed higher and higher, and the golden
minutes that were more precious than heart's blood went by, at
once too slow, too swift.
At last, his part in the solemn mockery played, he held out the pipe
to me. "The sky will fall, and the rivers run dry, and the birds cease
to sing," he said, "before the smoke of the calumet fades from the
I took the symbol of peace, and smoked it as silently and soberly -
ay, and as slowly - as he had done before me, then laid it leisurely
aside and held out my hand. "My eyes have been holden," I told
him, "but now I see plainly the deep graves of the hatchets and the
drifting of the peace smoke through the forest. Let
Opechancanough come to Jamestown to smoke of the
Englishman's uppowoc, and to receive rich presents, - a red robe
like his brother Powhatan's, and a cup from which he shall drink,
he and all his people."
He laid his dark fingers in mine for an instant, withdrew them,
and, rising to his feet, motioned to three Indians who stood out
from the throng of warriors. "These are Captain Percy's guides and
friends," he announced. "The sun is high; it is time that he was
gone. Here are presents for him and for my brother the Governor."
As he spoke, he took from his neck the rope of pearls and from his
arm a copper bracelet, and laid both upon my palm.
I thrust the pearls within my doublet, and slipped the bracelet upon
my wrist. "Thanks, Opechancanough," I said briefly. "When we
meet again I shall not greet you with empty thanks."
By this all the folk of the village had gathered around us; and now
the drums beat again, and the maidens raised a wild and plaintive
song of farewell. At a sign from the werowance men and women
formed a rude procession, and followed us, who were to go upon a
journey, to the edge of the village where the marsh began. Only the
dark Emperor and the old men stayed behind, sitting and standing
in the sunshine, with the peace pipe lying on the grass at their feet,
and the wind moving the branches overhead. I looked back and
saw them thus, and wondered idly how many minutes they would
wait before putting on the black paint. Of Nantauquas we had seen
nothing. Either he had gone to the forest, or upon some pretense he
kept within his lodge.
We bade farewell to the noisy throng who had brought us upon our
way, and went down to the river, where we found a canoe and
rowers, crossed the stream, and, bidding the rowers good-by,
entered the forest. It was Wednesday morning, and the sun was
two hours high. Three suns, Nantauquas had said: on Friday, then,
the blow would fall. Three days! Once at Jamestown, it would
take three days to warn each lonely scattered settlement, to put the
colony into any posture of defense. What of the leagues of
danger-haunted forest to be traversed before even a single soul of
the three thousand could be warned?
As for the three Indians, - who had their orders to go slowly, who
at any suspicious haste or question or anxiety on our part were to
kill us whom they deemed unarmed, - when they left their village
that morning, they left it forever. There were times when Diccon
and I had no need of speech, but knew each other's mind without;
so now, though no word had been spoken, we were agreed to set
upon and slay our guides the first occasion that offered.
CHAPTER XXXIV IN WHICH THE RACE IS NOT TO THE SWIFT
THE three Indians of whom we must rid ourselves were approved
warriors, fierce as wolves, cunning as foxes, keen-eyed as hawks.
They had no reason to doubt us, to dream that we would turn upon
them, but from habit they watched us, with tomahawk and knife
resting lightly in their belts.
As for us, we walked slowly, smiled freely, and spoke frankly. The
sunshine streaming down in the spaces where the trees fell away
was not brighter than our mood. Had we not smoked the peace
pipe? Were we not on our way home? Diccon, walking behind me,
fell into a low-voiced conversation with the savage who strode
beside him. It related to the barter for a dozen otterskins of a gun
which he had at Jamestown. The savage was to bring the skins to
Paspahegh at his earliest convenience, and Diccon would meet
him there and give him the gun, provided the pelts were to his
liking. As they talked, each, in his mind's eye, saw the other dead
before him. The one meant to possess a gun, indeed, but he
thought to take it himself from the munition house at Jamestown;
the other knew that the otter which died not until this Indian's
arrow quivered in its side would live until doomsday. Yet they
discussed the matter gravely, hedging themselves about with
provisos, and, the bargain clinched, walked on side by side in the
silence of a perfect and all-comprehending amity.
The sun rode higher and higher, gilding the misty green of the
budding trees, quickening the red maple bloom into fierce scarlet,
throwing lances of light down through the pine branches to splinter
against the dark earth far below. For an hour it shone; then clouds
gathered and shut it from sight. The forest darkened, and the wind
arose with a shriek. The young trees cowered before the blast, the
strong and vigorous beat their branches together with a groaning
sound, the old and worn fell crashing to the earth. Presently the
rain rushed down, slant lines of silver tearing through the wood
with the sound of the feet of an army; hail followed, a torrent of
ice beating and bruising all tender green things to the earth. The
wind took the multitudinous sounds, - the cries of frightened birds,
the creaking trees, the snap of breaking boughs, the crash of falling
giants, the rush of the rain, the drumming of the hail, - enwound
them with itself, and made the forest like a great shell held close to
There was no house to flee to; so long as we could face the hail we
staggered on, heads down, buffeting the wind; but at last, the fury
of the storm increasing, we were fain to throw ourselves upon the
earth, in a little brake, where an overhanging bank somewhat
broke the wind. A mighty oak, swaying and groaning above us,
might fall and crush us like eggshells; but if we went on, the like
fate might meet us in the way. Broken and withered limbs, driven
by the wind, went past us like crooked shadows; it grew darker and
darker, and the air was deadly cold.
The three Indians pressed their faces against the ground; they
dreamed not of harm from us, but Okee was in the merciless hail
and the first thunder of the year, now pealing through the wood.
Suddenly Diccon raised himself upon his elbow, and looked across
at me. Our eyes had no sooner met than his hand was at his bosom.
The savage nearest him, feeling the movement, as it were, lifted
his head from the earth, of which it was so soon to become a part;
but if he saw the knife, he saw it too late. The blade, driven down
with all the strength of a desperate man, struck home; when it was
drawn from its sheath of flesh, there remained to us but a foe
In the instant of its descent I had thrown myself upon the Indian
nearest me. It was not a time for overniceness. If I could have done
so, I would have struck him in the back while he thought no harm;
as it was, some subtle instinct warning him, he whirled himself
over in time to strike up my hand and to clench with me. He was
very strong, and his naked body, wet with rain, slipped like a snake
from my hold. Over and over we rolled on the rain-soaked moss
and rotted leaves and cold black earth, the hail blinding us, and the
wind shrieking like a thousand watching demons. He strove to
reach the knife within his belt; I, to prevent him, and to strike deep
with the knife I yet held.
At last I did so. Blood gushed over my hand and wrist, the clutch
upon my arm relaxed, the head fell back. The dying eyes glared
into mine; then the lids shut forever upon that unquenchable
hatred. I staggered to my feet and turned, to find that Diccon had
given account of the third Indian.
We stood up in the hail and the wind, and looked at the dead men
at our feet. Then, without speaking, we went our way through the
tossing forest, with the hailstones coming thick against us, and the
wind a strong hand to push us back. When we came to a little
trickling spring, we knelt and washed our hands.
The hail ceased, but the rain fell and the wind blew throughout the
morning. We made what speed we could over the boggy earth
against the storm, but we knew that we were measuring miles
where we should have measured leagues. There was no breath to
waste in words, and thought was a burden quite intolerable; it was
enough to stumble on through the partial light, with a mind as gray
and blank as the rain-blurred distance.
At noon the clouds broke, and an hour later the sunshine was
streaming down from a cloudless heaven, beneath which the forest
lay clear before us, naught stirring save shy sylvan creatures to
whom it mattered not if red man or white held the land.
Side by side Diccon and I hurried on, not speaking, keeping eye
and ear open, proposing with all our will to reach the goal we had
set, and to reach it in time, let what might oppose. It was but
another forced march; many had we made in our time, through
dangers manifold, and had lived to tell the tale.
There was no leisure in which to play the Indian and cover up our
footprints as we made them, but when we came to a brook we
stepped into the cold, swift-flowing water, and kept it company for
a while. The brook flowed between willows, thickly set, already
green, and overarching a yard or more of water. Presently it bent
sharply, and we turned with it. Ten yards in front of us the growth
of willows ceased abruptly, the low, steep banks shelved
downwards to a grassy level, and the stream widened into a clear
and placid pool, as blue as the sky above. Crouched upon the grass
or standing in the shallow water were some fifteen or twenty deer.
We had come upon them without noise; the wind blew from them
to us, and the willows hid us from their sight. There was no alarm,
and we stood a moment watching them before we should throw a
stone or branch into their midst and scare them from our path.
Suddenly, as we looked, the leader threw up his head, made a
spring, and was off like a dart, across the stream and into the
depths of the forest beyond. The herd followed. A moment, and
there were only the trodden grass and the troubled waters; no other
sign that aught living had passed that way.
"Now what was that for?" muttered Diccon. "I'm thinking we had
best not take to the open just yet."
For answer I parted the willows, and forced myself into the covert,
pressing as closely as possible against the bank, and motioning
him to do the same. He obeyed, and the thick-clustering gold-green
twigs swung into place again, shutting us in with the black water
and the leafy, crumbling bank. From that green dimness we could
look out upon the pool and the grass, with small fear that we
ourselves would be seen.
Out of the shadow of the trees into the grassy space stepped an
Indian; a second followed, a third, a fourth, - one by one they came
from the gloom into the sunlight, until we had counted a score or
more. They made no pause, a glance telling them to what were due
the trampled grass and the muddied water. As they crossed the
stream one stooped and drank from his hand, but they said no word
and made no noise. All were painted black; a few had face and
chest striped with yellow. Their headdresses were tall and
wonderful, their leggings and moccasins fringed with scalp locks;
their hatchets glinted in the sunshine, and their quivers were stuck
full of arrows. One by one they glided from the stream into the
thick woods beyond. We waited until we knew that they were were
deep in the forest, then crept from the willows and went our way.
"They were Youghtenunds," I said, in the low tones we used when
we spoke at all, "and they went to the southward."
"We may thank our stars that they missed our trail," Diccon
We spoke no more, but, leaving the stream, struck again toward
the south. The day wore on, and still we went without pause. Sun
and shade and keen wind, long stretches of pine and open glades
where we quickened our pace to a run, dense woods, snares of
leafless vines, swamp and thicket through which we toiled so
slowly that the heart bled at the delay, streams and fallen trees, -
on and on we hurried, until the sun sank and the dusk came
creeping in upon us.
"We've dined with Duke Humphrey to-day," said Diccon at last;
"but if we can keep this pace, and don't meet any more war parties,
or fall foul of an Indian village, or have to fight the wolves
to-night, we'll dine with the Governor to-morrow. What's that?"
"That" was the report of a musket, and a spent ball had struck me
above the knee, bruising the flesh beneath the leather of my boot.
We wheeled, and looked in the direction whence lead come that
unwelcome visitor. There was naught to be seen. It was dusk in the
distance, and there were thickets too, and fallen logs. Where that
ambuscade was planted, if one or twenty Indians lurked in the
dusk behind the trees, or lay on the further side of those logs, or
crouched within a thicket, no mortal man could tell.
"It was a spent ball," I said. "Our best hope is in our heels."
"There are pines beyond, and smooth going," he answered; "but if
ever I thought to run from an Indian!"
Without more ado we started. If we could outstrip that marksman,
if we could even hold our distance until night had fallen, all might
yet be well. A little longer, and even an Indian must fire at
random; moreover, we might reach some stream and manage to
break our trail. The ground was smooth before us, - too smooth,
and slippery with pine needles; the pines themselves stood in grim
brown rows, and we ran between them lightly and easily,
husbanding our strength. Now and again one or the other looked
behind, but we saw only the pines and the gathering dusk. Hope
was strengthening in us, when a second bullet dug into the earth
just beyond us.
Diccon swore beneath his breath. "It struck deep," he muttered.
"The dark is slow in coming."
A minute later, as I ran with my head over my shoulder, I saw our
pursuer, dimly, like a deeper shadow in the shadows far down the
arcade behind us. There was but one man, - a tall warrior, strayed
aside from his band, perhaps, or bound upon a warpath of his own.
The musket that he carried some English fool had sold him for a
mess of pottage.
Putting forth all our strength, we ran for our lives, and for the lives
of many others. Before us the pine wood sloped down to a deep
and wide thicket, and beyond the thicket a line of sycamores
promised water. If we could reach the thicket, its close embrace
would hide us, - then the darkness and the stream. A third shot,
and Diccon staggered slightly.
"For God's sake, not struck, man?" I cried.
"It grazed my arm," he panted. "No harm done. Here's the thicket!"
Into the dense growth we broke, reckless of the blood which the
sharp twigs drew from face and hands. The twigs met in a thick
roof over our heads; that was all we cared for, and through the
network we saw one of the larger stars brighten into being. The
thicket was many yards across. When we had gone thirty feet down
we crouched and waited for the dark. If our enemy followed us, he
must do so at his peril, with only his knife for dependence.
One by one the stars swam into sight, until the square of sky above
us was thickly studded. There was no sound, and no living thing
could have entered that thicket without noise. For what seemed an
eternity, we waited; then we rose and broke our way through the
bushes to the sycamores, to find that they indeed shadowed a little
Down this we waded for some distance before taking to dry earth
again. Since entering the thicket we had seen and heard nothing
suspicious, and were now fain to conclude that the dark warrior
had wearied of the chase, and was gone on his way toward his
mates and that larger and surer quarry which two suns would
bring. Certain it is that we saw no more of him.
The stream flowing to the south, we went with it, hurrying along
its bank, beneath the shadow of great trees, with the stars gleaming
down through the branches. It was cold and still, and far in the
distance we heard wolves hunting. As for me, I felt no weariness.
Every sense was sharpened; my feet were light; the keen air was
like wine in the drinking; there was a star low in the south that
shone and beckoned. The leagues between my wife and me were
few. I saw her standing beneath the star, with a little purple flower
in her hand.
Suddenly, a bend in the stream hiding the star, I became aware that
Diccon was no longer keeping step with me, but had fallen
somewhat to the rear. I turned, and he was leaning heavily, with
drooping head, against the trunk of a tree.
"Art so worn as that?" I exclaimed. "Put more heart into thy heels,
He straightened himself and strode on beside me. "I don't know
what came over me for a minute," he answered. "The wolves are
loud to-night. I hope they'll keep to their side of the water."
A stone's throw farther on, the stream curving to the west, we left
it, and found ourselves in a sparsely wooded glade, with a bare and
sandy soil beneath our feet, and above, in the western sky, a
crescent moon. Again Diccon lagged behind, and presently I heard
him groan in the darkness.
I wheeled. "Diccon!" I cried. "What is the matter?"
Before I could reach him he had sunk to his knees. When I put my
hand upon his arm and again demanded what ailed him, he tried to
laugh, then tried to swear, and ended with another groan. "The ball
did graze my arm," he said, "but it went on into my side. I'll just lie
here and die, and wish you well at Jamestown. When the red imps
come against you there, and you open fire on them, name a bullet
CHAPTER XXXV IN WHICH I COME TO THE GOVERNOR'S HOUSE
I LAID him down upon the earth, and, cutting away his doublet
and the shirt beneath, saw the wound, and knew that there was a
journey indeed that he would shortly make. "The world is turning
round," he muttered, "and the stars are falling thicker than the
hailstones yesterday. Go on, and I will stay behind, - I and the
I took him in my arms and carried him back to the bank of the
stream, for I knew that he would want water until he died. My
head was bare, but he had worn his cap from the gaol at
Jamestown that night. I filled it with water and gave him to drink;
then washed the wound and did what I could to stanch the
bleeding. He turned from side to side, and presently his mind
began to wander, and he talked of the tobacco in the fields at
Weyanoke. Soon he was raving of old things, old camp fires and
night-time marches and wild skirmishes, perils by land and by sea;
then of dice and wine and women. Once he cried out that Dale had
bound him upon the wheel, and that his arms and legs were
broken, and the woods rang to his screams. Why, in that wakeful
forest, they were unheard, or why, if heard, they went unheeded,
God only knows.
The moon went down, and it was very cold. How black were the
shadows around us, what foes might steal from that darkness upon
us, it was not worth while to consider. I do not know what I
thought of on that night, or even that I thought at all. Between my
journeys for the water that he called for I sat beside the dying man
with my hand upon his breast, for he was quieter so. Now and then
I spoke to him, but he answered not.
Hours before we had heard the howling of wolves, and knew that
some ravenous pack was abroad. With the setting of the moon the
noise had ceased, and I thought that the brutes had pulled down the
deer they hunted, or else had gone with their hunger and their
dismal voices out of earshot. Suddenly the howling recommenced,
at first faint and far away, then nearer and nearer yet. Earlier in the
evening the stream had been between us, but now the wolves had
crossed and were coming down our side of the water, and were
All the ground was strewn with dead wood, and near by was a
growth of low and brittle bushes. I gathered the withered branches,
and broke fagots from the bushes; then into the press of dark and
stealthy forms I threw a great crooked stick, shouting as I did so,
and threatening with my arms. They turned and fled, but presently
they were back again. Again I frightened them away, and again
they returned. I had flint and steel and tinder box; when I had
scared them from us a third time, and they had gone only a little
way, I lit a splinter of pine, and with it fired my heap of wood;
then dragged Diccon into the light and sat down beside him, with
no longer any fear of the wolves, but with absolute confidence in
the quick appearance of less cowardly foes. There was wood
enough and to spare; when the fire sank low and the hungry eyes
gleamed nearer, I fed it again, and the flame leaped up and
mocked the eyes.
No human enemy came upon us. The fire blazed and roared, and
the man who lay in its rosy glare raved on, crying out now and then
at the top of his voice; but on that night of all nights, of all years,
light and voice drew no savage band to put out the one and silence
the other forever.
Hours passed, and as it drew toward midnight Diccon sank into a
stupor. I knew that the end was not far away. The wolves were
gone at last, and my fire was dying down. He needed my touch
upon his breast no longer, and I went to the stream and bathed my
hands and forehead, and then threw myself face downward upon
the bank. In a little while the desolate murmur of the water became
intolerable, and I rose and went back to the fire, and to the man
whom, as God lives, I loved as a brother.
He was conscious. Pale and cold and nigh gone as he was, there
came a light to his eyes and a smile to his lips when I knelt beside
him. "You did not go?" he breathed.
"No," I answered, "I did not go."
For a few minutes he lay with closed eyes; when he again opened
them upon my face, there were in their depths a question and an
appeal. I bent over him, and asked him what he would have.
"You know," he whispered. "If you can . . . I would not go without
"Is it that?" I asked. "I forgave you long ago."
"I meant to kill you. I was mad because you struck me before the
lady, and because I had betrayed my trust. An you had not caught
my hand, I should be your murderer." He spoke with long intervals
between the words, and the death dew was on his forehead.
"Remember it not, Diccon," I entreated. "I too was to blame. And I
see not that night for other nights, - for other nights and days,
He smiled, but there was still in his face a shadowy eagerness.
"You said you would never strike me again," he went on, "and that
I was man of yours no more forever - and you gave me my
freedom in the paper which I tore." He spoke in gasps, with his
eyes upon mine. "I'll be gone in a few minutes now. If I might go
as your man still, and could tell the Lord Jesus Christ that my
master on earth forgave, and took back, it would be a hand in the
dark. I have spent my life in gathering darkness for myself at the
I bent lower over him, and took his hand in mine. "Diccon, my
man," I said.
A brightness came into his face, and he faintly pressed my hand. I
slipped my arm beneath him and raised him a little higher to meet
his death. He was smiling now, and his mind was not quite clear.
"Do you mind, sir," he asked, "how green and strong and sweet
smelled the pines that May day, when we found Virginia, so many
"Ay, Diccon," I answered. "Before we saw the land, the fragance
told us we were near it."
"I smell it now," he went on, "and the bloom of the grape, and the
May-time flowers. And can you not hear, sir, the whistling and the
laughter and the sound of the falling trees, that merry time when
Smith made axemen of all our fine gentlemen?"
"Ay, Diccon," I said. "And the sound of the water that was dashed
down the sleeve of any that were caught in an oath."
He laughed like a little child. "It is well that I was n't a gentleman,
and had not those trees to fell, or I should have been as wet as any
merman. . . . And Pocahontas, the little maid . . . and how blue the
sky was, and how glad we were what time the Patience and
Deliverance came in!"
His voice failed, and for a minute I thought he was gone; but he
had been a strong man, and life slipped not easily from him. When
his eyes opened again he knew me not, but thought he was in some
tavern, and struck with his hand upon the ground as upon a table,
and called for the drawer.
Around him were only the stillness and the shadows of the night,
but to his vision men sat and drank with him, diced and swore and
told wild tales of this or that. For a time he talked loudly and at
random of the vile quality of the drink, and his viler luck at the
dice; then he began to tell a story. As he told it, his senses seemed
to steady, and he spoke with coherence and like a shadow of
"And you call that a great thing, William Host?" he demanded. "I
can tell a true tale worth two such lies, my masters. (Robin tapster,
more ale! And move less like a slug, or my tankard and your ear
will cry, 'Well met!') It was between Ypres and Courtrai, friends,
and it's nigh fifteen years ago. There were fields in which nothing
was sowed because they were ploughed with the hoofs of war
horses, and ditches in which dead men were thrown, and dismal
marshes, and roads that were no roads at all, but only sloughs. And
there was a great stone house, old and ruinous, with tall poplars
shivering in the rain and mist. Into this house there threw
themselves a band of Dutch and English, and hard on their heels
came two hundred Spaniards. All day they besieged that house, -
smoke and flame and thunder and shouting and the crash of
masonry, - and when eventide was come we, the Dutch and the
English, thought that Death was not an hour behind."
He paused, and made a gesture of raising a tankard to his lips. His
eyes were bright, his voice was firm. The memory of that old day
and its mortal strife had wrought upon him like wine.
"There was one amongst us," he said, "he was our captain, and it's
of him I am going to tell the story. Robin tapster, bring me no
more ale, but good mulled wine! It's cold and getting dark, and I
have to drink to a brave man besides" -
With the old bold laugh in his eyes, he raised himself, for the
moment as strong as I that held him. "Drink to that Englishman, all
of ye!" he cried, "and not in filthy ale, but in good, gentlemanly
sack! I'll pay the score. Here's to him, brave hearts! Here's to my
With his hand at his mouth, and his story untold, he fell back. I
held him in my arms until the brief struggle was over, and then
laid his body down upon the earth.
It might have been one of the clock. For a little while I sat beside
him, with my head bowed in my hands. Then I straightened his
limbs and crossed his hands upon his breast, and kissed him upon
the brow, and left him lying dead in the forest.
It was hard going through the blackness of the night-time woods.
Once I was nigh sucked under in a great swamp, and once I
stumbled into some hole or pit in the earth, and for a time thought
that I had broken my leg. The night was very dark, and sometimes
when I could not see the stars, I lost my way, and went to the right
or the left, or even back upon my track. Though I heard the
wolves, they did not come nigh me. Just before daybreak, I
crouched behind a log, and watched a party of savages file past
like shadows of the night.
At last the dawn came, and I could press on more rapidly. For two
days and two nights I had not slept; for a day and a night I had not
tasted food. As the sun climbed the heavens, a thousand black
spots, like summer gnats, danced between his face and my weary
eyes. The forest laid stumbling-blocks before me, and drove me
back, and made me wind in and out when I would have had my
path straighter than an arrow. When the ground allowed I ran;
when I must break my way, panting, through undergrowth so dense
and stubborn that it seemed some enchanted thicket, where each
twig snapped but to be on the instant stiff in place again, I broke it
with what patience I might; when I must turn aside for this or that
obstacle I made the detour, though my heart cried out at the
necessity. Once I saw reason to believe that two or more Indians
were upon my trail, and lost time in outwitting them; and once I
must go a mile out of my way to avoid an Indian village.
As the day wore on, I began to go as in a dream. It had come to
seem the gigantic wood of some fantastic tale through which I was
traveling. The fallen trees ranged themselves into an abatis hard to
surmount; the thickets withstood one like iron; the streamlets were
like rivers, the marshes leagues wide, the treetops miles away.
Little things, twisted roots, trailing vines, dead and rotten wood,
made me stumble. A wind was blowing that had blown just so
since time began, and the forest was filled with the sound of the
Afternoon came, and the shadows began to lengthen. They were
lines of black paint spilt in a thousand places, and stealing swiftly
and surely across the brightness of the land. Torn and bleeding and
breathless, I hastened on; for it was drawing toward night, and I
should have been at Jamestown hours before. My head pained me,
and as I ran I saw men and women stealing in and out among the
trees before me: Pocahontas with her wistful eyes and braided hair
and finger on her lips; Nantauquas; Dale, the knight-marshal, and
Argall with his fierce, unscrupulous face; my cousin George Percy,
and my mother with her stately figure, her embroidery in her
hands. I knew that they were but phantoms of my brain, but their
presence confused and troubled me.
The shadows ran together, and the sunshine died out of the forest.
Stumbling on, I saw through the thinning trees a long gleam of red,
and thought it was blood, but presently knew that it was the river,
crimson from the sunset. A minute more and I stood upon the
shore of the mighty stream, between the two brightnesses of flood
and heavens. There was a silver crescent in the sky with one white
star above it, and fair in sight, down the James, with lights
springing up through the twilight, was the town, - the English town
that we had built and named for our King, and had held in the teeth
of Spain, in the teeth of the wilderness and its terrors. It was not a
mile away; a little longer, - a little longer and I could rest, with my
The dusk had quite fallen when I reached the neck of land. The hut
to which I had been enticed that night stood dark and ghastly, with
its door swinging in the wind. I ran past it and across the neck,
and, arriving at the palisade, beat upon the gate with my hands,
and called to the warder to open. When I had told him my name
and tidings, he did so, with shaking knees and starting eyes.
Cautioning him to raise no alarm in the town, I hurried by him into
the street, and down it toward the house that was set aside for the
Governor of Virginia. I should find there now, not Yeardley, but
Sir Francis Wyatt.
The torches were lighted, and the folk were indoors, for the night
was cold. One or two figures that I met or passed would have
accosted me, not knowing who I was, but I brushed by them, and
hastened on. Only when I passed the guest house I looked up, and
saw that mine host's chief rooms were yet in use.
The Governor's door was open, and in the hall servingmen were
moving to and fro. When I came in upon them, they cried out as it
had been a ghost, and one fellow let a silver dish that he carried
fall clattering to the floor. They shook and stood back, as I passed
them without a word, and went on to the Governor's great room.
The door was ajar, and I pushed it open and stood for a minute
upon the threshold, unobserved by the occupants of the room.
After the darkness outside the lights dazzled me; the room, too,
seemed crowded with men, though when I counted them there
were not so many, after all. Supper had been put upon the table,
but they were not eating. Before the fire, his head thoughtfully
bent, and his fingers tapping upon the arm of his chair, sat the
Governor; over against him, and as serious of aspect, was the
Treasurer. West stood by the mantel, tugging at his long mustaches
and softly swearing. Clayborne was in the room, Piersey the Cape
Merchant, and one or two besides. And Rolfe was there, walking
up and down with hasty steps, and a flushed and haggard face. His
suit of buff was torn and stained, and his great-boots were
spattered with mud.
The Governor let his fingers rest upon the arm of his chair, and
raised his head.
"He is dead, Master Rolfe," he said. "There can be no other
conclusion, - a brave man lost to you and to the colony. We mourn
with you, sir."
"We too have searched, Jack," put in West. "We have not been
idle, though well-nigh all men believe that the Indians, who we
know had a grudge against him, murdered him and his man that
night, then threw their bodies into the river, and themselves made
off out of our reach. But we hoped against hope that when your
party returned he would be in your midst."
"As for this latest loss," continued the Governor, "within an hour
of its discovery this morning search parties were out; yea, if I had
allowed it, the whole town would have betaken itself to the woods.
The searchers have not returned, and we are gravely anxious. Yet
we are not utterly cast down. This trail can hardly be missed, and
the Indians are friendly. There were a number in town overnight,
and they went with the searchers, volunteering to act as their
guides. We cannot but think that of this load, our hearts will soon
"God grant it!" groaned Rolfe. "I will drink but a cup of wine, sir,
and then will be gone upon this new quest."
There was a movement in the room. "You are worn and spent with
your fruitless travel, sir," said the Governor kindly. "I give you my
word that all that can be done is doing. Wait at least for the
morning, and the good news it may bring."
The other shook his head. "I will go now. I could not look my
friend in the face else - God in heaven!"
The Governor sprang to his feet; through the Treasurer's lips came
a long, sighing breath; West's dark face was ashen. I came forward
to the table, and leaned my weight upon it; for all the waves of the
sea were roaring in my ears, and the lights were going up and
"Are you man or spirit?" cried Rolfe through white lips. "Are you
"Yes, I am Percy," I said. "I have not well understood what quest
you would go upon, Rolfe, but you cannot go to-night. And those
parties that your Honor talked of, that have gone with Indians to
guide them to look for some lost person, - I think that you will
never see them again."
With an effort I drew myself erect, and standing so told my tidings,
quietly and with circumstance, so as to leave no room for doubt as
to their verity, or as to the sanity of him who brought them. They
listened, as the warder had listened, with shaking limbs and
gasping breath; for this was the fall and wiping out of a people of
which I brought warning.
When all was told, and they stood there before me, white and
shaken, seeking in their minds the thing to say or do first, I thought
to ask a question myself; but before my tongue could frame it, the
roaring of the sea became so loud that I could hear naught else,
and the lights all ran together into a wheel of fire. Then in a
moment all sounds ceased, and to the lights succeeded the
blackness of outer darkness.
CHAPTER XXXVI IN WHICH I HEAR ILL NEWS
WHEN I awoke from the sleep or stupor into which I must have
passed from that swoon, it was to find myself lying upon a bed in a
room flooded with sunshine. I was alone. For a moment I lay still,
staring at the blue sky without the window, and wondering where I
was and how I came there. A drum beat, a dog barked, and a man's
quick voice gave a command. The sounds stung me into
remembrance, and I was at the window while the voice was yet
It was West in the street below, pointing with his sword now to the
fort, now to the palisade, and giving directions to the armed men
about him. There were many people in the street. Women hurried
by to the fort with white, scared faces, their arms filled with
household gear; children ran beside them, sturdily bearing their
share of the goods, but pressing close to their elders' skirts; men
went to and fro, the most grimly silent, but a few talking loudly.
Not all of the faces in the crowd belonged to the town: there were
Kingsmell and his wife from the main, and John Ellison from
Archer's Hope, and the Italians Vincencio and Bernardo from the
Glass House. The nearer plantations, then, had been warned, and
their people had come for refuge to the city. A negro passed, but
on that morning, alone of many days, no Indian aired his paint and
feathers in the white man's village.
I could not see the palisade across the neck, but I knew that it was
there that the fight - if fight there were - would be made. Should
the Indians take the palisade, there would yet be the houses of the
town, and, last of all, the fort in which to make a stand. I believed
not that they would take it. Long since we had found out their
method of warfare. They used ambuscade, surprise, and massacre;
when withstood in force and with determination they withdrew to
their stronghold the forest, there to bide their time until, in the
blackness of some night, they could again swoop down upon a
The drum beat again, and a messenger from the palisade came
down the street at a run. "They're in the woods over against us,
thicker than ants!" he cried to West as he passed. "A boat has just
drifted ashore yonder, with two men in it, dead and scalped!"
I turned to leave the room, and ran against Master Pory coming in
on tiptoe, with a red and solemn face. He started when he saw me.
"The roll of the drum brought you to your feet, then!" he cried.
"You've lain like the dead all night. I came but to see if you were
"When I have eaten, I shall be myself again," I said. "There's no
attack as yet?"
"No," he answered. "They must know that we are prepared. But
they have kindled fires along the river bank, and we can hear them
yelling. Whether they'll be mad enough to come against us remains
to be seen."
"The nearest settlements have been warned?"
"Ay. The Governor offered a thousand pounds of tobacco and the
perpetual esteem of the Company to the man or men who would
carry the news. Six volunteered, and went off in boats, three up
river, three down. How many they reached, or if they still have
their scalps, we know not. And awhile ago, just before daybreak,
comes with frantic haste Richard Pace, who had rowed up from
Pace's Pains to tell the news which you had already brought.
Chanco the Christian had betrayed the plot to him, and he
managed to give warning at Powel's and one or two other places as
he came up the river."
He broke off, but when I would have spoken interrupted me with:
"And so you were on the Pamunkey all this while! Then the
Paspaheghs fooled us with the simple truth, for they swore so
stoutly that their absent chief men were but gone on a hunt toward
the Pamunkey that we had no choice but to believe them gone in
quite another direction. And one and all of every tribe we
questioned swore that Opechancanough was at Orapax. So Master
Rolfe puts off up river to find, if not you, then the Emperor, and
make him give up your murderers; and the Governor sends a party
along the bay, and West another up the Chickahominy. And there
you were, all the time, mewed up in the village above the marshes!
And Nantauquas, after saving our lives like one of us, is turned
Indian again! And your man is killed! Alackaday! there's naught
but trouble in the world. 'As the sparks fly upwards,' you know.
But a brave man draws his breath and sets his teeth."
In his manner, his rapid talk, his uneasy glances toward the door, I
found something forced and strange. "I thought Rolfe was behind
me," he said, "but he must have been delayed. There are meat and
drink set out in the great room, where the Governor and those of
the Council who are safe here with us are advising together. Let's
descend; you've not eaten, and the good sack will give you
strength. Wilt come?"
"Ay," I answered, "but tell me the news as we go. I have been gone
ten days, - faith, it seems ten years! There have no ships sailed,
Master Pory? The George is still here?" I looked him full in the
eye, for a sudden guess at a possible reason for his confusion had
stabbed me like a knife.
"Ay," he said, with a readiness that could scarce be feigned. "She
was to have sailed this week, it is true, the Governor fearing to
keep her longer. But the Esperance, coming in yesterday, brought
news which removed his Honor's scruples. Now she'll wait to see
out this hand at the cards, and to take home the names of those
who are left alive in Virginia. If the red varlets do swarm in upon
us, there are her twelve-pounders; they and the fort guns" -
I let him talk on. The George had not sailed. I saw again a firelit
hut, and a man and a panther who went down together. Those
claws had dug deep; the man across whose face they had torn their
way would keep his room in the guest house at Jamestown until
his wounds were somewhat healed. The George would wait for
him, would scarcely dare to sail without him, and I should find the
lady whom she was to carry away to England in Virginia still. It
was this that I had built upon, the grain of comfort, the passionate
hope, the sustaining cordial, of those year-long days in the village
above the Pamunkey.
My heart was sore because of Diccon; but I could speak of that
grief to her, and she would grieve with me. There were awe and
dread and stern sorrow in the knowledge that even now in the
bright spring morning blood from a hundred homes might be
flowing to meet the shining, careless river; but it was the
springtime, and she was waiting for me. I strode on toward the
stairway so fast that when I asked a question Master Pory, at my
side, was too out of breath to answer it. Halfway down the stairs I
asked it again, and again received no answer save a "Zooks! you go
too fast for my years and having in flesh! Go more slowly, Ralph
Percy; there's time enough, there's time enough!"
There was a tone in his voice that I liked not, for it savored of pity.
I looked at him with knitted brows; but we were now in the hall,
and through the open door of the great room I caught a glimpse of
a woman's skirt. There were men in the hall, servants and
messengers, who made way for us, staring at me as they did so,
and whispering. I knew that my clothing was torn and muddied
and stained with blood; as we paused at the door there came to me
in a flash that day in the courting meadow when I had tried with
my dagger to scrape the dried mud from my boots. I laughed at
myself for caring now, and for thinking that she would care that I
was not dressed for a lady's bower. The next moment we were in
the great room.
She was not there. The silken skirt that I had seen, and - there
being but one woman in all the world for me - had taken for hers,
belonged to Lady Wyatt, who, pale and terrified, was sitting with
clasped hands, mutely following with her eyes her husband as he
walked to and fro. West had come in from the street and was
making some report. Around the table were gathered two or three
of the Council; Master Sandys stood at a window, Rolfe beside
Lady Wyatt's chair. The room was filled with sunshine, and a
caged bird was singing, singing. It made the only sound there when
they saw that I stood amongst them.
When I had made my bow to Lady Wyatt and to the Governor, and
had clasped hands with Rolfe, I began to find in the silence, as I
had found in Master Pory's loquaciousness, something strange.
They looked at me uneasily, and I caught a swift glance from the
Treasurer to Master Pory, and an answering shake of the latter's
head. Rolfe was very white and his lips were set; West was pulling
at his mustaches and staring at the floor.
"With all our hearts we welcome you back to life and to the
service of Virginia, Captain Percy," said the Governor, when the
silence had become awkward.
A murmur of assent went round the room.
I bowed. "I thank you, sir, and these gentlemen very heartily. You
have but to command me now. I find that I have to-day the best
will in the world toward fighting. I trust that your Honor does not
deem it necessary to send me back to gaol?"
"Virginia has no gaol for Captain Percy," he answered gravely.
"She has only grateful thanks and fullest sympathy."
I glanced at him keenly. "Then I hold myself at your command, sir,
when I shall have seen and spoken with my wife."
He looked at the floor, and they one and all held their peace.
"Madam," I said to Lady Wyatt, "I have been watching your
ladyship's face. Will you tell me why it is so very full of pity, and
why there are tears in your eyes?"
She shrank back in her chair with a little cry, and Rolfe stepped
toward me, then turned sharply aside. "I cannot!" he cried, " I that
I drew myself up to meet the blow, whatever it might be. "I
demand of you my wife, Sir Francis Wyatt," I said. "If there is ill
news to be told, be so good as to tell it quickly. If she is sick, or
hath been sent away to England" -
The Governor made as if to speak, then turned and flung out his
hands to his wife. " 'T is woman's work, Margaret!" he cried. "Tell
More merciful than the men, she came to me at once, the tears
running down her cheeks, and laid one trembling hand upon my
arm. "She was a brave lady, Captain Percy," she said. "Bear it as
she would have had you bear it."
"I am bearing it, madam," I answered at length. " 'She was a brave
lady.' May it please your ladyship to go on?"
"I will tell you all, Captain Percy; I will tell you everything. . . .
She never believed you dead, and she begged upon her knees that
we would allow her to go in search of you with Master Rolfe. That
could not be; my husband, in duty to the Company, could not let
her have her will. Master Rolfe went, and she sat in the window,
yonder, day after day, watching for his return. When other parties
went out, she besought the men, as they had wives whom they
loved, to search as though those loved ones were in captivity and
danger; when they grew weary and fainthearted, to think of her
face waiting in the window. . . . Day after day she sat there
watching for them to come back; when they were come, then she
watched the river for Master Rolfe's boats. Then came word down
the river that he had found no trace of you whom he sought, that
he was on his way back to Jamestown, that he too believed you
dead. . . . We put a watch upon her after that, for we feared we
knew not what, there was such a light and purpose in her eyes. But
two nights ago, in the middle of the night, the woman who stayed
in her chamber fell asleep. When she awoke before the dawn, it
was to find her gone."
"To find her gone?" I said dully. "To find her dead?"
She locked her hands together and the tears came faster. "Oh,
Captain Percy, it had been better so! - it had been better so! Then
would she have lain to greet you, calm and white, unmarred and
beautiful, with the spring flowers upon her. . . . She believed not
that you were dead; she was distraught with grief and watching;
she thought that love might find what friendship missed; she went
to the forest to seek you. They that were sent to find and bring her
back have never returned" -
"Into the forest!" I cried. "Jocelyn, Jocelyn, Jocelyn, come back!"
Some one pushed me into a chair, and I felt the warmth of wine
within my lips. In the moment that the world steadied I rose and
went toward the door to find my way barred by Rolfe.
"Not you, too, Ralph!" he cried. "I will not let you go. Look for
He drew me to the window, Master Sandys gravely making place
for us. From the window was visible the neck of land and the
forest beyond, and from the forest, up and down the river as far as
the eye could reach, rose here and there thin columns of smoke.
Suddenly, as we stared, three or four white smoke puffs, like giant
flowers, started out of the shadowy woods across the neck.
Following the crack of the muskets - fired out of pure bravado by
their Indian owners - came the yelling of the savages. The sound
was prolonged and deep, as though issuing from many throats.
I looked and listened, and knew that I could not go, - not now.
"She was not alone, Ralph," said Rolfe, with his arm about me.
"On the morning that she was missed, they found not Jeremy
Sparrow either. They tracked them both to the forest by the
footprints upon the sand, though once in the wood the trail was
lost. The minister must have been watching, must have seen her
leave the house, and must have followed her. How she, and he
after her, passed through the gates, none know. So careless and
confident had we grown - God forgive us! - that they may have
been left open all that night. But he was with her, Ralph; she had
not to face it alone" - His voice broke.
For myself, I was glad that the minister had been there, though I
knew that for him also I should grieve after a while.
At the firing and the shouting West had rushed from the room,
followed by his fellow Councilors, and now the Governor clapped
on his headpiece and called to his men to bring his
back-and-breast. His wife hung around his neck, and he bade her
good-by with great tenderness. I looked dully on at that parting. I
too was going to battle. Once I had tasted such a farewell, the pain,
the passion, the sweetness, but never again, - never again.
He went, and the Treasurer, after a few words of comfort to Lady
Wyatt, was gone also. Both were merciful, and spoke not to me,
but only bowed and turned aside, requiring no answering word or
motion of mine. When they were away, and there was no sound in
the room save the caged bird's singing and Lady Wyatt's low sobs, I
begged Rolfe to leave me, telling him that he was needed, as
indeed he was, and that I would stay in the window for a while,
and then would join him at the palisade. He was loath to go; but he
too had loved and lost, and knew that there is nothing to be said,
and that it is best to be alone. He went, and only Lady Wyatt and I
kept the quiet room with the singing bird and the sunshine on the
I leaned against the window and looked out into the street, - which
was not crowded now, for the men were all at their several posts, -
and at the budding trees, and at the smoke of many fires going up
from the forest to the sky, from a world of hate and pain and woe
to the heaven where she dwelt, and then I turned and went to the
table, where had been set bread and meat and wine.
At the sound of my footstep Lady Wyatt uncovered her face. "Is
there aught that I can do for you, sir?" she asked timidly.
"I have not broken my fast for many hours, madam," I answered. "I
would eat and drink, that I may not be found wanting in strength.
There is a thing that I have yet to do."
Rising from her chair, she brushed away her tears, and coming to
the table with a little housewifely eagerness would not let me wait
upon myself, but carved and poured for me, and then sat down
opposite me and covered her eyes with her hand.
"I think that the Governor is quite safe, madam," I said. "I do not
believe that the Indians will take the palisade. It may even be that,
knowing we are prepared, they will not attack at all. Indeed, I
think that you may be easy about him."
She thanked me with a smile. "It is all so strange and dreadful to
me, sir," she said. "At my home, in England, it was like a Sunday
morning all the year round, - all stillness and peace; no terror, no
alarm. I fear that I am not yet a good Virginian."
When I had eaten, and had drunk the wine she gave me, I rose, and
asked her if I might not see her safe within the fort before I joined
her husband at the palisade. She shook her head, and told me that
there were with her faithful servants, and that if the savages broke
in upon the town she would have warning in time to flee, the fort
being so close at hand. When I thereupon begged her leave to
depart, she first curtsied to me, and then, again with tears, came to
me and took my hand in hers. "I know that there is naught that I
can say. . . . Your wife loved you, sir, with all her heart." She drew
something from the bosom of her gown. "Would you like this? It is
a knot of ribbon that she wore. They found it caught in a bush at
the edge of the forest."
I took the ribbon from her and put it to my lips, then unknotted it
and tied it around my arm; and then, wearing my wife's colors, I
went softly out into the street, and turned my face toward the guest
house and the man whom I meant to kill.
CHAPTER XXXVII IN WHICH MY LORD AND I PART COMPANY
THE door of the guest house stood wide, and within the lower
room were neither men that drank nor men that gave to drink. Host
and drawers and chance guests alike had left pipe and tankard for
sword and musket, and were gone to fort or palisade or river bank.
I crossed the empty room and went up the creaking stairway. No
one met me or withstood me; only a pigeon perched upon the sill
of a sunny window whirred off into the blue. I glanced out of the
window as I passed it, and saw the silver river and the George and
the Esperance, with the gunners at the guns watching for Indian
canoes, and saw smoke rising from the forest on the southern
shore. There had been three houses there, - John West's and
Minifie's and Crashaw's. I wondered if mine were burning, too, at
Weyanoke, and cared not if 't was so.
The door of the upper room was shut. When I raised the latch and
pushed against it, it gave at the top and middle, but there was some
pressure from within at the bottom. I pushed again, more strongly,
and the door slowly opened, moving away whatever thing had lain
before it. Another moment, and I was in the room, and had closed
and barred the door behind me.
The weight that had opposed me was the body of the Italian, lying
face downwards, upon the floor. I stooped and turned it over, and
saw that the venomous spirit had flown. The face was purple and
distorted; the lips were drawn back from the teeth in a dreadful
smile. There was in the room a faint, peculiar, not unpleasant odor.
It did not seem strange to me to find that serpent, which had coiled
in my path, dead and harmless for evermore. Death had been busy
of late; if he struck down the flower, why should he spare the thing
that I pushed out of my way with my foot?
Ten feet from the door stood a great screen, hiding from view all
that might be beyond. It was very quiet in the room, with the
sunshine coming through the window, and a breeze that smelt of
the sea. I had not cared to walk lightly or to close the door softly,
and yet no voice had challenged my entrance. For a minute I feared
to find the dead physician the room's only occupant; then I passed
the screen and came upon my enemy.
He was sitting beside a table, with his arms outstretched and his
head bowed upon them. My footfall did not rouse him; he sat there
in the sunshine as still as the figure that lay before the threshold. I
thought with a dull fury that maybe he was dead already, and I
walked hastily and heavily across the floor to the table. He was a
living man, for with the fingers of one hand he was slowly striking
against a sheet of paper that lay beneath them. He knew not that I
stood above him; he was listening to other footsteps.
The paper was a letter, unfolded and written over with great black
characters. The few lines above those moving fingers stared me in
the face. They ran thus: "I told you that you had as well cut your
throat as go upon that mad Virginia voyage. Now all's gone, -
wealth, honors, favor. Buckingham is the sun in heaven, and cold
are the shadows in which we walk who hailed another luminary.
There's a warrant out for the Black Death; look to it that one meets
not you too, when you come at last. But come, in the name of all
the fiends, and play your last card. There's your cursed beauty still.
Come, and let the King behold your face once more" - The rest
I put out my hand and touched him upon the shoulder, and he
raised his head and stared at me as at one come from the grave.
Over one side of his face, from temple to chin, was drawn and
fastened a black cloth; the unharmed cheek was bloodless and
shrunken, the lip twisted. Only the eyes, dark, sinister, and
splendid, were as they had been. "I dig not my graves deep
enough," he said. "Is she behind you there in the shadow?"
Flung across a chair was a cloak of scarlet cloth. I took it and
spread it out upon the floor, then unsheathed a dagger which I had
taken from the rack of weapons in the Governor's hall. "Loosen thy
poniard, thou murderer," I cried, "and come stand with me upon
"Art quick or dead?" he answered. "I will not fight the dead." He
had not moved in his seat, and there was a lethargy and a dullness
in his voice and eyes. "There is time enough," he said. "I too will
soon be of thy world, thou haggard, bloody shape. Wait until I
come, and I will fight thee, shadow to shadow."
"I am not dead," I said, "but there is one that is. Stand up, villain
and murderer, or I will kill you sitting there, with her blood upon
He rose at that, and drew his dagger from the sheath. I laid aside
my doublet, and he followed my example, but his hands moved
listlessly and his fingers bungled at the fastenings. I waited for him
in some wonder, it not being like him to come tardily to such
He came at length, slowly and with an uncertain step, and we
stood together on the scarlet cloak. I raised my left arm and he
raised his, and we locked hands. There was no strength in his
clasp; his hand lay within mine cold and languid. "Art ready?" I
"Yea," he answered in a strange voice, "but I would that she did
not stand there with her head upon your breast. . . . I too loved
thee, Jocelyn, - Jocelyn lying dead in the forest!"
I struck at him with the dagger in my right hand, and wounded
him, but not deeply, in the side. He gave blow for blow, but his
poniard scarce drew blood, so nerveless was the arm that would
have driven it home. I struck again, and he stabbed weakly at the
air, then let his arm drop to his side, as though the light and
jeweled blade had weighed it down.
Loosening the clasp of our left hands, I fell back until the narrow
scarlet field was between us. "Hast no more strength than that?" I
cried. "I cannot murder you!"
He stood looking past me as into a great distance. He was
bleeding, but I had as yet been able to strike no mortal blow. "It is
as you choose," he said. "I am as one bound before you. I am sick
Turning, he went back, swaying as he walked, to his chair, and
sinking into it sat there a minute with half-closed eyes; then raised
his head and looked at me, with a shadow of the old arrogance,
pride, and disdain upon his scarred face. "Not yet, captain?" he
demanded. "To the heart, man! So I would strike an you sat here
and I stood there."
"I know you would," I said, and going to the window I flung the
dagger down into the empty street; then stood and watched the
smoke across the river, and thought it strange that the sun shone
and the birds sang.
When I turned to the room again, he still sat there in the great
chair, a tragic, splendid figure, with his ruined face and the sullen
woe of his eyes. "I had sworn to kill you," I said. "It is not just that
you should live."
He gazed at me with something like a smile upon his bloodless
lips. "Fret not thyself, Ralph Percy," he said. "Within a week I shall
be gone. Did you see my servant, my Italian doctor, lying dead
upon the floor, there beyond the screen? He had poisons, had
Nicolo whom men called the Black Death, - poisons swift and
strong, or subtle and slow. Day and night, the earth and sunshine
have become hateful to me. I will go to the fires of hell, and see if
they can make me forget, - can make me forget the face of a
woman." He was speaking half to me, half to himself. "Her eyes
are dark and large," he said, "and there are shadows beneath them,
and the mark of tears. She stands there day and night with her eyes
upon me. Her lips are parted, but she never speaks. There was a
way that she had with her hands, holding them one within the
other, thus" -
I stopped him with a cry for silence, and I leaned trembling
against the table. "Thou wretch!" I cried. "Thou art her murderer!"
He raised his head and looked beyond me with that strange, faint
smile. "I know," he replied, with the dignity which was his at
times. "You may play the headsman, if you choose. I dispute not
your right. But it is scarce worth while. I have taken poison."
The sunshine came into the room, and the wind from the river, and
the trumpet notes of swans flying to the north. "The George is
ready for sailing," he said at last. "To-morrow or the next day she
will be going home with the tidings of this massacre. I shall go
with her, and within a week they will bury me at sea. There is a
stealthy, slow, and secret poison. . . . I would not die in a land
where I have lost every throw of the dice, and I would not die in
England for Buckingham to come and look upon my face, and so I
took that poison. For the man upon the floor, there, - prison and
death awaited him at home. He chose to flee at once."
He ceased to speak, and sat with his head bowed upon his breast.
"If you are content that it should be as it is," he said at length,
"perhaps you will leave me? I am not good company to-day."
His hand was busy again with the letter upon the table, and his
gaze was fixed beyond me. "I have lost," he muttered. "How I
came to play my cards so badly I do not know. The stake was
heavy, - I have not wherewithal to play again."
His head sank upon his outstretched arm. As for me, I stood a
minute with set lips and clenched hands, and then I turned and
went out of the room and down the stair and out into the street. In
the dust beneath the window lay my dagger. I picked it up,
sheathed it, and went my way.
The street was very quiet. All windows and doors were closed and
barred; not a soul was there to trouble me with look or speech. The
yelling from the forest had ceased; only the keen wind blew, and
brought from the Esperance upon the river a sound of singing. The
sea was the home of the men upon her decks, and their hearts
dwelt not in this port; they could sing while the smoke went up
from our homes and the dead lay across the thresholds.
I went on through the sunshine and the stillness to the minister's
house. The trees in the garden were bare, the flowers dead. The
door was not barred. I entered the house and went into the great
room and flung the heavy shutters wide, then stood and looked
about me. Naught was changed; it was as we had left it that wild
November night. Even the mirror which, one other night, had
shown me Diccon still hung upon the wall. Master Bucke had been
seldom at home, perhaps, or was feeble and careless of altering
matters. All was as though we had been but an hour gone, save that
no fire burned upon the hearth.
I went to the table, and the books upon it were Jeremy Sparrow's:
the minister's house, then, had been his home once more. Beside
the books lay a packet, tied with silk, sealed, and addressed to me.
Perhaps the Governor had given it, the day before, into Master
Bucke's care, - I do not know; at any rate, there it lay. I looked at
the "By the Esperance" upon the cover, and wondered dully who at
home would care to write to me; then broke the seal and untied the
silk. Within the cover there was a letter with the superscription,
"To a Gentleman who has served me well."
I read the letter through to the signature, which was that of his
Grace of Buckingham, and then I laughed, who had never thought
to laugh again, and threw the paper down. It mattered naught to me
now that George Villiers should be grateful, or that James Stewart
could deny a favorite nothing. "The King graciously sanctions the
marriage of his sometime ward, the Lady Jocelyn Leigh, with
Captain Ralph Percy; invites them home" -
She was gone home, and I her husband, I who loved her, was left
behind. How many years of pilgrimage . . . how long, how long, O
The minister's great armchair was drawn before the cold and
blackened hearth. How often she had sat there within its dark
clasp, the firelight on her dress, her hands, her face! She had been
fair to look upon; the pride, the daring, the willfulness, were but
the thorns about the rose; behind those defenses was the flower,
pure and lovely, with a heart of gold. I flung myself down beside
the chair, and, putting my arms across it, hid my face upon them,
and could weep at last.
That passion spent itself, and I lay with my face against the wood
and well-nigh slept. The battle was done; the field was lost; the
storm and stress of life had sunk into this dull calm, as still as
peace, as hopeless as the charred log and white ash upon the
hearth, cold, never to be quickened again.
Time passed, and at length I raised my head, roused suddenly to
the consciousness that for a while there had been no stillness. The
air was full of sound, shouts, savage cries, the beating of a drum,
the noise of musketry. I sprang to my feet, and went to the door to
meet Rolfe crossing the threshold.
He put his arm within mine and drew me out into the sunshine
upon the doorstep. "I thought I should find you here," he said; "but
it is only a room with its memories, Ralph. Out here is more
breadth, more height. There is country yet, Ralph, and after a
while, friends. The Indians are beginning to attack in force.
Humphry Boyse is killed, and Morris Chaloner. There is smoke
over the plantations up and down the river, as far as we can see,
and awhile ago the body of a child drifted down to us."
"I am unarmed," I said. "I will but run to the fort for sword and
"No need," he answered. "There are the dead whom you may rob."
The noise increasing as he spoke, we made no further tarrying, but,
leaving behind us house and garden, hurried to the palisade.
CHAPTER XXXVIII IN WHICH I GO UPON A QUEST
THROUGH a loophole in the gate of the palisade I looked, and
saw the sandy neck joining the town to the main, and the deep and
dark woods beyond, the fairy mantle giving invisibility to a host.
Between us and that refuge dead men lay here and there, stiff and
stark, with the black paint upon them, and the colored feathers of
their headdresses red or blue against the sand. One warrior, shot
through the back, crawled like a wounded beetle to the forest. We
let him go, for we cared not to waste ammunition upon him.
I drew back from my loophole, and held out my hand to the
women for a freshly loaded musket. A quick murmur like the
drawing of a breath came from our line. The Governor, standing
near me, cast an anxious glance along the stretch of wooden stakes
that were neither so high nor so thick as they should have been. "I
am new to this warfare, Captain Percy," he said. "Do they think to
use those logs that they carry as battering rams?"
"As scaling ladders, your Honor," I replied. "It is on the cards that
we may have some sword play, after all."
"We'll take your advice, the next time we build a palisade, Ralph
Percy," muttered West on my other side. Mounting the breastwork
that we had thrown up to shelter the women who were to load the
muskets, he coolly looked over the pales at the oncoming savages.
"Wait until they pass the blasted pine, men!" he cried. "Then give
them a hail of lead that will beat them back to the Pamunkey!"
An arrow whistled by his ear; a second struck him on the shoulder,
but pierced not his coat of mail. He came down from his
dangerous post with a laugh.
"If the leader could be picked off" - I said. "It's a long shot, but
there's no harm in trying."
As I spoke I raised my gun to my shoulder; but he leaned across
Rolfe, who stood between us, and plucked me by the sleeve.
"You've not looked at him closely. Look again."
I did as he told me, and lowered my musket. It was not for me to
send that Indian leader to his account. Rolfe's lips tightened and a
sudden pallor overspread his face. "Nantauquas?" he muttered in
my ear, and I nodded yes.
The volley that we fired full into the ranks of our foe was deadly,
and we looked to see them turn and flee, as they had fled before.
But this time they were led by one who had been trained in English
steadfastness. Broken for the moment, they rallied and came on
yelling, bearing logs, thick branches of trees, oars tied together, -
anything by whose help they could hope to surmount the palisade.
We fired again, but they had planted their ladders. Before we could
snatch the loaded muskets from the women a dozen painted figures
appeared above the sharpened stakes. A moment, and they and a
score behind them had leaped down upon us.
It was no time now to skulk behind a palisade. At all hazards, that
tide from the forest must be stemmed. Those that were amongst us
we might kill, but more were swarming after them, and from the
neck came the exultant yelling of madly hurrying reinforcements.
We flung open the gates. I drove my sword through the heart of an
Indian who would have opposed me, and, calling for men to follow
me, sprang forward. Perhaps thirty came at my call; together we
made for the opening. A party of the savages in our midst
interposed. We set upon them with sword and musket butt, and
though they fought like very devils drove them before us through
the gateway. Behind us were wild clamor, the shrieking of women,
the stern shouts of the English, the whooping of the savages;
before us a rush that must be met and turned.
It was done. A moment's fierce fighting, then the Indians wavered,
broke, and fled. Like sheep we drove them before us, across the
neck, to the edge of the forest, into which they plunged. Into that
ambush we cared not to follow, but fell back to the palisade and
the town, believing, and with reason, that the lesson had been
taught. The strip of sand was strewn with the dead and the dying,
but they belonged not to us. Our dead numbered but three, and we
bore their bodies with us.
Within the palisade we found the English in sufficiently good case.
Of the score or more Indians cut off by us from their mates and
penned within that death trap, half at least were already dead, run
through with sword and pike, shot down with the muskets that
there was now time to load. The remainder, hemmed about,
pressed against the wall, were fast meeting with a like fate. They
stood no chance against us; we cared not to make prisoners of
them; it was a slaughter, but they had taken the initiative. They
fought with the courage of despair, striving to spring in upon us,
striking when they could with hatchet and knife, and through it all
talking and laughing, making God knows what savage boasts, what
taunts against the English, what references to the hunting grounds
to which they were going. They were brave men that we slew that
At last there was left but the leader, - unharmed, unwounded,
though time and again he had striven to close with some one of us,
to strike and to die striking with his fellows. Behind him was the
wall: of the half circle which he faced well-nigh all were old
soldiers and servants of the colony, gentlemen none of whom had
come in later than Dale, - Rolfe, West, Wynne, and others. We
were swordsmen all. When in his desperation he would have
thrown himself upon us, we contented ourselves with keeping him
at sword's length, and at last West sent the knife in the dark hand
whirling over the palisade. Some one had shouted to the
musketeers to spare him.
When he saw that he stood alone, he stepped back against the wall,
drew himself up to his full height, and folded his arms. Perhaps he
thought that we would shoot him down then and there; perhaps he
saw himself a captive amongst us, a show for the idle and for the
strangers that the ships brought in.
The din had ceased, and we the living, the victors, stood and
looked at the vanquished dead at our feet, and at the dead beyond
the gates, and at the neck upon which was no living foe, and at the
blue sky bending over all. Our hearts told us, and told us truly, that
the lesson had been taught, that no more forever need we at
Jamestown fear an Indian attack. And then we looked at him
whose life we had spared.
He opposed our gaze with his folded arms and his head held high
and his back against the wall. Many of us could remember him, a
proud, shy lad, coming for the first time from the forest with his
sister to see the English village and its wonders. For idleness we
had set him in our midst that summer day, long ago, on the green
by the fort, and had called him "your royal highness," laughing at
the quickness of our wit, and admiring the spirit and bearing of the
lad and the promise he gave of a splendid manhood. And all knew
the tale I had brought the night before.
Slowly, as one man, and with no spoken word, we fell back, the
half circle straightening into a line and leaving a clear pathway to
the open gates. The wind had ceased to blow, I remember, and a
sunny stillness lay upon the sand, and the rough-hewn wooden
stakes, and a little patch of tender grass across which stretched a
dead man's arm. The church bells began to ring.
The Indian out of whose path to life and freedom we had stepped
glanced from the line of lowered steel to the open gates and the
forest beyond, and understood. For a full minute he waited,
moving not a muscle, still and stately as some noble masterpiece
in bronze. Then he stepped from the shadow of the wall and
moved past us through the sunshine that turned the eagle feather in
his scalp lock to gold. His eyes were fixed upon the forest; there
was no change in the superb calm of his face. He went by the
huddled dead and the long line of the living that spoke no word,
and out of the gates and across the neck, walking slowly that we
might yet shoot him down if we saw fit to repent ourselves, and
proudly like a king's son. There was no sound save the church bells
ringing for our deliverance. He reached the shadow of the trees: a
moment, and the forest had back her own.
We sheathed our swords and listened to the Governor's few earnest
words of thankfulness and of recognition of this or that man's
service, and then we set to work to clear the ground of the dead, to
place sentinels, to bring the town into order, to determine what
policy we should pursue, to search for ways by which we might
reach and aid those who might be yet alive in the plantations above
and below us.
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