Part 2 out of 4
this measure, and why should one man, Governor Culpeper, for the
king, hold for one minute the will of this strong majority in
I reasoned it out within myself that one cause might lie in that
distrust and suspicion of his neighbour as to his good-will and
identical interest with himself which is inborn with every man, and
in most cases strengthens with his growth. When a movement of
rebellion against authority is on foot, he eyes all askance, and
speaks in whispering corners of secrecy, not knowing when he strikes
his first blow whether his own brother's hand will be with him
against the common tyrant, or against himself.
Were it not for this lamentable quality of the human heart, which
will prevent forever the perfect concerting of power to one end,
such a giant might be made of one people that it could hold all the
world and all the nations thereof at its beck and call. But that
cannot be, even in England, which had known and knows now and will
know again that division of interest and doubts, every man of his
brother's heart, which weaken the arm against the common foe.
But, reflecting in such wise, I came no nearer to the answer to my
quandary as to my best course for the protection of Mary Cavendish.
I sat there on that rock glittering like frost-work in the May
sunlight and watched the river current until it seemed to me that my
rock and all Virginia were going out on the tide to sea and back to
England, where, had I landed then, I would have lost my head and all
my wondering with it, and my old astonishment, which I had had from
a boy, was upon me, that so many things that be, according to the
apparent evidence of our senses are not, and how can any man ever be
sure that he is on sea or land, or coming or going? And comes there
not to all of us some day a great shock of knowledge of the slipping
past of this world, and all the history thereof which we think of so
much moment, and that we only are that which remains? But then
verily it seemed to me that the matter of the tobacco plot and Mary
Cavendish's danger was of more moment than aught else in the
"Master Wingfield," said a voice so gently and sweetly repellent and
forbidding, even while it entreated, that it shivered the air with
discord, and I looked around, and there stood Catherine Cavendish.
She stood quite near the rock where I sat, but she kept her head
turned slightly away as if she could not bear the sight of my face,
though she was constrained to speak to me. But I, and I speak the
truth, since I held it unworthy a man and a gentleman to feel aught
of wrath or contempt when he was sole sufferer by reason of any
wrong done by a woman, had nothing but that ever recurrent surprise
and unbelief at the sight of her, to reconcile what I knew, or
thought I knew, with what she seemed.
I rose and stepped from my rock to the green shore, and she moved a
little back with a slight courtesy. "Good-morning, Mistress
Catherine," I said.
"What know you of what my sister hath done and the cargo that came
yesterday on the Golden Horn?" she demanded with no preface and of a
sudden; her voice rang sharp as I remembered it when she first spoke
to me by that white hedge of England, and I could have sworn that
the tide had verily borne us thither, and she was again that sallow
girl and I the blundering lout of a lad.
"That I cannot answer you, madam," said I, and bowed and would have
passed, but she stood before me. So satin smooth was her hair that
even the fresh wind could not ruffle it, and in such straight lines
of maiden modesty hung her green gown--always she wore green,
and it became her well, and 'twas a colour I always
fancied--that it but fluttered a little around her feet in the
marsh grass, but her face looked out from a green gauze hood with an
expression that belied all this steadfastness of primness and
decorum. It was as if a play-actress had changed her character and
not her attire, which suited another part. Out came her slim arm, as
if she would have caught me by the hand for the sake of compelling
my answer; then she drew it back and spoke with all the sharp
vehemence of passion of a woman who oversteps the bounds of
restraint which she has set herself, and is a wilder thing than if
she had been hitherto unfettered by her will.
"I command you to tell me what I wish to know, Harry Wingfield;"
said she, and now her eyes fixed mine with no shrinking, but a
broadside of scorn and imperiousness.
"And I refuse to tell you, madam," said I.
Then indeed she caught my arm with a little nervous hand, like a
cramp of wire. "You shall tell me, sir," she declared. "This much I
know already. Yesterday the Golden Horn came in and was unladen of
powder and shot instead of the goods that my sister pretended to
order, and the cases are stored at Laurel Creek. This much do I
know, but not what is afoot, nor for what Mary had conference with
Sir Humphrey Hyde and Ralph last night, and you later on with Sir
Humphrey. I demand of you that you tell me, Harry Wingfield."
"That I cannot do, madam," said I.
She gave me a look with those great black eyes of hers, and how it
came to pass I never knew, but straight to the root of the whole she
went as if my face had been an open book.
Such quickness of wit I had often heard ascribed to women, but never
saw I aught like that, and I trow it seemed witchcraft. "'Tis
something about the young tobacco plants," quoth she. "The king
would not pass the measure to cease the planting, and the assembly
of this spring broke up with no decision. Major Beverly, who is
clerk of the assembly, hath turned against the government since
Bacon died, and all the burgesses are with him, and Governor
Culpeper sails for England soon, and what, is the
lieutenant-governor to hold the reins? There is a plot hatching to
cut down the young tobacco plants." I could but stare at her. "There
is a plot to cut down the young tobacco plants as soon as the
governor hath sailed," she said, "and my sister Mary hath sent to
England for arms, knowing that the militia will arise and there will
I still stared at her, not knowing in truth what to say. Then
suddenly she caught at my hands with hers, and cried out with that
energy that I saw all at once the fire of life beneath that fair
show of maiden peace and calm of hers, "Harry, Harry Wingfield, if
my grandmother, Madam Cavendish, knows this, my sister is undone; no
pity will she have. Straight to the governor will she go, though she
hobble on crutches to Jamestown! She would starve ere she would move
against the will of the king and his representative, and so would I,
but I will not have my little sister put to suffering and shame. God
save her, Harry Wingfield, but she might be thrown into prison, and
worse--I pray thee, save her, Harry! Whatever ill you have done,
and however slightingly I have held you for it, I pray you do this
good deed by way of amends, and I will put the memory of your
misdeeds behind me."
Even then my bewilderment at her mention of my misdeeds, when I
verily considered that she, as well as I, knew more of her own, was
strong, but I grasped her two little hands hard, then relinquished
them, and bowed and said, "Madam, I will save your sister at
"And count it not?" said she.
"No more than I have done before, madam," said I, and maybe with
some little bitterness, for sometimes a woman by persistent goading,
may almost raise herself to the fighting level of a man.
"But how?" said she.
"That I must study."
"But I charge you to keep it from Madam Cavendish."
"You need have no fear."
"May God forgive me, but I told Madam Cavendish that the Golden Horn
had not arrived," said she, "but what have they done with the rest
of the cargo, pray?"
I started. I had, I confess, not given that a thought, though it was
but reasonable that there was more beside those powder casks, if the
revenue from the crops had been so small.
But Catherine Cavendish needed but a moment for that problem.
"'Twill return," said she. "Captain Tabor hath but sailed off a
little distance that he may return and make port, as if for the
first time since he left England, and so put them off the scent of
the Sabbath unlading of those other wares." She looked down the
burnished flow of the river as she spoke, and cried out that she
could see a sail, but I, looking also, could not see anything save
the shimmer of white and green spring boughs into which the river
"'Tis the Golden Horn," said Catherine.
"I can see naught of white save the locust-blooms," said I.
"Locusts stand not against the wind in stiff sheets," said she.
"'Tis the sail of the Golden Horn; but that matters not. Harry,
Harry Wingfield, can you save my sister?"
"I know not whether I can, madam, but I will," said I.
Mistress Catherine and I returned together to Drake Hill, she
bearing herself with a sharp and anxious conciliation, and I with
little to say in response, and walking behind her, though she moved
more and more slowly that I might gain her side.
We were not yet in sight of Drake Hill, but the morning smoke from
the slave cabins had begun to thrust itself athwart the honeyed
sweetness of blossoms, and the salt freshness of the breath of the
tidal river, as the homely ways of life will ever do athwart the
beauty and inspiration of it, maybe to the making of its true
harmony, when of a sudden we both stopped and listened. Mistress
Catherine turned palely to me, and I dare say the thought of Indians
was in her mind, though they had long been quiet, then her face
relaxed and she smiled.
"'Tis the first day of May," said she. "And they are going to set up
the May-pole in Jarvis Field."
This did they every May of late, because some of the governors and
some of the people had kept to those prejudices against the May
revelries which had existed before the Restoration, and frowned upon
the May-pole set up in the Jamestown green as if it had been, as the
Roundheads used to claim, the veritable heathen god Baal.
Jarvis Field was a green tract, clear of trees, not far from us, and
presently we met the merry company proceeding thither. First came a
great rollicking posse of lads and lasses linked hand in hand, all
crowned with flowers, and bearing green and blossomy boughs over
shoulder. And these were so swift with the wild spirit and jollity
of the day that they must needs come in advance, even before the
horses which dragged the May-pole. Six of them there were, so
bedecked with ribbons and green garlands that I marvelled they could
see the road and were not wild with fear. But they seemed to enter
into the spirit of it all, and stepped highly and daintily with
proud archings of necks and tossings of green plumed heads, and
behind them the May-pole rasped and bumped and grated, the trunk of
a mighty oak yet bristling with green, like the stubble of a shaggy
beard of virility. And after the May-pole came surely the queerest
company of morris dancers that ever the world saw, except those of
which I have heard tell which danced in Herefordshire in the reign
of King James, those being composed of ten men whose ages made up
the sum of twelve hundred years. These, while not so ancient as
that, were still of the oldest men to be come at who could move
without crutches and whose estate was not of too much dignity for
such sports. And Maid Marion was the oldest and smallest of them
all, riding her hobby-horse, dressed in a yellow petticoat and a
crimson stomacher, with a great wig of yellow flax hanging down
under her gilt crown, and a painted mask to hide her white beard.
And after Maid Marion came dancing, with stiff struts and gambols,
old men as gayly attired as might be, with garlands of
peach-blossoms on their gray heads, bearing gad-sticks of peeled
willow-boughs wound with cowslips, and ringing bells and blowing
horns with all their might. And after them trooped young men and
maids, all flinging their heels aloft and waving with green and
flowers, and shouting and singing till it seemed the whole colony
was up and mad.
Mistress Catherine and I stood well to one side to let them pass by,
but when the morris dancers reached us, and caught sight of
Catherine in her green robes standing among the green bushes, above
which her fair face looked, half with dismay, half with a quick leap
of sympathy with the merriment, for there was in this girl a strange
spirit of misrule beneath all her quiet, and I verily believe that,
had she but let loose the leash in which she held herself, would
have joined those dancing and singing lasses and been outdone by
none, there was a sudden halt; then, before I knew what was to
happen, around her leapt a laughing score of them, shouting that
here was the true Maid Marion, and that old John Lubberkin could now
resign his post. Then off the hobbyhorse they tumbled him, and the
lads and lasses gathering around her, and the graybeards standing
aloof with some chagrin, would, I believe, in spite of me, since
they outnumbered me vastly, have forced Catherine into that rude
pageant as Maid Marion. But while I was thrusting them aside,
holding myself before her as firmly as I might, there came a quick
clatter of hoofs, and Mistress Mary had dashed alongside on Merry
Roger. She scattered the merry revellers right and left, calling out
to her sister to go homeward with a laugh. "Fie on thee, Catherine!"
she cried out. "If thou art abroad on a May morning dressed like the
queen of it, what blame can there be to these good folk for giving
thee thy queendom?"
Catherine did not move to go when the people drew away from her, but
rather stood looking at them with that lurking fire in her eyes and
a flush on her fair cheeks. Mistress Mary sat on her horse, curbing
him with her little hand, and her golden curls floated around her
like a cloud, for she had ridden forth without her hood on hearing
the sound of the horns and bells, eager to see the show like any
child, and the merrymakers stared at her, grinning with uncouth
delight and never any resentment. There was that in Mary Cavendish's
look, when she chose to have it so, that could, I verily believe,
have swayed an army, so full of utter good-will and lovingkindness
it was, and, more than that, of such confidence in theirs in return
that it would have taken not only knaves, but knaves with no conceit
of themselves, to have forsworn her good opinion of them. Suddenly
there rose a great shout and such a volley of cheering and hallooing
as can come only from English throats. A tall lad cast a great
wreath over Mistress Mary's own head, and cried out with a shout
that here, here was Maid Marion. And scores of voices echoed his
with "Maid Marion, Marion!" And then, to my great astonishment and
dismay, for a man is with no enemy so much at a loss as with a
laughing one, since it wrongs his own bravery to meet smiles with
blows, they gave forth that I was Robin Hood; that the convict
tutor, Harry Wingfield, was Robin Hood!
I felt myself white with wrath then, and was for blindly wrestling
with a great fellow who was among the foremost, shaking with mirth,
an oak wreath over his red curls making him look like a satyr, when
Mistress Mary rode between us. "Back, Master Wingfield," said she,
"I pray thee stand back." Then she looked at the folk, all smiles
and ready understanding of them, until they hurrahed again and rang
their bells and blew their horns, and she looked like a blossom
tossed on the wave of pandemonium.
I had my hand on her bridle-rein, ready to do my best should any
rudeness be offered her, when suddenly she raised her hand and made
a motion, and to my utter astonishment the brawling throng, save for
some on the outskirts, which quieted presently, became still. Then
Mistress Mary's voice arose, clear and sweet, with a childish note
of innocence in it:
"Good people," said she, "fain would I be your Maid Marion, and fain
would I be your queen of May, if you would hold with me this Kingdom
of Virginia against tyrants and oppressors."
I question if a dozen there grasped her meaning, but, after a
second's gaping stare, such a shout went up that it seemed to make
the marshes quiver. I know not what mad scheme was in the maid's
head, but I verily believe that throng would have followed her
wherever she led, and the tobacco plants might have been that
morning cut had she so willed.
But I pulled hard at her bridle, and I forgot my customary manner
with her, so full of terror for her I was. "For God's sake, child,
have done," I said, and she looked at me, and there came a strange
expression, which I had never seen before, into her blue eyes, half
of yielding as to some strength which she feared, and half of that
high enthusiasm of youth and noble sentiment which threatened to
swamp her in its mighty flow as it had done her hero Bacon before
her. I know not if I could have held her; it all passed in a second
the while those wild huzzas continued, and the crowd pressed closer,
all crowned and crested with green, like a tidal wave of spring, but
another argument came to me, and that moved her. "'Tis not yourself
alone, but your sister and Madam Cavendish to suffer with you," I
said. Then she gave a quick glance at Catherine, who was raising her
white face and trying to get near enough to speak to her, for her
sister's speech had made her frantic with alarm, and hesitated. Then
she laughed, and the earnest look faded from her face, and she
called out with that way of hers which nobody and nothing could
withstand, "Nay," she said, "wait till I be older and have as much
wisdom in my head as hath the Maid Marion whom you have chosen. The
one who hath seen so many Mays can best know how to queen it over
them." So saying, she snatched the wreath with which they had
crowned her from her head and cast it with such a sweep of grace as
never I saw over the head of flax-headed and masked Maid Marion, and
reined her horse back, and the crowd, with worshipful eyes of
admiration of her and her sweetness and wit and beauty, gave way,
and was off adown the road toward Jarvis Field, with loud clamour of
bells and horns and wild dancing and wavings of their gad-sticks and
green branches. Mistress Mary rode before us at a gallop, and
presently we were all at the breakfast table in the great hall at
Drake Hill, with foaming tankards of metheglin and dishes of honey
and salmon and game in plenty. For, whatever the scarcity of the
king's gold, there was not much lack of food in this rich country.
Madam Cavendish was down that morning, sitting at table with her
stick beside her, her head topped with a great tower of snowy cap,
her old face now ivory-yellow, but with a wonderful precision of
feature, for she had been a great beauty in her day, so alert and
alive with the ready comprehension of her black eyes, under slightly
scowling brows, that naught escaped her that was within her reach of
vision. Somewhat dull was she of hearing, but that sharpness of eye
did much to atone for it. She looked up, when we entered, with such
keenness that for a second my thought was that she knew all.
"What were the sounds of merrymaking down the road?" said she.
"'Twas the morris dancers and the May-pole; 'tis the first of May,
as you know, madam," said Mary in her sweet voice, made clear and
loud to reach her grandmother's ear; then up she went to kiss her,
and the old woman eyed her with pride, which she was fain to conceal
by chiding. "You will ruin your complexion if you go out in such a
wind without your mask," she said, and looked at the maiden's roses
and lilies with that rapture of admiration occasioned half by memory
of her own charms which had faded, and half by understanding of the
value of them in coin of love, which one woman can waken only in
For Catherine, Madam Cavendish had no glance of admiration nor word,
though she had tended her faithfully all the day before and half the
night, rubbing her with an effusion of herbs and oil for her
rheumatic pains. Yet for her, Madam Cavendish had no love, and
treated her with a stately toleration and no more. Mary understood
no cause for it, and often looked, as she did then, with a
distressful wonder at her grandmother when she seemed to hold her
sister so slightingly.
"Here is Catherine, grandmother," said she, "and she has had a
narrow escape from being pressed as Maid Marion by the morris
dancers." Madam Cavendish made a slight motion, and looked not at
Catherine, but turned to me with that face of anxious kindness which
she wore for me alone. "Saw you aught of the Golden Horn this
morning, Master Wingfield?" asked she, and I replied truthfully
enough that I had not.
Then, to my dismay, she turned to Mary and inquired what were the
goods which she had ordered from England, and to my greater dismay
the maid, with such a light of daring and mischief in her blue eyes
as I never saw, rattled off, the while Catherine and I stared aghast
at her, such a list of women's folderols as I never heard, and most
of them quite beyond my masculine comprehension.
Madam Cavendish nodded approvingly when she had done. "'Tis a wise
choice," said she, "and as soon as the ship comes in have the goods
brought here and unpacked that I may see them." With that she rose
stiffly, and, beckoning Catherine, who looked as if she could
scarcely stand herself, much less serve as prop for another, she
went out, tapping her stick heavily on one side, on the other
leaning on her granddaughter's shoulder.
I looked at Mistress Mary and she at me. We had withdrawn to the
deepness of a window, while the black slaves moved in and out,
bearing the breakfast dishes, as reasonably unheeded by us as the
cup-bearers in a picture of a Roman banquet in the time of the
Caesars which I saw once. Mistress Mary was pale with dismay, and
yet her mouth twitched with laughter at the notion of displaying,
before the horrified eyes of Madam Cavendish, those grim adornments
which had arrived in the Golden Horn.
"La," said she, "when they come a-trundling in a powder-cask and I
courtesy and say, 'Madam, here is my furbelowed and gold-flowered
sacque,' I wonder what will come to pass." Then she laughed.
"My God, madam," said I, "why did you give that list?" She laughed
again, and her eyes flashed with the very light of mischief.
"I grant 'twas a fib," said she; "but I was taken unawares, and, la,
how could I recite to her the true list of my rare finery which came
to port yesterday? So I but gave the list of goods for which my Lady
Culpeper sent to England for the replenishing of her wardrobe and
her daughter's, and which is daily expected by ship. I had it from
Cicely Hyde, who had it from Cate Culpeper. The ship is due now, and
may be even now in port, and so I worded what I said, that 'twas
not, after all, a fib, except the hearer chose to make it so. I
said, 'Such goods as these are due, madam.'" Then she gave the list
anew, like a parrot, while Catherine, who had returned, stood
staring at her, white with terror, though Mary did not see her until
she had finished. Then, when she turned and caught her keenly
anxious eyes, she started. "You here, Catherine?" said she. Then,
knowing not how much her sister knew already, she tried to cover her
confusion, like a child denying its raid on the jam pots, while its
lips and fingers are still sticky with the stolen sweet. "What think
you of my list, sweetheart?" cried she, merrily. "A pair of the silk
stockings and two of the breast-knots and a mask and a flowered
apron shall you have." Then out of the room she whisked abruptly,
laughing from excess of nervous confusion, and not being able to
keep up the farce longer.
Then Catherine turned to me. "She has undone herself, for Madam
Cavendish will see those goods when the Golden Horn comes in, or
ferret the mystery to its farthest hole of hiding," said she. Then
she wrung her hands and cried out sharply, "My God, Harry Wingfield,
what is to be done?"
"Madam Cavendish would surely never betray her own flesh and blood,"
said I, though doubtfully, when I reflected upon her hardness to
Catherine herself, for Madam Judith Cavendish was not one for whom
love could change the colour of the clear light of justice, and she
would see forever her own as they were.
"There is to her no such word as betray except in the service of the
king," said Catherine. Then she added in a whisper, "Know you the
story of her youngest son, my uncle Ralph Cavendish, who went over
I nodded. I knew it well, and had heard it from a lad how Ralph
Cavendish's own mother had turned him from her door one night with
the king's troops in the neighbourhood, though it was afterward
argued that she did not know of that, and he had been taken before
morning and afterwards executed, and she had never said a word nor
shed a tear that any one saw.
"When the Golden Horn comes in she will demand to see the goods,"
"Then--the Golden Horn must not come in," said I.
Catherine looked at me with that flash of ready wit in her eyes
which was like to the flash of fire from gunpowder meeting tinder.
Then she cried out, "Quick, then, quick, I pray thee, Harry
Wingfield, to the wharf! For if ever I saw sail, I saw that, and the
tide will have turned 'm. Quick, quick!"
She waited not for any head-gear, but forth into the May sunlight
she rushed, and I with her, and shouted at the top of my lungs to
the slaves for my horse, then went myself, having no mind to wait,
and hustled the poor beast from his feed-bin, and was on his back
and at a hard gallop to the wharf, with Mistress Catherine following
as fast as she was able. Now and then, when I turned, I saw her slim
green shape advancing, looking for all the world to my fancy like
some nymph who had been changed into a river-reed and had gotten
When I reached the wharf, with my horse all afoam, there was indeed
the Golden Horn down the river, coming in. The tide and the wind had
been against her, or she would have reached shore ere now. Then
along the bank I urged my horse, and in some parts, where there was
no footing and the tangle of woods too close, into the stream we
plunged and swam, then up bank again, and so on with a mighty
splatter of mire and water and rain of green leaves and blossoms
from the low hang of branches through which we tore way, till we
came abreast of the Golden Horn. Then I hallooed, first making sure
that there was no one lurking near to overhear, and waved my
handkerchief, keeping my horse standing to his fetlocks in the
current, until over the water came an answering halloo from the
Golden Horn, and I could plainly see Captain Calvin Tabor on the
quarter-deck. The ship was not far distant, and I could have swam to
her, and would have, though the tide was strong, had there been no
"Halloo," shouted Captain Tabor, and two more men came running to
the side, then more still, till it was overhung by a whole row of
red English faces.
"Halloo!" shouted I.
"What d'ye lack? What's afoot? Halloo!"
"Send a boat, for God's sake," I shouted back. "News, news; keep
where ye be. Do not land. Send a boat!"
"Is it the convict tutor, Wingfield?" shouted the captain.
I called back yes, and repeated my demand that he send a boat for
Then I saw a great running hither and thither, and presently a boat
touched water from the side of the Golden Horn with a curious
lapping dip, and I was off my horse and tied him fast to a tree on
the bank, with loose rein that he might crop his fill of the sweet
spring herbage, and when the boat touched bank was in her and
speedily aboard the ship.
Captain Tabor was leaning over the bulwarks, and his ruddy face was
pale, and his look of devil-may-care gayety somewhat subdued.
When I gained the deck forward he came and grasped me by the arm,
and led me into his own cabin, having first shouted forth to his
mate an order to drop anchor and keep the ship in midstream.
"Now, in the name of all the fiends, what is afoot?" he cried out,
though with a cautious cock of his eyes toward the deck, for English
sailors are not black slaves when it comes to discussing matters of
"There is a plot afoot against His Majesty King Charles, and you but
yesterday, that being also a day on which it is unlawful to unload a
ship, discharged a portion of your cargo, toward its furtherance and
abetting," said I.
"Hell and damnation!" he cried out, "when I trust a woman's tongue
again may I swing from my own yard-arms. What brought that
fair-faced devil into it, anyway? Be there not men enough in this
"And you keep not a civil tongue in your head when you speak of
Mistress Mary Cavendish; you will find of a surety that there be one
man in this colony, sir," said I.
He laughed in that mocking fashion of his which incensed me still
further. Then he spoke civilly enough, and said that he meant no
disrespect to one of the fairest ladies whom he had ever had the
good fortune to see, but that it was so well known as to be no more
slight in mentioning than the paint and powder wherewith a woman
enhanced her beauty, that a woman's tongue could not be trusted like
a man's, and that it were a pity that money, which were much better
spent by her for pretty follies, should be put to such grim uses,
and where were the gallants of Virginia that they suffered it, but
did not rather empty their own purses?
I explained, being somewhat mollified, and also somewhat of his way
of thinking, that men there were, but there was little gold since
the Navigation Act. And I informed Captain Tabor how Mistress Mary
Cavendish, having an estate not so heavily charged with expenses as
some, and being her own mistress with regard to the disposal of its
revenues, had the means which the men lacked.
"But what was the news which brought you thither, sir?" demanded
"You know of the plot--" I begun, but he broke in upon me
"May the fiends take me, but what know I of a plot?" he cried.
"Can I not bring over gowns and kerchiefs and silken ribbons for a
pretty maid without a plot? How knew you that? There is the woman's
tongue again. But can I not bring over goods even of such sort;
might I not with good reason suppose them to be for the defence of
the cause of his most gracious Majesty King Charles against the
savages, or any malcontents in his colonies? What plot, sirrah?"
"The plot for the cutting down of the young tobacco plants, Captain
Tabor," said I.
His eyes blazed at me, while his face was pale and grim.
"How many know of the goods I discharged from the Golden Horn
yesterday?" he asked.
"Three men, and I know not how many more, and two women," said I.
"Two women!" he groaned out. "Pestilence on these tide-waters which
hold a ship like a trap! Two women!"
"But the concern is lest a third woman know," said I.
"If three women know, then God save us all, for their triple tongues
will carry as far as the last trump!" cried Captain Tabor. Perturbed
as he was, he never lost that air of reckless daring which compelled
me to a sort of liking for him. "Out with the rest of it, sir," he
Then I told my story, to which he listened, scowling, yet with that
ready laugh at his mouth. "'Tis a scurvy trick to serve a woman,
both for her sake and the rest of us, to let her meddle with such
matters," he said, "and so I told that cousin of hers, Master Drake,
who came with her to give the order ere I sailed for England."
"Came any man save Ralph Drake with her then?" I asked.
"The saints forbid," he replied. "A secret is a secret only when in
the keeping of one; with two it findeth legs, but with three it
unfoldeth the swiftest wings of flight in all creation, and is
everywhere with no alighting. Had three come to me with that mad
order to bring powder and shot in the stead of silk stockings and
garters and cambric shifts and kerchiefs, I would have clapped full
sail on the Golden Horn, though--" he hesitated, then spoke in a
whisper--"my mind is against tyranny, to speak you true, though
I care not a farthing whether men pray on their knees or their feet,
or in gowns or the fashion of Eden. And I care not if they pray at
all, nor would I for the sake of that ever have forsaken, had I
stood in my grandfather's shoes, the flesh-pots of old England for
that howling wilderness of Plymouth. But for the sake of doing as I
willed, and not as any other man, would I have sailed or swam the
seas had they been blood instead of water. And so am I now with a
due regard to the wind and the trim of my sails and the ears of
tale-bearers, for a man hath but one head to lose with you of
Virginia. But, the Lord, to make a little maid like that run the
risk of imprisonment or worse, knew you aught of it, sir?"
I shook my head.
Captain Tabor laughed. "And yet she rode straight to the wharf with
you yesterday," said he. "Lord, what hidden springs move a woman!
I'll warrant, sir, had you known, you might have battened down the
hatches fast enough on her will, convict though you be, and, faith,
sir, but you look to me like one who is convict or master at his own
choosing and not by the will of any other." So saying, he gave me a
look so sharp that for a second I half surmised that he guessed my
secret, but knew better at once, and said that our business was to
deal not with what had been, but with what might be.
"Well," said he, "and what may that be, Master Wingfield, in your
opinion? You surely do not mean to hold the Golden Horn in midstream
with her cargo undischarged until the day of doom, lest yon old
beldame offer up her fair granddaughter on the altar of her loyalty,
with me and my hearties for kindling, to say naught of yourself and
a few of the best gentlemen of Virginia. I forfeit my head if I set
sail for England; naught is left for me that I see that shall save
my neck but to turn pirate and king it over the high seas. Having
swallowed a small morsel of my Puritan misgivings, what is to hinder
my bolting the whole, like an exceeding bitter pill, to my complete
purging of danger? What say you, Master Wingfield? Small reputation
have you to lose, and sure thy reckoning with powers that be leaves
thee large creditor. Will you sail with me? My first lieutenant
shall you be, and we will share the booty."
He laughed, and I stared at him that he should stoop to jest, yet
having a ready leap of comradeship toward him for it; then suddenly
his mood changed. Close to me he edged, and began talking with a
serious shrewdness which showed his mind brought fully to bear upon
the situation. "You say, sir," said he, "that Mistress Mary
Cavendish, in a spirit of youthful daring and levity, gave her
grandmother a list of the goods which my Lady Culpeper ordered from
England, and which even now is due?" I nodded.
"Know you by what ship?"
"The Earl of Fairfax," I replied, and recalled as I spoke a rumour
that my Lord Culpeper designed his daughter Cate for the eldest son
of the earl, and had so named his ship in honour of him.
"You say that the Earl of Fairfax is even now due?" said Captain
I replied that she was hourly expected by what I had learned; then
Captain Tabor, sitting loosely hunched with that utter abandon of
all the muscles which one sees in some when they are undergoing a
fierce strain of thought, remained silent for a space, his brows
knitted. Then suddenly my shoulder tingled with the clap which he
gave it, and the cabin rang and rang again with a laugh so loud and
gay that it seemed a very note of the May day. "You are merry," I
said, but I laughed myself, though somewhat doubtfully, when he
unfolded his scheme to me, which was indeed both bold and humorous.
He knew well the captain of the Earl of Fairfax, who had been
shipmate with him.
"Many a lark ashore have we had together," said Calvin Tabor, "and,
faith, but I know things about him now which compel him to my turn;
the devil's mess have we both been in, but I need not use such means
of persuasion, if I know honest Dick Watson." The scheme of which
Captain Tabor delivered himself, with bursts of laughter enough to
wake the ship, was, to speak briefly, that he should go with a boat,
rowing against the current, by keeping close to bank and taking
advantage of eddies, and meet the Earl of Fairfax before she reached
Jamestown, board her, and persuade her captain to send the cases of
my Lady Culpeper's goods under cover of night to the Golden Horn,
whence he would unload them next morning, and Mistress Mary could
show them to her grandmother, and then they were to be reshipped
with all possible speed and secrecy, the Earl of Fairfax meanwhile
laying at anchor at the mouth of the river, and then delivered to my
There was but one doubt as to the success of this curious scheme in
my mind, and that was that Mistress Mary might not easily lend
herself to such deception. However, Captain Tabor, with a skill of
devising concerning which I have often wondered whether it may be
more common in the descendants of those who settled in New England,
who were in such sore straits to get their own wills, than with us
of Virginia, provided a way through that difficulty.
"'Tis full easy," said he. "You say that the maid's sister will say
naught against it--and you?"
"I will say naught against her safety," said I. "What think you I
care for any little quibbles of the truth when that be in question?"
"Well," said Captain Tabor, "then must you and Mistress Catherine
Cavendish show the goods to the maid, and say naught as to the means
by which you came by them; tell her they are landed from the Golden
Horn, as indeed they will be; let her think aught she chooses, that
they are indeed her own, purchased for her by her sister or her
lovers, if she choose to think so, and bid her display them with no
ado to Madam Cavendish, if she value the safety of the others who
are concerned in this. Betwixt the mystery and the fright and the
sight of the trinkets, if she be aught on the pattern of any other
maid, show them she will, and hold her tongue till she be out of her
"It can be but tried," said I.
Then the captain sprang out on deck, and ordered a boat lowered, and
presently had set me ashore, and was himself, with a half-dozen
sailors, fighting way down-stream.
I found my horse on the bank where I had left him, and by him,
waiting anxiously, Catherine Cavendish. She listened with deepening
eyes while I told her Captain Tabor's scheme, and when I had done
looked at me with her beautiful mouth set and her face as white as a
white flower on a bush beside her. "Mary shall show the goods," said
she. "Such a story will I tell her as will make her innocent of
aught save bewilderment, and as for you and me, we are both of us
ready to burn for a lie for the sake of her."
I know not how Capt. Calvin Tabor managed his part to tranship those
goods without discovery, but he had a shrewd head, and no doubt the
captain of the Earl of Fairfax another, and by eight o'clock that
May day the Golden Horn lay at her wharf discharging her cargo right
lustily with such openness of zeal and shouts of encouragement and
groans of labour 'twas enough to acquaint all the colony. And
straightway to the great house they brought my Lady Culpeper's
fallals, and clamped them in the hall where we were all at supper.
Mistress Mary sprang to her feet, and ran to them and bent over
them. "What are these?" she said, all in a quiver.
"The goods which you ordered, madam," spoke up one of the sailors,
with a grin which he had copied from Captain Tabor, and pulled a
forelock and ducked his head.
"The goods," said she, speaking faintly, for hers was rather the
headlong course of enthusiasm than the secret windings of diplomacy.
"Art thou gone daft, sweetheart? The goods of which you gave the
list this morning, which have but now come in on the Golden Horn,"
spake up Catherine, sharply. I marvelled as I heard her whether it
be ease or tenderness of conscience which can appease a woman with
the letter and not the substance of the truth, for I am confident
that her keeping to the outward show of honesty in her life was no
small comfort to Catherine Cavendish.
Madam Cavendish was at table that night, though moving with grimaces
from the stiffness of her rheumatic joints, and she ordered that the
sailors be given cider, the which they drank with some haste, and
were gone. Then Madam Cavendish asked Mistress Mary, with her
wonderful keenness of gaze, which I never saw excelled, "Are those
the goods which you ordered by the Golden Horn?" But I answered for
her, knowing that Madam Cavendish would pardon such presumption from
me. "Madam, those are the goods. I have it from Capt. Calvin Tabor
himself." I spoke with no roundings nor glossings of subterfuge,
having ever held that all the excuse for a lie was its boldness in a
good cause, and believing in slaying a commandment like an enemy
with a clean cut of the sword.
Mistress Mary gave a little gasp, and looked at me, and looked at
her sister Catherine, and well I knew it was on the tip of her
tongue to out with the whole to her grandmother. And so she would
doubtless have done had not her wonderment and suspicion that maybe
in some wise Catherine had conspired to buy for her in England the
goods of which she had cheated herself, and the terror of doing harm
to her sister and me. But never saw I a maid go so white and red and
make the strife within her so evident.
We were well-nigh through supper when the goods arrived, and Madam
Cavendish ordered some of the slaves to open the cases, which they
did forthwith, and all my Lady Culpeper's finery was displayed.
Never saw I such a rich assortment, and calling to mind my Lady
Culpeper's thin and sour visage, I wondered within myself whether
such fine feathers might in her case suffice to make a fine bird,
though some of them were for her daughter Cate, who was fair enough.
Nothing would do but Mistress Mary, with her lovely face still
strange to see with her consternation of puzzlement, should
severally display every piece to her grandmother, and hold against
her complexion the rich stuffs to see if the colours suited her.
Madam Cavendish was pleased to express her satisfaction with them
all, though with some demur at the extravagance. "'Tis rich enough a
wardrobe for my Lady Culpeper," said she, at which innocent
shrewdness I was driven to hard straits to keep my face grave, but
Mistress Catherine was looking on with a countenance as calm as the
moon which was just then rising.
Madam Cavendish was pleased especially with one gown of a sky
colour, shot with silver threads, and ordered that Mistress Mary
should wear it to the ball which was to be given at the governor's
house the next night.
When I heard that I started, and Catherine shot a pale glance of
consternation at me, but Mistress Mary flushed rosy-red with
"I have no desire to attend my Lord Culpeper's ball, madam," said
"Lord Culpeper is the representative of his Majesty here in
Virginia," said Madam Cavendish, with a high head, "and no
granddaughter of mine absents herself with my approval. To the ball
you go, madam, and in that sky-coloured gown, and no more words.
Things have come to a pretty pass." So saying, she rose and, leaning
heavily on her stick, with her black maid propping her, she went
out. Then turned Mistress Mary imperiously to us and demanded to
know the meaning of it all. "Whence came these goods?" said she to
"On the Golden Horn, sweetheart; 'tis the list you gave this
morning," replied Catherine, without a change in the fair resolve of
"Pish!" cried Mary Cavendish. "The list I gave this morning was my
Lady Culpeper's, and you know it. Whence came these?" and she
spurned at a heap of the rich gleaming things with the toe of her
"I tell you, sweetheart, on the Golden Horn," replied Catherine.
Then she turned to me in a rage. "The truth I will have," she cried
out. "Whence came these goods?"
"On the Golden Horn, madam," I said.
She stamped her foot, and her voice rang so shrill that the black
slaves, carrying out the dishes, rolled alarmed eyes at her. "Think
you I will be treated like a child?" she cried out. "What means all
Then close to her went Catherine, and flung an arm around her, and
leaned her smooth, fair head against her sister's tossing golden
one. "For the sake of those you love and who love thee, sweetheart,"
But Mistress Mary pushed her away and looked at her angrily. "Well,
what am I to do for their sakes?" she demanded.
"Seek to know no more than this. The goods came on the Golden Horn
but now, and 'tis the list you gave this morning."
"But it was not my list, and I deceived my grandmother, and I will
go to her now and out with the truth. Think you I will have such a
falsehood on my soul?"
Catherine leaned closer to her and whispered, and Mary gave a quick,
wild glance at me, but I know not what she said. "I pray thee seek
to know no more than that the goods came but now in a boat from the
Golden Horn, and 'tis the list you gave this morning," said
"They are not mine by right, and well you know it." Then a thought
struck me, and I said with emphasis, "Madam, yours by right they are
and shall be, and I pray you to have no more concern in the matter."
Then so saying, I hastened out and went through the moonlight to the
wharf to seek Captain Tabor and the captain of the Earl of Fairfax,
who had come with his goods to see to their safety. Both men were
pacing back and forth, smoking long pipes, and Captain Watson, of
the Earl of Fairfax, a small and eager-spoken man, turned on me the
minute I came within hearing. "Where be my Lady Culpeper's goods?"
said he; "'tis time they were here and I on my way to the ship.
Devil take me if I run such a risk again for any man."
Then I made my errand known. I had some fifty pounds saved up from
the wreck of my fortunes; 'twas a third more than the goods were
worth. Would he but take it, pay the London merchant who had
furnished them, and have the remainder for his trouble?
"Trouble, trouble!" he shouted out, "trouble! By all the foul
fiends, man, what am I to say to my Lady Culpeper? Have you ever
had speech with her that you propose such a game with her?"
Captain Tabor burst out with a loud guffaw of laughter. "You have
not seen the maid for whom you run the risk, Dick," said he. "'Tis
"What care I for fair maids?" demanded the other. "Have I not a
wife and seven little ones in old England? What think you a dimple
or a bright eye hath of weight with me?"
"Time was, Dick," laughed Captain Tabor.
"Time that was no longer is," answered the other, crossly; then to
me, "Send down my goods by some of those black fellows, and no more
"But, sir," I said, "'twill be a good fifteen pound for Mistress
Watson and the little ones when the merchant be paid."
"Go to," he growled out, "what will that avail if I be put in
prison? What am I to say to my Lady Culpeper for the non-deliverment
of her goods? Answer me that." Then came Captain Tabor to my aid
with his merry shrewdness. "'Tis as easy as the nose on thy face,
Dick," said he. "Say but to my lady that you have searched and the
goods be not in the hold of the Earl of Fairfax, and must have
miscarried, as faith they have, and say that next voyage you will
deliver them and hold thyself responsible for the cost, as you well
can afford with Master Wingfield's money."
"Hast ever heard my Lady Culpeper's tongue?" demanded the other.
"'Tis easy to advise. Would you face her thyself without the goods
in hand, Calvin Tabor?"
"Faith, and I'd face a dozen like her for fifteen pound," declared
Captain Tabor. Then, with another great laugh. "I have it; send thy
mate, send thy deaf mate, Jack Tarbox, man."
"But she will demand to see the captain."
"Faith, and the captain will be on board the Earl of Fairfax seeing
to a leak which she hath sprung, and cannot leave her," said Tabor.
"But in two days' time the governor sails in my ship for England."
"Think ye the governor will concern himself about my lady's
adornments when he be headed for England and out of reach of her
"But how to dodge her for so long?"
"Dick," said the other, solemnly, "much I have it in mind that a
case of fever will break out upon the Earl of Fairfax by to-morrow
or next day."
"Then think you that my lady will allow her lord the governor to
"Dick," laughed Captain Tabor, "governors be great men and you but a
poor sailor, but when it comes to coin in wifely value, thy weight
in the heart of thy good Bridget would send the governor of Virginia
higher than thy masthead. None but my Lady Culpeper need have hint
of the fever."
"I have a sailor ailing," said the other, doubtfully, "but he hath
no sign of fever."
"'Tis enough," cried the other, gayly. "His fever will rage in
twelve hours enough to heat the 'tween decks."
"But," said Captain Watson, speaking angrily, and yet with a certain
timidity, as men will do before a scoffing friend and their own
accusing conscience, "you ask me to forswear myself."
"Nay, that I will not," cried the other. "By the Lord, I forgot thy
conscience, good Dick. Well, I have enough from my ancestors of
Plymouth to forswear and forswear again, and yet have some to spare.
I--I will go to my Lady Culpeper with the tale and save thy soul
thy scruples, and thy ears the melody of her tongue. I will acquaint
her with the miscarriage of the goods, and whisper of the sick
sailor, and all thou hast to do is to loiter about Jamestown,
keeping thy Bridget well in mind the while, and load thy ship with
the produce of the soil which the beggars of Virginia give of their
loyalty to His Majesty King Charles, and then to take on board my
Lord Culpeper and set sail."
"'Tis a fearful risk," groaned the other, "though I am a poor man,
and I will admit that my Bridget--"
"'Tis a fearful risk for you, Captain Tabor, and through you for my
mistress," I interrupted, for I did not half like the plan.
"Our ships lay alongside, and I am hailed by a brother mariner in
distress both at the prospect of the displeasure of a great and
noble lady and the suspicion of his honesty; but for that latter
will I vouch with my own, and, if needs be, will give surety that
the list of goods which she ordered shall be delivered next voyage,"
said Calvin Tabor.
"Her tongue, you know not her tongue," groaned the other.
"Even that will I dare for thee, Dick, for thee and that fair little
maid who is dabbling her pretty fingers in that flaming pudding with
which only the tough ones of a man should meddle," said Captain
Tabor. "And as for risk for me, my sailormen be as much in the toils
for Sabbath-breaking as their captain, should yesterday's work leak
out; and not a man of them knoweth the contents of those cases,
though, faith, and I heard them marvelling among themselves at the
weight of feathers and silken petticoats, and I made port in the
night-time before, and not a soul knew of it nor the unlading, save
those which be bound to keep the secret for their own necks, and,
and--well, Captain Tabor be not averse to somewhat of risk; it
gives a savour to life." So saying, he rolled his bright-blue eyes
at me and Captain Watson with such utter good-nature and
dare-deviltry as I have never seen equalled.
It was finally agreed that Captain Tabor's plan should be carried
out, and I wended my way back to Drake Hill with a feeling of
triumph, to which I of late years had been a stranger. I know of
nothing in the poor life of a man equal to that great delight of
being of service to one beloved.
I reflected with such ever-increasing joy that it finally became an
ecstasy, and I could almost, it seemed, see the colours of it in my
path; how, had it not been for me, Mary Cavendish might have been in
sore straits; and I verily believe I was as happy for the time as if
she had been my promised sweetheart and was as proud of myself.
When about half-way to Drake Hill I heard afar off a great din of
bells and horns and voices, which presently came nearer. Then the
road was filled up with the dancing May revellers, and verily I
wondered not so much at those decrees against such practices before
the Restoration, for it was as if the savages which they do say are
underneath the outer gloss of the best of us had broke loose, and I
wondered if it might not be like those mad and unlawful orgies which
it was said the god Pan led himself in person through Thessalian
groves. Those honest country maids, who in the morning had advanced
with rustic but innocent freedom, with their glossy heads crowned
with flowers, and those lusty youths, who were indeed something
boisterous, yet still held in a tight rein by decency, had seemingly
changed their very natures, or rather, perhaps, had come to that
pass when their natures could be no longer concealed. Along the road
in the white moonlight they stamped as wantonly as any herd of kine;
youths and maids with arms about each other, and all with faces
flushed with ale-drinking, and the maids with tossing hair and
draggled coats, and all the fresh garlands withered or scattered.
And the old graybeard who was Maid Marion was riotously drunk, and
borne aloft with mad and feeble gesturings on the shoulders of two
staggering young men, and after him came the aged morris dancers,
only upheld from collapse in the mire by mutual upholdings, until
they seemed like some monstrous animal moving with uncouth sprawls
of legs as multifold as a centipede, and wavering drunkenly from one
side of the road to the other, lurching into the dewy bushes, then
recovering by the joint effort of the whole.
I stood well back to let them pass, being in that mood of
self-importance, by reason of my love and the service rendered by
it, that I could have seen the whole posse led to the whipping-block
with a relish, when suddenly from their tipsy throats came a shout
of such import that my heart stood still. "Down with the king!"
hallooed one mad reveller, in a voice of such thickness that the
whole sentence seemed one word; then the others took it up, until
verily it seemed to me that their heads were not worth a farthing.
Then, "Down with the governor! down with Lord Culpeper!" shouted
that same thick voice of the man who was leading the wild crew like
a bell-wether. He forged ahead, something more steady on his legs,
but all the madder of his wits for that, with an arm around the
waist of a buxom lass on either side, and all three dancing in time.
Then all the rest echoed that shout of "Down with the governor!"
Then out he burst again with, "Down, down with the tobacco, down
with the tobacco!" But the volley of that echo was cut short by five
horsemen galloping after the throng and scattering them to the right
and left. Then a great voice of authority, set out with the
strangest oaths which ever an imagination of evil compassed, called
out to them to be still if they valued their heads, and cursed them
all for drunken fools, and as he spoke he lashed with his whip from
side to side, and his face gleamed with wrath like a demon's in the
full light, and I saw he was Captain Noel Jaynes, and well
understood how he had made a name for himself on the high seas.
After him rode the brothers, Nicholas and Richard Barry, two great
men, sticking to their saddles like rocks, with fair locks alike on
the head of each flung out on the wind, and then came Ralph Drake
rising in his stirrups and laughing wildly, and last Parson Downs,
but only last because the road was blocked, for verily I thought his
plunging horse would have all before him under his feet. They were
all past me in a trice like a dream, the May revellers scattering
and hastening forward with shrieks of terror and shouts of rage and
peals of defiant laughter, and Captain Jaynes' voice, like a
trumpet, overbearing everything, and shouts from the Barry brothers
echoing him, and now and then coming the deep rumble of
expostulations from the parson's great chest, and Ralph Drake's
peals of horse-laughter, and I was left to consider what a
tinder-box this Colony of Virginia was, and how ready to leap to
flame at a spark even when seemingly most at peace, and to regard
with more and more anxiety Mary Cavendish's part in this brewing
After the shouting and hallooing throng had passed I walked along
slowly, reflecting, as I have said, when I saw in the road before me
two advancing--a woman, and a man leading a horse by the bridle,
and it was Mary Cavendish and Sir Humphrey Hyde.
And when I came up with them they stopped, and Humphrey addressed me
rudely enough, but as one gentleman might another when he was
angered with him, and not contemptuously, for that was never the
lad's way with me. "Master Wingfield," he said, standing before me
and holding his champing horse hard by the bits, "I pray you have
the grace to explain this matter of the goods."
I saw that Mistress Mary had been acquainting him with what had
passed and her puzzlement over it.
"There is naught to explain, Sir Humphrey," said I. "'Tis very
simple: Mistress Mary hath the goods for which she sent to England."
"Master Wingfield, you know those are my Lady Culpeper's goods, and
I have no right to them," cried Mary. But I bowed and said, "Madam,
the goods are yours, and not Lady Culpeper's."
"But I--I lied when I gave the list to my grandmother," she
cried out, half sobbing, for she was, after all, little more than a
child tiptoed to womanhood by enthusiasm.
"Madam," said I, and I bowed again. "You mistake yourself; Mistress
Mary Cavendish cannot lie, and the goods are in truth yours."
She and Sir Humphrey looked at each other; then Harry made a stride
forward, and forcing back his horse with one hand, grasped me with
the other. "Harry, Harry," he said in a whisper. "Tell me, for God's
sake, what have you done."
"The goods are Mistress Mary Cavendish's," said I. They looked at me
as I have seen folk look at a page of Virgil.
"Were they, after all, not my Lady Culpeper's?" asked Sir Humphrey.
"They are Mistress Mary Cavendish's," said I.
Mary turned suddenly to Sir Humphrey. "'Tis time you were gone now,
Humphrey," she said, softly. "'Twas only last night you were here,
and there is need of caution, and your mother--"
But Humphrey was loth to go. "'Tis not late," he said, "and I would
know more of this matter."
"You will never know more of Master Wingfield, if that is what you
wait for," she returned, with a half laugh, "and, Humphrey, your
sister Cicely said but this morning that your mother was
over-curious. I pray you, go, and Master Wingfield will take me
home. I pray you, go!"
Sir Humphrey took her hand and bent low over it, and murmured
something; then, before he sprang to his saddle, he came close to me
again. "Harry," he whispered, "she should not be in this business,
and I would have not had it so could I have helped it, and, I pray
you, have a care to her safety." This he spoke so low that Mary
could not hear, and, moreover, she, with one of those sudden turns
of hers that made her have as many faces of delight as a diamond in
the sun, had thrown an arm around the neck of Sir Humphrey's mare,
and was talking to her in such dulcet tones as her lovers would have
died for the sake of hearing in their ears.
"Have no fears for her safety," I whispered back. "So far as the
goods go, there is no more danger."
"What did you, Harry?"
"Sir Humphrey," I whispered back, while Mary's sweet voice in the
mare's delicate ear sounded like a song, "sometimes an unguessed
riddle hath less weight than a guessed one, and some fish of
knowledge had best be left in the stream. I tell thee she is safe."
So saying, I looked him full in his honest, boyish face, which was
good to see, though sometime I wished, for the maid's sake, that it
had more shrewdness of wit in it. Then he gave me a great grasp of
the hand, and whispered something hoarsely. "Thou art a good fellow,
Harry, in spite of, in spite of--" then he bent low over Mary's
hand for the second time, and sprang to his saddle, and was off
toward Jamestown on his white mare, flashing along the moonlit road
like a whiter moonbeam.
Then Mary came close to me, and did what she had never before done
since she was a child. She laid her little hand on my arm of her own
accord. "Master Wingfield," said she, softly, "what about the goods?"
"The goods for which you sent to England are yours and in the great
house," said I, and I heard my voice tremble.
She drew her hand away and stood looking at me, and her sweet
forehead under her golden curls was all knitted with perplexity.
"You know, you know I--lied," she whispered like a guilty child.
"You cannot lie," I answered, "and the goods are yours."
"And not my Lady Culpeper's?"
"And not my Lady Culpeper's."
Mary continued looking at me, then all at once her forehead cleared.
"Catherine, 'twas Catherine," she cried out. "She said not, but well
I know her; she would not own to it--the sweetheart. Sure a
falsehood to hide a loving deed is the best truth of the world.
'Twas Catherine, 'twas Catherine, the sweetheart, the darling. She
sent for naught for herself, and hath been saving for a year's time
and maybe sold a ring or two. Somehow she discovered about the plot,
what I had done. And she hath heard me say, that I know well, that I
thought 'twas a noble list of Lady Culpeper's, and I wished I were a
governor's wife or daughter, that I could have such fine things. I
remember me well that I told her thus before ever the Golden Horn
sailed for England, that time after Cicely Hyde slept with me and
told me what she had from Cate Culpeper. A goodly portion of the
goods were for Cate. 'Twas Catherine. Oh, the sweetheart, the
darling! Was there ever sister like her?"
It was an industrious household at Drake Hill both as to men and
women folk. The fields were full of ebony backs and plying arms of
toil at sunrise, and the hum and whir of loom and spinning-wheels
were to be heard in the negro cabins and the great house as soon as
Madam Judith Cavendish was a stern task-mistress, and especially for
these latter duties. Had it not been for the stress of favour in
which she held me, I question if my vocation as tutor to Mistress
Mary would have had much scope for the last year, since her
grandmother esteemed so highly the importance of a maid's being
versed in all domestic arts, such as the spinning and weaving of
flax and wool, and preserving and distilling and fine needlework.
She set but small store by Latin and arithmetic for a maid, not even
if she were naturally quick at them, as was Mistress Mary; and had
it not been that she was bent upon keeping me in her service at
Drake Hill, I doubt not that she would have clapped together the
maid's books, whether or no, and set her to her wheel. As it was, a
goodly part of every day was passed by her in such wise, but so fond
was my pupil of her book that often I have seen her with it propped
open, for her reference, on a chair at her side.
It was thus the next morning, the morning of the day of my Lord
Culpeper's ball. It was a warm morning, and the doors and windows of
the hall were set wide open, and all the spring wind and scent
coming in and dimity curtains flying like flags, and the gold of
Mistress Mary's hair tossing now and then in a stronger gust, and
she and Catherine cramming down their flax baskets, lest the flax
take wings to itself and fly away. Both Mary and Catherine were at
their flax-wheels, but Madam Cavendish was in the loom-room with
some of the black women. Mary had her Latin book open, as I have
said before, on a chair at her side, but Catherine span with her
fair face set to some steady course of thought, though she too was
fond of books. Never a lesson had she taken of me, holding me in
such scorn, but I questioned much at the time, and know now, that
she was well acquainted with whatever knowledge her sister had got,
having been taught by her mother and then keeping on by herself with
her tasks. When I entered the hall, having been to Jamestown after
breakfast and just returned, both maids looked up, and suddenly one
of the wheels ceased its part in the duet, and Catherine was on her
feet and her thread fallen whither it would. "Master Wingfield,"
said she, "I would speak with you."
"Madam, at your service," said I, and followed her, leading out on
the green before the house. "What means this, what means this, sir?"
she began when she was scarcely out of hearing of her sister.
"What did you about the goods? Did you, did you--?"
She gasped for further speech, and looked at me with such a
haughtiness of scorn as never I had seen. It is hard for any man to
be attacked in such wise by a woman, and be under the necessity of
keeping his weapons sheathed, though he knoweth full well the
exceeding convincing of them and their fine point to the case in
hand. I bowed.
"Did you, did you--" she went on--"did you purchase those
goods yourself for my sister? Did you?"
I bowed again. "Madam," said I, "whatever I have, and my poor flesh
and blood and soul also, are at the service of not only your sister
but her family."
I marvelled much as I spoke thus to see no flush of shameful
consciousness overspread the maid's face, but none did, and she
continued speaking with that sharpness of hers, both as to pale look
and voice, which wounded like cold steel, which leaves an additional
sting because of the frost in it. "Know you not, sir," said she,
"that we cannot suffer a man in your position, a--a--to
purchase my sister's wardrobe?" Then, before I knew what she was
about to do, in went her hand to a broidered pocket which hung at
her girdle, and out she drew a flashing store of rings and brooches,
and one long necklace flashing with green stones. "Here, take
these," she cried out. "I have no money, but such an insult I will
not suffer, that my sister goes clad at your expense to the ball
to-night. Take these; they are five times the value of the goods."
I would in that minute have given ten years of my life had Mistress
Catherine Cavendish been a man and I could have felled her to the
ground, and no man knowing what I believed I knew could have blamed
me. The flashes of red and green from those rings and gewgaws which
she held out seemed to pass my eyes to my very soul.
"Take them," she said. "Why do you not take them, sir?"
"I have no need of jewels, madam," I said, "and whatever the servant
hath is his master's by right, and his master doth but take his own,
and no discredit to him."
She fairly wrung her hands in her helpless wrath, and the gems
glittered anew. "But, but," she stammered out, "know you the full
result of this, Harry Wingfield? She, my sister Mary, thinks that
I--I--sent to England for the goods for her; she knows that
I have some acquaintance with what she hath done, and she--she
is blessing me for it, and I cannot deny what she thinks.
I--I--cannot tell her what you, you have done, lest,
lest--" To my great astonishment she stopped short with such a
flame of blushes as I had never seen on her face before, and I was
at a loss to know what she might mean, but supposed that she
considered that the shame of Mistress Mary's wearing finery which
had been paid for out of a convict's purse would be more than she
could put upon her, and yet that she dared not inform her, lest she
refuse to wear the sky-blue robe to the governor's ball, and so
anger Madam Cavendish.
"Madam," I said, "your sister is but blessing you for what you would
have done, and wherefore need you fret?"
"God knows I would," she broke out, passionately. "Every jewel I
possess, the very gown from my back, would I have sold to save her
this, had I but known. Why did she not tell me, why did not she tell
me? Oh, Harry, I pray you to take these jewels."
"I cannot take them, madam," I said. Yet such was her distress I was
sorry for her, though I believed it to be rooted and grounded in
falsity, and that she had no need to regard with such disapprobation
her sister's being indebted to an English gentleman who gave her in
all honour the best he had. Yet could I not yield and take those
jewels, for more reasons than one; not only should I have lost the
dear delight of having served Mary Cavendish, but I had a memory of
wrong which would not suffer me to touch those rings, nor to allow
that innocent maid to be benefited by them, since I cannot say what
dark suspicions seized me when I looked at them.
"My God!" she said, "was ever such a web of falsehood as this? Here
must I hear my sister's blessings upon me for what I have done, and
I knowing all the time that 'twas you, and yet she must not know."
Then again that flame of red overspread her face and neck to the
meet of her muslin kerchief, and I knew not why.
"Madam," I said, "one deception opens the way for a whole flock,"
and I spoke with something of a double meaning, but she only cried
out, with apparently no understanding of it, that things had come to
a cruel pass, and back to the house she went; and I presently
followed her to get my gun, having a mind to shoot a few wild fowl,
since my pupil was at her wheel. And there the two sat, keeping up
that gentle drone of industry which I have come to think of as a
note of womanhood, like the hum of a bee or the purr of a cat or the
call of a bird. They sat erect, the delicate napes of their necks
showing above their muslin kerchiefs under their high twists of
hair, for even Mary had her golden curls caught up that morning on
account of the flax-lint, and from their fair, attentive faces
nobody would have gathered what stress of mind both were in. Of a
surety there must be a quieting and calming power in some of the
feminine industries which be a boon to the soul.
But, as I passed through the hall, up looked Mary, and her beautiful
face flashed out of peace into a sunlight of love and enthusiasm.
"Oh," she cried out, "oh, was there ever anyone like my sweetheart
Catherine? To think what she hath done for me, to think, to think!
And she, dear heart, loving the king! But better she loves her
little sister, and will stand by her in her disloyalty, for the love
of her. Was there ever any one like her, Master Wingfield?"
And I laughed, though maybe with some slight bitterness, for I was
but human, and that outburst of loving gratitude toward another, and
another whom I held in slight esteem, when it was I who had given
the child my little all, and presently, when my term was expired,
would have to return to England without a farthing betwixt me and
starvation, and maybe working my way before the mast to get there at
all, had a sting in it. 'Twas a strange thing that anything so noble
and partaking of the divine as the love of an honest man for a woman
should have any tincture of aught ignoble in it, and one is caused
thereby to decry one's state of mortality, which seems as
inseparable from selfish ends as the red wings of a rose from the
thorny stem which binds it to earth. Truly the longer I live the
more am I aware of the speck which mars the completeness of all in
this world, and ever the desire for a better, and that longing which
will not be appeased groweth in my soul, until methinks the very
keenness of the appetite must prove the food.
"Was there ever one like her?" repeated Mary Cavendish, and as she
spoke, up she sprang and ran to her sister and flung a fair arm
around her neck, and drew her head to her bosom, and leaned her
cheek against it, and then looked at me with a sidewise glance which
made my heart leap, for curious meanings, of which the innocent
thing had no reckoning, were in it.
I know not what I said. Truly not much, for the mockery of it all
was past my power of dealing with and keeping my respect of self.
I got my fowling-piece from the peg on the wall, and was forth and
ranging the wooded shores, with my eyes intent on the whirring
flight of the birds, and my mind on that problem of the times which
always hath, and doth, and always will, encounter a man who lives
with any understanding of what is about him, but not always as
sorely as in my case, who faced, as it were, an army of
difficulties, bound hand and foot. But after a while the sport in
which I was fairly skilled, and that sense of power which cometh to
one from the proving of his superiority over the life and death of
some weaker creation, and the salt air in my nostrils, gave me, as
it were, a glimpse of a farther horizon than the present one of
Virginia in 1682, and mine own little place in it. Then verily I
could seem to see and scent like some keen hound a smoothness which
should later come from the tangled web of circumstances, and a
greatness which should encompass mine own smallness of perplexity.
When I was wending my way back to Drake Hill, with my gun over
shoulder and some fine birds in hand, I met Sir Humphrey Hyde.
We were near Locust Creek, and the great house stood still and white
in the sunlight, and there was no life around it except for the
distant crawl of toil over the green of the tobacco fields and the
great hum of the bees in the flowering honey locusts which gave,
with the creek, the place its name. Sir Humphrey was coming from the
direction of the house, riding slowly, stooping in the saddle as if
with thought, and I guessed that he had been to see to the safety of
the contraband goods. When he saw me he halted and shouted, in his
hearty, boyish way, "Halloo, halloo, Harry, and what luck?" as if
all there was of moment in the whole world, and Virginia in
particular, was the shooting of birds on a May morning. But then his
face clouded, and he spoke earnestly enough. "Harry, Harry," he
said, in a whisper, though there was no life nearer than the bees,
and they no bearers of secrets, except those of the flowers, "I pray
thee, come back to the hall with me, and let us consult together."
I followed him back to the house, and he sprang from his saddle, had
a shutter unhasped in a twinkling, knowing evidently the secret of
it, and we were inside, standing amongst the litter of casks and
cases in the great silent desertion of the hall of Locust Creek.
Then he grasped me hard by both hands, and cried out, "Harry, Harry
Wingfield, come to thee I must, for, convict though thou be, thou
art a man with a head packed with wit, and Ralph Drake is half the
time in his cups, and Parson Downs riding his own will at such a
hard gallop that 'twill surprise me not if he leave his head behind,
and as for Dick and Nick Barry, and Captain Dickson, and--and
Major Robert Beverly, and all the others, what is it to them about
this one matter which is more to me than the whole damned hell-broth?"
"You mean?" I said, and pointed to the litter on the hall floor.
"Yes," and then, with a great show of passion, "My God, Harry
Wingfield, why, why did we gentlemen and cavaliers of Virginia allow
a woman to be mixed in this matter? If, if--these goods be
traced to her--"
"And, faith, and I see no reason why they should not be, with a
whole colony in the secret of it," I said, coldly.
"Nay, none but me and Nick and Dick Barry, and the parson since
yesterday, and Major Beverly and Capt. Noel Jaynes and you and the
captain and sailors on the Golden Horn, who value their own necks.
As God is my witness, none beside, Harry."
I could scarcely help laughing at the length of the list and the
innocence of the lad. "Her sister Catherine, Sir Humphrey," said I.
"Hath she told her, Harry?"
"And the captain of the Earl of Fairfax."
"The governor's ship? Well, then, let us go through Jamestown
proclaiming it with a horn," he gasped out, and made more of the two
last than his own long list.
"Nay, the two last are as safe as we," said I. "Mistress Catherine
holds her sister dearer than herself, and as for the captain of the
governor's ship, lock a man's tongue with the key of his own
interest if you wish it not to wag. But these goods must be moved
"That is what I well know, Harry," he said, eagerly. "All night did
I toss and study the matter. But where?"
"Not in any place on Madam Cavendish's plantation," I said, and did
not say, as I might have, for 'twas the truth, that I had also
tossed and studied, but as yet to no result.
"No, nor on mine, though I swear to thee, were I the only one to
consider, I would have them there in a twinkling, but I cannot put
my mother and sister in jeopardy even for--"
"Barry Upper Branch?"
"Nick and Dick swear they will not run the risk; that they have but
too lately escaped with their lives, and are too close watched, and
as for the parson, 'tis out of the question, and Ralph Drake hath no
hiding-place, and as for the others, they one and all refuse, and
say this is the safest place in the colony, it being a household of
women, and Madam Cavendish well known for her loyalty."
He looked at me and I at him, and again the old consideration, as I
saw his handsome, gallant young face that perchance Mary Cavendish
might love him and do worse than to wed him, came over me.
"I will find a place for the goods," said I.
"Yes, I," I said.
"But where, Harry?"
"Wait till the need for them come, lad." Then I added, for often in
my perplexity the wish that the whole lot were at the bottom of the
river had seized me, "There is need of them, I suppose?"
But Sir Humphrey said yes, with a great emphasis to that.
"There is sure to be fighting," he said, "and never were powder and
shot so scarce. 'Tis well the Indians are quiet. This poor Colony of
Virginia hath not enough powder to guard her borders, nor, were it
not for her rich soil, enough of food to feed her children since the
"Oh, God, Harry, if but Nathaniel Bacon had lived!"
"Amen," I said, and felt as I said it, that if indeed that hero were
alive, this plot for the destroying of the young tobacco plants
might be the earthquake which threw off a new empire; but as it
were, remembering the men concerned, who had none of the stuff of
Bacon in them, I wondered if it would prove aught more than a wedge
in the scheme of liberty.
"There are those who would be ready to say that we gentlemen of
Virginia, like Bacon, are all ready to shelter ourselves behind
women's aprons," said Sir Humphrey Hyde, with a shamed glance at the
goods, referring to that stationing of the ladies of the Berkeley
faction, all arrayed in white aprons, on the earthworks before the
advance of the sons and husbands and brothers in the Bacon uprising.
"And if you hear any man say that, shoot him dead, Sir Humphrey
Hyde," I said, for, through liking not that story about Bacon, I was
fiercer in defence of it.
"Faith, and I will, Harry," cried Sir Humphrey, "and Bacon was a
greater man than the king, if I were to swing for it; but, Harry,
you cannot by yourself move these. What will you do?"
But I begged him to say no more, and started toward the window, the
door being fast locked as Mistress Mary had left it, when suddenly
the boy stopped me and caught me by the hand, and begged me to tell
him if I thought there might be any hope for him with Mary
Cavendish, being moved to do so by her sending him away so
peremptorily the night before, which had put him in sore doubt.
"Tell me, Harry," he pleaded, and the great lad seemed like a child,
with his honest outlook of blue eyes, "tell me what you think, I
pray thee, Harry; look at me, and tell me, if you were a maid, what
would you think of me?"
Loving Mary Cavendish as I did, and striving to look at him with her
eyes, a sort of tenderness crept into my heart for this simple
lover, who was as brave as he was simple, and I clapped a hand on
his fair curls, for though he was so tall I was taller, and laughed
and said, "If I were a maid, though 'tis a fancy to rack the brain,
but, if I were a maid, I would love thee well, lad."
"My mother thinketh none like me, and so tells me every day, and
says that I am like my father, who was the handsomest man in
England; but then mothers be all so, and I know not how much of it
to trust, and my sister Cicely loves Mary so well herself that she
is jealous, and often tells me--" then the lad stopped and
stared at me, and I at him, perplexed, not dreaming what was in his
"Tells you what, Sir Humphrey?" said I.
"That, that--oh, confound it, Harry, there is no harm in saying
it, for you as well as I know the folly of it, and that 'tis but the
jealous fancy of a girl. Faith, but I think my sister Cicely is as
much in love with Mary Cavendish as I. 'Tis but--my sister
Cicely, when she will tease me, tells me 'tis not I but you that
Mary Cavendish hath set her heart upon, Harry."
I felt myself growing pale at that, and I could not speak because of
a curious stiffness of my lips, and I heard my heart beat like a
clock in the deserted house. Sir Humphrey was looking at me with an
anxiety which was sharpening into suspicion. "Harry," he said, "you
do not think--"
"'Tis sheer folly, lad," I burst out then, "and let us have no more
of it. 'Tis but the idle prating of a lovesick girl, who should have
a lover, ere she try to steal a nest in the heart of one of her own
sex. 'Tis folly, Sir Humphrey Hyde."
"So said I to Cicely," Sir Humphrey cried, eagerly, too interested
in his own cause to heed my slighting words for his sister. "'Tis
the rankest folly, I told her. Here is Harry Wingfield, old enough
almost to be Mary's father, and beside, beside--oh, confound it,
Harry," the generous lad burst out. "I would not like you for a
rival, for you are a good half foot taller than I, and you have that
about you which would make a woman run to you and think herself safe
were all the Indians in Virginia up, and you are a dark man, and I
have heard say they like that, but, but--oh, I say, Harry, 'tis
a damned shame that you are here as you are, and not as a gentleman
and a cavalier with the rest of us, for all the evidence to the
contrary and all the government to the contrary, 'tis, 'tis the way
you should be, and not a word of that charge do I believe. May the
fiends take me if I do, Harry!" So saying, the lad looked at me, and
verily the tears were in his blue eyes, and out he thrust his honest
hand for me to grasp, which I did with more of comfort than I had
had for many a day, though it was the hand of a rival, and the next
minute forth he burst again: "Say, Harry, if it be true that thou
art out of the running, and I believe it must be so, for how could?--
say, Harry, think you there is any chance for me?"
"I know of no reason why there should not be, Sir Humphrey," I said.
"Only, only--that she is what she is, and I but myself. Oh,
Harry, was there ever one like that girl? All the spirit of daring
of a man she has, and yet is she full of all the sweet ways of a
maid. Faith, she would draw sword one minute and tie a ribbon the
next. She would have followed Bacon to the death, and sat up all
night to broider herself a kerchief. Comrade and sweetheart both she
is, and was there ever one like her for beauty? Harry, Harry, saw
you ever such a beauty as Mary Cavendish?"
"No, and never will," cried I, so fervently and so echoing to the
full his youthful enthusiasm that again that keen look flashed into
his eyes. "Harry," he stammered out, "you do not--say, for God's
sake, Harry, you are a man if you are a--a--, and every day
have you seen that angel, and--and--Harry, may the devil
take me if I would go against thee if she--you know I would not,
Harry, for I remember well how you taught me to shoot, and,
and--I love thee, Harry, not in such fool fashion as my sister
loveth Mary, but I love thee, and never would I cross thee."
"Sir Humphrey," said I, "it is not what you would, nor what I would,
nor what any other man would, but what be best for Mary Cavendish,
and her true happiness of life, that is to consider, whether you
love her, or I love her, or any other man love her."
"Faith, and a score do," he said, gloomily. "There be my Lord Estes
and her cousin Ralph, and I know not how many more. Faith, I would
not have her less fair, but sometimes I would that a few were
colour-blind. But 'tis different when it comes to thee, Harry. If
"Sir Humphrey," I said, "were Mary Cavendish thy sister and I
myself, and loving her and she me, and you having that affection
which you say you have for me, would you yet give her to me in
marriage and think it for her good?"
Then the poor lad coloured and stammered, and could not look me in
the face, but it was enough. "Let there be no more talk betwixt you
and me as to that matter, Sir Humphrey," I said. "There is never now
nor at any other time any question of marriage betwixt Mistress Mary
Cavendish and her convict tutor, and if he perchance had been not
colour-blind and had learned to appraise her at her rare worth, the
more had he been set against such. And all that he can do for thee,
lad, he will do."
Sir Humphrey was easily pacified, having been accustomed from his
babyhood to masterly soothing of his mother into her own ways of
thought. Again, in spite of his great stature, he looked up at me
like a very child. "Harry," he whispered, "heard you her ever say
anything pleasant concerning me?"
"Many a time," I answered, quite seriously, though I was inwardly
laughing, and could not for the life of me remember any especial
favour which she had paid him in her speech. But I have ever held
that a bold lover hath the best chance, and knowing that boldness
depends upon assurance of favour, I set about giving it to Sir
Humphrey, even at some small expense of truth.
"When, when, Harry?"
"Oh, many a time, Sir Humphrey."
"But what? I pray thee, tell me what she said, Harry."
"I have not charged my mind, lad."
"But think of something. I pray thee, think of something, Harry." He
looked at me with such exceeding wistfulness that I was forced to
cudgel my brains for something which, having a slight savour of
truth, might be seasoned to pungency at fancy. "Often have I heard
her say that she liked a fair man," I replied, and indeed I had, and
believed her to have said it because I was dark, and seemingly
inattentive to some new grace of hers as to the tying of her hair or
fastening of her kerchief.
"Did she indeed say that, Harry, and do you think she had me in mind?"
cried Sir Humphrey.
"Are you not a fair man?"
"Yes, yes, I am a fair man, am I not, Harry? What else? Sure you
have heard her say more than that."
"I have heard her say she liked a hearty laugh, and one who counted
not costs when his mind were set on aught, but rode straight for it
though all the bars were up."
"That sure is I, Harry, unless my mother stand in the way. A man
cannot bring his mother's head low, Harry, but sure if she forbid
nor know not, as in this case of this tobacco plot, I stop for
naught. Sure she meant me, then, Harry."
"And I have heard her say that she liked a young man, a man no older
"Sure, sure she meant me by that, Harry, for I am the youngest of
them all--not yet twenty. Oh, dear Harry, she had me in mind by
that. Do you not think so?"
"I know of no one else whom she could have had in mind," I answered.
The lad was blushing with delight and confusion like a girl. He cast
down his eyes before me; he stammered when he spoke. "Harry, if she
but love me, I swear I could do as brave deeds as Bacon," he said.
"I would die would she but carry about a lock of my hair on her
bosom as she does his. I would, Harry. And you think I have some
My heart smote me lest I had misled him, for I knew with no
certainty the maid's mind. "As much chance as any, and more than
many, lad," I said, "and I will do what I can for thee."
"Harry," he said, then paused and blushed and twisted his great body
about as modestly as a girl, "Harry."
"What, Sir Humphrey?"
"Once, once--I never told of it, and no one ever knew since I
was alone, and it would have been boasting--but
once--I--fought single-handed with that great Christopher
Little, whom I met by chance when I was out in the woods, and 'twas
two years since, and I, with scarce my full growth, and he pleading
for mercy at the second round, with an eye like a blackberry and a
nose like a gillyflower, and--and--Harry, you might tell her
of it, and say not where you got the news, if you thought it no
harm. And, Harry, you will mind the time when I killed the wolf with
naught but an oak club for weapon, and she, maybe, hath not heard of
that. And should have been to the front with Bacon, boy as I was,
had it not been for my mother--that you know well and could make
her sure of. And, and--oh, confound it, Harry, little book wit
have I in my head, and she is so clever as never was, and all I have
to win her notice be in my hands and heels, for, Harry, you will
remember the race I ran with Tom Talbot that Mayday; think you she
knows of that? And--but she must know how I rode against Nick
Barry last St. Andrew's, and, and--oh, Lord, Harry, what am I
that she should think of me? But at all odds, whether it be me or
you or any other man, see to it that these goods be moved and she
not be drawn into this which is hatching, for it may be as big a
blaze as Bacon started before we be done with it; but shall I not
help thee, Harry, and when will you move them and where?"
"I want no help, lad," I said, and was indeed firmly set in my mind
that he should know nothing about the disposal of the goods lest
Mistress Mary come to grief through her love for him, and reasoning
that ignorance was his best safeguard and hers.
We went forth from Locust Creek, I having promised that I would do
all that I could to further his suit with Mary Cavendish, and when
we reached the bend of the road, he having walked beside me,
hitherto leading his horse, he was in his saddle and away, having
first acquainted me anxiously with the fact that he was to wear that
night to the governor's ball a suit of blue velvet with silver
buttons, and asking me if I considered that it would become him in
Mistress Mary's eyes. Then I went home to Drake Hill, passing along
such a wonderful aisle of bloom of locust and peach and mulberry and
honeysuckle and long trails of a purple vine of such a surprise of
beauty as to make one incredible that he saw aright--bushes
pluming white to the wind, and over all a medley of honey and almond
and spicy scents seeming to penetrate the very soul, that I was set
to reflecting in the midst of my sadness of renunciation of my love,
and my anxiety for her if, after all, such roads of blessing which
were set for our feet at every turn led not of a necessity to
blessed ends, and if our course tended not to happiness, whether we
knew it or not, and along whatever byways of sorrow.
I have seen many beautiful things in my life, as happens to every
one living in a world which hath little fault as to its appearance,
if one can outlook the shadow which his own selfishness of sorrow
and disappointment may cast before him; but it seemed that evening,
when I saw Mary Cavendish dressed for the governor's ball, that she
was the crown of all. I verily believe that never since the world
was made, not even that beautiful first woman who comprehended in
herself all those witcheries of her sex which have been ever since
to our rapture and undoing, not even Eve when Adam first saw her in
Paradise, nor Helen, nor Cleopatra, nor any of those women whose
faces have made powers of them and given them niches in history,
were as beautiful as Mary Cavendish that night. And I doubt if it
were because she was beheld by the eyes of a lover. I verily believe
that I saw aright, and gave her beauty no glamour because of my
fondness for her, for not one whit more did I love her in that
splendour than in her plainest gown. But, oh, when she stood before
her grandmother and me and a concourse of slaves all in a ferment of
awe and admiration, with flashings of white teeth and upheavals of
eyes and flingings aloft of hands in half-savage gesticulation, and
courtesied and turned herself about in innocent delight at her own
loveliness, and yet with the sweetest modesty and apology that she
was knowing to it! That stuff which had been sent to my Lady
Culpeper and which had been intercepted ere it reached her was of a
most rich and wonderful kind. The blue of it was like the sky, and
through it ran the gleam of silver in a flower pattern, and a great
string of pearls gleamed on her bosom, and never was anything like
that mixture of triumph in, and abashedness before, her own
exceeding beauty and her perception of it in our eyes in her dear
and lovely face. She looked at us and actually shrank a little, as
if our admiration were something of an affront to her maiden
modesty, and blushed, and then she laughed to cover it, and swept a
courtesy in her circling shimmer of blue, and tossed her head and
flirted a little fan, which looked like the wing of a butterfly,
before her face.
"Well, how do you like me, madam?" said she to her grandmother, "and
am I fine enough for the governor's ball?"
Madam Cavendish gazed at her with that rapture of admiration in a
beloved object which can almost glorify age to youth. She called
Mary to her and stroked the rich folds of her gown; she straightened
a flutter of ribbon. "'Tis a fine stuff of the gown," she said, "and
blue was always my colour. I was married in it. 'Tis fine enough for
the governor's wife, or the queen for that matter." She pulled out a
fold so that a long trail of silver flowers caught the light and
gleamed like frost. No misgivings and no suspicions she had, and
none, by that time, had Mary, believing as she did that her sister
had bought all that bravery for her, and that it was hers by right,
and only troubled by the necessity of secrecy with her grandmother
lest she discover for what purpose her own money had been spent. But
Catherine eyed her with such exceedingly worshipful love,
admiration, and yet distress that even I pitied her. Catherine
herself that night did no discredit to her beauty, her dress being,
though it was an old one, as rich as Mary's, of her favourite green
with a rose pattern broidered on the front of it, and a twist of
green gauze in her fair hair, and that same necklace of green stones
which she had shown me in the morning around her long throat, and
her long, milky-white arms hanging at her sides in the green folds
of her gown, and that pale radiance of perfection in her every
feature that made many call her the pearl of Virginia, though, as I
have said before, she had no lovers. She and Mary were going to the
ball, and a company of black servants with them. As for me, balls
were out of the question for a convict tutor, and I knew it, and so
did they. But suddenly, to my great amazement, Madam Cavendish
turned to me: "And wherefore are you not dressed for the ball,
Master Wingfield?" she said.
I stared at her, as did also Catherine and Mary, almost as if they
suspected she had gone demented. "Madam," I stammered, scarce
thinking I had understood her rightly.
"Why are you not dressed for the ball?" she repeated.
"Madam," I said, "pardon me, but you are well acquainted with the
fact that I am not a welcome guest at the governor's ball."
"And wherefore?" cried she imperiously.
Mary and Catherine both looked palely at their grandmother, not
knowing what had come to her.
"Madam," I said, "do you forget?"
"I forget not that you are the eldest son and heir of one of the
best families in England, and as good a gentleman as the best of
them," she cried out. "That I do not forget, and I would have you go
to the ball with my granddaughters. Put on thy plum-coloured velvet
suit, Harry, and order thy horse saddled."
For the first time I seemed to understand that Madam Judith
Cavendish had, in spite of her wonderful powers of body and mind,
somewhat of the childishness of age, for as she looked at me the
tears were in her stern eyes and a flush was on the ivory white of
her face, and her tone had that querulousness in it which we
associate with childhood which cannot have its own will.
"Madam, '' I said, gently, "you know that it is not possible for me
to do as you wish, and also that my days of gayeties are past,
though not to my regret, and that I am looking forward to an evening
with my books, which, when a man gets beyond his youth, yield him
often more pleasure than the society of his kind."
"But, Harry," she said piteously, and still like a child, "you are
young, and I would not have--" Then imperiously again: "Get into
thy plum-coloured velvet suit, Master Wingfield, and accompany my
But then I affected not to hear her, under pretence of seeing that
the sedan chairs were ready, and hallooed to the slaves with such
zeal that Madam Cavendish's voice was drowned, though with no
seeming rudeness, and Mary and Catherine came forth in their
rustling spreads of blue and green, and the black bearers stood
grinning whitely out of the darkness, for the moon was not up yet,
and I aided them both into the chairs, and they were off. I stood a
few moments watching the retreating flare of flambeaux, for runners
carrying them were necessary on those rough roads when dark, and the
breath of the dewy spring night fanned my face like a wing of peace,
and I regretted nothing very much which had happened in this world,
so that I could come between that beloved girl and the troubles
starting up like poisonous weeds on her path.
But when I entered the hall Madam Cavendish, having sent away the
slaves, even to the little wench who had been fanning her, with
verily I believe no more of consciousness as to what was going on
about her than a Jimson weed by the highway, called me to her in a
voice so tremulous that I scarce knew it for hers.
"Harry, Harry," she said, "I pray thee, come here." Then, when I
approached, hesitating, for I had a shrinking before some outburst
of feminine earnestness, which has always intimidated me by its fire
of helplessness and futility playing against some resolve of mine
which I could not, on account of my masculine understanding of the
requirements of circumstances, allow to melt, she reached up one
hand like a little nervous claw of ivory, and caught me by the
sleeve and pulled me down to a stool by her side. Then she looked at
me, and such love and even adoration were in her face as I never saw
surpassed in it, even when she regarded her granddaughter Mary, yet
withal a cruel distress and self-upbraiding and wrath at herself and
me. "Harry, Harry," she said, "I can bear no more of this."
Then, to my consternation, up went her silken apron with a fling to
her old face, and she was weeping under it as unrestrainedly as any
I did not know what to do nor say. "Madam," I ventured, finally, "if
you distress yourself in such wise for my sake, 'tis needless, I
assure, 'tis needless, and with as much truth as were you my own
"Oh, Harry, Harry," she sobbed out, "know you not that is why I
cannot bear it longer, because you yourself bear it with no
complaint?" Then she sobbed and even wailed with that piteousness of
the grief of age exceeding that of infancy, inasmuch as the weight
of all past griefs of a lifetime go to swell it, and it is enhanced
by memory as well as by the present and an unknown future. I knew
not what to do, but laid a hand somewhat timidly on one of her thin
silken arms, and strove to draw it gently from her face; "Madam
Cavendish," I said, "indeed you mistake if you weep for me. At this
moment I would change places with no man in Virginia."
"But I would have--I would have you!" she cried out, with the
ardour of a girl, and down went her apron, and her face, like an
aged mask of tragedy, not discoloured by her tears, as would have
happened with the tender skin of a maid, confronted me. "I would
have you the governor himself, Harry. I would have you--I would
have--" Then she stopped and looked at me with a red showing
through the yellow whiteness of her cheeks. "You know what I would
have, and I know what you would have, and all the rest of my old
life would I give could it be so, Harry," she said, and I saw that
she knew of my love for her granddaughter Mary. Then suddenly she
cried out, vehemently: "Not one word have I said to you about it
since that dreadful time, Harry Wingfield, for shame and that pride
as to my name, which is a fetter on the tongue, hath kept me still,
but at last I will speak, for I can bear it no longer. Harry, Harry,
I know that you are what you are, a convict and an exile, to shield