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The Heart's Highway by Mary E. Wilkins

Part 3 out of 4

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Catherine, to shield a granddaughter of mine, who should be in your
place. Harry Wingfield, I know that Catherine Cavendish is guilty of
the crime for which you are in punishment, and, woe is me, such is
my pride, such is my wicked pride, that I have let you suffer and
said never one word."

I put her hand to my lips. "Madam," I said, "you mistake; I do not
suffer. That which you think of as my suffering and my disgrace is
my glory and happiness."

"Yes, and why, and why? Oh, Harry, 'tis that which is breaking my
heart. 'Tis because you love Mary, 'tis because, I verily believe,
you have loved her from the first minute you set eyes on her, though
she was but a baby in arms. At first I thought it was Catherine, in
spite of her fault, but now I know it was for the sake of Mary that
you sacrificed yourself--for her sister, Harry, I know, I know,
and I would to God that I could give you your heart's desire, for
'tis mine also!"

Then, so saying, this old woman, who had in her such a majesty of
character and pride that it held folk aloof at a farther distance
than loud swaggerings of importance of men high in office, drew down
my head to her withered shoulder and touched my cheek with a hand of
compassionate pity and blessing, as if I had been in truth her son,
and caught her breath again and again with a sobbing sigh. All that
I could say to comfort her I said, assuring her, as was indeed the
truth, that no woman could justly estimate the view which a man
might take of such a condition as mine, and how the power of service
to love might be enough to content one, and he stand in no need of
pity, but she was not much consoled. "Harry," she said, "Harry, thou
art like a knight of olden times about whom a song was written,
which I heard sung in my girlhood, and which used to bring the
tears, though I was never too ready with them. Woe be to me that I,
knowing what I know, have yet not the courage to sacrifice my pride
and my unworthy granddaughter, and see you free. Oh, Harry, that
thou shouldst sit at home when thou art fitted by birth and breeding
to go with the best of them! Harry, I pray thee, put on thy
plum-coloured suit and go to the ball."

"Dear Madam Cavendish," I said, half laughing, for she seemed more
and more like a child, "you know that it cannot be, and that I have
no desire for balls."

"But I would have thee go, Harry."

"But I am not asked," I said.

"What matters that? 'Tis almost with open doors, since it is a
farewell of my Lord Culpeper before sailing for England. Harry, go,
and--a--and--I swear if any exception be taken to it,
I--I--will tell the truth."

"Dear madam, it cannot be," I said, "and the truth is to be
concealed not only for your sake, but for that of others."

Then she broke out in another paroxysm of childish wailing that
never was such a wretched state of matters, such a wretched old
woman handicapped from serving one by her love for another. "Harry,
I cannot clear thee unless I convict my own granddaughter
Catherine," she said, piteously, "and if I spared her not, neither
her nor my pride, what of Mary? Catherine hath been like a mother to
the child, and she loves her better than she loves me. 'Twould kill
her, Harry. And, Harry, how can I give Mary to thee, and thou under
this ban? Mary Cavendish cannot wed a convict."

"That she cannot and shall not," I said; "she shall wed a much
worthier man and be happy, and sure 'tis her happiness that is the

But Madam Cavendish stared at me with unreasoning anger, not
understanding, since she was a woman, and unreasoning as a woman
will be in such matters. "If you love not my granddaughter, Harry
Wingfield," she cried out, "'tis not her grandmother will fling her
at your head. I will let you know, sir, that she could have her pick
in the colony if she so chose, and it may be that she might not
choose you, Master Harry Wingfield."

I laughed. "Madam Cavendish," I said, rising and bowing, "were I a
king instead of a convict, then would I lay my crown at Mary
Cavendish's feet; as it is, I can but pave, if I may, her way to
happiness with my heart."

"Then you love her as I thought, Harry?"

"Madam," I said, "I love her to my honour and glory and never to my
discontent, and I pray you to believe with a love that makes no
account of selfish ends, and that I am happier at home with my books
than many a cavalier who shall dance with her at the ball."

"But, Harry," she said, piteously, "I pray thee to go."

I laughed and shook my head, and went away to my own quarters and
sat down to my books, but, at something past midnight, Madam
Cavendish sent for me in all haste. She had gone to bed, and I was
ushered to her bedroom, and when I saw her thin length of age scarce
rounding the coverlids, and her face frilled with white lace, and
her lean neck stretching up from her pillows with the piteous
outreaching of a bird, a great tenderness of compassion for
womanhood, both in youth and beauty and age and need, beyond which I
can express, came over me. It surely seems to me the part of man to
deal gently with them at all times, even when we suffer through
them, for there is about them a mystery of helplessness and
misunderstanding of themselves which should give us an exceeding
patience. And it seems to me that, even in the cases of those women
who are perhaps of greater wit and force of character than many a
man, not one of them but hath her helplessness of sex in her heart,
however concealed by her majesty of carriage. So, when I saw Madam
Cavendish, old and ill at ease in her mind because of me, and
realised all at once how it was with her in spite of that clear head
of hers and imperious way which had swayed to her will all about her
for near eighty years, I went up to her, and, laying a gentle hand
upon her head, laid it back upon the pillow, and touched her poor
forehead, wrinkled with the cares and troubles of so many years, and
felt all the pity in me uppermost. "'Tis near midnight, and you have
not slept, madam," I said. "I pray you not to fret any longer about
that which we can none of us mend, and which is but to be borne as
the will of the Lord."

"Nay, nay, Harry," she cried out, with a pitiful strength of anger.
"I doubt if it be the will of the Lord. I doubt if it be not the
devil--Catherine, Catherine--Harry, my brain reels when I
think that she should have done it--a paltry ring, and to let

"It may be that she had not her wits," I said. "Such things have
been, I have heard, and especially in the case of a woman with
jewels. It may be that she knew not what she did, and in any case I
pray you to think no more of it, dear madam." And all the time I
spoke I was smoothing her old forehead under the flapping frills of
her cap.

One black woman was there in the room, sitting in the shadow of the
bed-curtains, fast asleep and making a strange purring noise like a
cat as she slept.

Suddenly Madam Cavendish clutched hard at my hand. "Harry," she
said, "I sent for you because I have lain here fretting lest Mary
and Catherine get not home in safety with only the black people to
guard them. I fear lest the Indians may be lurking about."

"Dear Madam Cavendish," I said, "you know that we stand in no more
danger from the Indians."

"Nay," she persisted, "we can never tell what plans may be brewing
in such savage brains. I pray thee, Harry, ride to meet them and see
if they be safe."

I laughed, for the danger from Indians was long since past, but said
readily enough that I would do as she wished, being, in fact, glad
enough of a gallop in the moonlight, with the prospect of meeting
Mary. So in a few minutes I was in the saddle and riding toward
Jamestown. The night was very bright with the moon, and there was a
great mist rising from the marshy lands, and such strangely pale and
luminous developments in the distances of the meadows, marshalling
and advancing and retreating, like companies of spectres, and
lingering as if for consultation on the borders of the woods, with
floating draperies caught in the boughs thereof, that one might have
considered danger from others than Indians. And, indeed, I often
caught the note of an owl, and once one flitted past my face and my
horse shied at the evil bird, which is thought by the ignorant to be
but a feathered cat and of ill omen, and indeed is considered by
many who are wise to have presaged ill oftentimes, as in the cases
of the deaths of the emperors Valentinian and Commodus. Be that as
it may, I, having a pistol with me, shot at the bird, and, though I
was as good a shot as any thereabouts, missed, and away it flew,
with a great hoot as of laughter, which I am ready to swear I heard
multiplied in a trice, as if the bird were joined by a whole
company, and my horse shied again and would have bolted had I not
held him tightly. Now, this which I am about to relate I am ready to
swear did truly happen, though it may well be doubted. I had come
within a short distance of Jamestown when I reached two houses of a
small size, not far apart, not much removed from the fashion of the
negro cabins, but inhabited by English folk. In the one dwelt a man
who had been transported for a grievous crime, whether justly or not
I cannot say, but his visage was such as to condemn him, and he was
often in his cups and had spent many days in the stocks, and had
made frequent acquaintance with the whipping-post, and with him
dwelt his wife, an old dame with a tongue which had once earned her
the ducking-stool in England. As I passed the house I saw over the
door a great bunch of dill and vervain and white thorn, which is
held to keep away witches from the threshold if gathered upon a May
day. And I knew well the reason, for not many rods distant was the
hut where dwelt one Margery Key, an ancient woman, who had been
verily tied crosswise and thrown in a pond for witchcraft and been
weighed against the church Bible, and had her body searched for
witch-marks and the thatch of her house burned. I know not why she
had not come to the stake withal, but instead she had fled to
Virginia, where, witches being not so common, were treated with more
leniency. It may have been that she had escaped the usual fate of
those of her kind by being considered by some a white witch, and one
who worked good instead of ill if approached rightly, though many
considered that they who approached a white witch for the purpose of
profiting by her advice or warning, were of equal guilt, and that it
all led in the end to mischief. Be that as it may, this old dame
Margery Key dwelt there alone in her little hut so over-thatched and
grown by vines, and scarce showing the shaggy slant of its roof
above the bushes, that it resembled more the hole of some timid and
wary animal than a human habitation. And if any visited her for
consultation it was by night and secretly, and no one ever caught
sight of her except now and then the nodding white frill of her cap
in the green gloom of a window or the painful bend of her old back
as she gathered sticks for her fire in the woods about. How she
lived none knew. A little garden-patch she had, and a hive or two of
bees, and a red cow, which many affirmed to have the eye of a demon,
and there were those who said that her familiars stole bread for her
from the plantation larders, and that often a prime ham was missed
and a cut of venison, with no explanation, but who can say? Without
doubt there are strange things in the earth, but we are all so in
the midst of them, and even a part of their workings, that we can
have no outside foothold to take fair sight thereof. Verily a man
might as well strive to lift himself by his boot-straps over a

But this much I will say, that, as I was riding along, cogitating
something deeply in my mind as to the best disposal of the powder
and the shot which Mary Cavendish had ordered from England, I,
coming abreast of Margery Key's house, saw of a sudden a white cat,
which many affirmed to be her familiar, spring from her door like a
white arrow of speed and off down a wood-path, and my horse reared
and plunged, and then, with my holding him of no avail, though I had
a strong hand on the bridle, was after her with such a mad flight
that I had hard work to keep the saddle. Pell-mell through the wood
we went, I ducking my head before the mad lash of the branches and
feeling the dew therefrom in my face like a drive of rain, until we
came to a cleared space, then a great spread of tobacco fields,
overlapping silver-white in the moonlight, and hamlet of negro
cabins, and then Major Robert Beverly's house, standing a mass of
shadow except for one moonlit wall, for all the family were gone to
the governor's ball. Then, as I live, that white cat of Margery
Key's led me in that mad chase around Beverly's house, and when I
came to the north side of it I saw a candle gleam in a window and
heard a baby's wail, and knew 'twas where his infant daughter was
tended, and as we swept past out thrust a black head from the
window, and a screech as savage as any wild cat's rent the peace of
the night, and I believe that the child's black nurse took us, no
doubt, for the devil himself. Then all the dogs howled and bayed,
though not one approached us, and a great bat came fanning past,
like a winged shadow, and again I heard the owl's hoot, and ever
before us, like a white arrow, fled that white cat, and my horse
followed in spite of me. Then, verily I speak the truth, though it
may well be questioned, did that white cat lead us straight to the
tomb which Major Beverly had made upon his plantation at the death
of his first wife, and in which she lay, and 'twas on a rising above
the creek, and then the cat, with a wail which was like nothing I
ever heard in this world, was away in a straight line toward the
silver gleam of the creek, though every one knows well how cats hate
water, and had disappeared. But, though to this I will not swear, I
thought I saw a white gleam aloft, and heard a wail of a cat skyward
along with the owl-hoots. And then my horse stood and trembled in
such wise that I thought he would fall under me, and I dismounted
and stroked his head and tried as best I could to soothe him, and we
were all the time before the tomb, which was a large one. Then of a
sudden it came to me that here was the hiding-place for the powder
and shot, for what safer hiding-place can there be than the tomb of
the first wife, when the second hath reigned but a short time, and
is fair, and hath but just given her lord that little darling whose
cries of appealing helplessness I could hear even there? So I gave
the tomb-door a pull, knowing that I should not, by so doing,
disturb the slumbers of the poor lady within, and decided with
myself that it would be easy enough to force it, and mounted and
rode back as best I might to the road. And when I came to the little
dwelling of Margery Key a thought struck me, and I rode close,
though my horse shuddered as if with some strange fright of
something which I could not see. I bent in my saddle and looked in
the door, but naught could I see. Then I dismounted and tied my
horse to a tree near by, and entered the house and looked about the
sorry place as well as I could in the pale sift of moonlight,
and--the old woman was not there. But one room there was, with a
poor pallet in a corner and a chest against the wall and a stool,
and a kettle in the fireplace, with a little pile of sticks and a
great scattering of ashes, but no one there, and also, if I may be
believed, _no broom._ All this I tell for what it may be worth to
the credulity of them who hear; the facts be such as I have said.
But whether believing it myself or not, yet knowing that that white
cat, though it had been Margery Key in such guise, or her familiar
imp on his way to join her at some revel whither she had ridden her
broom, had done me good service, and, seeing the piteous smallness
of the pile of sticks on the hearth, and reflecting upon the
distressful bend of the old soul's back, whether she had sold
herself to Satan or not, I lingered a minute to break down a goodly
armful of brush in the wood outside and carry inside for the
replenishment of her store. And as I came forth, having done so, I
heard the door of the nearby house open, and saw two white faces
peering out at me, and heard a woman's voice shriek shrilly that
here was the devil seeking the witch, and though I called out to
reassure them, the door clapped to with a bang like a pistol-shot,
and my horse danced about so that I could scarcely mount. Then I
rode away, something wondering within myself, since I had been taken
for the devil, how many others might have been, and whether men made
their own devils and their own witches, instead of the Prince of
Evil having a hand in it, and yet that happened which I have
related, and I have told the truth.


Such a blaze of light as was the governor's mansion house that night
I never saw, and I heard the music of violins, and hautboys, and
viola da gambas coming from within, and a silvery babble of women's
tongues, with a deeper undertone of men's, and the tread of dancing
feet, and the stamping of horses outside, with the whoas of the
negro boys in attendance, and through the broad gleam of the
moonlight came the flare and smoke of the torches. It seemed as if
the whole colony was either dancing at the governor's ball or
standing outside on tiptoe with interest. I sat waiting for some
time, holding my restive horse as best I might, but there coming no
cessation in the music, I dismounted, and seeing one of Madam
Cavendish's black men, gave him the bridle to hold, and went up to
the house and entered, though not in my plum-coloured velvet, and,
indeed, being not only in my ordinary clothes, but somewhat splashed
with mire from my mad gallop through the woods. But I judged rightly
that in so much of a crowd I should pass unnoticed both as to myself
and my apparel. I stood in the great room near the door and watched
the dance, and 'twas as brilliant a scene as ever I had seen
anywhere even in England. The musicians in the gallery were sawing
away for their lives on violins, and working breathlessly at the
hautboys, and all that gay company of Virginia's best, spinning
about in a country dance of old England. Such a brave show of velvet
coats, and breeches, and flowered brocade waistcoats, and powdered
wigs, and feathers, and laces, and ribbons, and rich flaunts of
petticoats revealing in the whirl of the dance clocked hose on
slender ankles, and high-heeled satin shoes, would have done no
discredit to the court. But of them all, Mistress Mary Cavendish was
the belle and the star. She was dancing with my Lord Estes when I
entered, and such a goodly couple they were, that I heard many an
exclamation of delight from the spectators, who stood thickly about
the walls, the windows even being filled with faces of black and
white servants. My Lord Estes was a handsome dark man, handsomer and
older than Sir Humphrey Hyde, who, though dancing with the
governor's daughter Cate, had, I could see, a rueful eye of
watchfulness toward Mary Cavendish. As he and Cate Culpeper swung
past me, Sir Humphrey's eyes fell on my face and he gave a start and
blush, and presently, when the dance was over and his partner
seated, came up to me with hand extended, as if I had been the
noblest guest there. "Harry, Harry," he whispered eagerly, "she hath
danced with me three times tonight, and hath promised again, and
Harry, saw you ever any one so beautiful as she in that blue dress?"

I answered truthfully that I never had. Sir Humphrey, in his blue
velvet suit with the silver buttons, with his rosy face and powdered
wig, was one to look at twice and yet again, and I regarded him as
always, with that liking for him and that fury of jealousy.

I looked at him and loved him as I might have loved my son, with
such a sweet and brave honesty of simplicity he eyed me, and for the
sake of Mary Cavendish, who might find his love for her precious,
and I wished with all my heart that I might fling him to the floor
where he stood; every nerve and muscle in me tingled with the
restraint of the desire, for such an enhancement of a woman's beauty
as was Mary Cavendish's that night, will do away with the best
instincts of men, whether they will or not.

The next dance was the minuet, and Mary Cavendish danced it with my
Lord Culpeper, the Governor of Virginia. The governor, though I
liked him not, was a most personable man with much grace of manner,
which had additional value from a certain harshness of feature which
led one not to expect such suavity, and he was clad most richly in
such a dazzle of gold broidery and fling of yellow laces, and
glitter of buttons, as could not be surpassed.

My Lord was in fact clad much more richly than his wife and
daughter, whose attire, though fair enough, was not of the freshest.
It was my good luck to overhear my Lady Culpeper telling in no very
honeyed tones, a gossip of hers, the lady of one of the burgesses,
that her goods, for which she had sent to England, had miscarried,
and were it not for the fact that there was a whisper of fever on
the ship, she would have had the captain herself for a good rating,
and had my Lord Culpeper not been for him, saying that the man was
of an honest record, she would have had him set in the stocks for
his remissness, that he had not seen to it that her goods were on
board when the ship sailed. "And there goes poor Cate in her old
murrey-coloured satin petticoat," said my lady with a bitter
lengthening of her face, "and there is Mary Cavendish in a
blue-flowered satin with silver, which is the very twin of the one I
ordered for Cate, and which came in on the Cavendish ship."

"Well," said the other woman, who was long and lean, and had wedded
late in life a man she would have scorned in her girlhood, and could
not forgive the wrong she had done herself, and was filled with an
inconsistency of spleen toward all younger and fairer than she, and
who, moreover, was a born toad-eater for all in high places, "'tis
fine feathers make fine birds, and were thy Cate arrayed in that
same gown in Mistress Cavendish's stead--"

"As I believe, she would not have had the dress had not Cate told
Cicely Hyde, who is so intimate with Mary Cavendish," said my Lady
Culpeper. "I had it from my lord's sister that 'twas the newest
fashion in London. How else would the chit have heard of it, I pray?"

"How else, indeed?" asked the burgess's wife.

"And here my poor Cate must go in her old murrey-coloured
petticoat," said my lady.

"But even thus, to one who looks at her and not at her attire, she
outshines Mary Cavendish," said the other. That was, to my thinking,
as flagrant hypocrisy as was ever heard, for if those two maids had
been clad alike as beggars, Mary Cavendish would have carried off
the palm, with no dissenting voice, though Cate Culpeper was fair
enough to see, with her father's grace of manner, and his harshness
of feature softened by her rose-bloom of youth.

Catherine Cavendish was dancing as the others, but seemingly with no
heart in it, whereas her sister was all glowing with delight in the
merriment of it, and her sense of her own beauty, and the admiration
of all about her, and smiling as if the whole world, and at life
itself, with the innocent radiance of a child.

As I stood watching her, I felt a touch on my arm, and looked, and
there stood Mistress Cicely Hyde, and her brown face was so puckered
with wrath and jealousy that I scarcely knew her. "Did not Mary's
grandmother send you to escort her home, Master Wingfield?" said she
in a sharp whisper, and I stared at her in amazement. "When the ball
is over, Mistress Hyde," I said.

"'Tis time the ball was over now," said she. "'Tis folly to keep it
up so late as this, and Mary hath not had a word for me since we

"But why do you not dance yourself, Mistress Hyde?"

"I care not to dance," said she pettishly, and with a glance of
mingled wrath and admiration at Mary Cavendish that might have
matched mine or her brother's, and I marvelled deeply at the
waywardness of a maid's heart. But then came Ralph Drake, who had
not drunken very deeply, being only flushed, and somewhat lost to
discrimination, and disposed to dance with another since he could
not have his cousin Mary, and he and Cicely went away together, and
presently, when the minuet was over and another dance on, I saw them
advancing in time, but always Cicely had that eye of watchful injury
upon Mary.

It was late when the ball was done, but Mary would have stayed it
out had it not been for Catherine, who almost swooned in the middle
of a dance and had to be revived with aromatic vinegar, and lie for
a while in my Lady Culpeper's bedchamber, with a black woman fanning
her, until she was sufficiently recovered to go home. Mary did not
espy me until, returning from her sister's side to order the sedan
chairs, she jostled against me. Then such a blush of delight and
relief came over her face as made my heart stand still with rapture
and something like fear. "You here, you here, Harry?" she cried, and
stammered and blushed again, and Sir Humphrey and Cicely, who were
pressing up, looked at me jealously.

"I am here at your grandmother's request, Mistress Mary," I said.

Then my Lord Estes came elbowing me aside, and made no more of me
than if I were a black slave, and hoarsely shouting for the sedan
chairs and the bearers, and after him Ralph Drake and half a score
of others, and all cursing at me for a convict tutor and thrusting
at me. Then truly that temper of mine, which I have had some cause
to lament, and yet I know not if it be aught I can help, it being
seemingly as beyond the say of my own will as the recoil of a musket
or the rebound of a ball, sent me forth into the midst of that
gallant throng, and I would not say for certain, but at this late
date I am inclined to believe that I saw Ralph Drake, who came in my
way with a storm of curses, raising himself sorely from a pool of
mud, which must have worked havoc with his velvets, and my Lord
Estes struggling forth from a thorny rose bush at the gate, with
much rending of precious laces. Then I, convict though I was, yet
having, when authorised by the very conditions of my servitude, that
resolution to have my way, that a king's army could not have stopped
me, had the sedan chairs, and the bearers to the fore, and presently
we were set forth on the homeward road, I riding alongside. All the
road was white with moonlight, and when we came alongside Margery
Key's house, as I live, that white cat shot through the door, and
immediately after, I, looking back, saw the old dame herself
standing therein, though it was near morning, and she quavered forth
a blessing after me. "God bless thee, Master Wingfield, in life and
death, and may the fish of the sea come to thy line, may the birds
of the air minister to thee, and all that hath breath of life,
whether it be noxious or guileless, do thy bidding. May even He who
is nameless stand from the path of thy desire, and hold back from
thy face the boughs of prevention whither thou wouldst go." This
said old Margery Key in a strange, chanting-like tone, and withdrew,
and a light flashed out in the next house, and the woman who dwelt
therein screamed, and Mistress Mary, thrusting forth her head from
the chair, called me to come close.

As for Catherine, she was borne along as silently as though she
slept, being, I doubt not, still exhausted with her swoon. When I
came close to Mistress Mary's chair, forth came her little hand,
shining with that preciousness of fairness beyond that of a pearl,
and "Master Wingfield," said she in a whisper, lest she disturb
Catherine, "what, what, I pray thee, was it the witch-woman said?"

I laughed. "She was calling down a blessing upon my head, Madam," I

"A blessing and not a curse?"

"As I understood it, though I know not why she should have blessed

"They say she is a white witch, and worketh good instead of harm,
and yet--" said Mistress Mary, and her voice trembled, showing
her fear, and I could see the negroes rolling eyes of wide alarm at
me, for they were much affected by all hints of deviltry.

"I pray you, Madam, to have no fear," I said, and thought within
myself that never should she know of what had happened on my way

"They say that her good deeds work in the end to mischief," said
Mary, "and, and--'tis sure no good whatever can come from
unlawful dealing with the powers of evil even in a good cause. I
wish the witch-woman had neither cursed thee nor blessed thee,

I strove again to reassure her, and said, as verily I begun to
believe, that the old dame's words whether of cursing or blessing
were of no moment, but presently Mistress Mary declared herself
afraid of riding alone shut within her sedan chair, and would
alight, and have one of the slaves lead my horse, and walk with me,
taking my arm the remainder of the way.

I had never known Mistress Mary Cavendish to honour me so before,
and knew not to what to attribute it, whether to alarm as she said,
or not. And I knew not whether to be enraptured or angered at my own
rapture, or whether I should use or not that authority which I had
over her, and which she could not, strive as best she could,
gainsay, and bid her remain in her chair.

But being so sorely bewildered I did nothing, but let her have her
way, and on toward Drake Hill we walked, she clinging to my arm, and
seemingly holding me to a slow pace, and the slaves with the chairs,
and my horse, forging ahead with ill-concealed zeal on account of
that chanting proclamation of Margery Key, which, I will venture to
say, was considered by every one of the poor fellows as a special
curse directed toward him, instead of a blessing for me.

As we followed on that moonlight night, she and I alone, of a sudden
I felt my youth and love arise to such an assailing of the joy of
life, that I knew myself dragged as it were by it, and had no more
choosing as to what I should not do. Verily it would be easier to
lead an army of malcontents than one's own self. And something there
was about the moonlight on that fair Virginian night, and the
heaviness of the honey-scents, and the pressure of love and life on
every side, in bush and vine and tree and nest, which seemed to
overbear me and sweep me along as on the crest of some green tide of
spring. Verily there are forces of this world which are beyond the
overcoming of mortal man so long as he is encumbered by his

Mary Cavendish gathered up her blue and silver petticoats about her
as closely as a blue flower-bell at nightfall, and stepped along
daintily at my side, and the feel of her little hand on my arm
seemed verily the only touch of material things which held me to
this world. We came to a great pool of wet in our way, and suddenly
I thought of her feet in her little satin shoes. "Madam, you will
wet your feet if you walk through that pool in your satin shoes," I
said, and my voice was so hoarse with tenderness that I would not
have known it for my own, and I felt her arm tremble. "No," she said
faintly. But without waiting for any permission, around her waist I
put an arm, and had her raised in a twinkling from the ground, and
bore her across the pool, she not struggling, but only whispering
faintly when I set her down after it was well passed. "You--you
should not have done that, Harry."

Then of a sudden, close she pressed her soft cheek against my
shoulder as we walked, and whispered, as though she could keep
silent no longer, and yet as if she swooned for shame in breaking
silence: "Harry, Harry, I liked the way you thrust them aside when
they were rude with you, to do me a service, and Harry, you are
stronger, and--and--than them all."

Then I knew with such a shock of joy, that I wonder I lived, that
the child loved me, but I knew at the same time as never I had known
it before, my love for her.

"Mistress Mary," I said, "I but did my duty and my service, which
you can always count upon, and I did no more than others would have
done. Sir Humphrey Hyde--"

But she flung away from me at that with a sudden movement of
amazement and indignation and hurt, which cut me to the quick.
"Yes," she said, "yes, Master Wingfield, truly I believe that Sir
Humphrey Hyde would do me any service that came in his way, and
truly he is a brave lad. I have a great esteem for Humphrey--I
have a greater esteem for Humphrey than for all the rest--and I
care not if you know it, Master Wingfield."

So saying she called to the bearers of her chair, and would have a
slave assist her to it instead of me, and rode in silence the rest
of the way, I following, walking my horse, who pulled hard at his


It was dawn before we were abed, but I for one had no sleep, being
strained to such a pitch of rapture and pain by what I had
discovered. The will I had not, to take the joy which I seemed to
see before me like some brimming cup of the gods, but not yet, in
the first surprise of knowing it offered me, the will to avoid the
looking upon it, and the tasting of it in dreams. Over and over I
said to myself, and every time with a new strengthening of
resolution, that Mary Cavendish should not love me, and that in some
way I would force her to obey me in that as in other things, never
doubting that I could do so. Well I knew that she could not wed a
convict, nor could I clear myself unless at the expense of her
sister Catherine, and sure I was that she would not purchase love
itself at such a cost as that. There remained nothing but to turn
her fancy from me, and that seemed to me an easy task, she being but
a child, and having, I reasoned, but little more than a childish
first love for me, which, as every one knows, doth readily burn
itself out by its excess of wick, and lack of substantial fuel. And
yet, as I lay on my bed with the red dawn at the windows, and the
birds calling outside, and the scent of the opening blossoms
entering invisible, such pangs of joy and ecstasy beyond anything
which I had ever known on earth overwhelmed me that I could not
resist them. Knowing well that in the end I should prove my
strength, for the time I gave myself to that advance of man before
the spur of love, which I doubt not is after the same fashion as the
unfolding of the flowers in the spring, and the nesting of the
birds, and the movement of the world itself from season to season,
and would be as uncontrollable were it not that a man is mightier
even than that to which he owes his own existence, and hath the
power of putting that which he loves before his own desire of it.
But for the time, knowing well that I could at any time take up the
reins to the bridling of myself, I let them hang loose, and over and
over I whispered what Mary Cavendish had said, and over and over I
felt that touch of delicate tenderness on my arm, and I built up
such great castles that they touched the farthest skies of my fancy,
and all the time braving the knowledge that I should myself dash
them into ruins.

But when I looked out of my window that May morning, and saw that
wonderful fair world, and that heaven of blue light with rosy and
golden and green boughs blowing athwart it, and heard the whir of
looms, the calls and laughs of human life, the coo of dove, the hum
of bees, the trill of mock birds, outreaching all other heights of
joy, the clangour of the sea-birds, and the tender rustle of the
new-leaved branches in the wind, that love for me which I had seen
in the heart of the woman I had loved since I could remember, seemed
my own keynote of the meaning of life sounding in my ears above all
other sounds of bane or blessing.

But the strength I had to act in discord with it, and thrust my joy
from me, and I went to planning how I could best turn the child's
fancy from myself to some one who would be for her best good. And
yet I was not satisfied with Sir Humphrey Hyde, and wished that his
wits were quicker, and wondered if years might improve them, and if
perchance a man as honest might be found who had the keenness of
ability to be the worst knave in the country. But the boy was brave,
and I loved his love for Mary Cavendish, and I could think of no one
to whom I would so readily trust her, and it seemed to me that
perchance I might, by some praising of him, and swerving her
thoughts to his track, lead her to think favourably of his suit. But
a man makes many a mistake as to women, and one of the most frequent
is that the hearts of them are like wax, to be moulded into this and
that shape. That morning, when I met Mistress Mary at the breakfast
table, she was pale and distraught, and not only did not speak to me
nor look at me, but when I ventured to speak in praise of Sir
Humphrey's gallant looks at the ball, she turned upon me so fiercely
with encomiums of my Lord Estes, whom I knew to be not worthy of
her, that I held my tongue. But when Sir Humphrey came riding up a
little later, she greeted him with such warmth as at once put me to
torture, and aroused that spirit of defence of her against myself
which hath been the noblest thing in my poor life.

So I left them, Mistress Catherine at the flax-wheel, and Mary out
in the garden with Sir Humphrey, gathering roses for the potpourri
jars, and the distilling into rosewater, for little idleness was
permitted at Drake Hill even after a ball. I got my horse, but as I
started forth Madam Cavendish called--a stiffly resolute old
figure standing in the great doorway, and I dismounted and went to
her, leading my horse, which I had great ado to keep from nibbling
the blossoms of a rose tree which grew over the porch. "Harry," she
said in a whisper, "where is Mary?"

"In the garden with Sir Humphrey Hyde," I answered.

Then Madam Cavendish frowned. "And why is she not at her lessons?"
she asked sternly.

"The lessons are set for the afternoon, and this morning she is
gathering rose leaves, Madam," I answered; but that Madam Cavendish
knew as well as I, having in truth so ordered the hours of the

"But," she said, hesitating, then she stopped, and looked at me with
an angry indecision, and then at the garden, where the top of Mary's
golden head was just visible above the pink mist of the roses, and
Sir Humphrey's fair one bending over it. "Harry," she said,
frowning, and yet with a piteous sort of appeal. "Why do you not go
out into the garden and help to gather the rose leaves?" Then,
before I could answer, as if angry with herself at her own folly,
she called out to Mary's little black maid, Sukey, to bid her
mistress come in from the garden and spin. But before the maid
started I said low in Madam Cavendish's ear: "Madam, think you not
that the sweet air of the garden is better for her after the ball,
than the hot ball and the labour at the wheel?" And she gave one
look at me, and called out to Sukey that she need not speak to her
mistress, and went inside to her own work and left me to go my way.
I was relieved in my mind that she did not ask me whither, since, if
she had, I should have been driven to one of those broadsides of
falsehood in a good cause for which I regret the necessity, but
admit it, and if it be to my soul's hurt, I care not, so long as I
save the other party by it.

I was bound for Barry Upper Branch, and rode thither as fast as I
could, for I contemplated asking the Barry brothers to aid me in the
removal of Mistress Mary's contraband goods, and was anxious to lose
no more time about that than I could avoid.

I was set upon Major Robert Beverly's tomb as a most desirable
hiding place for them, and knowing that there was a meeting of the
Assembly that evening at the governor's, to discuss some matters in
private before he sailed for England, Major Beverly being clerk, I
thought that before the moon was up would be a favourable time for
the removal, but I could not move the goods alone, remembering how
those sturdy sailors tugged at them, and not deeming it well to get
any aid from the slaves.

So I rode straight to Barry Upper Branch, and a handsome black woman
in a flaunting gown, with a great display of beads, and an orange
silk scarf twisted about her head, came to parley with me, and told
me that both the brothers were away, and added that she thought I
should find them at the tavern.

The tavern was a brick building abounding in sharp slants of roof,
and dimmed in outline by a spreading cloud of new-leaved branches,
and there was one great honey-locust which was a marvel to be seen,
and hummed with bees with a mighty drone as of all the
spinning-wheels in the country, and the sweetness of it blew down
upon one passing under, like a wind of breath. And before the tavern
were tied, stamping and shaking their heads for the early flies,
many fine horses, and among them Parson Downs' and the Barry
brothers', and from within the tavern came the sound of laughter in
discordant shouts, and now and then a snatch of a song. Then a great
hoarse rumble of voice would cap the rest, telling some loose story,
then the laughter would follow--enough, it seemed, to make the
roof shake--and all the time the hum of the bees in the
honey-locust outside went on. Verily at that time in Virginia, with
all the spirit of the people in a ferment of rebellion against the
established order of things, being that same ferment which the
ardour of Nathaniel Bacon had set in motion, and which, so far as I
see now, was the beginning of an epoch of history, there was nothing
after all, no plotting nor counterplotting, no fierce inveighing
against authority, nor reckless carousing on the brinks of
precipices, which could for a second stay the march of the mightiest
force of all--the spring which had returned in its majesty of
victory, for thousands of years, and love which had come before

I tied my horse with the others, with a tight halter, for he was apt
to pick quarrels, having always a theory that such discomforts as
flies or a long weariness of standing were in some fashion to be
laid to the doors of other horses, and indeed made always of his own
kind his special scapegoat of the dispensation of Providence. 'Tis
little I know about that great mystery of the animal creation and
its relation toward the human race, but verily I believe that that
fine horse of mine, from his propensity for kicking and lashing out
from his iron-bound hoofs at whatever luckless steed came within his
reach whenever the world went not to his liking, could not see an
inch beyond the true horizon limit of the horse race, and attributed
all that happened on earth, including man, to the agency of his own
sort. Sure I was, from the backward glance of viciousness which he
cast at the other stamping steeds as soon as I dismounted, that he
concluded with no hesitation they had in some way led me to ride him
thither instead of to his snug berth in the Cavendish stables, with
his eager nose in his feed trough.

Before I entered the tavern, out burst Parson Downs, and caught hold
of me, with a great shout of welcome. Half-drunk he was, and yet
with a marvellous steadiness on his legs, and a command of his voice
which would have done him credit in the pulpit. It was said that
this great parson could drink more fiery liquor and not betray it
than any other man in the colony, and Nick Barry, who was something
of a wag, said that the parson's wrestlings with spirits of another
sort had rendered him powerful in his encounters with these also. Be
that as it may, though I doubt not Parson Downs had drunk more than
any man there, no sign of it was in his appearance, except that his
boisterousness was something enhanced, and his hand on my shoulder
fevered. "Good day, good day, Master Harry Wingfield," he shouted.
"How goes the time with ye, sir? And, I say, Master Wingfield, what
will you take for thy horse there? One I have which can beat him on
any course you will pick, with all the creeks in the country to
jump, and the devil himself to have a shy at, and even will I trade
and give thee twenty pounds of tobacco to boot. 'Tis a higher horse
than thine, Harry, and can take two strides to one of his; and mine
hath four white feet, and thine but one, which, as every one knoweth
well, is not enough. What say you, Harry?"

"Your reverence," I said, laughing, "the horse is not mine, as you

"Nay, Harry," he burst forth, "that we all know, and you know that
we all know, is but a fable. Doth not Madam Cavendish treat you as a
son, and are you not a convict in name only, so far as she is
concerned? I say, Harry, you can ride my horse to the winning on
Royal Oak Day, at the races. What think you, Harry?"

"Your reverence," I said, "I pray you to give me time," for well I
knew there was no use in reasoning with the persistency to which
frequent potations had given rise.

Up to my horse he went with that oversteadiness of the man in his
cups, who moves with the stiffness of a tree walking, as if every
lift of a heavy foot was the uplifting of a root fast in the ground,
and went to stroking his head; when straightway, my horse either not
liking his touch or the smell of his liquored breath, and judging as
was his wont that the fault must by some means lie with his own
race, straightway lashed out a vicious hind leg like a hammer, and
came within an ace of the parson's own valuable horse--not the
one which he proposed trading for mine--and the wind of the lash
frighted the parson's horse, and he in his turn lashed out, and
another horse at his side sprang aside; and straightway there was
such a commotion in the tavern yard as never was, and slaves and
white servants shouting, and forcing rearing horses to their regular
standing, and I stroking my beast, and striving as best I could to
bring his pure horse wits to comprehend the strong pressure and
responsibility of humanity for the situation; and the Barry brothers
and Captain Jaynes came running forth, Captain Jaynes swearing in
such wise that it was beyond the understanding of any man unversed
in that language of the high seas; and Nick Barry, laughing wildly,
and Dick, glooming, as was the difference with the two brothers when
in liquor. And the landlord, one John Halpin, stood in his tavern
doorway with his eyebrows raised, but no other sign of
consternation, knowing well enough that all this could not affect
his custom, and being one of the most toughly leather-dried little
men whom I have ever seen, and his face so hardened into its final
lines of experience, that it had no power of changing under new
ones. And behind him stood peering, some with wide eyes of terror,
and some with ready laughs at nothing, the few other roisters in the
tavern at that hour. 'Twas not the best time of day for the meeting
of those choice spirits for the discussion of the other spirits
which be raised, willy-nilly, from the grape and the grain, for the
enhancing of the joy of life, and defiance of its miseries; but the
Barrys and Captain Jaynes and the parson were nothing particular as
to the time of day.

When the horses were something quieted, I, desiring not to unfold my
errand in the tavern, got hold of Parson Downs by his mighty arm,
and elbowed Dick Barry, who cursed at me for it, and cut short
Captain Jaynes's last string of oaths, and hallooed to Nick Barry,
and asked if I could have a word with them. Captain Jaynes, though,
as I have said, being in the main curiously well disposed toward me,
swore at first that he would be damned if he would stop better
business to parley with a damned convict tutor; but the end of it
was that he and the Barry brothers and Parson Downs and I stood
together under that mighty humming locust tree, and I unfolded my
scheme of moving the powder and shot from Locust Creek to Major
Robert Beverly's tomb. Noel Jaynes stared at me a second, with his
hard red face agape, and then he clapped me upon the shoulder, and
shouted with laughter, and swore that it should be done, and that it
was a burning hell shame that the goods had been put where they were
to the risk of a maid of beauty like Mary Cavendish, and that he and
the Barrys would be with me that very night before moonrise to move

Then the parson, who had a poetical turn, especially when in his
cups, added, quite gravely, that no safer place could there be for
powder than the tomb of love whose last sparks had died out in
ashes; and Dick Barry cried with an oath that it would serve Robert
Beverly rightly for his action against them in the Bacon rising, for
though he was to the front with the oppressed people in this, his
past foul treachery against them was not forgot, and well he
remembered that when he was in hiding for his life--

But then his brother hushed him and said, with a shout of dry
laughter, that the past was past, and no use in dwelling upon it,
but that when it came to a safe hiding-place for goods which were to
set the kingdom in a blaze, and maybe hang the ringleaders, he knew
of none better than the tomb of a first wife, which, when the second
was in full power, was verily back of the farthest back door of a
man's memory.

So it was arranged that the four were to meet me that very night
after sunset and before moonrise, and move the goods, and I mounted
and rode away, with Parson Downs shouting after me his proposition
to trade horses, and even offering ten pounds to boot when he saw
the splendid long pace of my thoroughbred flinging out his legs with
that freest motion of anything in the world, unless it be the swift
upward cleave of a bird when the fluttering of wing wherewith he
hath gained his impetus hath ceased, and nothing except that
invincible rising is seen.


The first man my eyes fell upon was Parson Downs, lolling in a chair
by the fireless hearth, for there was no call for fire that May
night. His bulk of body swept in a vast curve from his triple chin
to the floor, and his great rosy face was so exaggerated with
merriment and good cheer that it looked like one seen in the shining
swell of a silver tankard. When Nick Barry finished a roaring song,
he stamped and clapped and shouted applause till it set off the
others with applause of it, and the place was a pandemonium. Then
that same coloured woman who had parleyed with me the other day, and
was that night glowing like a savage princess--as in truth she
may have been, for she had a high look as of an unquenched spirit,
in spite of her degradation of body and estate--went about with
a free swinging motion of hips, bearing a tray filled with pewter
mugs of strong spirits. Around this woman's neck glittered row on
row of beads, and she wore a great flame-coloured turban, and long
gold eardrops dangled to her shoulders against the glossy blackness
of her cheeks, and bracelets tinkled on her polished arms, which
were mighty shapely, though black. In faith, the wench, had she but
possessed roses and lilies for her painting, instead of that
duskiness as of the cheek of midnight, had been a beauty such as was
seldom seen. Her dark face was instinct with mirth and jollity, and,
withal, a fierce spark in the whitening roll of her eyes under her
flame-coloured turban made one think of a tiger-cat, and roused that
knowledge of danger which adds a tingle to interest. A man could
scarce take his eyes from her. though there were other women there
and not uncomely ones. Another black wench there was, clad as gayly,
but sunk in a languorous calm like a great cat, with Nick Barry, now
his song was done, lolling against her, and two white women, one
young and well favoured, and the other harshly handsome, both with
their husbands present, and I doubt not decent women enough, though
something violent of temper. As I entered, Mistress Allgood, one of
them, begun a harangue at the top of a shrill voice, with her
husband plucking vainly at her sleeve to temper her vehemence.
Mistress Allgood was long and lean, and gaunt, with red fires in the
hollows of her cheeks and a compelling flash of black eyes under
straight frowning brows. "Gentlemen," said she--"be quiet, John
Allgood, my speech I will have, since thou being a man hath not the
tongue of one. I pray ye, gentlemen listen to my cause of complaint.
Here my goodman and me did come to this oppressed colony of
Virginia, seven years since, having together laid by fifty pound
from the earnings of an inn called the Jolly Yeoman in Norfolkshire,
in which for many years we had run long scores with little return,
and we bought a small portion of land and planted tobacco, and set
out trees. Then came the terror of the Indians, and Governor
Berkeley, always in wait for the word of the king, and doing
nothing, and once was our house burned, and we escaped barely with
our lives, and then came Nat Bacon, and blessings upon him, for he
made the beginning of a good work. And then did the soldiers riding
to meet him, so trample down our tobacco fields with horse hoofs,
that the leaves lay in a green pumice, and that crop lost. And then
this Navigation Act, which I understand but little of except that it
be to fill the king's pockets and empty ours, has made our crops of
no avail, since we but sent the tobacco as a gift to the king, so
little we have got in return. And look, look!" she shrieked, "I pray
ye look, and sure this is the best I have, and me always going as
well attired as any of my station in England. I pray ye look! Sure
'tis past mending, and the stitches and the cloth go together, as
will the colony, unless somewhat be done in season to mend its
state." So saying, up she flung her arm, and all the under side of
the body of her gown was in rags, and up she flung the other, and
that was in like case.

Then the other woman, who was a strapping lass, and had been a
barmaid ere she came to Virginia in search of a husband, where she
had found one Richard Longman afraid not to do her bidding and wed
her, since he was as small and mild a man as ever was, joined in: "I
say with Mistress Allgood," she shrieked out, and flung her own
buxom arms aloft with such disclosures that a roar of laughter
spread through the hall, and her husband blushed purple, and a
protest gurgled in his throat. But at that his wife, who verily was
a shrew, seized upon him by both of his little shoulders, and shook
him until his face wagged like a rag baby with an utter limpness of
helplessness, and shouted out, amid peals of laughter that seemed to
shake the roof, that here was a pretty man, here forsooth was a
pretty man. Here was her own husband, who let his own lawful wife go
clad in such wise and lifted not a finger! Yes, lifted not a finger,
and had to be dragged into the present doings by the very hair of
his head by his wife, and that was not all. Yes, that was not all.
Then, with that, up she flung one stout foot, and lo, a great hole
was in the heel of her stocking, and the other, and then she flirted
the hem of her petticoat into sight, and that was all of a fringe
with rags. "Look, look!" she shrieked out. "I tell ye, Thomas
Longman, I will have them look, and see to what a pass that cursed
Navigation Act and the selling of the tobacco for naught, hath
brought a decent woman. How long is it since I had a new petticoat?
How long, I pray? Oh, Lord, had the men of this colony but the
spirit of the women! Had but brave Nat Bacon lived!" With that, this
woman, who had been perchance drinking too much beer for her head,
though she was well used to it, burst into a storm of tears, and
sprang to her feet, and cried out in a wild voice like a furious
cat's: "Up with ye, I say! And why do ye stop and parley? And why do
ye wait for my Lord Culpeper to sail? I trow the women be not
afraid of the governor, if the men be! Up with ye, and this very
night cut down the young tobacco-plants, and cheat the king of
England, who reigns but to rob his subjects. Who cares for the
Governor of Virginia? Who cares for the king? Up with ye, I say!"
With that she snatched a sword from a peg on the wall and swung it
in a circle of flame around her head, and what with her glowing eyes
and streaming black locks, and burning beauty of cheeks, and
cat-like shriek of voice, she was enough to have made the governor,
and even the king himself, quail, had he been there, and all the
time that mild husband of hers was plucking vainly at her gown. But
the men only shouted with laughter, and presently the woman, with a
savage glare at them, sank into her chair again, and Mistress
Allgood went up to her, and the two whispered with handsome,
fiercely wagging heads. Then entered another woman, after a clatter
of horse's hoofs in the drive, and she had a presence that compelled
all the men except one to their feet, though there was about her
that foolishness which, in my mind, doth always hamper the extreme
of enthusiasm. This woman, Madam Tabitha Story, was a widow of
considerable property, owning a plantation and slaves, and she had,
as was well known, gone mad with zeal in the cause of Nathaniel
Bacon, and had furnished him with money, and would herself have
fought for him had she been allowed. But Bacon, though no doubt with
gratitude for her help, had, as I believe is the usual case with
brave men, when set about with adoring women, but little liking for
her. It was, in faith, a curious sight she presented as she entered
that hall of Barry Upper Branch with the men rising and bowing low,
and the other women eyeing her, half with defiant glares as of
respectability on the defence, and half with admiration and
comradeship, for she was to the far front in this rebellion as in
the other. Madam Story was a woman so tall that she exceeded the
height of many a man, and she was clad in black, and crowned with a
great hat feathered with sable like a hearse, and her skin was of a
whiteness more dazzling against the black than any colour. Her face
had been handsome had it not been so elongated and strained out of
its proper lines of beauty, and her forehead was of a wonderful
height, a smooth expanse between bunches of black curls, and in the
midst was set that curious patch which she had worn ever since
Bacon's untimely death, it being, as I live, nothing more nor less
than a mourning coach and four horses, cut so cunningly out of black
paper that it was a marvel of skill.

She stared with scorn at the one black woman approaching her with
the silver tray, then she turned and stared at Nick Barry, sitting
half overcome with drink, lolling against the other. He cast a look
of utter sheepishness at her, and then straightened himself, and
rose like the other men, and Dick Barry motioned to both of the
black women to withdraw, which they did, slinking out darkly, both
with a fine rustle of silks. Then Madam Story saluted the other
women, though somewhat stiffly, and Dick Barry, who was never
lacking in a certain gloomy dignity, though they said him to be the
worse of the two brothers, stepped forward. "Madam," he said, "I
pray you to be seated." With that he led her with a courtly air to a
great carved chair, in which his father had been used to sit, and
she therein, somewhat mollified, her black length doubled on itself,
and that mourning coach on her forehead was a wonderful sight.

Then arrived Major Robert Beverly and an other notable man, one of
the burgesses, whose name I do to this day conceal, in consequence
of a vow to that effect, and then two more. Then Major Beverly, who
was in fact running greater risks than almost any, inasmuch as he
was Clerk of the Assembly, and was betraying more of trust, after he
had saluted Madam Story conferred privately with Dick Barry, and my
Lord Estes, and Parson Downs, with this effect. Dick Barry, with
such a show of gallantry and seriousness as never was, prevailed
upon the three ladies to forgive him his discourtesy, but hinted
broadly that in an enterprise fraught with so much danger, it were
best that none but the ruder sex should confer together, and they
departed; Mistress Longman enjoining upon her husband to remain and
deport himself like a man of spirit, and Mistress Allgood whispering
with a sharp hiss into her goodman's alarmed ear, he nodding the
while in token of assent.

But Madam Tabitha Story paused on the threshold ere she departed,
standing back on her heels with a marvellous dignity, and waving one
long, black-draped arm. "Gentlemen of Virginia," said she, in a
voice of such solemnity as I had never heard excelled, "I beseech
you to remember the example which that hero who has departed set
you. I beseech you to form your proceedings after the fashion of
those of the immortal Bacon, and remember that if the time comes
when a woman's arm is needed to strike for freedom, here is one at
your service, while the heart which moves it beats true to liberty
and the great dead!"

Nick Barry was chuckling in a maudlin fashion when the door closed
behind her, and Parson Downs' great face was curving upward with
smiles like a wet new moon, but the rest were sober enough in spite
of some over-indulgence, for in truth it was a grave matter which
they had met to decide, and might mean the loss of life and liberty
to one and all.

Major Robert Beverly turned sharply upon me as soon as the women
were gone, and accosted me civilly enough, though the memory of my
convict estate was in his tone. "Master Wingfield," said he, "may I
inquire--" "Sir," I replied, for I had so made up my mind, "I am
with you in the cause, and will so swear, if my oath be considered
of sufficient moment."

I know not how proudly and bitterly I said that last, but Major
Beverly looked at me, and a kindly look came into his eyes. "Master
Wingfield," he said, "the word of any English gentleman is
sufficient," and I could have blessed him for it, and have ever
since had remorse for my taking advantage of his dark closet of an
old love for the hiding of the secret of the ammunition.

Then as we sat there, in a blue cloud of tobacco-smoke, through
which the green bayberry candles gleamed faintly, and which they
could not overcome with their aromatic breath of burning, the plot
for the rooting up of the young crop was discussed in all its

I wondered somewhat to see Major Beverly, and still others of the
burgesses who presently arrived, placing their lives in jeopardy
with men of such standing as some present. But a common cause makes
common confidence, and it might well have been, hang one, hang all.
Major Robert Beverly spoke at some length, and his speech was,
according to my mind, both wise and discreet, though probably
somewhat inflamed by his own circumstances. The greatest store of
tobacco of any one in the colony had Major Robert Beverly, and a
fair young wife who loved that which the proceeds could buy. And as
he spoke there was a great uproar outside, and the tramp of horses
and jingle of swords and spurs, and a whole troop of horse came
riding into the grounds of Barry Upper Branch. And some of those in
the hall turned pale and looked about for an exit, and some grasped
their swords, and some laughed knowingly, and Major Beverly strode
to the door, and behind him Parson Downs, and Capt. Noel Jaynes, and
the Barry brothers, and some others, and I, pressing close, and
there was a half-whispered conference between Major Beverly and the
leader of the horse.

Then Major Beverly turned to us. "Gentlemen," he said, "I am assured
that in case of a rising we have naught to fear from the militia,
who are in like case with the other sufferers from the proceedings
of the government, being about to be disbanded in arrears of their
pay. Gentlemen, I am assured by Capt. Thomas Marvyn that his men are
with us in heart and purpose, and though they may not help, unless
the worse come to the worse, they will not hinder."

Then such a cheer went up from the conspirators in the hall of Barry
Upper Branch, and the troop of horse outside, as it seemed, might
have been heard across the sea which divided us from that tyranny
which ruled us, and Nick Barry shouted to some of his black slaves,
and presently every man of the soldiers was drinking cider made from
the apples of Virginia, and with it, treason to the king and success
to the rebels.


I had not formed my plan of taking part in the coming insurrection
without many misgivings lest I should by so doing bring harm upon
the Cavendishes. But on discussing the matter in all its bearings
with Major Robert Beverly, whom I had ever held to be a man of
judgment, he assured me that in his opinion there could no possible
ill result come to such a household of women, especially when the
head of it was of such openly-avowed royalist leanings. Unless,
indeed, he admitted, the bringing over of the arms and the powder
was to be traced to Mistress Mary Cavendish. This he said, not
knowing the secret of his first wife's tomb, and I feeling, as
indeed I was, an arch deceiver. But what other course is left open
to any man, when he can shield the one he loves best in the whole
world only at the expense of some one else? Can he do otherwise but
let the other suffer, and even forfeit his sense of plain dealing? I
have lived to be an old man, and verily nothing hath so grown in the
light of my experience as the impossibility of serving love except
at a loss, not only to others, but to oneself. But that truth of the
greatest importance in the whole world hath also grown upon me, that
love should be served at whatever cost. I cared not then, and I care
not now, who suffered and who was wronged, if only that beloved one
was saved.

I went home that night from Barry Upper Branch riding a horse which
Dick Barry lent me, on learning that I had come thither without one,
though not in what mad fashion, and Sir Humphrey rode with me until
our roads parted. Much gaming was there that night after we left; we
leaving the Barrys and my Lord Estes and Drake and Captain Jaynes
and many others intent upon the dice, but Humphrey and I did not
linger, I having naught to stake, and he having promised his mother
not to play. "Sometimes I wish that I had not so promised my
mother," he said, looking back at me over his great boyish shoulder
as he rode ahead, "for sometimes I think 'tis part of the estate of
a man to put up stakes at cards, and to win or lose as beseems a
gentleman of Virginia and a cavalier. But, sure, Harry, a promise to
a man's mother is not to be broke lightly, and indeed she doth ask
me every night when I return late, and I shall see her face at the
window when I ride in sight of the great house; but faith, Harry, I
would love to win in something, if not in hearts, in a throw of the
dice. For sure I am a man grown, and have never had my own will in
aught that lies near my heart."

With that he gave a great sigh, and I striving to cheer him, and
indeed loving the lad, replied that he was but young, and there was
still time ahead, and the will of one's heart required often but a
short corner of turning. But he was angry again at me for that, and
cried out I knew not for all I was loved in return, the heart of a
certain maid as well as he who was despised, and spurred his horse
and rode on ahead, and when we had come to the division of the road,
saluted me shortly, and was gone, and the sound of his galloping
died away in the distance, and I rode home alone meditating.

And when I reached Drake Hill a white curtain fluttered athwart a
window, and I caught a gleam of a white arm pulling it to place, and
knew that Mistress Mary had been watching for me--I can not say
with what rapture and triumph and misgivings.

It was well toward morning, and indeed a faint pallor of dawn was in
the east, and now and then a bird was waking. Not a slave on the
plantation was astir, and the sounds of slumber were coming from the
quarters. So I myself put my borrowed horse in stable, and then was
seeking my own room, when, passing through the hall, a white figure
started forth from a shadow and caught me by the arm, and it was
Catherine Cavendish. She urged me forth to the porch, I being
bewildered and knowing not how, nor indeed if it were wise, to
resist her. But when we stood together there, in that hush of
slumber only broken now and then by the waking love of a bird, and
it seemed verily as if we two were alone in the whole world, a sense
of the situation flashed upon me. I turned on my heel to reenter the
house. "Madam," I said, "this will never do. If you remain here with
me, your reputation--"

"What think you I care for my reputation?" she whispered. "What
think you? Harry Wingfield, you cannot do this monstrous thing. You
cannot be so lost to all honour as to let my sister--You cannot,
and you a convict--"

Then, indeed, for the first time in my life and the last I answered
a woman as if she were a man, and on an equal footing of antagonism
with me. "Madam," I replied, "I will maintain my honour against your
own." But she seemed to make no account of what I said. Indeed I
have often wondered whether a woman, when she is in pursuit of any
given end, can progress by other methods than an ant, which hath no
power of circuitousness, and will climb over a tree with long labour
and pain rather than skirt it, if it come in her way. Straight at
her purpose she went. "Harry, Harry," she said, still in that sharp
whisper, "you will not, you cannot--she is but a child."

Before I could reply, out ran Mary Cavendish herself, and was close
at my side, turning an angry face upon her sister.

"Catherine," she cried out, "how dare you? I am no child. Think you
that I do not know my own mind? How dare you? You shall not come
between Harry and me! I am his before the whole world. I will not
have it, Catherine!"

Then Catherine Cavendish, awakening such bewilderment and dismay in
me as I had never felt, looked at her sister, and said in a voice
which I can hear yet: "Have thy way then, sister; but 'tis over thy
own sister's heart."

"What mean you?" Mary asked breathlessly.

"I love him!" said Catherine.

I felt the hot blood mount to my head, and I knew what shame was. I
turned to retreat. I knew not what to do, but Mary's voice stopped
me. It rang out clear and pitiless, with that pitilessness of a
great love.

"And what is that to me, Catherine?" she cried out. "Sure it is but
to thy shame if thou hast loved unsought and confessed unasked. And
if I had ten thousand sisters, and they all in love with him, as
well they might be, for there is no one like him in the whole world,
over all their hearts would I go, rather than he should miss me for
but a second, if he loved me. Think you that aught like that can
make a difference? Think you that one heart can outweigh two, and
the misery of one be of any account before that of three?"

Then suddenly she looked sharply at her sister and cried out

"Catherine Cavendish, I know what this means. 'Tis but another
device to part us. You love him not. You have hated him from the
first. You have hated him, and he is no more guilty than you be.
'Tis but a trick to turn me from him. Fie, think you that will avail?
Think you that a sister's heart counts with a maid before her
lover's? Little you know of love and lovers to think that."

Then to my great astonishment, since I had never seen such weakness
in her before, Catherine flung up her hands before her face and
burst into such a storm of wild weeping as never was, and fled into
the house, and Mary and I stood alone together, but only for a
second, for Mary, also casting a glance at me, then about her at the
utter loneliness and silence of the world, fled in her turn. Then I
went to my room, but not to sleep nor to think altogether of love,
for my Lord Culpeper was to sail that day, and the next night was
appointed for the beginning of the plant cutting.


I know not if my Lord Culpeper had any inkling of what was about to
happen. Some were there who always considered him to be one who
feathered his own nest with as little risk as might be, regardless
of those over and under him, and one who saw when it behooved him to
do so, and was blind when it served his own ends, even with the
glare of a happening in his eyes. And many considered that he was in
England when it seemed for his own best good without regard to the
king or the colony, but that matters not, at this date. In truth his
was a ticklish position, between two fires. If he remained in
Virginia it was at great danger to himself, if he sided not with the
insurgents; and on the other hand there was the certainty of his
losing his governorship and his lands, and perhaps his head, if he
went to tobacco-cutting with the rest of us. He was without doubt
better off on the high sea, which is a sort of neutral place of
nature, beyond the reach for the time, of mobs or sceptres, unless
one falls in with a black flag. At all events, off sailed my Lord
Culpeper, leaving Sir Henry Chichely as Lieutenant-Governor, and
verily he might as well have left a weather-cock as that
well-intentioned but pliable gentleman. Give him but a head wind
over him and he would wax fierce to order, and well he served the
government in the Bacon uprising, but leave him to his own will and
back and forth he swung with great bluster but no stability. None of
the colony, least of all the militia, stood in awe of Sir Henry
Chichely, nor regarded him as more than a figure-head of authority
when my Lord Culpeper had set sail.

The morning of the day after the sailing, the people of Jamestown
whom one happened to meet on the road had a strange expression of
countenance, and I doubt not that a man skilled in such matters
could have read as truly the signs of an eruption of those forces of
human passion in the hearts of men, as of an earthquake by the
belching forth of smoke and fire from the mouth of a volcano.
Everybody looked at his neighbour with either a glare of doubt and
wariness, or with covert understanding, and some there were who had
a pale seriousness of demeanour from having a full comprehension of
the situation and of what might come of it, though not in the least
drawing back on that account, and some were all flushed and glowing
with eagerness and laughing from sheer delight in danger and daring,
and some were like stolid beasts of the field watching the eye of a
master, ready at its wink to leap forth to the strain of labour or
fury. Many of these last were of our English labourers, whom I held
in some sort of pity, and doubt as to whether it were just and
merciful to draw them into such a stew kettle, for in truth many of
them had not a pound of tobacco to lose by the Navigation Act, and
no more interest in the uprising than had the muskets stacked in
Major Robert Beverly's first wife's tomb. Yet, I pray, what can men
do without tools, and have not tools some glory of their own which
we take small account of, and yet which may be a recompense to them?

Nevertheless, I saw with some misgivings these honest fellows
plodding their ways, ready to leap to their deaths maybe at the word
of command, when it did not concern their own interests in the
least, and especially when they had not that order of mind which
enables a man to have a delight in glory and in serving those broad
ends of humanity which include a man to his own loss.

Early that morning the news spread that Colonel Kemp of the
Gloucester militia and a troop of horse and foot had been sent
secretly against some plant-cutters in Gloucester County who had
arisen before us, and had taken prisoners some twenty-two caught in
the act. The news of the sending came first, I think, from Major
Robert Beverly, the Clerk of the Assembly, who had withheld the
knowledge for some time, inasmuch as he disliked the savour of
treachery, but being in his cups that night before at Barry Upper
Branch, out it came. 'Twas Dick Barry who told me. I fell in with
him and Captain Jaynes on the Jamestown road that morning. "Colonel
Kemp hath ridden against the rioters in Gloucester with foot and
horse, by order of the general court, and Beverly hath been knowing
to it all this time," he said gloomily. Then added that a man who
served on two sides had no strength for either, and one who had
raised his hand against Bacon had best been out of the present
cause. But Captain Jaynes swore with one of his broadsides of mighty
oaths that 'twas best as 'twas, since Beverly had some influence
over the militia, and that he was safe enough not to turn traitor
with his great store of tobacco at stake, and that should the court
proceed to extremes with the Gloucester plant-cutters, such a flame
would leap to life in Virginia as would choke England with the smoke
of its burning.

We knew no more than the fact of the sending, but that afternoon
came riding into Jamestown colonel Kemp with a small body of horse,
having left the rest and the foot in Gloucester, there to suppress
further disorder, and with him, bound to their saddles, some
twenty-two prisoners, glaring about them with defiant faces and
covered with dust and mire, and some with blood.

Something there was about that awful glow of red on face, on hand,
or soaking through homespun sleeve or waistcoat, that was like the
waving of a battle-flag or the call of a trumpet. Such a fury awoke
in us who looked on, as never was, and the prisoners had been then
and there torn from their horses and set free, had it not been for
the consideration that undue precipitation might ruin the main
cause. But the sight of human blood shed in a righteous cause is the
spur of the brave, and goads him to action beyond all else. Quite
silent we kept when that troop rode past us on their way to prison,
though we were a gathering crowd not only of some of the best of
Virginia, but some of her worst and most uncontrolled of indenture
white slaves, and convicts, but something there must have been in
our looks which gave heart to those who rode bound to their horses,
for one and then another turned and looked back at us, and I trow
got some hope.

However, before the night fairly fell, twenty of the prisoners, upon
giving assurance of penitence, were discharged, and but two, the
ringleaders, were committed and were in the prison. The twenty-two,
being somewhat craven-hearted, and some of them indisposed by
wounds, were on their ways homeward when we were afield.

We waited for the moon to be up, which was an hour later that night.
I was all equipped in good season, and was stealing forth secretly,
lest any see me, for I wished not to alarm the household, nor if
possible to have any one aware of what I was about to do, that they
might be acquit of blame through ignorance, when I was met in the
threshold of an unused door by Mary Cavendish. And here will I say,
while marvelling at it greatly, that the excitement of a great
cause, which calls for all the enthusiasm and bravery of a man,
doth, while it not for one moment alters the truth and constancy of
his love, yet allay for the time his selfish thirst for it. While I
was ready as ever to die for Mary Cavendish, and while the thought
of her was as ever in my inmost soul, yet that effervescence of
warlike spirit within me had rendered me not forgetful, but somewhat
unwatchful of a word and a look of hers. And for the time being that
sad question of our estates, which forbade more than our loves, had
seemed to pale in importance before this matter of maybe the rising
or falling of a new empire. Heart and soul was I in this cause, and
gave myself the rein as I had longed to do for the cause of
Nathaniel Bacon.

But Mary met me at the northern door, which opened directly on a
locust thicket and was little used, and stood before me with her
beautiful face as white as a lily but a brave light in her eyes.
"Where go you, Harry?" she whispered.

Then I, not knowing her fully, and fearing lest I disquiet her,
answered evasively somewhat about hunting and Sir Humphrey. Some
reply of that tenor was necessary, as I was, beside my knife for the
tobacco cutting, armed to the teeth and booted to my middle. But
there was no deceiving Mary Cavendish. She seized both my hands, and
I trow for the minute, in that brave maiden soul of hers, the
selfishness of our love passed as well as with me.

"I pray thee, Harry, cut down the tobacco on Laurel Creek first,"
she whispered, "as I would, were I a man. Oh! I would I were a man!
Harry, promise me that thou wilt cut down first the tobacco on my
plantation of Laurel Creek."

But I had made up my mind to touch neither that nor the tobacco on
Drake Hill, lest in some way the women of the Cavendish family be

"There be enough, and more than enough, for to-night," I answered,
and would have passed, but she would not let me.

"Harry," she cried, so loud that I feared for listening ears, "if
you cut not down my tobacco, then will I myself! Harry, promise me!"

No love nor fear for me was in her eyes as she looked at me, only
that enthusiasm for the cause of liberty, and I loved her better for
it, if that could be. A man or woman who is but a bond slave to love
and incapable of aught but the longing for it, is but a poor lover.

"I tell thee, Harry, cut down the plants on Laurel Creek!" she cried
again, and I answered to appease her, not daring violent
contradiction lest I rouse her to some desperate act, this wild,
young maid with Nathaniel Bacon's hair in the locket against her
heart, and as fiery blood as his in her veins, that it should come
in good time, but that I was under the leadership of others and not
my own.

"Then as soon as may be, Harry," she persisted, "for sure I should
die of shame were my plants standing and the others cut, and Harry,
sure it could not be at all, were it not for my fine gowns which the
'Golden Horn' brought over from England!"

With that she laughed, and stood aside to let me pass, but suddenly,
as I touched her in the narrow way, her mood changed, and the woman
in her came uppermost, though not to her shaking. But she caught
hold of my right arm with her two little hands and pressed her fair
cheek against my shoulder with that modest boldness of a maid when
she is assured of love, and whispered: "Harry, if the militia is
ordered out they say they will not fire, but--if thou be
wounded, Harry, 'tis I will nurse thee, and no other,
and--Harry, cut all the plants that thou art able, before they

Then she let me go, and I went forth thinking that here was a
helpmeet for a soldier in such times as these, and how I gloried in
her because she held her love as one with glory. Round to the stable
for my horse I stole, and it was very dark, with a soft smother of
darkness because of a heavy mist, and the moon not up, and I had
backed my horse out of his stall and was about to mount him, before
I was aware of a dark figure lurking in shadow, and made out by the
long sweep of the garments that it was a woman. I paused, and looked
intently into the shadow, where she stood so silently that she might
have deceived me had it not been for a flutter of her cloak in a
stray wind.

"Who goes there?" I called out softly, but I knew well enough. 'Tis
sometimes a stain on a man's manhood, the hatred he can bear to a
woman who is continually between him and his will, and his keen
apprehension of her as a sort of a cat under cover beside his path.
So I knew well enough it was Catherine Cavendish, and indeed I
marvelled that I had gotten thus far without meeting her. She
stepped forward with no more ado when I accosted her, and spoke, but
with great caution.

"What do you, Master Wingfield?" she whispered. "I go on my own
business, an it please you, Madam," I answered something curtly, and
I have since shamed myself with the memory of it, for she was a

"It pleases me not, nor my grandmother, that one of her household
should go forth on any errand of mystery at such a time as this,
when whispers have reached us of another insurrection," she replied.
"Master Wingfield, I demand to know, in the name of my Grandmother
Cavendish, the purpose of your riding forth in such fashion?"

"And that, Madam, I refuse to tell you," I replied, bowing low. "You
presume too greatly on your privileges," she burst out. "You think
because my grandmother holds you in such strange favour that she
seems to forget, to forget--"

"That I am a convict, Madam," I finished for her, with another low

"Finish it as you will, Master Wingfield," she said haughtily, "but
you think wrongly that she will countenance treason to the king in
her own household, and 'tis treason that is brewing tonight."

"Madam," I whispered, "if you love your grandmother and value her
safety, you will remain in ignorance of this."

Then she caught me by the arm, with such a nervous ardour that never
would I have known her for the Catherine Cavendish of late years.

"My God, Harry, you shall not go," she whispered. "I say you shall
not! I--I--will go to my grandmother. I will have the
militia out. Harry, I say you shall not go!"

But then my blood was up. "Madam," I said, "go I shall, and if you
acquaint your grandmother, 'twill be to her possible undoing, and
yours and your sister's, since the having one of the rioters in your
own household will lay you open to suspicion. Then besides, your
sister's bringing over of the arms may be traced to her if the
matter be agitated."

Then truly the feminine soul of this woman leapt to the surface with
no more ado.

"Oh, my God, Harry!" she cried out. "I care not for my grandmother,
nor my sister, nor the king, nor Nathaniel Bacon, nor aught, nor
aught--I fear, I fear--Oh, I fear lest thou be killed,

"Lest my dead body be brought home to thy door, and the accusation
of having furnished a traitor to the king be laid to thee, Madam?" I
said, for not one whit believed I in her love for me. But she only
sobbed in a distracted fashion.

"Fear not, Madam," I said, "if the militia be out, and I fall, it
will go hard that I die before I have time to forswear myself yet
again for the sake of thy family. But, I pray thee, keep to thyself
for the sake of all."

With that I was in my saddle and rode away, for I had lingered, I
feared, too long, and as God is my witness I had no faith that
Catherine Cavendish did more than assume such interest in me for her
own ends, for love, as I conceived it, was not thus.

I hastened on my way to Barry Upper Branch, where was the
rendezvous, and on my way had to pass the house where dwelt that
woman of strange repute, Margery Key, and it was naught but a
solidity of shadow beside the road except for a glimmer of white
from the breast of her cat in the doorway. But as I live, as I rode
past, a voice came from that house, though how she knew me in that
gloom I know not.

"Good speed to thee, Master Wingfield, and the fagots that thou
didst gather for the despised and poor shall turn into blessings,
like bars of silver. That which thou hast given, hast thou forever.
Go on and fear not, and strike for liberty, and no harm shall come
nigh thee." As she spoke I saw the bent back of the poor old crone
in the doorway beside her cat, and partly because of her blessing,
and partly because, as I said before, whether witch or not, she was
aged and feeble, and ill fitted for such work, I leapt from my
saddle and gathered her another armful of fagots, and laid them on
her hearth. I left the old soul shedding such tears of gratitude
over that slight service and calling down such childish blessings
upon my head that I began to have little doubt that she was no
witch, but only a poor and solitary old woman, which to my mind is
the forlornest state of humanity. How a man fares without those of
his own flesh and blood I can understand, since a man must needs
have some comfort in his own endurance of hardships, but what a
woman can do without chick or child, and no solace in her own
dependency, I know not. Verily I know not that such be to blame if
they turn to Satan himself for a protector, as they suspected
Margery Key of doing.

I rode away from Margery Key's, having been delayed but a moment,
and the quaver of her blessings was yet in my ears, when verily I
did see that which I have never understood. As I live, there passed
from the house of that ne'er-do-well next door, which was closed
tightly as if to assure folk that all therein were sound asleep, a
bright light like a torch, but no man carried it, and it crossed the
road and was away over the meadows, and no man whom I saw carried
it, and it waved in the wind like a torch streaming back, and I knew
it for a corpse candle. And that same night the man who dwelt in
that house was slain while pulling up the tobacco plants.

I rode fast, marvelling a little upon this strange sight, yet,
though marvelling, not afraid, for things that I understand not, and
that seem to savour of something outside the flesh, have always
rather aroused me to rage as of one who was approached by other than
the given rules of warfare rather than fear. I have always argued
that an apparition should attack only his own kind, and hath no
right to leave his own battlefield for ours, when we be at a
disadvantage by our lack of understanding as to weapons. So if I had
time I would have ridden after that corpse candle and gotten, if I
could, a sight of the bearer had he been fiend or spook, but I knew
that I had none to lose. So I rode on hard to Barry Upper Branch.

There was an air of mystery about the whole place that night, though
it were hard to see the use of it. Whereas, generally speaking,
there was a broad blazon of light from all the windows often to the
revealing of strange sights within, the shutters were closed, and
only by the lines of gold at top and bottom would one have known the
house was lit at all. And whereas there were always to be seen
horses standing openly before the porch, this night one knew there
were any about only by the sound of their distant stamping. And yet
this was the night when all mystery of plotting was to be resolved
into the wind of action.

I entered and found a great company assembled in the hall, and all
equipped with knives for the cutting of the tobacco plants, and
arms, for the militia, as was afterwards proved, was an uncertain
quantity. One minute the soldiers were for the government, when the
promises as to their pay were specious, and the next, when the pay
was not forthcoming, for the rioters, and there was no stability
either for the one cause or the other in them.

There was a hushed greeting from one or two who stood
nearest--Sir Humphrey Hyde among them--as I entered, then
the work went on. Major Robert Beverly it was who was taking the
lead of matters, though it was not fully known then or afterward,
but sure it can do no harm at this late date to divulge the truth,
for it was a glorious cause, and to the credit of a man's honour, if
not to his purse, and his standing with the government.

Major Beverly stood at the head of the hall with a roll of parchment
in his hand, wherefrom he read the names of those present, whom he
was dividing into parties for the purpose of the plant-cutting,
esteeming that the best plan to pursue rather than to march out
openly in a great mob. Thus the whole company there assembled was
divided into small parties, and each put under a leader, who was to
give directions as to the commencement of the work of destruction.

My party was headed by Capt. Noel Jaynes, something to my
discontent, for the hardest luck of choosing in the world to my mind
is that of choosing a leader, for the leader is in himself a very
gall-stone. Never had it pleased me to follow any man's bidding, and
in one way only could I comfort myself and retain my respect of
self, and that was by the consideration that I followed by my own
will, and so in one sense led myself.

When at last we set forth, some of us riding, and some on foot, with
that old pirate captain to the front hunched to his saddle, for he
never could sit a horse like a landsman, but clung to him as if he
were a swaying mast, and worked his bridle like a wheel with the
result of heavy lunges to right or left, I felt for the first time
since I had come to Virginia like my old self.

We hurried along the moonlit road, then struck into a bridle-path,
being bound for Major Robert Beverly's plantation, he being supposed
to know naught of it, and indeed after his issuing of orders he had
ridden to Jamestown, to see Sir Henry Chichely, and keep him quiet
with a game at piquet, which he much affected.

As we rode along in silence, if any man spoke, Captain Jaynes
quieted him with a great oath smothered in his chest, as if by a bed
of feathers, and presently I became aware that there were more of us
than when we started. We swarmed through the woods, our company
being swelled invisibly from every side, and not only men but women
were there. Both Mistress Allgood and Mistress Longman were pressing
on with their petticoats tucked up, and to my great surprise both of
the black women who lived at Barry Upper Branch. They slunk along
far to the rear, with knives gleaming like white fire at their
girdles, keeping well out of sight of the Barry brothers, who were
both of our party, and looking for all the world like two female
tigers of some savage jungle in search of prey, since both moved
with a curious powerful crouch of secrecy as to her back and hips,
and wary roll of fierce eyes.

When we were fairly in the open of Major Beverly's plantation some
few torches were lit, and then I saw that we were indeed a good
hundred strong, and of the party were that old graybeard who had
played Maid Marion on Mayday, and many of the Morris dancers, and
those lusty lads and lasses, and they had been at the cider this
time as at the other, but all had their wits at their service.

Not a light was in Major Beverly's great house, not a stir in the
slave quarters. One would have sworn they were all asleep or dead.
But Captain Jaynes called a halt, and divided us into rank and file
like a company of reapers, and to work we went on the great tobacco

I trow it seemed a shame, as it ever does, to invoke that terrible
force of the world which man controls, whether to his liberty or his
slavery 'tis the question, and bring destruction upon all that fair
inflorescence of life. But sometimes death and destruction are the
means to life and immortality. Those great fields of Major Robert
Beverly's lay before us in the full moonlight, overlapping with the
lusty breadth of the new leaves gleaming with silver dew, and upon
them we fell. We hacked and cut, we tore up by the roots. In a trice
we were bedlam loosened--that is, the ruder part of us. Some of
us worked with no less fury, but still with some sense of our own
dignity as destroyers over destruction. But the rabble who had
swelled our ranks were all on fire with rage, and wasted themselves
as well as the tobacco. They filled the air with shouts and wild
screams and peals of laughter. That fiercest joy of the world, the
joy of destruction, was upon them, and sure it must have been one of
the chiefest of the joys of primitive man, for all in a second it
was as if the centuries of civilisation and Christianity had gone
for naught, and the great gulf which lies back of us to the past had
been leapt. One had doubted it not, had he seen those old men
tearing up the tobacco plants, their mouths dribbling with a slow
mutter of curses, for they had drunk much cider, and being aged, and
none too well fed, it had more hold on them than on some of the
others; and to see the women lost to all sense of decency, with
their petticoats girded high on account of the dew, striding among
the plants with high flings of stalwart legs, then slashing right
and left with an uncertainty of fury which threatened not only
themselves but their neighbours as well as the tobacco, and
shrieking now and then, regardless of who might hear, "Down with the

Often one cut a finger, but went on with blood flowing, and their
hair begun to fly loose, and they smeared their faces with their cut
hands, and as for the two black women, they pounced upon those green
plants with fierce swashes of their gleaming knives, and though they
could have sensed little about the true reason for it all, worked
with a fury of savagery which needed no motive only its first
impetus of motion.

Captain Jaynes rode hither and thither striving to keep the mob in
order, and enjoining silence upon them, and now and then lashing out
with his long riding whip, but he had set forces in motion which he
could not stop. Fire and flood and wind and the passions of men,
whether for love or rage, are beyond the leading of them who invoke
them, being the instruments of the gods.

Sir Humphrey Hyde, who was beside me, slashing away at the plants,
whispered: "My God, Harry, how far will this fire which we have
kindled spread?" but not in fear so much as amazement.

And I, bringing down a great ring of the green leaves, replied, and
felt as I spoke as if some other than I had my tongue and my voice:

"Maybe in the end, before it hath quite died out, to the destroying
of tyranny and monarchy, and the clearing of the fields for a new
government of equality and freedom."

But Sir Humphrey stared at me.

"Sure," he said, "it can do no more than to force the king to see
that his colony hath grown from infancy to manhood, and hath an arm
to be respected, and compel him to repeal the Navigation Act. What
else, Harry?"

Then I, speaking again as if some other moved my tongue, replied
that none could say what matter a little fire kindleth, but those
that came after us might know the result of that which we that night

But Sir Humphrey shook his head.

"If but Nat Bacon were alive!" he sighed. "No leader have we, Harry.
Oh, Harry, if thou wert not a convict! Captain Jaynes is sure out of
his element in defending the rights of the oppressed, and should be
on his own quarter-deck with his cutlass in hand and his
rapscallions around him, slaying and robbing, to be in full feather.
Naught can he do here. Lord, hear those women shriek! Why did they
let women come hither, Harry? Sure Nick Barry is in his cups. Not
thus would matters have been were Bacon alive. The women would have
been at home in their beds, and no man in liquor at work, for I
trust not the militia. Would Captain Bacon were alive, as he would
have been, had he not been foully done to death."

This he said believing, as did many, that Bacon's death was due to
treachery and not fever, nor, as many of his enemies affirmed, from
over-indulgence in strong spirits, and I must say that I,
remembering Bacon's greatness of enthusiasm and fixedness of
purpose, was of the same belief.

As he spoke I seemed to see that dead hero as he would have looked
in our midst with the moonlight shining on the stern whiteness of
his face, and that look of high command in his eyes which none dared
gainsay. And I answered again and again, as with an impulse not my
own, "And maybe Bacon in truth leads us still, if not by his own
chosen ways, to his own ends."

"Truly, Harry," Sir Humphrey agreed, "had it not been for Bacon, I
doubt if we had been at this night's work."

All the time we talked, we advanced in our slashing swath up the
field, and all the time that chorus of wild laughter and shrieks of
disloyalty kept time with the swash of the knives, and all the time
rose Captain Jaynes' storm of fruitless curses and commands, and now
and then the stinging lash of his riding whip, and also Dick
Barry's. As for Nick Barry, he lay overcome with sleep on a heap of
the cut tobacco.

And all the time not a light shone in any of Major Robert Beverly's
windows, and the slave quarters were as still as the tomb.

The store of ammunition in the tomb had been secretly removed and
portioned out to the plant-cutters at nightfall.

It was no slight task for even a hundred to cut such a wealth of
tobacco as Major Robert Beverly had planted, work as fast as they
might, and proceed over the fields in a fierce crawl of destruction,
like an army of locusts, and finally they begun to wax impatient.
And finally up rose that termagant, Mistress Longman, straightening
her back with a spring as if it were whalebone, showing us her face
shameless with rage, and stained green with tobacco juice, and here
and there red with blood, for she had slashed ruthlessly. She flung
back her coarse tangle of hair, threw up her arms with a wild
hurrahing motion, and screamed out in such a volume of shrillness
that she overcapped all the rest of the tumult:

"To the stables, to the stables! Let out Major Beverly's horses, and
let them trample down the tobacco."

Then such a cry echoed her that I trow it might have proceeded from
a thousand throats instead of one hundred odd, and in spite of all
that Captain Jaynes could do, seconded by some few of us gentlemen
who rallied about him, but were helpless since we could not fire
upon our coadjutors, that mob swept into Beverly's stables, and
presently out leapt, plunging with terror, all his fine
thoroughbreds, the mob riding them about the fields in wild career.
And one of the maddest of the riders, sitting astride and flogging
her steed with a locust branch, was Mistress Longman, while her
husband vainly fled after her, beseeching her to stop, and those
around were roaring with laughter.

Then some must let out the major's hogs, and they came rooting and
tumbling with unwieldy gambols. And with this wild troop of animals,
and the mob shrieking in a frenzy of delight, and now and then a
woman in terror before the onslaught of a galloping horse, and now
and then a whole group of cutters overset by a charging hog, and up
and after him, and slaying him, and his squeals of agony, verily I
had preferred a battlefield of a different sort. And all this time
Major Robert Beverly's house stood still in the moonlight, and not a
noise from the slave quarters, and the fields were all in a pumice
of wasted plant life, and we were about to go farther when I heard
again the cry of the little child coming from a chamber window. I
trow they had given her some quieting potion or she had broken
silence before.

With all our efforts the mob could not be persuaded to return Major
Beverly's horses to his stables, which circumstance was afterward to
the saving of his neck, since it was argued that he would not have
abetted the using of his fine stud in such wise, some of the horses
being recovered and some being lamed and cut.

So out of the Beverly plantation we swept; those on horseback at a
gallop and those on foot tramping after, and above the tumult came
that farthest-reaching cry of the world--the cry of a little
child frantic with terror.

Then they were for going to another large plantation belonging to
one Richard Forster, who had gone in Ralph Drake's party, when all
of a sudden the horses of us who were leading swerved aside, and
there was Mistress Mary Cavendish on her Merry Roger, and by her
side, pulling vainly at her bridle, her sister Catherine.


Mary Cavendish raised her voice high until it seemed to me like a
silver trumpet, and cried out with a wave of her white arm to them
all: "On to Laurel Creek, I pray you! Oh, I pray you, good people,
on to Laurel Creek, and cut down my tobacco for the sake of Virginia
and the honour of the Colony."

It needed but a puff of any wind of human will to send that fiery
mob leaping in a new direction. Straightway, they shouted with one
accord: "To Laurel Creek, to Laurel Creek! Down with the tobacco,
down with the governor, down with the king! To Laurel Creek!" and
forged ahead, turning to the left instead of the right, as had been
ordered, and Mary was swept along with them, and Catherine would
have been crushed, had not a horseman, whom I did not recognise,
caught her up on the saddle with him with a wonderful swing of a
long, lithe arm, and then galloped after, and as for myself and
Captain Jaynes, and Sir Humphrey, and others of the burgesses, whom
I had best not call by name, we went too, since we might as well
have tried to hold the current of the James River, as that headlong

But as soon as might be, I shouted out to Sir Humphrey above the din
that our first duty must be to save Mary and Catherine. And he
answered back in a hoarse shout, "Oh, for God's sake, ride fast,
Harry, for should the militia come, what would happen to them?"

But I needed no urging. I know not whom I rode down, I trust not
any, but I know not; I got before them all in some wise, Sir
Humphrey following close behind, and Ralph Drake also, swearing that
he knew not what possessed the jades to meddle in such matters, and
shouting to the rabble to stop, but he might as well have shouted to
the wind. And by that time there were more than a hundred of us,
though whence they had come, I know not.

We gentlemen kept together in some wise, and gradually gained on
Mary, who had had the start, and there were some seven of us, one of
the Barrys, Sir Humphrey Hyde, Ralph Drake, Parson Downs, in such
guise for a parson that no one would have known him, booted and
spurred, and riding harder than any by virtue of his best horse in
the Colony, myself, and two of the burgesses. We seven gaining on
the rabble, in spite of the fact that many of them were mounted upon
Major Robert Beverly's best horses, through their having less
knowledge of horsemanship, closed around Mary Cavendish on Merry
Roger, clearing the ground with long galloping bounds, and Catherine
with the strange horseman was somewhat behind.

As we came up with Mary, she looked at us over her shoulder with a
brightness of triumph and withal something of merriment, like a
child successful in mischief, and laughed, and waved her hand in
which, as I live, she held a sword which had long graced the hall at
Drake Hill, and I believe she meditated cutting the tobacco herself.

Then a great cheer went up for her, in which we, in spite of our
misgivings, joined. Something so wonderful and innocent there was in
the fresh enthusiasm of the maid. Then again her sweet voice rang

"Down with the tobacco, gentlemen of Virginia, and down with all
tyranny. Remember Nathaniel Bacon, remember Nathaniel Bacon!"

Then we all caught up that last cry of hers, and the air rang with
"Remember Nathaniel Bacon!"

But as soon as might be, I rode close enough to speak with Mary
Cavendish, and Sir Humphrey, who was on the other side, each with
our jealousy lost sight of, in our concern for her.

"Child, thou must turn and go home," I said, and I fear my voice
lost its firmness, for I was half mad with admiration, and love, and
apprehension for her.

Then Sir Humphrey echoed me.

"The militia will be upon us presently," he shouted in her ear above
the din. "Ride home as fast as you may."

She looked from one to the other of us, and laughed gayly and shook
her head, and her golden curls flew to the wind, and she touched
Merry Roger with her whip and he bounded ahead, and we had all we
could do to keep pace, he being fresh. Then Parson Downs pelted to
her side and besought her to turn, and so did Captain Jaynes, though
he was half laughing with delight at her spirit, and his bright eyes
viewed her in such wise that I could scarce keep my fingers from his
throat. But Mary Cavendish would hear to none, and no way there was
of turning her, lest we dragged her from her saddle.

Again I rode close and spoke so that no one beside her could hear.

"Go home, I pray you, if you love me," I said.

But she looked at me with a proud defiance, and such a spirit of a
man that I marvelled at her.

"'Tis no time to talk of love, sir," said she. "When a people strike
for liberty, they stop not for honey nor kisses."

Then she cried again, "Remember Nathaniel Bacon!" And again that
wild shout echoed her silver voice.

But then I spoke again, catching her bridle rein as I rode.

"Then go, if not because you love me, because I love thee," I said
close to her ear with her golden hair blowing athwart my face.

"I obey not the man who loves me, but the man who weds me, and that
you will not do, because you hold your pride dearer than love," said

"Nay, because I hold thee dearer than my love," said I.

"'Tis a false principle you act upon, and love is before all else,
even that which may harm it, and thou knowest not the heart of a

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