PRISONERS OF HOPE
A Tale of Colonial Virginia
AUTHOR OF "TO HAVE AND TO HOLD," "AUDREY," ETC.
GROSSET & DUNLAP
COPYRIGHT, 1898, BY MARY JOHNSTON
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY NINTH THOUSAND
TO MY FATHER
I. A SLOOP COMES IN 1 II. ITS CARGO 15 III. A COLONIAL DINNER PARTY 27 IV. THE BREAKING HEART 40 V. IN THE THREE-MILE FIELD 50 VI. THE HUT ON THE MARSH 60 VII. A MENDER OF NETS 71 VIII. THE NEW SECRETARY 86 IX. AN INTERRUPTED WOOING 91 X. LANDLESS PAYS THE PIPER 100 XI. LANDLESS BECOMES A CONSPIRATOR 108 XII. A DARK DEED 117 XIII. IN THE TOBACCO HOUSE 129 XIV. A MIDNIGHT EXPEDITION 137 XV. THE WATERS OF CHESAPEAKE 150 XVI. THE FACE IN THE DARK 162 XVII. LANDLESS AND PATRICIA 173 XVIII. A CAPTURE 185 XIX. THE LIBRARY OF THE SURVEYOR-GENERAL 193 XX. WHEREIN THE PEACE PIPE IS SMOKED 205 XXI. THE DUEL 219 XXII. THE TOBACCO HOUSE AGAIN 226 XXIII. THE QUESTION 239 XXIV. A MESSAGE 247 XXV. THE ROAD TO PARADISE 252 XXVI. NIGHT 267 XXVII. MORNING 273 XXVIII. BREAD CAST UPON THE WATERS 282 XXIX. THE BRIDGE OF ROCK 295 XXX. THE BACKWARD TRACK 306 XXXI. THE HUT IN THE CLEARING 315 XXXII. ATTACK 326 XXXIII. THE FALL OF THE LEAF 335 XXXIV. AN ACCIDENT 343 XXXV. THE BOAT THAT WAS NOT 349 XXXVI. THE LAST FIGHT 357 XXXVII. VALE 369
PRISONERS OF HOPE
A SLOOP COMES IN
"She will reach the wharf in half an hour."
The speaker shaded her eyes with a great fan of carved ivory and painted silk. They were beautiful eyes; large, brown, perfect in shape and expression, and set in a lovely, imperious, laughing face. The divinity to whom they belonged was clad in a gown of green dimity, flowered with pink roses, and trimmed about the neck and half sleeves with a fall of yellow lace. The gown was made according to the latest Paris mode, as described in a year-old letter from the court of Charles the Second, and its wearer gazed from under her fan towards the waters of the great bay of Chesapeake, in his Majesty's most loyal and well beloved dominion of Virginia.
The object of her attention was a large sloop that had left the bay and was sailing up a wide inlet or creek that pierced the land, cork-screw fashion, until it vanished from sight amidst innumerable green marshes. The channel, indicated by a deeper blue in the midst of an expanse of shoal water, was narrow, and wound like a gleaming snake in and out among the interminable succession of marsh islets. The vessel, following its curves, tacked continually, its great sail intensely white against the blue of inlet, bay and sky, and the shadeless green of the marshes, zigzagging from side to side with provoking leisureliness. The girl who had spoken watched it eagerly, a color in her cheeks, and one little foot in its square-toed, rosetted shoe tapping impatiently upon the floor of the wide porch in which she stood.
Her companion, lounging upon the wooden steps, with his back to a pillar, looked up with an amused light in his blue eyes.
"Why are you so eager, cousin?" he drawled. "You cannot be pining for your father when 'tis scarce five days since he went to Jamestown. Do the Virginia ladies watch for the arrival of a new batch of slaves with such impatience?"
"The slaves! No, indeed! But, sir, in that boat there are three cases from England."
"Ah, that accounts for it! And what may these wonderful cases contain?"
"One contains the dress in which I shall dance with you at the party at Green Spring which the governor is to give in your honor—if you ask me, sir. Oh, I take it for granted that you will, so spare us your protestations. 'Tis to have a petticoat of blue tabby and an overdress of white satin trimmed with yards and yards of Venice point. The stockings are blue silk, and come from the French house in Covent Garden, as doth the scarf of striped gauze and the shoes, gallooned with silver. Then there are my combs, gloves, a laced waistcoat, a red satin bodice, a scarlet taffetas mantle, a plumed hat, a pair of clasped garters, a riding mask, a string of pearls, and the latest romances."
"A pretty list! Is that all?"
"There are things for aunt Lettice, petticoats and ribbons, a gilt stomacher and a China monster, and for my father, lace ruffles and bands, a pair of French laced boots, a periwig, a new scabbard for his rapier, and so on."
The young man laughed. "'Tis a curious life you Virginians lead," he said. "The embroidered suits and ruffles, the cosmetics and perfumes of Whitehall in the midst of oyster beds and tobacco fields, savage Indians and negro slaves."
The girl put on a charming look of mock offense. "We are a little bit of England set down here in the wilderness. Why should we not clothe ourselves like gentlefolk as well as our kindred and friends at home? And sure both England and Virginia have had enough of sad colored raiment. Better go like a peacock than like a horrid Roundhead."
Her companion laughed musically and sang a stave of a cavalier love song. He was a slender, well-made man, dressed in the extreme of the mode of the year of grace sixteen hundred and sixty-three, in a richly laced suit of camlet with points of blue ribbon, and the great scented periwig then newly come into fashion. The close curled rings of hair descending far over his cravat of finest Holland framed a handsome, lazily insolent face, with large steel-blue eyes and beautifully cut, mocking lips. A rapier with a jeweled hilt hung at his side, and one white hand, half buried in snowy ruffles, held a beribboned cane with which, as he talked, he ruthlessly decapitated the pink and white morning-glories with which the porch was trellised.
The house to which the porch belonged was long and low, built of wood, with many small windows, and at either end a great brick chimney. From the porch to the water, a hundred yards away, stretched a walk of crushed shells bisecting an expanse of green turf dotted with noble trees—the cedar and the cypress predominating. Diverging from this central walk were two narrower paths which, winding in and out in eccentric figures, led, on the one hand, to a rustic summer-house overgrown with honeysuckle and trumpet-vine, and on the other to a tiny grotto constructed of shells and set in a tangle of periwinkle. Along one side of the house, and protected by a stout locust paling overrun with grape-vines, lay the garden, where flowers and vegetables flourished contentedly side by side, the hollyhocks and tall white lilies, the hundred-leaved roses and scarlet poppies showing like gilded officers amidst the rank and file of sober esculents. Behind the house were clustered various offices, then came an orchard where the June apples and the great red cherries were ripening in the hot sunshine, then on the shore of a second and narrower creek rose the quarters for the plantation servants, white and black—a long double row of cabins, dominated by the overseer's house and shaded by ragged yellow pines. Along one shore of this inlet was planted the Indian corn prescribed by law, and from the other gleamed the soft yellow of ripening wheat, but beyond the water and away to the westward stretched acre after acre of tobacco, a sea of vivid green, broken only by an occasional shed or drying house, and merging at last into the darker hue of the forest. Over all the fair scene, the flashing water, the velvet marshes, the smiling fields, the fringe of dark and mysterious woodland, hung a Virginia heaven, a cloudless blue, soft, pure, intense. The air was full of subdued sound—the distant hum of voices from the fields of maize and tobacco, the faint clink of iron from the smithy, the wash and lap of the water, the drone of bees from the hives beneath the eaves of the house. Great bronze butterflies fluttered in the sunshine, brilliant humming-birds plunged deep into the long trumpet-flowers; from the topmost bough of a locust, heavy with bloom, came the liquid trill of a mock-bird.
It was a fair domain, and a wealthy. The Englishman thought of certain appalling sums lost to Sedley and Roscommon, and there flitted through his brain a swift little calculation as to the number of hogsheads of Orenoko or sweet-scented it would take to wipe off the score. And the girl beside him was beautiful enough to take Whitehall by storm, to be berhymed by Waller, and to give to Lely a subject above all flattery. He set his lips with the air of a man who has made up his mind, and turned to his companion, who was absorbed in watching the white sail grow slowly larger.
"How long, now, cousin?"
"But a few minutes unless the wind should fail."
"And then you will have your treasures. But, madam, when you have assumed all the panoply your sex relies on to increase its charms 'twill be but to 'gild refined gold or paint the lily.' The Aphrodite of this western ocean needs no adornment."
The girl looked at him with laughter in her eyes. "You make me too many pretty speeches, cousin," she said demurely. "We know the value of the fine things you court gallants are perpetually saying."
"Upon my soul, madam, I swear—"
"Do you know the amount of the fine for swearing, Sir Charles? See how large the sail has grown! When the boat rounds the long marsh she will come more quickly. We will soon be able to see my father wave his handkerchief."
The young man bit his lip. "You are pleased to be cruel to-day, madam, but I am your slave and I obey. We will look together for Colonel Verney's handkerchief. How many black slaves does he bring you?"
She laughed. "But half a dozen blacks, but there will be several redemptioners if you prefer to be numbered with them."
"Redemptioners! Ah, yes! the English servants who are sold for their passage money. I thank you, madam, but my servitude is for life."
"The men my father will bring may not be the ordinary servants who come here to better their condition. He may have obtained them from a batch of felons from Newgate who have been kept in gaol in Jamestown until word could be got to the planters around. I am sure I wish the ship captains and the traders would stop bringing in the wretches. It is different with the negroes: we can make allowance for the poor silly things that are scarce more than animals, and they grow attached to us and we to them, and the simple indented servants are well enough too. There are among them many honest and intelligent men. But these gaol birds are dreadful. It sickens me to look at them. Thieves and murderers every one!"
"I should not think the colony served by their importation."
"It is not indeed, and we have hopes that it will cease. I beg my father not to buy them, but he says that one man cannot stop an abuse—that as long as his fellow-planters use them he might as well do so too."
Sir Charles Carew delicately smothered a yawn. "The ship that brought me over a fortnight ago," he said lazily, "had a consignment of such rascals. It was amusing to watch their antics, crowded together as they were in the hold. There were two wild Irishmen whom we used to have on deck to dance for us. Gad! what figures they cut! The captain and I had a standing wager of five of the new guineas as to which of the rascals could hold out longest, promising a measure of rum to the victorious votary of Terpsichore. When I had lost a score of guineas I found that the captain was in the habit of priming his man before he came upon deck. Naturally, being filled with Dutch courage, he won."
"Poor Sir Charles! What did you do?"
"Sent the captain a cartel and fought him on his own deck. There was one man in the villainous company whom, I protest, I almost pitied, though of course the rogue had but his deserts."
"What was he?"
"A man of about thirty. A fellow with a handsome face and a lithe well-made figure which he managed with some grace. He had the air of one who had seen better days. I remember, one day when the captain was bestowing upon him some especially choice oaths, seeing him clap his hand to his side as though he expected to touch a rapier hilt. He was cleanly too; kept his rags of clothing as decent as circumstances allowed, and looked less like a wild beast in a litter of foul straw than did his fellows. But he was an ill-conditioned dog. We had some passages together, he and I. He took it upon himself to defend what he was pleased to call the honor of one of his precious company. It was vastly amusing.... After that I fell into the habit of watching him through the open hatches. A little thing provides entertainment at sea, Mistress Patricia. He would sit or stand for hours looking past me with a perfectly still face. The other wretches were quick to crowd up, whining to me to pitch them half pence or tobacco, but try as I would, I could not get word or look from him. Sink me! if he didn't have the impudence to resent my being there!"
"It was cruel to stare at misery."
"Lard, madam! such vermin are used to being stared at. In London, Newgate and Bridewell are theatres as well as the Cockpit or the King's House, and the world of mode flock to the one spectacle as often as to the other. But see! the sloop has passed the marsh and has a clean sweep of water between her and the wharf."
"Yes, she is coming fast now."
"What is coming?" asked a voice from the doorway.
"The Flying Patty, Aunt Lettice," the girl answered over her shoulder. "Get your hood and come with us to the wharf."
Mistress Lettice Verney emerged from the hall, two red spots burning in her withered cheeks, and her tall thin figure quivering with excitement.
"I am all ready, child," she quavered. "But, mark my words, Patricia, there will be something wrong with my paduasoy petticoat, or Charette will not have sent the proper tale of green stockings or Holland smocks. Did you not hear the screech owl last night?"
"No, Aunt Lettice."
"It remained beneath my window the entire night. I did not sleep a wink. And this morning Chloe upset the salt cellar, and the salt fell towards me." Mistress Lettice rolled her eyes heavenward and sighed lugubriously. Patricia laughed.
"I dreamed of flowers last night, Aunt Lettice; miles and miles of them, waxen and cold and sweet, like those they strew over the dead."
Mistress Lettice groaned. "'Tis a dreadful sign. Captain Norton's wife (she that was Polly Wilson) dreamed of flowers the night before the massacre of 'forty-four. The only thing the poor soul said when the war-whoop wakened them in the dead of the night and the door came crashing in, was, 'I told you so.' They were her last words. Then Martha Westall dreamed of flowers, and two days later her son James stepped on a stingray over at Dale's Gift. And I myself dreamed of roses the week before those horrid Roundhead commissioners with the rebel Claiborne at their head and a whole fleet at their back, compelled us to surrender to their odious Commonwealth."
"At least that evil is past," said the girl with a gay laugh. "And ill fortune will never come to me aboard the Flying Patty, so I shall go down to the wharf to see her in. Darkeih! my scarf!"
A negress appeared in the doorway with a veil of tissue in her hand. Sir Charles took it from her and flung it over Patricia's golden head, then offered his arm to Mistress Lettice.
The wharf was but a stone's throw from the wooden gates, and they were soon treading the long stretch of gray, weather-beaten boards. Others were before them, for the news that the sloop was coming in had drawn a small crowd to the wharf to welcome the master.
The dozen or so of boatmen, white and black, who had been tinkering about in the various barges, shallops and canoes tied to the mossy piles, left their employments and scrambled up upon the platform, and a trio of youthful darkies, fishing for crabs with a string and a piece of salt pork, allowed their lines to fall slack and their intended victims to walk coolly off with the meat, so intense was their interest in the oncoming sail. A knot of negro women had left the great house kitchen and stood, hands on hips, chatting volubly with a contingent from the quarters, their red and yellow turbans nodding up and down like grotesque Dutch tulips. The company was made up by an overseer with a broadleafed palmetto hat pulled down over his eyes and a clay pipe stuck between his teeth, a pale young man who acted as secretary to the master of the plantation, and by three or four small land-owners and tenants for whom Colonel Verney had graciously undertaken various commissions in Jamestown, and who were on hand to make their acknowledgments to the great man.
They all made deferential way for the two ladies and Sir Charles Carew. Mistress Lettice commenced a condescending conversation with one of the tenants, Darkeih added a white tulip to the red and yellow ones, and Patricia, followed by Sir Charles, walked to the edge of the wharf, and leaning upon the rude railing looked down the glassy reaches of the water to the approaching boat.
The wind had sunk into a fitful breeze and the white sail moved very slowly. The tide was in, and the water lapped with a cooling sound against the dark green piles. In the distance the blue of the bay melted into the blue of the sky, while the nearer waters mirrored every passing gull, the masts of the fishing boats, the tall marsh grass, the dead twigs marking oyster beds—each object had its double. On a point of marshy ground stood a line of cranes, motionless as soldiers on parade, until, taking fright as the great sail glided past, they whirred off, uttering discordant cries and with their legs sticking out like tail feathers. Slowly, and keeping to the middle of the channel, the boat came on. Upon the long low deck men were preparing to lower the sail, and a portly gentleman standing in the bow was vigorously waving his handkerchief. The sail came down with a rush, the anchor swung overboard, and half a dozen canoes and dugouts shot from under the shadow of the wharf and across the strip of water between it and the sloop. The gentleman with the handkerchief, followed by a man plainly dressed in brown, sprang into the foremost; the others waited for their lading of merchandise.
Before the boat had touched the steps the master of the plantation began to call out greetings to his expectant family.
"Patricia, my darling, are you in health? Charles, I am happy to see you again! Sister Lettice, Mr. Frederick Jones sends you his humble services."
"La, brother! and how is the dear man?" screamed Mistress Lettice.
"As well as 'tis in nature to be, with his heart at Verney Manor and his body at Flowerdieu Hundred."
The boat jarred against the piles and the planter stepped out, grasping Sir Charles's extended hand.
"Again, I am happy to see you, Charles," he cried in a round and jovial voice. "I have been telling my up-river good friends that I have the most topping fellow in all London for my guest, and you will have company enough anon."
Sir Charles smiled and bowed. "I hope, sir, that you were successful in the business that took you to Jamestown?"
"Fairly so, fairly so. Haines here," with a wave of the hand towards the man in brown, "had a lot picked out for me to choose from. I have six negroes and three of those blackguards from Newgate—mighty poor policy to shoulder ourselves with such gaol sweepings. I doubt we'll repent it some day. The blacks come by way of Boston, which means that they will have to be cockered up considerably before they are fit for work. Is that you, Woodson? How have things gone on?"
The overseer took his pipe from between his teeth and made an awkward bow.
"Glad to see your Honor back," he said deferentially. "Everything's all right, sir. The last rain helped the corn amazingly, and the tobacco's prime. The lightning struck a shed, but we got the flames out before they reached the hogsheads. The Nancy got caught in a squall; lost both masts and ran aground on Gull Marsh. The tide will take her off at the full of the moon. Sambo 's been playing 'possum again. Said he'd cut his foot with his hoe so badly that he couldn't stand upon it. Said I could see that by the blood on the rag that tied it up. I made him take off the rag and wash the foot, and there wa'n't no cut there. The blood was puccoon. If he'd waited a bit he could 'a' had all he wanted to paint with, for I gave him the rope's end, lively, until Mistress Patricia heard him yelling and made me stop."
"All right, Woodson. I reckon the plantation knows by this time that what Mistress Patricia says is law. Here come the boats with the boxes. Tell the men to be careful how they handle them."
After a hearty word or two to tenants and land owners the worthy Colonel joined his daughter and sister; and together with Sir Charles Carew they watched the precious boxes conveyed up the slippery steps, the overseer shouting directions, plentifully sprinkled with selected, unfinable oaths to the panting boatmen. When all were safely piled upon the wharf ready to be wheeled to the great house, the empty boats swung off to make room for others, laden with the colonel's Jamestown purchases.
One by one the articles climbed the stairs, each as it reached the level being claimed by the overseer and told off into a lengthening line. Six were negroes, gaunt and hollow-eyed, but smiling widely. They gazed around them, at the heap of clams and oysters piled upon the wharf, at the marshes, alive with wild fowl, at the distant green of waving corn, the flower-embowered great house, the white quarters from which arose many little spirals of savory smoke, and a bland and childlike content took possession of their souls. With eager and obsequious "Yes, Mas'rs" they obeyed the overseer's objurgatory indications as to their disposition.
There next arose above the landing the head of a white man—a countenance of sullen ferocity, with a great scar running across it, and framed in elf locks of staring red. The body belonging to this prepossessing face was swollen and unshapely, and its owner moved with a limp and a muttered curse towards the place assigned him. He was followed by a sallow-faced, long-nosed man, with black oily hair and an affected smirk which twitched the corners of his thin lips. Singling out his master's family with a furtive glance from a pair of sinister greenish eyes, he made a low bow and stepped jauntily into line.
The third man rose above the landing. Sir Charles, standing by Patricia, laughed.
"This world is a place of fantastic meetings, cousin," he said, airily. "Now who would suppose that I would ever again see that chipping from a London gaol I told you of—my shipmate of cleanly habit and unsocial nature. Yet there he is."
The afternoon sunshine lay hot upon the house and garden of Verney Manor—the leaves drooped motionless, the glare of the white paths hurt the eye, the flowers seemed all to be red. The odor of rose and honeysuckle was drowned in the heavy cloying sweetness of the pendant masses of locust bloom. Down in the garden the bees droned in the vines, and on the steps the flies buzzed undisturbed about the sleeping hounds. Above the long, deserted wharf and the green velvet of the marshes quivered the heated air, while to look upon the water was like gazing too closely at blue flame. From the tobacco fields floated the notes of a monotonous many-versed chant, and a soft, uninterrupted cooing came from the dove cot. Heat and fragrance and drowsy sound combined to give a pleasant somnolence to the wide sunny scene.
Deep in the cavernous shade of the porch lounged the master of the plantation, his body in one chair, his legs in another, and a silver tankard of sack standing upon a third, over the back of which had been flung his great peruke and his riding coat of green cloth, discarded because of the heat. Thin, blue clouds curled up from his long pipe, and obscured his ruddy countenance.
His shrewd gray eyes under their tufts of grizzled hair were half closed in a lazy contentment, born of the hour, the pipe, and the drink. The world went very well just then in Colonel Verney's estimation. His crop of the preceding year had been a large and profitable one; this year it bid fair to be still more satisfactory. During the past few months he had acquired a number of servants and slaves, and his head rights would add a goodly number of acres to his already enormous holdings; land, land, always more land! being the ambition and the necessity of the seventeenth century Virginia planter. Trader, planter, magistrate, member of the council of state, soldier, author on occasion, and fine gentleman all rolled into one, after the fashion of the times; Cavalier of the Cavaliers, hand in glove with Governor Berkeley, and possessed of a beautiful daughter, for whose favor one half of the young gentlemen of the counties of York and Gloucester were ready to draw rapier on the other half,—Colonel Verney's world was a fair and stirring one, and gave him plentiful food for meditation on a fine afternoon.
Opposite him sat his kinsman and guest, Sir Charles Carew. He was similarly equipped with pipe and sack, but there the resemblance to his host ended, Sir Charles Carew being a man who made it a point of honor to be clad like the lilies of the field on every possible occasion in life, from the carrying a breach to the ogling a milkmaid. The sultry afternoon had no power to affect the scrupulous elegance of his attire, or to alter the careful repose of his manner. In his hand he held a volume of "Hudibras," but his thoughts were not upon the book, wandering instead, with those of his kinsman, over the fertile fields of Verney Manor.
"You have a princely estate, sir, in this fair, new world," he said at last, in a sweetly languid voice.
The planter roused himself from considering at what point of his newly acquired land he should begin the attack upon the forest. "It's a fair enough home for a man to end his days in," he said with complacence.
"We of the court have very erroneous ideas as to Virginia. I confess that my expectation of finding a courteous and loving kinsman," a gracious smile and inclination of the head towards the older man, "is the only one in which I have not been disappointed. I thought to see a rude wilderness, and I find, to borrow the language of our Roundhead friends, a very land of Beulah."
"Ay, ay. D' ye remember what old Drayton sings?
'Virginia! Earth's only paradise!'
And a paradise it is, with mighty few drawbacks, now that the King has come to his own again, if you except these d—d canting Quakers and Anabaptists, and those yelling red devils on the frontier, and the danger of a servant insurrection, and the fact that his Majesty (God bless him!) and the Privy Council fleece us more mercilessly than did old Noll himself. I verily think they believe our tobacco plants made of gold like those they say Pizarro saw in Peru. But 'tis a sweet land! Why, look around you!" he cried, warming to his subject. "The waters swarm with fish, the marshes with wild fowl. In the winter the air rings with the cohonk! cohonk! of the wild geese. They darken the air when they come and go. There in the forest stand the deer, waiting for your bullet; badgers and foxes, bears, wolves, and catamounts are more plentiful than are hares in England. You taste pleasure indeed when you ride full tilt through the frosty moonlight, down the ringing glades of the forest, and hear the hounds in full cry, and see before you, black against the silver snow, a pack of yelling wolves. Then in summer the woods are full of singing birds and of such flowers as you in England only dream of. Strawberries make the ground red, and there are wild melons and grapes and mulberries, and more nuts than squirrels, which is saying much for the nuts. Everything grows here. 'Tis the garden of the world. And what is there fairer than the green of the tobacco and the golden corn tassels? And the noble rivers, whose head waters no man has ever found, hidden by the Lord in the Blue Mountains near to the South Sea! Sir, Virginia is God's country!"
"You in these lowlands have no trouble with the Indians?"
"None to speak of since 'forty-four, when Opechancanough came down upon us. The brush with the Ricahecrians seven years ago was nothing. They are utterly broken, both here and in Accomac. Further up the rivers the devil still holds his own, we hearing doleful tales of the butchery of pioneers with their wives and children; and above the falls of the far west, in the Monacan country, and towards the Blue Mountains, is his stronghold and capitol; but here in the lowlands all's safe enough. There is no fear of the savages. Would we could say as much of the servants!"
"Why, what do you fear from them?"
"It's hard to say; but an uneasy feeling has prevailed for a year or more. It's this d—d Oliverian element among them. You see, ever since his Majesty's blessed restoration, gang after gang of rebels have been sent us—Independents, Muggletonians, Fifth Monarchy men, dour Scotch Whigamores—dangerous fanatics all! Many are Naseby or Worcester rogues, Ironsides who worship the memory of that devil's lieutenant, Oliver. All have the gift of the gab. We disperse them as much as possible, not allowing above five or six to any one plantation, we of the Council realizing that they form a dangerous leaven. Should there be trouble, which heaven forbid! they would be the instigators, restless mischief-makers and overturners of the established order of things that they are! Then there are their fellow criminals, the highwaymen, forgers, cutpurses and bullies of whom we relieve his Majesty's government. They are few in number, but each is a very plague spot, infecting honester men. The slaves, always excepting the Portuguese and Spanish mulattoes from the Indies, who are devils incarnate, have not brain enough to conspire. But in the actual event of a rising they would be fiends unchained."
"A pleasant state of affairs!"
"Oh, it is not so serious! We who govern the Colony have to take all possibilities, however unpleasant, into consideration. I myself do not think the danger imminent, and many in the Council and among the Burgesses, and well-nigh all outside will not allow that there is danger at all. We passed more stringent servant laws last year, and we depend upon them, and upon the great body of indented servants, who are, for the most part, honest and amenable and know upon which side their bread is buttered, to repress the unruly element."
"What will you do with the convicts you brought with you this morning?"
"Use them in the tobacco fields just now when all hands are needed to weed and sucker the plants, and afterwards put them to hewing down the forest. I told Woodson to bring them around to me this afternoon when they had been decently clothed. I always give the scoundrels a piece of my mind to begin with. It saves trouble."
"Do they give you much trouble?"
"Not on this plantation. Woodson and Haines are excellent overseers."
The planter refilled his pipe, struck a light with his flint and steel, and leaning back amidst the fragrant clouds, allowed his eyelids to droop and his mind to wander over a pleasant sunshiny tract of nothing in particular.
Sir Charles tasted his sack, adjusted his ruffles, and resumed his reading. But even the delectable adventures of the Presbyterian knight, over whom all London was laughing, palled on such an afternoon, and the young gentleman, after listlessly turning a page or two, laid the book across his knee, and with closed eyes commenced the construction of an air castle of his own.
He was roused by the sound of approaching footsteps upon the shell path leading to the back of the house, and by the harsh voice of the overseer.
"Here come your hopeful purchases, sir," he said lazily.
The overseer turned the corner of the house and came forward with the three convicts at his heels. He doffed his hat to the two gentlemen, then turned to his charges. "Fall into line, you dogs, and salute his Honor!"
The first man, he of the long nose and the twitching lip, smiled sweetly, and bent so low that his fell of greasy hair well-nigh swept the steps; the second, with a brow like a thunder cloud, gave a vicious nod; the third, with as impassive a countenance as Sir Charles's own, bowed gravely, and stood with folded arms and a quietly attentive mien.
The planter gathered himself up from his chair and came forward to the top of the steps, his tall, corpulent figure towering above the men below much as his fortunes towered above theirs.
"Now, men," he said, speaking sternly and with slow emphasis. "I have just one word to say to you. Listen well to it. I am your master; you are my servants. I reckon myself a good master, it not being my way to treat those belonging to me, whether white or black, like dumb beasts. Give me obedience and the faithful work of your hands, and you shall find me kind. But if you are stubborn or rebellious, by the Lord, you will rue the day you left Newgate! Whipping-post and branding-irons are at hand, and death is something closer to a felon in Virginia than in England. Be careful! Now, Woodson, what have you put these men to?"
"They'll go into the three-mile field to-morrow morning, your honor, unless you wish other disposition made of them."
"No, that will do. Take them away."
The overseer faced about and was marching off with the recruits for the three-mile field when his master's voice arrested him.
"Take those two in front on with you, Woodson, and send me back the brown-haired one."
The "brown-haired one" turned as his companions disappeared around a hedge of privet and came slowly back to the steps.
"You wished to speak to me, sir?" he said quietly.
"Yes. You are the man who was tolerably helpful in the squall last night?"
"I was so fortunate as to be of some small service, sir."
"You understand the handling of a boat?"
"Hum. I will tell Woodson to try you with a sloop when the press of work in the fields is past. What is your name?"
"Chevalier d'Industrie and frequenter of the Newgate Ordinary," put in Sir Charles lazily. "Of the Roundhead persuasion too, if I mistake not,—from robbery in the large, descended to thievery in the small; from the murder of a King to knives and a black alley mouth. Commend me to these grave rogues for real knaves! Pray inform us to what little mishap we owe the honor of your company. Did you mercifully incline to relieve weary travelers over Hounslow Heath by disburdening them of their heavy purses? Or did you mistake your own handwriting for that of some one else? Or did you woo a mercer's wife a thought too roughly? Or perhaps—"
The man shot a fiery upward glance at the slim, elegant figure and mocking lips of his tormentor, but kept silence. Colonel Verney, who had returned to his pipe, interposed. "What is all this, Charles? What are you saying to the man?"
"Oh, nothing, sir! This gentleman and I were shipmates, and I did but ask after his health since the voyage."
"Sir Charles Carew is very good," the man said proudly. "I assure him that the object of his solicitude is well, and only desires an opportunity to repay, with interest, those little attentions shown him by his courteous fellow voyager."
The planter looked puzzled; Sir Charles laughed.
"Our liking is mutual, I see," he said coolly. "I—but what is this, Colonel Verney! Venus descending from Olympus?"
Out of the doorway fluttered a brilliant vision, all blue and white like the great butterflies hovering over the clove pinks. Behind it appeared the faded countenance of Mrs. Lettice, and a group of turbaned heads peered, grinning, from out the cool darkness of the hall.
"Papa!" cried the vision. "I want to show you my new dress! Cousin Charles, you are to tell me if it is all as it should be!"
Sir Charles bowed, with his hand upon his heart. "Alas, madam! I could as soon play critic to the choir of angels. My eyes are dazzled."
"Stand out, child," said her father gazing at her with eyes of love and pride, "and let us see your finery. D' ye know what the extravagant minx has upon her back, Charles? Just five hogsheads of prime tobacco!"
Mistress Lettice struck in: "Well, I'm sure, brother, 'tis much the prettiest use to put tobacco to, to turn it into lace and brocade and jewels,—much better, say I, than to be forever using it to accumulate filthy slaves."
Patricia floated to the centre of the porch and stood sunning herself in a stray shaft of light, like a very bird of paradise. The "tempestuous petticoat," sky-blue and laced with silver, swelled proudly outwards, the gleaming satin bodice slipped low over the snowy shoulders and the heaving bosom, and the sleeves, trimmed with magnificent lace and looped with pearls, showed the rounded arms to perfection. Around the slender throat was wound a double row of pearls, and the golden ringlets were partially confined by a snood of blue velvet. She unfurled a wonderful fan, and lifted her skirts to show the tiny white and silver shoes and the silken silver-clocked ankles. Her eyes shone like stars, faint wild roses bloomed in her cheeks, charming half smiles chased each other across her dainty mouth. Such a picture of radiant youth and loveliness did she present that the Englishman's pulses quickened, and he swore under his breath. "Surely," he muttered, "this is the most beautiful woman in the world, and my lucky stars have sent me to this No Man's Land to win her."
"How do you like me?" she cried gayly. "Is 't not worth the five hogsheads?"
Her father drew her to him and kissed the smooth forehead.
"You look just as your mother did, child, the day that we were betrothed. I could not give you higher praise than that, sweetheart."
"And does it really lack nothing, cousin?" she cried anxiously. "Is it in truth such a dress as they wear at Court?"
"Not at Whitehall, madam, nor at Brussels, nor even at St. Germains have I seen anything more point device than the dress,—nor as beautiful as the wearer," he added in a lower voice and with a killing look.
The girl's face dimpled with pleasure and innocent, gratified vanity. She swept him a magnificent courtesy, and he bent low over the slender fingers she gave him. Suddenly he felt them stiffen in his clasp, and looking up, saw a curious expression of fear and aversion pass like a shadow across her face. She spoke abruptly. "That man! I did not see him! What does he here?"
Sir Charles wheeled. The convict, forgotten by the two gentlemen, had been left standing at the foot of the steps, and his sombre eyes were now fixed upon the girl in a look so strange and intent as fully to explain her perturbation. Through his parted lips the breath came hurriedly, in his eyes was a mournful exaltation as of one who looks from a desert into Paradise. He stood absorbed, unconscious of aught save the splendid vision above him. For a moment she stared at him in return, her eyes, held by his, slowly widening and the color quite gone from her face. With a slow, involuntary movement one white arm rose, and stiffened before her in a gesture of repulsion. The fan fell from her hand upon the floor with a click of breaking tortoise shell. The sound broke the spell, and with a strong shudder she turned her eyes away. "Make him go," she said in a trembling voice. "He frightens me."
Sir Charles sprang forward with an oath. "Curse you, you dog! Take your ill-omened eyes from the lady! Colonel Verney, do you not see that the fellow is annoying your daughter?"
The planter had fallen into a reverie born of recollections of the Patricia of his youth, long laid in her grave, but he roused himself at the words of his guest.
"What's that?" he cried. "Annoying Patricia!" He walked to the head of the steps and raised his cane threateningly.
"Hark ye, sirrah! The servants of Verney Manor, white or black, felon or indented, need all their eyesight for their work. They have none to waste in idle gazing at their betters. Begone to your mates!"
The man who, at Sir Charles's intervention, had started as from a dream, colored deeply and compressed his lips, then glanced from one to the other of the group above him. There was pain, humiliation, almost supplication in the look which he directed to the girl who had brought this rating upon him. He glanced at his master with a countenance studiously devoid of expression, at Mistress Lettice with indifference, at Sir Charles Carew with chill defiance. Then, with a grave inclination of his head, he turned, and a moment later had disappeared behind the hedge.
A COLONIAL DINNER PARTY
Three days later the master of Verney Manor gave a dinner party.
At Jamestown, twenty miles away, the Assembly had just adjourned after a busy session. A law debarring that "turbulent people" the Quakers from further admittance into the colony, and providing cold comfort for those already within its doors, was passed with acclamation, as was another against Anabaptists, and a third concerning the hue and cry for absconding servants and slaves. The selling rates for wines and strong waters were fixed, a proper penalty attached to the planting of tobacco contrary to the statute, a regulation for the mending of the highways adopted, a fine imposed for non-attendance at church, the Navigation Act formally protested against, the trainbands strengthened, an appropriation made for the erection of new whipping-posts and pillories, a cruel mistress deprived of the slave she had mistreated, a harborer of schismatics publicly reproved, and a conciliatory message and present sent to the up-river Indians—when the Assembly adjourned with the consciousness of having nobly done its duty. The only measure upon which there was not unanimity of opinion was one proposing the erection of school-houses at convenient cross-roads, and the Governor's weight being thrown into the balance against it, it was promptly quashed.
The burgesses from the fourteen counties filled the twenty houses that constituted the town to suffocation. Up-river planters, too, had come in, choosing the time the Assembly was in session to attend to their interests in the "city." Several ships were in harbor, and their captains, professing themselves tired of salt water, threw themselves upon the hospitality of their friends ashore. The crowded population overflowed into the houses of the neighboring planters, who, after the manner of their kind, entertained profusely, giving jovial welcome and good liquor to all comers. There was a constant jingling of reins along the bridle paths, a constant passing of white-sailed sloops upon the river, as gentlemen in riding coats and jack boots, or in laced coats and silk stockings, fared to and fro between plantation and town. In the intervals of business the worthy burgesses and their fellow planters made merry. They were good times—for king's men—and it behooved every loyal subject to follow (at a respectful distance) his Majesty's example, and get all possible enjoyment from a laughing world. So there were horse-races and cock-fights and bear-baitings, as well as dinners and suppers, at which much sack and aqua vitae was drunk to king, church, and reigning beauties. And if a quarrel sprung, full armed, from the heated brains of young gallants, crossed rapiers did but add a piquancy, a dash of cayenne, to life.
Popular with the elder gentlemen because of his excellent Madeira, quick wit, jovial soul, and friendship with the Governor, and with the younger by virtue of being father to Mistress Patricia Verney, Colonel Richard Verney had no difficulty in securing a score of guests for a day's entertainment at Verney Manor.
About ten in the morning of the appointed day the guests began to arrive, some by water, some on horseback, Colonel Verney meeting each arrival with a stately bow and a high-flown speech of welcome, and handing him on to the hall where stood Sir Charles Carew and the ladies of the household.
Upon a pillion behind her father, Major Miles Carrington, Surveyor-General to the Colony, came Mistress Betty Carrington, bosom friend to Mistress Patricia Verney. Her sweetly serious face, pensive eyes, and smooth, dark hair, with her dress of sober silk and kerchief of finest lawn, demurely crossed over her bosom, contrasted finely with Patricia's radiant beauty, decked in shimmering satin and rich lace, and heightened by a tinge of vermilion upon the smooth cheek, and a long black patch beneath the left temple. The two met like friends whom weary years have parted, and indeed they had not seen each other for nearly a week.
All the guests, save one, had arrived. Colonel Verney fidgeted, sent a servant wench to look at the kitchen clock, and dispatched his secretary to an upstairs window, whence was visible a long stretch of what courtesy called the highroad.
The secretary returned and whispered his master. "God be thanked!" exclaimed the latter. "I feared that his machine had mired in the Two-Mile Swamp, or had toppled into a gully coming through the Devil's Strip. Gentlemen, the Governor's coach is in sight. Shall we adjourn to the porch and there await his Excellency?"
A mighty straining, jingling and lumbering came with the breeze down the road and proceeded from a pillar of dust which was approaching the house with reasonable rapidity. Presently the road changed from a trough of dust into a ribbon of greensward. The cloud dissipated itself, streaming away like the tail of a comet, and a ponderous and much begilt coach, drawn by six horses, their manes and tails tied with red ribbons, and outriders in gorgeous livery at the heads of each pair, rolled, or rather bumped into sight. With a seasick motion it undulated over the green acclivities of the road, and finally drew up beside the great horse-block at the gate.
Two lackeys sprang from their perch behind the vehicle, flung open the door, and lowered a short flight of steps. A very stately gentleman, richly dressed, with a handkerchief of point in one hand and a jeweled snuff-box in the other, descended the steps, placing one shapely leg in its maroon-colored stocking before the other with the mannered grace of the leader of a Coranto.
Colonel Verney met him with a low bow and smiling face, after which the two embraced, for they were old friends.
"My dear Governor!"
"My dear Colonel!"
"I am charmed to welcome your Excellency to my poor house."
"My dear Colonel, I am charmed to be here. Gad! the possession of the only chariot in the Colony is a burdensome honor! I thought dinner would be over, and the stirrup cup in order while I was creeping, like a snail with his house on his back, over these 'fair and pleasant roads'—as I call them in my book, eh, Dick! But you have a goodly company, I see; Ludwell, Fitzhugh, Carey, Anthony Nash, mine ancient enemy Lawrence, Wormeley, Carrington our Puritan convert and his pretty daughter, young Peyton, and that pretty fellow, your nephew or cousin, is he? Odzooks! he is much what I was at his age, begotten of Delilah and Lucifer, hand of iron in glove of velvet, eh, Dick! I hear he is hail-fellow-well-met with the King and with Buckingham and Killigrew and their wild set. Ah, boys will be boys! 'We have heard the chimes at midnight,' eh, Dick?"
And the Governor in high good humor skipped up the steps with the agility of youth, bent low with sugared compliments over the hands of his hostesses and of Mistress Betty Carrington, and gave courteous greeting to the assembled gentlemen, after which the company flowed back into the grateful twilight of hall and "great room," where the weather, the state of the crops, and the last horse-race engaged them until the announcement of dinner.
With a flourish of his costly handkerchief, the Governor offered his arm to the young mistress of the house, and led the way to the dining-room, where old Humfrey, the butler, marshaled the guests to their seats. Mistress Betty Carrington had for her cavalier Sir Charles Carew, to whose honeyed words she listened with a species of awe, wondering in her innocent soul if all the wild tales they told of this very fine, smooth-tongued, handsome gentleman could be true.
Doctor Anthony Nash made a long and fluent grace wherein much latinity was aired, a neat allusion made to the jus divinum, and an anathema hurled against those "who break down the carved work of the sanctuary." Then was uncovered the mighty saddle of mutton, reposing in the dish of honor, the roast pig, the haunch of venison, the sirloin of beef, the breast of veal, the powdered goose, the noble dish of sheepshead and bluefish, and the pasty in which was entombed a whole flock of pigeons. These pieces de resistance were flanked by bowls of oysters, by rows of wild fowl skewered together, by mince pies and a grand salad, while upon the outskirts of the damask plain were stationed trenchers piled with wheat bread, platters of pease and smoking potatoes, cauliflower and asparagus, and a concoction of rice and prunes, seasoned with mace and cinnamon and a pinch of assafoetida. A great silver salt-cellar stood in the centre of the table, and smaller receptacles of the same metal held pepper and spices. Silver flagons of cider and ale were placed at intervals, the Madeira, Fayal and Rhenish awaiting upon the sideboard the moment when, the cloth drawn and the ladies gone, a gentlemanly carousal should be inaugurated.
The company drew their Russian leather chairs closer to the table, spread over their silken knees the fringed damask napkins, and for a space little was to be heard but the sound of knife and spoon (forks there were none), for the morning ride had sharpened appetites. The servants passed from chair to chair; the master, seconded by his daughter and sister, pricked his guests on to fresh attacks, pressing a third slice of mutton on one, a fresh helping of capon upon another, protesting that a third ate as though it were a fast day, and that a fourth drank as though the October were sea-water.
When the cloth was drawn and the banquet put on, tongues were loosened. The Governor quoted passages from his "Lost Lady" to Patricia, lifting her lovely flushed face from the carving of a tart with wonderfully constructed towering walls. Behind a second turreted marvel of pastry, Mistress Lettice and Mr. Frederick Jones sighed and ogled with antique grace. Sir Charles Carew, fingering his cherries, told a piquant little court anecdote to Mistress Betty Carrington, and was lazily amused at the blush and veiled eyelids with which the young lady received it. Young Mr. Peyton, on her other side, looked very black.
The wine was put on and the toast to King and Church drunk standing, after which the ladies dipped their white fingers into the basin of perfumed water, dried them on the silver-fringed napkin, and sailed to the door, through which, after the profoundest of courtesies on the one side and the lowest of bows upon the other, they vanished, leaving the gentlemen to wine and wassail.
Colonel Verney drank to the Governor; the Governor to Colonel Verney; Sir Charles to the author of the "Lost Lady" and the "Discourse and View of Virginia," so tickling the Governor's vanity thereby that he became altogether charming. Mr. Peyton toasted Mistress Betty Carrington, and Mr. Frederick Jones, Mistress Lettice Verney, "fairest and most discreet of ladies." They drank to Captain Laramore's next voyage, to Mr. Wormeley's success in vine planting, to Major Carrington's conversion. They drank confusion to Quakers, Independents, Baptists and infidels, to the heathen on the frontier and the Papists in Maryland, the Dutch on the Hudson and the French on the St. Lawrence,—"Quebec in exchange for Dunkirk!" In short, there were few things in heaven or earth but justified draughts of Madeira.
The room filled with a blue and fragrant mist proceeding from twenty pipe-bowls. Mr. Peyton sang a pretty song of his own composing. The company applauded. Sir Charles Carew, in a richly plaintive tenor voice, sang a lyric of Rochester's. Several of the gentlemen looked askance (the clergyman had left the room with the ladies), but on the Governor's crying out "Excellent!" they considered themselves over-squeamish, and clapped loudly.
Sir Charles, being dry after his song, drank to Hospitality,—"A duty," he said, smiling, "that you gentlemen make so paramount that you must wonder at the omission of 'Thou shalt be hospitable' from the Decalogue."
"Faith, sir!" cried Mr. Peyton, "God is too good a Virginian not to consider such a commandment superfluous."
The Governor commenced a story which all present, but one, had heard a dozen times. It mattered the less, as it was a good one. Sir Charles capped it with a better. The Governor told a weird tale of Lunsford's men, the "babe-eating" regiment. Sir Charles recounted a little adventure of His Grace of Buckingham with a quack astrologer, a Court lady, and an orange girl, which made the company die of laughter.
"Rat me! but you tell a story well, sir!" said the Governor, wiping his eyes.
"I serve King Charles the Second, your Excellency."
"And so have to live by your wit, eh, sir?"
"Precisely, your Excellency."
"Emigrate to Virginia, man! to the land of good eating, good drinking, good fighting, stout men, and pretty women—who make angelic wives." And the Governor, who loved his own wife with chivalric devotion, kissed a locket which he wore at his neck. "Come to Virginia where we need loyal men and true. Lord! we all thought the millennium was come with the king, but damme! if it doesn't seem as far off as ever! Not that his Majesty is to blame," he added quickly, as though fearing that his words might be taken as an aspersion upon Charles's ability to conduct the millennium single-handed. "The naughty spirit of the age sets itself against the Lord's Anointed. The Puritan snake is but scotched, not killed. It's the old prate of freedom of conscience, government by the people, and the like disgusting stuff (no offense to you, Major Carrington) that makes the trouble of the times both here and at home. I sigh for the good old days when, for eleven sweet years, no Parliament sat to meddle in affairs of state, when Wentworth kept down faction and the saintly Laud built up the Church which he adorned." And the Governor buried his woes in the Rhenish.
"Sir William Berkeley's loyalty is proverbial," said Sir Charles suavely. "The King knows that while he is at the helm in Virginia, the colony is on the high road to that era of peace and prosperity which his majesty so ardently desires—for his tax-paying people. And I have thought more than once of late that I might do worse than to dispose of my majority in the 'Blues,' bid the Court adieu, and obtaining from his Majesty a grant of land, retire here to Virginia to pass my days on my own land and amid a little court of my own, in the patriarchal fashion you gentlemen affect. Under certain circumstances it is a course I might possibly pursue." He glanced at his kinsman, whose countenance showed high approval of a plan which dovetailed nicely with one of his own making.
"Can you guess the 'certain circumstances' which are to give us the pleasure of his confounded company?" whispered Mr. Peyton to Mr. Carey.
"An easy riddle, Jack. Damn the insolent, smooth-spoken knave of hearts, and confound the women! They all drop to a court card."
"Not Mistress Betty Carrington. She looks below the surface."
"Humph! What does she see below thine? An empty gourd with a few madrigals and sonnets, and fine images, conned from the 'Grand Cyrus,' rattling about like dried seeds?"
"Hush, thou green persimmon! the Governor is speaking."
The governor rose with care to his feet. His wig was awry, his cravat of fine mechlin under one ear. Benevolent smiles played like summer lightning across his flushed face. He raised his tankard slowly and with attentive steadiness. "Gentlemen," he said in a high voice, "we have eaten and we have drunken. Dick Verney's wine is as old as the hills and as mellow as sunlight. It groweth late, gentlemen, and some of you have miles to travel, and it takes cool heads to ride the 'planter's pace.' For William Berkeley, gentlemen, Governor of Virginia by the grace of God and his Majesty, King Charles the Second, it takes more than Dick Verney's wine to fluster him. I call a final toast. I drink again to our loving friend and host, the worshipful Colonel Richard Verney, to his beauteous daughter and sister, to his man-servant and his maid-servant, his ox and his ass, and the stranger which is within his gates." He smiled benignly at a reflection of Sir Charles in a distant mirror. "Gentlemen, the devil, you see, can quote scripture. Let the cup go roun', go roun', go roun'."
The toast was drunk with fervor, and the party broke up.
The Governor, with Colonel Ludlow and Captain Laramore, was to sleep at Verney Manor, and Mistress Betty Carrington was left by her father to bear Patricia company for a day or two. One by one the remainder of the company rode or sailed away, those who had an even keel beneath them being in much better case than their brethren on horseback.
When the last sail showed a white speck in the distance, Patricia and Betty came out upon the porch and sat them down, one on either side of the Governor, with whom they were great favorites. Colonel Ludlow and Captain Laramore were at dice at a table within the hall, and Colonel Verney had excused himself in order to hear the evening report from his overseers. Sir Charles Carew, very idle and purposeless-looking, lounged in a great chair, and studied the miniature upon his snuff-box. The Governor, whom the wine had mellowed into a genial softness, a kind of sunset glow, alternately puffed wide rings of smoke into the air, and paid compliments to the young ladies. The evening breeze had sprung up, rustling the leaves of the trees, and bringing with it the sound of the water. In the western sky crimson islets forever shifted shapes in a sea of gold. A rosy light suffused the earth. In it the water turned to the pink of a shell, the marshes became ethereal and far away, earth and sky seemed one. The flashing wings of gull and curlew were like fairy sails faring to and fro.
"If I had wings," said Patricia dreamily, her hands clasped over her knees, "I would fly straight to that highest island of cloud. The one, Betty, that looks like a field of daffodils, with those beautiful peaks rising from it, and the violet light in the hollows. I would set up my standard there, Sir William, and the island should be mine, and I would rule the fairies that must inhabit it, with a rod of iron—as you rule Virginia," she ended with a laugh.
The Governor laughed with her. "You would have no such stiff-necked folk to deal with, my love, as have I."
"No, they should all be good Cavaliers and Churchmen—no Roundheads, no servants—and if Indians on neighboring isles threatened we would pray for a wind and sail away from them, around and around the bright blue sky."
"And when you are gone to take possession of your castle in the air what will poor Virginia do?" gallantly demanded the governor.
"Oh, she would still exist! But I am not going to-night. The princess of the castle in the air is engaged to his Excellency the Governor of Virginia for a game of chess. In the mean time here comes my father, who shall entertain your Excellency while Betty and I go for a walk. Come, Lady-bird."
The two graceful figures twined arms and moved off down the walk. Sir Charles looked after them a moment, then, with a "Permit me, sir," to the Governor, he snapped the lid of his snuff-box and started down the steps. The Governor laughed. "We will excuse you, sir," he said graciously. "Dick," to Colonel Verney, as the young gentleman hastened after the ladies, "that fine spark is to be your son-in-law, eh?"
"It is the wish of my heart, William."
"He has birth and breeding. His father was my good friend and kinsman, and as loyal a Cavalier as ever gave life and lands for the blessed Martyr. He died in my arms at Marston Moor, and with his last breath commended his son to me. My dear wife was then expecting the birth of our child, of Patricia. I can see him now as he smiled up at me (he was ever gay) and said, 'If it's a girl, Dick, marry her to my boy.' Well! he died, and his brother took the boy, and my wife and I came over seas, and I never saw the lad from that day to this, when he comes at my invitation to visit us."
"Well, he is a very pretty fellow! And what does Patricia say to him?"
"Patricia is a good daughter," said the Colonel sedately, "and is possessed of sense beyond the average of womenkind. She knows the advantages this match offers. Sir Charles Carew can give her a title, and a name that's as old as her own. He is a man of parts and distinction, has served the King, is familiar with the courts of Europe. I do not pin my faith to the tales that are told of him. His father was a gallant gentleman, and I am not the man to believe ill of his son. Moreover, if, as he hath half promised, he will come to Virginia, he will throw off here the vices of the Court, the faults of youth, and become an honest Virginia gentleman, God-fearing, law-abiding, reverencing the King, but not copying him too closely—such an one as thou or I, William. The king should give him large grants of land, and so, with what Patricia will have when I am gone, there will be laid the foundation of a great and noble estate, which, please God, will belong in the fair future of this fair land to a great and noble family sprung from the union of Verney and Carew. Patricia, trust me, sees all this with my eyes."
"Humph!" said the Governor again.
THE BREAKING HEART
Sir Charles was up with the two girls before they reached the garden; and they passed together through the gate and into the spicy wilderness. The dew was falling, and as they sauntered through the narrow paths, Betty held back her skirts that the damp leaves of sage and marjoram might not brush them; but Patricia, gathering larkspur and sweet-william, was heedless of her finery. At the further end of the garden was a wicket leading into a grove of mulberries. The three walked on beneath the spreading branches and the broad, heart-shaped leaves, until they came to a tree of extraordinary height and girth whose roots bulged out into great, smooth excrescences like inverted bowls. Patricia stopped. "Betty is tired," she said kindly, "and she shall sit here and rest. Betty is a windflower, Sir Charles, a little tender timid flower, frail and sweet—are you not, Betty?" She sat down upon one of the bowls, and pulled her friend down beside her. Sir Charles leaned against the trunk of the tree. "Betty is a little Puritan," continued Patricia; "she would not wear the set of ribbons I had for her; and that hurt me very much."
"O Patricia!" cried Betty, with tears in her eyes. "If I thought you really cared! But even then I could not wear them!"
"No, you little martyr," said the other, with a kiss. "You would go to the stake any day for what you call your 'principles.' And I honor you for it, you know I do. Cousin Charles, do you know that Betty thinks it wrong to hold slaves?"
Sir Charles laughed, and Betty's delicate face flushed.
"O Patricia!" she cried. "I did not say that! I only said that we would not like it ourselves."
"'Pon my soul, I don't suppose we would," said Sir Charles coolly. "But, Mistress Betty, the negroes have neither thin skins nor nice feelings."
"I know that," said Betty bravely; "and I know that our divines and learned men cannot yet decide whether or not they have souls. And, of course, if they have not, they are as well treated as other animals; but all the same I am sorry for them, and I am sorry for the servants too."
"For the servants!" cried Patricia, arching her brows.
"Yes," said Betty, standing to her guns. "I am sorry for the servants, for those who must work seven years for another before they can do aught for themselves. And often when their time is out they are bowed and broken; and those whom they love at home, and would bring over, are dead; and often before the seven years have passed they die themselves. And I am sorry for those whom you call rebels, for the Oliverians; and for the convicts, despised and outcast. And for the Indians about us, dispossessed and broken, and—yes, I am sorry for the Quakers."
"I waste no pity on the under dog," said Sir Charles. "Keep him down—and with a heavy hand—or he will fly at your throat."
"Hark!" said Patricia.
Some one in the distance was singing:—
"Gentle herdsman, tell to me Of courtesy I thee pray, Unto the town of Walsingham, Which is the right and ready way?
"Unto the town of Walsingham The way is hard for to be gone, And very crooked are those paths For you to find out all alone."
The notes were wild and plaintive, and sounded sadly through the gathering dusk. A figure flitted towards them between the shadowy tree trunks.
"It is Mad Margery," said Patricia.
"And who is Mad Margery?" asked Sir Charles.
"No one knows, cousin. She does not know herself. Ten years ago a ship came in with servants, and she was on it. She was mad then. The captain could give no account of her, save that when, the day after sailing, he came to count the servants, he found one more than there should have been, and that one a woman, stupid from drugs. She had been spirited on board the ship, that was all he could say. It's a common occurrence, as you know. She never came to herself,—has always been what she is now. She was sold to a small planter, and cruelly treated by him. After a time my father heard her story and bought her from her master. She has been with us ever since. Her term of service is long out; but there is nothing that could drive her from this plantation. She wanders about as she pleases, and has a cabin in the woods yonder; for she will not live in the quarters. They say that she is a white witch; and the Indians, who reverence the mad, lay maize and venison at her door."
The voice, shrill and sweet, rang out close at hand.
"Thy years are young, thy face is fair, Thy wits are weak, thy thoughts are green, Time hath not given thee leave as yet, For to commit so great a sin."
"Margery!" called Patricia softly.
The woman came towards them with a peculiar gliding step, swift and stealthy. Within a pace or two of them she stopped, and asked, "Who called me?" in a voice that seemed to come from far away. She was not old, and might once have been beautiful.
"I called you, Margery," said Patricia gently. "Sit down beside us, and tell us what you have been doing."
The woman came and sat herself down at Patricia's feet. She carried a stick, or light pole, wound with thick strings of wild hops, which she laid on the ground. Taking one of the wreaths from around it, she dropped the pale green mass into Patricia's lap.
"Take it," she said. "They are flowers I gathered in Paradise, long ago. They wither in this air; but if you fan them with your sighs, and water them with your tears, they will revive.... Paradise is a long way from here. I have been seeking the road all day; but I have not found it yet. I think it must lie near Bristol Town, Bristol Town, Bristol Town."
Her voice died away in a long sigh, and she sat plucking at the fragrant blooms.
Patricia said softly, "She talks much of Bristol Town, and she is always seeking the road to Paradise. I think that once some one must have said to her, 'We will meet in Paradise.'"
"I know little of Paradise, Margery," said Sir Charles, good-naturedly; "but Bristol Town is many leagues from here, across the great ocean."
"Yes, I know. It lieth in the rising of the sun. I have never seen it except in my dreams. But it is a beautiful place—not like this world of trees. The church bells are ever ringing there, ... and the children sing in the streets. It is all fair, and smiling and beautiful, all but one spot, one black, black, black spot. I will tell you." She sunk her voice to a whisper and looked fearfully around. "The mouth of the Pit is there, the Bottomless Pit that the Preacher tells about. It is a small room, dark, dark, ... and there is a heavy smell in the air, ... and there are fiends with black cloth over their faces. They hold a draught of hell to your mouth, and they make you drink it; ... it burns, burns. And then you go down, down, down, into everlasting blackness." She broke off, and shuddered violently, then burst into eldritch laughter.
"Shall I tell you what I found just now while I was looking for Paradise?"
"Yes," said Patricia.
"A breaking heart."
"A breaking heart!"
Margery nodded. "Yes," she said. "I thought it would surprise you. I find many things, looking for Paradise. The other day I found a brown pixie sitting beneath a mushroom, and he told me curious things. But a breaking heart is different. I know all about it, for once upon a time my heart broke; but mine was soft and easy to break. It was as soft and weak as a baby's wrist, a little, tender, helpless thing, you know, that melts under your kisses. But this heart that I found will take a long time to break. Proud anger will strengthen it at first; but one string will snap, and then another, and another, until, at last—" she swept her arms abroad with a wild and desolate gesture.
"What does she mean?" asked Sir Charles.
"I do not know," answered Patricia.
Margery rose and took up her leafy staff.
"Come," she said. "Come and see the breaking heart."
"O Patricia!" cried Betty, "do not go with her!"
"Why not?" asked Patricia resolutely. "Come, cousin, let us find out what she means. We will go with you, Margery; but you must not take us far. It grows late."
Margery laughed weirdly. "It is never late for Margery. There is a star far up in heaven that is sorry for Margery, and it shines for her, bright, bright, all night long, that she may not miss the road to Paradise."
She glided in front of them, and moved rapidly down the dim alley of trees, her feet seeming scarce to touch the short grass, and the long green wreaths, stirred by the wind, coiling and uncoiling around her staff like serpents. Patricia, with Betty and Sir Charles, followed her closely. She led them out of the mulberry grove, through a small vineyard, and into a patch of corn, beyond which could be seen the gleam of water, faintly pink from the faded sunset.
"She is taking us towards the quarters!" exclaimed Patricia. "Margery! Margery!"
But Margery held on, moving swiftly through the waist-deep corn. Betty looked down with a little sigh at her dainty shoes, which were suffering by their contact with the dew-laden leaves of pumpkins and macocks. Sir Charles put aside the long corn blades with his cane, and so made a way for the girls. He felt mildly curious and somewhat bored.
Suddenly they emerged upon the banks of the inlet, within a hundred yards of the quarters. Patricia would have spoken, but Margery put her finger to her lips and flitted on towards the row of cabins.
Before them stretched a long, narrow lane, sandy and barren, with a pine-tree rising here and there. Rude cabins, windowless and with mud chimneys, faced each other across the lane. Half way down was an open space, or small square, in the centre of which stood a dead tree with a board nailed across its trunk at about a man's height from the ground. In either end of the board was cut a round hole big enough for a man's hand to be squeezed through, and above hung a heavy stick with leathern thongs tied to it, the whole forming a pillory and whipping-post, rude, but satisfactory.
It was almost dark. The larger stars had come out, and the fireflies began to sparkle restlessly. The wind sighed in the pines, and a strong salt smell came from the sea. Overhead a whip-poor-will uttered its mournful cry.
The long day's work, from sunrise to sunset, was over, and the population of the quarter had drifted in from the fields of tobacco and maize, the boats, the carpenter's shop, the forge, the mill, the stables, and barns. Hard-earned rest was theirs, and they were prepared to enjoy it. It was supper-time. In the square a great fire of brush-wood had been kindled, and around it squatted a ring of negroes, busy with bowls of loblolly and great chunks of corn bread. They chattered like monkeys, and one who had finished his mess raised a chant in which one note was a yell of triumph, the next a long-drawn plaintive wail. The rich barbaric voice filled the night. A figure, rising, tossed aside an empty bowl, and began to dance in the red firelight.
The white men ate at their cabin doors, sitting upon logs of wood, or in groups of three or four messed at tables made by stretching planks from one tree-stump to another. It was meat-day; and they, too, made merry. From the women's cabins also came shrill laughter. Snatches of song arose, altercations that suddenly began and as suddenly ceased, a babel of voices in many fashions of speech. Broad Yorkshire contended with the thin nasal tones of the cockney; the man from the banks of the Tweed thrust cautious sarcasms at the man from Galway. A mulatto, the color of pale amber, spoke sonorous Spanish to an olive-hued piece of drift-wood from Florida. An Indian indulged in a monologue in a tongue of a faraway tribe of the Blue Mountains.
The glare from the fire and from flaring pine-knots played fitfully over the motley throng, now bringing out in strong relief some one face or figure, then plunging it into profoundest shadow. It burnished the high forehead and scalp lock of the Indian, and made to gleam intensely the gold earring in the ear of the mulatto. The scarlet cloth wound about the head of a Turk seemed to turn to actual flame. Under the baleful light vacant faces of dully honest English rustics became malignant, while the negro, dancing with long, outstretched arms and uncouth swayings to and fro, appeared a mirthful fiend.
The three gentlefolk and their mad conductress gazed from out the shadow and at a safe distance. Sir Charles Carew, a man of taste, felt strong artistic pleasure in the Rembrandtesque scene before him—the leaping light, the weird shadows, resolving themselves into figures posed with savage freedom, the dancing satyr, the sombre pines above, and, beyond the pines, the stillness of the stars. Betty drew a little shuddering breath, and her hand went to clasp Patricia's. The latter was looking steadily upward at the slender crescent moon.
"Do not look, Betty," she said quietly. "I do not. It is a horror to me—a horror. I am going back," she said, turning.
But she had reckoned without Margery, who caught her by the arm. "Come," she said imperiously. "Come and see the breaking heart!" Patricia hesitated, then yielded to curiosity and the insistent pressure of the skeleton fingers.
The cabins nearest them were deserted, their occupants having joined themselves to the groups further down the lane where the firelight beat strongest and the torches were more numerous. With no more sound than a moth would make, flitting through the dusk, the mad woman led them to the outermost of these cabins. Within five paces of the door she stopped and pointed a long forefinger.
"The breaking heart!" she said in a triumphant whisper.
A man lay, face downwards, in the coarse and scanty grass. One arm was bent beneath his forehead, the other was outstretched, the hand clenched. It was the attitude of one who has flung himself down in dumb, despairing misery. As they looked, he gave a long gasping sob that shook his whole frame, then lay quiet.
A burst of revelry came down the lane. The man raised his head impatiently, then let it drop again upon his arm.
Patricia turned and walked quickly back the way they had come. Betty and Sir Charles followed her; Margery, her whim gratified, had vanished into the darkness of the pines.
No one spoke until they were again amidst the wet and rustling corn. Then said Betty with tears in her voice, "O Patricia, darling! there is so much misery in the world, fair and peaceful as it looks to-night. That poor man!"
"That 'poor man,' Betty," answered Patricia in a hard voice, "is a criminal, a felon, guilty of some dreadful, sordid thing, a gaol-bird reclaimed from the gallows and sent here to pollute the air we breathe."
"It was the convict, Landless, was it not?" asked Sir Charles.
"But, Patricia," said the gentle Betty, "whatever he may have done, he is wretched now."
"He has sowed the wind; let him reap the whirlwind," said Patricia steadily.
They went on to the house and into the great room where the myrtle candles were burning softly, the dimity curtains shutting out the night. Mrs. Lettice was at the spinet, with Captain Laramore to turn the leaves of her song book, and the Governor, with the chess table out and the pieces in battle array, awaited (he said) the arrival of the Princess of the Castle in the Air.
IN THE THREE-MILE FIELD
In a far corner of the Three-mile Field Landless bent over tobacco plant after tobacco plant, patiently removing the little green shoots or "suckers" from the parent stem.
His back and limbs ached from the unaccustomed stooping, the fierce sunshine beat upon his head, the blood pounded behind his temples, his tongue clave to the roof of his mouth,—and the noontide rest was still two hours away. As, with a gasp of weariness, he straightened himself, the endless plain of green rose and fell to his dazzled eyes in misty billows. The most robust rustic required several months of seasoning before he and the Virginia climate became friends, and this man was still weak from privation and confinement in prison and in the noisome hold of the ship.
He turned his weary eyes from the vivid gold green of the fields to the shadows of the forest. It lay within a few yards of him, just on the other side of a little stream and a rail fence that zigzagged in gray lines hung with creepers. At the moment he defined happiness as a plunge into the cool, perfumed darkness, a luxurious flinging of a tired body upon the carpet of pine needles, a shutting out, forever, of the sunshine.
Suddenly he felt that eyes were upon him, and his glance traveled from the fringe of trees to meet that of an Indian seated upon a log in an angle of the fence.
He was a man of gigantic stature, dressed in coarse canvas breeches, and with a handkerchief of gaudy dye twisted about his head. His bold features wore the usual Indian expression of saturnine imperturbability, and he half sat, half reclined upon the log as motionless as a piece of carven bronze, staring at Landless with large, inscrutable eyes.
Landless, staring in return, saw something else. The rank growth of weeds in which the log was sunk moved ever so slightly. There was a flash as of a swiftly drawn rapier, and something long and mottled hung for an instant upon the shoulder of the Indian, and then dropped into its lair again.
With a sudden lithe twist of his body, the savage flung himself upon it, and holding it down with one hand, with the other beat the life out with a heavy stick. The creature was killed by the first stroke, but he continued to rain vindictive blows upon it until it was mashed to a pulp. Then, with a serenely impassive mien, he resumed his seat upon the log.
Landless sprang across the stream, and went up to him.
"You are bitten! Is there aught I can do?"
The Indian shook his head. With one hand he pulled the shoulder forward, trying, as Landless saw, to meet the wound with his lips; but finding that it could not be done, he desisted and sat silent, and to all appearance, unconcerned.
Landless cried out impatiently, "It will kill you, man! Do you know no remedy?"
The Indian grunted. "Snake root grow deep in the forest, a long way off. Besides, an Iroquois does not die for a little thing like a pale face or a dog of an Algonquin."
"Why did you try to reach the sting with your mouth?"
"To suck out the evil."
"Is that a cure?"
The Indian nodded. Landless knelt down and examined the shoulder. "Now," he said, "tell me if I set about it in the right way," and applied his lips to the swollen, blue-black spot.
The Indian gave a grunt of surprise, and his white teeth flashed in a smile; then he sat silent under the ministrations of the white man who sucked at the wound, spitting the venom upon the ground, until the dark skin was drawn and wrinkled like the hand of a washerwoman.
"Good!" then said the Indian, and pointed to the stream. Landless went to it, rinsed his mouth, and brought back water in his cap with which he laved the shoulder of his new acquaintance, ending by binding it up with the handkerchief from the man's head.
A guttural sound from the Indian made him look up. At the same instant the whip of the overseer, descending, cut him sharply across the shoulders. He sprang to his feet, the veins in his forehead swollen, his frame tense with impotent anger. The overseer, having gained his attention, thrust the whip back into his belt.
"If you don't want to get what will hurt as bad as a snake bite," he said grimly, "you had best tend to your tobacco and let vagrom Indians alone. That row is to be suckered before dinner-time or your pork and beans will go begging. As for you," turning to the Indian, "what are you doing on this plantation? Where's your pass?"
The Indian took from his waistband a slip of paper which he handed to the overseer, who looked at it and gave it back with a grudging—"It's all right this time, but you'd better be careful. It's my opinion that Major Carrington lets his servants run about a deal more than's good for them. Anyhow, you've no business in this field. Clear out!"
The Indian arose and went his way. But as he passed Landless, suckering a plant with angry energy, he touched him, as if by accident, with his sinewy hand.
"Monakatocka never forgives an enemy," came in a sibilant whisper too low to be heard by the watchful overseer. "Monakatocka never forgets a friend. Some day he will repay."
The red-brown body slipped away through the tall weeds and clumps of alder, like the larger edition of the thing that had hung upon its shoulder. The overseer strode off down the field, sending keen glances to right and left. He was a conscientious man, and earned every pound of his wages.
Landless, left alone, worked steadily on, for he had no mind to lose his midday meal, uninviting as he knew it would prove to be. Moreover, he was one who did with his might what his hand found to do. His body was weary, and his heart sick within him, but the green shoots fell thick and fast.
"Yon was a kindly thing you did. Pity 'twas in no better cause than the saving of a worthless natural."
The speaker, who was at work on the next row of plants, had caught up with Landless from behind, and now moved his nimble fingers more slowly, so as to keep pace with the less expert new hand.
Landless, raising his head, stared at a figure of positively terrifying aspect. Upon a skeleton body of extraordinary height was set a head bare of any hair. Scalp, forehead and cheeks were of one dull, ivory hue like an eastern carving. Upon the smooth, dead surface of the right cheek sprawled a great red R, branded into the flesh, and through each large protruding ear went a ragged hole. For the rest, the lips were of iron, and the small, deep-set eyes were so bright and burning that they gave the impression that they were red like the great letter. It might have been the face of a man of sixty years, though it would have been hard to tell wherein lay the semblance of age, so smooth was the skin and so brilliant the eyes.