To Have and to Hold



WHEN I awoke from the sleep or stupor into which I must have passed from that swoon, it was to find myself lying upon a bed in a room flooded with sunshine. I was alone. For a moment I lay still, staring at the blue sky without the window, and wondering where I was and how I came there. A drum beat, a dog barked, and a man’s quick voice gave a command. The sounds stung me into remembrance, and I was at the window while the voice was yet speaking.

It was West in the street below, pointing with his sword now to the fort, now to the palisade, and giving directions to the armed men about him. There were many people in the street. Women hurried by to the fort with white, scared faces, their arms filled with household gear ; children ran beside them, sturdily bearing their share of the goods, but pressing close to their elders’ skirts ; men went to and fro, the most grimly silent, but a few talking loudly. Not all of the faces in the crowd belonged to the town : there were Kingsmell and his wife from the main, and John Ellison from Archer’s Hope, and the Italians Vincencio and Bernardo from the Glass House. The nearer plantations, then, had been warned, and their people had come for refuge to the city. A negro passed, but on that morning alone of many days no Indian aired his paint and feathers in the white man’s village.

I could not see the palisade across the neck, but I knew that it was there that the fight — if fight there were — would be made. Should the Indians take the palisade, there would yet be the houses of the town, and, last of all, the fort, in which to make a stand. I believed not that they would take it. Long since we had found out their method of warfare. They used ambuscade, surprise, and massacre ; when withstood in force and with determination they withdrew to their stronghold the forest, there to bide their time until, in the blackness of some night, they could again swoop down upon a sleeping foe.

The drum beat again, and a messenger from the palisade came down the street at a run. “ They ’re in the woods over against us, thicker than ants ! ” he cried to West as he passed. “ A boat has just drifted ashore yonder with two men in it, dead and scalped! ”

I turned to leave the room, and ran against Master Pory coming in on tiptoe, with a red and solemn face. He started when he saw me.

“ The roll of the drum brought you to your feet, then ! ” he cried. “ You’ve lain like the dead all night. I came but to see if you were breathing.”

“ When I have eaten I shall be myself again,” I said. “ There’s no attack as yet ? ”

“No,” he answered. “They must know that we are prepared. But they have kindled fires along the river bank, and we can hear them yelling. Whether they ’ll be mad enough to come against us remains to be seen.”

“ The nearest settlements have been warned ? ”

“ Ay. The Governor offered a thousand pounds of tobacco and the perpetual esteem of the Company to the man or men who would carry the news. Six volunteered, and went off in boats : three up river, three down. How many they reached, or if they still have their scalps, we know not. And awhile ago, just before daybreak, comes with frantic haste Richard Pace, who had rowed up from Pace’s Pains to tell the news which you had already brought. Chanco the Christian had betrayed the plot to him, and he managed to give warning at Powel’s and one or two other places as he came up the river.”

He broke off, but when I would have spoken interrupted me with: “ And so you were on the Pamunkey all this while ! Then the Paspaheghs fooled us with the simple truth, for they swore so stoutly that their absent chief men were but gone on a hunt toward the Pamunkey that we had no choice but to believe them gone in quite another direction. And one and all of every tribe we questioned swore that Opechancanough was at Orapax. So Master Rolfe puts off up river to find, if not you, then the Emperor, and make him give up your murderers ; and the Governor sends a party along the bay, and West another up the Chickahominy. And there you were, all the time, mewed up in the village above the marshes ! And Nantauquas, after saving our lives like one of us, is turned Indian again ! And your man is killed ! Alackaday ! there ’s naught but trouble in the world. ‘ As the sparks fly upwards,’ you know. But a brave man draws his breath and sets his teeth.”

In his manner, his rapid talk, I found something forced and strange. “I thought Rolfe was behind me,” he said, “but he must have been delayed. There are meat and drink set out in the great room, where the Governor and those of the Council who are safe here with us are advising together. Let’s descend. You’ve not eaten, and the good sack will give you strength. Wilt come?”

“ Ay,” I answered, “ but tell me the news as we go. I have been gone ten days: faith, it seems ten years ! There have no ships sailed, Master Pory ? The George is still here ? ” I looked him full in the eye, for a sudden guess at a possible reason for his confusion had stabbed me like a knife.

“ Ay,” he said, with a readiness that could scarce be feigned. “ She was to have sailed this week, it is true, the Governor fearing to keep her longer. But the Esperance, coming in yesterday, brought news which removed his Honor’s scruples. Now she ’ll wait to see out this hand at the cards, and to take home the names of those who are left alive in Virginia. If the red varlets do swarm in upon us, there are her twelve-pounders; they and the fort guns ” —

I let him talk on. The George had not sailed. I saw again a firelit hut, and a man and a panther who went down together. Those claws had dug deep ; the man across whose face they had torn their way would keep his room in the guest house at Jamestown until his wounds were somewhat healed. The George would wait for him, would scarcely dare to sail without him, and I should find the lady whom she was to carry away to England in Virginia still. It was this that I had built upon, the grain of comfort, the passionate hope, the sustaining cordial, of those year-long days in the village above the Pamunkey.

My heart was sore because of Diccon ; but I could speak of that grief to her, and she would grieve with me. There were awe and dread and stern sorrow in the knowledge that even now in the bright spring morning blood from a hundred homes might be flowing to meet the shining, careless river; but it was the springtime, and she was waiting for me. I strode on toward the stairway so fast that when I asked a question, Master Pory, at my side, was too out of breath to answer it. Halfway down the stairs I asked it again, and again received no answer save a “ Zooks ! you go too fast for my years and having in flesh. Go more slowly, Ralph Percy; there’s time enough, — there’s time enough.”

There was a tone in his voice that I liked not, for it savored of pity. I looked at him with knitted brows ; but we were now in the hall, and through the open door of the great room I caught a glimpse of a woman’s skirt. There were men in the hall, servants and messengers, who made way for us, staring at me as they did so, and whispering. I knew that my clothing was torn and muddied and stained with blood ; as we paused at the door, there came to me in a flash that day in the courting meadow when I had tried with my dagger to scrape the dried mud from my boots. I laughed at myself for caring now, and for thinking that she would care that I was not dressed for a lady’s bower. The next moment we were in the great room.

She was not there. The silken skirt that I had seen, and —there being but one woman in all the world for me — had taken for hers, belonged to Lady Wyatt, who, pale and terrified, was sitting with clasped hands, mutely following with her eyes her husband as he walked to and fro. West had come in from the street, and was making some report. Around the table were gathered two or three of the Council ; Master Sandys stood at a window, Rolfe beside Lady Wyatt’s chair. The room was filled with sunshine, and a caged bird was singing, singing. It made the only sound there when they saw that I stood amongst them.

When I had made my bow to Lady Wyatt and to the Governor, and had clasped hands with Rolfe, I began to find in the silence, as I had found in Master Pory’sloquaciousness, something strange. They looked at me uneasily, and I caught a swift glance from the Treasurer to Master Pory, and an answering shake of the latter’s head. Rolfe was very white, and his lips were set; West was pulling at his mustaches and staring at the floor.

“ With all our hearts we welcome you back to life and to the service of Virginia, Captain Percy,” said the Governor, when the silence had become awkward.

A murmur of assent went round the room.

I bowed. “ I thank you, sir, and these gentlemen very heartily. You have but to command me now. I find that I have to-day the best will in the world toward fighting. I trust that your Honor does not deem it necessary to send me back to gaol ? ”

“ Virginia has no gaol for Captain Percy,” he answered gravely. “ She has only grateful thanks and fullest sympathy.”

I glanced at him keenly. “ Then I hold myself at your command, sir, when I shall have seen and spoken with my wife.”

He looked at the floor, and they one and all held their peace.

“ Madam,” I said to Lady Wyatt, “ I have been watching your ladyship’s face. Will you tell me why it is so very full of pity, and why there are tears in your eyes ? ”

She shrank back in her chair with a little cry, and Rolfe stepped toward me, then turned sharply aside. “ I cannot,” he cried, “ I that know ” —

I drew myself up to meet the blow, whatever it might be. “ I demand of you my wife, Sir Francis Wyatt,” I said. “ If there is ill news to be told, be so good as to tell it quickly. If she is sick, or hath been sent away to England ” —

The Governor made as if to speak, then turned and flung out his hands to his wife. “ ’T is woman’s work, Margaret ! ” he cried. 舠 Tell him ! ”

More merciful than the men, she came to me at once, the tears running down her cheeks, and laid one trembling hand upon my arm. “ She was a brave lady, Captain Percy,” she said. “ Bear it as she would have had you bear it.”

“ I am bearing it, madam,” I answered at last. “ ‘ She was a brave lady.’ May it please your ladyship to go on ? ”

“ I will tell you all, Captain Percy ; I will tell you everything. . . . She never believed you dead, and she begged upon her knees that we would allow her to go in search of you with Master Rolfe. That could not be ; my husband, in duty to the Company, could not let her have her will. Master Rolfe went, and she sat in the window yonder day after day, watching for his return. When other parties went out, she besought the men, as they had wives whom they loved, to search as though those loved ones were in captivity and danger ; when they grew weary and faint-hearted, to think of her face waiting in the window. . . . Day after day she sat there watching for them to come back; when they were come, then she watched the river for Master Rolfe’s boats. Then came word down the river that he had found no trace of you whom he sought, that he was on his way back to Jamestown, that he too believed you dead. ... We put a watch upon her after that, for we feared we knew not what, there was such a light and purpose in her eyes. But two nights ago, in the middle of the night, the woman who stayed in her chamber fell asleep. When she awoke, before the dawn, it was to find her gone.”

“To find her gone?” I said dully. “ To find her dead ? ”

She locked her hands together, and the teal’s came faster. “ Oh, Captain Percy, it had been better so, — it had been better so ! Then would she have lain to greet you, calm and white, unmarred and beautiful, with the spring flowers upon her. . . . She believed not that you were dead ; she was distraught with grief and watching ; she thought that love might find what friendship missed; she went to the forest to seek you. They that were sent to find and bring her back have never returned ” —

“Into the forest!” I cried. 舠 Jocelyn, Jocelyn, Jocelyn, come back !

Some one pushed me into a chair, and I felt the warmth of wine within my lips. In the moment that the world steadied I rose and went toward the door, to find my way barred by Rolfe.

“ Not you too, Ralph ! ” he cried. “ I will not let you go. Look for yourself ! ” He drew me to the window, Master Sandys gravely making place for us. From the window was visible the neck of land and the forest beyond, and from the forest, up and down the river as far as the eye could reach, rose here and there thin columns of smoke. Suddenly, as we stared, three or four white smoke puffs, like giant flowers, started out of the shadowy woods across the neck. Following the crack of the muskets — fired out of pure bravado by their Indian owners— came the yelling of the savages. The sound was prolonged and deep, as though issuing from many throats.

I looked and listened, and knew that I could not go, — not now.

“ She was not alone, Ralph,” said Rolfe, with his arm about me. “ On the morning that she was missed they found not Jeremy Sparrow either. They tracked them both to the forest by the footprints upon the sand, though once in the wood the trail was lost. The minister must have been watching, must have seen her leave the bouse, and must have followed her. How she, and he after her, passed through the gates none know. So careless and confident had we grown — God forgive us ! — that they may have been left open all that night. But he was with her, Ralph; she had not to face it alone ” — His voice broke.

For myself, I was glad that the minister had been there, though I knew that for him also I should grieve, after a while.

At the firing and the shouting West had rushed from the room, followed by his fellow Councilors, and now the Governor clapped on his headpiece and called to his men to bring his back-andbreast. His wife hung around his neck, and he bade her good-by with great tenderness. I looked dully on at that parting. I too was going to battle. Once I had tasted such a farewell, the pain, the passion, the sweetness, but never again, — never again.

He went, and the Treasurer, after a few words of comfort to Lady Wyatt, was gone also. Both were merciful and spoke not to me, but only bowed and turned aside, requiring no answering word or motion of mine. When they wore away, and there was no sound in the room save the caged bird’s singing and Lady Wyatt’s low sobs, I begged Rolfe to leave me ; telling him that he was needed, as indeed he was, and that I would stay in the window for a while, and then would join him at the palisade. He was loath to go ; but he too had loved and lost, and knew that there was nothing to be said, and that it was best to be alone. He went, and only Lady Wyatt and I kept the quiet room with the singing bird and the sunshine on the floor.

I leaned against the window and looked out into the street, — which was not crowded now, for the men were all at their several posts, — and at the budding trees, and at the smoke of many fires going up from the forest to the sky, from a world of hate and pain and woe to the heaven where she dwelt; and then I turned and went to the table, where had been set bread and meat and wine.

At the sound of my footstep Lady Wyatt uncovered her face. “Is there aught that I can do for you, sir ? ” she asked timidly.

“ I have not broken my fast for many hours, madam,” I answered. “I would eat and drink, that I may not be found wanting in strength. There is a thing that I have yet to do.”

Rising from her chair, she brushed away her tears, and, coming to the table with a little housewifely eagerness, would not let me wait upon myself, but carved and poured for me, and then sat down opposite me and covered her eyes with her hand.

“ I think that the Governor is quite safe, madam,” I said. “ I do not believe that the Indians will take the palisade. It may even be that, knowing we are prepared, they will not attack at all. Indeed, I think that you may be easy about him.”

She thanked me, with a smile. “ It is all so strange and dreadful to me, sir,” she said. “ At my home in England it was like a Sunday morning all the year round, — all stillness and peace ; no terror, no alarm. I fear that I am not yet a good Virginian.”

When I had eaten and had drunk the wine she gave me, I rose, and asked her if I might not see her safe within the fort before I joined her husband at the palisade. She shook her head, and told me that there were with her faithful servants, and that if the savages broke in upon the town she would have warning in time to flee, the fort being so close at hand. When I thereupon begged her leave to depart, she first curtsied to me, and then, again with tears, came to me and took my hand in hers. “ I know that there is naught that I can say. . . . Your wife loved you, sir, with all her heart.” She drew something from the bosom of her gown. “Would you like this? It is a knot of ribbon that she wore. They found it caught in a bush at the edge of the forest.”

I took the ribbon from her and put it to my lips, then unknotted it and tied it around my arm ; and then, wearing my wife’s colors, I went softly out into the street, and turned my face toward the guest house and the man whom I meant to kill.



The door of the guest house stood wide, and within the lower room were neither men that drank nor men that gave to drink. Host and drawers and chance guests alike had left pipe and tankard for sword and musket, and were gone to fort or palisade or river bank.

I crossed the empty room and went up the creaking stairway. No one met me or withstood me ; only a pigeon, perched upon the sill of a sunny window, whirred off into the blue. I glanced out of the window as I passed it, and saw the silver river and the George and the Esperance, with the gunners at the guns watching for Indian canoes, and saw smoke rising from the forest on the southern shore. There had been three houses there, — John West’s and Minifie’s and Crashaw’s. I wondered if mine were burning too at Weyanoke, and cared not if’t was so.

The door of the upper room was shut. When I raised the latch and pushed against it, it gave at the top and middle, but there was some pressure from within at the bottom. I pushed again, more strongly, and the door slowly opened, moving away whatever thing had lain before it. Another moment, and I was in the room, and had closed and barred the door behind me.

The weight that had opposed me was the body of the Italian, lying face downwards, upon the floor. I stooped and turned it over, and saw that the venomous spirit had flown. The face was purple and distorted ; the lips were drawn back from the teeth in a dreadful smile. There was in the room a faint, peculiar, not unpleasant odor. It did not seem strange to me to find that serpent, which had coiled in my path, dead and harmless for evermore. Death had been busy of late ; if he struck down the flower, why should he spare the thing that I pushed out of my way with my foot ?

Ten feet from the door stood a great screen, hiding from view all that might be beyond. It was very quiet in the room, with the sunshine coming through the window, and a breeze that smelt of the sea. I had not cared to walk lightly or to close the door softly, and yet no voice had challenged my entrance. For a minute I feared to find the dead physician the room’s only occupant ; then I passed the screen and came upon my enemy.

He was sitting beside a table, with his arms outstretched and his head bowed upon them. My footfall did not rouse him ; he sat there in the sunshine as still as the figure that lay before the threshold. I thought with a dull fury that maybe he was dead already, and I walked hastily and heavily across the floor to the table. He was a living man, for with the fingers of one hand he was slowly striking against a sheet of paper that lay beneath them. He knew not that I stood above him ; he was listening to other footsteps.

The paper was a letter, unfolded, and written over with great black characters. The few lines above those moving fingers stared me in the face. They ran thus : “ I told you that you had as well cut your throat as go upon that mad Virginia voyage. Now all’s gone,— wealth, honors, favor. Buckingham is the sun in heaven, and cold are the shadows in which we walk who hailed another luminary. There ’s a warrant out for the Black Death ; look to it that one meets not you too, when you come at last. But come, in the name of all the fiends, and play your last card. There ’s your cursed beauty still. Come, and let the King behold your face once move ” — The rest was hidden.

I put out my hand and touched him upon the shoulder, and he raised his head and stared at me as at one come from the grave.

Over one side of his face, from temple to chin, was drawn and fastened a black cloth ; the unharmed cheek was bloodless and shrunken, the lip twisted. Only the eyes, dark, sinister, and splendid, were as they had been. “ I dig not my graves deep enough,” he said. “ Is she behind you there in the shadow ? ”

Flung across a chair was a cloak of scarlet cloth. I took it and spread it out upon the floor, then unsheathed a dagger which I had taken from the rack of weapons in the Governor’s hall. “ Loosen thy poniard, thou murderer,” I cried, “ and come stand with me upon the cloak! ”

“Art quick or dead ? ” he answered. “I will not fight the dead.” He had not moved in his seat, and there was a lethargy and a dullness in his voice and eyes. “ There is time enough,” he said. “ I too shall soon be of thy world, thou haggard, bloody shape. Wait until I come, and I will fight thee, shadow to shadow.”

“ I am not dead,” I said, “ but there is one that is. Stand up, villain and murderer, or I will kill you sitting there, with her blood upon your hands ! ”

He rose at that, and drew his dagger from the sheath. I laid aside my doublet, and he followed my example ; but his hands moved listlessly, and his fingers bungled at the fastenings. I waited for him in some wonder, it not being like him to come tardily to such pastime.

He came at last, slowly and with an uncertain step, and we stood together on the scarlet cloak. I raised my left arm and he raised his, and we locked hands. There was no strength in his clasp ; his hand lay within mine cold and languid. “ Art ready ? ” I demanded.

“ Yea,” he answered in a strange voice, “ but I would that she did not stand there with her head upon your breast. ... I too loved thee, Jocelyn, — Jocelyn lying dead in the forest! ”

I struck at him with the dagger in my right hand, and wounded him, but not deeply, in the side. He gave blow for blow, but his poniard scarce drew blood, so nerveless was his arm. I struck again, and he stabbed weakly at the air, then let his arm drop to his side, as though the light and jeweled blade had weighed it down.

Loosening the clasp of our left hands, I fell back until the narrow scarlet field was between us. “ Hast no more strength than that ? ” I cried. “ I cannot murder you ! ”

He stood looking past me as into a great distance. He was bleeding, but I had as yet been able to strike no mortal blow. “ It is as you choose,” he said. “ I am as one bound before you. I am sick unto death.”

Turning, he went back, swaying as he walked, to his chair, and sinking into it sat there a minute with half-closed eyes ; then he raised his head and looked at me, with a shadow of the old arrogance, pride, and disdain upon his scarred face. “ Not yet, captain ? ” he demanded. “ To the heart, man ! So I would strike an you sat here and I stood there.”

“ I know you would,” I said, and going to the window I flung the dagger down into the empty street; then stood and watched the smoke across the river, and thought it strange that the sun shone and the birds sang.

When I turned to the room again, he still sat there in the great chair, a tragic, splendid figure, with his ruined face and the sullen woe of his eyes. “ I had sworn to kill you,” I said. “ It is not just that you should live.”

He gazed at me with something like a smile upon his bloodless lips. “ Fret not thyself, Ralph Percy,” he said. “ Within a week I shall be gone. Did you see my servant, my Italian doctor, lying dead upon the floor, there beyond the screen ? He had poisons, had Nicolo, whom men called the Black Death, — poisons swift and strong, or subtle and slow. Day and night, the earth and sunshine, have become hateful to me. I will go to the fires of hell, and see if they can make me forget, — can make me forget the face of a woman.” He was speaking half to me, half to himself. “ Her eyes are dark and large,” he said, “ and there are shadows beneath them, and the mark of tears. She stands there day and night with her eyes upon me. Her lips are parted, but she never speaks. There was a way that she had with her hands, holding them one within the other, thus ” —

I stopped him with a cry for silence, and I leaned trembling against the table. “Thou wretch!” I cried. “Thou art her murderer ! ”

He raised his head and looked beyond me with that strange, faint smile. 舠 I know,” he replied, with the dignity which was his at times. “ You may play the headsman, if you choose. I dispute not your right. But it is scarce worth while. I have taken poison.”

The sunshine came into the room, and the wind from the river, and the trumpet notes of swans flying to the north. 舠 The George is ready for sailing,” he said at last. “ To-morrow or the next day she will be going home with the tidings of this massacre. I shall go with her, and within a week they will bury me at sea. There is a stealthy, slow, and secret poison. ... I would not die in a land where I have lost every throw of the dice, and I would not die in England for Buckingham to come and look upon my face, and so I took that poison. For the man upon the floor, there, — prison and death awaited him at home. He chose to flee at once.”

He ceased to speak, and sat with his head bowed upon his breast. “ If you are content that it should be as it is,” he said at length, “ perhaps you will leave me ? I am not good company to-day.”

His hand was busy again with the letter upon the table, and his gaze was fixed beyond me. “ I have lost,” he muttered. “ How I came to play my cards so badly I do not know. The stake was heavy ; I have not wherewithal to play again.”

His head sank upon his outstretched arm. As for me, I stood a minute with set lips and clenched hands ; then I turned and went out of the room, down the stair and out into the street. In the dust beneath the window lay my dagger. I picked it up, sheathed it, and went my way.

The street was very quiet. All windows and doors were closed and barred ; not a soul was there to trouble me with look or speech. The yelling from the forest had ceased ; only the keen wind blew, and brought from the Esperance upon the river a sound of singing. The sea was the home of the men upon her decks, and their hearts dwelt not in this port; they could sing while the smoke went up from our homes and the dead lay across the thresholds.

I walked on through the sunshine and the stillness to the minister’s house. The trees in the garden were hare, the flowers dead. The door was not barred. I entered the house, and went into the great room and flung the heavy shutters wide, then stood and looked about me. Naught was changed ; it was as we had left it that wild November night. Even the mirror which, one other night, had shown me Diccon still hung upon the wall. Master Bucke had been seldom at home, perhaps, or was feeble and careless of altering matters. All was as though we had been but an hour gone, save that no fire burned upon the hearth.

I went to the table, and the books on it were Jeremy Sparrow’s : the minister’s house, then, had been his home once more. Beside the books lay a packet, tied with silk, sealed, and addressed to me. Perhaps the Governor had given it, the day before, into Master Bucke’s care, — I do not know ; at any rate, there it lay. I looked at the “ By the Esperance ” upon the cover, and wondered dully who at home would care to write to me ; then broke the seal and untied the silk. Within the cover there was a letter with the superscription, “ To a Gentleman who has served me well.”

I read the letter through to the signature, which was that of his Grace of Buckingham, and then I laughed, who had never thought to laugh again, and threw the paper down. It mattered naught to me now that George Villiers should be grateful or that James Stuart could deny a favorite nothing. “ The King graciously sanctions the marriage of his sometime ward, the Lady Jocelyn Leigh, with Captain Ralph Percy ; invites them home ”

She was gone home, and I her husband, I who loved her, was left behind. How many years of pilgrimage . . . how long, how long, O Lord ?

The minister’s great armchair was drawn before the cold and blackened hearth. How often she had sat there within its dark clasp, the firelight on her dress, her hands, her face! She had been fair to look upon. The pride, the daring, the willfulness, were but the thorns about the rose; behind those defenses was the flower, pure and lovely, with a heart of gold. I flung myself down beside the chair, and putting my arms across it hid my face upon them, and could weep at last.

That passion spent itself, and I lay with my face against the wood and wellnigh slept. The battle was done ; the field was lost; the storm and stress of life had sunk into this dull calm, as still as peace, as hopeless as the charred log and white ash upon the hearth, cold, never to be quickened again.

Time passed, and at last I raised my head, roused suddenly to the consciousness that for a while there had been no stillness. The air was full of sound, shouts, savage cries, the beating of a drum, the noise of musketry. I sprang to my feet and went to the door, to meet Rolfe crossing the threshold.

He put his arm within mine and drew me out into the sunshine upon the doorstep. “ I thought I should find you here,” he said; “ but it is only a room with its memories, Ralph. Out here is more breadth, more height. There is country yet, Ralph, and after a while friends. The Indians are beginning to attack in force. Humphry Boyse is killed, and Morris Chaloner. There is smoke over the plantations up and down the river, as far as we can see, and awhile ago the body of a child drifted down to us.”

“ I am unarmed,” I said. 舠 I will but run to the fort for sword and musket ” —

“ No need,” he answered. 舠 There are the dead whom you may rob.” The noise increasing as he spoke, we made no further tarrying, but, leaving behind us house and garden, hurried to the palisade.



Through a loophole in the gate of the palisade I looked, and saw the sandy neck joining the town to the main, and the deep and dark woods beyond, the fairy mantle giving invisibility to a host. Between us and that refuge dead men lay here and there, stiff and stark, with the black paint upon them, and the colored feathers of their headdresses red or blue against the sand. One warrior, shot through the back, crawled like a wounded beetle to the forest. We let him go, for we cared not to waste ammunition upon him.

I drew back from my loophole, and held out my hand to the women for a freshly loaded musket. A quick murmur like the drawing of a breath came from our line. The Governor, standing near me, cast an anxious glance along the stretch of wooden stakes that were neither so high nor so thick as they should have been. “ I am new to this warfare, Captain Percy,” he said. “ Do they think to use those logs that they carry as battering-rams ? ”

“ As scaling-ladders, your Honor,” I replied. “ It is on the cards that we may have some swordplay, after all.”

“ We ’ll take your advice, the next time we build a palisade, Ralph Percy,” muttered West on my other side. Mounting the breastwork that we had thrown up to shelter the women who were to load the muskets, he coolly looked over the pales at the oncoming savages. “ Wait until they pass the blasted pine, men ! ” he cried. “ Then give them a hail of lead that will beat them back to the Pamunkey ! ”

An arrow whistled by his ear; a second struck him on the shoulder, but pierced not his coat of mail. He came down from his dangerous post with a laugh.

“ If the leader could be picked off ” — I said. “ It’s a long shot, but there ’s no harm in trying.”

As I spoke I raised my gun to my shoulder ; but he leaned across Rolfe, who stood between us, and plucked me by the sleeve. “ You’ve not looked at him closely. Look again.”

I did as he told me, and lowered my musket. It was not for me to send that Indian leader to his account. Rolfe’s lips tightened and a sudden pallor overspread his face. “ Nantauquas ? ” he muttered in my ear, and I nodded yes.

The volley that we fired full into the ranks of our foe was deadly, and we looked to see them turn and flee, as they had fled before. But this time they were led by one who had been trained in English steadfastness. Broken for the moment, they rallied and came on yelling, bearing logs, thick branches of trees, oars tied together, —anything by whose help they could hope to surmount the palisade. We fired again, but they had planted their ladders. Before we could snatch the loaded muskets from the women a dozen painted figures appeared above the sharpened stakes. A moment, and they and a score behind them had leaped down upon us.

It was no time now to skulk behind a palisade. At all hazards, that tide from the forest must be stemmed. Those that were amongst us we might kill, but more were swarming after them, and from the neck came the exultant yelling of madly hurrying reinforcements.

We flung open the gates. I drove my sword through the heart of an Indian who would have opposed me, and, calling for men to follow me, sprang forward. Perhaps thirty came at my call; together we made for the opening. The savages who were among us interposed. We set upon them with sword and musket butt, and though they fought like very devils we drove them through the gateway. Behind us were the wild clamor, the shrieking of women, stern shouts of the English, the whooping of the savages ; before us was a rush that must be met and turned.

It was done. A moment’s fierce fighting, then the Indians wavered, broke, and fled. Like sheep we drove them before us, across the neck, to the edge of the forest, into which they plunged. Into that ambush we cared not to follow, but fell back to the palisade and the town, believing, and with reason, that the lesson had been taught. The strip of sand was strewn with the dead and the dying, but they belonged not to us. Our dead numbered but three, and we bore their bodies with us.

Within the palisade we found the English in sufficiently good case. Of the score or more Indians cut off by us from their mates and penned within that death trap, half at least were already dead, run through with sword and pike, shot down with the muskets that there was now time to load. The remainder, hemmed about, pressed against the wall, were fast meeting with a like fate. They stood no chance against us; we cared not to make prisoners of them ; it was a slaughter, but they had taken the initiative. They fought with the courage of despair, striving to spring in upon us, striking when they could with hatchet and knife, and through it all talking and laughing, making God knows what savage boasts, what taunts against the English, what references to the hunting grounds to which they were going. They were brave men that we slew that day.

At last there was left but the leader, — unharmed, unwounded, though time and again he had striven to close with some one of us, to strike and to die striking with his fellows. Behind him was the wall: of the half circle which he faced, well-nigh all were old soldiers and servants of the colony, gentlemen none of whom had come in later than Dale, — Rolfe, West, Wynne, and others. We were swordsmen all. When in his desperation he would have thrown himself upon us, we contented ourselves with keeping him at sword’s length, and at last West sent the knife in the dark hand whirling over the palisade. Some one had shouted to the musketeers to spare him.

When he saw that he stood alone, he stepped back against the wall, drew himself up to his full height, and folded his arms. Perhaps he thought that we would shoot him down then and there ; perhaps he saw himself a captive amongst us, a show for the idle and for the strangers that the ships brought in.

The din had ceased, and we the living, the victors, stood and looked at the vanquished dead at our feet and at the dead beyond the gates, and at the neck upon which was no living foe, and at the blue sky bending over all. Our hearts told us, and told us truly, that the lesson had been taught, that no more forever need we at Jamestown fear an Indian attack. And then we looked at him whose life we had spared.

He opposed our gaze with his folded arms, and his head held high, and his back against the wall. Many of us could remember him, a proud, shy lad, coming for the first time from the forest with his sister to see the English village and its wonders. For idleness we had set him in our midst that summer day, long ago, on the green by the fort, and had called him 舠 your royal highness,” laughing at the quickness of our wit, and admiring the spirit and bearing of the lad and the promise he gave of a splendid manhood. And all knew the tale I had brought the night before.

Slowly, as one man, and with no spoken word, we fell back, the half circle straightening into a line and leaving a clear pathway to the open gate. The wind had ceased to blow, I remember, and a sunny stillness lay upon the sand, and the rough-hewn wooden stakes, and a little patch of tender grass across which stretched a dead man’s arm. The church bells began to ring.

The Indian out of whose path to life and freedom we had stood glanced from the line of lowered steel to the open gates and the forest beyond, and understood. For a full minute he waited, moving not a muscle, still and stately as some noble masterpiece in bronze. Then he stepped from the shadow of the wall, and moved past us through the sunshine that turned the eagle feather in his scalp lock to gold. His eyes were fixed upon the forest; there was no change in the superb calm of his face. He went by the huddled dead and the long line of the living that spoke no word, and out of the gates and across the neck, walking slowly that we might yet shoot him down if we saw fit to repent ourselves, and proudly like a king’s son. There was no sound save the church bells ringing for our deliverance. He reached the shadow of the trees: a moment, and the forest had back her own.

We sheathed our swords, and listened to the Governor’s few earnest words of thankfulness and of recognition of this or that man’s service ; and then we set to work to clear the ground of the dead, to place sentinels, to bring the town into order, to determine what policy we should pursue, to search for ways by which we might reach and aid those who might be yet alive in the plantations above and below us.

We could not go through the forest, where every tree might hide a foe, but there was the river. For the most part, the houses of the English had been built, like mine at Weyanoke, very near to the water. I volunteered to lead a party up river, and Wynne to go with another toward the bay. But as the council at the Governor’s was breaking up, and as Wynne and I were hurrying off to make our choice of the craft at the landing, there came a great noise from the watchers upon the bank, and a cry that boats were coming down the stream.

It was so, and there were in them white men, nearly all of whom had their wounds to show, and cowering women and children. One boat had come from the plantation at Paspahegh, and two from Martin-Brandon ; they held all that were left of the people. A woman had in her lap the body of a child, and would not let us take it from her ; another, with a half - severed arm, crouched above a man who lay in his blood in the bottom of the boat.

Thus began that strange procession that lasted throughout the afternoon and night and into the next day, when a sloop came down from Henricus with the news that the English were in force there to stand their ground, although their loss had been heavy. Hour after hour they came, as fast as sail and oar could bring them, the panic - stricken folk, whose homes were burned, whose kindred were slain, who had themselves escaped as by a miracle. Many were sorely wounded, so that they died when we lifted them from the boats ; others had slighter hurts. Each boatload had the same tale to tell of treachery, surprise, and fiendish butchery. Wherever it had been possible the English had made a desperate defense, in the face of which the savages gave way, and finally retired to the forest. Contrary to their wont, the Indians took few prisoners, but for the most part slew outright those whom they seized, wreaking their spite upon the senseless corpses. A man too good for this world, George Thorpe, who would think no evil, was killed, and his body mutilated, by those whom he had taught and loved. And Nathaniel Powel was dead, and four others of the Council, besides many more of name and note. There were many women slain, and little children.

From the stronger hundreds came tidings of the number lost, and that the survivors would hold the homes that were left, for the time at least. The Indians had withdrawn; it remained to be seen if they were satisfied with the havoc they had wrought. Would his Honor send by boat — there could be no traveling through the woods — news of how others had fared, and also powder and shot ?

Before the dawning we had heard from all save the remoter settlements. The blow had been struck, and the hurt was deep. But it was not beyond remedy, thank God ! It is known what measures we took for our protection, and how soon the wound to the colony was healed, and what vengeance we meted out to those who had set upon us in the dark and had failed to reach the heart. These things belong to history, and I am but telling my own story, — mine and another’s.

In the chill and darkness of the hour before dawn something like quiet fell upon the distracted, breathless town. There was a pause in the coming of the boats. The wounded and the dying had been cared for, and the noise of the women and the children was stilled at last. All was well at the palisade ; the strong party encamped upon the neck reported the forest beyond them as still as death.

In the Governor’s house was held a short council, subdued and quiet, for we were all of one mind, and our words were few. It was decided that the George should sail at once with the tidings, and with an appeal for arms and powder and a supply of men. The Esperance would still be with us, besides the Hope-in-God and the Tiger; the Margaret and John would shortly come in, being already overdue.

“ My Lord Carnal goes upon the George, gentlemen,” said Master Pory. “ He sent but now to demand if she sailed to-morrow. He is ill, and would be at home.”

One or two glanced at me, but I sat with a face like stone, and the Governor, rising, broke up the council.

I left the house, and the street that was lit with torches and noisy with going to and fro, and went down to the river. Rolfe had been detained by the Governor, West commanded the party at the neck. There were great fires burning along the river bank, and men watching for the incoming boats ; but I knew of a place where no guard was set, and where one or two canoes were moored. No firelight was there, and no one saw me when I entered a canoe, cut the rope, and pushed off from the land.

Well-nigh a day and a night had passed since Lady Wyatt had told me that which made for my heart a nighttime indeed. I believed my wife to be dead, — yea, I trusted that she was dead. I hoped that it had been quickly over, — one blow. Better that, oh, better that a thousand times, than that she should have been carried off to some village, saved to-day to die a thousand deaths to-morrow.

But I thought that there might have been left, lying on the dead leaves of the forest, that fair shell from which the soul had flown. I knew not where to go, — to the north, to the east, to the west,—but go I must. I had no hope of finding that which I went to seek, and no thought but to take up that quest. I was a soldier, and I had stood to my post; but now the need was past, and I could go. In the hall at the Governor’s house I had written a line of farewell to Rolfe, and had given the paper into the hand of a trusty fellow, charging him not to deliver it for two hours to come.

I rowed two miles downstream through the quiet darkness,—so quiet after the hubbub of the town. When I turned my boat to the shore the day was close at hand. The stars were gone, and a pale, cold light, more desolate than the dark, streamed from the east, across which ran, like a faded blood stain, a smear of faint red. Upon the forest the mist lay heavy. When I drove the boat in amongst the sedge and reeds below the bank, I could see only the trunks of the nearest trees, hear only the sullen cry of some river bird that I had disturbed.

Why I was at some pains to fasten the boat to a sycamore that dipped a pallid arm into the stream I do not know. I never thought to come back to the sycamore ; I never thought to bend to an oar again, to behold again the river that the trees and the mist hid from me before I had gone twenty yards into the forest.



It was like a May morning, so mild was the air, so gay the sunshine, when the mist had risen. Wild flowers were blooming, and here and there unfolding leaves made a delicate fretwork against a deep blue sky. The wind did not blow ; everywhere were stillness soft and sweet, dewy freshness, careless peace.

Hour after hour I walked slowly through the woodland, pausing now and then to look from side to side. It was idle going, wandering in a desert with no guiding star. The place where I would be might lie to the east, to the west. In the wide enshrouding forest I might have passed it by. I believed not that I had done so. Surely, surely I should have known ; surely the voice that lived only in my heart would have called to me to stay.

Beside a newly felled tree, in a glade starred with small white flowers, I came upon the bodies of a man and a boy, so hacked, so hewn, so robbed of all comeliness, that at the sight the heart stood still and the brain grew sick. Farther on was a clearing, and in the midst of it the charred and blackened walls of what had been a home. I crossed the freshly turned earth, and looked in at the cabin door with the stillness and the sunshine. A woman lay dead upon the floor, her outstretched hand clenched upon the foot of a cradle. I entered the room, and, looking within the cradle, found that the babe had not been spared. Taking up the little waxen body, I laid it within the mother’s arms, and went my way over the sunny doorstep and the earth that had been made ready for planting. A white butterfly — the first of the year — fluttered before me; then rose through a mist of green and passed from my sight.

The sun climbed higher into the deep blue sky. Save where grew pines or cedars there were no shadowy places in the forest. The slight green of uncurling leaves, the airy scarlet of the maples, the bare branches of the tardier trees, opposed no barrier to the sunlight. It streamed into the world below the treetops, and lay warm upon the dead leaves and the green moss and the fragile wild flowers. There was a noise of birds, and a fox barked. All was lightness, gayety, and warmth ; the sap was running, the heyday of the spring at hand. Ah, to be riding with her, to be going home through the fairy forest, the sunshine, and the singing ! The happy miles to Weyanoke, the smell of the sassafras in its woods, the house all lit and trimmed, the fire kindled, the wine upon the table ; Dicoon’s welcoming face, and his hand upon Black Lamoral’s bridle ; the minister too, maybe, with his great heart and his kindly eyes; her hand in mine, her head upon inv breast —

The vision faded. Never, never, never for me a home-coming such as that, so deep, so dear, so sweet. The men who were my friends, the woman whom I loved, had gone into a far country. This world was not their home. They had crossed the threshold while I lagged behind. The door was shut, and without were the night and I.

With the fading of the vision came a sudden consciousness of a presence in the forest other than my own. I turned sharply, and saw an Indian walking with me, step for step, but with a space between us of earth and brown tree trunks and drooping branches. For a moment I thought that he was shadow, not substance ; then I stood still, waiting for him to speak or to draw nearer. At the first glimpse of the bronze figure I had touched my sword, but when I saw who it was I let my hand fall. He too paused, but he did not offer to speak. With his hand upon a great bow he waited, motionless in the sunlight. A minute or more thus ; then I walked on, with my eyes upon him.

At once he addressed himself to motion, not speaking or making any sign or lessening the distance between us, but moving as I moved through the light and shade, the warmth and stillness, of the forest. For a time I kept my eyes upon him, but soon I was back with my dreams again. It seemed not worth while to wonder why he walked with me, who was now the mortal foe of the people to whom he had returned.

From the river bank, the sycamore, and the boat that I had fastened there, I had gone northward toward the Pamunkey; from the clearing and the ruined cabin with the dead within it, I had turned to the eastward. Now, in that hopeless wandering, I would have faced the north again. But the Indian who had made himself my traveling companion stopped short, and pointed to the east. I looked at him, and thought that he knew, maybe, of some war party between us and the Pamunkey, and would save me from it. A listlessness had come upon me, and I obeyed the pointing finger.

So, estranged and silent, with two spears’ length of earth between us, we went on until we came to a quiet stream flowing between low, dark banks. Again I would have turned to the northward, but the son of Powhatan, gliding before me, set his face down the stream, toward the river I had left. A minute in which I tried to think and could not, because in my ears was the singing of the birds at Weyanoke ; then I followed him.

How long I walked in a dream, hand in hand with the sweetness of the past, I do not know ; but when the present and its anguish weighed again upon ray heart, it was darker, colder, stiller, in the forest. The soundless stream was bright no longer; the golden sunshine that had lain upon the earth was all gathered up; the earth was dark and smooth and bare, with not a flower ; the tree trunks were many and straight and tall. Above were no longer brown branch and blue sky, but a deep and sombre green, thickwoven, keeping out the sunlight like a pall. I stood still and gazed around me, and knew the place.

To me, whose heart was haunted, the dismal wood, the charmed silence, the withdrawal of the light, were less than nothing. All day I had looked for one Sight of horror ; yea, had longed to come at last upon it, to fall beside it, to embrace it with my arms. There, there, though it should be some fair and sunny spot, there would be my haunted wood. As for this place of gloom and stillness, it fell in with my mood. More welcome than the mocking sunshine were this cold and solemn light, this deathlike silence, these ranged pines. It was a place in which to think of life as a slight thing and scarcely worth the while ; given without the asking; spent in turmoil, strife, suffering, and longings all in vain. Easily laid down, too, — so easily laid down that the wonder was —

I looked at the ghostly wood, and at the dull stream, and at my hand upon the hilt of the sword that I had drawn halfway from the scabbard. The life within that hand I had not asked for. Why should I stand like a soldier left to guard a thing not worth the guarding; seeing his comrades march homeward, hearing a cry to him from his distant hearthstone ?

I drew my sword well-nigh from its sheath ; and then of a sudden I saw the matter in a truer light, knew that I was indeed the soldier, and willed to be neither coward nor deserter. The blade dropped back into the scabbard with a clang, and, straightening myself, I walked on beside the sluggish stream deep into the haunted wood.

Presently it occurred to me to glance aside at the Indian who had kept pace with me through the forest. He was not there ; he walked with me no longer ; save for myself there seemed no breathing creature in the dim wood. I looked to right and left, and saw only the tall, straight pines and the needle - strewn ground. How long he had been gone I could not tell. He might have left me when first we came to the pines, for my dreams had held me, and I had not looked his way.

There was that in the twilight place, or in the strangeness, the horror, and the yearning that had kept company with me that day, or in the dull weariness of a mind and body overwrought of late, which made thought impossible. I went on down the stream toward the river, because it chanced that my face was set in that direction.

How dark was the shadow of the pines, how lifeless the earth beneath, how faint and far away the blue that showed here and there through rifts in the heavy roof of foliage ! The stream bending to one side I turned with it, and there before me stood the minister !

I do not know what strangled cry burst from me. The earth was rocking, all the wood a glare of light. As for him, at the sight of me and the sound of my voice he had staggered back against a tree; but now, recovering himself, he ran to me and put his great arms about me. “ From the power of the dog, from the lion’s mouth! ” he cried brokenly. “ And they slew thee not, Ralph, the heathen who took thee away ! Yesternight I learned that thou livedst, but I looked not for thee here.”

I scarce heard or marked what he was saying, and found no time in which to wonder at his knowledge that I had not perished. I only saw that he was alone, and that in the evening wood there was no sign of other living creature.

“ Yea, they slew me not, Jeremy,” I said. “ I would that they had done so. And you are alone ? I am glad that you died not, my friend ; yes, faith, I am very glad that one escaped. Tell me about it, and I will sit here upon the bank and listen. Was it done in this wood? A gloomy deathbed, friend, for one so young and fair. She should have died to soft music, in the sunshine, with flowers about her.”

With an exclamation he put me from him, but kept his hand upon my arm and his steady eyes upon my face.

“ She loved laughter and sunshine and sweet songs,” I continued. “ She can never know them in this wood. They are outside; they are outside the world, I think. It is sad, is it not? Faith, I think it is the saddest thing I have ever known.”

He clapped his other hand upon my shoulder. “ Wake, man ! ” he commanded. “ If thou shouldst go mad now — Wake ! Thy brain is turning. Hold to thyself. Stand fast, as thou art soldier and Christian. Ralph, she is not dead. She will wear flowers, — thy flowers, — sing, laugh, move through the sunshine of earth for many and many a year, please God ! Art listening, Ralph ? Canst hear what I am saying ? ”

“ I hear,” I said at last, “ but I do not well understand.”

He pushed me back against a pine, and held me there with his hands upon my shoulders. “ Listen,” he said, speaking rapidly and keeping his eyes upon mine. “ All those days that you were gone, when all the world declared you dead, she believed you living. She saw party after party come back without you, and she believed that you were left behind in the forest. Also, she knew that the George waited but for the search to be quite given over, and for my Lord Carnal’s recovery. She had been told that the King’s command might not be defied, that the Governor had no choice but to send her from Virginia. Ralph, I watched her, and I knew that she meant not to go upon that ship. Three nights agone she stole from the Governor’s house, and, passing through the gates that the sleeping warder had left unfastened, went toward the forest. I saw her and followed her, and at the edge of the forest I spoke to her. I stayed her not, I brought her not back, Ralph, because I was convinced that an I did so she would die. I knew of no great danger, and I trusted in the Lord to show me what to do, step by step, and how to guide her gently back when she was weary of wandering, —when, worn out, she was willing to give up the quest for the dead. Art following me, Ralph ? ”

“Yes,” I answered quietly. “I was nigh mad, Jeremy, fur my faith was not like hers. I have looked on Death too much of late, and yesterday all men believed that he had come to dwell in the forest, and had swept clean his house before him. But you escaped, you both escaped ” —

“ God’s hand was over us,” he said reverently. “ This is the way of it: She had been ill, you know, and of late she had taken no thought of food or sleep. She was so weak, we had to go so slowly, and so winding was our path, who knew not the country, that the evening found us not far upon our way, if way we had. We came to a cabin in a clearing, and they whose home it was gave us shelter for the night. In the morning, when the father and son would go forth to their work, we walked with them. We bade them good - by when they came to the trees they meant to fell, and went on alone. We had not gone an hundred paces, when, looking back, we saw three Indians start from the dimness of the forest and set upon and slay the man and the boy. That murder done they gave chase to me, who caught up thy wife and ran for both our lives. When I saw that they were light of foot and would overtake me, I set my burden down, and, drawing a sword that I had with me, went back to meet them halfway. Ralph, I slew all three, — may the Lord have mercy on my soul! I knew not what to think of that attack, the peace with the Indians being so profound, and I began to fear for thy wife’s safety. She knew not the woods, and I managed to turn our steps back toward Jamestown without her knowledge that I did so. It was about midday when we saw the gleam of the river through the trees before us, and heard the sound of firing and of a great yelling. I made her crouch within a thicket, while I myself went forward to reconnoitre, and well-nigh stumbled into the midst of an army. Yelling, painted, maddened, brandishing their weapons toward the town, human hair dabbled with blood at the belts of many, — in the name of God, Ralph, what is the meaning of it all ? ”

“ It means,” I said, “ that yesterday they rose against us and slew us by the hundred. The town was warned and is safe. Go on.”

“ I crept back to madam,” he continued, “ and hurried her away from that dangerous neighborhood. We found a growth of bushes, and hid ourselves within it, and just in time ; for from the north came a great band of picked warriors, tall and black and wondrously feathered, fresh to the fray, whatever the fray might be. They joined themselves to the imps upon the river bank, and presently we heard another great din, with more firing and more yelling. Well, to make a long story short, we crouched there in the bushes until late afternoon, not knowing what was the matter, and not daring to venture forth to find out. The woman of the cabin at which we had slept had given us a packet of bread and meat, so we were not without food, but the time was long. And then of a sudden the wood around us was filled with the heathen, band after band, coining from the river, stealing like serpents this way and that into the depths of the forest. They saw us not in the thick bushes ; maybe it was because of the prayers which I said with might and main. At last the distance swallowed them ; the forest seemed clear, no sound, no motion. Long we waited, but with the sunset we stole from the bushes and down an aisle of the forest toward the river, rounded a little wood of cedar, and came full upon perhaps fifty of the savages ” — He paused to draw a great breath and to raise his brows after a fashion that he had.

“ Go on, go on ! ” I cried. “ What did you do ? You have said that she is alive and safe ! ”

“ She is,” he answered, 舠but no thanks to me, though I did set lustily upon that painted fry. Who led them, d’ ye think, Ralph ? Who saved us from those bloody hands ? ”

A light broke in upon me. “ I know,” I said. “ And he brought you here ” —

“ Ay, he sent away the devils whose color he is, worse luck ! He told us that there were Indians, not of his tribe, between us and the town. If we went on, we should fall into their hands. But there was a place that was shunned by the Indian as by the white man: we could bide there until the morrow, when we might find the woods clear. He guided us to this dismal wood that was not altogether strange to us. Ay, he told her that you were alive. He said no more than that. All at once, when we were well within the wood and the twilight was about us, he was gone.”

He ceased to speak, and stood regarding me with a smile upon his rugged face. I took his hand and raised it to my lips. “ I owe you more than I can ever pay,” I said. “ Where is she, my friend ? ”

“Not far away,” he answered. “ We sought the centre of the wood, and because she was so chilled and weary and shaken I did dare to build a fire there. Not a foe has come against us, and we waited but for the dusk of this evening to try to make the town. I came down to the stream just now to find, if I could, how near we were to the river ” —

He broke off, made a gesture with his hand toward one of the long aisles of pine trees, then, with a muttered “ God bless you both,” left me, and, going a little way down the stream, stood with his back to a great tree and his eyes upon the slow, deep water.

She was coming. I watched the slight figure grow out of the dusk between the trees, and the darkness in which I had walked of late fell away. The wood that had been so gloomy was a place of sunlight and song; had red roses sprung up around me, I had felt no wonder. She came softly and slowly, with bent head and hanging arms, not knowing that I was near. I went not to meet her, — it was my fancy to have her come to me still, — but when she raised her eyes and saw me I fell upon my knees.

For a moment she stood still, with her hands at her bosom ; then softly and slowly through the dusky wood she came to me and touched me upon the shoulder. “ Art come to take me home ? ” she asked. “ I have wept and prayed and waited long, but now the spring is here and the woods are growing green.”

I took her hands and bowed my head upon them. “ I believed thee dead,” I said. “ I thought that thou hadst gone home indeed, and I was left in the world alone. I can never tell thee how I love thee.”

“ I need no telling,” she answered.

“ I am glad that I did so forget my womanhood as to come to Virginia on such an errand; glad that they did laugh at and insult me in the meadow at Jamestown, for else thou mightst have given me no thought; very heartily glad that thou didst buy me with thy handful of tobacco. With all my heart I love thee, my knight, my lover, my lord and husband”— Her voice broke, and I felt the trembling of her frame. “ I love not thy tears upon my hands,” she murmured. “I have wandered far, and am weary. Wilt rise, and put thy arm around me and lead me home?”

I stood up, and she came to my arms like a tired bird to its nest. I bent my head, and kissed her upon the brow, the blue-veined eyelids, the perfect lips. “ I love thee,” I said. “ The song is old, but it is sweet. See, I wear thy colors, my lady.”

The hand that had touched the ribbon upon my arm stole upwards to my lips. “ An old song, but a sweet one,” she said. “ I love thee. I shall always love thee. My head may lie upon thy breast, but my heart lies at thy feet.”

There was joy in the haunted wood, deep peace, quiet thankfulness, a springtime of the heart, — not riotous, like the May, but fair and grave and tender, like the young world in the sunshine without the pines. Our lips met again, and then, with my arm around her, we moved to the giant pine beneath which stood the minister. He turned at our approach, and looked at us with a quiet, kindly smile, though the water stood in his eyes. “ ' Heaviness may endure for a night,’ ” he said, “‘but joy cometh in the morning. ’ I thank God for you both.”

“ Last summer, in the green meadow, we knelt before you while you blessed us, Jeremy,” I answered. “ Bless us now again, true friend and man of God.”

He laid his hands upon our bowed heads and blessed us, and then we three moved through the dismal wood and beside the sluggish stream down to the great bright river. Ere we reached it the pines had fallen away, the haunted wood was behind us, our steps were set through a fairy world of greening bough and springing bloom. The blue sky laughed above, the late sunshine barred our path with gold. When we came to the river, it lay in silver at our feet, making low music amongst its reeds.

I had bethought me of the boat which I had fastened that morning to the sycamore between us and the town, and now we moved along the river bank until we should come to the tree. Though we walked through an enemy’s country, we saw no foe. Stillness and peace encompassed us : it was like a beautiful dream from which one fears no wakening.

As we went, I told them — speaking low, for we knew not if we were yet in safety — of the slaughter that had been made and of Diccon. My wife shuddered and wept, and the minister drew long breaths, while his hands opened and closed. And then, when she asked me, I told of how I had been trapped to the ruined hut that night, and of all that had followed. When I had done, she turned within my arm and clung to me, with her face hidden. I kissed her and comforted her ; and presently we came to the sycamore tree reaching out over the clear water, and to the boat that I had fastened there.

The sunset was nigh at hand and all the west was pink. The wind had died away, and the river lay like tinted glass between the dark borders of the forest. Above the sky was blue, while in the south rose clouds that were like pillars, tall and golden. The air was soft as silk ; there was no sound other than the ripple of the water about our keel and the low dash of the oars. The minister rowed, while I sat idle beside my love. He would have it so, and I made slight demur.

We left the bank behind us and glided into the midstream, for it was as well to be out of arrowshot. The shadow of the forest was gone ; still and bright around us lay the mighty river. When at last the boat’s head turned to the west, we saw far up the stream the roofs of Jamestown, dark against the rosy sky.

“ There is a ship going home,” said the minister.

We to whom he spoke looked with him down the river, and saw a tall ship with her prow to the ocean. All her sails were set; the last rays of the sinking sun struck against her poop windows and made of them a half-moon of fire. She went slowly, for the wind was light, but she went surely, away from the new land back to the old, down the stately river to the bay and the wide ocean, and to the burial at sea of one upon her. With her pearly sails and the line of flame color beneath, she looked a dwindling cloud ; a little while, and she would be claimed of the distance and the dusk.

“ It is the George,” I said.

The lady who sat beside me caught her breath.

“ Ay, sweetheart,” I went on. “ She carries one for whom she waited. He has gone from out our life forever.”

She uttered a low cry and turned to me, trembling, her lips parted, her eyes eloquent.

“ We will not speak of him,” I said. “ As if he were dead let his name rest between us. I have another thing to tell thee, dear heart, dear court lady masking as a waiting damsel, dear ward of the King whom his Majesty hath thundered against for so many weary months. Would it grieve thee to go home, after all ? ”

“ Home ? ” she asked. “ To Weyanoke ? That would not grieve me.”

“Not to Weyanoke, but to England,” I said. “ The George is gone, but three days since the Esperance came in. When she sails again I think that we must go.”

She gazed at me with a whitening face. “ And you ? ” she whispered. “ How will you go ? In chains ? ”

I took her clasped hands, parted them, and drew her arms around my neck. “ Ay,” I answered, “ I will go in chains that I care not to have broken. My dear love, I think that the summer lies fair before us. Listen while I tell thee of news that the Esperance brought.”

While I told of new orders from the Company to the Governor and of my letter from Buckingham, the minister rested upon his oars that he might hear the better. When I had ceased to speak he bent to them again, and his tireless strength sent us swiftly over the glassy water toward the town that was no longer distant. “ I am more glad than I can tell you, Ralph and Jocelyn,” he said, and the smile with which he spoke made his face beautiful.

The light streaming to us from the ruddy west laid roses in the cheeks of the sometime ward of the King, and the low wind lifted the dark hair from her forehead. Her head was on my breast, her hand in mine ; we cared not to speak, we were so happy. On her finger was her wedding ring, the ring that was only a link torn from the gold chain Prince Maurice had given me. When she saw my eyes upon it, she raised her hand and kissed the rude circlet.

The hue of the sunset lingered in cloud and water, and in the pale heavens above the rose and purple shone the evening star. The cloudlike ship at which we had gazed was gone into the distance and the twilight; we saw her no more. Broad between its blackening shores stretched the James, mirroring the bloom in the west, the silver star, the lights upon the Esperance that lay between us and the town. Aboard her the mariners were singing, and their song of the sea floated over the water to us, sweetly and like a love song. We passed the ship unhailed, and glided on to the haven where we would be. The singing behind us died away, but the song in our hearts kept on. All things die not: while the soul lives, love lives ; the song may be now gay, now plaintive, but it is deathless.

Mary Johnston.

(The end.)

  1. Copyright, 1899, 1900, by MARY JOHNSTON.