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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Heart's Highway: A Romance Of Virginia In The Seventeenth Century - Chapter 21
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The Heart's Highway: A Romance Of Virginia In The Seventeenth Century - Chapter 21 Post by :bashyam Category :Long Stories Author :Mary E Wilkins Freeman Date :May 2012 Read :3281

Click below to download : The Heart's Highway: A Romance Of Virginia In The Seventeenth Century - Chapter 21 (Format : PDF)

The Heart's Highway: A Romance Of Virginia In The Seventeenth Century - Chapter 21

CHAPTER XXI

I lay in prison until the twenty-ninth day of May, Royal Oak Day. I know not quite how it came to pass, but none of my brother's efforts toward my release met with any success. I heard afterward some whispers as to the cause, being that so many of high degree were concerned in the riots, and that if I, a poor devil of a convict tutor, were let off too cheaply, why then the rest of them must be let loose only at a rope's end, and that it would never do to send me back to Drake Hill scot free, while Sir Humphrey Hyde and Major Robert Beverly and my Lord Estes, and others, were in durance, and some high in office in great danger of discovery. At all events, whatever may have been the reason, my release could not be effected, and in prison I lay for all those days, but with more comfort, since either Catherine or Mary--Mary I think it must have been--made a curtain for my window, which kept out that burning eye of the western sun, and also fashioned a gnat veil to overspread my pallet, so the flies could not get at me. I knew there were others in prison, but knew not that three of them were led forth to be hung, which might have been my fate, had I been a free man, nor knew that another was released on condition that he build a bridge over Dragon's Swamp. This last chance, my friends had striven sorely to get for me, but had not succeeded, though they had offered large sums, my brother being willing to tax the estate heavily. Some covert will there was at work against me, and it may be I could mention it, but I like not mentioning covert wills, but only such as be downright, and exercised openly in the faces of all men. I lay there not so uncomfortably, being aware of a great delight that the tobacco was cut, whether or no, as indeed it was on many plantations, and the King cheated out of great wealth.

This end of proceedings, with no Bacon to lead us, did not surprise nor disappoint me. Then, too, the fact that I was cleared of suspicion of theft in the eyes of her I loved and her family, at least, filled me with an ecstasy which sometimes awoke me from slumber like a pain. And though I was quite resolved not to let that beloved maid fling away herself upon me, unless my innocence was proven world-wide, and to shield her at all costs to myself, yet sometimes the hope that in after years I might be able to wed her and not injure her, started up within me. She came to see me whenever she could steal away, Madam Cavendish being still in that state of hatred against me, for my participation in the riot, though otherwise disposed enough to give her consent to our marriage on the spot. And every day came my brother John and Catherine, and now and then Parson Downs. And the parson used to bring me choice spirits in his pocket, and tobacco, though I could touch only the latter for fear of inflaming my wounds, and he used to sit and read me some of Will Shakespeare's Plays, which he bore under his cassock, and a prayer-book openly in hand, that being the only touch of hypocrisy which ever I saw about Parson Downs.

"Lord, Harry, thou dost not want prayers," he would say, "but rather being fallen as thou art, in an evil sink of human happenings, somewhat about them, and none hath so mastered the furthest roots of men's hearts as Will Shakespeare. 'Tis him and a pipe thou needst, lad." So saying, down he would sit himself betwixt me and the fiery western window, and I got to believe more in his Christianity, than ever I had done when I had heard him hold forth from the pulpit.

'Twas from him I knew the sad penalty which they fixed upon for me, for the 29th of May, that being Royal Oak Day, when they celebrated the Restoration in England, and more or less in the colonies, and on which a great junketing had been arranged, with races, and wrestling, and various sports.

Parson Downs came to me the afternoon of the 28th, and sat gazing at me with a melancholy air, nor offered to read Will Shakespeare, though he filled my pipe and pressed hard upon me a cup of Burgundy.

"'Twill give thee heart, Harry," he said, "and surely now thy wounds be so far healed, 'twill not inflame them, and in any case, why should good spirit inflame wounds? Faith, and I believe not in so much bleeding and so little stimulating. I'll be damned, Harry, if I see what is left to inflame in thee, not a hint of colour in thy long face. Stands it not to reason, that if no blood be left in thee for the wounds to work upon, they must even take thy vitals? But I am no physician. However, smoke hard as thou canst, poor Harry, if thou wilt not drink, for I have something to tell thee, and there is that about our good tobacco of Virginia--now we have rescued it, betwixt you and me, from royal freebooters--which is soothing to the nerves and tending to allay evil anticipations."

Then, as I lay puffing away something feebly at my pipe, still with enjoyment, he unfolded his evil news to me. It seemed that my brother had commissioned him so to do.

"'Tis a shame, Harry," he said, "and I will assure thee that all that could be done hath been, and if now there were less on guard, and a place where thou couldst hide with safety, the fleetest horse in the Colony is outside, if thou wert strong enough to sit him. And so thou escaped, I would care not if never I saw him again, though I paid a pretty penny for him and love him better than ever I loved any woman, since he springs to order and stands without hitching, and with never a word of nagging in my ears to make me pay penance for the service. What a man with a good horse, and good wine, and good tobacco, wanteth a wife for, passeth my understanding, but I know thou art young, and the maid is a fair one. Faith, and she was in such sore affliction this morning because of thee, Harry, as might well console any man. Had she been Bacon's widow, she had not wedded again, but gone widow to her death. Thou shouldst have seen her, lad, when I ventured to strive to comfort her with the reflection that her suffering in thy behalf was not so grievous as was Bacon's wife's for his death, for thou art to have thy life, my poor Harry, and no great hurt, though it may be somewhat wearisome if the sun be hot. But Mistress Mary Cavendish flew out at me in such wise, though she hath known all along to what fate thou wert probably destined, and said such harsh things of poor Madam Bacon, that I was minded to retreat. Keep Mary Cavendish's love, when she be wedded to thee, Harry, for there is little compromise with her for faults, unless she loveth, and she hath found out that Cicely Hyde betrayed the plans of the plant-cutters, and for her and Madam Bacon her sweet tongue was like a fiery lash, and Catherine was as bad, though silent. Catherine, unless I be greatly mistaken, will wed thy brother John, but unless I be more greatly mistaken, she loveth thee, and now, my poor Harry, wouldst know what they will do to thee to-morrow?"

I nodded my head.

"They will even set thee in the stocks, Harry, at the new field, before all the people at the sports," said Parson Downs.

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CHAPTER XXIII truly think that if Parson Downs had informed me that I was to be put to the rack or lose my head it would not have so cut me to the heart. Something there was about a gentleman of England being set in the stocks which detracted not only from the dignity of the punishment, but that of the offence. I would not have believed they would have done that to me, and can hardly believe it now. Such a punishment had never entered into my imagination, I being a gentleman born and bred, and my crime being a
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CHAPTER XXIt was six years and more since I had seen my half-brother, and I should scarcely have known him, for time had worked great changes in both his face and form. He was much stouter than I remembered him, and wore a ruddy point of beard at his chin, and a great wig as I recalled him as smooth of face, with his own hair.But he was a handsome man, as I saw even then, lying in so much pain and weakness, and he came and stood over me, and looked at me more kindly than I should have expected,
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