Maud Wilder Goodwin.

White aprons, a romance of Bacon's rebellion: Virginia, 1676 online

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glad as any. He cannot help it. Why, I tell thee,
the child that is unborn shall have cause to rejoice
for the good that will come by the rising of the

The quick ear of Fairfax caught a word or
two of this and like discourse, and his proud and
sensitive spirit chafed under it. He longed for
some chance to prove his hearty loyalty, and he was
glad when the opportunity came.

A Trader.

One night he was bidden to Bacon's tent
* Fairfax," said the General, as he entered, " I
have difficult service on hand, difficult and danger-
ous. Knowst thou any man fit for the task and
ready for its risks ? "

" I know not if my powers be counted equal to
its demands, but of a surety I am as little like as
any man to be afear'd of its hazards if you will
but honor me so far as to make trial of me therein."

" Ah ! " answered Bacon. " 'T was precisely
thus I did hope thou wouldst be moved to answer,
though thy wound is so lately healed that thou
mightst well crave excuse from dangerous service ;
but truth to tell, Fairfax, there is none I trust like
thee. Nay, not even Lawrence, for all his subtlety
and college breeding that he hath brought from
over seas. Listen, then!" and Bacon lowered
his voice. "It hath come to my ears how Berkeley
hath no less a treasure in his keeping than an order
from the King for the delivery of my commission."

Fairfax started. " Ay," continued Bacon, " he
hath been wont to keep it with him at Green
Spring; but at the prospect of our coming last
month, he did order it, with other papers of value,
transported to the plantation of Colonel Robert
Boynton, in the heart of the peninsula. 'Tis a
perilous attempt to secure it, yet 'twould help


White Aprons.

mightily; for the chief cry against us is that we
are disloyal to the Kiug."

"Give me but a handful of men and we will
make a raid on the place."

" Dost think we can afford to open so secret a
business even to a few? No, whosoever goes
must go alone."

Fairfax paused as one who weighs his words and
counts their cost; then he said quietly: **/ will
go, and if I come not again 'twill be small loss
save of the commission, and it shall go hard, but I
contrive to rescue that."

" Nay, lad, it would grieve me more to lose you
than the commission. I doubt not ye would make
a bold fight; but 'tis to your craft and coolness
rather than your sword or gun that ye must trust.
I have learned ask me not how or whence that
the commission is concealed within the mansion
itself, but in what portion thereof I know not. In
the house dwell three bachelor kinsmen of Colonel
Boynton. The three are widely famed for their giant
strength and their skill in fighting. Two of them
have joined Berkeley, but the third is left at the plan-
tation for the guarding of the paper you must some-
how secure ; but how to do it I have no advice to
give. Alas, 't is so easy to say * must ' so hard to
show how!"


A Trader.

"Sure 'tis enough for one man to carry the
whole scheme of this war in his head without bur-
dening his mind with every trifle. Leave these to
us smaller men. I will set off this very night, and
ride from Gloucester Court House here to the
shore of the York River, where I do know a man,
not over trusty, but he may serve my turn, for he
will ferry me across ; and thereafter I must trust to
fate and my mother wit to help me out."

" This very night say you ? Have ye forgot that
't is Friday ? " asked Bacon, who despite his reason
shared the superstition of his age.

"All the better," answered Fairfax, lightly. "I
will try how unlucky a day I can make it for
Berkeley; and methinks when he finds his hand
forced in this fashion he will wear dust and ashes
on his head as befits a fast-day. Now fare you
well, General, and expect me not till ye do see

" Farewell, lad, and God be wi' ye ! "

It was near morning when a little boat put out
from shore on the York River. After it swam a
horse, whose head struggled bravely through the
waves. The boat made its way swiftly enough
across the open river ; but as it neared the shore it
moved more slowly, like a live creature groping its
way, till at last its keel grated on the sandy beach


White Aprons.

where the waters of Queen's Creek join the wider
and deeper tide of the York River.

As the boat touched land, Bryan Fairfax sprang
ashore, and by dint of tugging at the rope about his
mare's head brought her up safe and sound though
shivering. Snatching a rag of rough wool which
lay in the bottom of the boat, he rubbed her down
briskly, saying softly in her ear : " Bravely done,
my Peggy! Ye shall have a scarlet saddle-cloth
and a silver bridle chain in honor of your long
swim this night, if we come safely out of this busi-
ness, which, betwixt you and me, Peggy, is a ticklish
one. Ay, my beauty, arch your neck and paw the
ground with pride! Ye are like the rest of the
females, mightily elated with the prospect of new
gauds and finery."

" Now, good Master Boatman," he added, turn-
ing toward the one who had ferried him over, and
who now stood in the stern of his boat, a shadowy
figure against the growing dawn, " here 's a bit o'
silver for you, and mind ye keep a still tongue in
your head or Bacon will find means to still it for
you. Remember, ye are to be at this same spot
to-morrow night, or next morning rather, in the dark
o' the moon. Hide your boat and yourself under
the shadow of these cypress trees, and bide quiet
till you hear me whistle thrice."


A Trader.

" Ay, sir. I '11 not fail," answered the boatman,
as coming forward he buried his oar in the sand
and leaned upon it as he shoved the skiff back into
deep water.

Fairfax stood alone, watching the ripples part
and close again in the wake of the retreating boat.
He shivered a little in the chill morning air, drew
his cloak closer about him, and kicked idly at a
stone which lay beside his foot. The sun rose
round and red across the river. Still he stood
there, his eyes cast down as if the answer to his
thoughts might be found in the broken shells or
the heavy overhanging grasses which fringed the
beach. At length he said to himself: "Verily
necessity is not only the mother but the whole
family of invention. I must seek some disguise,
but what? My sword first of all must be
buried, so off with it and under this stone.
Now if I do rub my skin brown with the juice of
yonder berries, and dust my hat, and tear my
breeches, and turn my coat inside out, I may per-
chance trust to passing for some indented servant
who hath strayed from his master."

So saying he stooped, and, searching in the deep

grass for the brown berries, he pulled them, and

rubbed their juices on face, hands, and arms till he

was darkened almost past recognition by his oldest


White Aprons.

friend. So closely was he occupied that his ear,
usually swift .as an Indian's at catching at any
sound, failed to take in the approach of a horse and
rider till they were close upon him.

" Goot morning, stranger ! " said the rider.
44 Gan ye dell me if dere iss any ford or ferry so dat
me and mein horse gan gome by de oder side off
diss riffer ? "

It was with infinite relief that Fairfax noted the
accent. The utterance was thicker than any known
in Virginia, and the rolling of the words in the
mouth like a bit of Dutch cheese, too large either to
swallow or spew out, bespoke the dweller by the
Kill Van Kull or on the banks of the Hudson.
Looking up, Fairfax found that the voice had not
deceived him. The coat was longer and less natty
than that in vogue among the cavaliers, the hat
plainer and broader in the brim, and the riding-
boots of a clumsier make. Nor was the costume
all. The load bound upon the horse told of itself
that this was some trader from Dutch New York
bent on selling his wares among the unthrifty
Southerners to a greater profit than he could hope
to do among his close-fisted brethren nearer home.
As Fairfax looked at him a light flashed into the
dark corners of his mind.

" Ye will find no ferry here," he answered, " and

A Trader.

for a ford ye must seek many a mile farther up
the river, and even there ye will find it so deep
that no horse loaded as yours is could make land
save at the bottom. Now, if you can unbind that
bundle and leave it behind "

" Leaf de boondle behint, is it ? Goot Gott ! I
radder stay behint myself und sent de boondle
ofer. Don you see I must sell dese tings ! For
dat am I gome into dis defflish gountry vot got
no roads, no ferries, no cheese, no ganals, no

" Then you would like to get rid of your wares
and this devilish country together, and as speedily
as possible, and get you back to your long pipe
and mug of beer and your Katrina hein ? " said
Fairfax, throwing a droll imitation of the Dutch-
man's accent into the last word.

" Glat ! " cried the trader, his eyes bulging and
rolling heavenward till nothing but the yellow
whites could be seen. " But you do but make
sport off me ! "

" Sport ? Not at all. I do be much in earnest,
as you shall shortly learn. What if I should offer
to buy your whole stock here and now, so that
you could ford the river with a light load and a
heavy purse?"

The stranger looked at him out of his dull blue
7 97

White Aprons.

eyes, keen enough to suspect a cheat, but not keen
enough to detect it. " Nay," said Fairfax, answer-
ing the look as though he had spoken. " 'T is
neither jest nor fraud. The truth is, I have long
wished to set up in some trade, but unluckily, my
habit is so fine that none will hire me for service,
believing I have run away with my master's cloth-
ing, and none would buy of a pedler in a velvet
coat and breeches. Now, what say you to trading
with me all in all, save for the horse, which I
would not exchange for any nag living. But my
trimmed, rich coat against your baggy, plain one
my velvet breeches against your homespun my
plumed hat against your stiff, broad brim? Think,
man, how the folk along the Harlem will stare their
eyes out at your rich attire ! "

The trader's eyes sparkled ; but in an instant he
recollected himself. " But how goes it about de
goots ? " he asked, as one who had long ago learned
to turn too fair a bargain to the sun, and to look
twice for the holes in cheap cloth.

"Ah the goods to be sure," said Fairfax
slowly, bethinking himself that he might lose all
by showing over-much eagerness. " Now I come
to scan them more closely, I see they are worn,
and belike the furs already stink so that none will
buy. The furs are ill cured, I should guess, the

A Trader.

gilt chains are very brass, the tabby velvet hath
no sheen, and, in short, methinks I was too hasty
in my offer, so go your way and I will go mine. I
give you good day ! "

The bait took. As Fairfax grew cool the trader
grew hot for the bargain. " Poof," he answered,
"vat you call vorn iss vere de fur iss so dick it
press itself down. Mein Gott, dey iss de best furs
on de goast, und de gloth und de chains iss fine.
Gome, now, vot you gif for dem ? "

" No, no, you old coon," thought Fairfax, " you '11
get no offer out of me," then aloud " Oh, I
don't know that I fancy them at all ; but figure up
the cost, and I may consider of the matter."

"Veil, den," quoth the Dutchman, "it take me
dree mont to puy dese skins off de nadives, und I
risk my life besides. Den I must gound de vear
und dear on my horse."

" Oh, yes, yes, I know," broke in Fairfax, grow-
ing impatient ; " count in at thrippence your wife's
grief at parting, and add sixpence for the baby's
croup caught in crying after you. But an we come
not to terms within five seconds, the business is

The Dutchman, accustomed to the leisurely ways
of Manhattan, where the pleasures of bargaining
were extended over hours, if not days, opened his


White Aprons.

mouth wide with astonishment; but seeing his
chance in danger of slipping through his fingers,
he pulled his faculties together with a desperate
effort, and drawing forth from the wide pocket of
his coat a note-book, he fell to figuring the actual
cost of the furs ; then he hastily doubled the amount
and said, " Veil, shoost to get done vid dis goundry
I lets you haf de lot at fifty grouns."

" Fifty crowns ! Why, man, there Is not so
much gold in York County. Do you take me for
some Mynherr with an iron pot full of money
under his brick floor ? No, no ! You sure have
been scant time in Virginia, else ye would have
learned that here we pay our debts, when we pay
them at all, not in crowns, but in pounds, and
pounds of tobacco at that. Now, which will ye
have, my draft on General Bacon at Gloucester
Court House yonder for a thousand pounds of
tobacco, or these five gold pieces, bright and new
as the pewter in a Harlem cottage?" With a
keen instinctive knowledge of human nature in
general, and Dutch nature in particular, Fairfax
drew forth the gold as he spoke and jingled it in
his hand. The jingle and the glitter represented
an alluring concrete wealth not to be resisted.

" Take id all den," cried the trader. " You haf
goot drading bloot in your veins, und if effer you

A Trader.

gomes to Nieuw Amsterdam (vot dey calls New
York now), ve beads all de men from de old Fort
to de Bowery. "

Thanking the stranger for so fair an opening in
the future and so fair a bargain for the present,
Fairfax lost no time in beginning to strip, and in
short order found himself arrayed in the loose
flapping coat, wide hat, and loose-fitting boots of
the Dutch trader, with whose help he shifted the
saddles on the horses. When the haughty thor-
oughbred, Peggy, first felt the heavy load on her
back, she shied, and pranced, and rubbed against
a tree, striving to scrape off the hated burden ; and
when she could not, she but curveted the more, as
if in protest against the hardship, for a horse of
her pedigree, of being put to such plebeian labors.

Her master succeeded in soothing her somewhat
with the magnetism of his voice ; but when he
stood before her, holding out a bunch of sweet
ferns, she looked askance at him, planted her fore
feet, and pulled away as from a stranger.

"Good," said Fairfax, "'tis the first tribute to
the completeness of my transformation. From
horses and children very young children you
may hope to learn the truth. Now, Master Dutch-
man," he added, turning to the trader who stood
there so ill at ease in his new finery, and so comi-

White Aprons.

cal a burlesque of the recent wearer of the garb
that Fairfax was nigh bursting with laughter as he
looked on him, " before we part perhaps you will
do me the honor to tell me your name."

The Dutchman looked at him out of the corner
of his eye as one loath to part with even a piece
of information which was not in the bargain, but
at length vouchsafed the answer that he was called
Van der Stosch.

"Well, then, Mynherr Van der Stosch," cried
Fairfax, gayly, " I bid you good day, and I promise
you I will not forget your kind offer of furthering
my fortunes if ever I come to New Amsterdam.
Now, to make you unhappy, let me whisper in your
ear before we part that I know a market for these -
skins where I can sell them at such a profit as will
turn you yellow with envy when I bring you the
tidings ! "

So saying, Fairfax rode off laughing, and leaving
the trader standing by the shore uncertain whether
he had made a fool of his companion or himself.



" Romeo, Romeo ! wherefore art thou Romeo ? "

SO pleased was Fairfax with this fair beginning
to his enterprise that he rode along in higher
spirits than had blessed him in many days. Now
he trolled snatches of song, now boylike he stopped
to call a quail by a mocking note that matched its
own, and laughed to see the eag^r questioning eye
which met his as the bird looked up and down the
road in search of its missing mate.

His mind wandered idly from theme to theme.
He recalled Bacon's words uttered on the day of
the battle at Green Spring, and was sad for a
moment; but then, with the happy shortsighted-
ness of youth, dismissed them lightly as the pass-
ing whim of a momentary depression. At length
he returned to the thoughts in which his mind
steeped itself by night and by day, thoughts of Pe-
nelope Payne, of the rosemary which she had worn

White Aprons.

at her breast, and which he might have picked up
and did not (fool that he was!), of the kindness
in her eyes when she said : " Be my friend ! "
of the glory about her head as she leaned from the

Suddenly the hot blood mounted from his heart
to his temples, and he gave a sort of gasp,
and why ? All because he remembered on the
instant that Rosemary Hall stood at the head of
this creek along which his road was winding.
'T would be but five miles out of his course at
the most, and he desired not to reach the Boynton
plantation till nightfall. Oh, to see her again, to
look upon her once more, though himself unseen,
unrecognized, unthought of ! that were happiness
indeed to set a man's brain reeling.

In the wild turmoil of his new-born eagerness,
he struck his spurs so deep into poor Peggy's side
that the astonished beast gave a leap that was like
to land her rider in the ditch by the roadside ; but
he heeded her protest not a whit.

" I have it ! " he cried aloud. " The letter I did
write three nights since, when I could get no sleep
for thinking of her, is among the papers in my
wallet. I will give it into her hand by stealth, say-
ing one in Bacon's camp where I did stop bade
me carry it, as my road lay this way."

Montague and Capulet.

Throwing the reins upon his horse's neck, he
drew it forth and read as he ambled along,
though the paper was now and then nearly jerked
from his fingers by the roughness of the road.

" Sweetest friend or dearest foe ! " (so it ran)
" I have been so tormented with thoughts of thee
since ever we did meet and part yonder at Green
Spring, that human nature can bear it no longer.
If thou dost not send me some word or token to
tell me that thou too hast sometimes wasted a
thought on me, I shall " (Here certain words
were erased.) " Tell me not," the letter continued,
"that my love is too sudden, that swift come is
swift gone, or any such thing, for I tell thee this
affection is so woven in the very tissues of my soul
as not death itself shall be able to separate it and
me. But for thee I grant the time has been o'er
brief for me to cherish hope that thou couldst
have learned to love me, even hadst thou had no
enmity to be conquered in thine heart. Say only
that thou dost no longer hate and I am satisfied
no, never believe it, for neither that nor much
more will content my greedy heart, yet say ' wait
and hope ! ' and for the present I will ask no
more. Three words, three little words, and in
exchange I offer thee a heart full of love and
devotion. Good-bye, my friend. Shall I not dare


White Aprons.

some day, when this unhappy strife is ended, to
speak those dearest words, my love, my wife ? "

Having finished reading over his letter, Fairfax
looked about for some means of sealing it. His
eye lighted on the gum oozing in a glittering sticky
stream from the bark of the Norway pine. Dis-
mounting, he took out his knife, and hacking off a
great drop, he made from it a rude fastening for the
folded sheet. This done, he once more climbed
into his saddle and urged Peggy into a brisk trot,
to make up for lost time. Before an hour had
passed the walls of Rosemary rose before his eyes.

At the gate he alighted and took his horse by
the bridle, as was the custom amongst pedlers
when approaching a house, and, his heart beating
like a trip-hammer, he drew near the porch.
When he had come within a few yards he lifted
up his eyes and they fell upon Col. Theophilus

How did Bryan Fairfax feel? Much, I fancy,
as Romeo would have felt if Signer Capulet had
thrust his head forth from Juliet's balcony when
the young Montague's foot was on the highest
round of the midnight rope-ladder: much as
Leander might have felt had he seen Hero's father
waiting to help him ashore on the unfriendly banks
of the Hellespont.

1 06

Montague and Capulet.

Indeed, it would be idle to try to describe the sen-
sations of Fairfax, for he himself scarcely compre-
hended them, so overcome was he by the shock of
surprise, while, mingled with his emotion came for
the first time a realizing sense that to gain a private
end he had imperilled the trust confided in him.
How could he hope a second time to be forgiven?
Even his love, which but an hour since had
seemed to fill the whole heaven of his life from
zenith to horizon, now shrank into a small matter
in comparison with the great public cause. All
this flashed through his mind as swiftly as memo-
ries throng past the mental vision of a drowning
man. But he found himself compelled to gather
all his faculties to meet the present crisis.

Colonel Payne's first words gave him great com-
fort and relief in the complete lack of recognition
that they betrayed. It was evident that no shadow
of suspicion had crossed his mind, no connection
of this wayfarer with the young officer who had
ridden into Jamestown a month ago, bearing mes-
sages from the rebel camp.

" How now, my good man ? " began the Colonel,
in the friendly tone of easy patronage befitting a
gentleman addressing an inferior. " These be
troublous times for a poor pedler to be wandering
about the country with his wares. By your dusty

White Aprons.

garments and your ungroomed horse I judge ye
have travelled far, and by your fair hair and
swarthy skin I do suspect that ye be a Hollander
from the colony of New Netherland. Is't not

Strange to say, Fairfax was wholly taken aback
by this sudden question. It had not dawned upon
his mind that he must carry out the role of Dutch-
man, and that speech and manner must match
with boots and breeches. But now he realized
that being in deep water he must strike out or
sink; so, though painfully aware that his accent
fitted him as ill as his coat, he assented in broken
English to the Colonel's question.

" I fear you have come to the wrong market, for
we in Virginia are too poor now to buy aught but
necessaries. What is your name ? "

Again Fairfax gasped, and again he snatched at
the nearest lie. " Van der Stosch," he answered,
taking off his hat, but replacing it instantly in the
fear that the dye might have escaped his forehead.

"Well, Master Van der Stosch, you must be
mightily dull, even for a Dutchman, an ye have not
learned in the course of your travels that we have
a rebellion on our hands here in Virginia ; and war,
you must know, eats up luxuries faster than a cat
laps milk."


Montague and Capulet.

Fairfax inquired innocently if the Indians were
making trouble once more. " Pretty well 1 " thought
he. " I am lying with a smoother and more trip-
ping tongue. These confounded T/'S and w's do
more confuse me than the prevarication."

" Nay, man," answered the Colonel, gravely,
" 't is more than any outbreak of Indians. 'T is
what is called a civil war, though why it should be
so named I could never guess ; for sure the world
ne'er looked on anything more uncivilized than
this warring betwixt brethren."

Fairfax felt the heart within him so choked that
he dared not trust himself to speak for a moment ;
and while he hesitated he heard a light, lilting
voice in the hallway, caught sight of a flash of
white drapery on the, and an instant later
beheld a pair of bright eyes peeping over Colonel
Payne's broad shoulders, which well-nigh filled the

" Oh, naught save furs and finery ! " exclaimed
Penelope, scanning the load of skins to which Fair-
fax had turned for occupation, hoping to hide his
trembling. " I did hope the man had pewter, or at
least wooden ware for sale, since we do be mightily
in need thereof."

" Come out, my darling, my rose, my sunshine ! "
called Colonel Payne, showering pet names as

White Aprons.

though no one could hold the fulness of his tender-
ness, and his face lighting up as if a ray of actual
sunshine had crossed it. "Come out and talk
with this poor fellow, who I fear is hugely disap-
pointed to be told that we Virginians have no
money to spend on furs and such like luxuries.
I for one am well content with bare floors. Still,
for thy bedside in the winter-time I own I would
fain have just such a carpet as that brown skin

" Nay, nay, father mine ! You must not strive
to spoil me thus. It were ill befitting that I should

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Online LibraryMaud Wilder GoodwinWhite aprons, a romance of Bacon's rebellion: Virginia, 1676 → online text (page 5 of 17)