Maud Wilder Goodwin.

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

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can mould events to your will. Let but a rumor
go abroad that your health is unsound, and all is
lost. Of what avail your commission an ye can
not bear it?"

" Ah ! the commission," cried Bacon, with a
start. " My sickness had nigh drove it from my
head. Tell me how ye did secure it. You be
such a modest fellow, and make so little of exploits
which others would proclaim with a trumpet, that
ye are likely to be balked of your deserts ; but of a
surety this deed has earned rich reward."

" Dear Chief, if in very truth you think my deed
entitled to reward, let me receive it in the accep-
tance of my counsel. Listen ; I would have thee
ride with me this night to Major Pate's house,
where thou canst have nursing such as this rude
camp can never offer. I will attend thee, and we
will banish all the family and servants, that none
may prate of thy condition."

A mighty cheering broke in on the last words of
Fairfax, and at the same moment Drummond burst
in, crying: "They have signed, General. They
have taken the oath, every one ! "

" So ? " exclaimed Bacon. " Methinks the busi-
ness hath moved too fast. Easy take, easy

White Aprons.

break. Still, with no resistance to be looked for
in this direction I am as good as master of Vir-
ginia, if only nay, no more weakness Fairfax
dear lad, order horses when thou wilt, so it be
after thou art rested and day has broken. The
morrow morn, Drummond, I go for a brief rest to
Pate's Plantation. Upon you and Lawrence will
devolve the charge of the army. Let no jealousies
nor strife for precedence between you stir up dis-
sensions in the troops. If you would make head
against Berkeley, you must be unanimous amongst
yourselves. Fairfax, give me my commission.
Now leave me both, and I will set mine affairs in
order and be ready to ride ere daybreak. The
less said of mine absence, the better. Good night,

As Bacon stalked out, a negro stood at the door
of the tent, bearing a covered basket in one hand,
and in the other a pair of squawking hens much
discomfited to find themselves dangling head down-
ward before their time.

"Any poultry to-day, suh ? " asked the black

Bacon was too much absorbed in his own thoughts
to heed the presence of the man ; but Drummond,
who with Lawrence followed close after the Gen-
eral, answered somewhat gruffly : " Off with you !

IS 2


We have neither time nor heart now to be planning
for table dainties."

"Hold on there!" cried the voice of Fairfax
from within the tent ; " I have had little to eat to-
day, and am spent with fasting. Come in, and I
will strike a bargain with you. If ye will kill,
dress, and cook your squawking hens within the
half hour, ye shall have a shilling apiece for

The man grinned with a delight which closed his
eyes and showed his glistening white teeth. Wait-
ing no second bidding, he set down his basket and
sat down cross-legged at the open flap of the tent.
When Lawrence and Drummond had passed out
of sight, however, he mysteriously drew the basket
within the tent and let down the flap, as though he
feared detection, though none were in sight. His
precautions were not useless, however ; for not long
after a man in clothes lately cleansed and dried
stole near to the tent and laid his ear close to the

" Ah," said Arthur Thorn to his base heart, " in
time perhaps for one more state secret wherewith
to make my peace with Berkeley. It was worth
the risk I took. But could I only have got the
commission and seen Fairfax at the bottom of the
river " His thoughts were interrupted by a few


White Aprons.

words which he caught from within the tent, words
of such portent that he resolved when the negro
came out, to sift them, cost what it might. Fairfax
had not recognized him in the boat, of this he was
sure, and he resolved to make one more effort to
work his revenge, and to strike at the honor where
he had failed to reach the life. He went in and
hailed as comrade the man at whose heart his
pistol had been pointed. Truly Penelope Payne
had given him no more than his due when she
called Arthurn Thorn a Judas.




" Nothing can cover his high fame but Heaven,
No pyramids set off his memories
But the eternal substance of his greatness,
To which I leave him."

IT was night at Pate's Plantation. The rain beat
against the window-pane.

A smouldering log laid across the iron fire-dogs
dimly lighted up the interior of the low-raftered
room, wherein, gathered about a table, sat three
men. One who had seen them last in the splendor
of that September morning at Green Spring would
scarce have recognized the high-hearted, trium-
phant soldiers who then gathered around General
Bacon, in these bowed, sorrow-stricken men.

Gloom, deep as the night without, sat upon their
brows, and their voices echoed the dirge of the
wind as it sighed and sobbed through the pines at
the door. They spoke in low murmurs, and ever
and anon cast glances at a shadowy corner where
stood a rude bed, on which, sharply outlined be-

White Aprons.

neath the canvas sheet, lay the form of a man,
still with that awful, rigid stillness which death
alone lends. It was the corpse of Nathaniel
Bacon. Yes, there he lay, he who had hurled
defiance at outnumbering foes, he who had led
a forlorn hope and transformed it to a conquering
army, he who had borne an unmoved and lofty
courage through all perils and difficulties, now lay
there like the dullest yokel who had fired a cannon
at his bidding. Death, the leveller who wipes out
all distinctions 'twixt bravery and cowardice, intel-
lect and impotence, power and weakness, had
passed over him and left him thus.

" Who could credit," said Fairfax at length,
speaking more to himself than to those about him,
and uttering the words with effort, as though they
encountered. some obstacle in his throat, "who
could credit that 't is scarcely a month since he put
Berkeley's whole army to rout and sent them
flying across the bay to Accomac ! "

" Yes," responded Drummond ; " but four weeks
since he did enter Jamestown with banners flying,
with captives and trophies for all the world like
a triumphal procession, and set the houses ablaze
in a glorious bonfire to the victory of liberty
alas and alas! Now he lies yonder, and all he
fought for lost in the loss of him."

The Valley of the Shadow.

" Nay," burst out Fairfax, " the cause of liberty
is oft more forwarded by the martyr than by the
victor, and none who struggle valiantly for the
right shall have struggled in vain."

The young man's voice rose and fell with that
instinctive unconscious rhythm which in moments
of deep grief or passion makes all men poets.

Silence fell after his words, then Lawrence spoke.
" Fairfax, you alone were with him when he died,
though we came on the wings of the wind at
your summons, yet, alas, too late ! How came the

" Why, thus : For three days he lay there on the
cot where you see him, first white as the sheet
above him, then flushed, and tossing restlessly to
and fro ; and ever and anon when I did go to him
to cover his limbs or moisten his parched mouth, I
caught him murmuring of early life in the home
country, of his courtship, and then of his coming
hither to Virginia, and once he raved of poison ;
for, to say truth, he did have it heavily on his
mind that he had met with foul play."

11 What ! " cried Lawrence, starting up from his
chair as if the thought stung him beyond endur-
ance, " could it have been ? "

" I know not'for sure," answered Fairfax. " ' T is
hard to think any man with English blood in his


White Aprons.

veins could thus foully do to death the foe he
could not conquer by fair means ; but Berkeley's
situation was waxing desperate."

"Yet poison!" broke in Lawrence, "poison
oh, I cannot think it ! Besides, these Virginia
marshes in the chill mornings and damp evenings
of autumn do breathe out a miasma more deadly
than any drug."

" Yea," said Fairfax, " I do myself be persuaded
that 'tis this hath laid him low, this and the
chafing of his too eager soul. Knowing that he
was all in all to the cause, he did strain his weak-
ened body to work too heavy for it. Oh would to
God my mean life could have been accepted as a
sacrifice for his ! "

Of a sudden, as he spoke, he seemed to see the
motto writ before his vision in the air, " Pereat qui
me lacessit. " To his over-wrought mind it appeared
that the curse was wreaking itself; that passing
himself, as a tool too insignificant for vengeance, it
had fallen on the head which had planned the
deed, the head now laid low in unfeeling death.
The grief of the honest young heart was too great
to be borne. Laying his head upon his arms on
the table, he sobbed aloud.

" Come, Fairfax," said Lawrencft, kindly laying
his hand upon the bowed shoulder, " these tears


The Valley of the Shadow.

do but unfit us for the service we yet may render.
God knows no man hath greater cause for sorrow
than I. Grief for the dead is but rosemary and
rue unless there be mingled therewith the bitter
weed of remorse. This it is which doth rankle in
my heart, the thought that when he lived I knew
him so little, and did in my vanity and self-esteem
hold myself the mainstay of this our cause. Now,
alas, I am learning how much I am to seek in that
greatness which did ever mark him."

Ere Lawrence had finished speaking the sound
of hurried footsteps was heard without, and with
no knock to herald him a breathless youth thrust
the door open and hurled himself into the room,
followed by a gust of wind and rain. His leather
leggings were scratched and torn by bush and
brier, his coat hung in tatters, he had lost his hat,
and his hair was in wild disorder. " Fly ! " he
panted. "Fly ! I am come at the risk of my life
to warn you all is lost Berkeley is returned
from Accomac stronger than ever. The Gloucester
men have forgot their oaths and set out to join
him. He hath caught a rumor of Bacon's sick-
ness, and vows he will have him alive or dead.
He hath set a price upon his head, and swears
he will have it set up above the gate at Middle


White Aprons.

" Saith he so indeed ! " quoth Fairfax, rising
with set lips and eyes glowing lantern-like beneath
his brows. " Saith he so ? Then let us set our-
selves to thwart him once more, yea, though our
own lives do pay the forfeit, as indeed they are like
enough to do in any case." The young man spoke
with a vigor and intensity of purpose which domi-
nated his companions. The mind which has a
ready-developed scheme will always rule doubt and

" Give me your cloak, Drummond," continued
Fairfax, " and you yours, Lawrence ; but first give
me Bacon's sword, and let us bind it upon him,
for sure none other will ever be found worthy to wear
it after him, and here " Pausing an instant,
he went to a high desk which stood in the corner of
the room, and, pressing a spring, drew out a secret
drawer, from which he took the white paper with
the red seal, the commission for which he had
struggled so hard and dared so much, and all now
as it seemed for naught. " Pereat gut me lacessit"
he murmured. " May it hold true now if never be-
fore. A curse on any who shall disturb this in its
sacred resting-place ! " So speaking he closed the
desk, and, stepping to the bed, he opened Bacon's
coat and laid it reverently upon his heart.

" Now, friends, let us wrap him well, for the

The Valley of the Shadow.

night wind is sharp, and who knoweth whether or
no the dead may feel it? Thou, Hanford," he
added, turning toward the latest comer, who had
but just got his breath, " take the lantern and go
before to the boat down yonder, which you will
unmoor and have ready for our coming ; for I do
purpose that we commit this sacred body to the
care of the stream he loved, trusting that the river
will keep our secret so well that no man shall know
his resting-place. For a time his name must bleed ;
but sure as there is a God in heaven, justice shall
some day be done to his memory. Farewell, my
Chief, my friend, my glory, and my hope ; farewell ! "
Speaking thus, he bent over and kissed the pale cold
forehead streaked with dark hair. Each man pres-
ent followed his example. Then they lifted their
solemn burden and filed out of the little room, leav-
ing the door wide behind them and the dying em-
bers blackening on the cold hearth.

The tempest shook them as they passed down
the wet and slippery path which led to the shore,
and the night lowered black around them; but
by the fire-fly glimmer of Hanford's lantern they
guided their footsteps to the beach. The wet trees
dropped fresh tears upon them as they passed
beneath the dripping boughs. Silently they laid
their burden on the bottom of the boat, and with it
ii 161

WJiite Aprons.

two large stones of such weight that Fairfax sweated
with the task of lifting them. Lawrence then took
his place in the prow, looking forward like some
stern, strange figure-head.

Drummond sat in the stern and Fairfax and
Hanford took the oars. " Lawrence," said Fairfax,
"it shall rest with you to decide where we shall

" So be it," answered Lawrence ; and then there
was silence save for the dashing of the wind-swept
waves against the little craft.

When they were come to a spot in the very cen-
tre of the stream, where the water was deepest and
blackest, Lawrence said slowly : " We have come
far enough. Here be his resting-place, and may he
sleep well ! "

Fairfax drew in his oar, and with the help of
Drummond and Hanford wrapped the stones in
the cloaks and bound them securely to the body.
Tenderly as ever mother raised her dead babe they
lifted the corpse over the side of the boat, held it a
moment, then solemnly and slowly let it fall.

A plash, a widening circle of ripples, then all
was as before. The little boat was turned about
and headed for the shore. When it touched, the
four men stepped out and stood silent, looking
into each other's eyes with that sense of kinship

The Valley of the Shadow.

born of a common deep experience. Then they
struck hands, and vowed that, come what might,
no man should learn the secret of that sacred
burial. After that they parted, going every man
his own way.

The great rebellion was ended. The bond which
had held it together was snapped, the mainspring
broken. Another month and the forces once so
near to victory were scattered, the leaders a handful
of hunted outlaws. Lawrence had fled for safety to
the morasses of the great woods ; Drummond and
Fairfax lay prisoners in the hands of their arch-
enemy ; but Bacon had escaped, death had hid-
den him safe from all the venom of those who
sought to drag him down.

" He 's gone from hence unto a higher court
To plead his cause, where he by this doth know
Whether to Caesar he was friend or foe."




" Who will not mercie unto others show
How can he mercie ever hope to have ? "

BEFORE the Court House at Middle Planta-
tion, on the green which now might more pro-
perly have been called the brown, so hard and sere
was it beneath the frosts of the bitter December of
1676, stood a group of men and women awaiting
the roll of the drum which should shortly sound
forth a summons to all whom it might concern to
attend the sitting of the Governor for the trial by
martial law of the White Aprons, the companions
in arms of that rebel and factious disturber of the
peace, the late Nathaniel Bacon, whose rebellion
had fallen to pieces like a pack of cards at his

" I tell you, neighbors, the Governor means to take
order with these White Aprons after a fashion that
shall never be forgot within the borders of the Old


Dominion." So spoke a man whose hard, stern
face would have been at home among the grim-
visaged dwellers by Massachusetts Bay. " Verily,"
he continued, " the scaffold is crying out for some
of them."

"Ay," answered a younger man who stood by,
rubbing his hands to keep them warm, " belike
they have deserved all that can befall them ; but
the punishing of rebels is like the rolling of a wheel
down hill, the start is easy, but the trouble lies in
stopping. One of these men is as guilty as another ;
and if the Governor hangs the first, he cannot in
reason stay his hand till half the colony be strung
up by the neck."

" Why not forgive them all ? "

At these words, uttered in a high, childish treble,
many turned their eyes toward the little maiden
who stood holding tight to her father's hand,
her hood outlining the full moon of her chubby
face, and her long skirt bobbing against the

" Tush, tush, child ! " answered her father, vexed
to have the attention of the crowd thus drawn upon
him, and fearing perhaps lest the words of the
child be held but the mirror of the parent's thought.
" Leave forgiveness to those who deal with childish
pranks like thine. Men must count the cost before


White Aprons.

they plot treason against the King and the State.
1 To the scaffold with one and all ! ' say I."

"Nay; the child is nearer right than thou, my
good master, else hath our religion gone sadly
astray in its teachings."

The new voice which uttered these words spoke
with evident authority ; and as it was recognized, all
the indented servants and freemen, and even, the
landed gentry, uncovered their heads in token of
respect to Colonel Payne. Over his arm he held
the bridle of his horse, while at a little distance a
gray-haired negro was helping his daughter to
alight. As soon as her foot touched the ground
she too joined the throng just in time to catch her
father's words. Straight as she stood, and bravely
as she faced the crowd, the pallor of her cheek and
the dark lines beneath her eyes told of some inner

" Ask them, father," said she, pressing closer to
Colonel Payne's side, " whether they say not their
prayers o' Sunday."

" Why, surely, Mistress Payne," said a woman's
voice at her other side. " Methinks we were
but half Christians did we not say them each

"Then," answered Penelope Payne, scornfully,
" I do commend you to pray less and practise


more ; for an God forgave your trespasses as you
forgive those that trespass against you, I pity your

The men about tittered. Colonel Payne turned
to his daughter with unwonted sternness on his
brow and in his voice. " Stand not here, girl,
bandying words for the amusement of the crowd,"
he said. " Get thee in to the Court House and I
will shortly follow."

Even as he spoke the rumble of the drum
sounded forth its rude summons, which brought
all the stragglers trooping into the court-room,
where with bare heads they awaited the coming of
the Governor and his officers. When these had
come in and taken their seats, making a brave
show in that bare room with their rich dress, the
common folk also sat down on the benches and
awaited eagerly, as those at a play, the beginning of
the life-and-death drama now about to be acted
before them.

But there were those in that assembly to whom
this morning's business meant an hour of suspense,
a day of agony, and a life-time of sadness, those
who were destined to behold husband and father
and son snatched from their arms and hurried away
to ignominious death.

When all were settled a corporal appeared, lead-

White Aprons.

ing Arthur Thorn. His face wore a look of
humility and penitence, full of disgusting hypocrisy
to those who knew him, and about his neck was a
rope which some of those present devoutly wished
were for use rather than ornament. Making his
way forward to the bar before the Governor's chair,
he flung himself upon his knees, and recited his
confession and plea for pardon glibly enough, but
in such a sing-song voice as showed clearly that he
had learned it off by heart, parrot-like.

" I, Arthur Thorn," so his confession ran,
"that all bystanders may take notice of this, my
sincere repentance of my rebellion, do here most
humbly, upon my knees, with a rope about my
neck, implore pardon of God, my King, the Honor-
able Governor, Council, and magistrates of this His
Majesty's country, and humbly crave the benefit of
mercy and pardon."

Here he rolled his eyes heavenward, and
uttered with "assumed fervor the hollow prayer:
" God save the King, and prosper the Governor
and magistrates with all happiness and good
success ! "

" Hush ! " the word was passed around the
crowd "the Governor is rising to speak." There
was leaning this way and that, and an eager
craning of necks, as His Excellency began :


" Arthur Thorn, for that you have been in arms
against His Majesty and against me his vice-regent,
you do richly deserve to forfeit your life after the
manner symbolized by the rope about your neck ;
but whereas you did come out from among the
enemy and have humbly sued for pardon, and
whereas you have furnished us with valuable evi-
dence against one of the prisoners soon to be
brought before this tribunal, we do therefore in the
King's name grant you pardon, and caution you
never again to be associated with so heinous an

Not a cheer was heard as the prisoner rose from
his knees, pardoned but despised. A vague fear
shook the heart of Penelope as he passed her.
She closed her eyes, unwilling to gaze upon him.
When she looked up again he was gone, and in his
place at the bar of judgment stood a red-haired,
raw-boned man of little outward beauty, but with
firmness, fortitude, and indomitable manhood writ
large on his plain countenance.

" Prisoner, what is your name ? "

" My name, may it please Your Excellency, and
you, gentlemen of the Council, is Drummond, long
known in Scotland, and later in this colony, as the
name of an honest man."

" Mr. Drummond," answered the Governor with

White Aprons.

a terrible politeness, "you are very welcome. I
am more glad to see you than any man in Virginia.
You shall be hanged in half an hour ! "

" As Your Excellency pleases ! " rejoined the
prisoner, as calmly as though he had accepted
an invitation to dine at Green Spring that same

Yet the crowd noted that he turned pale and
trembled when he heard a groan behind him and
recognized the voice of his wife. One of the com-
missioners leaned forward and whispered in the
Governor's ear.

" So," said His Excellency, laying back his lips
till the teeth seemed to stand out like those of a
beast of prey ready to flesh themselves in the heart
of the victim, " that groan I understand, comes from
the same Sarah Drummond who not four months
since did break a twig across her knee there in the
field at Gloucester Court House and incite the
Gloucester men to defy me by assuring them that
she feared the power of England no more than that
stick. Now, I dare be sworn she sings another

At that the prisoner at the bar turned his back

full on the Governor. " Sarah," cried he, " be

firm ! I charge you on these rings which we did

exchange at our marriage that you forswear not



yourself to renounce the cause of justice and
liberty, fallen though it be ! "

" Corporal, take off that ring with which he thus
defies us, and let the prisoner be hanged before
noon ! " cried Berkeley in a fury.

It was easier said than done, for Drummond
made so stout a resistance that four men could
scarcely drag him from the room ; nor could the
ring be wrested from him till they had bound him,
arms and legs, with ropes.

It was a disgraceful scene, and there were those
in the crowd began to murmur, " Shame ! " but
it was under their breath, for none dared face the
rage which had thus usurped the robes of justice.

" Call Cheeseman ! " ordered the autocrat, and
Major Cheeseman stood forth.

"What motive had ye to enter into this dam-
nable treason and conspiracy ? " asked Berkeley.
Cheeseman opened his lips to speak; but ere he
could utter a syllable, his young wife, all pale and
trembling, rushed forward, and throwing herself at
the Governor's feet, burst forth into an imploring
petition, though her voice was choked with sobs.
" My good Lord," she cried, scarce able to make
herself heard, " I pray you give ear to my suppli-
cations. If any must be punished, sure 'tis I
should bear the burden, since 't was by means of

White Aprons.

my urgency and at my provocation that my hus-
band did join his lot with that of Bacon. There-
fore, an you would have your memory for bare

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Online LibraryMaud Wilder GoodwinWhite aprons, a romance of Bacon's rebellion: Virginia, 1676 → online text (page 8 of 17)