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Title: Master Simon's Garden - A Story
Author: Meigs, Cornelia
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                         MASTER SIMON’S GARDEN

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                         THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                  NEW YORK · BOSTON · CHICAGO · DALLAS
                        ATLANTA · SAN FRANCISCO

                        MACMILLAN & CO., Limited
                       LONDON · BOMBAY · CALCUTTA
                               MELBOURNE

                   THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, Ltd.
                                TORONTO

------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration: Margeret loved them too.]

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                         MASTER SIMON’S GARDEN

                                A STORY

                                   BY
                             CORNELIA MEIGS
              Author of “The Kingdom of the Winding Road,”
                     “The Steadfast Princess,” etc.

                              ILLUSTRATED

                                New York
                         THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                                  1916
                          All rights reserved

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                            Copyright, 1916,
                        By THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

           Set up and electrotyped. Published, October, 1916.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                CONTENTS

                                 PART I
                                MARGERET

                I The Edge of the World
               II Master Simon’s Pilgrimage
              III Roofs of Gold
               IV The Gospel of Fear
                V By Candlelight
               VI The Schoolhouse Lane
              VII Goody Parsons on Guard

                                PART II
                                STEPHEN

             VIII A Tale of Witches
               IX King James’ Tree
                X “Ships of Adventure”
               XI Fair Maids of France
              XII The Breaking of the Storm
             XIII Lighting the Firebrand
              XIV Cousin Betsey Anne
               XV A Message from Master Simon
              XVI The Hand on the Latch
             XVII Prisoner of War
            XVIII Quaker Ladies
              XIX Goody Parsons’ Rose
               XX The Sea-Road to Cathay
                  Conclusion

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

                Margeret loved them too
                “You shall not cut down our tree”
                He drew his Shining sword and held it up
                “Why are you not watching, Mother?”

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                 PART I
                                MARGERET

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                         MASTER SIMON’S GARDEN



                               CHAPTER I

                         THE EDGE OF THE WORLD


Old Goody Parsons, with her cleanest white kerchief, her most sorrowful
expression of face and her biggest brown basket, had gone down through
the village and across the hill to tell Master Simon what a long, hard
winter it had been and how her cupboard was as bare, indeed, as Mother
Hubbard’s own. Now, as she made her way up the stony path again, her
wrinkled old face was wreathed in smiles and her burden sagged heavily
from her arm, for once more it had been proved that no one who came
hungry to Master Simon’s door ever went away unsatisfied. He had piled
her basket high with good things from his garden, his wife had added
three loaves of freshly baked bread and a jar of honey, and his little
daughter Margeret had walked part of the way up the hill to help the old
woman on her homeward road.

“Good-bye to you, little Mistress,” Goody Parsons called after her when
they parted at last, “and may the blessings on your dear father and
mother be as many as are the good gifts in my basket.”

Margeret, since her father needed her, did not wait to reply, but
scampered away down the path again. The old woman stood on the
hill-crest looking down at the scattered houses of the little Puritan
town, at the spreading, sloping meadows and the wide salt marshes
growing yellow-green under the pleasant April sunshine.

“These hills and meadows will never look as fair to me as those of
England,” she sighed, “but after all it is a goodly land that we have
come to. Even if there be hunger and cold and want in it, are there not
also freedom and kindness and Master Simon?”

The little town of Hopewell had been established long enough to have
passed by those first terrible years when suffering and starvation
filled the New England Colonies. There were, however, many hard lessons
to be learned before those who knew how to live and prosper in the Old
World could master the arts necessary to the keeping of body and soul
together in the New. Men who had tilled the rich smooth fields of
England and had followed the plough down the furrows that their
great-grand-fathers had trod before them, must now break out new farm
lands in those boulder-strewn meadows that sloped steeply down to the
sea. Grievous work they surely found it, and small the returns for the
first hard years. Yet, whenever food or fire or courage failed, the
simplest remedy in the world for every trouble was to go in haste to
Master Simon Radpath. His grassy meadow was always green, his fields
rich every harvest time with bowing grain, his garden always crowded
with herbs and vegetables, and gay the whole summer long with flowers,
scarlet and white and yellow.

The old woman who had been his visitor to-day watched Margeret’s yellow
head disappear down the lane, and then turned to rest her basket on the
rude stone wall, not because the burden was too heavy for her stout old
arm, but because she heard footsteps behind her and she did dearly love
to stop a neighbour on the road for a bit of talk.

“Good morrow, friend,” she cried out, almost before she saw to whom she
was speaking.

Her face fell a little when she discovered that it was only Samuel
Skerry, the little crooked-backed shoemaker who lived with his
apprentice in a tiny cottage, one field away from Master Simon’s garden.
A scowling, morose fellow the shoemaker was, but Goody Parsons’ eager
tongue could never be stopped by that.

“Spring is surely coming at last, neighbour,” she began, quite
undisturbed by Skerry’s sullen greeting. “Here is another winter gone
where it can trouble old bones no longer.”

“Spring indeed,” snarled the shoemaker, in his harsh voice, “why, the
wind is cold as January and every key-hole in my house was shrieking
aloud all last night! Where see you any Spring?”

“I have been, but now, to visit Master and Mistress Radpath,” she
returned, “and their garden is already green, with a whole row of golden
daffodils nodding before the door.”

“Ah,” answered her companion, “trust Master Simon to have some foolish,
useless blossoms in his garden the moment the sun peeps out of the
winter clouds. Does he never remember that so much time spent on what is
only bright and gaudy is not strictly in accord with our Puritan law?”

“It was with herbs from that same garden that he healed you and many of
the rest of us during that dreadful season of sickness,” retorted Goody
Parsons, “and did you not lie ill for two months of that summer and yet
have a better harvest than any year before, because he had tended your
fields along with his own?”

“Ay, and preached to me afterwards about every nettle and bramble that
he found there, as though each had been one of the seven deadly sins.
No, no, I like not his ways and I am weary of all this talk of how great
and good a man is Master Simon. I fear me that all is not well in that
bright-flowering garden of his.” The shoemaker nodded craftily, as
though he knew much that he would not tell.

Goody Parsons edged nearer. She was grateful to that gentle-voiced,
kind-faced Master Simon who had helped her so often in trouble; she
loved him much but, alas, she loved gossip more.

“Tell me what they say, good neighbour,” she coaxed.

Samuel Skerry was provokingly silent for a space.

“They say,” he said at last, “that in that garden—beyond the tulip
bed—behind the hedge—”

“Yes, yes!” she gasped as he paused again.

“There is Something hid,” he concluded—“Something that no one of us ever
sees but that neighbours hear, sometimes, crying aloud.”

“But what is it?” she begged to know, in an agony of curiosity.

“Hush, I will whisper in your ear,” he said. “It were not meet to speak
such a thing aloud.”

Goody Parsons bent her grey head to listen, and started back at the
shoemaker’s low-spoken words.

“Ah, surely that can not be true of so good a Puritan!” she cried in
horror.

“You may believe me or not, according to your will,” returned the
shoemaker testily. “You were there but now; did you hear naught?”

Loyalty to her dear Master Simon and love of giving information
struggled for a moment in the Goody’s withered face, but at last the
words simply burst from her.

“I did hear a strange cry,” she said. “Ah, woe is me to think ill of so
good a man! Come with me toward my house, Neighbour Skerry, and I will
tell you what the sound was like.”

So off the two went together, their heads bent close, their lips moving
busily, as they gossiped with words that were to travel far.

Only Master Simon, his wife and his daughter, Margeret, knew the real
reason why his garden and fields had greater success than any other’s,
knew of the ceaseless labour and genuine love that he expended upon his
plants and flowers. Margeret loved them also, and would often rise early
and go out with him to weed the hills of Indian corn, water the long
beds of sweet-smelling herbs or coax some drooping shrub back to life
and bloom. It was pleasant to be abroad then, when the grey mists lying
over the wide, quiet harbour began to lift and turn to silver, when the
birds were singing in the great forest near by and the dark-leaved
bayberry bushes dropped their dew like rain when she brushed against
them. Then she would see, also, mysterious forms slipping out of the
dark wood, the graceful, silent figures of the friendly Indians, who
also got up before the dawn and came hither for long talks with their
good friend, Master Simon. They brought him flowers, roots and herbs
that grew in this new country, while he, in turn, gave them plants
sprung from English seed, taught them such of the white men’s lore as
might better their way of living and offered much sage counsel as to the
endless quarrels that were always springing up among them between tribe
and tribe.

“It is strange and not quite fitting that those heathen savages should
follow you about like dogs,” the villagers used to tell him, a little
jealous, perhaps, that he should be as kind to his red-skinned friends
as he was to his Puritan comrades. But Master Simon would only smile and
go on his way, undisturbed by what they said.

When the long, warm evenings came and Margeret and her mother brought
their spinning wheels to the doorstep that they might use the last ray
of daylight for their work, Master Simon would labour beside them,
tending now the roses and the yellow evening-primroses before the
cottage. And he would tell, as he worked, of those other primroses that
grew in English lanes, of blossoming hedge-rows and soaring larks and
all the other strange beauties of that dear country across the sea.
Sometimes Margeret’s mother would bend her head low over her spinning to
hide the quiet tears, as he told of the great, splendid garden where he
had learned his skill with plants and herbs, a garden of long terraces
and old grey sundials and banks of blooming flowers. It was there that
he and she had walked together in the moonlight, and had planned, with
hearts all unafraid, for the day when they should be married and should
set sail for that new land that seemed so far away. But there was no
sadness or regret in Master Simon’s heart.

“Some day,” he would say, straightening up from his work and looking
about him with a happy smile; “some day we shall have just such another
garden planted here in the wilderness, at the very edge of the world
that white men know.”

This year, however, as he and Margeret planted the garden in
unsuspecting peace of mind, there was strange talk about them running
through the village. Much as the good Puritans had left behind them in
England, there was one thing that was bound to travel with them beyond
the seas, their love of gossip about a neighbour. The whispered words of
Samuel Skerry had travelled from Goody Parsons to those who dwelt
nearest her, and from them to others, until soon the whole town was
buzzing with wonder concerning Master Simon’s garden and that secret
thing that lay hidden in its midst. There were many people who owed him
friendship and gratitude for past kindness, but there was not one who,
on hearing the news, could refrain from rushing to the nearest house and
bursting in with the words:

“Oh, neighbour, have you heard—?” the rest always following in eager
whispers.

Thus the talk had gone the rounds of the village until it reached the
pastor of the church, where it fell like sparks into tow.

“I was ever mistrustful of Simon Radpath,” cried the minister, Master
Hapgood, when he heard the rumour. “That over-bright garden of his has
long been a blot upon our Puritan soberness. Others have their
door-yards and their garden patches, yes, but these sheets of bloom,
these blazes of colour, I have always said that they argued something
amiss with the man. He had also an easy way of forgiving sinners and
rendering aid to those on whom our community frowned, that I liked none
too well. Now we know, in truth, what he really is.”

And off he set, post-haste to speak to the Governor of the Colony about
this dreadful scandal in Hopewell.

Trouble, therefore, was coming upon Master Simon on that pleasant
morning of late May when Margeret went out to swing on the white gate
and listen to the robins singing in the linden tree. It was trouble in
the form of a stern company of dark-clad men, who came striding down the
lane beneath the young white-blooming apple saplings. There were the
church deacons, the minister, the Assistants and the great Governor
himself, come to inquire into this business of the garden and its
mysteries. Beside the Governor walked a stranger, a famous preacher from
Scotland, whose strictness of belief and fierce denunciations of all
those who broke the law, were known and dreaded throughout New England.
Margeret dropped off the gate and ran full of wonder and alarm to tell
her father.

It seemed, however, that the thoughts of these sober-faced public
officers were not concerned entirely with Master Simon and his
wickedness. The Governor bore a letter in his hand and was discussing
with his friend from Scotland, Master Jeremiah Macrae, the new and great
danger that was threatening the Colony. The friendly Indians, the
peaceable Wampanoags, were becoming restless and holding themselves
aloof from their former free intercourse with the people of the
settlements. Other tribes more fierce and savage than they, were
pressing upon them and crowding them more and more into the territory
occupied by the whites. The Wampanoags, it was said, were being harassed
by the Mohegans, old and often-fought enemies, while they, in turn, were
being driven from their homes by the terrible Nascomi tribes, who dwelt
far away but were so war-like and cruel that their name had ever been
used as a bye-word to frighten naughty Indian babies into good
behaviour. Should such an avalanche of furious red-skinned warriors
descend upon them, what could the little Colony of Puritans, with its
four cannon and only fifty fighting-men, do to defend their lives and
the homes that they had built with such courageous toil?

It was small wonder, then, that all the beauty and freshness of the
full-flowering Spring could not arouse the heavy thoughts of the
Governor and his companions. Then, at the turn of the lane, they came in
sight of a strange group, so sinister and alarming that the whole
company stood still and more than one man laid his hand on his sword.
Full in the way stood three tall, silent Indians, mightier of limb and
fiercer of aspect than any the white men had ever seen before, their
hawk-like faces daubed with gaudy colours and their strange feathered
war-bonnets sweeping to their very heels. A trembling Wampanoag, brought
as interpreter, advanced at the bidding of his imperious masters and
strove vainly to find words with which to repeat his message.

“Come,” said the Governor, “speak out. What can these strangers have to
say to us?”

The interpreter, after more than one effort, managed to explain as he
was ordered. These Indians had come from far away across the mountains
and were of those dreaded Nascomis, a branch of the terrible Five
Nations. They had heard of the new settlers and had come to look at
their lands, intending, if they found them too good for aliens, to
return later with all their warriors and drive the white men forth.

“And true it is that they will do so,” added the Wampanoag, dropping
from halting English into his own tongue when he found that one or two
of those present could understand him. “There is no Indian of our tribe
who does not hear all his life terrifying stories of these Nascomis, and
of how, once in long periods of time, they change their hunting grounds
and have no mercy on those who dwell in the land of their desire.”

The Governor, in spite of the deep misgiving that all knew must be
weighing at his heart, spoke his answer with unmoved calm.

“We will have speech with you later,” he said through the interpreter,
“for the present we have grave business with Master Simon Radpath. If
you wish you may follow and come afterward to my house where we will
treat further of this errand of yours.”

The Indians, with unchanging faces, turned and walked down the lane
beside the Puritan company. They talked together in their strange
guttural language, pointing out this or that peculiarity of the white
men’s dress and seeming to regard them with far less of awe than mere
curiosity. It was a short and bitterly uncomfortable journey that
brought the gathering of elders, in small humour for any kindness of
heart, to Master Simon’s gate.

As Margeret stood beside her father, greeting these unexpected and
disturbing guests, she happened to glance across the sunlit field and
saw Skerry, the shoemaker, and the boy who was his apprentice, standing
before the door of their cottage. The little cobbler was shading his
eyes with his hand and watching the dark procession as eagerly as though
he had some deep concern in their errand. The ragged boy, however,
seemed to have no interest in the matter, or no liking for it, since he
stood with head turned away, staring down at the blue harbour and the
wide-winged, skimming sea-gulls. The little girl observed them for only
one moment, the next, and all her thoughts were drowned in wonder and
alarm at the Governor’s words.

“It has come to our ears, sir,” he was saying sternly, “that you have
here a garden too gay for proper Puritan minds, a place too like the
show gardens of the Popish monasteries, or of the great lords that dwell
amid such sinful luxury in England. In this Colony men and women have
sat in the stocks for wasting precious hours over what shows only beauty
to the eye and brings no benefit to the mind and heart. But what is
that?” he broke off abruptly, sniffing suddenly at a vague sweet perfume
that drifted down the May breeze.

“Please, sir, ’tis hawthorn,” said Margeret, who was losing her terror
of the Governor in curiosity at the sight of the Indians. “There was but
a little sprig that Father brought from England, grown now to a great,
spreading bush.”

A sudden change came over the Governor’s stern face. Had he a stabbing
memory of wide, smooth English meadows, yellow daffodils upon a sunny
slope and hedges sweet with hawthorn blossom in the Spring? None of the
Pilgrims ever spoke of the homesickness that often assailed their
steadfast hearts, but, as the Governor and Master Simon looked into each
other’s eyes, each knew of what the other was thinking. It was of some
much loved and never forgotten home in England, perhaps, some bit of
woods or meadow or narrow lane leading up a windy hill. The offending
garden would have been in a fair way toward being forgiven had not the
Scotch minister come forward and plucked the Governor by the sleeve.

“See, see!” he said, pointing. “Just look yonder.”

Truly that was no sight for sober Puritan eyes! There beside the linden
tree was a great bed of tulips, a blaze of crimson and gold, like a
court lady’s scarf or the cloak of a king’s favourite. Against the green
of the hedge, the deep red and clear yellow were fairly dazzling in the
sunshine. The Governor scowled and drew back.

“Of what use,” cried the minister in his loud harsh voice. “Of what use
on earth can be such a display of gaudy finery?”

There were three members of that company who could answer him. The
Indian ambassadors, laughing aloud like children, dropped upon their
knees before the glowing flower bed, plucked great handfuls of the
brilliant blossoms, filled their quivers, their wampum belts and their
blankets with the shining treasure and turned to gaze with visible awe
at the owner of all these riches.

“Do you not see,” said Master Simon to the minister, an unsubdued
twinkle in his eye, “that there is nothing permitted to grow upon this
good, green earth that has not its use?”

“Such a flaunting of colour,” said the Governor severely, yet perhaps
with the ghost of a smile held sternly in check, “has not our approval.
Now I would see what lies behind that hedge.”

Little Margeret looked up at her father and turned pale; even Master
Simon hesitated and was about to frame an excuse, but it was too late. A
shrill, terrible scream arose from behind the thick bushes.

“There, there, did I not tell you?” cried one of the deacons, and the
whole company pressed forward into the inner garden.

They saw, at first, only a smooth square of grass, rolled and cut close
like the lawns in England. Four cypress trees, dug up in the forest and
trimmed to some semblance of the clipped yews that grace formal gardens,
stood in a square about the hewn stone column that bore a sundial.
Quiet, peaceful and innocent enough the place seemed—but there again was
that terrible scream. Out from behind a shrub came strutting slowly the
chief ornament of the place, Margeret’s pet, Master Simon’s secret, a
full-grown, glittering peacock. Seeing a proper company of spectators
assembled, the stately bird spread its tail and walked up and down,
turning itself this way and that to show off its glories, the very
spirit of shallow and empty vanity. For pure amazement and horror, the
Governor and his companions stood motionless and without speech.

But if the Englishmen were frozen to the spot, it was far otherwise with
the Indians. They flung themselves upon their faces before the
terrifying apparition, they held up their hands in supplication that it
would do them no harm. Then, after a moment of stricken fear and upon
the peacock’s raising its terrible voice again, they sprang to their
feet, fled through the gate and up the lane, and paused not once in
their headlong flight until they had disappeared into the sheltering
forest. The Governor drew a long breath, caught Master Simon’s eye and
burst into a great roar of laughter.

“You have done us a good turn, you and your silly, empty-headed bird,”
he said, “though I was of a mind for a moment to put it to death and to
set you in the pillory for harbouring such a creature of vanity. Yet for
the sake of his help against a dreaded foe, you shall both be spared.
Now see that you order your garden more soberly and that no further
complaints come to my ears.”

He turned to go.

“If you please, may we keep the tulips?” begged Margeret, curtseying
low, her voice shaking with anxiety.

“Yes, little maid,” was the gracious answer, “you may keep your tulips
since you cannot use them for gold as those poor savages thought they
could. And go, pluck me a branch of that hawthorn blossom that smells so
sweet. It grew—ah, how it grew in the fair green lanes of my own dear
Nottinghamshire.”

With the sprig of hawthorn in his grey coat, and with a bow to Margeret
as though she had been some great lady, the Governor passed out into the
lane followed by all his company, deacons, Assistants and Master
Hapgood. Only the minister, Jeremiah Macrae, lingered inside the gate.
Suddenly he lifted both his arms toward heaven and spoke out loudly in
his great, harsh voice. With his dark cloak flying about him and his
deep-set eyes lit by a very flame of wrath, he looked to Margeret like
one of the prophets of old, such as were pictured in her mother’s great
Bible. She trembled and crept nearer to her father.

“Think not, Simon Radpath,” the minister thundered, “that, although you
have won the Governor’s forgiveness by a trick, there the matter ends.
Woe be unto you, O sinful man, unless you destroy the gaudy vanity of
this wicked garden. Change your ways or fire and sword shall waste this
place, blood shall be spilled upon its soil and those who come after you
shall walk, mourning, among its desolate paths.”

Margeret gasped with terror, but Master Simon, though a little pale,
stood his ground undaunted.

“I, too, have made a prophecy concerning my garden,” he answered. “It is
carved yonder about the edge of the sundial, and the climbing roses are
reaching up to cover the words for it will be long before their truth is
proved. It may be that this spot will see flame and sword and the
shedding of blood, for new countries and new ideas must be tried in the
fire before they can live. But my prophecy is for peace and growth,
yours for war and destruction—a hundred years from now men shall know
which of us spoke truly.”

“‘A hundred years from now,’” repeated the minister scornfully. “Think
you that, after the half of that time, there will be any man who
remembers you, or your words, or your garden?”

He strode across the lawn, plucked aside roughly the trailing rose-vines
at the edge of the sundial and read the words carved deep in the grey
stone. Then, with no comment, nor any word of leave-taking, he went out
through the gate and up the lane. Margeret stood long watching him as he
climbed the steep path. His figure looked very black in the clear, white
sunshine, very ill-omened and forbidding even as it grew small in the
distance and finally vanished over the crest of the hill.



                               CHAPTER II

                       MASTER SIMON’S PILGRIMAGE


In spite of Master Macrae’s ominous words, all was for a time quiet and
at peace in Master Simon’s pleasant, sunny garden. Peace prevailed also
among the Colonists and their Indian allies, the rumours of warfare
slowly died away and, while Spring grew into summer, and summer glowed
and bloomed and faded into autumn, everywhere in the little Colony were
happiness and contentment. The fields were yellow with abundant grain,
the apple-trees bent with a generous load, the sacks of dried peas and
the great golden pumpkins were piled high upon the floor of the public
granary. There would be no want and famine this winter!

Margeret walked beside her father down through the field where he had
been piling the rustling cornstalks into tall heaps like Indian wigwams.
She stopped often to hearken to the cawing of the crows, who were
gathering their band and making ready to go South, and to watch a busy
chipmunk carrying grain and nuts to his store-house under the wall.

“I would that all the world were as bright and happy as this corner of
it,” said Master Simon, as he paused in his work to look down over the
sloping meadows to the shining waters of the harbour and the rude little
fishing-boats coming to anchor. “But look,” he added, “who is that
yonder in our garden beckoning us to come quickly? It is the pastor,
Master Hapgood, and two Indians with him, while the other—why, it is the
Governor himself! What can be amiss now? Since our peacock has been
banished to England, I can think of naught else for which we may be
brought to justice.”

It was indeed the Governor, anxious-faced and troubled in mien, who came
forward to meet them.

“One of the same Nascomi ambassadors has come hither again,” he said,
“to ask some favour of us. That much I can make out from the
interpreter, but for the rest, his message is so strange and his English
words so few that we have come to you, who understand the Wampanoag
tongue better than does any other, to learn what he would say. Further,
I think that his errand has somewhat to do with you.”

Master Simon turned his quick, bright eyes upon the Indian interpreter.

“Speak on,” he said, and listened with a face growing graver and more
disturbed with every word the Wampanoag and the Nascomi uttered. He
turned at last to the Governor.

“They speak of a terrible pestilence,” he explained, “a scourge that has
visited the Nascomis and has already slain a goodly number. I have heard
often from the Indians hereabout of these plagues, by which many times
whole tribes, even entire nations have been swept away.”

“But what wants the fellow with us?” inquired the Governor.

“He has come to beg that we pray to our god for their deliverance,” said
Master Simon at last.

“What?” cried the pastor. “To our God? Is it possible that these
Nascomis are Christians?”

“No,” returned Master Simon slowly, “he speaks not of the God we know.
He begs us to pray for him to that shining god with the terrible voice
and a hundred glittering eyes, that walked in this garden six months
since and struck such terror to the hearts of himself and his
companions. He says that they have asked in vain for help from their own
gods and he has come all this long and perilous way to make his prayer,
poor savage, to my banished peacock.”

The Governor’s face grew dark with trouble, but the minister’s became
suddenly transformed with a fury of righteous anger. It was not for
nothing that he had listened to the now famous Jeremiah Macrae and his
fierce threatenings of Heaven’s vengeance.

“Simon Radpath,” he cried, striving to thunder forth his words as did
the great minister, but succeeding only a scant half as well; “Simon
Radpath, you have committed the most grievous sin known to the human
race. You have led a man, nay, a whole nation into idolatry, into
worshipping as a god that vain iniquitous creature you so wickedly
harboured here.”

“But please, sir, they were heathen already,” faltered little Margeret,
stirred to fearful boldness by all this wrath against her father.

“That matters not,” was the stern reply. “He has aided and increased
their heathenism, so that their last state is worse than their first.
Heaven alone can tell what punishment he should suffer for so
unspeakable a wrong.”

“Heaven, sir,” said Master Simon, speaking slowly and quietly; “Heaven
has also given me the opportunity to make reparation. Margeret, go tell
your mother to fetch my great cloak and to gather such things as I need
for a journey, and to put into a basket all the herbs that are drying up
among the rafters. Many times have I talked with the Indians about these
pestilences and pondered upon what might have power to check them: now I
will put my knowledge to the test. I will go back with the Nascomi
messenger to see how I can help his afflicted people.”

Hurriedly obedient, but with her whole heart crying out in protest,
Margeret ran to the house to do her errand. Her mother, rising from her
spinning wheel, quickly made the necessary preparations, although
scarcely understanding their purpose. Puritan women in those troubled
times had learned to act promptly and without asking for explanations.
When they came forth from the house, bearing bundles and the big basket,
the same little group still stood, unmoving by the gate, while the
pastor, holding up his hand, was speaking loudly, as though in the
pulpit.

“And if you die far away amid that godless nation,” he was saying, “it
will be only Heaven’s judgment upon you and the vanities of this wicked
garden.”

Then it was that of a sudden, Master Simon’s quiet manner dropped from
him.

“Cease your preaching of death and destruction, Master Hapgood,” he
cried, “and go, rather, up into your meeting-house yonder and pray. Pray
with all your might to that God who once walked in a Garden, that He
will spare me for this people’s need, so that they may learn that when
they come hither to ask for help from Him and us, they do not ask in
vain.”

Thus he spoke and then, in a moment, was gone. A hurried kiss to
Margeret and to her mother, a sign to the Indians, and the little party
set off, up the steep lane, across the boulder-strewn clearing and into
the forest. Margeret ran panting behind them for a little way, then,
blinded with weeping, stumbled over a stone and lay sobbing in the
grass. A strong arm came about her and lifted her up.

“Do not fear, little maid,” said the Governor’s great voice, grown
strangely gentle now. “God will not suffer so brave and good a man as
your father to perish. He will come safe back to you again.”

It was thus that Master Simon went into the wilderness, leaving behind
him, in the little house on the hillside, two very heavy, loving hearts.

“Will he come back? Will he come back?” seemed to Margeret to be the
refrain that sang through every one of the autumn sounds, the creaking
of the grain-carts, the blows of the threshing-flails, the thumping of
the batten in the busy loom.

Many friendly neighbours, remembering past kindnesses, brought in what
was left of Master Simon’s harvest, gathered a store of fire wood,
banked the house with earth and leaves and made all ready against the
cold. More than once the Governor came to offer his respects to Mistress
Radpath and to bid her and her little daughter be of good cheer—events
that made the villagers stare, for a visit from the Governor was an
awesome thing. Master Hapgood, the pastor, came also many times to ask
for news, although he seemed not yet to know whether he should praise
Master Simon’s courage or continue to condemn his wickedness.

The Scottish minister, Master Jeremiah Macrae, was still in the Colony,
preaching vehemently up and down the land, crying to the people to
repent of their grievous sins before it was too late. Many a time, so it
came to the ears of Hopewell, had he denounced Master Simon, his garden
and all that grew therein. From town to town he went, until all of New
England began to stir uneasily under the lash of his bitter tongue.

“He may do good and he may do ill,” said their neighbour, Goodman Allen,
to Mistress Radpath. “We are used to being called to account for our
sins and there is no one among us, Heaven knows, that can be called
perfect. But this man, when I listen to his preaching, tempts me to be
more of a sinner than less of one, so sure is he that we are all
condemned to eternal punishment together. His words are more than even a
good Puritan can bear, he threatens us with Heaven’s wrath until we grow
weary and indifferent, while with his tales of hellfire he frightens the
children so that they are afraid to go to bed alone.”

Margeret shivered as she stood listening to their honest neighbour’s
words. It was quite true that the strange minister had haunted her own
dreams for many a night.

“Some folk,” the man went on, “say that he speaks like one of the
prophets of old, come back to earth again. But I say,” here he dropped
his voice and glanced anxiously about the shadowy kitchen; “I say that
he may not be a prophet, but the Devil himself that we have in our
midst. We will mark well his words concerning Master Simon’s garden, and
if they come true, then will we know what to think.”

It appeared to Margeret, through all that autumn, that the world went
very much awry. It was only a part of the general sadness of all things
that, when she went one day to carry a basket of apples to Goody
Parsons, she found the old woman sitting on the bench before her door in
the pale autumn sunshine, weeping bitterly. The climbing rose that she
had brought with her from England and that had grown to the very top of
her cottage door, had drooped all summer and now trailed forlornly
across the grey logs, dead beyond any doubt.

“Great, fragrant white roses it bore,” said the old woman, choking over
her words, “roses that I carried in my hand the day I was married, and
that my three daughters carried too, on their wedding days, each in her
turn. The dearest memory that I have is of our little cottage in
Hertfordshire, where the beehives stood in a long, sun-warmed row beside
the hedge and the rose vine climbed to the very eaves, covering the
whole wall with leaf and blossom. And now my rose is dead, a punishment,
I can well see, for the harm I did your good father by means of my idle,
gossiping tongue.”

“But listen,” Margeret said, “do you not remember that my father once
told you that this rose was finer than any in our garden and you gave
him some of the shoots to plant among our own? We have one now, climbing
high on our house wall and the others I know are still growing down by
the hedge. So to-morrow you shall have a new plant of the very same
rose, to grow as tall and bloom as gaily as the last.”

“Bless me now,” cried Goody Parsons, a smile breaking through her tears.
“You are your father’s own good daughter, little Mistress, and have
almost made me happy again. But I never can be quite so until I can
forget the harm my chattering has done or until I see Master Simon come
safe home out of that terrible wilderness.”

The new little rose took most kindly to the transplanting that Margeret
so skilfully accomplished, and stood strong and sturdy beside the door,
its twigs still green long after the leaves had fallen from the trees
and the misty Indian summer had taken possession of the land.

“I believe that when Spring comes it will grow as fast as that stocking
you are knitting,” laughed Margeret one day, when she came to inspect
its progress.

The old woman nodded and smiled.

“I hope to see it climb to the top of my door again before I die,” she
answered. “Heaven grant me time for that and to end my evil gossiping
ways. Do you know that neighbour Allen—” she checked herself suddenly
and added, with a sigh, “There I go again! Take heed, my lass, and see
how hard it is to mend a fault when you have grown old.” And she closed
her lips with firmness and fell to knitting furiously.

Margeret could not forbear laughing again and was still smiling to
herself as she took her way across the hill. The leafless woods stood
black and bare against a pale yellow sky, and a little thin new moon
hung low behind the treetops. She was surprised to find herself so happy
to-night, as though in such a fair world there could not be so much of
trouble and sadness as she had thought. Just where her path skirted the
forest’s edge she caught sight of a dark figure moving among the black
shadows of the tree-trunks, and presently she saw it come out of the
wood and go down the lane before her.

“Is it Samuel Skerry?” she wondered, as the form, vague in the twilight,
turned into the path that led to the shoemaker’s cottage. “But no, it is
too tall for the cobbler, it must be that boy who lives with him. What
has he been seeking in the wood? The fruits and berries are all gone and
he had no gun. I wonder!”

Her idle speculations did not, however, last long, for as soon as she
reached home and fell to telling her mother of Goody Parsons and the
rose, her thoughts of the shoemaker’s apprentice were swept away.

She had a visit from him, nevertheless, some weeks later, a visit that
surprised her more than the coming of the Governor himself. Early one
bitter windy morning, as she knelt shivering on the hearth trying to
blow the reluctant fire into flame, there came a knock at the outer
door. Upon the threshold, that was banked deep with the first heavy
snow, stood the ragged boy who dwelt at Samuel Skerry’s. His teeth were
chattering and his fingers trembling with the cold, but his dark blue
eyes were shining with excitement.

“There has been a fox in your hen house these three nights past,” he
said, “and so I arose early this morning and see, here he is.”

The body of the red marauder trailed over his arm, its great brush
dragging limply in the snow. It had been with helpless dismay that
Margeret and her mother had noticed the loss of their fowls, so that
this news brought relief indeed.

“Oh, thank you, thank you!” she cried. “But I fear your watch has been a
bitter cold one. Come in and warm yourself, you must be well-nigh
frozen.”

The boy hesitated.

“My master, the shoemaker—” he began, but Margeret interrupted him,
borrowing the stern manner she had seen her mother use on similar
occasions.

“Come in at once,” she commanded, and when he shyly obeyed she shut the
door behind him lest he escape.

He sat down upon the stool in the chimney corner and, when she once more
attempted to blow the fire, took the bellows gravely from her and in a
moment had the flames leaping high, flooding the kitchen with ruddy
light. Margeret filled her pewter bowl brimful with steaming porridge
and watched with pleasure as her guest ate with unconcealed hunger. She
brought bread and cheese and a cup of milk which she set upon the bench
beside him, and then busied herself about the kitchen lest she should
seem to be staring at her unwonted visitor. Each eyed the other shyly
when occasion offered, but looked away quickly when their glances
happened to meet. He seemed to be watching her golden hair shining in
the firelight, while she, by peeping into the old round mirror that hung
upon the wall, could see how black were his hair and eyelashes and how
dark blue were the eyes with which he stared at her when her back was
turned. She felt friendly enough and anxious to put her companion at his
case, and so, apparently, did he, but neither knew what to say and so
the meal was finished in silence. It was Mistress Radpath’s footstep on
the stair that roused him suddenly to speech.

“Oh, I must go,” he cried, springing up. “Samuel Skerry will be awake
and waiting for me this long time. He will want to strike me for my
delaying.”

And out of the door he sped, in greater terror, it seemed however, of
Margeret’s mother than of his master, the shoemaker. The little girl,
watching him through the window as he crossed the white field, realised
suddenly that she had not even thought to ask his name. Often after that
day she wondered who he could be, and many times looked wistfully across
the waste of snow toward the neighbouring cottage. Although she saw him
now and then, passing in and out of the distant doorway, he did not come
near their house again. Goodman Allen’s wife, who came to sew with
Mistress Radpath, dropped a bit of gossip concerning him.

“We are all wondering who that shoemaker’s apprentice can be,” she said.
“He is no kin of Samuel Skerry’s, of that you may be sure, for he is far
too pleasant-faced and gentle-mannered. The town officer went to ask, as
was his duty, but could get no information from the boy’s master. Skerry
said the lad was named Roger Bardwell, that he would answer for him and
that was all. We all wonder where the boy can have come from; there is
not one of us who does not like him.”

That, it seemed, was the sum of Hopewell’s knowledge of the shy, ragged,
handsome lad.

Early in December there came, suddenly, a furious storm of wind and
snow, that covered the fields, blocked the roads and drifted so deep
about the houses that many of them were buried to the very eaves. It was
the worst that the Colonies had ever known in all of their short
history. For three days the gale shrieked about the staunch little
cottages and roared down the chimneys, while those who dwelt within
toiled unceasingly to build the fires up and keep the bitter cold at
bay. When finally the storm had died away, when paths had been dug and
people were able to go to and fro again, the strangest news suddenly
went racing through the village. The Scotch minister, who had been
upsetting the peace of all New England, had disappeared. He had set
forth, people said, on a journey from Boston to Salem, travelling alone
as was his custom, and, save for one man who had met him at the edge of
the forest, struggling along in the face of the rising gale, no mortal
eye had ever seen him again. That he had lost his way and perished among
the drifts, was easy enough to believe, but the good people of Hopewell
had another thing to say.

“The Devil came to take his own again,” many of them declared openly,
for in those rough times the Devil was a more familiar figure than in
later days and more than one of the Pilgrim Fathers laid claim to having
seen him, horns and hoofs and tail and all. And while some folk were not
quite so free-spoken as to agree with the opinion of their bolder
neighbours, yet they too shook their heads and said:

“Watch Master Simon’s garden, there will his burning words be proven,
whether true or false.”

For the thought that, unspoken, filled to the brim every good heart in
Hopewell was:

“Where was Master Simon through all that bitter storm and will he ever
come back to tend his garden again? We can spare a dozen Scotch
ministers, but never one Simon Radpath.”

December, January and February went by, each one, it seemed to Margeret,
covering the span of a year. March slipped past with roaring winds and
melting snows, then came April and Spring again. Listlessly she watched
the apple trees grow green, saw the warm pink of the Mayflowers showing
under the brown leaves and heard the returning birds calling to one
another in the meadow. Once she had loved all these things, but what did
they matter now if Master Simon was never to see them again?

Then, one night, she was awakened suddenly by—she knew not what. Was it
the moonlight, dropping in shining white squares upon the rough floor of
her room? Was it a far-off dog barking in the village? No, it was
something different, the sound of footsteps, hushed, but so many in
number that even above the slight noises of the night they must still be
heard. She sprang from her bed and ran to the window. Down the lane came
a strange procession, slim dark figures moving almost without a sound,
Indian after Indian, in numbers that seemed to have no end, while, in
the midst, came her own dear father, leaning on the arm of the tall
warrior at his side. At the very last came an Indian boy, carrying a
ragged bundle and the very basket into which she had put the herbs so
many months ago. There was something so absurd in seeing even her basket
come home safe from that far journey that she laughed out loud in the
midst of the moonlit silence.

It was a quiet that, however, did not last long. Dogs barked, doors flew
open, voices cried out, “Welcome home, Master Radpath,” and eager
stumbling feet, hastily shod in heavy boots, came running down the stony
paths. The weary traveller was brought in to be warmed, fed and
embraced; a messenger was sent in haste to the house where the Governor
lodged that night. Through all the village spread the news that Simon
Radpath had come home and that with him had journeyed a great chief of
the Nascomis, to smoke the pipe of everlasting peace with the white
settlers. Early in the morning the town-crier was despatched to spread
the tidings through the whole district.

What a proud moment it was for Margeret when she heard this great
official’s huge, deep voice crying from the crossroads:

“Hear ye, good people all! Master Simon Radpath is come safe and sound
to his home again.”

It was a prouder moment still when she went, on the next Sabbath, up to
the meeting-house and, sitting among the women, could see her father
opposite in his place of honour, with many glances turning sidewise to
gaze at him as the hero of the day. Samuel Skerry, from his bench near
the door, was regarding him from under scowling brows, but the boy
beside him followed Master Simon’s every movement with eager,
worshipping eyes. Proudest of all was Margeret when the pastor ascended
into the pulpit and gave public thanks to God that “their good comrade,
who had made a far journey into the wilderness, who had ministered
successfully to a stricken people and who had brought about a momentous
treaty of peace, had come safe home again to his Puritan companions, to
his wife and daughter and to his little garden on the hill.

“There be some of us,” he ended, “who thought that garden was blessed
and some who thought it was accursed, and I, as Heaven is my witness, am
not yet certain whether it is or no. But of one thing we can be sure,
since it is plain to all eyes to-day, that Simon Radpath is the truest
and bravest Pilgrim of us all.”



                              CHAPTER III

                             ROOFS OF GOLD


“Have a care, little Mistress, there are duck eggs in that basket.”

The warning, called forth anxiously by Goodwife Allen, leaning over her
half-door, was quite unheeded by rebellious Margeret, who hurried out of
the gate, swinging her burden quite as recklessly as before.

She felt herself to be in a very rash mood that morning, for was she not
already in disgrace both at home and abroad? She had committed a very
terrible offence on the day before, the Sabbath, after she had been
sitting long on the hard bench in the meeting-house, shuffling her feet,
kicking her heels together and watching the sand of the pulpit hourglass
drop slowly, grain by grain, as though it would never mark the sermon’s
end. When Master Hapgood, as though in absence of mind, had turned the
glass over, a signal that his talk would last for perhaps an hour more,
she had heaved a long, loud sigh that resounded, in a pause of the
speaker’s, to the furthest corner of the meeting-house. Many of the
Puritan maids giggled openly, and more than one man, including Master
Simon, smiled behind his hand, although the pastor’s black frown would
have made any but the most abandoned child bow her head in shame. Yet
even to her mother’s sorrowful chiding on the way home, Margeret had not
replied meekly as a Puritan maid should.

This morning, when she had been sent with a bundle of herbs to Goodwife
Allen’s and had been directed to come quickly home again, she was openly
loitering on the road and planning to stop when she reached the wide,
sunny marsh and gather some of the gorgeous wild flowers that she had
noticed when she passed. She was weary, she told herself, of all these
strict rules, never to run and romp in the lanes, never to wear gay
ribbons or bright dresses, always to sit quiet on the hard benches
through the long, long, Sunday sermons. Presently, as she reflected thus
and swung her basket in time to her rebellious thoughts, one of the duck
eggs rolled over the edge and smashed in the dusty road.

“I don’t care,” cried Margeret, stamping her foot, although there was no
one to hear or see. “I don’t care!”

She might just as well have broken them all for, when she reached home,
an hour later, laden with an armful of bright marsh flowers, her mother
asked her for the eggs and she suddenly recollected that she had set the
basket down upon a tussock as she waded in the swamp and had left it
there.

“There is no time to go back to seek it now,” was all Mistress Radpath
said.

Margeret knew that she ought to declare that she was sorry, but
naughtiness and impatience seemed to have fastened upon her that day and
she kept silent.

“Bring out your spinning-wheel, my child,” said her mother a little
later. “Neighbour Deborah Page is ill and we must spin for her as well
as ourselves to-day.”

The little girl had just seen her father go past the door with his
gardening tools on his shoulder and had been planning to follow and help
him work among the flowers in the warm June sun. It was a pleasant day
of clean-washed air and fresh salt breezes, one that she could scarce
bear to think of spending within doors. She obeyed her mother very
reluctantly, brought her wheel from its corner and sat down to spin. Her
fingers were clumsy and her temper short so that in a moment she had
tangled her thread and jerked the treadle so roughly that it snapped.
Her mother’s look of mute reproach was more than she could bear.

“I care not at all,” she cried loudly and bitterly. “I wanted to break
the hateful wheel. Little girls must play sometimes!”

So saying, she rushed out of the door slamming it to behind her. She saw
Master Simon standing on the path, looking gravely and sorrowfully after
her, but she did not give him time to speak. Taking refuge behind the
great hawthorn bush she buried her face in the grass and burst into hot,
angry tears.

After she had cried for some time and had, in part at least, washed away
her wrath, she sat up to look about her and to wonder how, after all,
she could have been so wicked. Across the meadow, filled with bobolinks,
she could look down to the harbour where the full June tide was running
in. A little boat, sailed she knew by Roger Bardwell, the shoemaker’s
apprentice, in such moments as he could steal from his harsh master, was
flying joyously before the gay, warm wind. She could sniff a bewildering
sweetness that filled the air, for the linden tree had bloomed the day
before, driving Mistress Radpath’s bees nearly mad with joy. She had
heard them humming in the branches nearly the whole night through and
to-day again their song was loud in her ears. Indeed, as she listened,
the buzzing and whirring grew so insistent that she began to realise
something had happened.

“Why,” she exclaimed, “I believe that they are swarming.”

Leaving her refuge behind the hawthorn bush, she peeped over the hedge
of the little enclosed garden where the sundial stood and where the
peacock had once dwelt. Yes, there beyond, under the apple trees stood
her mother, with eager eyes and cheeks pink with excitement, as she held
up the new hive and sought to lure the bewildered bees within. The air
seemed full of their black whirring little bodies, which bye and bye,
however, gathered close and finally settled in a huge dark mass, hanging
from the linden tree like some strange, gigantic fruit. Then must
Mistress Radpath exercise all her wiles, find the queen-bee and persuade
her to enter the hive, to be followed at last by her train of black,
buzzing courtiers.

“Now that was as skilfully managed as ever I saw it!” exclaimed Master
Simon. “Scarce could I have done better myself.”

He chuckled as he spoke for it was a well-known joke in the household
that Master Simon, although equal to any other emergency that might
arise, could not come in too great haste to call Mistress Radpath, once
the bees swarmed. He took the hive from her now and bent to kiss the
successful bee-mistress before he went to put it in place beneath the
apple-trees.

“Goody Parsons says I shall never have true skill until I learn to
whisper charms and spells over the hives, as she does,” returned
Mistress Radpath. “She says—but oh, my spinning, I shall never have it
done!”

She went quickly into the house, leaving Master Simon to set the hive in
its place at the end of the long row that stretched across the back of
the garden. Some of the hives, those that had been brought from England,
were trim and blue-painted, the others were roughly framed out of wood
cut in the forest. It chanced that the one just put into place was the
best and most elaborate of all, for it had a pane of glass in its side
through which one could see the newcomers already turning to the work
that would result in the building up of a golden honeycomb. Margeret,
her anger almost forgotten now, slipped across the grass and stood at
her father’s side, watching too. As she came near he murmured to himself
a line that she had heard him quote before:

             “The singing masons, building roofs of gold.”

“Father,” she said, putting her hand into his and speaking hesitatingly,
as she was not quite sure how she would be received, “what do those
words mean and where did you first hear them?”

She was quite astonished when, for answer, Master Simon burst into a
hearty laugh.

“My child,” he said, “that is almost the very question that was asked me
forty years ago by my elderly Aunt Matilda of whom I was that moment
thinking. And with that scowl upon your face, you look not unlike the
severe dame herself as she asked it.”

“Ah, tell me about it,” begged Margeret, the scowl disappearing and the
last of her anger quite swept away. She loved her father’s stories,
especially those that had to do with his boyhood and that fierce and
redoubtable Aunt Matilda.

Master Simon turned to the bench under the linden tree, at the edge of
the little enclosed garden, and took her upon his knee.

“And so,” he queried, “that gust of temper is all gone by and you are
willing to be friends with your father and mother again? What was it
that put you into such a sudden passion? I did not know that you hated
so to spin.”

“It was not just the spinning,” returned Margeret, hanging her head. “It
was because I was weary of working so much and being so dull and sober.
It was because”—here was so terrible a confession that she could scarce
bring it forth—“because I did not like to be a Puritan maid and did not
want to be good.”

Her father only laughed and held her close.

“We all of us have that same thought at times,” he said, “and in every
heart there stirs, now and then, an impatience with the strict and bare
Puritan life. We, who, when children, saw some of the glitter and
gorgeousness of that golden age in England, the reign of Queen
Elizabeth, cannot but feel a longing, sometimes, for that splendid pomp
and show from which we have turned aside. It would be odd did not the
echoes of our hidden desire still sound in the hearts of our sons and
daughters. I can never forget how the great Queen once made a royal
progress through the town near which I dwelt, and how I ran in the dust
beside her procession, staring with all my eyes at the glittering array.
Such shining soldiers, such ladies clad in velvet and cloth of gold,
such heavy banners fluttering in the hot air! No Queen in a fairy tale
could have shown a more splendid picture. And when I went back to the
cottage where I lived with my uncle and aunt, saw him in his dark coat
and Aunt Matilda in her scant grey dress, and looked about at the bare
walls and the rough furniture, then I, like you, felt suddenly that it
was a dreary business this of trying to be a good Puritan. Yet the
following of our faith is not all, thank Heaven, in wearing a sober coat
and going to meeting six hours every Sabbath.”

“Did you ever see the Queen again?” asked Margeret.

“Yes, I saw and spoke with her once, when I was still a little boy and
she was an old woman. How I chanced to see her, and how my staid uncle
broke through our strictest Puritan law, are both parts of the story
that I was to tell you. Well, we will have the story first and then talk
a little further of this grievous business of being a Puritan.

“You must remember,” he began, as Margeret nestled closer against his
arm, “since I have told you so often, that all through my boyhood I
lived with my uncle at the edge of a great, wonderful garden that
belonged, not to any of the people thereabout, but to the English Crown.
It was there that Queen Bess, when she was but the Princess Elizabeth
Tudor, had lived when she was a girl. There, too, my father, Robert
Radpath, who was heir to the neighbouring estates, used to play with her
when they were children and up to the time when she became Queen. He
never saw her after that day when she set off to London to assume the
crown, but he was always loyal in her service and she stood ever his
friend. He sailed on many of those long voyages for which Queen
Elizabeth’s reign is famous; he and others of her brave sailors risked
much that her flag should fly in distant, unknown corners of the world.
When my father became a Puritan and the persecuting laws bore so heavily
upon all of that faith that even the Queen’s interest seemed powerless
to save him, she appointed him upon a mission to China, to bear a
message from her to that far country’s mighty ruler. From that voyage he
never returned.

“I was a very little boy at the time of his going, but I remember him
well and remember, too, the day the royal messenger came with a letter
written in the Queen’s own hand ‘To my good friend and old comrade,
Robin Radpath.’ He brought also a gorgeously be-ribboned and red-sealed
packet that was to be delivered to ‘The Right, High, Mighty and
Invincible Emperor of Cathaye,’ with Elizabeth’s signature upon it,
written very large for the better reading of a monarch who knew only
Chinese. In three days my father had sailed away in one of her great
high-prowed ships, sailed to meet disaster in some unknown sea, for he
never came home again.”

“And that was how you came to dwell with your uncle?” asked Margeret,
for of this portion of her father’s life she never had heard before.

“Yes, my mother being dead, her brother took me to his house where I
lived henceforth with him and his sister, my Aunt Matilda. My father’s
Puritanism had cost him his estates, but my uncle, a humble man, had
escaped the persecution that had, so far, struck only at the great
lords. A rigid follower of the rules of his faith was my uncle, but my
Aunt Matilda—ah, her strictness and severity left his far behind. He
feared no man on earth, yet of his sister he was as afraid as was I.

“After all these years I cannot quite recollect how it befell that my
uncle took me with him on a journey to London, it may have been only
because I begged so hard to go. Even less can I tell you how he came to
do the thing that almost above all else is forbidden to Puritans, to
witness a show of play-actors. We were passing down a narrow crowded
street when I saw a sign beside a gateway, a great placard setting forth
that here within was to be enacted ‘A new play by Master William
Shakespeare, The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fifth, and His
Glorious Victory of Agincourt.’ I pulled my uncle’s arm to call his
attention, he hesitated, passed by the gate, came back again and
finally, muttering ‘Say naught of this to your aunt,’ led me within.

“It was a strange sight for the eyes of a little Puritan boy fresh from
the country, the rough platform of the stage, the open space before it
where stood a motley crowd of the common folk of London, the rows of
boxes, and finally the gaily dressed actors who strode forth upon the
boards. I believe rain fell upon us as we stood there, and that the sun
came out and disappeared again, but to all that I gave little heed, for
my heart and soul and eyes were with the gallant King Henry, speeding
away to France. It was a play full of clashing arms, of ringing
war-cries and hard-fought battles, yet in the midst of it there was one
who came forth to describe the higher blessings of a peaceful kingdom,
likening it to a beehive, with each member doing his appointed task and
having joy in his work. It was thus he spoke of the bees, ‘Singing
masons building roofs of gold.’ When the play was over, my uncle led me
out, blind and deaf to the sights and sounds of London, only those
stirring words ringing in my ears as they do still.”

“And did your Aunt Matilda ever find you out?” inquired Margeret, hot on
the trail of the rest of the story.

“My uncle made me promise again never to tell her,” Master Simon
continued with a chuckle, “but he might have known that a little boy, so
full of one idea as I was of that play, must spill the news abroad
somehow. It was the day after our return that I was playing on the grass
before our cottage while my aunt sat knitting in the doorway. Suddenly
she asked:

“‘Simon, what is it that you are muttering?’

“She spoke so quickly and sharply that I, lost in a maze of dreams that
I scarce understood, had no better wit than to tell her the line that
was running through my head.

“‘Singing masons,’ she snapped. ‘What means that? There are no such
words in the Bible and you have no business to be reading aught else.
Where heard you that, Simon?’

“I had my scattered wits collected now, and I pretended not to hear.

“‘I think it is time I fed the hens,’ I said with sudden dutifulness.
‘See, the sun is almost down.’

“‘Not until you answer me,’ she directed, but again I feigned not to
hear and hurried across the grass. I heard her get up to follow and then
I ran as fast as my short legs would permit.

“‘Simon,’ she called after me, and I trembled lest I be caught and made
to confess. I doubt whether she had the least suspicion of my uncle’s
iniquity, or whether it was more than her curiosity that had become so
roused. But well I knew that once she asked a question she was bound to
have an answer.

“Across the poultry yard I fled, despair in my heart, for I heard her
footsteps coming close behind. I remember thinking that I could hide
almost anywhere, being so little, but that the sun was so low that my
great long shadow would betray me wherever I sought shelter. So I
climbed the palings that bordered my uncle’s ground, crossed the lane
and squeezed through the hedge into the great garden over the way. Far
off I could still hear my aunt’s shrill, high voice calling ‘Simon,
Simon.’

“I have told you much of that garden, little Margeret, but never, never
can I tell you enough; of the spreading trees, the pleached walks that
were cool long tunnels in the summer’s heat, and of the high, dark
hedges, through whose arches I could glimpse such wealth of colour and
sunshine that it seemed I must be peeping into Paradise. I had walked
there with my father when I was a tiny boy, and could still remember his
tales of how he used to play there with the Princess Elizabeth, and how
it was in the little enclosed garden at the centre, still called the
Queen’s Garden, that the news had come that the English throne was hers.
We often went there together to see the clipped yew-trees that the
English gardeners call ‘maids-of-honour’ and to watch the old, old
peacock trail his shabby feathers across the grass. The yews, my father
said, had been named by the Princess after her own maids-of-honour, and
one in particular that would grow thin and straggling in spite of the
gardener’s care was called, after an unfortunately ugly and
sharp-tempered lady of her company, ‘Mistress Abigail Peckham.’ After my
father’s death I used to play there still, although my aunt did not
greatly approve. The gardeners—there were but few of them now, and all
of them old, because the Queen came almost never to this estate of
hers—were kind to me and taught me all I know of flowers and growing
things.

“Had I not been in such haste to escape my aunt I should have noticed a
group of people at the distant gate, men on horseback and women in hoods
and cloaks as though they had come on a journey. I took small heed of
them, however, my only thought being that in the Queen’s little garden I
should be safe from pursuit, since there scarce any person save myself
ever seemed to enter. Yet this time, as I came panting through the
hedge, I started back in amazement for there was some one there. A tall
woman stood beside the bench and, as she turned toward me, I saw that
her hair was red and her skin yellow and wrinkled like old parchment.
She was wrapped in a great, grey riding cloak, although between its
folds I could catch the glitter of jewelled embroideries and velvet
slashed with gold.

“‘Robin!’ she cried out when she saw me and then, in a moment added,
‘No, no, Robin has long been dead.’

“‘My name is Simon,’ I told her, ‘and I dwell with Master Parrish of
this village,’ for so I had been taught to say.

“She scarcely seemed to hear me, but stood looking about, her face
working oddly as though she wished to weep but had well-nigh forgotten
how. Thinking to cheer her, and wishing to show off the garden which I
had begun to think of as my own, I touched her arm and pointed to the
foremost yew-tree, lank and awkward after all the years.

“‘That,’ I said, ‘is the Lady Abigail Peckham.’

“She looked at me in startled wonder.

“‘How came you to know that, boy?’ she asked sharply.

“‘My father told me,’ I answered, and, going from one to another of the
maids-of-honour, I named them all, ‘Cecelia, Eleanor, Gertrude and
Anne.’

“‘There is no one but my old play-fellow who ever heard those names,’
she said, the stiffness of her manner melting suddenly. ‘You must be the
son of Robin Radpath.’

“‘And you,’ I answered boldly, for her smile had put me quite at ease,
‘must be the great Queen Elizabeth of England.’

“‘Ay,’ she returned, ‘a queen who has outworn her time and who has come
back to look once more before she dies upon the place where, of all her
life, she was the happiest.’

“She began to move to and fro across the grass, seeming to greet each
flower and shrub as though it were an old friend. Suddenly, however, she
turned to me again.

“‘Are you of your father’s faith?’ she inquired.

“‘Yes,’ I told her. ‘I am a Puritan.’

“‘You say it boldly, boy,’ she said. ‘Are you not afraid? No, you would
scarce be your father’s son, did you show fear. Ah, when I was young, I
also was not afraid. I made men do as I willed and I forced a measure of
tolerance upon my people. Now I am an old woman, bullied by my Ministers
of State, who will not believe that until you let men worship as they
will there can be no peace.’

“Then she took my hand and spoke so gravely and earnestly that I can
never forget her words.

“‘Hark ye, lad,’ she said, ‘you shall bear a message from the age that
is past to the age that is to come, a truth that an old woman has
learned in tears and that the next generation, mayhap, must learn in
blood. It is that the Gospel of Fear fills no churches, that no terror
of imprisonment, pain or death will ever drive men from the religion
they hold to be the true one. We of the Church of England have made our
mistake and well-nigh learned our sorry lesson, but will you of the
Puritan faith have eyes to see more clearly, or will you, too, sow the
Gospel of Fear for a bitter reaping?’

“I was but a little boy, Margeret, when I listened to those words, but I
shall remember them as long as ever I live. Here in the New England,
where we are planting our fields and gardens with all of what we loved
best in the Old, we are planting too, as I can see, something more than
gardens, the seeds of a new country and a new life. Yet sometimes I fear
that in our laws there is too much of harshness and severity, that our
faith is more a terror of God’s wrath than a love for His kindness, that
we also are planting deep the Gospel of Fear for a sorrowful reaping. It
may be I am wrong and that man of fierce speech who cursed my garden was
right after all. But, mistaken or not, we are doing a work that will
some day prove to be a great one, so that we should all labour happily
together like ‘singing masons building roofs of gold.’ That, to my mind,
is what it is to be a Puritan. So shall we, Margeret, so easily grow
weary of our task merely because the life seems bare and the labour
long?”

“No, no,” she cried, slipping from his knee and flinging her arms about
his neck, “and if you will come in and mend my spinning wheel, I will
set about doing my share this very minute. But do you think that my work
for others might some day be a little greater than mere spinning and
something not—not quite so dull? Must I wait until I am old to do more
than that?”

Her father laughed cheerily.

“No, you need not wait until you are old,” he said, “but it does no harm
to be spinning while the greater adventure is tarrying on the way. Who
knows, it maybe in waiting for you only just around the corner of the
next year.”

The sun stood high overhead as they went up the path together, while
through the drone of the bees and the subdued twitter of the birds in
the drowsy noonday, Margeret could hear the whirr of her mother’s busy
wheel. If all the toilers of hand and heart were like Mistress Radpath
and Master Simon, the roofs of gold would soon be built to the very
clouds.



                               CHAPTER IV

                           THE GOSPEL OF FEAR


The higher task and the larger adventure were nearer to Margeret Radpath
than she had thought. Neither she, nor her mother nor Master Simon as
they went about their work through all those busy summer months had even
a vague dream of what the first days of autumn would bring forth.
Hopewell, falling ever into more placid ways with each year of quiet and
prosperity, had begun to forget the excitements of its earlier history
and to cease talking even of the strange vanishing of Jeremiah Macrae.
It seemed, as it always does in peaceful times, as though nothing could
ever again stir the calm order of the passing days.

If there was any one who had an inkling of what disturbing matters were
in store it was the silent, shabby Roger Bardwell who did Samuel
Skerry’s errands, helped to mend Hopewell’s rows of broken shoes and
who, in spite of his shyness and the evil reputation of his master,
seemed to have won the good will of all who knew him. It began to be
that people bringing boots to be mended asked that the apprentice do the
work instead of the cobbler himself for, as Goodwife Allen said:

“That surly Skerry makes me feel that with every stitch he puts into the
leather he has sewed in a poisoned thought of me and mine.”

At first the shoemaker took such requests as ill-naturedly as you would
expect of so sour tempered a man; later he would merely shrug his
shoulders and say:

“If the boy wishes to do twice as much work as his master, what have I
to say? So be it you pay me the money I care not who bears the labour.”
For it was well known that Skerry loved money almost as much as he hated
his fellow men.

Throughout this summer it began to happen more and more often that
villagers, coming to ask for Roger Bardwell, found only the scowling
master-cobbler, and on their inquiring where the boy might be were told
that “he was off in the forest somewhere, wasting the precious minutes
that might otherwise be turned into good silver coin.”

“Ay, coin for you but not for him,” Goody Parsons retorted one day.
“When you pay the boy no wages you have no just cause for complaint if
now and then he steals a moment for himself.”

“A moment!” snarled Skerry. “Why, he is often gone for a whole day and a
night and sometimes more. He used to waste his time sailing a boat down
yonder on the bay, but now he has given up even that pastime for these
endless expeditions into the wood.”

“Tell me, friend, what errand takes him there and for such long spaces
of time,” inquired the Goody eagerly. “Tell me and I vow I will whisper
it to no one.”

The shoemaker rocked back and forth upon his stool in silent,
ill-natured glee.

“And this is the dame who had sworn to give over gossiping,” he
exclaimed. “No, you would not whisper it, you would shout it louder than
could the town crier himself. Therefore I will not tell you.”

“I think you do not know,” returned Goody Parsons with spirit, and she
flounced out of his workshop with as much haughtiness as her still old
joints would permit. She left Skerry muttering and frowning over her
remark, which had evidently come nearer to the truth than he liked. It
was not often that the shoemaker’s crafty curiosity failed to penetrate
the most hidden mysteries, but in this matter of his helper’s absence he
seemed to have met with distinct failure. Whatever it was that took
Roger Bardwell so often to the forest, whatever it was that made his
blue eyes more serious and his face more sober every day, no questioning
or spying on his master’s part served to draw the secret from him.

Margeret Radpath saw him seldom, but even on those rare occasions she
noticed how much graver and more troubled he seemed to be as time went
by. Was Samuel Skerry so cruel to him, she wondered; was life within the
same four walls with the shoemaker’s rasping tongue so hard to bear? She
wished often that she might know the truth of the matter and whether she
or her father could be of any help.

She was sent one day with Master Simon’s great snow boots that must be
mended before the winter, and she tried, all the way across the field,
to summon courage enough to offer Roger some word of sympathy and
friendship. The shoemaker’s cottage, with its wide-spreading eaves and
small deep windows looked somehow of a very lowering and forbidding
aspect, as she made her way with failing spirit up the stone-flagged
pathway to its door. It had been built almost the first of the cottages
of Hopewell, not by Samuel Skerry, but by a stout-hearted weaver, one of
the earliest settlers. He had gone now to dwell in Salem but throughout
the first and most troubled years of the Colony’s history he had lived
here all alone. There was a tale that once an Indian, whom the weaver
had made an enemy, had come there in the night seeking to kill the white
man who was so bold as to dwell by himself. The weaver, a man of mighty
strength, had overpowered the Indian, had cut the web from his loom and
had bound his struggling foe to the great armchair that stood by the
fire. Then he had calmly mounted once more to his high bench, had set up
his weaving and had toiled busily the whole night through, singing as he
worked. Neighbours came in the morning and, at the weaver’s orders,
released the Indian who slunk off into the forest inspired with a
wholesome dread of these mad white men who feared nothing. Margeret
thought, as she came up the path, that the cottage looked like just the
place where stirring things might have happened in the past and might
some day happen again.

On peeping in through the open door she saw that the loom had never been
taken down and that even the weaver’s great armchair still held its
place before the fire. It seemed dark within, after the bright sunshine
outside, but she could make out the figure of Roger Bardwell bending
over the shoemaker’s bench in the further corner of the room. His work
lay unfinished on his knee and his face was buried in his hands. Utter
weariness and despair spoke in his whole attitude. He sprang up quickly,
however, when he heard her footstep and greeted her with his shy smile.

“Why, Mistress Margeret,” he was beginning, when he was interrupted by
the opening of the back door of the cottage and the abrupt entry of
Samuel Skerry.

“So,” said the shoemaker to Margeret, “you have an errand here? Then
state it quickly, for ours are busy days and time means good money.”

Dismayed at his harsh tone, Margeret quickly drew the heavy boots from
under her arm.

“These are worn in the soles and are to be mended,” she said. “My father
says that—”

Skerry broke out in sudden anger as though he could not bear even the
mention of Master Simon.

“A pest on you and your father!” he cried. “Do I not hear enough in the
village of Master Simon this and Master Simon that, without having to
see his own daughter coming to my house to tell me what I should do?
Begone from my door and come not here again with your chattering and
your tempting my boy into idleness.”

Margeret made no delaying but turned at once to flee. Roger, however,
followed her beyond the door and spoke hastily in an undertone.

“You must not mind the shoemaker’s sharp words, little Mistress,” he
reassured her. “He seems indeed to bear ill will toward your father, but
still I sometimes see him at our door, watching Master Simon in his
garden with a look so gentle, almost wistful, that I know not what to
think. The boots shall be mended safely, and when they are done I will
bring them back. I fear that the scant welcome you have received will
make you desire little to come hither again.”

“When he brings the boots,” Margeret reflected, as she walked back
through the field, “my father must question him and perhaps can find a
way to help him.”

It was just then the season for candle making, the task that Margeret
loved above all others of the year. Beyond Master Simon’s garden was a
stretch of waste land reaching down to the water’s edge, where grew in a
thick tangle, the dark bayberry bushes that so many of the Puritans had
thought best to root out of their fields. Master Simon, however, had
kept his and had found that from their abundant fruit could be made the
green, sweet-smelling tapers that were of such service through the long
winter. Tallow was still scarce in the little Colony, and wax candles
brought from England far too costly, so this was a brave discovery
indeed. Every autumn when the first tang of frost was in the air, all
the children of Hopewell gathered to pick Master Simon’s bayberries and
a merry task they made of it. Then, for days after, would come the
sorting of the fruit, the boiling and skimming and the dipping of the
wicks. Slowly the candles would take shape until the moment that was to
Margeret a breathlessly exciting one when the first pair were placed in
the copper candlesticks on the mantel and were lighted to see if all had
been properly done and the tapers burned clear, steady and fragrant as
they should.

“I trust,” said Mistress Radpath, as they began the first evening to
sort and select the berries, “that this season our task may be completed
in peace. Last year, do you remember, I slipped and hurt my arm so that
you had to do the work with no help but my directions. And well indeed
you did it!”

“And the year before,” added Margeret, “neighbour Deborah Page was ill
and you ran in and out between the boilings and skimmings trying to
attend to her.”

“Ay, so it goes,” her mother said. “Some mishap each season all the way
back to the year when your father was away among the Indians and we made
the candles wondering whether he would ever come back to see them burn.
But this year, surely all is peaceful and quiet and our task should be
carried safely to its end.”

Mistress Radpath spoke too soon for, as it proved, never before was a
candle making season so full of disturbing and long-remembered events.
To begin with, the very next day when the first kettleful of berries had
just been swung over the fire, a mounted man stopped at the gate and
came in to tell them that a cousin in the next town was taken with a
fever and begged for help. So, with scarce half-an-hour’s delay,
Mistress Radpath went off, seated on the pillion behind the messenger
and leaving Margeret to face the candle making alone.

She boiled and dipped and cooled with steady patience all of that day
and the next until a great pile of straight smooth candles lay upon the
kitchen table. Master Simon came in just as the first two were lighted
and was loud in his praise of the tall, sweet-smelling flame.

“Will not my mother be pleased?” cried Margeret joyfully. “I can
scarcely wait to show her how well the work has gone. See, here are
little ones for lanterns and big ones to read by and a few great
splendid tapers to burn if perchance the Governor should visit us again.
And to-night you shall sit and read by these first ones while I sit by
you and sew.”

It had been a cool, clear October day, with vivid sunshine lying over
the garden, but as Margeret went to the window to pull the curtains
close she saw that the night promised to be stormy. It had grown dark
early, big black clouds were rolling across such few stars as had sought
to show themselves, and, even as she stood there, a patter of rain came
against the glass.

“We will be so cosy here by the fire,” she was saying, as she went to
the next window, then, with a sudden exclamation, “Oh, look, look,
Father; what can those lights mean?”

Master Simon came quickly to look over her shoulder. At the edge of the
town moving lanterns were passing to and fro, with here and there the
red flare of a pine-knot torch. Even as they watched more and more
lights gathered and were carried back and forth in excited confusion
while on the rising wind came the far-off sound of the town crier’s
bell.

“Oh, what can it be?” faltered Margeret. “Do you—do you think it could
be the Quakers again?”

She could never forget the winter evening, now three years past, when
two women of that forbidden faith had passed through the village and had
sought to spend the night at Hopewell’s little inn. They had been driven
from the town and she, standing at the corner of the lane, had seen them
fleeing with bent heads and upraised arms before the shower of stones
hurled after them by the mob of angry Puritans. Master Simon had tried
to stem the tide of his comrades’ fury, but for once had not prevailed.
She could still remember the look on his face as the crowd went surging
by them and how he had turned upon his heel muttering, “How long, O
Lord, how long?”

“How can they do it?” she had gasped, as she, too, turned from the
terrifying sight. “There are good Neighbour Allen and Dame Page shouting
curses and even the children are flinging stones!”

“They are afraid not to, my child,” Master Simon had answered. “They
dread the wrath of God should they suffer these women to remain here,
and they think by this cruelty to save their own souls. It is so men are
taught by the Gospel of Fear.”

It seemed that it was again the Gospel of Fear that drove forth the men
of Hopewell that night. The lights were moving in wide tossing circles,
they were bobbing about in the fields like will-o’-the-wisps and were
advancing closer and closer as they spread across the meadows.

“Father,” Margeret cried wildly, “they are coming here!”

“It may be,” said Master Simon at last, “that some child is lost or some
one is hurt. We had better go out to make sure that it is no such
mischance as that.”

The wind and rain blew hard in their faces as they went down the garden
path so that Margeret had to cling to her father’s arm to keep from
losing him in the dark. The horn lantern in his hand winked and
flickered but managed somehow to remain feebly alight as they struggled
on against the storm. They had not gone far beyond the boundaries of
their own land before they came upon a little group of searchers led by
Goodman Allen. Their lights had all blown out and they were standing
close together, their backs to the wind, trying, in breathless haste, to
kindle a new flame.

“Here is Master Simon Radpath with his lantern still burning,” exclaimed
one in a tone of relief. “Now we can lose no time but lay hands upon
that evil man at once. I am certain he is somewhere near.”

“I had hoped that we would meet you sooner, Neighbour,” said Goodman
Allen. “It is not your wont to sit safe by the fire when Hopewell needs
your help.”

“That depends somewhat upon your trouble,” answered Master Simon
gravely. “Some matters I find are better managed without my aid. What is
it now? Are some fleeing Quaker women threatening the safety of your
souls again? Or is it a Baptist this time, one man against the whole of
the village?”

“It is far worse than that,” burst out the one who had spoken first,
“worse than anything you can believe!”

“I thought there was naught worse than a Quaker,” began Master Simon
bitterly, but Allen interrupted him.

“The man whom we seek is a thousand times worse,” he cried. “He is a
Catholic priest, a Jesuit, and he has dared to live in the forest near
us for years. He wandered southward from the Canadian settlements and
came to dwell, miles from here it is true, but within the legal bounds
of the Colony of Hopewell. He established a mission among the Indians,
even built a woodland chapel and said his forbidden masses here,
actually here in New England, upon Puritan soil! And the Indians,
close-mouthed rascals, never betrayed him.”

“And how have you found him out now?” inquired Master Simon. He seemed
not so astonished as he should have been upon hearing this terrible
tale. Perhaps his red-skinned friends had told more to him than to the
other white men.

“He tried to slip down past the town and escape from our shores by sea.
Somewhere in this darkness and storm a ship is cruising up and down
waiting to carry him away. It seems that he desired to go back to France
but was too old and broken to undertake the overland journey to Canada.”

“Come, friend,” put in another of the little party, nudging Allen as he
spoke, in a vain attempt to check the story that he was pouring out. “We
are delaying here and time is precious. Let Master Simon give us a light
from his lantern.”

“A moment first,” said Margeret’s father. “I must know who it was that
found out all this.”

“Who but the wisest and craftiest man in Hopewell,” answered Allen. “Who
but that clever shoemaker, Samuel Skerry? The priest became bewildered
in the dark and by some chance wandered to the cobbler’s door. Roger
Bardwell was from home and the shoemaker there alone, but it did not
take him long to make the simple old Frenchman believe that he was a
friend and so to draw the whole story from him. Then Skerry came in
haste to rouse the town, but before we could return with him the priest
had taken alarm and was off and away again. Now we are searching
everywhere for him and when we find him—” He chanced to catch Margeret’s
horrified eyes fixed upon him in the lantern light and so concluded
lamely, “It is no matter to be talked of before little maids.”

“It is no work for honest men,” rejoined Master Simon hotly, “to hunt a
lost, frightened, old man up and down through the storm as though he
were a wild thing. Have you no pity, Neighbour Allen, and no kindness of
heart?”

“I have both,” answered the other, “but I have also a soul, a soul that
will be lost for all eternity should I suffer this priest to go
unpunished.”

Margeret started and was scarcely able to repress a cry. Something had
brushed by her in the dark close to the hedge, something small and quick
and panting.

“It is he, it is he!” cried the man nearest her. “I hear something
rustling by the hedge. Your light, Master Simon, for the love of
Heaven.”

“Yes,” said Master Simon.

The thin, flickering ray from his lantern swung across the wet
wind-swept bushes nearer—and nearer, and then suddenly went out, leaving
them all groping in the blind darkness.

“Scatter quickly and feel your way along the hedge,” cried Allen. “A
plague on this tempest and the treachery of lanterns!”

Margeret felt her father’s hand grasp hers firmly and draw her along the
path that led back to their garden. Under cover of the dark they moved
away from the searchers and walked silently up to the house. Once
inside, Master Simon laid off his wet cloak and hung the offending
lantern on its nail.

“You should have put in one of your new candles, Margeret,” was all he
said; “the old one was so nearly burnt out that it was not to be trusted
in such a wind.”

But he smiled a little as he spoke and she, for relief and joy at the
priest’s escape, laughed out loud. She went to the window to watch the
winking lights again as they danced about in the meadow more confusedly
than before. Finally, some new information seemed to have reached the
searchers, for the bobbing lanterns moved closer together, turned in
another direction, and passed so quickly that in a few moments the whole
chase had gone over the hill to the northward.

“They have gone quite away,” she exclaimed joyfully, but Master Simon
made no reply. He was sitting in his big chair by the fire and gazing
intently into the red flames. She went to stand by his side and stare at
them too.

“Suppose he had found our door instead of Samuel Skerry’s,” she said at
last, “would you have let him in?”

Her father came out of his brown study to answer her.

“The Puritan law inflicts heavy fines and imprisonment or worse,” he
said, “upon any one who harbours a Roman Catholic priest.”

“But would you have let him in?” she persisted.

“I would have asked your consent first,” he replied gravely, “for in the
eyes of the law such a crime would be shared by all who were in the
house that admitted him. And would you have dared to bring him in?”

“Yes, most surely,” she answered. “I would have warmed and fed him,
would have given him all I had to aid and comfort him and to send him
safe upon his way. And so would you, as I well know.”

“I think—” began Master Simon, and then stopped suddenly to listen.

Quick footsteps sounded on the grass behind the house, the back door was
thrown open swiftly and without the ceremony of a knock. Upon the
threshold stood Roger Bardwell, wet, panting and eager, his blue eyes no
longer sad or troubled, but shining with excited purpose.

“Master Simon,” he cried, although hardly above his breath, “and you,
Mistress Margeret, do you dare to give aid to a man who needs your help
so sorely that without it he must perish?”

“Yes,” said Master Simon. “Is it the French priest?”

“Ay, it is the priest,” Roger answered. “He is hiding in your garden.”



                               CHAPTER V

                             BY CANDLELIGHT


When, a moment later, Roger and Master Simon half helped, half carried
the stranger through the door, Margeret’s first feeling was a sinking of
the heart and the despairing thought:

“Oh, if only my mother were here!”

But the next minute her courage rose again at the thought that here was
a task to which, after all, she was quite equal and that at last had
come a thrilling adventure in which she could have her own share. She
went about the kitchen, mending the fire, setting the kettle to boil,
bringing blankets to be heated and herbs to be brewed as steadily and
gravely as though she were Mistress Radpath herself. But all the time
her heart was beating loud with excitement rather than terror at the
risk they were running. She caught Roger’s eye once or twice and
observed that under his grave demeanour he was as stirred at heart as
she was. Here at last was the solution to his mystery, this was the
friend that he had visited so often in the forest, it was this very
escape through Hopewell that he had planned and worried over so many
months.

It took much effort and all of Master Simon’s skill to revive the
exhausted guest, to quiet his shivering, to warm his trembling hands and
bring a little colour back into his deathlike face. That he was old,
Margeret had known from the talk in the field, but she had not been
prepared to see any one so feeble, so small and shrunken, so bowed down
with age and long hardship. He lay back unmoving in Master Simon’s big
chair, his thin, almost transparent hands resting limp and seemingly
lifeless against the cushion.

At length, however, he stirred, opened his black eyes to look about him
in wonder for a moment and, finally, he smiled and spoke.

“So it is that I am among friends,” he said in his quaint
French-flavoured English. “I, who have been hunted like a wild animal up
and down your fields these three hours past. They are no respecters of
old age and white hairs, these Puritan brothers of yours, Monsieur
Simon.”

“They know not any better,” answered Master Simon briefly, “and since
they have failed to find you we can forgive them.”

“Yes, they failed, thanks to this brave friend of mine here,” smiled the
little priest, laying his hand upon Roger Bardwell’s. “And I think it is
thanks also to the high hedges of your garden that Puritan zeal and
Puritan justice went by on the other side to-night.”

His spirits seemed to revive quickly as the pleasant glow of the fire
began to warm his chilled bones. Before an hour had passed he was
sitting upright among the cushions and blankets telling, to three most
eager listeners, tales of his life in the forest. Roger Bardwell was
seated on the settle, warming his cold hands at last and drying his
rain-soaked clothes. He seemed a different boy now, with all the old
trouble and misgiving put aside for the moment, since now his perilous
affairs were in Master Simon’s safe keeping.

“Yes,” the little priest was saying, “it is not a life for those who
love luxury and ease, but the Jesuit Fathers have long since learned to
deny themselves both. Such toils and adventures as I knew when I was
young have made it seem a little thing to dwell in the forest so near to
your hostile Colony, yet with only my savage red-skinned children for
company. Their need of me seemed to be so great that I have been led to
remain with them, year after year, until old age and feebleness have
made impossible my return to Canada. The great swamp between me and your
village has stood me in good stead, for in all this time my hiding place
has been undiscovered, and out of all the white settlers upon the coast,
only two have ever wandered so far as my door.”

“And who could those two have been?” inquired Master Simon.

“One was this dear, good lad here, Roger Bardwell, who strayed thither
half dead with hunger and weariness and has been my helper and
benefactor ever since. And the other—ah, what a strange fellow he was!
The Indians brought him to me after that fearful winter storm some years
since; they had found him wandering in the forest nearly crazed from
starvation and exposure. He lay there in my hut for many weeks, always
crying out that I should not come nigh him, that he would take no
favours from an infidel Papist’s hands and that Heaven’s vengeance would
fall upon me did I not change my faith before it was too late.”

Margeret stirred a little and looked up anxiously at her father. What
was there so familiar in those last words?

“I had hopes at one time that he would live,” the priest went on, “and
night and day I tended him with all the skill I knew. I have often
thought of what pain it must have been to him to be nursed by a Jesuit,
whose very presence he believed would bring corruption. How he raved of
the sins of the world and the fearful punishments that were to overtake
the wicked! Ah, could he have lived, as I have, in the peace of the
forest, ministering to the simple-hearted Indians, he might have learned
that, after all, men know not so much of God as to be able to say freely
who is to be condemned and who rewarded. He died, just as Spring was
flooding the forest with new life and beauty, but he died as he had
lived, still deeming the world a dark, wicked, bitter place. My Indians
helped me to bury him under the pines, it was they that brought the
white stone upon which we made shift to carve the name he had told
us—Jeremiah Macrae. Some day, so I had thought, I would lie there by his
side when my own task was laid down forever. I believe that he would not
have minded that we should so sleep together through the ages, for I
think that he knows by now that salvation is not so narrow and lonely a
thing as he had thought, and has learned that a Puritan minister and a
Jesuit priest may labour in God’s work side by side.”

“I would that all the world could see as clearly as you,” said Master
Simon, with a sigh.

“It will some day,” answered the priest cheerfully. “Not in our time,
brother, but at last. Few of my faith and few of yours think as do you
and I, but the seed is sowing and the world will grow wise in Heaven’s
own good time.”

There was silence for a space before the thin, gentle voice of the
priest went on again.

“Shall I tell you, my friends,” he said, “why it is not to be that I
sleep beside Jeremiah Macrae in the forest and why I am at last laying
the burden down and, if it be that I slip through the fingers of your
Puritan brothers, will go back to die in my own dear country across the
sea? It was but a little thing that in the end broke down my firmness,
but when a man is old and weary it takes not much to call him home. I
have never spoken before of what the true reason was, but I think that
boy yonder knows.”

Roger smiled.

“I believe it was the Nascomi Indian,” he observed, “and the gift that
he left you.”

The little father nodded.

“It was in the same year as the coming of Monsieur Macrae that an Indian
from a strange tribe passed that way and lingered with us a little. He
left, when he went forward on his journey again, a faded yellow tulip
whose petals had once been like burnished gold, just such a flower as
used to grow in the garden near my first parish church in France. So
long have I dwelt in the fierce wilderness that it seems only a dream
when I think of that fair bright country of mine. Yet it is a dream that
stands often before my eyes, those close-built villages with their
clustering red roofs and their smoke rising from a hundred neighbourly
chimneys, those sun-bathed streets, narrow and crooked but, oh, so dear,
and the great church towering over all as though to care for its
children and protect them. Long, long I sat in the doorway the night
after the Indian had gone, looking out into the moonlit forest, looking
out toward France with tears in my foolish old eyes. The desires that I
thought I had stilled forever awoke again and grew greater and greater
until now I have but one thought, one longing, that fills my whole
being. The Indians carried word of me back to my friends in Canada,
through Roger Bardwell we arranged that the ship they would send was to
take me on board near Hopewell. It was through my own impatience that
the plan miscarried, for I would not wait for him in the place where he
was to meet me in the forest, but pressed on, missed him in the dark and
in my bewilderment sought his cottage and betrayed all to that crafty
shoemaker who vowed he was my friend. For one thing only I can be
thankful; it is that misgiving checked my foolish tongue in time and I
did not tell of this boy’s share in bringing me here. And oh, it cannot,
it cannot be that after all this danger and effort of those I love, I am
to lose my heart’s desire and perish at the hands of the Puritans before
I have seen France again!”

Master Simon rose and pushed back his chair.

“It cannot and it will not be,” he said; “so be of good comfort and have
no fear.”

Roger also got up from the settle and went over to look from the window.

“The storm has blown itself out,” he observed, “and there is a heavy fog
rolling in from the sea. It is long past midnight and such of the men of
Hopewell who have not given up the search in weariness have gone up over
the hill. The French ship must be lying somewhere off-shore in this
darkness: now is the time to try to signal to her from the shore if it
is to be done in safety. Do you wait here, while I see what I can do.”

“I will come with you,” said Master Simon, taking down his lantern once
more and putting in his pocket a handful of Margeret’s bayberry candles.
“We may have to go to the far end of the headland before the ship sees
us and the time is none too long. And should any one knock at the door
while we are gone, Margeret—well, the big cupboard upstairs is the
safest hiding place. It must be your quick wit and courage that can
avail to save us all in such a case.”

The priest spoke very little after they had gone, and finally dropped
into a doze in the big chair. Margeret looked at him many times as she
tip-toed about the kitchen, looked at his white hair, his gentle
wrinkled face and his thin shoulders bowed with toil and suffering. How
was it possible that people of her own dear Hopewell could be seeking to
take the life of such a man? Would the Gospel of Fear always have such a
hold upon kindly people’s hearts? She became so absorbed in her thoughts
that she failed to hear an almost noiseless movement outside and turned
with a gasp of dismay when, without a sound, the door swung slowly open.

But it was not the Puritans who had found out where the hunted Jesuit
was hiding that night. Margeret gave almost a sob of relief when she saw
that it was a tall, blanketed Indian who had come in and that the faces
filling the door behind him were all dusky ones, heavy, stolid and red
of skin. The priest awoke and greeted the newcomers with a happy smile.

“These are my dear, dark children,” he explained to her, “and they have
followed to bid me a last good-bye.”

Their faces lighted as he spoke to them and they responded in the thick
gutturals of a tongue quite strange to Margeret. More and more came
crowding into the fire-lit kitchen while a greater and greater company
stood silent and patient outside. Their movements were so utterly
without a sound that it was small wonder they had slipped, like unseen
ghosts, past the searching white men.

They seemed to be asking something of the priest, for he shook his head
distressfully again and again as one after another spoke. But the look
that he turned to her now and again grew ever more wistful.

“Mademoiselle,” he said at last, “these children of my faith are begging
me to say the mass for them once more before I go. I have tried to
refuse since it would bring greater danger upon you and your father,
but, oh, it is hard to say no! Could it be that you would permit us to
find some quiet corner of your garden and there worship together before
we part for all time?”

“Yes,” she answered with no hesitation, “and were my father here I know
that he would say the same. Do whatever you desire and—and take whatever
you wish to use,” she added vaguely, not quite knowing what this service
was nor what it required.

“But that is truly brave and kind!” exclaimed the little priest, his
face fairly shining with sudden joy. “It is not much that we will need,
this table, if you will be so kind, and—and these?”

He laid his hands lovingly upon the great heap of candles that still lay
upon the table and drew forth one of the tall thick tapers that was to
have burned in honour of the Governor of the Colony.

“Yes, anything, everything,” answered Margeret quickly, opening the
cupboard where the candlesticks were kept.

The priest hesitated for a moment.

“It were better, Mademoiselle Margeret,” he said, “that you go upstairs
and try to neither see nor hear that which we are about to do, so that,
if the story of this night ever becomes known, those of your faith
cannot accuse you of worshipping with us.”

Most unwillingly, yet realising the wisdom of his advice, Margeret went
slowly up the stairs toward her own room, yet stopped to look out at the
little uncurtained window under the roof. She saw that the storm was
over, as Roger had said, and a heavy mist was spreading over the garden.
Neither moon nor stars were to be seen, but the wind had dropped and the
night was breathlessly still. Down near the water’s edge she could make
out two moving points of light, Master Simon’s lantern and Roger
Bardwell’s, signalling to the ship before the fog should hide them
entirely. Over toward the town all was quiet and dark, since the search
in this direction at least, had come to an end. She heard moving to and
fro below her, the gentle opening and closing of the door; then the
house became so silent that she could hear only the quiet crackling of
the kitchen fire.

What were they doing out there in the garden? What was this Catholic
mass of which she had heard men speak with bated breath as being seven
and seventy times forbidden in the Puritan Colony? So far, she had been
trying to bear her part in this adventure as though she were a grown
woman, now she became all at once a little girl again and one consumed
with curiosity. Forgetful of all consequences, she ran down the stairs,
slipped out of the door and stole across the thick, wet grass. The mist
had grown very heavy now but she could still see some paces in front of
her.

From within the high dark hedges of that square enclosure that she and
her father now called the Queen’s Garden, there fell a gleam of soft,
yellow light. Cautiously she stole nearer and nearer, peeped through the
bushes and caught her breath at what she saw. The grassy space was
crowded with Indians, a dense throng of kneeling worshippers, far too
many ever to have found places within Master Simon’s house. Their backs
were toward her and their faces upturned toward the light that fell upon
their glistening, coppery skins. The priest was standing before them,
his head was bowed and he was reading in an unknown language from a
little book. Against the hedge behind him had been placed the table,
covered with a white cloth and decked with such flowers and berries as
were still to be found in the garden. And upon the table burned what
seemed a myriad of bayberry candles, great ones and small, their broad,
clear flames rising straight upward in the still air and giving forth a
faint sweet perfume like incense. Their soft light fell like a
benediction upon the strange scene, on the priest’s white hair, on the
dark faces of the Indians, on the wet shining leaves of the sheltering
hedge.

She watched entranced and was hardly conscious of a movement at her side
until she turned to see that Roger Bardwell had stolen close to her and
was kneeling to look through the same opening between the branches. So
absorbed was she that she did not in the least notice when he took off
his homespun coat and put it about her shoulders to shield her from the
chill air that foretold the coming dawn. The birds were beginning to
chirp and sing in the forest and the blackness of the night was faintly
changing to grey.

The priest finished his reading and turned to give the final blessing.
Margeret, looking up at his worn white face, saw suddenly, beyond it,
another that made her start back in terror. At a gap in the hedge behind
the priest stood Samuel Skerry watching the forbidden ceremony with
dark, eager little eyes. She gasped, looked again and saw only the empty
place. Could she have imagined that ill-omened vision? She turned to
question Roger but he had been gazing down toward the sea and had seen
nothing.

The Indians rose from their knees and went forward, one by one, to say
farewell. Finally the last one slipped away; there remained behind only
a boy who was putting out the candles and removing the flowers; the
service was over. Master Simon came striding down the path and stopped
at the edge of the Queen’s Garden.

“Dear friend,” said the priest, hurrying to him, “can you forgive that I
have done this forbidden thing and brought such danger on you and your
daughter and your garden? It has meant much, so much to those I must
leave behind!”

“My forgiveness is not needed,” Master Simon replied, “for you have done
no wrong. But now the morning is at hand, a boat is waiting for you just
off our beach and you must begone. Save for a fortunate chance that led
the men of Hopewell to think that you had been seen on the northward
road, you might have been discovered before this. But we must hasten now
before the sun rises and this shielding fog is gone.”

It took but little time to gather up the priest’s few possessions and to
guide him down to the landing place. He and Master Simon walked together
across the garden, through the winding path among the bayberry thickets
and over the rocks and sand to the water’s edge. Margeret and Roger came
behind, she at last finding time to put to him a score of questions
concerning their strange guest. Had Roger really known the priest so
many years and yet told no one? What sort of a house did he dwell in
there in the forest? How had Roger ever chanced to find it, and when?

“It was just before I came to Samuel Skerry’s,” the boy explained
vaguely in answer to this last inquiry. “I was lost and in trouble and
the little father gave me such help and comfort as I can never forget or
repay.”

“And you think he will be safe now?” Margeret pursued.

“Ay, safe enough,” he answered, “if the ship once gets to sea. But it is
of your danger and Master Simon’s that I am thinking; only the most dire
necessity could have led me to bring you into such a hazardous affair.
And if it is really true that you saw the shoemaker watching through the
hedge, there is no knowing what harm may come. I cannot but hope that in
the mist and candlelight your eyes deceived you. I can never forgive
myself if harm comes to you through this night’s adventure.”

“But you,” questioned Margeret, “is not your peril greater than my
father’s or mine?”

Roger laughed shortly and bitterly.

“Until the Pilgrim Fathers learn to be more gentle to one of another
faith than theirs,” he said, “my danger is neither lessened nor
increased by my friendship with this priest who dwelt in the wood.”

They had reached the shore by now and had come up with the Jesuit and
Master Simon who stood talking earnestly together as they waited on the
beach. Through the fog came the sound of creaking rowlocks and the
splash of oars approaching nearer and nearer. It was plain from the
priest’s words that he was overcome at the thought of what might happen
after his departure and was begging Master Simon to flee the danger
completely and to leave Hopewell.

“You think not as these other Puritans do, good sir,” he was saying.
“You are ever in danger on account of their narrow laws and your wider
views. Why not gather up your possessions and your family and seek some
place where persecution is not so fierce and where a man can think and
worship as he desires?”

Master Simon was silent a little before he spoke his answer, but his
hesitation was not through doubt of what that answer should be.

“I have planted a garden here in the wilderness,” he said slowly, at
last, “and I must abide to see what sort of fruit it bears. I and my
children and their children too, I trust, will tend it each in turn. And
when we Englishmen turn our hands to the planting of such gardens we
like not to abandon the task and leave others to destroy our work.”

The priest seemed not to have grasped his meaning.

“But gardens grow in all lands, Monsieur,” he protested. “Flowers bloom
fairer in other soils than this of bleak New England. You can plant
another garden across the sea.”

“The flowers that I and my Puritan comrades have planted are not such as
grow on other shores,” Master Simon answered. “For we have planted
truth, and a new freedom in a new land. There are weeds in our garden, I
grant you, the weeds of jealousy and too-narrow justice and the Gospel
of Fear. But where was there ever a new garden without weeds or a new
country without mistakes and bitter lessons that it must master before
it comes to its glory at last. No, good friend, I have laid my hand to
the plough nor will I look back!”

The prow of a ship’s boat came suddenly out of the mist and grated on
the beach. Two sailors leaped ashore to help the priest embark, cutting
short his words of protest and farewell. A moment later the little craft
had disappeared into the fog again and the muffled sound of the oars had
died away. They could hear, a short space after, the creak of ropes and
the rattle of an anchor-chain, while something big and grey, the ghostly
shadow of a ship, slipped by through the mist that was beginning to be
faintly bright with coming day.

The three conspirators walked homeward through the wet field and paused
at the edge of the garden where Roger Bardwell made a stammering attempt
at thanks for the help they had given to his friend. His broken words
were cut short, however, by Margeret as she laid her hand upon her
father’s arm.

“Look!” she said.

The fog had lifted over the meadows showing them the sleeping town of
Hopewell, every house with its doors closed and its windows blank as
though drowsy with the same slumber that held those who slept within.
But nearer than the village they could see Samuel Skerry’s cottage, its
door open and the casements standing wide while a plume of smoke rose
steadily from the chimney. The glow of the dawn was reflected like fire
from one of the windows that winked at them with its red light like some
wicked, baleful eye. No matter who was asleep, the shoemaker was up and
stirring.

“Now was he or was he not in the garden last night?” said Roger with a
sigh of deep misgiving.

“There is little need to waste time in pondering over that question,”
returned Master Simon cheerily, “for if he was there we and all of
Hopewell will know of it—and that right soon!”



                               CHAPTER VI

                          THE SCHOOLHOUSE LANE


For once it seemed that Master Simon was mistaken. It may have been that
Samuel Skerry was really ignorant of what had occurred that early
morning in the garden or it may have been that he had seen, and for some
reason held his peace. Whichever was the truth, the matter remained long
a mystery. Margeret was so certain that she had seen him spying upon
them and so equally certain of his ill-will toward her father that she
felt, for many slow-dragging, anxious weeks, that any day might bring
his betrayal of their law-breaking. She waited a month, six months; then
a year went by and another and another, but still the shoemaker did not
speak. Had he forgotten? Had he never known?

All through the years that she was growing up, the thought was ever in
her mind that he could bring ruin upon them at any moment he so desired.
Once, as she stood at the edge of the village square, the town crier
passed, bell in hand, announcing the trial and banishment of three
Boston men for “giving succor and shelter to members of that dangerous
and dissenting sect, the Baptists.” Samuel Skerry, going by at that
moment, turned upon her a leer of such evil import that she felt sure he
had read her thoughts. If such was the punishment for giving help to
Baptists, had been her reflection, would it not be, to the prejudiced
eyes of Puritans, a hundred times worse to have aided a Roman Catholic?
But time passed and still they dwelt in safety, for the shoemaker, so it
seemed, was biding his time.

“Sometimes,” said Roger Bardwell, who was a frequent visitor at their
house now; “sometimes I think it may be regard for Master Simon that
keeps him silent, sometimes I think that he was lost and bewildered in
the storm that night as were the others, and so never saw the mass in
the garden, sometimes I think that he is so wrapped up in money-getting
that he has not a thought for other things. He is mad for gain these
latter days, and he must have a fortune stored away in his hiding-hole
behind the cupboard.”

On the Sabbath day that Margeret was eighteen, she was still thinking,
as she sat in the meeting-house, of the peril that had hung over them so
long. Master Hapgood, the minister, was bringing to its close a sermon
grown no shorter than of old, although age had bowed his shoulders and
weakened his mighty voice. The pale yellow of a winter sunset showed for
a few minutes behind the windows, gilded the blank white walls and faded
away again. A dank chill crept over the meeting-house, children drew
their feet up under them and men and women wrapped themselves closer in
their grey cloaks.

“And now, brethren,” Master Hapgood was saying, “there is time left for
contribution, wherefore, as God has prospered you, so freely offer.”

One by one the little congregation went forward, each to deposit his
gift; first the Assistants, then the Tything Men, then the humbler
goodmen of the town. Some laid down money, more, such produce as they
could spare, corn or fruit or fresh eggs. Samuel Skerry, shuffling down
the aisle, brought as small a copper coin as the currency afforded and
looked at it regretfully as he laid it down. Roger Bardwell, at the end
of the line because he was the youngest of all the householders, brought
a basket of dried corn of his own growing. He no longer dwelt with the
shoemaker, but had built himself a little cottage and was coming to
prosperity by tending fields of his own.

After the men had gone back to their seats there went forward those
women who had no husbands or fathers or brothers there to carry the
offering for them. Old Goody Parsons, limping and sighing, was still
able to toil up the aisle with her contribution, a pair of stout knitted
hose; behind her came Goodwife Page whose husband was away at sea. Last
of all walked Margeret Radpath, slight, erect and fair, bringing her
offering since there was no one to do it for her. How did she know, she
who kept her eyes upon the ground as she went, that of the many glances
that followed her, Roger Bardwell’s was the most earnest gaze of all,
never leaving her face even after she came back to sit alone upon the
bench beneath the window?

And where were Master Simon and Mistress Radpath? Margeret’s mother had
died the year before, and slept now in the windswept grave-yard on the
hillside, while Master Simon, upon whom old age had seemed to come
overnight after his wife’s death, sat at home, too worn and feeble to
leave his own fireside. His unbroken spirit, however, still shone warm
and bright within him, and to his house still came all who were in need
or trouble, to seek advice and help. Under his directions and by means
of Margeret’s busy hands and Roger Bardwell’s, the garden still bloomed
as fair as ever.

“’Tis the flowers have the best of us,” Master Simon would say when now
and then on summer days he could limp forth to see the rows of blossoms
and the tall-growing shrubs. “The old age of a garden is fairer and
lustier than its youth, and it comes to its greatest glory when tended
by the children’s children of the man who planted it.”

Since Master Simon’s fields must be tilled by other hands now, and their
living therefore had grown less abundant, Margeret had become mistress
at the little school, built beyond the meeting-house at the end of a
winding lane. It was hard often for her to sit so many hours within
doors, listening to the children droning away at their lessons, when she
was so used to being in the fresh air the live-long day. She made a good
school-mistress, nevertheless, as was proved by the lessons so well
learned under her careful eye, although the bundle of birch rods, the
former master’s most familiar tool, lay upon its pegs above the door, so
little used that a delicate spider web, spun between the tips of its
twigs, had hung there the whole year through. The children came laughing
and romping down the schoolhouse lane with many a tribute of flowers and
red apples for the teacher they loved. One day, a pleasant, growing,
Spring day, when she was most impatient to be outside, she had seen the
little daughter of Goodwife Page, playing with a long, dusty sunbeam
that fell from the high window across her spelling-book. When the child
looked up anxiously, fearing reproof, Margeret had only smiled in return
and the little girl had gone happily back to her work.

“After all,” Margeret thought, as she looked about her at the fresh,
bright faces, “this is only another kind of a garden.”

And often, on summer days, when the air was quiet and the children’s
voices filled the room with a busy humming like a hive of bees, she
would think of the lives and characters that they were building up for
themselves and remember Master Simon’s line:

“The singing masons building roofs of gold.”

There was some one else who came daily down the schoolhouse lane, and
waited at the door for lessons to be over. Roger Bardwell, whether it
rained or shone, was always there to walk home with the school-mistress
and to stay for a few minutes, chatting with Master Simon, when they
reached her door. For a year he had been doing so, although the first
day of it and the first look of welcome in his blue eyes when he met her
coming up the lane, told Margeret that he loved her. But of this he had
never spoken, nor ever broken the silence of that mystery as to who he
was or whence he had come. What with this silence, and with her other
anxieties, the girl had begun to carry a heavy heart as she went about
her labours of the day.

Upon this Sabbath afternoon, as the service ended and the grave-faced
congregation came out into the winter twilight, Roger Bardwell walked at
her side again, down the steep path where the snow creaked under their
feet.

“Margeret,” said he, “I have news for you that, I fear, threatens
trouble.”

“What is it?” she asked quickly, then voicing her first thought. “Does
it concern my father?”

“Yes,” he answered, “it concerns him and you and me. I believe that
Samuel Skerry has made up his mind to speak at last.”

“But after five years!” exclaimed Margeret. “Do you think that he could
bring evil to my father now?”

“My thought is that he has given over the hope of harming Master Simon
and wants only to strike at you and me. I have heard that he often says
that the teaching of children is no work for women, that you should not
be mistress of the school and that he could tell strange tales of you if
he wished. He has brought up again the words of that mad Scotch minister
who said that your father was a wicked man and that his garden would be
laid waste for his sins. The shoemaker has much to say of me also, and
with this last accusation seeks to ruin the two of us, at last.”

Margeret wrung her hands in helpless anxiety.

“Are you sure of this, Roger?” she asked.

“This much I know,” he told her. “On next Thursday, the market day, when
all from the outlying houses will be in the village, he has urged the
men to come up to the schoolhouse and see how their children are taught.
Since you are the first woman to teach the school, he knows there are
many who are still uncertain whether a maid can rule their sons and
daughters. But I think that is not the whole of the mischief that he is
planning. I wish I had no need to tell you of this, Margeret.”

The girl drew a long breath and then looked up at Roger with calm, grave
eyes. People said that even more than in face and figure Margeret
Radpath was beginning to resemble her father.

“We did no harm,” she said quietly, “and we will take what comes.”

She said nothing to Master Simon of the brewing trouble, and on Monday,
Tuesday and Wednesday went bravely up to the schoolhouse, trying not to
think of what was to come. Thursday arrived, a day of lowering clouds,
of sharp, bitter winds and flurries of snow. As the day passed, even the
children seemed to feel a restlessness that grew greater and greater as
the closing time came near. Even before the last hour was at an end,
Roger Bardwell entered quietly and seated himself near the fireplace. A
few minutes later there came a loud rap at the door. It opened to reveal
Goodman Allen.

“I thought, Mistress Radpath,” he said, shuffling awkwardly upon the
threshold, “that I would stop here a moment and hear how that lad of
mine is faring with his lessons.”

“Yes, come in,” said Margeret, “warm yourself by the fire and you shall
hear your boy presently.”

Before he could be seated, another man had followed him, naming the same
errand, then another and another, until the room was crowded. Through
the window, Margeret could see, with sinking heart, more and more dark
figures hurrying through the snow and down the schoolhouse lane. A tall,
stolid-faced Indian, wrapped in his blanket, slipped in among the rest,
but was noticed little, since curiosity often brought these warriors
from the forest whenever they saw a crowd gather. Margeret, glancing at
him hastily, had a vague feeling that his face was one she knew, but of
that she could not be certain. Last of all the company, Samuel Skerry
came in and stood, scowling, by the fireplace.

The winter darkness fell so early that the candles had to be lighted
before the lessons were over. The children looked about, bewildered, at
the rows of sober faces, but they stood nobly by their teacher, their
dear Mistress Margeret, and spoke their learning manfully. Finally the
hour struck, the bell rang, and school was over.

“And now,” said Margeret, her spirit, after the long strain, flaring
suddenly high in the face of that silent, waiting assemblage, “have you
aught to say, my Masters?”

There was an embarrassed silence for a moment, broken at last by
Skerry’s harsh voice.

“I say,” he began, “that a woman has no place as mistress of a school.
Look yonder at the birch rods, brothers, how they gather dust and
cobwebs. She never uses them, nor has she strength to do so if she
would.”

“Nay, sir,” Goodman Allen interrupted mildly. “I have seen that when the
birch is wielded too oft at school, it must also be used many times at
home and, for myself, the task is one that I like not.”

There was a murmur of laughter and assent.

“In my belief,” added another, “a woman can lead our lads and lasses
better than a man and there is much other work for men to do.”

“Then know this,” cried Skerry, striding out into the center of the room
while the children watched him in round-eyed wonder; “know that this
woman has broken our laws and betrayed our faith, that she has given
help and comfort to the Papist priest who for years lived hid in the
forest, within the very bounds of our Colony. I myself saw him read his
mass in the garden and saw his altar decked with the candles made by her
hands. Shall our children be taught by one who is a friend of Popery?”

The crowd of men drew together and a buzz of wondering whispers began.
Did the shoemaker really know? Could such a terrible accusation be true?
Roger Bardwell stepped forth from among them and stood beside Margeret.

“Listen not to him, good people,” he said. “Such wrong as Mistress
Margeret may have done in the eyes of the law was accomplished
innocently and when she was but a child. Whatever aid and comfort were
given to the French father, that night he slipped through Hopewell and
escaped to France, came through my fault. Lay the blame upon me.”

“He can bear a good share of it,” clamoured Skerry, his voice rising,
along with his anger, “but the whole of it cannot be his. I saw them
there together, worshipping with the Indians and the Jesuit priest, I
saw them later talking to that outcast Papist in the garden, three of
them, this maid, that boy, Roger Bardwell, and another—that precious
Master Simon whom you all revere so much.”

“What?” “No! Not Master Radpath!” Cries of amazement and horror arose
from the crowd. Surely not their idol, Master Simon!

“Ask them both if it be not true,” cried the shoemaker, pressing his
advantage home, “and ask this fellow further who he is and whence he
came. Ask him if his father was not the most notorious enemy to religion
in New England, who sat in the stocks in Plymouth and was imprisoned to
await more serious punishment in Boston, whence he escaped, no man ever
knew whither. Ask him, good sirs, and see him grow pale and hesitate.”

That Roger grew pale was quite true but that he hesitated was not.

“It is as the shoemaker says,” he declared bravely. “My father held
views other than yours concerning certain matters of the church and he
was bold enough not to hold his tongue. Although it chanced that I
myself followed my dead mother’s faith, which was the same as yours,
good neighbours, I also fell under suspicion and was imprisoned with my
father, but we both escaped. There was a ship just sailing from Boston
whose captain was my father’s friend and a kindly man. His was a little
vessel but we managed to find a place of concealment in her hold, so
that she put to sea with my father on board. When he was found they did
not turn back but carried him safe to Holland.”

“And why did you not go with him?” demanded Goodman Allen, bluntly.

For the first time Roger’s voice faltered.

“There—there proved to be hiding place for but one,” he said.

Although he spoke so low, there was not one of that breathlessly
attentive audience who did not hear. A low mutter of approval went
around the room, for every stout-hearted Puritan there loved courage and
high undaunted spirit.

“Speak on, boy,” said Allen, “tell us how you came hither.”

“I let my father think that I could find another place,” Roger went on,
“so that he did not discover, until too late, that I was left behind. I
wandered from town to town, dwelt in the forest with the priest and the
Indians for a space and at last came here and took service with the
shoemaker. He cared not for differences of faith if he could have a
helper whom he need not pay. I think he found and read a letter from my
father and so learned who I was. That, men of Hopewell, is the whole of
my tale.”

For a fleeting minute it seemed that Roger’s simply-told story had won
forgiveness for both of the accused. But after a moment the tide of
feeling turned. Free thinking, irregularity of doctrine, Popery—there
were no other things that the Pilgrims feared so much. Famine and
pestilence might be checked, but the fire of heresy, once lit among
them, might burn until the peace of the whole Colony was destroyed. The
men consulted, laid their heads together, whispered and then spoke
louder and louder as their terror and excitement grew. Presently a
clamour arose, led by Skerry’s shrill voice:

“Destroy this evil! Drive them forth! Let no such danger lurk within our
midst!”

It was fear, rather than anger that sounded in their voices, the deadly
terror of that unconquerable enemy, free-thinking, so often beaten down
but always raising its head again. Men looked at each other with dread
and suspicion in their eyes. What could be done in such a desperate
pass, with the peril striking at their very midst? Naught, they seemed
to think helplessly, save to raise a louder and more threatening tumult.
Margeret, thinking of the Quaker women, shrank back as the clamouring
throng moved a step forward. Roger threw his arm around her and turned
defiantly to face them all.

Almost unnoticed the door had opened and some one had come pushing
through the crowd. But a dead silence fell when Master Simon strode out
into the room, his tall figure and white head bent, his grey cloak
powdered with snow. Upon the breathless hush that followed the uproar,
his quiet voice fell with a thrilling emphasis:

“Walk not in fear, ye men of God.”

There was no word given in reply. The men stood motionless in their
places as Master Simon went on:

“Why must you be so stricken with blind terror,” he said, “when one
amongst us takes a further step along that path to freedom that we
ourselves have followed, that dares to think other than the rest of us?
Is it reasonable that each one of us should say: ‘I will believe as I
choose and all men must think as I do’? Search your hearts truly and ask
yourselves if there be not some point of doctrine, some order of worship
that you have not questioned either once or many times. If there be one
amongst you who has not so thought, let him stand forth that we may do
him honour.”

He paused, but no one stirred. With furtive sidelong glances, his
listeners looked at each other, but not a man stepped forward. Master
Simon’s glowing eyes searched the faces of one after another.

“If then it be a wrong not to weave all our thoughts to the self-same
pattern, are we not all sinners together? But thoughts are like running
water, they go where they will and only our Father follows them and
knows that they all flow down to the same sea. Trust Him who loves us
much, and let Him guard our faith and us. And let it be that after our
time people will say of us, not merely that we wore grey coats and never
smiled, not that we walked a narrow way and persecuted our brethren, but
let them say, ‘They braved much, those Pilgrim fathers, they laboured
valiantly, they trusted God, they planted a new spirit of freedom in
this good New World, and they did well.’”

He ceased speaking and there was a pause, broken at last by Goodman
Allen’s long sigh of relief. The men moved, relaxed, smiled at each
other and came forward to grasp Master Simon’s hand. The danger was at
an end.

“Margeret, child,” said Master Simon, turning to his daughter, “do not
look so anxious that I am here. Did you think to keep all this from your
poor old father, who should stop at home now that age has bowed him
down? No, I felt that I must speak to my comrades once more, and that
this was a fitting time. I doubt if I have strength ever to step beyond
my own doorstone again.”

Amid the general hum of voices that followed now, Samuel Skerry’s was
lifted once more. The little shoemaker, apparently unmoved by Master
Simon’s words, seemed determined still to attain his end.

“I ask again,” he shouted in tones so loud that all were forced to
listen; “I ask why that youth, Roger Bardwell, did not later follow his
father beyond the seas, as he could well have done these three years
past? Why does he still lurk here if it be not for some evil purpose of
heresy?”

Goodman Allen looked at Roger and Margeret standing there together and
laughed aloud.

“No eye but one so blinded with malice as is yours, Samuel Skerry,” he
said, “could fail to see why the lad has lingered here!”

Margeret blushed vividly, but Roger smiled upon them all. Now that the
cloud over his past had been dispelled and his secret had been
discovered and forgiven, he had no more need to hide his love. But the
shoemaker was not yet silenced.

“Let him not deceive you,” he insisted, “he—”

“Wait,” cried Roger, holding up his hand, “before you denounce me,
Samuel Skerry, think well. Remember that for one who harbours such a
transgressor of the law as I was, there is a fine of forty shillings for
each hour spent by the sinner in that man’s house. Think, my good
master, how long I dwelt with you, how many hours of toil I spent
tending your field, drawing your water, mending your rows of broken
shoes. Count up what your fine would be and whether there is enough to
pay it in that strong-box of yours behind the—”

“Cease,” screamed Skerry in sudden panic. His terror was so plain that
Roger relented and the listeners roared with laughter. The shoemaker
began to look about him uneasily and to sidle toward the door. This
meeting that he had called together for the ruin of his enemies had
become suddenly no happy place for him. One or two of the younger men
began to crowd him into a corner whence he could not escape, the anger
in their eyes boding ill for the mischief-making cobbler. But Master
Simon interfered.

“No, no, lads,” he said. “Wherefore humiliate him further? The matter is
at an end so here let it rest.”

It was an odd look, half gratitude and half baffled fury, that Samuel
Skerry bent upon them as he slipped away. As Master Simon stood looking
after him, some one brushed against his arm. It was the Indian whose
entrance Margeret had noticed earlier in the afternoon. She recognised
him suddenly now as the one who had led the band of his comrades when
they came to say good-bye to the priest. With silent dignity he stepped
forth, wrapped in his blanket, his black eyes shining in the
candlelight.

“There is one more word to be said in this affair of Monsieur Simon,” he
began, “and that word is mine.”

His English was good, but had, beside his own guttural accent, a foreign
flavour as though he had been taught by one whose native tongue was
French.

“Speak on, friend,” said Goodman Allen, as the men drew back to give him
space.

“I, too, was a friend of that French father who dwelt in the wood,” he
pursued. “He led me to the Christian faith and taught me to walk in
upright ways. I and my comrades, we loved him dearly, we loved Monsieur
Simon too for the help that he gave. And we love also that garden of
his, the spot where we worshipped together and said our last farewell.
Our little father is dead now, dead in his own happy France and we know
that he sleeps the quieter for knowing of that last mass we said
together.”

A slight noise of the door’s opening and closing caused no interruption.
Samuel Skerry had stolen out into the dark, but he went unheeded, so
intent were the men upon what the Indian had to say.

“Of late,” the tale continued, “a secret word has come from the
settlements in Canada, a message that has been passed on from tribe to
tribe. The French love not the English and have been stirring up the
Indians to strike at the New England settlers, to destroy their towns
where they can, and to cut off the outlying farms. You have heard of
such deeds all about you: you knew that they were ordered by the French
but do you know why you have been spared? It was because we who loved
Monsieur Simon would not listen to evil counsel, because that garden of
his has become, for us, a sacred spot, because when danger threatened,
we ringed you round and held you safe. The English Puritans are great
and powerful, but it is well for them, nevertheless, to have the
wandering Jesuits and the humble red men for their friends.”

In awed silence the men of Hopewell had heard him to the end. Then arose
suddenly a tumult of voices, not the outcry of fear and anger such as
had been heard half an hour before, but a thunder of joyful admiration
and cries of:

“God bless our Master Simon and his garden!”

A lane opened in the crowd through which Master Simon passed, leaning
upon the Indian’s arm. In little groups, by twos and threes, the village
men and their children followed, talking excitedly as they went.
Margeret lingered to cover the fire and snuff the candles, while Roger
Bardwell, to no one’s surprise, waited also. Goodman Allen, leading his
little boy by the hand, was the last to go. He turned at the door.

“You two have weighty matters of which to talk,” he said with his
honest, kindly smile. “So trouble not, Mistress Margeret, I will see
that your father comes safe to his home. You, and this youth who has so
much to say to you, need not to hasten as you walk through the lane!”



                              CHAPTER VII

                         GOODY PARSONS ON GUARD


Everybody in Hopewell was bidden to Margeret Radpath’s wedding, and
everybody was bound to come, of that one could be quite certain. All the
village housewives, as soon as the day was finally set, fell to rubbing
shoe-buckles, polishing silver buttons, getting out their finest white
kerchiefs and looking to their husbands’ best Sabbath clothes. Many of
those stout grey coats had been worn to the marriages of a generation
before, but were only the more respected for that reason. Every kitchen
was fragrant with baking, for there was no person who did not wish to
send an offering to the wedding feast of Master Simon’s daughter. There
were other gifts, too, of every sort and shape, from the great, chased,
silver cup sent by the Governor down to little Jonathan Allen’s
laboriously whittled birch broom. When Margeret or Roger walked up the
street of Hopewell, men and women would lean out through the open half
doors of their cottages and cry, “Good wishes to you, Mistress Radpath,”
or, “Good luck and long happiness, Master Bardwell,” so that the whole
air seemed to be filled with the pleasant sunshine of friendly hopes and
cheery blessings.

More than a year had passed since that winter evening in the schoolhouse
lane, but Margeret and Roger had waited patiently until all could be set
in order for their marriage. With his quick shrewdness, Roger had seized
upon a fact that was, later, clear enough to every one, namely, as he
told Master Simon, “that New England’s prosperity would come more from
her ship-captains than her farmers.” So he had sailed away upon a
trading venture in a ship of which he hoped some day to be the owner,
while Margeret had sat by the fireside at home, spinning flax, weaving
linen, and stitching away at the household gear that must belong to
every properly dowered bride. Master Simon, sitting in his great chair
opposite, would beguile her with stories of the foreign lands to which
Roger had gone, tales brought back by his own father from voyages made
nearly a hundred years ago. Then at last the ship had come to port
again, the final stitch had been taken and the marriage day was at hand.

The time of the wedding was late June and the place, as all agreed to be
most fitting, was Master Simon’s garden. For weeks Margeret’s father had
been directing two busy helpers there, since his own stiff joints were
not equal to their old tasks. With patience and skill that were almost
uncanny he had brought the garden to its fairest flowering. Early
blossoms he had coaxed into lingering, late ones to hasten their bloom,
so that, as the day approached, the whole place was a miracle of
abundant pink and white, banks of roses against cool dark hedges, smooth
lawns fringed with fragrant pinks, sweetbrier, tall trim hollyhocks,
masses of white syringa and early-flowering sweet-william.

“There is one thing that troubles me,” said Master Simon to his daughter
and to the lad he already loved as well as a son, “one plant that mars
the pink and white harmony of the garden. There is a clump of
sweet-william that should have bloomed white, but instead, has opened
its flowers a brilliant crimson. So eagerly has it answered my call to
grow abundantly for your wedding day that I scarcely can bring myself to
root it up, poor faithful thing. I fear that I am too soft-hearted to be
a proper gardener!”

He leaned forward in his chair that had been set near the cottage door,
and tried to point out the flower that had played him false. It could
not be seen, however, from where he sat, so Margeret and Roger went down
into the garden to look for themselves. Neither of them could summon
courage to pull up the too-willing plant, so it was left to bloom
unabashed, among the softer colours of the other flowers. The next day,
just at sundown, the marriage was to take place, in the little square
Queen’s Garden where the last level rays always fell in a farewell
radiance. Later, the wedding supper would be spread indoors, and for
this great preparations had been made, the larder filled with good
things, and rows of bayberry candles set ready to light the scene.

One or two last errands remained to be done, and for these Margeret and
Roger were setting forth together. It was a clear June night with
thick-sprinkled stars, shining serenely as though to say, “Never fear,
to-morrow will be as full of sunshine as the heart of a bride could
wish.”

At the gate the two met a visitor, Goody Parsons, leaning on her cane
and moving slowly, but still not too old and stiff to come with her good
wishes and a wedding gift.

“Let me not keep you,” she said as they stopped and would have turned
back. “I will set that which I have brought within, and abide with
Master Simon until you return. I have heard much of the glory of this
garden made ready for your wedding, Mistress Margeret, and I can take my
time at seeing the flowers while you are gone. Nay, I will not step
inside the gate until you go forth; I have no wish to keep you from your
errand.”

So Margeret and Roger continued on their way up the lane while Goody
Parsons limped across the grass toward the house.

“She has come on another mission, too,” Margeret told Roger, “for she
told me some days since, that my marriage would not be lucky if I
neglected to tell the bees of my wedding day. She was a wonderful
bee-mistress once, so people say, and she has told me many a charm and
spell to bring honey to the hive. When I said that telling the bees was
mere superstition she was greatly troubled, and she has, I think, toiled
hither to do it for me and is glad that we should be away.”

Goody Parsons had indeed come upon just that errand, yet first she
hobbled into the kitchen where she set down her wedding gift. A blue and
white china teapot it was, that had voyaged across the sea from England
and was a rare and precious thing in Hopewell, where nearly every one
must still use wood or metal or rough earthenware for household
utensils. It had long been the old woman’s most valued treasure.

“There is not a great time left for me to use it,” she said in answer to
Master Simon’s remonstrances, “and who should I wish to have it after me
rather than my dear Mistress Margeret?”

She freed it from its wrappings and set it upon the table with a smile
of happy pride.

“Now,” she added, “I am going out-of-doors for a little. No, sit you
here, good friend, what I wish most is to go alone.”

She stepped forth into the garden, a dim fragrant place full of black
shadows, but beginning to be faintly lit by a rising moon. Slowly she
moved up and down the paths, laying her gnarled old fingers lovingly
upon the roses and syringas. She broke off a twig of the hawthorn and
tucked it into the bosom of her threadbare gown.

“Eh, it is many a long year,” she said, “since I walked in the lanes of
Hertfordshire before my marriage day and thought the world was abloom
for me alone. Yet it might have been yesterday save for the memory of
him who has been so long dead.”

She rested at last upon the bench under the linden tree, dreaming of the
never-to-be-forgotten beauty of that still June evening in England,
fifty years ago.

“But who can call it so far gone by,” she said to herself at last, “when
the same rose that I plucked that night from the vine on the cottage
wall, still blooms beside my doorstep here in the New World. It is a
good God that gives us the flowers to hold our youth and old age
together.”

She sat for some little time, her chin upon her hand, looking across the
banks of white flowers and sniffing at the fragrance that filled the
warm air, but finally rose with a determined mien.

“I sit dreaming here like a foolish old crone,” she muttered, “and
forget my errand so that those two young things will be coming back to
laugh at me and my old-fashioned ways. Ah, but I mind how my mother
stood in the bright Spring sunshine and told the bees of my wedding day,
while Jock Parsons and I sat laughing upon the doorstep and said it was
no use. That is the way of youth!”

As she was walking across the grass toward the row of beehives under the
apple trees, her attention was attracted by a little twinkling light
that shone out from Samuel Skerry’s cottage. She stood a moment to watch
it idly and then became aware that it was moving toward her, jerking and
halting, it was true, but passing very slowly down the path toward the
gap in the hedge.

“Now what can the rascal have on foot?” she questioned. “Nothing good,
for that I will answer.”

The light came through the hedge and advanced slowly up through the
garden. She could see Samuel Skerry now, leaning over as he shuffled
along, carrying a candle in one hand and something heavy and awkward in
the other. Presently he paused, set his burden down and turning, hurried
back the way he had come. Consumed with curiosity, Goody Parsons hobbled
forward as fast as she could to see what he had left.

“I would give my best new bonnet,” she told herself, “the one I bought
seven years ago last Michaelmas, to know what the villain is about!”

What he had left proved to be a big iron pot, filled with hot liquid
that still bubbled and steamed. Goody Parsons dipped in an inquisitive
forefinger and tasted it.

“Salt,” she exclaimed, “hot salt water!”

She was still marvelling over this new mystery when she observed that
Skerry was returning, and retreated hastily to the shelter of the apple
tree. He was carrying a second pot, bigger and heavier than the first,
which he set down with a grunt of relief.

“Now,” she heard him mutter, “we will see what we can do for Master
Simon and his precious garden.”

He had blown out the candle so that she could scarcely see what he was
about, but a sudden swish and splash of hastily poured out water gave
her a notion of his evil purpose.

“Samuel Skerry,” she shrieked, hobbling toward him and holding up a
shaking hand; “Samuel Skerry, what are you doing?”

The startled shoemaker jerked himself backward and dropped what he was
holding in his hand. The object rolled to the old woman’s feet and she
bent stiffly to pick it up. It was a big pewter bowl, wrought with
raised figures and flowers, as she could feel in the dark. Evidently he
had brought it as the most convenient receptacle for dipping out the
brine. Utterly bewildered she turned it round and round in her hands and
asked again in a trembling voice:

“What are you doing?”

“I am watering Master Simon’s garden,” the shoemaker answered with a
mocking chuckle. “I am giving to those plants he pets and cherishes a
drink of scalding salt water, so that to-morrow, when the bride comes
forth, she will find a desert for her marriage place and every flower
perished never to grow again. Give back my bowl ere I take it from you.”

“I did not know,” she gasped, “that living man could be so evil!”

“You know it now, then,” he snarled, “and you know how I hate Master
Simon and his goodness and his garden. You can say farewell to the
flowers, for this night will see their ruin.”

“It shall not,” she cried. “No one shall dare lay hand upon leaf or
flower that belongs to him. The good that has been wrought here comes
not so easily to an end.”

In spite of her determined words, however, she was shaking with terror
and retreating before him as he advanced threateningly. In stepping back
she brushed smartly against the edge of the nearest beehive and heard a
faint murmur from the bees within. The shoemaker had come quite close.

“How will you stop me?” he jeered. “Will you call Master Simon, who
cannot leave his chair? Or will you restrain me yourself, you, an old
woman who can only limp and groan as she walks along? No, Master Simon’s
garden has come to the end of its glory. Do you remember what the Scotch
minister said?”

“And you,” cried the old woman scornfully, “you are the instrument of
Providence, I suppose, chosen to carry out the preacher’s words! People
said when he vanished that he had gone back to the Devil, his master;
perhaps you are his servant left behind to continue his work. Hark you,
Samuel Skerry, if you dare to destroy good Master Simon’s garden, you
will have to reckon with the people of Hopewell. I verily believe that
they would burn down your house, should you do such a deed.”

“Cease your old woman’s chatter,” he ordered sharply. “I fear the people
of Hopewell just as little as I do you. There is no power on earth can
stop me now.”

“And is there not?” cried out Goody, shrilly. She struck her hand
against the hive and a loud buzzing arose from the angered bees. “Do you
hear those voices from within, cobbler Skerry? Do you understand that
even a feeble old woman may have helpers near by? Should I raise the lid
of the hive, out they will come, a thousand assistants ready to my hand.
They will not harm a bee-mistress who has worked with them until they
know her, but will they be as kind to you, Samuel Skerry? Can you call
even so small a creature as a bee your friend?”

The shoemaker drew back, somewhat daunted for a moment. Then possessed
by a gust of fury, he sprang to his great kettle and began pouring the
hot brine over the nearest flowers.

“I have warned you,” cried the old woman, and she flung open the top of
the hive.

A dark, whirring mass of bees came swarming out on the instant. Goody
Parsons drew back, but there was no need, the line of their flight was
straight toward the stooping shoemaker. He hesitated, turned, then
clapped one hand to the back of his neck and the other against a
smarting knee. Then, with a howl of rage, he made off through the
garden, the buzzing cloud of enemies pursuing him even to his cottage
door. Goody Parsons chuckled as she saw him go, but it was with shaking
hands that she closed the hive.

“May Heaven grant that Master Simon’s garden be never in such danger
again!” was her quiet prayer.

When Margeret and Roger returned an hour later, the old woman was
sitting quietly by the kitchen fireplace, rubbing the pewter bowl until
it shone in the candle light. Margeret, seeing the blue and white teapot
on the table, was full of joyful but protesting gratitude over receiving
such a gift. But Goody would listen to none of her remonstrances.

“My children are all married and dwell in England,” she said, “and the
old teapot will never cross the seas again, so it is you that must have
it, and with an old woman’s blessing, too, my dearie.”

The girl flung her arms about her old friend’s neck and kissed her with
such energy that the pewter bowl rolled from her lap.

“Why, what is this?” exclaimed Roger, stooping to catch it as it
trundled across the floor.

“Oh, that,” said Goody Parsons, “is a wedding gift that was left here
for you an hour since. Samuel Skerry brought it, but he is a modest man
and would not wait to receive your thanks.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

If ever bright skies and sunny weather combined to make a perfect
wedding day, they did so on the afternoon that Margeret Radpath was
married. And if ever happy hearts and loving good wishes made the day so
bright that sun and flowers were not needed, they did so at the wedding
in Master Simon’s garden. Tall, fair and fragrant the flowers stood in
their unbroken rows, only the crimson sweet-william had perished under
the shoemaker’s hands. Margeret’s father had heard the tale of Samuel
Skerry’s misdoing, but had begged Goody Parsons to say nothing of it as
he feared that the wrath of the people would be great. But the old
woman’s tongue, given by nature to gossiping, could not quite keep
silence now.

The marriage feast was over, the bride had kissed her father good-bye
and had set forth with Roger Bardwell to his little cottage, three
fields away. They were followed by the wedding guests in gay procession,
carrying flowers and wreaths as was the simple, friendly custom in
Hopewell. For a month the two were to live out their honeymoon in the
little house a stone’s throw from Master Simon’s door, and after that
Margeret was to hide with her father or he with her, while Roger went to
sea again. On the threshold they turned to listen to the last good
wishes and blessings of their friends.

“Look well to her happiness, young master,” cried a voice from the
crowd, “for she is our Master Simon’s daughter.”

“I will,” returned Roger, “as well as any man can, save only Master
Simon himself.”

It was not until the people were back in their own houses, taking off
their best cloaks and hanging up their Sabbath coats, that the rumour
began to run up one street and down another that Samuel Skerry had
sought to destroy Master Simon’s garden. Many could not conceive that
Master Radpath had such an enemy in the world, but more were willing to
believe in any iniquity of the little evil-eyed shoemaker’s. Early the
next morning a crowd of men with stern determined faces, came tramping
down the lane and across the field to Skerry’s cottage. What they had in
mind, perhaps even they themselves did not know, but more than one had
reached down his old blunderbuss from above the fireplace where it had
hung undisturbed ever since the Indian peace began, and all the faces
were dark with anger. But their plans, whatever they were, could never
be carried out, for the door of the shoemaker’s cottage stood open, the
rooms lay empty and the ashes, cold on the hearth, and Samuel Skerry was
gone.

There was only one living person who had seen his departure. Margeret
Bardwell—Margeret Radpath she was no longer—had been up and stirring at
dawn of this first day of her married life. Through her kitchen window,
she had seen the little shoemaker’s bent figure go up the path, his
shoulders bowed by the burden upon his back. Something in his quick,
stealthy movements made her realise that it was not a simple errand that
had brought him forth so early, but that this was flight from
Hopewell—perhaps forever. Was he really going, and the shadow of his
ill-will to be taken from her life for all time?

She felt a great lightening of the heart and then, a moment after, a
sudden haunting, disturbing memory. It was only because his bent, black
figure reminded her of another that, so long ago, she had watched go up
the same path and vanish over the hill. For a fleeting second, as she
watched Samuel Skerry go, there came back a clutching remembrance of
Jeremiah Macrae and there rang in her ears that ominous prophecy
concerning Master Simon’s garden:

“Fire and sword shall waste this place, blood shall be spilled upon its
soil, and those who come after you shall walk, mourning, among its
desolate paths.”

But the memory passed as quickly as it came, and, with a long sigh of
relief, she saw the crooked little figure disappear at the turn of the
lane.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                PART II
                                STEPHEN



                              CHAPTER VIII

                           A TALE OF WITCHES


Master Simon’s farseeing eyes had certainly discerned the truth when he
said that a garden only came to its own when tended by the children’s
children of the man who planted it. Fair as were the flowers and shrubs
in his own time, they grew steadily more beautiful as the years passed,
until people of Hopewell would always bring their visitors from afar to
see such glories of leaf and blossom. Long after Master Simon had
slipped away to walk in the brighter garden of Paradise, long after the
place belonged to Margeret and then to her children, the villagers would
still speak of it as Master Simon’s Garden.

The hawthorn bush that had come from England as a tiny sprig and that
had been just tall enough to shade Margeret as she sat on the grass
playing with her dolls, was, when her children came to frolic about it,
a great round tower of thorny strength where they could play
king-of-the-castle to their heart’s content. The hedges about the
Queen’s Garden, when Margeret’s daughter, Alisoun, was eighteen, were so
high above the girl’s golden-brown head that her finger-tips could
scarcely touch the top. And by the time Alisoun herself was married to
Master Gilbert Sheffield and had children of her own, the big,
over-hanging, linden tree had grown to resemble a whole forest of
slender trunks springing from one root, and sending forth, in June, such
clouds of fragrance that people passing in the lane outside would stop
to sniff and smile. The trailing roses, also, had grown thick and close
about the sundial, nearly hiding the words that Master Simon had carved
there so long ago.

The level sunshine of a late summer afternoon was slanting across the
rows of blooming flowers and shining like a halo behind Alisoun
Sheffield’s bent head as she sat under the linden tree with her children
about her. It was just so that Margeret Radpath had sat with her father
to hear the story that had to do with Master William Shakespeare and
good Queen Bess and the steadfast courage of Robin Radpath, Master
Simon’s father. Quite as attentive as Margeret had been, were those who
listened to-day, Anna, the daughter nearly grown, Elizabeth, many years
younger and Stephen, youngest and most eagerly interested of all. The
same tale was telling now and added to it were accounts of Master
Simon’s far journey among the Indians, of the coming of the Jesuit
priest and of the stormy meeting in the little school house when Master
Simon walked abroad for the last time. Alisoun Sheffield had also a
story to tell of her own youth and of that perilous season when the last
flood of terror of the Gospel of Fear swept over the land and the cry of
“Witches! Witches!” resounded throughout New England. At that time men
and women everywhere were accused of dabbling in the black arts and were
dragged to trial just as had been the free-thinkers and dissenters of an
earlier generation. Neighbour began to regard neighbour with suspicion
and the question, “What is to become of us?” was the one thought in
every frightened heart.

Alisoun and Margeret Bardwell, so Alisoun told the tale, were working in
the garden on just such a sunny summer day as this, when there came
running through the gate young Amos Bardwell, Alisoun’s nephew, who
dwelt with them and was the greatest mischief-maker in Hopewell. His
mouth and eyes were round with wonder, his yellow hair was ruffled and
full, strange to say, of dust and cobwebs.

“Oh, oh,” he cried. “What do you think? They have taken old Mother
Garford for a witch; there is a whole crowd of men shouting and praying
and of women pretending they cannot bear to look but hurrying after just
the same, and they are bringing her up to the jail. She is weeping and
crying for mercy but nobody listens. Come quick, both of you, I am going
back to watch again.”

“Stop, Amos.” Never had Alisoun heard her mother’s voice sound so tense
or so stern. “Now tell me all of this matter and—wait, how in the world
came these cobwebs in your hair?”

The boy hung his head. His excited enthusiasm seemed suddenly to have
fled from him.

“Richard and Thomas Porter and I,” he explained slowly, “we could not
see the witch’s face for the crowd, since all were so tall and we so
little. So Richard said he knew a famous way and showed us how to get
into the jail before the others came, and how to climb up upon a beam in
the public corridor so that we could see her plain as she passed below.
But the wood was rotten and just as we were settled it gave a great
crack, so down we scrambled in a hurry, I can tell you, lest it fall
with us. We slipped out before any one found us and the crowd, coming
in, passed so close that we saw the witch after all. I think the beam
must have fallen in the end, for later we heard a great crash within and
a cry went up from all the people. Oh, but you should have seen the
witch, she looked—”

“That is enough,” said Margeret, stopping him abruptly. “She looked as
would any old woman who was frightened and in trouble. Suppose I were to
be dragged to prison for a witch, Amos?”

“You—you a witch!” The little boy cried out in horror at the very
thought.

“As much a witch as old Mother Garford,” returned Margeret, “and so,
since she has ever been a good friend to us, we must go up to the
meeting house to-morrow and testify in her behalf.”

For such an errand Amos was willing enough; it was Alisoun who hung
back, trembling and tearful. It was revealed that she and her friend,
Cynthia Turner, had gone to Mother Garford some weeks before, to buy a
love charm, just as had so many of the other maids of Hopewell long
before the rumours of witchcraft arose. Cynthia had wished to make more
certain of the heart of Hugh Atherton, the lad who was studying at
Harvard College to be a minister, while Alisoun wished to assure the
safe return of the young ship’s captain, Gilbert Sheffield, from his
long voyage to the West Indies. The charm, in her eyes, had proved to
have no magic power whatever, so she had nearly forgotten the whole
matter.

“It may be,” said Margeret, when she had heard her daughter’s
confession, “that by telling your story before the people you can prove
that Mother Garford’s spells are of an innocent kind and so can clear
her. Can you do that, my child?”

“Oh, no, mother! Oh, no, no!” cried Alisoun wildly. “To stand up before
them all and confess that I bought a charm to bring Gilbert Sheffield
safe home? Oh, never, never! You will not make me, mother?”

“No, I will not force you,” said Margeret, “but shall an old woman die
disgraced for want of a word to save her when that word can be spoken,
even at the cost of pain and humiliation? Go down into the garden and
take counsel with yourself. You shall act in the matter only as you
choose.”

Margeret went into the house, taking Amos with her, and left Alisoun to
make her decision alone. There, as the dusk fell, she walked among the
flowers, back and forth through the calm, quiet, sweet-smelling garden.
Here dwelt the memory of Master Simon, of all the good that he had done
and of the courage of her own father and mother in those stirring early
days. Could she follow them, could she dare to be as brave as they?

She was in the garden a long, long time; so long that the stars had come
out when she went in at last, and a black silent bat flitted past her as
she stood on the doorstep. She found that Margeret had put the excited
Amos to bed and was singing him to sleep.

“I will do it, mother,” she said simply. Margeret kissed her and
answered quietly,

“I thought that you would!”

And for that night the matter was laid to rest.

The public examination of Mother Garford was to be held at the
meeting-house next morning, at such an early hour that many of the
people on the outlying farms must tumble out of their beds long before
sun-up if they were to be there in time to get good places and hear
every word that passed.

“If this foul witch be disposed of quickly,” they said to one another
piously, “it may be that the good Lord will see our right intentions and
not visit us with another.”

It was, therefore, the idea of all of Hopewell that Mother Garford
should be condemned at once. That there was doubt of her guilt was a
thought that had not entered the mind of any one in that hurrying crowd.

As Alisoun and her mother crossed the garden on their way up to the
meeting-house with Amos running impatiently on ahead, the girl hung back
to take one last look at the flowers in all their beauty and brightness
on that radiant Spring morning. It seemed to her scarcely possible that
she could go through the ordeal before her, or ever come back to be
lighthearted and happy in that dear place again. Although the blue May
sky was without a cloud, the very sunshine seemed cold and dull as
though the terror of her shy, shrinking spirit had cast a blight over
everything.

As she looked down the hillside toward the shining bay she saw suddenly
a white sail rise above the headland and, standing breathless with hope
and fear, she watched a great vessel round the point, turn slowly and,
with all its high-towering sails set to catch the light wind, stand in
toward the wharf. Alisoun could not mistake that tall bow and broad,
heavy stern. It was the _Margeret_, one of her father’s ships, home from
the West Indies and bringing Gilbert Sheffield to be another witness of
what she must do that day.

When they reached the meeting-house, the doors were only just being
unlocked, but already the space at the foot of the steps was packed and
breathless. Their little party would never have been able to come near
the stairs leading up to the entrance had not Margeret, who was esteemed
as a great person in the village, been granted room by those who stood
in the way. By squeezing and slipping in and out, the three managed
finally to make their way close up to the foot of the stairs. Above them
stood the magistrates, the chief men of the church and a stranger, all
waiting for the doors to open. The newcomer was a tall man with greyish
hair, stooped shoulders and a deeply lined face; he wore a rusty black
coat whose pockets bulged with papers. This, as every one knew, was the
great Master Cotton Mather, the famous minister, who knew more of
witches and their evil ways than did any other living man. It was a
great honour that he had come to Hopewell to save them in their danger
and to help in the trial and conviction of their witch.

The chief magistrate had, with some difficulty, drawn the big iron key
from his coat-tail pocket and was inserting it in the lock. Mother
Garford, weeping and trembling was being half led, half dragged up the
stairs by a self-important bailiff. Every head turned in startled
surprise when, of a sudden, a voice cried to the magistrate to stop.

Margeret Bardwell had pushed her way through the crowd and was standing
on the stairs below them. She was speaking in a clear, steady voice that
carried to the ears of all the waiting people.

“Hold,” she cried. “Before we desecrate our meeting house with the trial
of an innocent old woman who is no more of a witch than you or I, you
must hear what we three Bardwells have to say. I would that there were
four of us, and that my husband, who has gone to sea, were here to stand
by me, but as it is you must pause in your folly and listen to a woman.”

“What—what—what?” exclaimed the magistrate. “Who is it dares to speak
thus? Oh—Mistress Bardwell, perhaps I heard amiss. It cannot be that you
defend this woman!”

Wonder and consternation became visible on every upturned face, only
Master Cotton Mather remained unmoved.

“It is well known,” he pronounced in his slow, precise tones, “that in
many cases witches and sorcerers are able to bewitch others into
speaking in their favour against all sense and reason. So it must be
with this poor lady, but yet we will hear her.”

“I wish to say,” continued Margeret, “that there is no real evidence
against Mother Garford, none but that which your own foolish fears have
conjured up.”

“You are wrong there, Mistress,” interrupted one of the Tything Men
quickly, “there have been many suspicious signs and portents such as no
God-fearing person can deny. Mother Garford has looked with an evil eye
upon many a man or woman and many a house in this town, after which
misfortune has followed quickly. Did not Dame Allen’s baby cry itself
into convulsions only an hour after the witch’s shadow had passed the
door, and did not Goodman Green’s cow roll up its eyes and die the very
morning that Mother Garford came there to buy a halfpenny’s worth of
milk?”

“Ay,” broke in the magistrate, “and we have further witness, also, of
her evil ways; there is not one man or woman in this town but can tell
some strange tale of her. However, the proof conclusive was what
happened yesterday, namely, that when she was first brought into the
jail, Heaven sought to destroy so wicked a creature by casting down one
of the great beams in the corridor, so that she came near to being
crushed by it.”

“Yes,” returned Margeret undaunted, “of that I have heard, and it is of
that we have come hither to speak. You may call us bewitched if you
will, but I and these two witnesses of mine must raise our voices for
truth and justice’s sake. Come, Amos, tell these good gentlemen what
befell when you climbed upon the beam. And later my daughter will have
something further to testify.”

Amos, quite enjoying his sudden importance, stepped up beside Margeret
and told with great cheeriness how he and Dicky Porter, in their
eagerness to see the witch, had damaged the beam in the corridor so that
later it fell.

“And any one who looks at the broken wood,” he concluded, “can see that
it was rotten and ready to give way.”

“The boy’s words prove nothing,” thundered forth Master Mather; “he and
his young comrades were chosen as instruments of Providence, that is
all.”

It was an old explanation among the Puritans, but for once it seemed to
give little satisfaction to those who listened. Amos Bardwell and Dicky
Porter, small, impish and ever in mischief, seemed not the most likely
tools to be chosen by Heaven. People began to shake their heads in
doubt. Terror and credulity could drive them far, but there were limits,
even so.

“We will listen to what the maid has to say,” announced the chief
magistrate, declining to commit himself over Amos’ story.

Alisoun stepped bravely up and stood beside her mother. The dense crowd
below seemed to her to number a thousand thousand instead of only the
few hundred that they were. Her breath caught in her throat and her
tongue was dry, so that the first words she tried to speak would make no
sound. Did it bring help or only an added pang of shame that she saw, at
that moment, Gilbert Sheffield come through the narrow street and look
up at her amazedly from the edge of the throng? He had hastened from the
wharf and had arrived just in time to hear her confession. For a minute
it seemed that her cup of humiliation had overflowed and that she could
never speak. Then one look into his honest brown eyes steadied her as
nothing else could have done; his presence gave her courage, although it
deepened the crimson of her cheeks.

Mother Garford, looking down in trembling fear, spoke out for the first
time.

“Oh, Mistress Alisoun, sweet Mistress Alisoun,” she cried; “tell the
truth and save me if you can.”

Alisoun climbed a step higher and took the old woman’s shaking hand in
hers.

“Yes,” she said, able to speak clearly at last, “the truth will save you
and it is the truth that I am going to tell.”

Master Mather bent upon her a threatening, scowling countenance.

“What had she to do with the accused witch?” he wished to know.

She had bought a charm, a love charm, Alisoun told him. After the first
plunge it seemed not hard at all to speak out.

“And had she been alone when she bought it? Where was the charm now? Had
it had effect?”

“There was one with me whose name I cannot tell,” Alisoun answered. “Nor
do I know where the charm is now. In my belief it had no atom of magic
power nor any effect.”

“Have you or that other become engaged to wed since receiving it?”
Master Mather pursued relentlessly.

“Yes, the other has plighted her troth and is soon to be married,”
Alisoun was forced to admit.

“And the charm,” he insisted, “you say you know not where it is?”

“No,” said Alisoun, “it is gone.”

“See you not, good people,” he cried, turning triumphantly to the crowd.
“The talisman has done its work and then has vanished, yet the maid
claims there is no witchcraft here. Surely she is bewitched herself or
else is in league with the accused woman and her sorcery.”

“No, no,” exclaimed Alisoun, all trace of her terror gone, “you shall
hear my story before you judge. I went to Mother Garford, whom people
call the Wise Woman, to buy a love charm, that much is true. It was
folly I know, and I blush for it, but maids in this village have done
the same thing for many and many a year before this. The charm that
Mother Garford gave us, a little, round, white stone, she said had no
power alone, but must be joined with neat, well-ordered ways, with
cheerful faces and clean, shining houses to give it any potency.”

The women in the crowd looked at each other. This sounded, surely, more
like ordinary common sense than like witchcraft.

“I was to keep the stone for seven days and then give it to my friend,”
Alisoun went on, “but with every day I grew to hate myself and it the
more. Upon the last one I went for a long walk upon the beach, to think
the matter out, once and for all. Suddenly my scorn of my own folly grew
so great that I plucked the charm from my pocket and flung it into the
sea. A moment later, however, I regretted what I had done, for now the
talisman was gone forever and Cyn—that other would be sorely
disappointed. Since I could not bear the shame of asking Mother Garford
for another, I picked up a pebble from the beach where lay ten thousand
just like the one I had flung away, and where, I doubt not, the Wise
Woman had found it in the first place. And the next day I gave the stone
to my comrade for a charm.”

“And she who had it after you, won her lover with but a plain white
stone?” asked the chief magistrate, interested in spite of himself.

“With just a plain white stone and a happy heart,” answered Alisoun. “It
seemed to be enough.”

“He-hem!” The dignified magistrate was just able to suppress a chuckle
by putting his hand before his mouth. He glanced nervously at Master
Cotton Mather, who stood frowning and nonplussed. While he waited, Hugh
Atherton, standing among the spectators, raised his voice so that all
could hear.

“I also would say a word for this poor old woman,” he began. “She was my
nurse when I was a boy, and a simpler, gentler soul has never lived.”

“Master Atherton,” shouted Cotton Mather suddenly. “You who would be a
minister some day, have a care what you do. Think not that you can ever
find a church to receive you, if it be known that you defended a proven
witch and turned Devil’s Advocate.”

“I should not be worthy of a church,” retorted Hugh, “did I stand by in
silence and let justice go so woefully awry. Here are grave and learned
men threatening the life of a poor, quavering old dame, and here are
none who dare to speak for her save a woman, a young maid and a little
boy. Where is our manhood, to be so afraid at such a time? Do you
remember,” he went on, looking from one to another of those who stood so
intently listening, “you—and you—and you, that day in the school house,
when some of us, as children, sat upon the benches, and some of you, as
grown men, stood about the walls and listened to the words that Master
Simon spoke in our midst? It was of priests of the Roman Church and of
Free-Thinkers and Quakers that we were in such deadly terror then,
although we have since learned to let them dwell in peace and know that
they can bring us no harm. But to-day we cower before a new fear, of
spells and witchcraft and muttering old women, and it would be well
could Master Simon rise up from the grave to soothe our terrors with
those famous words of his—‘Walk not in fear, ye men of God!’”

“Silence,” roared Master Mather, leaning far out over the stairs. “Away
with him; he is bewitched like the woman and the maid. Away with them
all to jail!”

But the crowd was no longer with the great minister, the bubble of the
witchcraft terror had burst. Murmurs and exclamations began, cries of
“Good, good, Master Hugh!” “Good, brave Mistress Alisoun!” Then suddenly
the murmurings grew into a rumble and the rumble into a mighty roar as
the whole assembly surged forward.

“Away with _him_,” they cried. “Away with the man who would have us shed
innocent blood.”

Master Cotton Mather was a brave man and one always firmly, nay,
stubbornly loyal to his cause. But even he could see when such a cause
had perished utterly and when it were better to pursue his object in
some more hopeful place. Without another word he clapped on his rusty
three-cornered hat, pocketed the great bundle of papers from which he
had purposed to preach a memorable sermon on the evils of witchcraft,
and, on the magistrate’s opening the door, passed into the meeting
house, the skirts of his threadbare coat flapping behind him in his
haste. And down the hill in the bright, joyful sunshine poured the crowd
of village folk, laughing and shouting and bearing in their midst,
Margeret, Amos, Alisoun and poor old Mother Garford weeping with joy.

“And so,” said Alisoun, finishing her story amid the breathless interest
of her three listeners, “it is recorded with great pride in the annals
of Hopewell that, through all the panic of terror that swept across New
England, we never had in our town another whisper of witchcraft, for in
this place, at least, the Gospel of Fear had come to an end. Further,
from that famous meeting onward, Master Cotton Mather’s authority
concerning witches steadily declined and soon people throughout the
Colonies would listen to him no more.”

“And did Cynthia Turner marry Hugh Atherton?” inquired Elizabeth.

“Yes, at almost the same time that I became Mistress Sheffield,” Alisoun
answered, “and Hugh has been minister of Hopewell these many years now.”

Stephen, round, rosy, cheery-hearted little Stephen, was the only one
who made no immediate comment upon the story. He was lying upon the
grass, his chin in his hand, his steady blue eyes staring out to sea.

“Of what are you thinking, Stephen?” his mother inquired at last.

“I was thinking,” he answered slowly, “that I should like to have lived
in such stirring times and to have seen such adventures. And I should
like, when I come to be a man, to be as bold a sailor as my father and
my grandfather, and to have such steady courage as you and my
grandmother. And I should like to be as well loved by all people as
Master Simon, and to tend just such a garden out of which wondrous
things should come.”

“I should think then,” observed Elizabeth, with the air of wisdom that
she loved to assume, “that you had better grow up to be a man to-morrow,
for it will take you a very long lifetime to be all those things.”

Stephen kicked his heels in the long grass and heaved a great sigh.

“Oh, dear,” he said, “it might chance that I should never be any of
them. Anyway I will try.”



                               CHAPTER IX

                            KING JAMES’ TREE


It was on the day that the bells of all New England were ringing to
announce the death of Good Queen Anne and the accession to the English
throne of her far-distant cousin, George of Hanover, that Alisoun and
Gilbert Sheffield, married now for many years, extended the boundary of
Master Simon’s garden for the third time. It reached now down the hill
to the swift brook that sang so loud on summer nights, stretched as far
as the steep, dusty highway, and took in, at the corner of the field,
the great pine that had always been called King James’ Tree. Master
Simon had planted it, a little spruce sapling, in the last year of the
reign of King James the First. A new highway had been built, skirting
the southern edge of his land, and there, where the slope was steepest
and the sun shone hottest, he had set the tree at the corner of the
road.

“It is planted in the King’s service,” he had said to Mistress Radpath,
“for some day it will stretch its boughs across the road and yield shade
and shelter to such of His Majesty’s subjects who pass this way.
Therefore will we call it King James’ Tree.”

James the First had long been dead, his son had sat upon the throne and
lost it through trying to rule with too high a hand, his grandsons had
won the royal power back and lost it again, his great granddaughters,
Mary and Anne, had ruled and died, and now the royal house of Stuart had
come to an end. Quite regardless of all these wars and turmoils, the
great pine had grown steadily, spreading its broad branches and its
grateful shade across the highway. Kings and Queens might rise and fall,
but it seemed that the King’s tree was to grow undisturbed forever.

“It is a noble old pine,” said Alisoun, looking up at the tall, straight
stem. “I wish that Master Simon could see how faithfully it is
performing the task to which he set it.”

Behind them, as they stood there together, rose the square bulk of the
big white house with which Roger Bardwell had replaced the rude cottage
where Margeret Radpath had dwelt as a child. Yet the cottage was still
there, built into the heart of the great new house so that the
low-ceiled kitchen, the broad fireplace with its swinging crane and the
wide-opening door, hospitable to every comer, were all untouched. Roger
had won great prosperity in his trading ventures across the seas, and
had become master of a fleet of tall-masted vessels that sailed to
England, Holland, Spain and the West Indies. Of this fleet Gilbert
Sheffield, Alisoun’s husband, had once been first officer and was now
manager, since Roger Bardwell, and Margeret with him, slept beside
Master Simon in the graveyard on the hill.

Goody Parsons, too, had long since slipped away, although she had lived
to see her dearest wish fulfilled as she watched the climbing rose cover
the whole grey wall of her cottage. She had told Margeret, the day
before she went, that she would be glad to be in Heaven, for she knew
that it was “as like her own loved Hertfordshire as the dear Lord would
permit.” Samuel Skerry had vanished, no man knew whither, nor how he had
carried away the great locked chest that tradition said held his wealth.
Roger Bardwell had always declared that once as he was walking through
the narrow street of a Dutch seaport town, he had seen the shoemaker’s
dark face peer out at him through a window. There was a certain sea
captain, also, who claimed to have knowledge of where Skerry was to be
found, so it was through him that Roger Bardwell sent the purchase money
when he bought the shoemaker’s abandoned fields and widened the bounds
of Master Simon’s garden. Beyond this, Hopewell heard no real news of
the vanished cobbler, although the people of the village talked of him
still and wondered as to which of the various terrible punishments that
he deserved had overtaken him at last.

As Alisoun and Gilbert walked up to the house together a little later,
they observed that Stephen had settled down to what was, for him, a very
quiet game. It required a great deal of running to and fro and much
laughter, but its activities were confined to the stretch of lawn
nearest the big pine tree.

“They seem to be at something new,” said Gilbert, as he turned toward
the gate, for an errand called him to Hopewell; “where did they learn to
play that game?”

“I believe Amos Bardwell taught it to Stephen when he was here last
month,” replied Alisoun. “What a gay time he and Stephen always have
together, and how hard it is for them to part! I wish that Amos and his
father did not bide in England.”

“A sailor like Amos hardly abides anywhere,” smiled Gilbert. “He and I
have scarcely met for years, since, when one of us is not at sea, the
other is. And you must remember that it is only through Amos and his
father’s having become citizens of England and not of Massachusetts,
that we are able to keep even a part of our vessels upon the sea.”

The foreign trade that Roger Bardwell had brought to such success had
begun, latterly, to be much hampered by laws of England that bore
heavily upon Colonial shipping. They must not carry certain commodities,
they must not trade in other than British ports, since the merchants of
England had become suddenly aware that the bold sailors from across the
sea were beginning to take their profits from them. That was not to be
endured for a moment! Therefore Amos’ father, Alisoun’s brother, had
gone to live in London, and to manage as English owner such of Roger
Bardwell’s ships as it was still worth while to send to sea. Gilbert
Sheffield had in charge the smaller vessels that traded with the other
Colonies, Virginia, New York, and the Carolinas. Alisoun often wondered
what her father would have said had he known of these restricting laws
and had he seen his dearly-loved ships lying idle in the harbour of
Hopewell. But of such troubled matters Roger Bardwell had never dreamed
when he had laid down the burden of his labours seven years before.

Gilbert hurried away up the lane and Alisoun walked back alone and
entered the house. Stephen, she observed as she passed, was having much
difficulty in teaching the new game to his sisters and the three
neighbour’s children. Some of his pupils were apt and some were not,
while five-year-old Peter from across the way was always singing loudly
the wrong words and trailing behind when he should have been marching
ahead. Alisoun, as she closed the door, could hear their gay cries and
laughing calls to one another.

“Hurry, Stephen, hurry, it is your turn!”

“No, Elizabeth, it is yours. Stand up and make Peter come into the row.
Now, throw down your hats and begin again.”

Then the irregular procession would form once more, marching with
measured tread and to music sung by voices some loud and tuneful, some
very uncertain and squeaky:

                   “King William was King James’ son,
                   And from a royal race they sprung,
                   Upon his breast he wore a star—”

“Stop!” cried Stephen, suddenly pausing in the middle of a word, “there
is some one listening to us yonder in the road.”

The music ceased, the line broke, and six pairs of feet scampered down
the slope toward the corner of the newly-moved fence. When, however, the
children came near enough to see what sort of a person it was that had
paused under King James’ Tree, there was some faltering and hanging
back, so that at the end it was Stephen alone who pressed forward and
peered over the bushes at the stranger.

A stout, broad-shouldered man it was who had come down the hot, dusty
road and had stopped to rest in the shade of the pine. His hair was red,
his coat was redder and his face was reddest of all.

“Heaven have mercy, young sir,” he said when he saw Stephen, and, as he
spoke, took off his tall, gold-laced hat and wiped his dripping
forehead, “but this America is no place for a hot-blooded English
soldier. ’Tis worse than the Low Countries, for there at least men could
find somewhat to drink, since, however many the battlefields were, there
were always inns near by.”

At a whispered word from Stephen, his sister Elizabeth had run all to
the house and presently returned with a tall blue mug, brimming over
with cool water from the spring. This was gravely presented to the
traveller by Stephen, since none of the other children would venture
close enough.

“Many thanks,” said the man, as he took a great draught. Then he held
the cup from him and looked at it in comic dismay. “Water!” he
exclaimed, “sure that is a thin drink for a great stout soldier like
myself, and on the King’s accession day, too. But it is cool and wet, at
least, and I am well-nigh choked with the dust of this weary road. So
here is a health to my friend George of Hanover, may he reign long and
send me on better errands than my present one!”

Thus saying, he emptied the mug and handed it back to Stephen.

“And what is the business that brings you here?” the boy inquired
boldly. The soldier’s twinkling blue eyes were so friendly that he no
longer felt in the least afraid.

“A matter that I like none too well,” the man replied. “Since there are
no wars for the King’s soldiers to fight at present, he must needs send
us to the help of the royal navy. My business here is to seek out new
timber for the English fleet. Too many of our good ships have been sent
to the bottom by those agile Frenchmen, so that both the Old and the New
England must give their wood that we may build our navy up again. This
tree now,” he added, stepping back and measuring the tall pine with his
eye, “’tis a splendid great fellow, and will make a worthy mast for the
flagship of the Admiral himself.”

“No, no!” cried Stephen in alarm. “You would never cut down our finest
tree, that my great-grandfather planted so long ago.”

“The King’s fleet must have its masts and spars,” returned the man, “and
every tree that we take must have been planted some time. It is an old
law and you in the Colonies should know it well, that no timber above a
certain size shall be cut save for the English navy. King George has
need of your tree, my lad, and, if I mistake not, King George will have
it.”

“It does the King’s service here,” maintained Stephen stoutly, “and it
shall not be hewn down and carried away to be destroyed in some foreign
war.”

“Eh, and who are you to say what the King shall and shall not have?”
returned the other sharply. “Even I, who am Sergeant Branderby of His
Majesty’s army, have found it better, when the royal wishes run counter
to my own, to let the King have his way. It is wiser so, boy; I advise
no one to stand against the English government unless he would come to
harm.”

Stephen was silent, digging his toe into the dust and wishing that he
could find the words to explain his grievance. Down at the wharf lay the
good ship _Margeret_ and many another of his father’s and his
grandfather’s vessels, that would cross the sea no more. It was the
English boats that now did all the carrying and left the Colonial
vessels idle at their anchorage. That staunch, swift _Margeret_, the
pride of the whole fleet, had carried many cargoes of corn, furs and
salted fish to England, Spain and France, had brought back silks and
velvets, lemons and sweet-smelling spices, but she had made her last
voyage! All this Stephen knew from the talk of his elders, but
nevertheless found it hard to explain to the Sergeant why he thought it
such an injustice that their best ships should be useless while, at the
same time, their fairest trees should be cut down and carried away to
build more vessels for the English. He could do nothing but repeat what
he had said before:

“You shall not cut down our tree.”

He looked about for the other children, but they had long since grown
weary of waiting and had scampered away. He was not to have even their
help.

[Illustration: “You shall not cut down our tree.”]

The King’s officer shrugged his shoulders.

“You can say what you will,” he observed, “and sure it is that you in
the Colonies permit yourselves to speak words that no one would dare
utter in England. Nevertheless, your tree must go, and shall be cut down
to-morrow, since the ship that is to carry it is already loading. For
all your stubbornness you cannot resist King George.”

The soldier turned away and strode off down the road, leaving Stephen
choking with sudden helpless rage. He snatched up a stone and was
preparing to throw it with all his force, but in the end let it drop to
the ground. It would be easy enough to strike that broad, red-coated
back, but of what avail were such a blow? The crowned head of King
George the First was the mark at which he really sought to aim, but
that, alas, was far beyond the reach of a little lad in New England.
With a long sigh he turned away and set off toward the village to
consult with his best friend, John Thorndyke.

Whether Gilbert Sheffield, had he known what danger threatened King
James’ Tree, would have resisted the law and bade the officer begone,
cannot be known. When Stephen came home later, ready to tell his father
the dire news, he found that a messenger had come in hot haste and that
Master Sheffield had ridden off with him to join his ship in Boston. So
there was an end of help from that source! Three times Stephen opened
his lips to tell his mother of what was about to occur and three times
closed them firmly again. Suppose she should forbid his making
resistance, then what was there to be done? For Stephen was thoroughly
resolved that resistance should be made.

All the next morning he circled uneasily about that portion of the
garden where stood King James’ Tree, but it was not until almost noon
that the enemy reappeared. He could see them coming in a great cloud of
dust, the stout Sergeant mounted on horseback, this time with two
stalwart men who carried axes, walking at his side.

“A plague on this August weather,” Branderby cried, as he drew up his
horse in the shade. “I am nigh to death with toiling up and down the
steep streets of this town. I have ridden a hundred miles back and
forth, I do believe, seeking two axemen to do this task, since my own
men are not to be spared from loading the ship. It seems that none could
work to-day save these fellows, who dwell far beyond the village.”

Stephen could not forbear grinning at these words, but strove to hide
the smile behind his hand. He and young John Thorndyke had spread the
news broadcast the night before, so that, although none were willing to
help him in his resistance to the law, every man was ready with an
excuse when summoned to cut down Master Simon’s tree.

“Now,” cried the Sergeant to his men, “let us have no more delay. Come,
fellows, ply your axes.” Both of the men hung back and the older of them
spoke determinedly.

“Nay,” he said, “you did not tell us that this was the tree we were to
cut. All of the town knows of this great pine and of Master Simon who
planted it. Not for a score of gold pieces would I lay axe to its trunk.
So here is the money you gave us; we have altered our minds and will do
no work for you this day.”

Having spoken, he shouldered his axe and trudged sturdily away, followed
by his companion, neither of them regarding the heated remonstrances of
Sergeant Branderby.

“A pest on you all,” he shouted. “A Spanish mule is not more stubborn
than a New Englander. But think not your tree is to be spared. I will
even hew it down myself.”

For that purpose the good Sergeant required an axe which he procured
easily enough by riding after the departing workmen and presenting one
of his great horse-pistols to the younger man’s head.

“Let him have the axe, Jonas,” said the elder. “If he tries to hew down
the tree on this hot day he will burst a blood-vessel, and Heaven be
praised if he does.”

Leading his horse and holding the tool in plainly unaccustomed hands,
the Sergeant came back to the foot of the pine. Here, however, a new
complication had presented itself, one that made Branderby’s face flush
a deeper red with helpless fury.

“Come down, you wicked lad,” he roared. “Come down this moment or harm
will come to you, I vow.”

But Stephen, who had scrambled up among the lower branches, looked down
at him in mocking defiance. There was a certain kindliness in
Branderby’s weatherbeaten face that made him almost certain that the
soldier, angry as he was, would not cut down a tree with a boy clinging
among its boughs.

“If the tree falls, I fall with it,” he called, “so ply your axe if you
dare.”

Up he went, higher and higher. He passed the branch where he had so
often sat to listen to the wind roaring like the sea through the great,
swaying branches, he passed the place where he had carved his name to
mark the highest point that any boy had ever reached, yet still he went
on, up and up. His brown head came out at last amid the thinner green at
the very top, where he could feel the sun hot upon his neck and where he
could look out across meadow and hillside, past the harbour and the
headlands to the wide, blue, open sea. He could see, too, like a picture
spread below him, Master Simon’s garden with its square flowerbeds, its
green hedges and its winding paths. He saw the door of the house fly
open and his mother, with flying skirts and ruffled hair, come running
across the lawn. Somehow she had got wind of the trouble and was
hastening to interfere.

“Come down, you treacherous boy,” shouted Sergeant Branderby again, “or
I have that here which will make you.”

Glancing down over his shoulder, Stephen saw that the officer had
dropped his axe and was levelling his great, clumsy horse-pistol.

“When I say ‘three,’” called the angry soldier, “I will fire, unless you
have begun to descend. One—”

Stephen glanced about him desperately. He had been almost certain that
the man would not harm him, but now he was none too sure. It was a fair,
wide world that he was looking out upon, one that he should hate to
leave so abruptly.

“Two!” bellowed the Sergeant, his voice growing louder as his rage
increased.

“Stephen, Stephen!” Mistress Alisoun’s voice, anxious and troubled,
sounded directly below him.

“Mother,” he called wildly, “do not order me to come down, for I cannot
and will not.” But Stephen had misjudged his mother.

“Hold fast, boy,” she answered. “I will deal with this fellow here. He
has no notion of hurting you, for though he pretends to aim his pistol,
he has also shut his eyes.”

She stepped forward, and with a quick, determined movement, struck up
the Sergeant’s hand just as he was shouting:

“Three!”

Stephen ducked his head and screwed up his eyes, but no report came.
Looking down, he saw that the soldier had taken out both his pistols and
with a great, low bow was presenting them to Mistress Alisoun.

“No gold that His Majesty may give me could force me to do harm to a
spirited lad and a brave woman,” he was saying. “Madam, Sergeant
Branderby surrenders to you both.”

Alisoun, smiling, took the huge pistols into her apron, since they were
too heavy for her hands to hold. Her son, beginning to climb down,
stopped to hang over a branch and listen to what was being said.

“Look not so pale, Mistress,” the Sergeant begged. “The matter is
settled now, for I fear that I must shirk my duty and promise to spare
your pine.”

“Of that I am right glad,” returned Alisoun in a tone of relief, “for
not only we Sheffields, but all of Hopewell, would mourn should aught of
harm happen to King James’ Tree.”

“King James’ Tree?” repeated the soldier in astonishment. “Had I known
that was the name it went by, never would I have lifted axe against it.
But why call you it that?”

Alisoun explained. “My grandfather planted it years ago, and dedicated
it to the King’s service just before the first James Stuart died.”

“So!” exclaimed the Sergeant, looking up with brightening face at the
tall pine. “But this is a strange world! Here is the last King James
with his crown taken from him and sent into exile across the sea, and
here in a corner of the New World I find something that is still called
his. King James’ Tree! Madam, it would be a great honour if you would
permit an old Jacobite soldier to kiss your hand.”

“You are then one of the party that would bring young Prince James back
to be King of England,” said Alisoun, as she held out her hand to him,
“but yet you are wearing King George’s uniform.”

Above them, Stephen leaned breathlessly from his perch, afraid that he
might miss a word. He had heard much of the Jacobites, the followers of
the Stuart Kings, but he had never thought to see one.

“Ay,” Branderby answered. “I wear his coat and take his pay, for
fighting is my trade, and when there is no more fighting for King James
I must even sell my sword to King William and Queen Anne, and now to
King George. It matters not, the army is so full of William’s left-over
Dutchmen, of hired Danes and of Germans who cannot understand their
English general’s speech, that no one cares for a few Jacobites. Yet I
would rather die loyal in heart to James Stuart than live to be dull
George of Hanover’s prime minister. You may be sure that King James’
Tree is safe from my hands forever.”

He stooped to fling the now useless axe into the bushes and turned to
take his horse by the bridle.

“Fare you well, Madam,” he said, “and you also, you brave and saucy lad.
Keep the pistols, if you will, Mistress Sheffield, as a memory of that
King James in whose service I first carried them. And if you can, think
not too ill of one who is forced to wear George of Hanover’s red coat
and eat his bread while his own true heart is with the King over the
water.”

He mounted his horse and had turned to ride away when Stephen began to
climb down. The adventure was over, there was nothing left to happen
further. It was only chance and because the boy turned his head to take
one more look across the wide landscape spread out before him, only his
own carelessness that made him slip, catch at a swaying bough, miss it
and fall down—and down—and down.



                               CHAPTER X

                          “SHIPS OF ADVENTURE”


Stephen opened his eyes once, as he was borne up toward the house and
saw, in one sudden flash, the whole bright garden lying still and quiet
in the hot sun. He saw his mother, white-cheeked and agonised, coming up
the path behind him and still unconsciously clutching the great pistols
in her apron. He wondered a little who was carrying him and, contriving
to look upward, saw that it was Sergeant Branderby and that his red
face, under its coat of sunburn, had turned to mottled grey. Then a
sudden stab of pain went through him and all was black again.

That cloud of darkness seemed to hang over him for weeks—or was it
years? Sometimes it would lift and he would realise that he was in his
own bed with his mother’s anxious face bending over him, would see the
open lattice window with the red tendrils of woodbine clinging to its
edge, or with the moon peeping in perhaps, for in his moments of awaking
it would be sometimes day and sometimes night. Once he saw the
Sergeant’s unhappy face at the door and was about to call to him to come
in when the blackness fell again before he could find his voice. It was
a queer darkness, full of pain and flashes of light and fantastic dreams
that he could never remember.

In the village of Hopewell there was never one person who could pass
another without stopping to ask:

“Have you heard aught that is new of little Stephen Sheffield?”

The old doctor, when he left the big house and came out through the
white gate could scarcely make his way along, so many there were who
came running to him to gasp out:

“Is he better? Oh, say that he is going to live.”

To all their questions his only answer would be to purse his lips and
shake his head doubtfully.

“We can know nothing yet,” was all that he would ever say.

King George of England would have scarcely liked to hear that in one
small Puritan town his loyal subjects remembered the date of his coming
to the throne only because it happened at the same season as “that
dreadful mishap to Mistress Sheffield’s little son, Stephen.” In the
history of Hopewell other boys had tumbled from trees, it was quite
true, but never had one fallen who was so generally beloved or who lay
so long in danger of his life.

At last a day came when the doctor, stumping up the street, told fifty
persons at least between the gate and the town square, that:

“God has been good to us, the lad is going to live.” Whereupon the fifty
ran with all speed to tell the good news to a hundred more. Rough old
Sergeant Branderby came out of the gate, wiping the tears of joy from
his eyes with the sleeve of his red coat and saying to every one,

“Have you heard? Have you heard? I did not slay him after all!”

“There was no one ever thought that the fall was through fault of
yours,” old dame Allen told him, “and though we loved you little when
you came and liked your errand less, we have learned to put up with you
for the love you have shown our Stephen. Ay, he will live, it is not so
easy to down the Radpath blood!”

Stephen himself, propped up in the four-post bed among the big pillows
and covered over with the precious blue and white quilt that had been
part of Mistress Radpath’s dowry, felt himself to be a very great person
indeed. He was a very pale and thin Stephen, whose knees doubled up when
he tried to stand, but whose voice and merry laugh sounded quite the
same.

“I know how ill I must have been, since you give me the Orange-Tree
quilt,” he said to Alisoun, “but I do not care ever to earn such an
honour again. When can I get up and play in the garden, mother?”

“Very soon now, I hope,” she answered, “but we must go carefully and do
all that the good doctor says.”

It was Sergeant Branderby, pale, aghast and trembling, who had carried
Stephen up to his room upon that terrible day; it was the same stout
soldier, beaming and jubilant, who bore him downstairs the first morning
that he was able to leave his bed. Established in a great armchair on
the columned verandah, Stephen held court among his youthful friends,
who came running down the lane from the farthest ends of the town at the
news, “Stephen Sheffield is out again.”

After they had all gone home the boy leaned back in his chair and looked
up at his good friend the Sergeant, who had never left his side through
all the coming and going.

“I had forgotten,” Stephen sighed, as he looked out over the garden,
“that leaves could be so green or sun could shine so bright. And I feel
so well that surely by to-morrow I can run down the path and see what
time it is by the sundial.”

“Not just to-morrow, I fear,” objected Branderby. Then, seeing the boy’s
face clouded with disappointment, he added, “Suppose I come in a day or
two and carry you down yonder to the harbour’s edge, where you can sit
all day on the warm sand and watch the full blue tide come in.”

“Ah, that will be famous,” exclaimed Stephen, “and then perhaps the day
after that I can run in the garden again. It tries my patience sorely to
be still so long!”

The morning after this brought Stephen another visitor, a long
looked-for and most welcome one. During the night a big ship slipped
into the harbour and early next day a brown-faced, smiling man came
striding up the path and knocked at the door. Mistress Sheffield, who
opened it, flung two joyful arms about his neck crying:

“Amos Bardwell, but it is good to see you, lad!”

This, then, was Stephen’s Cousin Amos, the same who, when he was a
little boy, had figured so bravely in the witch affair. Although he was
a sea captain now and dwelt in England when he was ashore, he visited
Hopewell as often as it was possible, and was Stephen’s most
well-beloved playmate in spite of the difference in their years.

“Now,” he said, when he was seated at the boy’s bedside, “what is this I
hear of your climbing King James’ Tree in defiance of the British Army
and then falling out of it through turning to gape after a retreating
enemy? We must have no more of such doings.”

“No, indeed,” replied Stephen gaily, “and when I climb King James’ Tree
again I will surely be more careful.”

Mistress Sheffield, as she heard his cheery words, turned quickly and
went out of the room, closing the door behind her.

“Lest you have such another mischance,” said Amos, “I think I must give
you my lucky penny that is supposed to keep off just such evil fortune.”
As he spoke he felt in the deep pockets of his sailor’s coat and drew
forth a battered old silver coin. “It may have power and it may have
none, but certain it is that I have carried it since I was a smaller boy
than you and have not yet come to any very grievous harm in spite of
many adventurings. It once belonged to—whom do you suppose? None other
than Master Simon’s sworn enemy, the shoemaker, Samuel Skerry.”

“Samuel Skerry?” repeated Stephen, wondering. “I thought that he
disappeared the day after Margeret Bardwell’s marriage and was never
seen again. My mother has told me many tales of the shoemaker and his
wicked ways, but she has never spoken of his homecoming.”

“I think she never knew of it,” replied Amos, “nor am I myself certain,
though I have pondered the matter a hundred times, whether he ever
really came back or not. But my old nurse swore always that he did. When
our house was crowded she used to dwell sometimes in the shoemaker’s
cottage, and it was there she thought she saw him.”

“You say he came back?” questioned Stephen. “I do not see how he dared.”

“I am not sure if he really did, but such was old Betsey’s tale. She
said that as she went toward her little dwelling very late one winter
night she was amazed to see footsteps in the snow along the path and to
catch the glint of firelight through the window. She peeped in through a
crack of the door and saw the shoemaker himself, a little shrunken,
bent, old man, leaning over the hearth and holding out his hands to the
blaze. Then, while she watched, he climbed upon the seat of the big
armchair and thrust his hand into an opening behind the cupboard. She
was holding her breath and peering in with such curiosity as to what he
would do next that she leaned over hard against the rickety old door and
it burst open, casting her headlong into the room.”

“O-oh,” gasped Stephen, wriggling in delighted excitement, although the
sudden movement cost him a sharp reminder of his recent fall; “oh, what
happened then?”

“She screamed aloud with terror, thinking she was in the presence of a
ghost, and he too gave a startled cry as he stepped down from the chair
and dropped something that rolled ringing and jingling across the floor.
But in a moment he turned upon her with eager questionings, about Master
Simon and Roger Bardwell and my grandmother, Margeret Radpath. And over
and over he asked, ‘But Master Simon’s garden, does it bloom as fair as
once it did?’ Something he said also of a message, having to do with
Master Simon, that he had come all the long way across the sea to leave
with the minister of Hopewell, yet what such an errand might be he would
not say. In the end he gave her the silver coin that had fallen jingling
upon the floor, saying, ‘I found this in my old hiding-hole behind the
cupboard where it chanced to be left behind after my hasty flight. They
say that money long lost and found again brings good luck, so keep it to
buy your silence concerning my visit here.’ She took the coin and bent
to examine it in the firelight, for it was one of the clumsy old
shillings of the Colony’s first coinage. When she looked up again—he was
gone. She came running back to the kitchen door of our big house and
burst in among the other servants crying that there were ghosts and
witches in the shoemaker’s hut and that she would never enter its door
again. Nor did she! But the coin she held in high reverence as a lucky
charm and insisted upon giving it to me when I was eight years old.”

“Do you believe she really saw the shoemaker?” asked Stephen. “Did you
never hear more of his visit than that?”

“My grandfather, Roger Bardwell, listened to her tale and forbade her
telling it to any one further. He questioned the minister next day
however, who admitted that he had had such a visitor but was sworn to
secrecy concerning his errand. And in the graveyard on the hill there
were fresh footprints in the snow leading up to the spot where Master
Simon sleeps. So it must have been Samuel Skerry that came, but whether
his purpose was good or evil no one can tell. He may have been plotting
some new villainy, yet I think—yes, I have thought it often—that in his
years of loneliness in a foreign land the little shoemaker came at last
to repent of his jealousy and ill-will and returned finally to make
tardy amends. But what his errand was, or what message he left with the
Hopewell minister is a secret still unrevealed.”

Stephen took the thin, old silver coin that Amos had laid upon his
pillow and turned it over and over.

“You should not give it to me, Cousin Amos,” he said. “You should keep
it still to bring you fair winds and prosperous voyages.”

“It has not always brought me those,” laughed Amos. “And of what use are
fair winds, when fewer and fewer of our ships are permitted to put to
sea? No, it is a better luck penny for a lad than for a man, for, as old
Betsey said, it requires much good fortune to keep boys from destroying
themselves before they grow to man’s estate. So do you keep it and if it
saves you from tumbling out of any more treetops I shall be satisfied.”

Captain Amos’ visit was all too short. In spite of many protests from
Alisoun and loud lamentations from all the children, he set out two
mornings later for Salem, whither important business called him. Stephen
grieved so much over his playmate’s going that he quite forgot that this
was the great day for his first expedition abroad. His faithful servant,
Sergeant Branderby, had not forgotten, however, and came that afternoon,
true to his promise, to carry the boy down to the shore.

“I think it must be Samuel Skerry’s lucky penny,” said Stephen as they
set forth, “that has given us so fine a day.”

It was indeed weather that could scarcely have been bettered, for the
cloudless sky was glowing blue and the sea was bluer still. The little
waves splashed merrily as they came tumbling in, the smooth hard sand
sparkled in the sun and even the tiny grey sandpipers running back and
forth across the beach seemed to be bidding them all welcome. The boy’s
two sisters and fat little Peter came also to play at the water’s edge,
while Stephen sat sheltered from the wind and propped against a huge,
grey rock that lay like some sleeping monster in the midst of the
drifting sand.

The children were sailing toy boats, bits of board with paper sails,
launching them with some difficulty through the breaking waves, but
watching with cries of joy when one after another of the little craft
caught the wind and sped away. Only Peter’s clumsily whittled vessel
came to grief so often and was upset and washed back upon the beach so
many times that finally, half crying, the little boy brought it to
Stephen.

“Do make it sail,” he said. “I know that you can do somewhat to make it
pass all the others.”

“Give me your knife then,” said Stephen. Peter’s coming had interrupted
his absorbing talk with Sergeant Branderby, but Stephen could not, even
on that account, seem unwilling to help his small friend. He had an odd
skill with toy boats and could always make his sail when the others
foundered.

“There,” he said at last, “launch her with the sails set so and I think
she will ride the waves and outdo all the rest.”

Peter, delighted, ran off to try again and Stephen turned once more to
the soldier.

“And did you really see King George?” he asked, for it was of that
worthy monarch that the story had to do.

“Bless you, that I did,” was the answer, “and it was not so wonderful a
sight, merely a fat grey-haired man, blinking from his recent nap, and
with a halting tongue that could speak no word of English. Kings and
Queens are more common than they used to be, since the people of England
discovered that they could dispose of them at will, and fell into the
way of changing their monarchs often. Eight have I seen in my own time,
eight men and women that wore the crown of England.”

“What?” exclaimed Stephen. “Eight! How could that ever be?”

“’Tis as true as that I sit here,” returned Branderby seriously. “There
were Charles the Second and his Portuguese wife, Katherine; there was
his brother James who reigned after him and there was that Italian
Princess who became James’ Queen. Not long did he reign, poor James
Stuart, for his daughter Mary and her Dutch husband, William of Orange,
came across the channel and drove the last Stuart King from the throne.
Those two wicked ones I have seen too, and Mary’s sister Anne, the Queen
for whose death the bells were ringing upon that very day that we first
met. And that German George who sits now in her place, him I saw in the
Low Countries, where we fought so long a war that, when it was finally
ended, scarcely any one remembered for what reason it had been begun. So
there are eight English Kings and Queens that my own eyes have seen, to
say nothing of a host of French dukes and marquises of the royal blood,
and more German princelings than my dull wits could ever learn to
count.”

“You must have had many wondrous adventures,” sighed Stephen. “I can
scarcely wait until I become a man and can have them too.”

“Look, look,” Peter interrupted them again with a joyous shout. After
two vain launchings, his little boat, trimmed by Stephen’s skilful hand
had at last put to sea successfully and was rocking upon the waves as
merrily as a duckling.

“Good,” called Sergeant Branderby, “our Stephen knows how to fashion a
boat, does he not, Master Peter?”

In great excitement Peter ran off down the beach, following his boat as
it drifted with the wind.

“I should think,” continued Stephen, going back to their former talk,
“that it would be hard to learn loyalty to so many Kings and Queens,
following so quickly one upon another.”

“Love of the King has gone somewhat out of fashion in England,” returned
the soldier. “Once in the golden times of great Queen Bess, folk were
all of one heart and one blood, nobles and gentry, Kings and commoners,
Englishmen all. But now that we have taken to trying this foreigner and
that upon our throne, monarchs seem to have less value in our eyes.”

He paused and through the quiet could be heard Peter’s shouts to the two
girls to stop and admire the prowess of his vessel.

“When I see how little you people of New England regard who is, or who
is not, upon the throne,” Branderby went on, “when I see those splendid
ships of yours lying at anchor or rotting at their docks, when I hear
the growing murmurs of discontent and questioning where once men
accepted the King’s will and thought he could do no wrong, I wonder,
lad, I wonder what will come of it. The signs of great changes are in
the air, but I cannot read their meaning.”

He was silent again, musing upon the question that so perplexed his
mind. He and Stephen both heard, presently, footsteps upon the sand,
coming toward them from beyond the great stone. They had seen, in the
distance, a shabby woman of Hopewell digging for clams, aided by her
ragged boy. The footsteps were evidently of these two, coming home again
since now the sun was dropping low. Unseen and not observing the soldier
and the boy, they passed by on the further side of the high grey rock.

“Mother,” the boy’s voice was saying, “I have heard that Stephen
Sheffield is getting well at last. Will he be able to play at Indian
scouts with me soon again, think you?”

The woman’s voice answered slowly:

“It is not likely that the Sheffield lad will ever run and play again
with the other boys,” she said. “The doctor, so people tell me, says
that he will live, and will not be crippled, but that he never will be
well and strong again like other children.”

The two passed on and never knew of the secret that they had betrayed.
Stephen heard them with his face gone white and his eyes wide with
terror.

“Tell me,” he cried to Branderby, “she does not know? That is not true?”

The old soldier growled and muttered something below his breath,
something far from flattering in regard to idle women who gossip on the
beach.

“I will know,” gasped Stephen, shaking him by the arm with all his
feeble strength. “You shall tell me. Did the doctor say such a thing?”

“In my opinion,” grumbled the Sergeant, “these men of medicine know
little and their word is scarce worth believing.”

“But did he say it?” persisted Stephen. “I will have the truth.”

“I would sooner face a siege cannon belching smoke and fire,” muttered
Branderby. Then he turned to Stephen and looked him fairly in the eyes.
“We are both men,” he said steadily, “and a real man can bear a blow
though it be a hard and bitter one. Yes, lad, he did say it.”

Stephen made no answer, for he had flung himself face downward upon the
sand. One long terrible sob shook his thin body and then he lay still.
The Sergeant’s hard, rough hand was laid over his clenched one.

“There are some that help the world forward by their strength of arm,”
he said gently, “and some by their power of mind and will. We cannot all
be of one kind or the other, for we know the world has need of both.”

The boy sat up. There was a flush on his thin cheek and his jaw was set
firmly.

“We will not tell my mother that I know,” he began, “and perhaps some
day—but oh,” he broke off, “my thought was always to be a sailor like my
father and my grandfather and my Cousin Amos, to sail mighty ships like
the _Margeret_ to the farthest foreign ports. But now—I shall be fit
only to launch such vessels as Peter sails.”

His brave voice did not tremble but the hand in Branderby’s shook.

“I have often seen children sailing such ships,” said the soldier, “and
never see them without thinking, as many others do, how like they are to
human lives. Some upset, some sink, some drift back and forth hugging
the shore, while others spread their sails and put bravely forth to
sea.”

He pointed to where the little fleet of wind-tossed ships had scattered
wide. Many of them had suffered mishap, even as the Sergeant had said,
some had disappeared and some still clung to the shore. But Peter’s
boat, the vessel of Stephen’s fashioning, had caught the wind and was
skimming away toward the harbour’s mouth. The red of the dropping sun
coloured its tiny white sails, its long shadow stretched across the
green waters making it seem greater than it was, as with steady prow it
bore away, bound, it seemed, for Spain or France or some magic country
that no man knew.

The rough old soldier’s hand closed tight on Stephen’s.

“Whatever comes to you, boy,” he said; “whatever life brings to you of
pain or disappointment or sorrow, of one thing I am certain. What your
future will be, I may not know, for presently I will go back to England
and we may never meet again. But whether your days are to be dark or
bright ones, whether time is to bring you good or ill, of this I am
sure, that the world will have need of you some day, and the ship that
you launch will carry far.”



                               CHAPTER XI

                          FAIR MAIDS OF FRANCE


In the end the old doctor was neither wholly right nor wholly wrong.
Stephen was never again the square, sturdy lad that he had been before
his terrible illness, but none the less he grew through an active
boyhood and became a busy, useful man. If it ever was a bitter pain to
him to see other boys swim and run and climb in a way that he could
never do again, no one had known of it save perhaps his mother, or his
good friend Sergeant Branderby who had so long ago returned to England.
His hopes of being a soldier or a sailor were destroyed forever in that
single moment when he slipped from the pine tree branch; instead he
became a lawyer and made so brilliant a record that he should have had
small time to grieve over vanished dreams.

While he was still little more than a boy he became the most honoured
member of the Hopewell community; long before his hair was grey he began
to be spoken of as one of the great men of the Colony. What Master Simon
had been to his own little town, Stephen was beginning to be to all New
England. Governors and King’s officers sought his advice, merchants and
ship-masters and labouring men of every kind and degree laid their
perplexities before him. That he was esteemed the wisest man in all
Massachusetts was denied by no one save Stephen himself. With honest
sincerity he laughed at all allusions to his greatness and thought of
himself only as a humble man of law.

“If I have had good fortune,” he used to say, “it is because of the
shoemaker’s luck-penny. If people come to me it is only because they
know that I am a hampered fellow and cannot well go to them. It is
kindness of heart and that alone that brings a portion of the great
world past my doors.”

It was a strange and motley procession that went in and out of the great
house, for half of his guests were dressed in frieze and homespun, while
the other half came clad in satins and velvets and gold-laced scarlet
coats.

Gone now were the old times of rigid economy and stern simplicity among
the Puritans. Men wore bright-coloured uniforms, lace ruffles and great
powdered wigs, while the women, with their jewels, their patches, their
high, red heels and long brocaded trains, were as gorgeously arrayed as
the ladies of the English court. There used to be noble gatherings in
Stephen’s big dining-room, when the greatest men in the land sat about
his board and the tall wax tapers shone upon the officers’ red coats and
jewelled orders, upon the ladies’ powdered hair and diamonds and upon
the more soberly rich garb of the wealthy Massachusetts citizens. A
throng of black-faced servants, themselves decked out in livery and
powdered wigs, would wait upon the company and later conduct them into
the long white-panelled drawing-room whose open windows looked out
across the garden to the sea. Or, if it were winter, the guests would
gather about the fireplace which, although much of the house was new,
was the same rough stone one built by Master Simon’s hands. Amid this
gay crowd of friends moved Stephen, quiet-mannered and simply clad, the
only ornament upon his dark coat a diamond star given him by the King of
France.

That was a time, also, when the garden bloomed in greater glory than it
had ever known before. Those to whom Stephen had done good, and these
were a countless legion, could give him nothing in return in the way of
money or high office, for such rewards he did not want. But the royal
Governors could send him costly fruit-trees from their English estates,
poor sailors could bring him rare plants from foreign lands and his good
friends of Hopewell could offer him the best they had of flower or
fruit. The gardener used to say that Master Sheffield gave away so many
plants and flowers that soon there would be nothing left, but that is
the usual talk of gardeners. This one, with his acres of many coloured
blossoms could not say, generous as Stephen was, that the danger of
stripping the garden was a great or an immediate one.

One portion was left unaltered, that planted by Master Simon; for
beehives still stood in a row beneath the old, old apple trees, and
daffodils in Spring and hollyhocks in summer still bloomed in a riot of
colour beside the white gate. The Queen’s garden, too, was untouched by
any change and here Stephen came often to sit on the bench under the
linden tree and to ponder upon the more and more grave problems that
must be solved by those who had the welfare of New England at heart.
Troubled times were these, with greater difficulties plainly still to
come. It was here that he was sitting, one summer day, knitting his
brows over a letter with a great, red seal, when there came an
interruption that was to mean much to all his after life.

The creak of the opening gate announced a visitor, its hurried bang as
it closed again told plainly that the newcomer was in haste. Looking up
from his letter, Stephen saw before him the town constable, his
good-natured face clouded with perplexity, his brass-tipped staff, the
badge of his office, held stiffly before him, a sure sign that public
duty was weighing the good man down. He was followed by a middle-aged
woman whose dark, weatherbeaten countenance was lined with grief and
whose hair, under her odd, close-fitting starched cap was threaded with
grey. She bore in her arms a bundle of what seemed to be nothing but
delicately embroidered garments but which, suddenly beginning to stir
and turn, revealed itself as a dark-eyed baby of possibly a year old.
The woman dropped a deep curtsey and then stood waiting in silence.

“Please, Master Sheffield,” began the distressed constable, “this woman
is one of the exiles from Acadia, who, as we all have heard, were landed
seven days ago in Boston and who have been wandering all through the
Colony. She has somehow come this far, but there is no one in the town
who can tell what to do with her. She understands no word we say and,
when I speak to her, only curtseys, weeps or breaks into some foreign
jargon of her own.”

“From Acadia?” repeated Stephen. His clear eyes clouded at the name, for
he knew and bitterly regretted the policy that had led British troops
into occupying the French-speaking province of Acadia, and into driving
all the peaceable inhabitants into exile. Hurrying them on board ship,
they had sent them off anywhere and everywhere, in wild haste to be rid
of them, little caring whether families were separated or children and
their parents were lost to each other forever. Stephen, very gently and
kindly, spoke to the woman in her own tongue.

Such a flash of joy as lighted up her poor worn face when she heard
speech that she could at last understand, and such a flood of voluble
French as she poured out when Stephen had finished! The constable looked
on in amazement and finally heaved a long sigh of relief.

“I might have known enough to come to Master Sheffield in the first
place,” he exclaimed. “He always knows what is best to do!”

Stephen, after talking a few minutes with the woman, turned to him.

“I will take the poor creature into my service,” he said, “there is need
of another helper in the kitchen and there seems naught else to do with
her. She can live, with the baby, in the cottage across the field
yonder, it has been empty this year past. Take her up to the house, if
you please, good Master Constable, and tell the servants to give her a
meal and something for the baby. And bid Jason, who was with me in
France and can speak a few words of her tongue, to go with her and show
her where she is to abide. It is a good child you have,” he added in
French to the woman, “is it a granddaughter or a grandson?”

“The baby is a girl, Monsieur,” she answered, “but not mine. Indeed I
have no way of knowing to whom she belongs, for, just as I was being
taken on board ship to be torn forever from my dear native land, I found
this little one wailing on the beach, left behind, in the confusion, by
the boat that must have carried away her parents. And I, who had lost
all those belonging to me in the same way, gathered her into my arms and
kept her with me through all the long, dreadful voyage. A good child she
is indeed, and I have named her Clotilde, after my own little daughter
that died twenty years ago. May Heaven bless you for taking pity on us
and letting us bide where we can hear our own speech again.”

She was led by the constable up toward the house while Stephen returned
to his letter. It had to do with a mission to England that all the
worthies of Massachusetts were begging him to undertake. Once before
this, he had gone to France on a weighty errand for the people of the
province. He had come back with the mission well performed, with the
good will of the French people and with the diamond star that the French
King’s own hands had pinned upon his coat. And now his comrades were
asking him to take up a still more difficult task, to do what he could
toward healing the growing breach between the Colonies and the Mother
Country.

Even as Sergeant Branderby had said, Kings and Queens had grown to be of
less value now, so that, with the fading loyalty to the crown, there had
diminished the regard of the New World for the Old. The dashing Stuart
Kings had been beloved in a way, so had the simple-hearted, good Queen
Anne, but these German princes who sat on the British throne, who
possessed little power and who were half the time in Hanover, what bond
had they with the Colonies? It was hard to be loyal to political
governors, to the constantly changing ministers in London and to the
Parliament that was ever piling up new laws that bore heavily on
America. It was, therefore, to mend these difficult matters that Stephen
Sheffield was begged to go to England.

“Ah, well,” he said at last, coming to the end of a long argument with
himself, “my strength is not much, but if it is of any worth to my
Colony I may as well give it while I can.”

So it happened that the little cottage that had once been Samuel
Skerry’s had scarcely received its new French tenants before the great
mansion on the hill was closed and its master had sailed away to
England. Madame Jeanne Lamotte, or Mother Lamotte, as the Acadian woman
came to be called in Hopewell, kept a watchful eye upon Stephen’s house
and the negro servants who had been left to care for it. For the rest of
the time, she was busy scrubbing and polishing in the shoemaker’s
dilapidated cottage, and tending the rapidly-growing Clotilde. A merry,
active little girl she soon grew to be, with yellow hair and great dark
eyes, quick and dainty in her ways and looking, so the people of the
village said, more like an infant angel than a foundling French child.

Slow-sailing ships and slow-dragging politics kept Stephen long away, so
that it was more than two years before he returned to America. He
brought with him, when at last he came, a priceless document, signed by
His Majesty King George the Second, and, what was of far greater worth,
by the new and powerful Prime Minister, William Pitt, assuring the
Colonies of their rights and privileges for a time at least. But even
now his travelling was not at an end, for he made long journeys up and
down the seacoast, preaching a new political doctrine of which he had
begun to see the desperate need, namely union for all of America. If the
colonists were to guard their freedom, they must learn to act together,
to band themselves into a nation of their own.

Friends remonstrated when they saw how much more frail and ill he began
to look, how hollow his gay blue eyes were becoming and how grey his
hair. But Stephen laughed like a boy at all they said, and put their
warnings aside.

“Grudge me not my share of the game,” he would say. “If the fighting
comes, you that are staunchly built and mighty of limb will then have
your turn and mine will be over. Let me do my part while the time
allows.”

It was only once during this long period that he saw the little
Clotilde. The meeting occurred one late afternoon when he was abiding
for a day or two in his own house and had walked out into the garden to
enjoy the coolness, peace and quiet beauty. Guests were coming later
among whom there would be much weighty discussion of urgent affairs, but
now, for a little, there was rest and stillness.

As he passed down one of the grass-covered walks, he heard, behind the
hawthorn bush, a sweet clear little voice singing an old French song. He
turned the corner of the path and came upon the little Acadian girl,
sitting beside a bed of white and yellow flowers and looking not unlike
them herself, so fair and dainty was she with her fresh white kerchief,
her snowy apron and her bright golden hair. Seeing Stephen, she jumped
up, quite unabashed, and dropped him a prim little curtsey.

“Tell me, what are you doing here and what was it you were singing?” he
asked with a smile.

“It was a French song that Mère Jeanne taught me,” was her reply, “and I
come here often to sit by the flowers and sing to them.”

“You sing to the flowers?” he repeated, puzzled. “What leads you to do
that and why to these especial ones?”

“The gardener told me that they came from our land,” she answered
gravely, “and that the name men give them is ‘fair maids of France.’ So,
since they are in exile as well as we, I come and sing my French songs
to them, lest they grow lonely and weep as Mère Jeanne so often does.”

Stephen held out his hand and took her tiny one into it.

“You are a very little maid to be so loyal to your country, and to your
fellow exiles,” he said, “and you are young indeed to know the sorrows
of banishment. Suppose you lead me to that Mère Jeanne of yours, so that
we may try to comfort her a little.”

That night Master Sheffield’s guests, although they were many and of
high importance, had to wait in the long drawing-room, while their host,
yonder across the misty field, sat on the bench before the shoemaker’s
cottage and talked in French to Mother Jeanne Lamotte. She, poor soul,
had learned but little English and found black Jason’s few halting words
of French, very small comfort indeed. Now that she could pour her heart
out to one who could understand her native speech, it seemed as though
she would never have done. Stephen duly admired the neatness and strict
order of her little dwelling but finally declared that it had grown too
old and tumble-down for comfort and that she and Clotilde must come to
abide in the great house, where, since his sisters’ marriages and the
death of his parents he lived alone save for the black servants.

“There is room in abundance,” he said, “and the little maid will help to
brighten a place where all of us, master and men, are growing dreary and
old together. Would you like to dwell there, Mademoiselle Clotilde?”

“Indeed I would,” she cried with joy, “for there are great wide rooms to
play in and here are only four walls and a smoky chimney.”

Mother Jeanne reproached her severely for this criticism of their
dwelling but Stephen, laughing, insisted that she was right and that the
change must be made at once. But when next day Mother Jeanne and
Clotilde gathered up their few possessions and carried them to the big
house, they found the master gone again and for several months they saw
his face no more.

He went and came much in the years that followed so that he and Clotilde
caught only fleeting glimpses of each other, yet learned, for all that,
to be close friends. Sometimes he found her racing about the garden
walks with her boon companion, Miles Atherton, a sturdy, slow-spoken lad
of Hopewell, sometimes he found her going about her work in the big
house, for she was nimble-fingered and industrious and began early to be
a great help to her dear Mère Jeanne. There was one cosy winter evening
when she sat on his knee before the blazing fire and heard the tale of
King James’ Tree and of Sergeant Branderby and learned how his two great
pistols came to hang above the chimney-piece. Upon another occasion, a
warm summer morning when the linden tree was in bloom, he and she and
Miles Atherton sat upon the bench in the Queen’s Garden while Stephen
told the two eager children the story of Master Simon and Queen
Elizabeth, and of how Margeret Radpath and Roger Bardwell had, on that
very spot, witnessed the French priest’s forbidden mass.

Stephen told them too, one rainy day as they sat in his study, of
Jeremiah Macrae and his still unfulfilled prophecy of the destruction of
the garden. He even got down the great family Bible and turned the pages
to find that same picture that had struck terror to the heart of little
Margeret Radpath, the figure of one of the prophets of old, standing by
the city gate and crying forth a warning of the ruin and desolation that
would come to the land. The tale laid such hold upon Clotilde’s
imagination that she dreamed that night of the ominous Master Macrae and
thought for many a day thereafter of what he had foretold. So dearly did
she love Master Simon’s garden and all that grew in it, that the very
thought of harm coming to that dear place was more than she could bear.
One day, some weeks after, Miles came upon her with the great Bible open
on the table while she stared in terrified fascination at the picture of
the prophet.

“Surely you are not thinking of that story still!” exclaimed Miles. “Why
the man has been dead and his words forgotten for nearly a hundred
years. You do not think that what he said could really come true,
Clotilde?”

“N-no,” she faltered, closing the book with a great sigh, “I do not
think his words could come true—but they might. I do not know what to
think, yet I cannot put the tale out of my mind. When Master Sheffield
comes home I will ask him whether I should believe it or not.”

“We will ask him,” returned Miles sturdily, “but I will not credit such
a dismal prophecy unless I must.”

Clotilde would have given much to feel as he did, but could not put
aside the secret misgiving hidden in her heart. She never let Miles see
her looking at the picture again, but she peeped at it more than once,
none the less. Quaint and rude as was the old woodcut, there was still
something very earnest and very terrible about the face and figure that
were supposed to resemble Jeremiah Macrae’s.

Before Stephen returned, however, the affair had very nearly drifted
from her mind. There were long, long months now when the master of the
house was from home, when she missed him sorely and when Mother Jeanne
would shake her head and say:

“Our good Monsieur has not too strong a hold upon health. It will cost
him his life if he does not give up these endless journeyings.”

There came an evening when Stephen, after a long absence, drew rein
before the door and dismounted, almost too weary to climb the wide,
stone steps. It was to a nearly empty house that he came, for the
servants had all gone to some festival in the village and only Clotilde
came running out to welcome him with a shout of joy, while Mère Jeanne
stood smiling and curtseying in the doorway.

“There will be three men to sup with me,” said Stephen, “so have all in
readiness as soon as you can. And let my man Michael, when he has
carried in the saddle bags, eat and go to bed at once, for he is worn
out with our long riding.”

“But yourself, Monsieur!” Mother Jeanne ventured to remonstrate.

“No, no, woman,” he replied quickly, “I am not weary and have much work
to do.”

The guests arrived presently, all three riding up to the door together.
There was Doctor Thorndyke of Hopewell in his shabby plum-coloured coat
and muddy boots, and with him two strangers, one from Boston, so
Clotilde gathered from their talk, and one from Salem.

“We came in company,” said Doctor Thorndyke as he dismounted at the
steps, “for our friend here tells me that a man rode after him half way
from the last inn and that he fears some rascal may have got wind of the
money that we carry.” He unstrapped his saddle bags and carried them
into the house. “My faith,” he said, “but I am not often so valuable a
man as I find myself to-night. I fairly jingle as I walk!”

Mère Jeanne, who was a famous cook, had prepared a supper fit for King
George himself. Clotilde waited on the company and received a nod and
smile from Doctor Thorndyke who was her old and well-loved friend. When
the meal was ended and she came to carry the plates away, she found that
the dishes had been pushed back and that each man had produced a leather
bag and had poured out on the table a stream of gold, silver and copper
money. Every kind of coin was there, clumsy pennies, silver shillings,
Spanish gold pieces of eight. When all was counted and piled in a heap
together it made a sum that caused Clotilde’s eyes to open wide and
quite took her breath away. It was a strange sight, the pile of coins
shining in the candlelight, the three eager faces lit by the yellow
flame, with Stephen’s white and weary one resting against the back of
his big armchair.

“Here, then,” she heard Doctor Thorndyke say as she was carrying away
the last of the dishes, “is the money for our first fighting-ship, the
gift of Massachusetts to the United Colonies. The sum has been
generously given by rich and poor alike, for people are beginning to
look a little into the future and to see that there will be need for
such a ship and many others. It would have been a misfortune surely had
we been robbed upon the way.”

“I can scarcely believe,” observed Stephen, “that there is any one in
the colony capable of such a deed.”

“We boast some precious rascals in our midst,” said the man from Salem,
“men who, if they would not do it of their own will, could easily be
persuaded to the task by some one above them. I think that the
authorities have got wind of our plan and, not daring to take so bold a
step as to confiscate the money openly, would be glad to lay hold of it
in some such way. However, the whole matter is a mere guess; there may
have been no harm in the fellow who followed us. At any rate, we have
arrived safely and the money for our ship lies here upon the table.” He
filled his glass and held it up:

“Gentlemen,” he said, “I give you the American navy.”

“I have a further gift to add,” said Stephen as he rose with the others
to drink the toast standing, “for I can see now that the great pine tree
at the corner of my garden can be of better service than as a shelter to
travellers on the King’s highway. It shall form the mast of our new
vessel and shall put to sea flying the flag—of a new nation.”

A shout and a clinking together of glasses followed his words, but
Clotilde heard no more for she had gone out with her tray and the door
had swung to behind her.

The night was warm and the long windows of the hall stood open into the
garden, letting in the scent of heliotrope and wallflowers and the
far-off sound of the sea. Clotilde, a little weary with the bustle of
unexpected preparations, set down her tray upon the sill and leaned her
hot forehead against the cool pane. Outside there was only starlight,
but so clear was the night that she could make out the lines of the
garden hedges and the narrow, winding walks. How strange, she seemed to
see a darker shadow moving toward her among the flower beds, then
another, and another! Could it be the servants coming home?

In the dining room, Stephen and his guests were leisurely returning the
money to the leather bags and discussing as to the safest and quickest
method of sending it to Boston, when they were startled by the sudden
crash of the window’s swinging back upon its hinges. A tall, dark-clad
man climbed over the sill, levelling toward them the long barrel of a
pistol. Behind him, three more scrambled up and, similarly armed and
similarly threatening, stood in a sinister row against the wall.

“Hold up your hands, good masters,” ordered the first one, with an easy
insolence that had almost the air of official authority. “You are dead
men otherwise, so you may as well obey!”

The three guests did as they were told instantly, the doctor sputtering
with rage and threatening the robbers with dire punishment. But
Stephen’s hands did not move.

“Quick, sir,” commanded the robber. “Have you no regard for your life?”

“I have,” replied Stephen quietly, “but I have a greater regard for the
people’s money that has been entrusted to my care. Were it my own, I
admit that I might give it up to avoid bloodshed, but as it is—”

There was a burst of flame from the robber’s pistol and a loud report.
The ball cut through Stephen’s coat sleeve and grazed his arm so that
the warm blood came trickling down into his hand.

“Now will you give up the money?” cried the thief as Stephen reeled and
caught at the back of the chair.

“No!” was his defiant answer. His only weapon was the ebony cane that
was always near his hand, but with this upraised, he advanced upon his
enemy. The masked robber lifted his pistol again.

“Come, men,” he was saying.

“Bang,” came a deafening crash from beyond the door. Had a cannon been
discharged within the house it could not have sounded louder. The
thieves drew back and looked at each other dismayed.

“Bang,” came a second explosion more terrific than the first. It shook
the walls of the whole dwelling and was followed by the tinkle of
breaking glass.

“It is the town watch!” cried one of the robbers.

Out through the window they plunged, stumbling and jostling and falling
over one another in their haste to escape. Doctor Thorndyke sprang
forward in pursuit unarmed as he was, the man from Salem was about to
follow, but Stephen held up his hand.

“Let them go for the moment,” he said, “should they turn upon you in the
garden you were surely a dead man. I will have my servant carry the
alarm to the village and call out the town watch.” He sank into the big
chair and his friends hastened to support his bleeding arm.

“Open the door,” Stephen directed weakly. “Let us see to whom we owe our
rescue. I am well-nigh certain that it was not the watch.”

It was Doctor Thorndyke who did his bidding, threw open the door and
started back in amazement at what he saw. Upon the threshold stood a
dainty little maiden with golden hair and neat, white frilled apron. In
either hand she held a great, smoking, horse-pistol.

“Clotilde!” cried Stephen. “Where, in Heaven’s name, got you such
weapons?”

“They were Sergeant Branderby’s,” she replied simply. “There seemed
naught else to do, so it occurred to me to climb up and see if by
chance, they were still loaded. I regret that I broke a window and blew
two great holes in the frame.”

“You are a brave lass,” exclaimed Doctor Thorndyke. Stephen put out his
unwounded arm and drew her to him.

“Child, child,” he said, “the pistols might have burst and killed you
where you stood!”

“That were no matter,” maintained the little girl stoutly, “so only you
and the public money were safe. Oh, oh, you are hurt!”

“It is nothing,” Stephen assured her, although his face was growing
whiter every moment. “Here,” he continued, turning to the others, “is a
generous enemy. Although she is a prisoner of war and an exile from her
own land, still she risks her life to preserve us from our foes. What
say you to such a maid of France?”

“I say that her banishment should be at an end,” said the man who stood
nearest, “and that she should be given, with all honour, a safe-conduct
back to her own country.”

Stephen had been fumbling in his pocket and now drew forth a key.

“Unlock yonder cupboard, Clotilde,” he said, “and bring me the velvet
case that you will find therein.”

When the box was set upon the table before him, he opened it and showed
the diamond star that, on great occasions, he wore pinned to his coat.
He took it up and awkwardly, with his one hand, fastened it to
Clotilde’s dress.

“The gift of the French King,” he said, “finds its true place over a
brave French heart!”

The three men bowed to the little girl who stood in awed and bewildered
silence.

“Clotilde, my child,” went on Stephen, his voice growing suddenly
strangely faint, “will you accept what this gentleman offers and can
give you, a safe-conduct with Mère Jeanne back to your own country?”

“No, no,” she cried, finding her voice at last. “I do not wish to go. I
want to stay here, with you, always!”

And springing forward she was just in time to fling her supporting arms
about him as he fell back, unconscious, in his chair.



                              CHAPTER XII

                       THE BREAKING OF THE STORM


During Stephen’s illness that followed, it was Mother Jeanne’s devoted
nursing that brought him back to health and her hard, brown, skilful
hands that tended him with untiring faithfulness. Illness was no new
thing to Stephen Sheffield, but this long healing of an ugly wound was
hard for him to bear when so much was passing in the world outside and
the problems of the Colonies growing graver every day.

“I will tell you nothing,” Doctor Thorndyke would say gruffly when
Stephen, as soon as the Doctor appeared in the doorway, would begin to
beg for news. “You fret yourself into a fever whenever I relate of some
new tom-foolery wrought by King George the Third and his bat-blind
ministers. Therefore I will say no more, since my first duty to my
country is to make Master Stephen Sheffield well again.”

But as soon as Doctor Thorndyke was gone, Clotilde would steal to
Stephen’s bedside and recount all the news of the day that she had
gathered from Miles Atherton, for she knew, better than did the gruff
Doctor, that it is wiser to tell a sick person the truth than to let him
fret for the want of it. She was his constant and cheering companion
through this time, since she was nearly as good a nurse as Mother Jeanne
and quite as devoted a one.

It was upon her strong young shoulder that he leaned that first morning
when he walked downstairs and out into the fresh air. He sat for a long
time on the bench in the Queen’s Garden, feeling the sun warm upon him
and watching the slow shadow of the sundial creep toward the hour.

“Do you see that?” he said to Clotilde, pointing to the steadily
lengthening shadow that stretched its dark finger across the dial. “You
can as easily stop the movement of that shadow as you can hold back the
disaster that threatens these Colonies. Yet many people think that they
can accomplish both the one and the other by the simple device of
shutting their eyes!”

As he grew stronger and once more took up his burden of public affairs,
it was Clotilde who sat by his side, wrote the letters that his wounded
arm still made impossible, ran his errands and delivered his orders. She
had been an apt pupil at the village school and, now that she was
growing toward womanhood, was quite capable of becoming a clever and
ready secretary. She and Stephen grew very close to each other during
his illness and their labours together afterward, and finally became far
more like father and daughter than like wealthy patron and humble French
orphan girl.

People of the town began to speak of her quite as often by the name of
Clotilde Sheffield as Clotilde Lamotte. What her real name was, remained
a never-solved mystery, for, although Stephen made many inquiries, no
clue was ever found as to who her parents might have been. Mother Jeanne
had always declared that the girl came of people of higher station than
herself, a truth that every one began to realise as Clotilde grew older.
In spite of her having lived in New England since before she could talk,
there was still retained in her speech and her deft, quick ways, a faint
flavour of the well-born Frenchwoman. Passionately as the girl loved her
old peasant foster-mother, it became more evident every year that the
birth and breeding of the two were not the same.

That she was becoming also a great comfort to Stephen Sheffield was very
plain to all who knew them. Without her, the big house would have seemed
empty indeed to him, although lonely such a man as he could never really
be. Friends, servants, acquaintances, all who came near him must love
him. Even now, when his hair had grown nearly white and his shoulders
were bowed with heavy cares, there was something about the eagerness of
his clear, blue eyes and the boyishness of his slow, sweet, friendly
smile that made all hearts turn to him. Mother Jeanne would have gladly
laid down her life for his sake and so, as she had already proved, would
Clotilde. He was reaping now the reward of his kindness to the homeless
Acadian woman and her charge, for he had the older woman’s faithful
service and Clotilde’s love, reverence and companionship. Friends who
had grieved much over his never having married, felt now that they need
be concerned no more, since Clotilde was as devoted to him and he to her
as though she had been a child of his own.

In spite of his being unable to resume his long journeys from Colony to
Colony, his share in the public affairs was still very great. Many grave
men of high importance came to consult with him, and every day, it
seemed, messengers arrived with packets of papers or great sealed
official letters that must be delivered in all haste to Master
Sheffield. While the answers were being made ready, the men would sit
before the kitchen fire, refreshing themselves with Mother Jeanne’s
substantial good cheer and giving, in return, news of what was going on
in the world outside Hopewell.

Clotilde, when her services as scribe were not needed in the study,
loved to stand by and listen to the strangers’ talk, of how such and
such a man had been put in jail for refusing the King’s officers the
right to search his house for smuggled goods, or of how such and such a
ship had been turned about and sent back to England because the
Americans would not pay the tax on her cargo of tea. With one conclusion
the tale invariably ended, no matter who it was that spoke to the little
audience gathered in the kitchen.

“If I were the King,” the men would always say, or “if I were William
Pitt,” or “if I were Governor of Massachusetts, I would do such—or such
a thing and all would be well.”

Once Stephen interrupted an address of this kind, when he came to the
kitchen door himself, the completed letter in his hand.

“There is much you can do in your own person, David Thurston,” he said
quietly. “This is a time when every man must act for the public good
without waiting until he become Governor or Prime Minister or King
George the Third.”

“God bless you, Master Sheffield, and I will strive to do as you say,”
the man replied. He went away laughing, but with a new determination in
his rugged face.

A scarlet-uniformed soldier, bringing a letter from the Governor, sat
upon the settle one day drinking gratefully, after his long ride, a
great mug of home-brewed cider. He heard Clotilde speaking in French
with Mère Jeanne and looked round at her in surprise.

“How come you to speak that tongue as though you were born to it?” he
asked. “There are not many of you New Englanders who have learned
French.”

“We are Acadians,” Clotilde told him, “and still cling to our own
speech, although it is many years now since the brave English soldiers
drove a harmless people from their homes.”

“Ay,” answered the soldier without anger at her words, “that is a
blunder for which England must answer some day. Wrong she did then,
perhaps even greater wrong she is doing now, so that there has come
between the New Country and the Old so wide a breach, I fear, that it
will never be healed. Belike they will pour into the gulph a few
thousands of us who wear the King’s red coat and that may end the
quarrel and it may not. Time will tell—and that right soon.”

Clotilde watched him ride away, cantering through the sunshine and
dappled shade of the long, tree-bordered avenue, with a great rattling
of spurs and creaking of saddle-leather. In spite of his words, and
although both were thinking of the future, neither he nor she had the
faintest dream of the strange circumstances under which they were to
meet again.

Other news she used to hear, too, from Miles Atherton, who was a member
of the Hopewell company of minute-men that drilled every morning in the
town square. He was nearly a man now, still sturdy and square and slow
of speech, but bearing the same stout heart as did his grandfather, the
Hugh Atherton who dared to speak out for justice in the famous witch
panic. Often, when he came of an evening, Stephen would call him into
the study to question him as to how people thought and felt in the
village, and how many had joined the band of minute-men. More often,
when there was distinguished company with the master of the house and
Clotilde had finished tending and serving the guests, she and Miles
would walk in the garden, their tongues still busy with talk of the King
and his ministers and the shameful tax on tea. They were only like all
the rest of New England, where people could think and talk of but little
now save the growing cloud that hung over the Colonies.

There were no longer those brilliant, festive gatherings in Stephen’s
dining hall, or laughing, gorgeously dressed companies grouped about
Master Simon’s wide fireplace in the drawing-room. Instead, grave-faced
men would sit late into the night around the table in Stephen’s study,
sit so long indeed that more than once Clotilde, slipping down to begin
her work in the first faint light of dawn, had found them still in their
places, the table covered with guttering candles and strewn with papers,
the faces of all looking white and weary and worn. On one such occasion
Stephen heard her pass the door and called her in to find some papers
that he had been unable to get together himself. In spite of the long
discussion, the talk was still going on as she stood searching in the
carved press.

“I tell thee, friend,” a stout grey-coated stranger was saying, “England
forgets that for long years she has sent the freedom-lovers to America
to be rid of them and has granted them many liberties as a bribe to them
to stay there. Now, in the third and fourth generation, the Mother
Country seeks to take back these privileges and to make us law-ridden
and yoke-bound like her own Englishmen, who have stopped at home. It is
a mistake that will cost the King dear.”

“Yea,” ejaculated a man beside him whose black clothes indicated that he
was a minister. “They sowed the wind, they will reap the whirlwind!” The
black-clad gentleman, it seemed, was on the point of delivering a long
sermon upon this text had not Master Sheffield, taking up the papers
that Clotilde gave him, rather adroitly cut the dissertation short, at
which the stout Quaker chuckled behind his hand.

Later in the morning Clotilde stood by Stephen in the porch watching the
broad back and wide grey hat of the stout visitor as he and his plump,
ambling white horse disappeared down the avenue.

“Look well at that man, Clotilde,” said Stephen, “he is a Quaker and
would, in Master Simon’s time have been whipped and stoned out of
Massachusetts. Now we are proud that we have speech with him and that he
has come all the long way from Pennsylvania to consult with us. We
Puritans have learned a little, a very little, in a hundred years.”

Clotilde sighed heavily and turned to go in. It seemed to her that she
cared little to hear of such progress when all the time her dear Master
Sheffield was growing thinner and whiter and that terrible war was
coming ever nearer. She felt as she often did when the clouds of a
summer thunderstorm were hanging lower and lower above the house, when
the light was of a weird unearthly brightness and the air so
terrifyingly still that, frightened as she was, she almost prayed for
the storm to break.

The Spring passed and the summer, while the rumblings and threatenings
of war still sounded loud. Then, through the autumn and winter there was
a lull, people began to look more cheerful, to talk of the possibility
of a peaceful settlement, of England’s understanding that the struggle
with the Colonies would be too long and bitter to be worth while. For
the work that Stephen had done toward bringing the provinces together,
those steady years of hopeful toil, had begun to bear fruit at last.
Committees of Correspondence had been formed, the Continental Congress
had met and the organisation of the Massachusetts minute-men had been
copied by similar bands all up and down the sea-board. The friends of
America in England, were pointing out to the headlong King George the
Third that he was facing a nation with an army, instead of a handful of
helpless rebels. So, for the winter at least, the King paused. And then
came Spring again.

It was an evening in April after a clear warm day, full of the sweet
scent of growing things. A dash of rain had pattered over the garden, to
be followed, just at sunset, by long, level shafts of light that shone
on fresh green grass and budding shrubs and trees. A robin, in the hedge
of the Queen’s Garden, was singing so loudly that Clotilde came to the
great open door to listen. The willow trees beyond the garden were
yellow with young leaves and the line of daffodils by the gate had
bloomed in a nodding row. Then suddenly as she stood there, the robin’s
little voice was drowned by a wild, fierce jangling of bells in the
village, and a tall red tongue of flame leaped up from behind the houses
on the hill. A thudding of hoof-beats came madly down the lane and a man
leaped from his horse and ran in through the white gate, leaving his
animal standing with the bridle trailing over its head. With hurried
feet he came up the path and mounted the stone steps two at a time.

“A letter for Master Sheffield,” he said, “and news, great news! The
British troops and the minute-men had a running fight from Concord to
Lexington and back again. The Americans were too much for the redcoats
and the bells are pealing forth the tidings of our first victory. The
people yonder in the town are burning the tavern sign of the ‘King’s
Arms.’ The war has begun!”

With his letter in his hand he vanished into Stephen’s study, the door
closing behind him.

“So this is the war at last!” thought Clotilde.

Her knees began suddenly to shake under her and she sat down upon the
step since she could no longer stand. It had begun, and where would it
end? Would it bring them liberty or only destruction? Would the death
and ruin that were bound to come be kept back, or would the tide rise
nearer and nearer, to sweep over dear Master Sheffield and Mother
Jeanne, over Miles Atherton and herself? Would it roll its devastating
way across Master Simon’s garden blooming so bright and fair in the last
glories of the April sunshine?

Later she heard fuller tidings, for Miles came up from the town and,
sitting on the steps beside her, gave an account of the battle in more
glowing and excited words than she had ever thought to hear from his
lips. The hero of the day, it seemed, was one Paul Revere, that
mild-faced silversmith who had come only last October to set in place
the silver knocker upon Stephen Sheffield’s front door. At his warning,
as he galloped all night across the countryside, so Miles said, the
minute-men had come tumbling out in an excited throng, half dressed but
wholly ready for the work in hand. When the sun rose, the British
soldiers had found themselves marching down what seemed to be a lane of
unseen enemies whom they could not see to resist, so that the march
became a run and the run a rout. It was a damp, hot Spring day and the
King’s men, oppressed with their heavy, clumsy coats and high padded
hats, had been soon spent with heat and fatigue, and had staggered and
reeled as they ran finally into the arms of their waiting comrades at
Lexington.

“Poor men!” was Clotilde’s one thought, which she spoke aloud. “Poor,
brave men!”

“What?” exclaimed Miles. “Poor men? Why, Clotilde, you are not sorry for
them? They were Britishers!”

“I do not mean to be sorry for them, but I am,” she answered. “They did
their best and it was not really their quarrel.”

“And to-morrow,” concluded Miles excitedly, “we are all to turn out, the
fighting-men all over New England, and march down to Boston to lay siege
to the British Army. Oh, it will be a merry time!”

“Merry!” cried out Clotilde, “you call it merry when you may have to
slay men and may never, never come back again yourself?”

“And if I should never come back,” said Miles, half laughing, half
sober, “would you be sorry, Clotilde?”

“Sorry?” She looked up at him, at dear, bright-eyed, stout-hearted Miles
with whom she had played, by whom she had been befriended ever since she
was big enough to play at all. At the thought of his never coming back,
a gush of tears rose to her eyes and ran unchecked down her cheeks. She
sprang up without speaking further and ran into the house.

The study door stood open so that within she could see Stephen sitting
in his big chair with his grey head bowed upon his hands. He looked, as
he sat there, pathetically weary and worn. She slipped into the room,
and dropped upon her knees beside his chair and laid her hand upon his.

“Dear Master Sheffield,” she said, “are you so grieved that the war has
come at last?”

“Ay, grieved I am,” he answered slowly as he put his arm about her,
“yet, in a measure, I am lighter of heart, now that the thing that we
have so long dreaded has finally come upon us. But, dear Clotilde, while
I would give all I have, house, lands, life itself, for the winning of
this struggle, yet I thank a kind Heaven that the war has found me old
and outworn, unable to go forth and slay my fellow men.”



                              CHAPTER XIII

                         LIGHTING THE FIREBRAND


Forth to the war marched the men of New England, lighthearted every one
of them and thinking, as did Miles, that the siege of Boston was to be a
merry affair.

“We will be back in three months,” they said to their wives as they bade
them good-bye. “We will drive those redcoats into the sea and convince
King George of what stuff we really are made. Then it will all be over.”

So down the roads came pouring a motley stream of volunteers, clad in
hunting shirts and homespun, armed, for the most part, with the
strangest weapons, flintlock muskets a hundred years old, clumsy,
ancient blunderbusses and homemade pikes. All of the would-be soldiers
knew how to shoot, but very few, how to march or drill; and nearly every
one of them desired to be an officer. Who was to be found who could
change this earnest-hearted but many-minded rabble into an army? That
was the question on everybody’s tongue.

To the women of New England, however, the war seemed a greater and a
graver thing, for it is easier to feel misgiving when you sit at home
alone. What mattered to any one of them how short the struggle was if
the goodman of that particular house never came home again? Yet there
was little time for brooding since, if the war was to go on, the women
must do their part. The army must somehow be given clothes to wear and
food to eat, and out of the households of America must all such garments
and provisions come. Down from the garrets were brought the big
spinning-wheels that had long been laid away, and loud was their song as
they began to whirr like swarming bees; the looms creaked, the scissors
snipped, needles flew in and out and the ovens glowed all day long, for
every one who was not at the war was toiling for the army.

Among all these busy ones, Clotilde and Mother Jeanne and the company of
servants in the big house did their full share. Stephen, meanwhile,
prowled up and down the narrow bounds of the garden and frowned and
shook his head over the letters that came to him from Philadelphia,
where the Congress was sitting. Such endless arguments, disagreements
and downright quarrels were occupying them while the precious days
passed! The lesson of acting together seemed a hard one for the Colonies
to learn.

“If you could but be here!” was the burden of nearly every letter that
came, although they who wrote and he who read both knew that such a
thing was impossible. The long perilous journey to Philadelphia was
utterly out of the question for a man of advancing years and such frail
health as Stephen’s. Gladly would he have taken all risks had there been
any hope, even in his own mind, that he could reach Pennsylvania with
strength enough left to be of any use. Not even he could think so,
however.

Mother Jeanne, provoked out of her usual respectful silence, observed
grimly, when she heard the journey suggested:

“Monsieur must believe that a dead man would be a welcome addition to
that great assembly.”

One journey, however, he did take and Clotilde with him, for which,
although he was ill afterwards, neither of them could ever be made to
express regret. It was early in July that they travelled up to Cambridge
to see the review of troops before the army’s new leader, Colonel George
Washington, out of Virginia. After the review was over and Clotilde had
gazed her fill at the marching soldiers who were beginning at last, in
form and discipline to resemble an army, and at the tall splendid figure
that had ridden up and down the lines, she was amazed to see the General
turn, come toward them and dismount a few paces off Stephen, leaning on
his cane, had stepped forward to render his duty to the
Commander-in-Chief, but General Washington was too quick for him, and
advanced to take his hand before he could speak.

“I came to offer my respects to you, not to receive yours,” said he, “to
salute the man who, above all others, has made possible what we see
to-day.”

“No, no,” exclaimed Stephen, “there is no credit due to a man who has
been able to accomplish as little as I.”

“It is through your unwearying toil,” insisted the General, “through
your preaching of the need of union up and down the highways and byways
of America, that this thing has come to pass. To-day an obscure soldier
of Virginia takes command of an army where men of his own State, of
Pennsylvania and of Maryland are ready to fight side by side with the
minute-man of New England. The honour of this achievement, sir, is all
yours!”

He drew his shining sword and held it up in grave salute to this great
citizen of Massachusetts who stood there in his homespun coat under the
shade of the wide elm tree. Out came the swords of all the officers of
the General’s staff, while from the men of the army rolled up so great a
shout that it might have been heard across the river in beleaguered
Boston. There was something like tears in Stephen’s bright eyes as he
looked steadily into the grave blue-grey ones of Washington and spoke
his answer.

“Whatever small work I may have begun, sir,” he said simply, “I
surrender now into far more able hands, to be carried to a glorious
end.”

And raising his hat and holding it high above his head, he led the crowd
of bystanders in a lusty cheer for General Washington.

Clotilde, standing at his side, was trembling all over with joy and
excitement. She was so happy that her Master Sheffield had received the
tribute that was so justly due him, she longed so to be a man and able
to fight in the splendid cause of liberty. She saw Miles Atherton’s
brown face among the lesser officers and flashed him a bright look of
admiration and delighted envy. Alas, her share of the struggle must be
fought out beside the spinning-wheel and the loom and the blazing
kitchen hearth!

She had no chance to speak to Miles, for presently he and his men were
told off in columns and marched away toward Boston. The music of the
drum and the high, thin fife playing Yankee Doodle died in the distance
and there was left only the sound of thudding feet, scuffling in a
choking cloud of dust. She longed to watch the last soldier out of
sight, but Stephen led her away to the waiting coach.

It was an exciting journey back to Hopewell, through the villages where
flags were flying and drums beating and where the people came running
out to cheer Master Sheffield as he went by; through stretches of dark
forest where the rough roads threw them about in the big, clumsy coach
and where there might be King’s soldiers lurking in every thicket.
Although Stephen assured her that all the redcoats were shut up in
Boston, Clotilde rather hoped than dreaded that the little party might
be attacked and nobly rescued, perhaps, by Miles Atherton and the brave
men of the Hopewell company. But no such thrilling adventure occurred
and the journey was accomplished in safety.

As they were driving through the town next to Hopewell, late in the
evening, they passed a huge fire that was burning before the gates of a
stately brick house set far back from the road.

“Oh, look, look,” cried Clotilde, “and oh, what a dreadful smell!”

Surely it was a fearful odour that rose from the bonfire fed by a score
of hurrying black figures. Baskets full of evil-smelling sulphur were
being emptied into the flames so that clouds of suffocating smoke rolled
toward the house and penetrated the doors and windows, tightly closed as
they were.

[Illustration: He drew his shining sword and held it up.]

“That is the abode of Andrew Shadwell,” Stephen told her. “He is a Tory
and a sympathiser with the English, so, rich and influential as he is,
his fellow townsmen are visiting him with dire punishment.”

Cries of “Blow up the fire!” “Smoke him out, the traitorous Loyalist!”
were going up as the coach rumbled past, Clotilde burying her small nose
in her kerchief as she went by.

“No one need tell me that the spirit of the intolerant old Puritans is
quite perished from the earth,” laughed Stephen, as they finally passed
the place and were able to breathe again. “Andrew Shadwell must be a
sorry man this night that he voiced his opinions so loudly.”

There began, after this journey, the endless, breathless waiting while
Boston held out in spite of the long siege and while all watched
patiently for the time when the British should be starved into
surrender. Now and then, bodies of the King’s troops broke through the
circle of besiegers and made desperate sallies into the surrounding
country for food and supplies, of which the city began to be sadly in
want. Or sometimes an English ship would land a handful of redcoats here
or there upon the coast, who would make a dash through a town or two,
burn a few houses and hurry back to the safety of their vessel.
Otherwise, there was little news or excitement through the long summer,
and the hum of the spinning-wheels and the thump, thump of the busy
looms sounded peacefully from every open cottage door.

But the peace of Hopewell was not to remain unbroken. There was one
night when October had come, when the corn and wheat and oats had been
gathered in, when the yellow pumpkins and rosy apples were ready for
harvesting, that Clotilde became aware of a commotion in the fields
beyond their garden. There were moving lights, voices and the sound of
tramping feet in the hard yellow stubble. A few minutes later, Miles
Atherton, thinner and browner for his months of soldier’s service, but
the same earnest-eyed, little-speaking Miles, came in at the wide-open
door.

“I must speak with Master Sheffield,” he said briefly to Clotilde,
although his face shone with excitement.

“Come in, lad,” said Stephen, who was standing by the study door. “What
can it be that brings you here? I see by your face that it is something
unusual that is on foot.”

“It is,” replied Miles in troubled tones. “There is a company of
redcoats who have slipped out of Boston and have so far eluded us who
were sent out to capture them. They have never before ventured so far as
this, but they are growing desperate in the city and they know that the
whole countryside, up this way, is full of well-stored barns from the
abundant harvest. This raid is made by a troop of soldiers greater in
number than we had at first thought, so we have sent for reinforcements
and are to make a stand near Hopewell and hold them until help comes.”

“Yes, yes,” said Stephen quickly and a little impatiently, for this
amount of information from Miles came very slowly. “I understand. And
where is the fight to be?”

“Why,” Miles went on, his voice becoming more anxious and worried, “we
could make our stand to the south of your grounds here, but the
situation is not good and we would run the risk of losing all, since we
are greatly outnumbered. Master Sheffield, you must order out your coach
and come with us.”

“But why?” questioned Stephen in surprise, and “Why, why?” gasped
Clotilde.

“Because there is great danger,” cried Miles, “great danger to you all
in biding here. We fear that one purpose of this raid is to accomplish
Master Sheffield’s arrest. You are spoken of among the English as one of
the leaders of the rebellion, and therefore we are certain that it is
the order for your capture that has brought the redcoats so far. Could
we make a stand here and protect you, most surely we would, but the
country is too open and the way too clear. We would, every one of us,
willingly give our lives to save you, but common sense tells plainly
that a battle here would be to no purpose and you would be taken in the
end. So do make haste, the men are hot upon our heels.”

“Nonsense,” exclaimed Stephen. “There is no ghost of danger. I have,
indeed, had letters from the British authorities that lead me to believe
that they love me not, but I am not so great a man for them to take such
trouble to accomplish my capture. Come, Clotilde, tell this foolish lad
that his friendship for us has made him over anxious.”

But Clotilde, for once, forsook his side and joined her voice to Miles’
arguments. That stout soldier, after laying forth his plan to march
through Hopewell and the next village and make a stand on North Hill, a
spot so favourable that they could be certain of holding fast until help
arrived, firmly maintained that he would not stir one step without
Master Sheffield and neither would his men.

“Well, well,” sighed Stephen at last, “an old man must give in to
importunate children. To give battle here would, as I see, merely waste
lives that the country needs and might also lead to the slaying of
innocent towns-folk and the burning of houses. So, if you will not go on
without me, I must needs come too. Clotilde, go tell Jason to order out
the coach.”

Preparations were so hurried that there was no time for useless
bewailing. Some of the silver was hidden, some of the linen locked away,
but nothing of real service could be accomplished. As Clotilde ran
through the hall, pulling her cloak about her, she saw that the great
Bible had been brought out of the study and was lying on the table. Mère
Jeanne had felt that it would be wicked to leave it behind, but had been
obliged in the end to put it down hastily, as it was too heavy a burden
to carry far. The breeze from the open door had fluttered over the pages
so that, as Clotilde stopped to blow out the last of the candles burning
upon the table, she saw staring up from the open page the dark
terrifying face that stood to her for Jeremiah Macrae.

“Oh, no,” she cried aloud in terror, as though his words had actually
sounded in her ears. “Not that! Not that!” And she ran out swiftly,
leaving the book still open on the table.

Mother Jeanne and one or two of the older servants came with them, the
rest sought shelter in the village, so that the house was left
unprotected and all alone. Clotilde, looking back through the coach
window, could see the kitchen firelight still shining through the
vine-hung casement and could feel her hot tears flowing at the thought
of rude hands battering at the door of that beloved dwelling and clumsy
feet trampling the flowers that still bloomed bravely in the garden.
Then, as a turn in the road hid the house from sight, she laid her head
against Mother Jeanne’s shoulder and wept bitterly.

She seemed to remember afterward only brief snatches of that strange
night’s ride, first their passing through the town of Hopewell and
Stephen’s leaning from the coach window to bid the people stay quiet in
their houses and leave the fighting to be done by Captain Atherton’s
soldiers. Then, after bumping down the road at a hurried gallop, they
drove through the next town where, before a gate, Andrew Shadwell sat on
a great black horse.

“Ha, Stephen Sheffield,” he called, “it was you who rode by me in your
pride some months ago, but now, when you pass again, you are fleeing
from your enemies and my friends. In a week you will be begging me to
intercede for you with the King’s officers. Your time is over, man!”

The last words could scarcely be heard as the big coach rattled down the
road, while Stephen smiled grimly and made no reply. Mother Jeanne,
between hysterical sobs, was crying out in voluble French that the ride
would kill Monsieur Sheffield and that they might as well have remained
at home to be murdered comfortably in their beds. At this Clotilde sat
up, dried her eyes and fell to comforting her, that Stephen might have,
at least, some peace and quiet on this sad journey. The stars began to
show in a misty sky and, by the pale light she could see that they were
slowly mounting a long, steep hill. Here they waited for a time until
the soldiers, who had dropped behind, could catch up with them. Miles
came to the coach window to tell them that this was the point he had
chosen to make his stand and that they were to drive on for three miles
to a little inn that would give them shelter.

“Should there be danger, I will send a messenger to bid you flee
farther,” he said, “but for that, I am sure, there will be no need. The
enemy is pushing on, hot foot, to capture you and us, and will fall
headlong into our hands.”

He dropped behind once more, and the big coach rumbled and jolted on
into the dark. Up the long hill it crawled, then paused again to rest
the horses for a moment on the summit before it went over the crest and
plunged into the sheltered valley beyond. Looking back, Clotilde thought
she could see a far, red glow in the sky that faded even as she watched,
and died down so quickly that she did not speak of it. After that things
seemed to become confused in the darkness, it seemed only a moment
before they arrived at the inn, where the sleepy, blinking landlord came
out to lead them inside. They heard a sound of far-off firing as they
dismounted from the coach.

Inside, with the fire rebuilt and the settles pulled forward to the
blaze, she and Mère Jeanne sat facing Stephen and waited, so it seemed,
for something like a hundred years. Although she thought that it would
be wicked to sleep when they were in such trouble and Miles in such
grave danger, still she dozed against Mother Jeanne’s shoulder, woke and
fell asleep again, this time so soundly that she never knew when they
laid her down, covered her with a cloak and let her slumber quietly the
whole night through. She sat up with a start, however, when, just as day
broke, there was a loud knocking at the door and Miles burst in, ruddy,
excited and triumphant.

“The victory is ours!” he cried. “We held them stoutly until the other
troops came up to help us, and the whole band of King George’s men had
to surrender. There are six English officers prisoners, looking as
though they would rather stab themselves than be taken by a handful of
backwoods patriots and there are, I know not how many German privates,
hired by King George to fight his rebels for him.”

“And so you have them all?” said Stephen; “that is indeed well done!”

“There was one officer that escaped,” admitted Miles, “for he alone
would not surrender, and with dare-devil courage broke through the
troops behind him, on his big grey horse and got clean away. But we have
all the rest and our losses are most miraculously few.”

“Did they—did they stop to do harm to our dwelling?” inquired Clotilde
falteringly, almost afraid to learn the truth.

“That I do not know,” Miles answered, “although I have asked many times.
The officers will not tell and the Hessians cannot, since they speak no
English. Poor things, they seem to have small objection to being
prisoners.”

It was full daylight when they set out on their homeward journey, a
dull, raw day, threatening rain. Stephen, leaning back among the
cushions of the coach, slept at last, but looking so white and spent
that Clotilde and Mère Jeanne gazed at each other in anxious dismay. The
way seemed very long, over the hill, past their meeting-place with
Andrew Shadwell and out into the open country again. The townspeople
came out in such throngs to stare at the Hessian prisoners, who were
marching behind, that progress was hampered and the coach, finally
drawing away from the soldiers, went forward alone.

They were passing a narrow crossroad, Stephen asleep, Mother Jeanne
nodding and Clotilde staring idly through the window, when she was
suddenly startled by the thunder of flying hoofs. A man mounted upon a
tall grey horse went by at a headlong gallop, passing so near that the
girl could see his face plainly, even to the shape of his square jaw
and, almost, the colour of his eyes. Beneath his flying cloak she caught
a glimpse of scarlet uniform.

“It must be the officer who would not surrender,” she cried softly.
“Perhaps Andrew Shadwell hid him but was afraid to shelter him longer.
Oh, I wonder if he will escape in the end.”

There was no one to stop him now, except old black Jason on the box, who
seemed to have no desire for such a task, so the man swept by unhindered
and soon dwindled to a flying speck far off down the road.

It was strange how closely she had seen his face, and stranger still the
feeling she had that it was somehow familiar. In vain she searched her
memory, she could think of no place nor time when she could have seen
such a man before. She pondered much over this curious thought of hers
and only forgot it when the big coach rolled into the streets of
Hopewell.

People came running out of their houses to stop the horses, peep inside
and see if their well-loved Master Sheffield was really safe. There was
a queer, subdued look upon all the friendly faces, a look speaking of
news too grievous to tell. It frightened Clotilde and made her wish that
the coach would hurry and bring them safely home. The same feeling,
also, seemed to have seized old Jason on the box, for, instead of going
round by the tree-bordered avenue, he took the nearest way, rattled down
the lane at a great pace and drew up with a jerk before the little gate.

Clotilde opened the door and got out stiffly. She looked before her,
then rubbed her eyes and looked again with a sickening feeling of having
come unexpectedly upon a place that she had never seen before. This
great open space inside the gate was surely not the place where they
lived! But still, there was the little white gate, and there across the
field was Samuel Skerry’s cottage where she and Mother Jeanne had once
dwelt.

“We have come down the wrong street,” she cried to Jason on the box, but
he, in silence, only shook his head, the tears running down his black
wrinkled face. The real truth began to dawn upon her, very slowly.

Stephen Sheffield stepped out of the coach and, leaning on her arm, made
his way, without speaking, through the gate and across what had once
been the garden. Only a tall stone chimney, standing upright in the
midst of a heap of smoking embers, showed where the great white house
had stood. The fire that had consumed it had swept across the lawns,
burning flowers and hedges and the dry, frost-killed grass. Of Master
Simon’s garden there was nothing left save the littered gravel paths,
the blackened linden tree and the stone-based sundial upon which the
watery autumn sunlight was faintly marking the hour of noon.



                              CHAPTER XIV

                           COUSIN BETSEY ANNE


Every door in Hopewell flew open wide to offer shelter to Master
Sheffield now that he was homeless, but it was Samuel Skerry’s little
cottage that, in the end, became his abode. It had been rebuilt three
years before, for use when the great house was over-filled with guests,
and it was now warm, cosy and comfortable, although a trifle narrow in
its limits.

“A man had best abide under his own roof,” Stephen had said when Mother
Jeanne pointed out to him the discomforts of living through the winter
in so small a place. So there they dwelt, Stephen, Clotilde, Mère Jeanne
and black Jason, while the other servants were lodged in the village.

Little by little, they learned the story of how the house and garden had
been destroyed. It was plain that the soldiers had acted upon
well-understood orders for they had stopped but a few moments, had given
no time to robbery or pillage but, once convinced that Stephen was not
there, had set fire to the house and stayed only to see that it was well
ablaze. They had seemed to know, also, that the garden was the love and
pride of its owner, for they had piled straw among the flowerbeds and
about the hedges and trees, had laid the torch to this inflammable fuel
and then had marched on again, leaving the whole place a mass of
drifting smoke and evil, licking flames. Only the memory of Stephen’s
stern command as he drove through the town had kept the people of
Hopewell from falling upon the destroyers and giving them battle there
in the streets.

“As it was, we could only turn our energy to the saving of your gear,”
said one of the narrators, a lean old man who lived, in abject poverty,
at the outskirts of the village and who, by Stephen’s charity alone, was
kept from starving. “We rescued what we could, and with a right good
will, but we would rather have been dealing out death to those rascally
heathen-speaking soldiers of King George.”

“And if you had,” commented Stephen, “there would have been fifty houses
burned instead of one, and many a goodwife to-day mourning the loss of
her husband or her son, rather than one man grieving for his house and
garden.”

“I came so quickly when I saw the smoke,” resumed the old fellow, “that
not all of the soldiers were yet gone. One company, it seemed, had
marched behind the rest and only came up when the house was all ablaze.
The young officer who led them seemed sorely angered at what the
Hessians had done; I heard him say hotly to his superior in command,

“‘Such wanton destruction is a sin and a shame, sir.’

“I verily believe he would have set his own men to putting out the fire
had they not been commanded to go forward at once. I was made bold by
seeing that there was one kind heart amongst them and called after,
‘Never fear, sir, we will care for our good Master’s property,’ and he
turned and waved his hat to me as he galloped away. I went up to look at
the prisoners when they were marched into Hopewell next day, but he was
not with them. I thank Heaven that he was the single one that escaped.”

“You did well,” said Stephen. “I hear from all sides how much you and
your comrades saved.”

“There is not a house in Hopewell,” replied the man, “that has not
within it somewhat that belongs to you, linen, portraits, silver—all
that we could carry we bore away. I sought to save your great Bible
which lay just inside the door, but it was all in flames when I seized
it. I had only a glimpse of an open page and upon it a black figure with
outstretched arms, and then the whole crumbled to ashes.”

“So there is a fitting end to Jeremiah Macrae,” said Stephen, “one that
would have pleased the old Puritans most mightily. Now we need never
again think of that evil prophecy of his.”

“I saved something further,” went on the man, “for at my house I have—”

“Hush,” whispered Stephen, as Clotilde came up the path toward the
cottage door, her head drooping, her eyes upon the ground. “We will talk
of that matter no more. The little maid grieves so sorely over the loss
of the house and garden that I like not to speak of it before her. What
you have you must keep for a space, since here we have no room for aught
beside our immediate needs. So do you guard my rescued property until I
ask for it.”

So the old man went away, shaking his head sadly over the listless
greeting that Clotilde bestowed upon him when they met at the door. It
was true indeed that she thought of little else but Master Sheffield’s
loss and grieved so, that all the people of Hopewell who knew and loved
her looked after her in despair when she passed by.

“The maid is fair sick with her sorrow,” they said to each other. “One
would think she were of Master Simon’s own blood, so stricken is she.”

Although Clotilde was not of Master Simon’s race and kindred, she loved
his memory as dearly as though she were. There was not one story of the
staunch old Puritan and his brave children and grandchildren that she
had not heard Stephen tell a dozen times. And now to see perish that
precious work of Master Simon’s own hands, the garden that had bloomed
through four generations—it was seemingly a greater grief than she could
bear. Gone was the bed of blazing tulips that every year renewed the
memory of that first coming of the Indian ambassadors, gone were the
rows of herbs that had soothed and healed so many ills, burned to a few
blackened twigs was the huge hawthorn bush that Master Simon had grown
from a tiny slip brought from England. Roses, hollyhocks, lilies, fair
maids of France, all had their stories and all were dead. More than once
Clotilde had slipped out, in the dusk of the autumn twilight, laid her
cheek against the charred bark of the linden tree and sobbed out her
grief alone.

“It was all the fault of that wicked Scotch minister,” she burst out one
day to Stephen. “That his prophecy has been fulfilled and the garden
destroyed and even his likeness burned, makes me think that he was, as
people used to say, in league with the Devil!”

“No,” returned Stephen quietly, “he was a man trying to do good
according to his own lights and he spoke with shrewd good sense,
although perchance he knew it not. Such a person as Master Simon, who
dared to stand against narrow public opinion when he knew himself to be
right, who taught his children and his grandchildren to do the same, did
he run so little risk of bringing danger upon himself and upon that
which he left behind him? Master Simon loved freedom and justice, so do
all of us who are of his blood, so do the children of those bold
Puritans who lighted the fire of a new liberty upon our shores. It is
that same fire, my child, that has burned through four generations, and
has spread over our whole land. If, upon its way, it has scorched our
hearts, and has robbed us of what we loved, let us not cry out, but
rather blow the bellows and keep the flame bright so that our sacrifice
may not be in vain.”

Clotilde pondered his answer long and found it both wise and comforting.

Meanwhile the slow siege of Boston dragged on, and people began to say
that the war would be begun and ended in a contest between General Howe
and General Washington as to which one could wait the more patiently.
News leaked out that supplies were becoming woefully few in the city,
now that Washington had drawn his lines more firmly and no more bands of
marauding redcoats had been able to break through. As the cold weather
came on, the activity of the busy housewives was redoubled in the effort
to keep well supplied the shivering soldiers of the Continental Army.
Clotilde stood at her spinning-wheel, or sat all day at the loom that
had been left in Samuel Skerry’s workshop ever since the time of the
bold Puritan weaver who had built the house. Here she laboured from dawn
to dark, while Stephen, when he was not writing in his own tiny room,
would sit near her in the big armchair, sometimes reading to her to make
the toilsome hours pass more quickly. He himself was very busy in these
days, however, for many a messenger clattered up to the door, and many
important documents went in and out of the little house or were locked
away in the cupboard where Skerry had hidden his gold. Stephen had had
the little windows protected with iron crossbars and heavy locks put
upon both the doors, so that no pilfering fingers should break in to
steal the state secrets of the new country. There were many important
meetings in the room upstairs, while Clotilde sat alone below, whirring
her busy wheel, looking out through the little barred windows at the
falling snow, and dreaming of Master Simon’s garden when it was green
and fair. Now and then a scribbled letter from Miles would reach her,
but as the boy was sparing of written words, he gave her little news of
himself. The first real tidings of him she received when David Thurston
brought a letter for Stephen and stayed to consume, with great delight,
one of Mother Jeanne’s hot mutton pies.

“You can tell Master Sheffield when he comes in,” he said, for Stephen
was out and did not return while the man was there, “that David Thurston
has taken his advice and is doing his own part as a fighting man instead
of sitting by the fire telling of what he would do were he King George.
It is sometimes a weary and a hungry task, this siege of Boston, but all
of the Hopewell lads are doing their share bravely. Our young Miles
Atherton is a Captain now: heard you of the deed he did just before
Christmas?”

“No,” exclaimed Clotilde. “What was it?”

“He is, indeed, a wonder of daring,” Thurston answered, “for he ventured
into Boston in a huckster’s garb and brought forth his cousin, Betsey
Anne Temple, and her daughter. Lone women they were, the older one ill,
and both suffering much from the hardships of the siege. Miles has leave
to visit Hopewell soon, so he will perhaps tell you the tale of his
adventure himself, but, being so modest, he will not let you see how
bold a stroke it was.”

After the man had gone, Clotilde stood dreaming beside her wheel,
forgetting to wind the spindle or take up another roll of wool. She was
proud of brave Miles, proud that he should risk himself on such a
chivalrous errand, and a little envious still that he should do such
things and she must bide at home. She longed to see him and tell him how
well she thought he had done. It was not until she heard Stephen’s slow
footstep on the path outside that she remembered herself and her task,
and fell to whirling her wheel around as swiftly as though it had wings.

Some days later she heard the story from Miles himself, who came
whistling up the path to knock at the door of Master Sheffield’s new
abode. Stephen, sitting in the big armchair, rose to greet him cordially
and bade him take his place on the settle on the opposite side of the
fire. Clotilde was just coming in from the kitchen as Stephen was
saying:

“These are brave accounts that we hear of you and your gallant rescue of
your Cousin Betsey Anne. We are all proud of you, lad.”

The girl could not, at that moment, see Miles’ face, but she noticed
that his ears turned suddenly the colour of flame and she heard him
mutter,

“I would that people did not make so much of so small a thing!”

“Nay, but it was no small deed,” insisted Stephen, “and the risk was
really great, as we all know. There is no hope of success in your effort
to make light of what you did, the grateful tongue of your Cousin Betsey
drowns all you can say.”

“It is so,” answered the boy with a sigh. “Did you ever know a woman so
feeble of body, yet so untiring of speech? I sometimes think it is small
wonder that the British were so willing to let her pass.”

“For shame, Miles,” laughed Clotilde, coming at this moment round the
corner of Stephen’s great chair. “You do a gallant deed and then seek to
spoil it by such ungallant words.”

Miles’ face lighted happily as he rose to greet her, but dropped once
more into gloom as he sat down again. For a few moments he remained
silent, gazing into the fire, and then burst out into hurried and
determined speech.

“You cannot know, Master Sheffield,” he said, “how terrible it is to be
praised by all for a deed whose memory brings me only rage and shame.
People call me brave when really I have done nothing save to prove that
I am the greatest and most blundering fool in General Washington’s army.
I came hither with the firm determination that you, at least, and
Clotilde, should know the truth of this adventure, since to you alone I
can speak freely. Ah, I could beat my head against the wall when I think
of what a booby I have been.”

“Tell on, boy,” directed Stephen, smiling, “but allow us to reserve
judgment until we know all.”

He leaned back in his chair, pulling at his long tobacco pipe while
Clotilde bent forward in hers, with her hands clasped tightly in her
lap. Miles drew a long sigh of relief, and began.

“My mother had spoken and written to me, more than once, of the plight
of her cousins who were alone and helpless in Boston and in great
distress. The British have been allowing the women and the
non-combatants to go forth, but held back all the able-bodied men, so
these two were free to go but, the mother being ill and the daughter
timid, the task of passing the lines alone seemed more than they could
undertake. The matter of coming to them looked hopeless for a time, but
in the end was simple enough. Certain market gardeners, living on the
outskirts of Boston but within the besieged circle, still sell their
wares in the town, and most welcome they are. One of these gardeners is
David Thurston’s brother, and, although the man himself is with our
army, his wife is carrying on the business to keep herself and the
children from starving. To this house, therefore, I stole in the night,
was given the clothes of the gardener’s boy and, in broad daylight,
drove into the town, mounted on a load of turnips and cabbages. Faith,
soldiers and civilians alike were so glad to see aught that they could
eat, that they had no eyes for the lad who brought it.”

“It was something of an undertaking,” commented Stephen. “You ran the
risk of being arrested as a spy, which is no pleasant fate.”

“I think you dared most nobly,” cried Clotilde, her eyes bright with
eagerness to hear the rest of the story, “and oh, what fun it must have
been to go through the streets crying turnips and cabbages!”

“Ay, it was for a time,” said the boy, “and my first mark of stupidity
was that I delayed my errand merely to enjoy myself and loitered about
far too long, watching the swaggering, red-coated soldiers and the
Hessians drilling on the Common. Presently, however, there passed a man
in a Captain’s uniform who looked at me so long and keenly that I
whipped up my horses, turned the nearest corner and drove rattling down
the street to Cousin Betsey’s house.

“The two women were so overjoyed and so astonished at seeing me that,
for a space, I thought they would never let themselves be rescued, so
busy were they weeping for gladness that I had come and for terror lest
I should not get safely away again. But at last, when it began to grow
dark, we made the sick woman comfortable on a mattress in the wagon,
packed in as much of their household stuff as we dared carry, and set
off.

“We had not yet passed the edge of the town, however, when Cousin Betsey
set up a great wailing that her bead purse, that had belonged to, I know
not how many grandmothers, and that contained five gold pieces, had, in
the hurry of departure, been left behind for British soldiers to make
way with, a thought far too terrible to endure. So, in my growing folly,
I must needs give the reins into Cousin Eliza’s hands and tell her to
drive on slowly while I slipped back to fetch the purse. Of course I
knew well that the risk to our safety was greater than the worth of the
money, but, to tell you the honest truth, I had begun to feel that
Cousin Betsey’s tireless tongue was a travelling companion hard to bear
with, and was glad of any excuse to be away from it for a little.
Besides, great oaf that I was, I began to feel that my unaided wit was a
match for the whole British Army.”

Stephen chuckled and then laughed aloud.

“Go on quickly with the tale,” he said, as Miles paused, perhaps spent
with such unaccustomed flow of speech. “I am anxious to know what
occurred next. It must have been a grievous happening, to make you
shower yourself with such hard names.”

“I reached the house safely enough,” went on the unhappy story-teller,
“and found the purse upon the table. I opened it to see if the contents
were safe and discovered at the bottom, besides the gold, a tiny
embroidered copy of General Washington’s new flag, with its union jack
in the corner and its thirteen stripes of red and white. Cousin Betsey,
loyal soul, had heard of our new banner and had made this one to carry
always with her. As I stood with it in my hand, I remembered passing a
building used for soldiers’ barracks where there was no guard outside
and where there was a great sound of revelling and roistering coming
from within. So I thought, like a clever lad, how excellent it would be
to pin this flag on the outside of the door and write beneath, ‘With the
compliments of General Washington’s Army.’ I turned Cousin Betsey’s
workbox upside down to find a piece of chalk and set off in high glee.”

“Ah,” exclaimed Clotilde, “how I should like to have seen the faces of
the soldiers when they found it!”

“The face to see was mine,” said Miles ruefully, “when, just as I was
scrawling my impertinent message, a hand fell upon my arm and a voice
said:

“‘Put that flaunting banner in your pocket, man, and come with me.’

“I turned and recognised the same officer who had looked at me so long
and earnestly near the Common. I thought of knocking him down and making
a run for it, but such an act would have brought a whole regiment about
my ears in a moment, so I could only grind my teeth and submit. He
slipped his arm firmly through mine and led me to a house near by, where
he unlocked the door and led me upstairs to his room. There he bade me
sit down and himself stood looking at me long and in silence. Had his
expression been a mocking one, I vow so great was my rage that I would
have sought to slay him on the spot, but he looked only grave and
thoughtful. Strange it is, Master Sheffield, but it flashed across my
mind that his face was somehow familiar and that, in a certain way, he
was like you.”

“Like me?” repeated Stephen in amazement, and then laughed again.
“Surely I would make a fine figure for a British soldier!”

“He was like you, whatever you may say,” Miles affirmed stoutly, “his
eyes were yours to the very life. We say in Hopewell ‘There is no blue
like Sheffield blue,’ for the colour and fire of your eyes and your
mother’s and your sister’s are things of which we often speak.”

Stephen glanced up quickly at the portrait hanging above the mantel, one
of the very few of his rescued possessions that he had brought to the
cottage. The picture was of Master Simon, painted before he left
England; it showed a dreamy-faced boy with those same wide, grave blue
eyes. Margeret Bardwell had had them, and Amos and Alisoun, but none of
them quite so like Master Simon’s as were Stephen’s.

“It is curious,” he said at last, “but go on with your tale. If we pause
to talk of the colour of eyes we will never come to the end of your
adventure.”

“When the officer spoke at length,” Miles continued, “his words knocked
all the wind from the sails of my silly vanity.

“‘I have been watching you,’ he said, ‘ever since you stopped by the
Common, and I had no difficulty in recognising you as an officer in the
Continental Army. It was not the first time we had met, however. Do you
recollect a night raid last October, when your men made a stand north of
Hopewell to the great discomfiture of the soldiers of King George?’

“‘What,’ I cried, ‘are you the officer that escaped?’ He nodded. ‘Then,’
I went on, further rage swelling in my heart, ‘you must have had a hand
in the burning of that house and garden!’

“‘I am glad to say, that was no work of mine,’ he answered; ‘my division
did not join the rest until that ugly task was done. The Commander’s
orders in the matter were strict and definite but had they been issued
to me I fear I would have made some trouble over obeying them. That is
not the question now, however. Here are you, a soldier out of uniform,
within the enemy’s lines, and that means hanging as a spy. What were you
doing here beyond decorating His Majesty’s barracks with the rebel
flag?’

“I explained my errand briefly and cursed the bragging folly that had
been my undoing. He interrupted my hot words, however, before I had gone
far on that subject.

“‘Do you remember,’ he said, ‘how, when I escaped from that battle where
your forces fought to so much greater advantage than ours, there was a
certain officer of the rebel army who snatched a gun from one of his
men, slipped down a path that he knew and was waiting for me, with rifle
in rest, at the turn of the road?’

“‘Yes,’ I stammered, ‘I remember.’

“‘And do you recollect how he took careful aim as I galloped by and then
suddenly flung up his weapon and saluted me instead of firing? I
remember it well, even to the man’s face, for although it was a hurried
moment, one notes clearly the countenance of an enemy who is about to
take one’s life. I was thinking of it when I saw that same officer in
huckster’s clothes, standing by the Common. And I am thinking of it
still’—and here he opened the door—‘when I bid that man go free now, to
follow Cousin Betsey, who wants his protection more than King George
wants his life.’

“I tried to gasp out my thanks, but was too much amazed to speak the
half of what I felt. I had thought no one knew of my chance to slay the
escaping officer and of my having, at the last moment, no heart to take
the life of so brave a man. His face had been partly hidden by his
flying cloak and I should not have known him again.

“‘Waste no more time,’ he said, cutting short my stammering thanks;
‘there are two unprotected women out yonder on the lonely road. Take my
grey horse that stands before the door; when you have caught up with
your wagon you can turn him loose and he will come home again alone. So
go on your way, but I warn you, stay not this time to leave love-tokens
for the British Army.’

“You may be sure that I lost no time in carrying out his directions and
that Cousin Betsey received her purse in safety. Her complaints and her
description of the terrors she had felt over my being gone so long,
lasted us for many miles. The sentries permitted us to pass with earnest
recommendations that I come soon again with another load of provisions,
and before morning we were safe within our own lines. Cousin Betsey has
been spreading through all the country, it seems to me, the tale of our
escape and of my heroism, as she calls it. And I must needs be silent
under all these praises, for to tell of my real adventures would mean to
tell also how I failed in my duty as a soldier and did not capture a
fleeing enemy. Ah, but my heart is lighter, now that some one knows how
miserably I bungled the whole affair.”

Stephen arose, knocked the ashes out of his pipe and came over to put
his hand on Miles’ shoulder.

“You do well to bemoan your heedless folly,” he said, “for you risked
much and for very little. None the less you did a brave deed in saving
those two women, but, since your Cousin Betsey sings your praises so
loudly, I will leave the task of doing you justice, to her. And think
not that you failed in your duty when you hesitated to slay a brave man;
there is no wrong in an act of plain humanity. I think that we acquit
you of those woeful charges against yourself. Eh, Clotilde, do we not?”

And most completely and heartily did Clotilde agree that Miles was the
most noble soldier in the whole patriot army.

“One satisfaction I did have,” Miles said more cheerfully. “When
Christmas came and my mother sent me a great hamper of good things, I
dared the passage to the house of David Thurston’s brother again, and
sent by his boy a fine ham and a large, fat goose as an aid to that
officer’s holiday dinner. I knew not his name, but I could give the lad
directions for finding the place where my friend lodged. And to the
goose’s leg I fastened a paper that said, ‘With the compliments of
General Washington’s Army.’”

“Do you think that he received it?” asked Clotilde.

Miles grinned.

“I know he did,” was his answer, “for, two days after, there was put
into my hand a packet containing a toy wooden gallows, such as children
use for the hanging in a Punch and Judy show. And to it was fastened a
paper saying, ‘With the compliments of King George the Third.’”



                               CHAPTER XV

                      A MESSAGE FROM MASTER SIMON


In her laughter over Miles’ hearty disgust with himself, Clotilde, for a
little time after his visit, forgot to grieve over the ruined garden.
But when Spring came and there were no bright daffodils nodding by the
gate, when the covering snow melted and showed once more the charred
wreckage of the burned house, when the hedges displayed only a few green
twigs coming up from the roots, and the linden tree, long after the
whole green country was in abundant leaf and blossom, still stood a
blackened skeleton against the sky, then her grief awoke afresh.

In the kitchen garden, the apple trees and the row of beehives beneath
them had by chance been spared. Yet to see the apple trees blooming
alone in a black and desert waste, to watch the bees flying about in
bewilderment, looking for flowers that had once yielded such generous
honey, was worse, almost, than to have had all perish together. Clotilde
had need, through these days, of all her courage and of all Stephen’s
shrewdly comforting sayings, to keep up even a show of cheerfulness.

Two great events, however, the Spring brought, which were of equal and
joyful importance to the people of Hopewell. One was the abrupt
departure from Boston of General Howe and all his soldiers, British and
German. Early in March they had embarked upon their war vessels, had
hoisted sail and cleared the port of Boston with loudly expressed hopes
that they would never be so unlucky as to see it again. Many of those
wise prophets who are always ready to tell any one who will listen, just
what things are going to happen, protested loudly that the war was over
and began to criticise General Washington for not sending his soldier
boys home. But, strange to say, this eagerly offered advice seemed to
fall unheeded upon the Commander’s ears and the Continental forces still
remained under arms waiting for the next move.

The other event was the rebuilding of Master Stephen Sheffield’s house.
By an odd chance of war that brings about so many unexpected happenings,
the same hands that had burned it down were busied in building it up
again. Many of the Hessian prisoners taken the same night of the burning
had been quartered all winter in the Hopewell jail, much to their own
discomfort and that of every one else. The village place of
imprisonment, very little used of late, was now fairly bursting with the
captives of war. The officers had been exchanged, but the German
privates remained, a sore responsibility, although it must be owned that
they were patient, tractable and showed no eagerness to escape. Those
who had them under guard were glad to put their charges to work, while
the prisoners themselves were delighted to labour in the open air at a
trade in which many of them were skilled. Mustered into the army of some
small German ruler, enrolled against their will, bewildered but yet
obedient, they had been hired out to fight an enemy of which few of them
had ever heard. After fighting that foe conscientiously, thoroughly and
to the best of their ability, they were quite as willing, when so
ordered, to labour for their captors with the same silent, heavy
industry.

Stephen, during his stay in England, had learned to speak German, a
language used about the court as much as English. When he went among the
toiling workmen and spoke to them in their own tongue, it was pleasant
to see the stolid faces light up, to see the men’s eyes grow brighter
and their hands become more nimble in their enthusiasm to labour for the
“gnädige Herr.”

In July, when the bells in the town pealed out the thrilling tidings
that Congress, in the face of reverses and threatened defeat, had dared
to declare the Colonies, “free and independent,” amid the cheers of
Hopewell there went up many a sturdy German voice. Once it was explained
to them what the great news meant, there was no cap tossed higher than
theirs and no cheer more earnest than their deep, resounding “Hoch!”

“For,” as one of them explained to Stephen, “it is the first time we
have dwelt in a country where men dared speak out what they feel,
therefore why should we, though we be prisoners, fail to cry our joy
with the rest of you?”

And Stephen had smiled and cordially shaken the German’s great rough
hand.

There was no lack of material for the new dwelling, since that was amply
supplied by the ships sent out to raid upon the English commerce. Among
them was the Mistress Margeret, built by public subscription and bearing
the famous mainmast made from King James’ Tree. These raiders had
brought in more than one brick-laden vessel, carrying its cargo to some
Tory planter of Georgia or Carolina, who had planned a new dwelling with
no thought of a long-lasting war. The loads of bricks, of tall, white,
fluted pillars, carved mantels and door-lintels were sold at auction in
the seaport towns of New England and many of them bought by Stephen’s
agents. Some wealthy Loyalist of the South, no doubt, looked long and
anxiously out to sea that year, wondering why the duly ordered material
for his new house never came to port and little guessing that, far off
in New England, there was rising upon the site of Master Simon’s rough
little cottage and Roger Bardwell’s big white-painted house, a mansion
such as had never been seen in that neighbourhood before.

Had this rebuilding meant the outpouring of money needed for other
things, Stephen would have lived to the end of the war, and longer, in
Samuel Skerry’s little cottage. But material, as has been said, was
abundant, and many a poor man, beside the Hessians, stood sorely in need
of work. Mother Jeanne frowned often over Stephen’s threadbare coat and
rusty hat, but she could persuade him to spend no single penny upon
himself, when all of New England was in want.

“Monsieur pays those idle workmen twice too much,” she would storm, for
she had become a privileged character in the household and was suffered
to speak her mind with blunt directness when her feelings became too
much for her. “He is of such a poverty himself as to his clothes, that,
were it not for his gold-headed cane, no one could tell which was master
and which was man!”

“Our coats are of a like shabbiness, I own,” Stephen would return,
untroubled, “but there is one further difference; the man needs the
money at this moment and the master does not.”

Day by day, therefore, the house went up. The big white stone steps were
the same that Roger Bardwell had had put in place, and the wide chimney
was that one that Master Simon had built for his first dwelling, but
beyond these all was to be new, the walls this time being built of
clear-hued mellow brick instead of wood.

“When the house is done,” Stephen said to Clotilde, “and all this
tramping to and fro is at an end, we will turn our labour to the garden
and see what we can make of that,” but at this she only shook her head
sadly.

“It will never be the same,” she sighed. “There are no ship-loads of
shrubs and flowers coming from England and those that Master Simon
planted have perished forever.”

“Be not too sure of that,” Stephen answered with a smile, but Clotilde
refused to look at the matter hopefully.

By autumn the dwelling was ready for occupation and a splendid half-new,
half-familiar place it seemed. Stephen had bought only such material as
the ship-owners had to sell and had spent only such money, in the
building, as would help his fellow townsmen. Therefore the house was
only half finished, with carving and panelling in one apartment and bare
rafters in another, with rough wooden shutters where windows should have
been and walls of unsmoothed boards in many of the bedrooms. The big
drawing-room was completed, however, with its white cupboards and
panelling and long casement windows opening to the east. In the hall a
great carved staircase with a white balustrade and mahogany handrail
wound up to the second floor. The round window on the landing encircled,
like a frame, a far view of rocky capes, scattered islands and broad,
blue sea. Here Clotilde loved to kneel upon the cushioned seat and watch
for hours the whirling gulls, the blue October sky and the sunlight on
white, swiftly-moving sails.

When the word went forth that Master Sheffield’s house was at last
completed, the doors of Hopewell opened and out came, in long and
straggling procession, those household treasures that the friendly souls
of the town had risked their lives in rescuing. There were framed
pictures, from the huge, heavy portraits down to the little sampler over
which Margeret Radpath had pricked her fingers on the very day that
first she laid eyes upon Roger Bardwell. There were the old bits of
pewter that had belonged to Mistress Radpath when she was a bride, there
was the bowl that was Samuel Skerry’s unwilling marriage gift, there was
the wonderful silver service given to Stephen when on his mission to
England. There were rolls of homespun linen sheets, Stephen’s own
armchair, and Clotilde’s little polished spinning-wheel. Much, of
course, had perished in the flames, but so much had been saved that
Stephen, Clotilde and Mother Jeanne could only wonder, rejoice and
forget what was gone beyond recall. Last of all there stumped up to the
door—where the silver knocker set by Paul Revere once more shone
resplendent—that same old man who had told Stephen the tale of the
burning. Fumbling in his pocket, he brought forth a velvet case which he
put into Clotilde’s hand.

“Since I am so old and awkward, there was little I could save,” he said,
“but I spied a cupboard standing open and this within, so I carried it
home to be kept safe for you and Master Sheffield. This whole long
winter, when there was little fire on my hearth and starvation waiting,
seemingly, only just around the corner, I used to get out this treasure
and warm myself at the glow of the jewels. And it is proud I am to have
something to bring to you when all the others are carrying their
offerings hither!”

Clotilde snapped open the cover and found within the diamond star that
had been given by the King of France to Stephen and by him to her. She
had often thought of it, but always as lost beyond hope of recovery, so
she gave, now, a glad cry of surprise and ran to show Master Sheffield
that her greatest treasure had come back to her. The man would accept no
thanks, nor consider it any merit that, in the midst of such dire
poverty, his honesty had never been tempted by the shining stones.

“There would have been a curse on me, and a well deserved one,” he said,
“had I even thought of keeping for myself that which belongs to you who
have been so good to me.”

A great feast took place in Stephen’s house, a housewarming where all of
Hopewell was made welcome. The occasion, although it should have been
one of rejoicing, for was not Master Sheffield safe and sound in his own
house again, was tinged with gloom, since the British had taken
possession of New York and General Washington’s army was in retreat
through New Jersey. Louder and louder were growing the criticisms of
Washington, while many wiseacres were saying openly that he had not the
ability for a Commander-in-Chief, and that Benedict Arnold should have
been the man. Others, too, there were who said just as loudly that the
war was over and the victory with the English, the same prophets who,
six months ago, had wished to disband the army, since America was safe.

At the end of the evening, when the feasting was over and the guests
were ready to go, Stephen Sheffield, standing upon the stairway above
the heads of all the people, made a speech that many of those who heard
forgot not to their dying day. He spoke first of the thanks that he owed
them all, and, though his words were few, they were so simple and
earnest that every one who had done him a service felt more than
worthily repaid.

“But with my thanks,” he said, “is coupled a request, for I must ask you
for a service greater than any you have yet done me. I beg that you
speak no further ill of that heavy-hearted man who leads our armies, who
with troops deserting, money lacking, food and clothing scarce and with
winter close upon him, never admits defeat, and will still lead his men
to victory. Not because he is merely a friend of mine do I ask you to
abstain from evil-speaking of him in my house, but because he is the
friend of all of you, fighting for you—and you—and you,” here certain of
the guests hung their heads for, with unerring finger Stephen had
pointed to the worst offenders, “and will you, by your idle words make
his task heavier?”

It was a sober company that said good night and filed out through the
great doorway. A dozen, at least, of the men present had been in
Washington’s army, but, having enlisted for only a few months, had come
home at the end of that time, vowing that they would risk their lives no
longer in a hopeless cause. Among this number was David Thurston,
although he had better excuse than the others, since his feeble old
mother, who dwelt in Hopewell, was in sore need of his support and aid.

Early the next morning, before it was yet light, there was a tapping at
the silver knocker and Clotilde, slipping down with a candle in her
hand, opened the door and found David Thurston on the steps. It was a
raw, cold November dawn with gusts of rain and a sharp, merciless wind.
Yet there stood David and, on the driveway below, mounted on shivering
horses, were twelve village lads, muffled in their high-collared
homespun coats and fur caps.

“Tell the master when he awakes,” said David hurriedly, “that we are off
to the wars again, to fight for General Washington, since his need is so
great. Say that when we heard Master Sheffield’s words and saw him grown
old and broken in this struggle for Liberty, we were ashamed to sit warm
and comfortable at home and let others win our battles for us. And,
Mistress Clotilde,” he added, his voice breaking, “will you look to my
poor old mother now and again? I doubt that she will be here when I
return, for we are not coming back until every redcoat has been swept
from America.”

He pressed her hand in a rough, trembling clasp of farewell, strode down
the steps, mounted his horse and, followed by the others, rode away into
the face of the whistling, sleety wind. Among the group that pressed
forward with bent shoulders and bowed heads, Clotilde recognised the
broad backs of three of the German prisoners, who had given up their
chance of exchange and return to their own homes, and were now to fight,
for the first time in their lives perhaps, on a side of their own
choosing.

November passed, and December, with still the depressing news of retreat
and ever retreat before the overwhelming numbers of the British.
Clotilde long remembered that dreary Christmas night when the wind
shrieked down Master Simon’s chimney and banged and shook at the heavy
wooden shutters, while she, Stephen and Mother Jeanne huddled about the
fire and tried to smile at Stephen’s merry stories and cheerful talk.
All three of their hearts were so heavy with thoughts of the struggling
army, of freezing soldiers crouching over camp fires, of the desperate
struggle against almost hopeless odds, that it was Stephen alone who
managed to speak confidently and to see in the blazing fire pictures of
hope, victory and peace at last.

On New Year’s day came the tidings of that marvellous crossing of the
Delaware and the capture of Trenton. People brightened then and began to
speak more cheerily. Strange to say, it was only Stephen who shook his
head over the news.

“A General who must take such fearful risks as that,” he said, “is
plainly in such dire necessity that he must win, or lose all. May Heaven
help him!”

On an afternoon in April came a messenger, covered to his eyes with
splashings of mud, clay and gravel, and bearing a letter from General
Washington to Stephen.

“Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and New England have combined to
decorate them,” he said, displaying his great jack boots, “but there was
naught of bad roads or hidden enemies could stay me on an errand that,
so His Excellency said, was desperate in its need for haste. Things have
come to a fearful pass with the army!”

Stephen, however, although he read the letter carefully, seemed in no
hurry with his reply.

“See that the man is well cared for,” he directed Clotilde. “It is too
late for him to set forth again to-day, so let him lodge here and
receive my answer in the morning.”

There was something in his voice, as he spoke, that made Clotilde start
and turn, a note of dull, despairing weariness such as she had never
before heard from him. She ran to him and put her hand on his arm.

“What is it, oh, what is it, Master Sheffield?” she cried.

“You may read the letter, child,” he said, handing it to her, although
with fingers that trembled. “And do my bidding, see that the messenger
is fed and rested and treated well. As for me, I must be alone a little;
the letter calls for an answer in haste, but I know not—I know not what
to say!”

Quickly Clotilde ran to do as Stephen directed and to see that the
travel-worn rider was comfortably bestowed in the chimney corner with a
hot meal before him. Not until then did she creep to her own room and
open the letter. It was short and in General Washington’s own hand.

“For the love of God and of our Country,” it ran, “send me help if you
are able. My army is dwindling daily, and, without new recruits—not a
mere handful, nor a few hundreds, but thousands—the cause of Liberty is
lost. Many have left whose terms of enlistment were up, hundreds more
have deserted on account of the lack of food, of clothing and of the pay
that Congress does not send. That I should call upon you, who are
already spent with doing so much, is only the proof of my desperate
need. If there is aid in the world, it lies with you alone.”

Clotilde stood staring blankly out of the window, the letter clutched in
her hand. General Washington confessing that he was at the end of his
resources, Master Sheffield finally giving way to despair and owning
that he knew not what to do! Could there be fuller proof that all was at
an end? So the war was lost then: the sacrifice of Master Simon’s
garden, all the suffering, all the bloodshed, all had been in vain! What
a black, black world it was.

She slipped on her blue cloak, drew up its hood and ran downstairs and
out-of-doors. As she passed the study, she saw Stephen sitting in his
armchair, his face bowed in his hands; she heard something like a groan
sound through the hall as she softly closed the outer door. Once she had
been accustomed to look for help and comfort in the garden, but now it
was only a dreary waste that made her even more sick at heart, as she
hurried across it and out through the white gate. Beyond the village,
among the tall, silent trees of the forest, perhaps she could find a
little peace and soothe her whirling wits into forming some plan to help
her dear Master Sheffield.

She trudged down the rough country lane, the high Spring wind ruffling
her hair and finally blowing back the hood of her cloak. The way was
muddy and full of little rippling pools, where she could see reflected
the blue sky and sailing white clouds. The hedges were budding and the
grass on the sunny banks growing green, and a meadow lark, perched upon
a gate post swelled his yellow breast and sang a song that was all for
her. In spite of herself, she began to be a little comforted and to feel
some of the gladness of the growing world, although heavy trouble still
lay like lead upon her heart.

Leaving the lane, where it skirted the wood, she plunged into the forest
itself. The dead leaves and old, withered brambles were almost knee deep
and were soaking wet, sharp twigs reached out and caught her hair and
hood with crooked fingers. But the wind still blew gaily among the
treetops and swaying anemones and blue-eyed hepaticas smiled up
cheerfully at her as she passed along.

Only by chance was it that her eye caught a distant glimpse of flaunting
yellow, so bright that it drew her attention even from those absorbing
thoughts of Stephen, General Washington and Miles. The little clearing
that she was about to pass showed, there at her right, such a gleam of
brilliant colour as no wild Spring flowers ever could display. In spite
of her preoccupation, she was obliged to turn aside and see what it
could be. Bending back the bushes, she peeped into a little glade, and
caught her breath with delight and wonder at what she saw.

At the foot of a high, dark, granite boulder, and all down the slope of
woodland grass that dipped toward her, grew a mass of yellow daffodils.
How could they have come there, by what means had they escaped from
civilisation and bloomed here in such joyous, reckless profusion? Their
yellow heads rocked and curtseyed in the wind, their eager faces were
turned to the sunshine that, at the very moment of her coming, looked
out from behind a cloud and transformed the yellow petals into gleaming
gold. Suddenly Clotilde dropped upon her knees and flung her arms about
the nearest clump.

“You darlings,” she cried, “you darlings, you are from Master Simon’s
garden!”

There could, indeed, be no other explanation for the flowers. She knew
well that Master Simon, when he had more plants than he and his
neighbours needed, often set them out by wayside springs or in nooks and
corners of the wood where they were seen through the years only by the
peering Indians or the wild wood animals. But surely it must have been a
hundred years ago that he, with spade and basket full of nodding yellow
flowers or tight-jacketed brown bulbs, had come to set out this little
garden that was to grow and spread and fill the glade with sunshine long
after he was dead. Wars had raged past them, three generations had come
and gone, Indians and wild things had disappeared, forever, from these
forest hills, but still the flowers bloomed and faded and bloomed again,
silent proof that the work of such hands and hearts as Master Simon’s
never died. Clotilde, with a joyous laugh, began quickly to gather great
sheafs of the daffodils and to pile them high in her apron.

Meanwhile Stephen had sat long in motionless silence but at last raised
his head from his hands and looked hopelessly about him. Slowly he
reached to take up his pen, dipped it in the ink and then sat staring at
the blank white paper before him.

“To His Excellency, General George Washington, Commander-in-Chief of the
Continental Armies,” he wrote at last, and then paused long again.

“Can I tell him,” he finally said aloud, “can I say that the struggle is
over and America can do no more? Two years have we fought bravely, but
can a handful of scattered Colonies hope longer to resist a mighty
Empire? Ah, God knows, God knows!”

With a long, dreary sigh he dipped his pen in the ink again and began to
write.

Suddenly a far door flew open with a bang, feet came running down the
hall, his study door burst open and in came Clotilde. Her apron and her
arms were full of golden flowers that spilled from her hands, dropped
over table and floor, were tumbled upon Stephen’s knees and, so it
seemed, filled the whole room with yellow sunshine.

“See, Master Sheffield,” she cried, “they are for you—from Master
Simon!”

Stephen passed a trembling hand across his forehead.

“From Master Simon?” he repeated, bewildered. “My child, what can you
mean?”

With much incoherence and several beginnings at the wrong end, Clotilde
managed to explain how she had been walking in the wood, lonely,
sorrowful and in utter despair, how she had come upon the flowers and
how she had felt as though a friendly hand had been stretched out across
the hundred years to cheer and comfort her. Stephen listened wondering.

“Master Simon!” he said at last in a shaking voice. “To think that in
this dark hour I had forgot Master Simon and his roofs of gold!”

As he still sat, looking silently at the yellow blossoms, Clotilde
stooped to lift a paper from the floor.

“Oh, dear,” she said ruefully, “here is your letter that I swept down
with the flowers and see, it is all blotted and wet through my
carelessness!”

“Never mind,” returned Stephen, sitting bolt upright, and taking his pen
again, “bring me another sheet for I have a different message to write
now. Send that man of General Washington’s to me for I will despatch him
to-day after all. And do you, my child, and Mother Jeanne, pack my
clothes and bid Jason and Michael to make ready for a journey.”

“A journey,” faltered Clotilde, “a journey in this wild, wet Spring
weather?”

“Yes, a journey,” he repeated firmly. “I am going forth to gather men
for General Washington’s army.”

“Oh, no, no!” cried the girl in alarm, but she went to do his bidding,
nevertheless.

A few minutes later, Mother Jeanne, with her gravest face and most
severe manner came bustling in.

“What is this of Monsieur’s journey?” she said. “It must have been that
I did not hear aright. It will cost Monsieur his life, and that is a
life we cannot spare.”

“Woman,” replied Stephen with a sternness so new that Mère Jeanne was
utterly taken aback and stood staring at him open-mouthed. “So far
America has given to this war but what she could spare, now we must all
give more than that. Go I must, and I will look to you and to Clotilde
to take care of the poor of Hopewell until I shall come back.”

Mother Jeanne hesitated a moment, then dropped a curtsey as her brown
face wrinkled into a proud smile.

“Monsieur may rely on us to do our duty,” she said.



                              CHAPTER XVI

                         THE HAND ON THE LATCH


A brown-faced pedlar, his heavy leathern pack sagging wearily from his
shoulders, took his shambling way down the winding streets of Hopewell
and, knocking at every door, offered for sale his stock of needles,
thread, bobbins and silk laces. Although at other times such a trade was
apt to be brisk and few housewives generally failed to bring forth their
pennies and sixpences, now he was met with frowning looks and peremptory
shakes of the head, wherever he stopped.

“We have no business with your like,” said one old woman, scarcely
pausing in her spinning as his stooped shadow fell across her threshold,
“we know your real errand and will have none of it.”

He next made a detour across the fields and came to Samuel Skerry’s
little cottage where Clotilde still used the loom and kept her
spinning-wheels and where she and Mother Jeanne were at work that
morning. If he had any doubts as to the reason of his cold reception at
the other houses, all such were swept away when the old Frenchwoman
stood up in the doorway and spoke her mind.

“Begone from here,” she cried, “think you that there is one of us who
has not heard of the business that you are about, that you, a skulking
Tory, and a dozen like you are marching over the whole countryside,
telling people that the cause of America is lost and warning them
against enlisting in General Washington’s army? You can go back and tell
your master, Andrew Shadwell, that our General could go forth alone with
his sword in his hand and drive all the redcoat armies and German
hirelings and Tory Loyalists from the country. But he shall have no need
so to do, for his army is growing every day, thanks to the recruits New
England is sending him. It will not be long before they and our brave
General will force you and your like to flee beyond our borders. So,
good sir, go ply your trade elsewhere.”

The man made no attempt to stem this tide of eloquence, spoken half in
English and half in French, but apparently entirely understood by the
object at which it was directed. He stole away without attempting any
reply, his shifty little black eyes first taking in every detail of the
cottage and all that was to be seen within it. His look, Clotilde
thought, was one of most evil threatening. She drew a breath of relief
when at last his bent form and great pack disappeared at the turn of the
lane.

“Do you think it was quite wise to anger the man so, Mère Jeanne?” she
questioned, as the older woman, very red in the face, came back to her
seat by the loom.

“It is time that some one told those rascals that we understand their
evil work and will have none of it,” replied Mère Jeanne heatedly. “New
England is full of them, spreading false reports of lost battles,
disaster to our armies and the hopelessness of further effort. That
Andrew Shadwell is at the bottom of all, yet no one can prove his part
in it. Yes, I did right to speak just so to him.”

“I am not so sure,” returned Clotilde gravely. “I liked not the look he
gave us before he turned away, and do you know, Mère Jeanne, I think he
was of our race.”

“I thought of that too,” said the old woman, “and I blushed for our
kind, although we need not call him a fellow-countryman. He is one of
those renegades who are half French, half Indian and wholly the Evil
One’s. The English have been trying to make use of them, but little good
will come of it. That poor-spirited animal can never do us harm!”

“I trust not,” said Clotilde with a sigh, and went back to her work.
There was so much to be done, it was scarcely worth while wasting time
in dread of what might happen. Too much was already happening every
moment.

It was true that, whatever highways and byways the Tory pedlars
travelled in New England, their efforts against the cause of Liberty
were of little avail. No matter where they went, Stephen Sheffield had
either been before them or came after to undo their work. People
listened to him eagerly wherever he went; he stopped at cottage doors,
he spoke in market places, he held meetings at country crossroads and
convinced men everywhere that now, if ever, they must throw all they had
into the struggle for freedom. And everywhere men heard him, they turned
away to say good-bye to their wives, to shoulder their old muskets and
set forth to join General Washington.

“Alack that I am too old to go,” said one richly dressed and elderly
gentleman who stood listening to Stephen’s speech before the door of an
inn. “I would indeed that I were a young man again!”

“If you can not go, you can give,” responded Stephen quickly. “How can
these lads go to the war unless we at home promise to see that their
wives and children do not starve?”

The old gentleman looked at Stephen’s shabby coat, the one over which
Mother Jeanne had wrung her hands even last year, and at his threadbare
ruffles and said nothing, but went home to do his part. He remembered
that before the war the Sheffield estate had been called the wealthiest
in Massachusetts.

“I verily believe that Stephen Sheffield would melt the head off his
cane if he thought it would help,” he chuckled as he unlocked his money
box.

People who knew Stephen and were aware of how frail he was at the outset
of his campaign, could now see that he was worn to little more than the
ghost of a man, fired and kept alive only by the passion of one purpose.
Even strangers and the rough-mannered country folk could see how he was
spending his last strength in this mighty effort for the success of the
war.

“You may think,” he said in one of his speeches to a gathering of men
before a blacksmith’s shop, “that it scarce seems right that I should
ask you to go into danger when I stay behind myself.”

“Nay,” returned one of the men bluntly, “it is not hidden from our eyes,
Master Sheffield, that you too are laying down your life in the cause.”

Stephen answered him with a happy smile.

“It is the least that any of us can do,” he said, “but I am hoping that
Heaven will grant it me to see the end of the war.”

To Clotilde, Stephen, when he went away, had left a heavy task.

“Once we had a few poor people in Hopewell to care for,” he told her,
“now all are in want and you must do your best to see that they do not
suffer.”

So Clotilde, young as she was, took up the burden and carried it well.
Master Simon’s empty garden was ploughed from end to end and planted
with cabbages, turnips, beets, potatoes, anything that would give food
to the hungry and could be stored away for the winter. Wheat and barley
and rye now grew where once a smooth strip of greensward had extended
down to the harbour’s edge, while the sturdy women and growing boys of
Hopewell were taught to turn their bits of land to similar account.

“We will let the men see that we can bring in as good a harvest as
they,” Clotilde told the women, whereupon Nature seemed to bend herself
to helping their efforts by giving them a fair and prosperous season.

All through the summer and autumn, Stephen’s time, for the most part,
was spent in his journeyings throughout New England. Prospects began to
brighten as Washington’s army gathered strength. In October came the
wonderful news of Burgoyne’s surrender back in the wilderness of the
Hudson valley, where he had been harried and driven up and down the
whole summer long. Stephen chanced to be at home when the tidings came.

“Yes,” he said with a smile, as he and Clotilde sat in the porch talking
of the good news. “Washington made the victory possible by holding back
the British troops that were to have aided Burgoyne, Benedict Arnold
brought about the surrender by his gallant fight in the forest, and now
General Gates receives the British Commander’s sword with a bow, and
apparently all the credit is his. That is the way of war.”

“Will this mean the end of the fighting, do you think?” asked Clotilde.
“They are saying in the village that King George will see now that there
is no hope for him.”

“Bless you, my child,” answered Stephen, “this is the first time,
probably, that His Majesty, King George the Third has fully realised
that the war has begun.”

They sat there for some time in the falling darkness, both busy with
their own thoughts. Finally Stephen, with a visible effort, spoke again.

“There is a rich merchant in Boston, Clotilde, who desires to—to buy the
lower half of our garden, that strip of land that goes down to the
water’s edge.”

“Oh, no,” exclaimed the startled girl. “Surely you would never sell it!
Is it not enough that the trees and flowers are gone, must we also lose
the land itself? What can a man in far-off Boston want with our garden?
Oh, how can you speak of such a thing?”

“He offers what he calls a good price,” pursued Stephen steadily. “He
does not know, poor stupid fellow, that all the wealth in the world
could never repay us for the loss of what once belonged to Master
Simon.”

“Then you will not part with it?” she asked hopefully.

Stephen paused before he spoke again.

“There are times,” he said at last; “times like these, when even that
which one would not sell for all the gold on earth must be freely given.
What Master Simon left to us seems well-nigh sacred, but the welfare of
our neighbours, is not that sacred too? People are suffering, some are
starving, and with every year that the war drags on the poverty grows
worse. My own fortune has been swept away by the hazards of the time; a
moment is very close when people will come to me for help and I will
have naught to give them. Shall a strip of meadow land, a blossoming
hedge and a memory of Master Simon be more to us than our love for our
people?”

“No,” agreed Clotilde, but with a sob; “no, you are right and he would
never have wished us to keep it. But oh, the very thought of it breaks
my heart!”

On Stephen’s next journey to Boston the transfer was made and a good
half of Master Simon’s garden passed into the hands of Ephraim Paddock,
the wealthiest and most close-fisted man in all of Massachusetts. Having
in view the building of docks and warehouses at the water’s edge, a plan
that could not well be carried out at once, he graciously granted, as
part of the terms of sale, permission that Stephen Sheffield make use of
the land until building should begin. Therefore the meadow still yielded
its harvest for the feeding of the poor, while its purchase price was
spread broadcast to give clothing and shelter to those who were in need.

November came, and with it began that season of bitter and piercing
cold, to be known, as long as history books tell the tale, as the Valley
Forge winter, the most severe that America had known in nearly a hundred
years. The snow fell early and lay so deep and so long that people began
to wonder if Spring were ever to come again. Never before had such black
and destroying frosts been known, so that, had not the women and
children brought in an abundant harvest, had not the wheat sheaves been
full and golden and the shocks of corn piled high in the barns, the time
would have been a desperate one indeed.

Yet none of those at home had leisure for complaint; the thoughts of all
were centered upon the little dauntless American army, those gaunt
determined soldiers shivering among the hills and ravines of Valley
Forge. Would they come through the winter with strength enough left ever
to fight again? Would the warm, comfortable, well-fed British army leave
its safe shelter in Philadelphia and sally forth to destroy them at one
blow? Time only could tell and time dragged, oh, so slowly, as the
winter months went by.

The roads of New England were so deep in snow, the cold so intense and
so terrible that, through the midwinter, Stephen was forced to forego
his journeyings. At the end of January, however, a difficulty arose that
haled him forth again. Andrew Shadwell, the wealthy and influential Tory
who dwelt in the next town, had gathered about him a considerable
company of his own kind, the number beginning to grow so great that
their presence was a threat against the peace of the community. People
said that the nest of Loyalists was plotting all sorts of evil, and
demanded that the enemy be driven out. The Tories, in turn, loudly
complained that they were persecuted and had done no wrong. Each party
was afraid of the other and neither dared to move first. It was to
confer with the authorities in Boston in this matter, and to try for
some peaceable settlement of the trouble, that Stephen set out one cold,
glittering January morning, when the dry snow creaked under the horses’
hoofs, and their breath rose in twin columns of steam as they pawed and
snorted before the door.

“I have no reluctance in leaving matters in your hands,” he said to
Clotilde, as he bade her good-bye in the hall.

“I will do what I can,” she answered, “although the best thing that I
could accomplish would be to keep you at home.”

“No, no, child, there is no danger in this journey,” he said, “but,
should this brewing trouble break out while I am gone—well, well, there
is small use in such misgivings! I will be back again in four days and
little can happen in that time.”

Clotilde watched him ride away through the clear, keen, frosty air and
wished, for the hundredth time, that she were a man and could go with
him.

“What are spinning and weaving,” she sighed aloud, “and sewing and
baking, beside what men can do?”

But spinning and weaving and baking must be accomplished if the war were
to go on and the patriot soldiers be clothed and fed, so she ran quickly
into the house, tucked up her sleeves, put on her big apron and began
the labours of the day.

Two evenings later, just as the early winter dark had begun, there came
marching up the long driveway to the house, a little band of blue-coated
soldiers. Their young Lieutenant bore a letter from Stephen, explaining
that these men, stationed at Salem, had been sent forward at once, but
if there were no immediate disturbance near Andrew Shadwell’s, they were
to await the coming of a larger body of troops from Boston. He begged
that Clotilde would see to it that the men supped well before they went
on to the empty farm-house a mile or two from Hopewell, where it had
been arranged that they camp for the night.

There was much hurrying and scurrying, you may be sure, in the getting
ready of an abundant meal for so many hungry fighting-men, a great
clattering of dishes and stirring of pots. Huge fires roared up every
chimney in the house while the men gathered close about the hearths to
warm their cold hands and half frozen feet.

“Men say there is surely trouble to come over these rascal Tories,” said
the Lieutenant, as he sat in Stephen’s chair at the head of the table
and eyed joyfully the smoking platter that Clotilde set down before him.
“It is even rumoured that Andrew Shadwell has been petitioning the
British Commander to send a company of redcoats to escort him and his
friends out of the country. He knows that, as it is, if he tries to
escape the whole neighbourhood will be upon him like a nest of hornets.
But the English soldiers have too much to do elsewhere, and, influential
as our friend Andrew is, I doubt much if they will listen to his plea.
Certainly no such measures can be taken for some time.”

When at last the grateful guests, warmed, dry, well fed and greatly
cheered in heart, had marched away and the remains of the supper had
been cleared from the board, Clotilde bethought her of a task that had
been nearly forgotten in the hurry and excitement of the soldiers’
coming. A great bale of woollen cloth, for the making of army coats, was
to be sent from Hopewell next day, but her share of the weaving had, in
the press of other things, been left unfinished on the loom in Samuel
Skerry’s cottage. Only a yard remained to be woven, therefore, she
decided, she could slip over to the little house and finish the work
that it might be carried to the Town Hall in the morning. Leaving word
for Mère Jeanne, who was used to her labouring late in the weaving-room
and would not lie awake for her, she wrapped herself in her old cloak
and slipped out into the white, silent night.

Old Jason heard the door creak, came hurrying out to remonstrate against
her going alone and finally insisted on following her across the fields
to the shoemaker’s house. Here he built a great fire on the hearth in
the workroom, drew the curtains close and sat down to wait, while
Clotilde climbed to the high bench before the loom and presently filled
the whole cottage with the monotonous sound of the swinging heddle.

“Jason,” she said at last, seeing that the old man was worn out by the
unwonted business of the day and was drowsy and nodding in his chair,
“there is no need of your waiting here. I have worked in this place at
night a score of times and have come to no harm. Go home and to bed: I
have the key of the little side door and will come just so soon as this
web is done.”

“Yes, Mistress,” answered Jason, rising obediently, too sleepy either to
reason or object. He stumbled out, closing the door behind him, and left
Clotilde alone to a silence broken only by the crackling of the fire,
the whirring of the shuttle and the creaking of the loom.

“I suppose I should get down and lock the door after him,” she
reflected; but just at that moment a knotted thread caught her attention
and held it until, presently, she forgot all about the big iron key
sticking, unturned, in the lock.

She worked on busily, so absorbed in the finishing of her task that she
had no thought of time. She was singing a little song to herself as she
pressed the treadle and flung the shuttle back and forth, she was
thinking of Stephen who must be already on his way back from Boston, she
was thinking of Miles in his little wind-swept, bark-roofed hut at
Valley Forge.

At last she brought her weaving to an end, cut off the length of cloth
that she needed and was climbing down from her seat holding the great
roll in her arms. She was still singing her little song when, she
scarcely knew why, she stopped in the middle of a word with a sudden
catching at her throat.

“It is nothing. It is nothing. Why should I be afraid?” she said to
herself over and over again.

None the less her heart was beating so loud that it almost drowned the
slight noise of footsteps in the snow outside the door, and the sound of
a hand fumbling at the latch.



                              CHAPTER XVII

                            PRISONER OF WAR


The man who pushed open the door and stepped across the threshold was
not, after all, of so very terrible an aspect, at least so Clotilde
sought to reassure herself. His high boots were caked with mud and snow
and his big grey cloak was gathered close about him. His voice, when he
addressed her was gruff and heavy, although it appeared to be with an
effort and in spite of breathless impatience that he managed to speak
quietly.

“Can you tell me, little Mistress,” he said, “where a man named Andrew
Shadwell bides?”

“Why, yes,” replied Clotilde readily, much relieved by his peaceable
tone, “he lives in the next—”

She stopped abruptly. The man had chanced to lift his arm, showing,
under his cloak, a braided cuff and a strip of scarlet sleeve. A British
soldier—and here!

“Well?” he demanded sharply as she paused. “Where does he dwell?”

“I will not tell you,” returned Clotilde with spirit. “I have no
information for a soldier of King George.”

The man stepped forward with an angry exclamation, but was interrupted
by the entry of one of his comrades. This second visitor she recognised
at once as the Governor’s messenger who had sat by Stephen Sheffield’s
fire and talked to her of the coming of the war. He, for the moment,
seemed to have no recollection of their previous meeting.

“Well, Merton,” questioned the newcomer, “have you any information? The
Captain says that if you can find out nothing, you are to come on at
once, since delay is worse than ignorance of the road. That rascal of a
half-breed pedlar is here without; he insists that we can get news at
this cottage, although he fears, for some reason, to come in himself.”

“I could get information enough if only this obstinate maid would
speak,” replied the other. “It remains but to be seen how quickly I can
persuade her.”

He seized Clotilde roughly by the arm and, dropping all pretence of
friendliness, cried in a voice that struck terror to her heart:

“Now, young Mistress, will you tell or shall I make you?”

With a convulsive effort, Clotilde jerked herself free.

“No!” she cried, undaunted.

“Come,” remonstrated Merton’s companion, “do the girl no harm; it is no
part of a soldier’s duty to bully a woman. Wait, I will bring the
Captain to question her.”

Clotilde, with a sinking heart, saw him go out, but she felt no
lessening of her determination. She began to see that these men were
members of a British force, come at Andrew Shadwell’s call to guard the
Tories out of the country. Suppose they should meet that little company
of Colonial soldiers, what could result but utter disaster for the
Americans? They were encamped so near, they were so few in number, the
situation looked very desperate to her whirling mind. There was a chance
that she might slip out and run through the snow to warn them. As the
thought came to her she made an involuntary movement toward the back
door of the cottage. But the watchful Merton’s sharp little eyes divined
her purpose quickly.

“Think not to befool a British soldier so easily as that,” he mocked as,
with one stride, he stepped between her and the door. He tried the lock,
found it already fastened and grinned with satisfaction as he withdrew
the key. “We will have no slipping out in that direction,” he said
firmly. “Now tell me where dwells Andrew Shadwell, and his gang of
Loyalists, as they call themselves. Is it in the next house, or street,
or town? Come, speak up, I say.”

As she stood, her hand clutching the back of the big chair to steady
herself, Clotilde wondered if he could see how she was trembling. She
was scarcely able to control her voice but she managed, by a mighty
effort to keep it from shaking as she answered:

“I will tell you nothing.”

She swallowed chokily with a dry throat, but she turned her head away
and gazed indifferently into the fire. Her action put the final touch to
Merton’s fury.

“We will see as to that!” he said.

“Here, what is this?” cried a new voice suddenly at the door.

The young officer who entered was dark-cloaked like the others, but
trimmer, straighter and of a more commanding presence. Clotilde gave him
one startled look and then glanced, almost without knowing it, up at the
portrait of Master Simon that still hung above the mantel. How like the
officer’s eyes were to those in the picture and to Stephen Sheffield’s.
She remembered Miles’ saying of:

“There is no blue like Sheffield blue!”

This, then, was the man who had saved her comrade in Boston, the same
that she had seen upon that early morning at the crossroads, riding past
like whirlwind on his great, grey horse.

“What are you doing with this maid, Merton?” asked the officer sternly.
“Stand back from her.”

The soldier growled something between his teeth and sulkily obeyed.

“We would but know where to seek Andrew Shadwell,” went on the Captain
courteously to Clotilde. “Surely there is no harm in telling us that!”

She stared at him stonily and deigned to make no answer. She was
attempting to feel anger at one who could look so much like her dear
Master Sheffield and yet could draw his sword in the cause against
Liberty. But it was hard to resist the appeal of those earnest, friendly
eyes.

“You see,” commented Merton, “the maid is just as stubborn as are all of
these backwoods folk that call themselves patriots. You will get nothing
from her by gentleness.”

Through the door, that had been left open, came a low, whining voice
speaking in rapid French, and round the edge of the doorpost peered the
dark face of the half-breed pedlar.

“There are but women here,” he said, “an old dame who has a tongue like
a flail and this young Mademoiselle. It is the best place to learn, not
only the road to M’sieur Shadwell’s, which I have missed in this
wilderness of snow, but also where lies that handful of rebel troops
that we have heard are encamped in the neighbourhood. There are
red-coated men enough here to take them twice over.”

The Captain, stepping to the threshold, answered the man in a low voice
and in his own tongue.

“Your task was to guide this expedition to the Loyalist headquarters,
and not to lose your bearings at the first turning. Yet, as I have been
once over the road myself, perhaps I can find the way again. What I
wished most to have you discover was the place of encampment of the
American troops.”

The French pedlar interrupted quickly with some words that she was not
able to hear, although she could guess their purport from the officer’s
answer.

“You need not fear so greatly for the safety of your precious skin. The
Americans are so few that they can only harm us if they cut all our
return to our vessel in the harbour; could we but have the chance of
surprising them, they would be quite helpless in the face of our
numbers. Yet I should rather leave them unmolested and accomplish our
errand as quietly as possible. I do not care to risk good lives in the
rescue of a rascal like your master, Andrew Shadwell.”

He turned back into the room and spoke in English to the two soldiers.

“We may as well go on,” he said, with a visible effort to make it appear
that their errand was only a casual one. “We owe this maid an apology
for troubling her with questions that are of no great moment. You must
pardon us, my Mistress.”

“I could find out all we want to know,” growled Merton, “if you would
but leave me alone with her for a little. Or,” he added hopefully,
“there may be some one else here to ask.”

While the Captain was talking with the pedlar, the other soldier had
tramped up the narrow stairs that led from this room to those overhead,
and was now coming down again after having searched the tiny sleeping
quarters above.

“There is no one else in the house,” he announced. “We may as well cease
to frighten the young Mistress and go upon our way.”

They were all three moving toward the door, when the pedlar, who was
still peeping furtively into the room, cried to them to stop.

“Wait,” he exclaimed, in French. “This young Mademoiselle cannot be left
here to run with the news of our coming and alarm the town. Monsieur,
the Captain, will pardon me if I say that it would be wrong. I saw her
face change a moment ago, at the last words we spoke together and it is
my belief that she heard and understood all you said. If she did, then
can she betray us the moment our backs are turned. Ah, look, look at her
eyes, she is pretending ignorance but cannot hide that she understands.”

In spite of herself, the colour rose in Clotilde’s cheeks. She was not
actress enough to conceal her excitement over what she had heard. Oh,
for a chance to run through the wood and give warning to the American
soldiers!

“Is this true?” cried the officer. “Have you indeed understood all that
we have said?”

“Ah, I remember now,” exclaimed Merton’s comrade suddenly. “I could not
recollect where I had seen the little maid before, but I mind me now
that it was at the great house over yonder where she and an old woman
talked together in French and told me that they were both Acadians. Of
course she understood!”

The brows of the young officer were knit in troubled perplexity.

“Is it true that you are French?” he asked.

“Yes,” answered Clotilde, who saw no use in further attempt at
concealment; “yes, I am an Acadian and understand the French tongue as
readily as English.”

“That is a misfortune for both of us,” he returned gravely, “for how,
then, if you know our plan and our errand, can I leave you to go free? I
was a fool to speak so openly, but you are the first I have yet seen in
the colonies whose education included French. Tell, me, will you, as a
prisoner of war, give me your parole not to act against us, not to warn
the people of our being here? I am certain that I can trust you if you
will but give me your word.”

Clotilde regarded him with unmelting hostility.

“I will give you no such promise,” she said steadily, “and I will also
do my utmost to aid my cause against yours.”

Her tone was so final that there seemed little use in further argument.

“Very well,” said the Captain, “then we must leave you here, a prisoner.
You have the key to that further door, Merton? Give it to me, and go out
to tell the men to march on.”

The French pedlar slipped away into the darkness, the two soldiers went
out and closed the door, but the Captain did not follow immediately. He
was bringing fresh wood for the fire from the cupboard in the corner and
was measuring the candles on the mantel shelf to see how long they had
to burn. It was plain that he had no liking for his duty as jailer and
was anxious that his prisoner should not suffer.

“These should last until morning,” he said when he had examined the
candles, “and by that time we will be far away and people from the next
house will surely come to find you. Will they not?” he repeated when she
failed to answer.

His face was so full of unhappy anxiety that, angry and frightened as
she was, Clotilde could not refuse to give him a little comfort.

“Yes, I think they will,” she said stiffly and relapsed once more into
silence.

He piled high the logs and faggots on the hearth so that the fire blazed
up into abundant light and warmth. She could not help noticing what a
really fine face he had as it showed so clearly in the red glow when he
stooped to blow the bellows. He looked about to see if there was aught
else that he could do for her comfort and seemed disappointed to find
there was nothing. For Clotilde, suddenly remembering the Puritan weaver
who had bound his enemy to the armchair and then sat singing at the loom
the whole night through, had decided that his example was a worthy one
and had climbed up to the bench again and sat throwing her shuttle and
singing her song as though the young officer were a hundred miles away.
She seemed not to see him as he tried the back door, examined the barred
windows and finally, taking up his cloak, turned to go. She did not even
look round, although she knew that he hesitated, and then that he paused
with his hand on the latch to speak again.

“I am so sorry, little Mademoiselle,” he said simply.

She made no answer, nor even ceased her singing, but flung the shuttle
swiftly as he opened the door and went out into the rising storm. Quick
as she was, the sound of her swinging heddle did not come in time to
drown the grating noise of the key as it turned in the lock.

For some moments after he was gone she tried to work steadily, then
suddenly dropped her shuttle in a tangle of threads, leaned her head
against the heavy frame of the loom and burst into bitter tears. She
heard as she sat there, the sound of feet tramping past on the creaking
snow, a dozen, a score, fifty, a hundred perhaps or many more. The sound
came back to her on the gusts of the rising wind. On this wild night the
expedition had a good chance of skirting Hopewell unnoticed and
accomplishing its errand undisturbed.

She sat there sobbing for some time, first weeping wildly then wearily
and in despair. Presently she slipped down from the bench, tried both
the doors and the windows and at last, carrying one of the candles,
climbed the stairs to see if escape were possible through one of the
upper windows. It was as she had feared however, the heavy wooden
shutters had been nailed in place when the sleeping rooms had been
abandoned, and no effort of hers could force them open. She went down
again, opened one of the windows that looked toward the great house and
tried to call for help. The roaring wind swept the words from her lips
so quickly that she scarce could hear the cry herself. She could not
even see the other house, for every light in it had long since been put
out. There was no hope that any one there would miss her before morning,
for only Jason knew of her not being at home and he, she was well aware,
would sleep until midday unless forcibly awakened. She turned back to
begin her weaving again, but found herself suddenly too worn out for
further labour; instead she crept into the big chair by the fire and sat
there, limp and weary, her hands lying idle in her lap.

She watched long the dancing firelight as it flickered back and forth on
the low heavy-beamed ceiling. One of the candles sputtered and went out,
but the other burned steady in its copper candlestick although its light
seemed suddenly to have become very feeble and tiny in the midst of all
those moving shadows. The ever rising wind roared down the chimney and
made the faggots flare up, break apart and fall quickly into glowing
coals. The white birch log, however, burned faithfully and cast a
pleasant warmth over her as she sat in the big chair.

She was thinking of the soldiers marching away into the storm; she
wondered if they would accomplish their errand safely; she hoped they
would—she hoped they would not. She thought of the young Captain, of his
bravery when he had escaped alone after all his comrades had
surrendered, of his kindness to Miles, of the gentleness of his voice
when he said, “I am so sorry, little Mademoiselle.” Her heart burned
with anger when she thought of his leaving her in such a plight, it
melted again at the remembrance of how like he was to Stephen and Master
Simon. One moment she wished he might be attacked and taken by the
American troops, the next she pictured him lying somewhere on the snowy
road, wounded and helpless, and she shivered at the thought.

The fire burned low at last and the room grew very cold. She wrapped her
cloak about her and tried walking up and down the room to keep warm, but
found herself so weary that she was forced to sit in the chair again,
half frozen as she was. The last candle dwindled down into its
candlestick, flared high once, then glimmered and went out. The room was
in darkness save for two vague grey blots that showed where the windows
were. The wind that had proved the friend of the English soldiers and
that had dealt so treacherously with her by burning out her fire, had
now dropped and all was so still that she could hear the creaking of the
branches of the trees outside and the soft pat-pat against the window of
the still falling snow.

She must have dozed at last, stiff and uncomfortable as she was, for it
was a long time later that she started suddenly wide awake. She saw then
that daylight had come upon her unawares, that the windows showed now
the wide, white fields outside, and that all the strange shadowy shapes
about the dusky room were beginning to show familiar forms of table,
spinning-wheel and loom. It must have been the sound of footsteps on the
doorstone that aroused her, for even as she opened her eyes she saw that
the door was opening and some one was coming in. Dazed, bewildered by
her sudden waking, scarcely knowing where she was, she sat staring at
the dark figure that strode across to her and leaned over the great
chair.

“Little Mademoiselle,” said the Captain’s voice, “is it true that you
are still here and safe?”

“You—you came back!” she gasped up at him in uncomprehending
astonishment. “Was there a battle? Did you find our soldiers?”

“There has been no fighting,” he answered cheerfully, as he fumbled with
stiff fingers, trying to lift the cloak that had slipped from her
shoulders. “We did not find your fellow-patriots, nor did they find us,
so we were well enough content. The storm stood us in good stead, for
all the good people of your village and the next were sleeping so
soundly, with doors and windows barred and feather beds pulled over
their heads, that no one heard us go by and we brought away Andrew
Shadwell and his friends with never a living soul to say us nay.”

“But where have your soldiers gone?” she asked still bewildered, for
there was no sound outside and she could see through the window that the
fields and road were empty.

“They are embarking at the cove, five miles from here, where lies the
ship that is to carry them safely away, now that our errand is safely
done. It was a most unwelcome one and fell to my lot only because I had
been through this countryside before. And when all was over I could no
longer bear the thought of a brave little maid sitting here all alone in
the dark and cold, so I came back—that is all. I will see that you come
safely to your house and then go back to join my men.”

He helped her to her feet, but she could hardly stand, so still and
benumbed was she and shivering so from head to foot. He put her cloak
about her, and then his own great heavy one whose warm folds felt
welcome indeed around her shaking shoulders. He opened the door and they
came out together into the still, white cold of the winter morning.
Across the field toward the big house the line of the deeply-trodden
path still showed under the drifted snow. Clotilde regarded it with
dismay.

“I did not remember that it was so far!” she cried involuntarily. There
was almost a sob in her voice as, weak and aching, she thought of
toiling that long way through the snow.

“Poor, brave little Mistress, is it too much for you at last?” said the
Captain. “Since you are very small and I am very big, there is a simple
and speedy way for you to cross the field.”

He took her up in his arms and stepped off the doorstep into a deep
white drift.

Far over toward the highroad, the Captain’s grey horse was tied to a
branch of the hedge. In the silence Clotilde could hear him pawing the
snow and, a moment later, raise his voice in a clear, shrill whinny.

“What can ail him?” the Captain wondered aloud, but Clotilde, raising
her head from the folds of the muffling cloak, guessed the reason at
once.

“He hears horses in the lane above,” she said. “Hark! can you not hear
them coming? Oh, put me down, put me down, you are not safe here, that
scarlet coat of yours can be seen a mile away!”

Without his cloak, the officer was indeed a distinct and unmistakable
mark against the white snow, but that fact did not seem to disconcert
him.

“I will carry you to the gap in the hedge, the way from there is easier
for you to walk,” he said, and strode forward up the buried path.

Clotilde was in an agony of anxiety long before he set her down. As they
reached the hedge she looked up through the garden and saw the white
gate swing open and five men in buff and blue dismount and come running
in. At the sight of her companion, they gave a shout and advanced down
the hill, stumbling and floundering in the deep snow.

“I yield you into the hands of your friends,” said the Captain gravely
but she could only wring her hands in an agony of terror and cry:

“Oh, run, run!”

He was hardly a dozen feet from her when two shots rang out in rapid
succession and he stopped, staggered for a second and then stumbled on.

“It is nothing,” he turned to call back to her with a reassuring smile,
although his face was white with pain.

He set off again, but his pace grew ever slower and more faltering.
Across the field sounded once more the high, loud neighing of his horse.

Clotilde, glancing in that direction, saw suddenly that two more men had
been left at the edge of the lane and were now crouching behind a clump
of bayberry bushes close to where the English officer must pass. As she
watched one of them rose to his knees, levelled his musket and took
deliberate aim.

“Stop,” she cried out, turning to run toward them through the deep
drifts. Although her feet would scarcely carry her, she managed somehow
to make her way along until she caught up with the wavering scarlet
figure that was struggling nearer and nearer to the hidden enemy.

“You shall not shoot!” she called out loudly as she grasped him by the
dripping sleeve of his red coat. “You shall not touch him; he is my
prisoner!”

And to this the young officer made no remonstrance, for he had fallen
face downward in the snow.



                             CHAPTER XVIII

                             QUAKER LADIES


When Stephen returned at mid-morning of that same day, his horses
steaming in the cold air and his two serving-men trailing out behind
him, unable to keep up with the furious pace their master had set, he
found that, for the first time, there was no one at the door to greet
him. He had spent the night at a small town twenty miles from Hopewell
and, on hearing at dawn of the successful British expedition, he had
pushed forward with all haste, quite ignorant still of the happenings at
his own house. His eyes opened wide at the sight of blue-coated soldiers
scattered about his grounds, but he did not stop to question them. He
came into the hall and found no one there, he mounted the stairs and on
the landing met Mother Jeanne, who greeted him with such a torrent of
incoherent French that he had not the slightest idea of what she sought
to tell him. After looking in at several of the open doors, his
expression of wonder growing every moment, he finally encountered Doctor
Thorndyke, just coming downstairs after a lengthy examination of the
wounded officer.

“In Heaven’s name,” said Stephen to him, “will some one tell me what is
amiss in this house? I come home to find my garden in the possession of
soldiers, Mère Jeanne apparently quite out of her senses, Clotilde
asleep, a total stranger installed in my best bedroom and a scarlet
coat, covered with blood, hanging over the back of a chair. Is all the
world gone mad, or is it only I?”

The Doctor laughed.

“It is indeed somewhat disturbing,” he said, “to come home to a peaceful
house and find a wounded prisoner of war, a young heroine whose praises
every one is singing and a frantic Frenchwoman whom excitement seems to
have robbed of all her English. But come downstairs, Stephen, and I will
give you the whole story as well as I have managed to learn it from a
dozen different people who all sought to tell me at once. The one who
knows the most is up yonder in your guest room and will be unable to
state his version of the matter for some time to come.”

In Stephen’s study, where Mother Jeanne, who had at last collected her
wits a little, brought them breakfast, the Doctor related the story of
the escape of Andrew Shadwell and the night’s adventures of Clotilde.

“She knew,” commented Stephen, when he heard of her toiling so late in
the empty cottage; “she knew well indeed that, had I been here, I would
never have permitted such a thing. She was making the most of my
absence, the minx!”

When he heard how the English soldiers had marched past Hopewell unheard
and unseen in the storm, and had brought the troublesome Tories safely
away, he chuckled aloud and slapped his knee.

“We are well rid of Andrew Shadwell, the slippery rogue,” he said, “and
this was, after all, the best way out of the situation. I wish the
English joy of him. But when I overtook the troops from Boston this
morning, I found them a disappointed set who had just learned that they
had arrived a few hours too late. Their leader had naught to do but to
march his men back again with as good a grace as he could, for the ship
that brought the English troops was already far out to sea.”

When the Doctor reached that part of the tale dealing with the young
Captain’s return to see that Clotilde was safe, he warmed to his task of
storyteller.

“It was the deed of a gallant fellow,” he concluded, “and I would the
boy were not so sorely hurt. I find I have a friendly feeling for him,
not only on account of his courage but because of his resemblance to
you. Even as he lies there, white and unconscious, he has a familiar
look that strikes me as uncanny. Just go and see for yourself, if you do
not believe me.”

Stephen mounted the stairs once more and stepped into the room where the
wounded soldier lay. Bidding the Doctor’s servant, who watched beside
the bed, to draw aside the curtain, he stood for some time gazing at the
white face on the pillow. Then he turned, without a word, and went back
to his waiting friend.

“I will show you why his face is so familiar,” he said.

He led the physician into the dining-room and pointed to the portrait
that hung in the place of honour above the sideboard. It was a picture
of Amos Bardwell, painted in England and sent many years ago to Alisoun
Sheffield. As was the somewhat unnatural fashion of that day, the artist
had pictured the young man on horseback, his painted steed prancing, his
cloak flying out behind him and his plumed hat held aloft in his hand.
Behind him was the usual background of woods and distant cliffs crowned
by a castle. Face and figure were so much like the young officer’s
upstairs that it was small wonder that Clotilde, when she saw him gallop
down the road that October morning, had felt so sure she had seen him
before. As Stephen and the Doctor looked at the portrait, both were
thinking that it might have been meant for the wounded stranger himself,
save that the picture was fifty years old and the young soldier was
surely not half that age.

“Amos Bardwell!” exclaimed the doctor. “How happily we used to play
together when we two were little eager lads and he was a big, kindly
one. Do you mind how he taught us the game of ‘King William was King
James’ Son’ and how you would never let us play it again after your
friend the fat British Sergeant gave you the true history of King
William and King James? Heard you ever what became of that doughty
officer?”

“Sergeant Branderby?” said Stephen. “I fear that he perished the next
year in the great Jacobite uprising, for I never heard news of him
again. Do you remember his tales of the Low Countries to which we used
to listen so breathlessly?”

The Doctor did not answer at once as he was still gazing at the picture.

“So this lad upstairs is Amos’ son!” he observed at last.

“His grandson, more likely,” Stephen answered, looking reflectively at
the picture. “You forget, comrade, how time passes and that we were not
boys yesterday. Amos’ only child was a daughter, of whom we lost all
trace after he died, nor ever knew even whom she married. When I was in
England, I went down to the little place in the country that was his
home when he was not at sea: I saw his grave in the churchyard, but of
his daughter I could get no news. The village people said only that she
never came back there after her father’s death, but had, they thought,
finally gone to dwell with some distant kindred in Scotland. One old
woman had heard it rumoured that the girl had married one of these
far-removed cousins, but she could not recollect the name.”

As they turned way from the picture, the Doctor said in a tone of
misgiving:

“That boy upstairs seems a sturdy fellow, but my heart fails me
concerning him, none the less. It will take skilled and faithful nursing
to bring back to health a lad with one bullet lodged in his ribs and
another gone through his knee. My man is with him now, but even he is
not so good an attendant as is needed, while that old Frenchwoman who
cared so well for you, Stephen, is now too old and prone to the losing
of her wits. Who is to be the boy’s nurse I do not know.”

“Here is his nurse,” said a quiet voice in the doorway, and the two
wheeled to see Clotilde standing there, gay and sweet as a flower after
her long sleep and none the worse for her adventures.

“You? Why you are but a child!” exclaimed the Doctor. “Only last week,
it seems to me, I saw you, a little maid, standing in that doorway with
your white-frilled apron and your braided hair and with a smoking
blunderbuss held in your hand as daintily as though it were a rose.”

Clotilde smiled, but soberly.

“That was more like seven years ago than seven days,” she answered, “and
I am surely now a woman grown although I have failed somehow to reach a
woman’s stature. I have wished often,” she added with a sigh, for this
was a sore subject with her, “that I could have grown tall and stately
like all of those of Master Simon’s kindred.”

“Whatever her age and size, she has done a woman’s work since the war
began,” said Stephen. “And as for your height, my child, sigh not over
that as being unlike the others. Radpaths, Bardwells and Sheffields, we
are all proud to call you one of us!”

At which speech, Clotilde first dropped him a stately curtsey and then
ran across the room to throw her arms about his neck.

It was a long, long time, as the Doctor had feared, before the young
English officer made even enough progress on the road toward health to
warrant them in hoping that he could be brought the whole of that
toilsome way. Many weeks it was before his fevered mind became wholly
clear, or the Doctor would permit his being questioned as to who he was
and whether there was really reason for his resemblance to the portrait
in the dining room. Upon the first day that he sat up, however, he put
all doubts to an end by giving a full account of himself. Not only did
he prove to be of Stephen’s kindred and the grandson of Amos Bardwell,
but his surname was the same as Master Simon’s. His mother had married a
distant kinsman of Master Simon’s and the boy’s name, therefore, was
Radpath, Gerald Radpath.

“And I am as proud of my Puritan ancestor as any of you Americans can
be,” he said to Stephen and Clotilde as they sat beside his bed. “I have
heard from my mother all the tales of that far journey among the Indians
and how his daughter and my own grandfather, Amos Bardwell, dared to
stand firm at the witch trial. But my knowledge of scenes and places was
vague, having come through so many hands and I never dreamed, that night
when I found Mademoiselle Clotilde that the place of our meeting was the
shoemaker’s cottage and that the snow-covered scene of my disaster was
Master Simon’s famous garden.”

“But how could you,” burst out Clotilde, “if you were of Master Simon’s
blood, draw your sword against the Colonies and maintain the unjust
cause of the King?”

Stephen held up his hand in warning against the speaking of such
vigorous reproaches to a man weak and ill and propped up among his
pillows for the first time. But Gerald Radpath only smiled.

“You forget, Mademoiselle,” he replied, “that we also were of your kin
and that you drew your swords against us. Moreover, Master Simon was as
loyal a subject of Queen Elizabeth and the first King James as am I, of
King George. Did not his father, Robin Radpath, die in the effort to
bear the great Queen’s message to the Emperor of Cathay? And I think you
do not understand,” he went on more earnestly, “that we who came over to
America in the King’s army had no very real knowledge of the cause in
which we were fighting. Many such as I came up from the counties far
from London, heard that beyond the seas was a company of ungrateful
rebels who wished to make over our Parliament’s laws to suit themselves,
and so threw ourselves headlong into our country’s service. We were
amazed, later, to find that we were facing a spirited people who fought
for a splendid cause, one that they, and even we ourselves in the end,
knew was a just one. We had little taste for our task, most of us,
before much time had passed; this I tell you freely since now I lie here
wounded with no great chance of fighting again before the war is over.
But I tell you also that, once having sworn allegiance to the King’s
service, we will not turn traitors and betray his side to the enemy. His
officers will fight on until a chance comes to withdraw honourably—we
are not turncoats like Andrew Shadwell.”

“You are a good lad and a loyal soldier,” said Stephen, holding out his
hand to clasp his cousin’s heartily. “A brave heart is a brave heart on
whichever side it stands.”

“Had you ever had to do with Andrew Shadwell before?” inquired Clotilde,
for she noticed his tone of extreme bitterness when he spoke of their
Tory neighbour.

“That night my companions surrendered to the Colonial soldiers, and I
managed to escape,” Gerald answered, “Andrew Shadwell hid me in his barn
from midnight until dawn. Then he came out to say that he had decided to
swear allegiance to the American cause, since fortune seemed to be
against the English, and so he turned me out into the growing daylight.
Nor would he even give me information as to the road, lest it should be
held against him that he had given aid to the enemy. Later, when the
tide of success seemed to have set in our direction again, he changed
his party once more and clamoured for rescue so loudly that the British
Commander, in return for some information that he had given, was obliged
to comply with his request. The traitorous fellow had the grace to
stammer and turn red when he saw who it was that had been sent to save
him. Had he remained, he would have been a loyal citizen of the United
States again, by now, I do not doubt.”

Andrew Shadwell, wherever he had taken refuge, must indeed have chided
himself bitterly for fleeing to the English just when success seemed to
have returned to the side of the Colonies. Victory was with the American
arms all through the Spring, for the troops that had braved the horrors
of the Valley Forge winter, found thereafter that the dangers of battle
were small by comparison.

So, at least, did Miles Atherton explain the turn of fortune in the
American favour. He had been sent by General Washington on some errand
to Boston and had ridden down to Hopewell for a hasty visit to his
family and to Stephen and Clotilde. It was a bright, sweet, warm June
day that they sat together in the garden, when all the gayest birds were
singing and all the softest breezes blowing—a day to which Clotilde long
looked back with wistful memory.

Stephen had been ill and seemed now quite well again: that was one
reason why she was so happy. His malady was one which he himself
pronounced of no importance but over which the Doctor looked grave.

“These flutterings of the heart,” jested Stephen, “are less worthy of an
old man than of a young maid. Were they Clotilde’s—”

“It is no matter for joking,” his old friend interrupted sternly.
“Flutterings of the heart must be attended to or they will have grave
effect.”

“You cannot frighten an old man whose span is almost completed,”
returned Stephen. “Besides I will live to see the end of this long
struggle; to do that I am determined.”

So the Doctor had gone out muttering anxiously to himself, but Stephen
had managed to quiet Clotilde’s fears and to make her smile again.

Two other pleasant things had also happened on that same morning,
previous to Miles’ coming. One was Gerald Radpath’s walking unaided for
the first time. He had come out into the garden and had limped as far as
the bench by the sundial, with such success that Clotilde had felt that
they could believe at last that his recovery was not so hopelessly far
away. Weak and pale as he still was, he seemed, for the first time as he
sat there in the sunshine, to be somewhat more than the mere ghost of
that sturdy soldier who had carried her across the snowy meadow. Another
joy, one even more unexpected, was that the linden tree, after standing
black and bare for two Springs, this year put forth leaves and, on that
very day, had come once more into bloom. Many times the question had
been raised as to whether it ought not to be cut down, but each time
Stephen had refused, saying that trees so injured had been known to
stand seven years dead and then put forth life again. Now his patience
had been rewarded, the happy bees hummed in the branches, the grass was
green in the little Queen’s garden and the hedges were growing tall
again.

“It is surely a pleasant world,” said Gerald, as he drank in long
breaths of the fresh warm air and looked out at the dancing blue waters
of the harbour.

It was at this moment that the gate slammed and Miles came hurrying up
the path to greet Clotilde and Stephen. When he turned to Gerald, the
faces of both were a study, since the one remembered keenly the moment
when his foolhardiness had nearly caused his death as a spy, while the
other had the unhappy knowledge that, surrounded though he was by
comfort and kindness, he was now the prisoner who had then been the
captor. The moment of confusion was not long, however, for Clotilde
began telling pell-mell the reason of that resemblance that had puzzled
them all. Having finished, she began to ply Miles with questions as to
all that had befallen him during that season of suffering at Valley
Forge. The thought of all that the patriots had undergone stirred Miles
to what was, for him, an unusual flow of speech.

“The memory of that winter will last all of us to our dying day, and
after,” he said. “There were bitter cruel winds that cut through our
threadbare coats as though they had been made of gossamer, there were
steep slippery paths where our benumbed feet stumbled and the ice tore
our worn-out shoes and gashed us to the bone. Our little huts of logs
and earth were more like the burrows of animals than the abiding places
of humans.”

“And all the time,” said Clotilde, “the British army was so near by, and
so warm and comfortable in Philadelphia.”

“Yes,” replied Miles, “we could climb to the hilltop and see the smoke
of the city and know that it was there the English soldiers were
spending the winter in pleasant ease. My heart used to fill with
bitterness, at times, and I would wonder how it could be that all should
be so fair for them while such hardship was meted out to us.”

“Nevertheless,” commented Stephen, “you had a great man to lead you
through your time of suffering.”

Miles’ eyes shone at the recollection.

“We had indeed,” he said, “and there were no such thoughts could assail
me when I came near General Washington. I used to meet him sometimes
walking the snowy path before his little, rough stone house, or I would
see him through the window, writing letters in the cold bare room. I
would see that his grey, drawn face was growing gaunter and older every
day and my heart would burn in me to do my utmost for such a man. There
was not one of his soldiers but loved him just as I did. Our shoes and
clothes were worn and our strength was wasted but had he asked us to
walk to Jericho and back for his simple pleasure we would have done it
joyfully. It is the love of the soldiers for General Washington that has
fought this war, it is that spirit of his, sombre, slow, but never
turning back, that will lead us to victory in the end. I would that my
words were not so futile, that I could make you see what manner of man
he is.”

“You have not done so ill, boy, as it is,” said Stephen, a little
huskily, as he sat looking straight before him down to the sea. The tide
was coming in along the sandy beach and past the rocky headlands. It
must have been that he likened it in his mind to the rising tide of the
cause of Liberty, coming so slowly but not to be stopped or stayed by
the hand of any man. He must have wondered whether that cause would
touch its high-water mark while he still lived.

“And when the Spring came, Miles, were you not happy then?” questioned
Clotilde.

Miles’ eyes danced, while his face and tone changed so completely that
Stephen turned sharply to look at him in startled wonder.

“Ah, you never saw such a Spring as that which comes to Pennsylvania,”
he exclaimed, “not the headlong season we have here, when one week the
meadows are white with snow and the next are as green as in midsummer,
but a long, warm, slow-coming Spring when the little, brown, wooded
hills turn green so gradually that you scarce can see the change from
day to day, when the sunny banks are thicker with blue violets than with
grass, and when a strange wild herb grows thick in the meadows and
smells sharp and sweet when the grazing horses trample it. Our Spring
comes in a great breathtaking wave, but theirs like some rippling tide
that breaks and rises a little and breaks again.”

“It is so we have Spring in England,” said Gerald. He, as well as
Stephen seemed to have observed the change in Miles’ manner, and was
regarding him with keen curiosity. Clotilde alone seemed not to notice
anything unusual, so absorbed was she in what he said.

“I can never forget,” went on Miles, “a meadow all green and yellow with
new grasses and a tiny stream flowing through the midst, its banks
blue-grey with masses of flowers called Quaker Ladies. Such sweet,
gay-hearted little blossoms, growing in thousands beside the marshy
bank—”

He suddenly caught Stephen’s eye fixed upon him and stopped in a scarlet
agony of embarrassment. Getting up from his seat he announced hastily
that he must go, that his time was short in Hopewell and there was much
to do.

“Then come first to the house with me,” said Stephen. “I have a letter
for General Washington written some days since, and have been vainly
seeking a messenger.”

As they walked up the path together he once more regarded the boy oddly.

“It seems to me,” he observed, “that I never before heard a bluff
soldier talk so fondly of blossoms and meadows and—Quaker Ladies.”

He was unkind enough to laugh aloud as Miles floundered vainly in his
effort to explain.

“But you do not understand,” the poor youth began vainly to protest in
stammering explanation, “that the Quaker Ladies are flowers—that grow
beside brooks—”

“Ay, and there is another variety, that peeps through farm-house windows
when brave soldier lads go riding by,” Stephen suggested. “But never
mind, boy,” he added, his kind voice full of warm affection, “do not
blush so. Know you not that no one wishes you greater happiness than do
Clotilde and I?”

“Thank you—ah, thank you, Master Sheffield,” Miles managed to get out,
and with that seized the letter and made his escape.

It was not strange that Clotilde looked back upon this day as one of
especial happiness. They had been so gay there in the garden, all four
of them together, so little realising the changes that were to come so
soon. Gerald’s returning health made him talk more and more of imposing
on their hospitality no longer: a month later his exchange was effected
and he made ready for departure. It was arranged that he should go back
to England since he had neither the power nor, if the truth were told,
the heart for further fighting. David Thurston came home on leave at
just that time and it was arranged that Captain Radpath was to ride back
with him as far as New York where he could take ship for home.

Stephen had whispered to Clotilde some of his suspicions as to the state
of Miles’ heart and together they made very merry over the secret. When
a letter came from him, sent by the hand of David, she ran with it into
the garden eager to see if it contained any further hints of that
suspected affair of the Quaker Lady. She was smiling as she opened the
letter, smiling for the first time in many days.

Gerald Radpath was to leave in less than a week’s time. Strange to say,
he too had seemed very sombre these last few days, very quiet and
thoughtful and much unlike his former cheery self. Many times Stephen
had caught him watching with wistful eyes as Clotilde went to and fro
about the house or garden.

“Well, is it small wonder?” Stephen had said with a sigh to Mother
Jeanne, whose sharp black eyes, you may be sure, had noticed the same
thing. “He dared much for her and she has been a faithful nurse to him.
I think that great happiness is to come out of that adventure in
Skerry’s cottage.”

But, apparently, Stephen for once was wrong. He could not know that, on
the morning that Miles’ letter came, Gerald had been walking long in the
garden and had finally come hurrying up the path, his face bright with
happy resolve. He had paused when he came upon Clotilde, seated under
the linden tree, just unfolding the paper in her hands.

“A letter?” he said inquiringly.

“Yes, from Miles,” she returned with a bright smile, and, not realising
that he had stopped beside her instead of going on, she began to read.

Gerald watched her as her eyes ran with eager interest from line to
line, thought he could guess the reason of her being so absorbed and,
with all the new happiness gone from his face, he turned away.

When, a few days later, he said good-bye to her before the door of the
great house, he tried to mutter some words about “thanks for her great
kindness” and “sincere hopes for her welfare always,” but both he and
she fell into desperate confusion and, in the end, he strode away down
the steps, his farewells only half said. Clotilde watched him mount his
grey horse and ride away down the driveway. She saw him disappear beyond
the turn and felt, all of a sudden, very little and lonely in the midst
of a very big, dreary, empty world.

It seemed to her, poor child, that for an absolutely unlimited time
thereafter she had spent all her days in the dullest and weariest of
tasks, of which the most unwelcome was the tending of cabbages. She grew
to hate the great, coarse, clumsy vegetables that filled Master Simon’s
garden and that must continue to grow there, for the feeding of the
poor, as long as the war should last. And the war dragged on endlessly,
winter, summer, winter again and another summer: would it never cease?
Stephen grew frailer and his face was often sharp with suffering, but
still he jested over all his ills. He would not even allow Clotilde to
complain that it was unjust that he should undergo so much.

“Every one suffers in war time,” he would say. “We can expect nothing
else.”

“And will the war never end?” she exclaimed one day.

“Ay, some day, my dear,” he answered, so gently that she was ashamed of
her vehemence. “Remember that Jacob served for Rachel seven years; would
you have us, who are serving for Liberty, stop at only five?”

“If seven years were all,” she could not help replying, “but it looks
now as though it were to be seven hundred.”

There came at last a bright autumn morning that she was never to forget.
The brisk spiciness in the air made the sun seem pleasant, so that
Stephen, who had been ailing a little more than usual, had had his chair
moved to the window that he might bask in the grateful warmth. Clotilde
had made him comfortable with cushions and had gone to attend to her
other duties about the house. She was standing at the china-cupboard in
the dining-room when she heard the sound of horse’s feet on the drive,
heard the rattle of the knocker and old Jason’s shuffling steps as he
went to open the door. There was a pause, then Stephen’s voice called to
her from the next room.

“Clotilde, my child,” he said, “a despatch from General Washington, and
such joyful news. Come quickly and read it. But wait, first attend to
the messenger, I have never seen a man so spent.”

“Yes, Master Sheffield, I will come to you in a moment,” she answered.

Jason was conducting the man to the kitchen and she followed to see that
he had what he needed. He did indeed seem to have ridden so hard as to
be utterly worn out; he sat in the chimney corner scarcely able to
speak, so she spent some time in brewing a drink that would help to
revive his strength. It must have been nearly twenty minutes later that
she went into the study.

Stephen was leaning back in his big chair, the letter still lying on his
knee. He had dropped asleep there in the peaceful sunshine and seemed to
be dreaming of happy things, so contented was his smile. She took the
paper and read, only a few short words, but joyful news indeed.

“On October nineteenth, Lord Cornwallis surrendered his entire force to
the allied French and American armies. I think we may say, dear friend,
and thank God in so saying, that this means the end of the war.”

The end of the war! What might that not mean to all of them? She had a
sudden, joyful thought that it might bring the return of—of some one,
then her conscience smote her that her first thought had been for
herself. How happy Stephen looked, how he was resting after all this
heavy labour and weary waiting!

She sat down beside him to wait patiently until he should awake and they
could enjoy the great news together. For some time she sat there, very
quietly, watching the slow sunshine creep up along his hand and arm and
finally touch his smiling face and his white hair. How young he still
looked, somehow, and how boyish in spite of all the years.

She waited happily, she could not tell how long. It was not until Mère
Jeanne came in, not until she saw the old Frenchwoman’s face suddenly
grow white and heard her cry—

“Ah, the good angels protect us now!” that she realised that the
peaceful sleep into which Stephen had fallen was of the sort that lasts
forever.



                              CHAPTER XIX

                          GOODY PARSONS’ ROSE


“To my dear foster-child, called Clotilde Lamotte, but who, if she
carries out my wish, will call herself Clotilde Sheffield until she
changes that name for another, I leave all my possessions in and near
the town of Hopewell and in her especial charge I place that plot of
ground that has long been called Master Simon’s garden. I leave behind
me no directions as to how she is to care for that garden, since I know
that she will tend and cherish it as lovingly as would I myself. I give
her with it my blessing and I bid her be of good heart and not
disappoint Master Simon.”

It was this portion of Stephen’s will, read to her by the staid old
lawyer, that made Clotilde smile, even through her tears. “Not to
disappoint Master Simon” had been a byword between herself and her dear
Master Sheffield whenever the world looked dark and it seemed hard to
face the future with courage. So, with as brave a spirit as she could
muster, she set out to fulfil his wishes.

There was still much, so very much hard work for her to do. Although the
surrender at Yorktown had marked the practical end of the fighting, the
negotiations for peace had dragged on, the country could not settle down
and want and poverty must still be bravely faced. The little town of
Hopewell, while it looked more cheerful and began to wear an air of
greater prosperity, was still full of women who had lost the mainstay of
their families, of men whose means of livelihood had been swept away, of
others wounded or suffering who needed a hand to set them on their feet
again. From cottage to cottage Clotilde went, giving freely of her help
in advice, money and the products of her lands. The time had not yet
come for the finishing of Stephen’s house or the replanting of Master
Simon’s garden.

At length the peace-treaty was signed and ratified by Congress, the last
winter of dire poverty went by and with the Spring the Colonies of
America began the task of setting their affairs to rights and forming a
new government. Many jealous eyes were watching them from across the
seas, for all the world was saying that, though Americans might know how
to fight for freedom they had no wisdom in the matter of keeping it.
Their good friend France had helped them to win their battles, but she
had no power to aid them now. Ah, how sorely was Stephen Sheffield
missed at this crisis and how much he could have done to smooth the
rough road of the blundering nation. Not only those nearest to him, but
also many of the great men of the country mourned the fact that Stephen
Sheffield’s calm, clear, tolerant mind could not assist in this great
task.

Miles Atherton did not come back to Hopewell until the last company of
soldiers had disbanded and until General Washington had gone back to
Mount Vernon to become a plain country gentleman again, instead of the
greatest man of his time. Then it was that Clotilde’s old play-fellow
came back to sit with her in the garden once more, to tell her that he
was to make one more journey, to explain hesitatingly that this was to
be a momentous one indeed—in short to unfold the whole story of the
Quaker Ladies.

“All through that terrible winter at Valley Forge,” he said as, little
by little, she drew the tale from him, “the soldiers used to talk of
some one whom they called the ‘little Quaker Lady.’ No one had ever seen
her close, for she used to come like a little grey shadow, slipping past
our outer lines and then running away into the dark again as though she
were a ghost. But what she left behind was apt to be far from
ghost-like, such baskets of wonderful good things, such fat capons, such
eggs and butter and fresh cream cheese! You would have to be a
half-starved soldier to realise what her gifts meant.”

“Well,” smiled Clotilde encouragingly, as Miles paused, “surely all your
raptures are not merely concerning what she brought you to eat.”

“No,” he answered. “I was only thinking of how I began to tell you of
this when I was here before, and of how my unwonted talkativeness
betrayed me to Master Sheffield and how he laughed at me. I am glad now
that he did guess my secret and that I have the memory of the good
wishes that he gave me. No,” he went on, returning to his tale, “if it
had not been for a chance happening, I would have had no raptures nor
ever known more of the Quaker Lady than that her hens laid most wondrous
fresh eggs.”

“Most eggs are fresh when laid,” Clotilde reminded him, but he assured
her that none could ever be compared to those roasted over the coals of
a campfire in the wind-sheltered hollows of Valley Forge.

“I was doing sentry duty one night,” he continued, “for officers took
their turn as well as privates, so short-handed were we. I had built a
little fire, just so that my comrades would not have the sorrow of
finding a frozen man at my post when they came to relieve me. Suddenly I
thought that I heard, above the crackling of the flames, a sound of
footsteps on the frozen snow, and to make sure, I dropped a branch of
fat pitch-pine upon the coals. There was a quick flare of light and I
could make out, not ten paces from me, a little dark figure in a Quaker
bonnet and cloak. For a single second I saw her face plainly before the
flame died down. She cried out when she found that she had been
discovered, dropped her burden and fled away into the shadows. How the
men chided me when I carried the basket into camp and told my story;
they feared that she had been too badly frightened to return and besides
four of the precious eggs were broken.”

“But she did come back?” Clotilde said eagerly.

“Yes, but so shyly and secretly that I did not see her again all through
the winter. I watched eagerly enough, of that you may be sure, but it
was not until Spring that I met her again. I had wandered one day far
from our valley, farther indeed than was thought safe, but so frantic
was I to see something green after all those months in the barren camp,
that I had no thought of where I went. I told you once of the meadow and
the little clear stream with its banks blue-grey with the close-growing
Quaker Ladies; I did not tell you that, as I was hidden for a moment
behind a clump of willows, the little Quaker maid herself, in her
blue-grey gown and with her hands full of flowers, came walking along
the farther bank. When she saw me she would have run away again, but I—I
persuaded her to remain.”

Clotilde laughed quietly. It was hard to picture slow-spoken Miles
standing on the bank of the stream, trying to beguile the shy Quaker
maiden on the other side into waiting to talk to him. But into the life
of even the most silent of youths there comes always an instant of
eloquence, and this, it seemed, was Miles’ great moment. He sat shaking
his head over the wonder and glory of it even now.

“And did General Washington have to send a squad of soldiers to bring
you home again?” she asked him at last.

“Not quite,” replied Miles, blushing but laughing at himself at the same
time, “although I admit that there was almost necessity for it. I came
to the meadow again and yet again, where she would come to meet me. I
began to feel—oh, Clotilde, how it does steal upon you unawares!”

Poor Clotilde felt a sudden fierce stab at her heart. How it did, to be
sure, come unawares and never go away again!

“At last our army marched forth from Valley Forge,” he went on, “and
she, just as Master Sheffield guessed, was peeping through the window to
see us go by. Her father was a prosperous farmer, not averse to our side
of the war, but more willing to sell his produce for the English gold
than for the worthless paper money that bought our supplies. Had he ever
known how many of his good things went into the larder of the American
soldiers, I fear it would have gone hard with his daughter.”

“It must have been difficult to see her after that,” Clotilde observed.

“Most surely it was,” he said with a sigh; “there were but brief visits
snatched as our army went back and forth. I was nearly captured more
than once, but several times brought back information that was of use to
our Commander, so I never received the reprimands that I well deserved.
There would have been no Captain Radpath to set me free this time had
the enemy laid hands upon me. By the way, have you heard aught of him
since he sailed for England?”

“No, nothing,” she answered hastily, and turned the subject quickly.
“And so now the war is over, you are going to be wedded? Oh, Miles, I am
so glad!”

“In two short months,” he told her joyfully, “and there will be the end
of midnight rides and secret meetings in the meadow. Then she will be
here always and nothing to come between us. Oh, if you could but know
how happy I am!”

She could well measure his happiness, she thought, by her own great
loneliness, but of that she could not speak. She was too fond of her old
playmate not to feel a glow of pleasure in his joy, and she made him
happier yet by the earnestness of her good wishes. He went away through
the gate at last, his joyfulness running over for all the world to see,
as he beamed delightedly upon every one he passed.

In spite of her good share in Miles’ happiness, the world seemed now
very empty and forlorn to Clotilde, for Mère Jeanne had slipped away
during the dark, stormy days of the winter and had left her adopted
child to face life all alone. Only Stephen’s last request, “not to
disappoint Master Simon” availed to keep up her failing courage. She had
a new task before her this Spring, one to which she could turn
unhindered at last, since starvation no longer threatened the poor of
Hopewell. And so, with a heavy heart, she bent her energies to the
replanting of Master Simon’s garden.

“But it will not be his garden now,” she reflected drearily. “It will be
a place like any other, since I who plant it am not even one of his own
children. All that belonged to him has perished utterly.”

When the place was ready, however, when the old beds had been dug and
the former lawns sown with grass again, she bethought her of at least
one flower that she could plant and know it was still Master Simon’s. Up
on the forest hillside was that wonderful group of daffodils, set out by
his hand and waiting all these years to return to the garden whence they
came. With old Jason beside her, she toiled through the muddy lanes and
up through the wood, where buds were bursting on the trees and
Mayflowers were opening under the dry leaves. There she found what she
sought, the dear yellow flowers, flinging their gold down the slope like
long drifts of Spring sunshine. Two great basketfuls they brought home,
and set the sturdy plants in a long row by the fence where daffodils had
always grown since the first year that the Colony was settled.

And then there began a miracle, so it seemed, a wonder wrought only by
simple love and friendliness, but a miracle just the same. She was
lingering over the task of putting the last clump of daffodils in place
when through the gate came young Giles Thurston, twelve-year-old brother
to the good soldier David. To his house more than to any other she had
gone, during the years of want, and had given help when otherwise
starvation would have come very close.

“Please, Mistress,” said Giles, laying upon the ground a great awkward
bundle that he had been carrying in both arms, “I heard that you were
planting your garden and I have been wishing so much that I might bring
you something to grow there. Our own garden is bare and planted with
turnips and cabbages of which you surely have enough already, but up on
the hill is a tumble-down empty cottage with a rose vine growing all
over its broken walls. My mother says that an old woman named Goody
Parsons used to dwell there a long, long time ago and that the rose once
grew in Master Simon’s garden. See, I have brought you a root of it.
Mother put a slip into the ground the very first Spring after your
garden was burned. And here, too, is a part of Goody Parsons’ hawthorn
bush that I think must also have come from Master Simon.”

Poor old Goody Parsons, dead so many years and gone to that Heaven that
was to be like Hertfordshire, how she would have rejoiced to know that
her memory still lived and had offered back the gift that Master Simon
had given.

Most joyfully did Clotilde accept what the boy had brought and together
they went quickly to find the very place where the former plants had
grown. They set the rose below the easement window of the drawing-room
and the hawthorn bush close to the edge of the Queen’s garden.

“Now,” exclaimed Clotilde, “though all the rest be only mine, I can feel
that part of the garden at least still belongs to those who planted it.”

Giles Thurston was not the only one, however, who had an offering to
bring. Nearly every day some woman would present her with a bag of
seeds, saying:

“These are of the pink and white hollyhocks that have flourished in our
dooryard ever since Mistress Margeret Bardwell gave my grandmother the
first plants.”

Or a man would stop at the gate to say:

“I have carried hither a clump of sweet-william that perhaps you may
like to have. It is a matter of pride with us that Master Simon himself
gave the first plants to one of our family. They say he brought them
from England.”

So it went on, Stephen’s flowers, Alisoun’s, Margeret’s and Master
Simon’s all were to be found growing somewhere, so many had been the
gifts and so grateful the friends who had received them. Fraxinella,
wallflowers, peonies and fair maids of France, all were there to grow
anew in memory of the brave old Puritan and his children. Clotilde
dropped a few tears as she set out the fair maids of France. What a
long, long time it was since Stephen had found her sitting beside the
bed to sing to them, how swift the years had been and how happy until so
little a time ago!

The most wonderful gift of all came at the very end of the replanting.
It was brought by the minister of Hopewell, who since the very beginning
of the war had been away and had only just now come home again. What he
gave her was a little bag of gold and an old, torn yellow letter.

“These were left in my hands,” he explained to Clotilde, “by the pastor
before me, who had received them in turn from the man who came before
him. It was only as I was on my way home that I heard full news of the
burning of the garden and realised that the assistant that I had left
here did not know that the letter had to do with just such a disaster.
Indeed, so old is the trust that I had well-nigh forgotten it myself.”

Clotilde, standing by the open window in Stephen’s study, slowly opened
the worn, yellow missive. It bore the crabbed signature of Samuel Skerry
and contained these words:

“If ever Simon Radpath’s garden be destroyed, I know now that it will
not be God’s judgment, as Jeremiah Macrae has sought to make us think,
but that it will be the work of evil alone. Therefore, in the hands of
the minister of Hopewell I am leaving this money, the half of all I
have, so that if that living memorial to Master Simon should come to
harm, this will help to build it up again.

“I might have known that I could not hate him forever, might have
realised, when in a fit of jealous rage I sought to destroy his garden
that it was of no use. A garden such as his, that is planted in the
hearts of his fellow men, can never perish. As I have sat at my
cobbler’s bench through all these years, toiling for my living in an
alien land, I have fought against the thought of Master Simon and of all
the good he did to me and to others, but I have fought in vain. The
memory grew and grew within my heart, choking out my evil and bitter
thoughts, just as his clumps of blossoming plants used to grow until
there was no room left for weeds. So I have come back to do what justice
I can at last ere I die, and to struggle through the snow to look at his
gravestone where he sleeps up yonder on the hillside. I would that I had
earned, like him, such peaceful, true repose.”

The tears rained down Clotilde’s cheeks as she refolded the letter. So
that was why Samuel Skerry, old and broken as he was, had travelled all
the way from Holland to New England, spurred by his longing to make
amends for the wrong that he had done.

The minister emptied the contents of the bag upon the table.

“It is not a very great sum,” he said, “but the little shoemaker’s
penitence should make it equal to all the riches in the world.”

“It will buy back the land that, in the necessity of war, had to be
sold,” answered Clotilde, “the land that Master Sheffield valued at just
that sum—all the riches in the world.”

Thus it came about that the strip of meadow land running down to the sea
became once more a part of the garden, and its blossoming hedge that had
escaped the fire, bloomed, that Spring, for Clotilde and for Hopewell
and not for tight-pocketed Ephraim Paddock.

By this time every flower bed and border was filled again, the May
sunshine had brought out the apple blossoms and the linden leaves, had
quickened the growing hedges and made green the grass of the Queen’s
garden.

“Another year,” reflected Clotilde, rising from her task of setting out
the last plant, “and the place will be all itself again.”

She was working near the hedge that separated that part of the garden
from the lane, and as she stood there, surveying her handiwork, she
heard two men talking together as they passed on the other side of the
bushes.

“They say there is a ship from England come to anchor in Salem harbour,”
said one. “John Ashby rode up to see her, as she is partly his, the Star
of Hope. She was caught in an English port when war began and has been
held back by the winter storms ever since the peace was declared. She is
the first vessel to come to these parts from England since the war
ended.”

“Ay,” said the other. “John Ashby must be a glad man. It is a happy sign
for all of us when ships ply the seas again between the Old Country and
the New. I wonder what she carries!”

He could not have wondered so much as did the little maiden who stood on
the other side of the hedge, her heart beating as though it would choke
her. A ship—from England! No, no, he would not come, she must not let
herself believe it. Through all the long morning she forced herself to
go on with her work, and very badly indeed was it done, for her thoughts
were upon one subject to the exclusion of all else.

The shadow of the sundial had dwindled almost to the marking of noon,
when she heard feet in the lane again, the running feet of men and boys,
hurrying past and up the hill.

“There are travellers from Salem riding into the inn yard,” she heard
some one call. “Come quick to hear the news of the Star of Hope. John
Ashby is with them; he says that some men have come all the way from
London on her. She is the first ship from England.”

Housewives coming to their open doors re-echoed the cry.

“The first ship from England!” they called to one another. “Now indeed
will more prosperous times begin again!”

Sternly Clotilde took her way to the farthest corner of the garden,
where a tangle of wild blackberry and sweetbriar had grown up, and where
once had stood King James’ Tree.

“I can transplant the sweetbriar,” she was telling herself. “It used to
grow outside the window where Gerald—what am I saying, where Master
Sheffield loved to sit. I believe—”

Oh, what was that sound—horse’s hoofs coming down the lane, a pause for
dismounting, a creak of the gate! Whose were those feet on the path
behind her coming so quickly? She dared not look round, she could not.
She felt suddenly weak and giddy; the trembling of her knees forced her
to catch at a branch for support.

“Little Mademoiselle,” said a voice behind her. “What is the matter? Do
you know me only in a scarlet coat?”

What happened then all Hopewell might have watched unforbidden, had not
all, most fortunately, been occupied with other matters.

“For shame,” said Clotilde, finally freeing herself and realising, of a
sudden, where they were. “How can you do so, here by the highroad, where
every person in the town can see?”

“I care not who sees,” responded Gerald cheerfully, “but if it will save
your blushes, we will go into the Queen’s Garden.”

So there under the linden tree, Clotilde listened to just such words as
Alisoun Bardwell had heard there also, the same that Margeret Radpath
had hearkened to in the schoolhouse lane, words that had opened the
gates to such far-reaching happiness. The thin shadow of the sundial
passed the noon mark, stretched its dark finger across one figure and
then another on the circle of the dial. Still they sat there, while
Clotilde learned how Gerald had gone away in silence on account of that
unlucky letter from Miles, of his restless unhappiness in England and
his inability to hide at home when he heard of an American ship setting
sail for a port so near to Hopewell. Of how Miles had met him at the
gate of the inn and, so full of joy that he could not keep his news to
himself, had told of his approaching marriage. Whatever Gerald might
have already planned to do or say, if indeed he had plans at all, had at
once been swept away in his instant desire to reach Clotilde with all
the speed he might.

“I wish that dear Master Sheffield might have known of our happiness,”
said Clotilde as he concluded his story, “or might at least have seen
that it was to come.”

“Perhaps he did,” returned Gerald, “for when I went away he gave me
Samuel Skerry’s lucky penny and said, ‘It will be the best good fortune
of all, lad, when it brings you back to us.’ So here it is and here am
I, and it is on this side of the water that I am going to abide for the
rest of my life. The war is over, King George’s quarrel with the
Colonies is settled forever and I can, with all honesty, throw in my lot
with the Americans.”

Clotilde had much to tell also, of Stephen’s death and Mère Jeanne’s, of
the unhappy, dragging years of the war, of the final beginning of peace
and prosperity, and of the replanting of the garden.

“And see,” she cried joyously, pointing to the beds already green with
growing plants and to the rows of blossoms that had come out in all
their Spring bravery of colour just as though they knew the soil had
once been their real home, “is it not a marvel that Master Simon’s
garden has so come to its own again?”

“It is indeed,” replied Gerald soberly, “and it stands only for the
greater miracle that you have wrought, you Americans. Wonderful things
beyond the mere planting of flowers have been done by those who dwelt
here. Of all the tales told me by my own grandfather and by Master
Sheffield I like best the story of how Master Simon saved the French
priest at such great risk to himself, yet would not flee from peril
because, as he said, ‘I have planted a garden here in the wilderness and
I must abide to see what sort of fruit it bears.’ Ah, such a garden as
he planted in this new world, he and his kind, sowing the seeds of
liberty and justice and freedom for all! Their children and their
children’s children have tended what he planted, Master Sheffield and
his good comrades have carried the seed far, and here is the fruit at
last, a new country for a free people. I wonder at you all, little
Clotilde, at you and at the line of my forbears. Why did all that work
so prosper, both here in your garden and in the world without?”

“Master Simon knew why,” answered Clotilde simply.

She led him down to the sundial and lifted the trailing vines that grew
so close about the pedestal. There she showed him the words that Master
Simon’s hand had carved about the edge of the circle, cut so deep and so
long ago, for posterity to read at last:

“I have planted, you have watered, but God gave the increase.”



                               CHAPTER XX

                         THE SEA-ROAD TO CATHAY


It is not always the end of a tale when the two most familiar figures in
it come to their wedding day; the business of living happily ever after
is a more complicated matter than that. The work that those two are to
do together must be safely launched before we can turn aside from them,
knowing, more or less, how the rest of their story is to be told.
Clotilde and Gerald Radpath had chosen to go their way together, but,
even for some time after they were married, they stood hesitating a
little, not quite sure as to which way the appointed road was to lead.

As many people said at first, it was a pleasant thing that the name of
Radpath had come back to the great house on the hill. It was like to
stay there also, through another generation at least, they would add,
since, a year and a half later, there was a new member of the household,
a sunny-hearted, sturdy young gentleman who romped and rolled upon the
grass in the garden. It was a delight, besides, to see the big house
finished at last, to see smooth panelling replace the rough boards, and
plaster walls stand where bare timbers had been left. For the proper
completing of Stephen Sheffield’s house, Gerald had used a large part of
the little fortune he had brought with him from England, realised from
the sale of his small estate. There were also outlying lands to be
looked to, where the fields must be turned once more into their old
round of cultivation. Stephen Sheffield’s fortune, much confused and
diminished on account of the war and of his great generosity, must be
finally set in order, a task that was no small or easy one. In such
occupations two years had passed away and still the great question as to
just which highroad of life they were to take had not yet been settled.

They were walking in the garden one warm bright afternoon, Gerald
carrying his little son, whose name as any one might guess, was Stephen.
Clotilde, with her basket and garden shears, was gathering the last of
the October-blooming flowers. Their talk had been of many and quite
unimportant things, but for a little while they had been silent as they
went, all three together, down the grassy path.

“Gerald,” said Clotilde at last, “there has been for days something
hanging heavy on your mind. Are you not nearly ready to tell me of it?”

Smiling at the ease with which she read his thoughts, Gerald answered:

“I am ready to speak of it now and was that moment searching for the
words with which to begin. It is not an easy thing to say.”

They sat down together on the bench and Gerald set young Stephen on the
grass where he could roll and tumble to his heart’s content.

“If you know my thoughts so well, Clotilde,” he said, “you must have
long seen that there is something wrong with my position here in
Hopewell.”

“I have known that something troubled you,” she replied, “but I had not
realised that there was aught amiss in regard to our neighbours.”

Yet, even as she spoke, she remembered with dismay the odd, aloof
manners of many of the townspeople toward Gerald. She recollected the
distant courtesy toward both of them, of good souls who had always
before received her with such simple friendliness. The people of
Hopewell were old-fashioned in their ways, they clung to many a
forgotten custom and form of speech unused by the rest of the world, and
with this had kept the open-hearted frankness of an earlier and simpler
life. Try as they might, thoughts could not be hidden and feelings
concealed. And, as she thought the matter over, it seemed plainer and
plainer to Clotilde as it had long been clear to Gerald, that their
neighbours looked at him askance and did not seem to trust him.

“It is this,” Gerald went on to explain, “a thing that at first I did
not see myself. The people of this town like me not and wish that I were
away. When we meet their eyes seem to say to me, ‘Gerald Radpath, you
bear Master Simon’s name but are you of his kind? You, who fought
against us in the war and have come back now that all the struggle is
over, is your purpose good or bad?’”

“Yes,” assented Clotilde, with no attempt at argument. “Yes, I have seen
that too. But I had thought that time would sweep it all away when they
have learned to know you better.”

“The feelings of your hard-headed Puritan folk alter not so easily with
time,” he returned. “No, I must show them that I care for the welfare of
this country as much as they, and I have thought of a possible way. You
know that Roger Bardwell said that the wealth of New England was to come
from her traffic with the world rather than from her farms, you know
that he proved his words and established a prosperous trade with
England, France and Spain. Now all of that has been swept away by these
years of war and it will take long labour to build it up again. But in
that upbuilding I mean to have a share.”

Clotilde did not speak quite yet; she knew that there was more to come.

“I can buy and refit one of the privateer vessels that have survived the
war,” he went on. “The Mistress Margeret is lying in the harbour now and
can easily be made ready for a journey overseas with what money I have
left to spend on ship and cargo. And in her I will make the first long
voyage myself. My father was a ship’s captain, I sailed with him when I
was a lad and he taught me much, so that I might command a ship of my
own some day.”

He did not say what pain it would be to leave her for so long, she did
not whisper of how her heart stood still at the thought of his going.
Each one realised what the other felt, yet each knew that this was the
only way and that here was Gerald’s task in life.

“Where will you go?” she asked at last, and waited breathless for the
reply that did not come at once.

“The sailors,” he said, “have a name for the path that they steer,
marked out by the sun and stars across the trackless sea. They call it
the sea road and to them, in time, it becomes as familiar as the
housewife’s way to market. And I am of a mind, Clotilde, to break out a
new sea road, and a far one, a way that our sailors have never gone
before.”

“To Italy?” she asked, her eyes wide with anxiety.

He shook his head.

“To Africa?” No again.

“To—to—”

“To China,” he said at last.

He sat with his hands clasped between his knees and his eyes fixed upon
the grass at his feet as though he could not bear to look at the terror
and distress in her face.

“Do you not see that I must go?” he pleaded. But still she did not
answer.

To China! To that vague unknown land that the old story books and maps
called Cathay. Had he said to the moon, it could not have seemed a more
dangerous and impossible journey. It was almost exactly two hundred
years since Gerald’s ancestor, Robin Radpath, had set sail with Queen
Elizabeth’s message to the Chinese Emperor and had never come back.
Since that time the land had grown to be only a little less strange; few
were the travellers whose tales of adventures there had ever reached
America. No ship from New England had gone so far; one or two, indeed,
had attempted the voyage and had never been heard of again.

Many were the kinds of goods, spices and ivory, coffee, tea and silk
that came from that inaccessible country and from the equally mysterious
East Indies, but they came by way of Constantinople, Venice or Portugal,
and were transferred to English or American vessels. But to go direct,
to have the little, newly-independent country of America hold out a hand
to grasp at the trade that had never been attempted save by lands whose
commerce was hundreds of years old! What a great idea it was, she
thought, and in spite of herself thrilled with pride. How would the
people of Hopewell regard Gerald then—after he had undertaken such a
venture and carried it to a successful end.

“Yes,” she said finally and with no remonstrance, “yes, I do see it. I
know that you must go.”

The Mistress Margeret was refitted from stem to stern that winter and
the cargo in bales and boxes laid away within her hold. When the early
Spring came, she lifted anchor, hoisted sail and swept out of Hopewell
harbour, her prow turned to the far horizon and the other side of the
world. She sailed short handed, for, bold as were the sailors of
Hopewell, many of them hung back from such a venture. There were vague
but terrible tales of what might happen to ships beyond the Cape of Good
Hope, tales of furious hurricanes, of reefs and shoals in vast uncharted
seas, and even of sea monsters.

“Let one ship go there and come back safe,” they said. “Let us hear that
only ordinary storms and ordinary dangers will assail us on such a
voyage and that by the Southern stars we can steer as straight a course
as by our good Dipper and North Star. Then we will set sail with a right
good will!”

So the voyage began with only a few bold-hearted seamen on board and
with Gerald Radpath standing at the ship’s stern, watching, as far as he
could see, the brave little figure on the hillside that waved good-bye
as long as loving eyes could span that ever widening distance.

“We will not make his going hard, Stephen, by showing him our tears,”
said Clotilde, at last, as she took up her boy in her arms and made her
way with slow, dragging steps back to the house.

Would she ever, she wondered, stand there to watch come in the ship that
now seemed sailing away for all time?

Almost from the moment that the Mistress Margeret sank below the
horizon, Clotilde could see that the feeling toward Gerald was beginning
to change.

“Your good husband, madam, Heaven send that he come back safe!” were
words that she used to hear often as she went about the town.

“My grandfather began his fortunes as cabin boy to good Master Roger
Bardwell,” said one of the housewives to her, “and I hope my son will
sail some day with Master Radpath.”

And one old sailor, who had begged hard to go with Gerald but had been
reluctantly left behind on account of his age and feebleness, said the
best thing of all.

“I told ’em, mistress, many a time, that the lad had Simon Radpath’s
blood in him and a good spirit of his own besides, and I said he would
show it yet. Now the blind ones are beginning to see.”

There was but a single person who did not seem to have a higher regard
for Gerald now that he was gone. This was Agnes Twitchell, whose
bridegroom husband had shipped as mate on the Mistress Margeret.

“We were but three months married,” she cried to Clotilde, who had come
to see her, but who was not allowed to enter her cottage door. “Your
husband took my man from me and they will never come back. You were a
wicked woman to let him do so; why did you not keep him safe at home?”

“Were you able to keep your husband when he thought that he must go?”
Clotilde asked, and Agnes shook her head. “Then why think you that I
could keep mine either, or that I was less unhappy than you at the
thought of his going? Try to have courage and think of the day when they
come back.”

“That will never be!” sobbed the other, and she ran inside, slamming the
door when her visitor would have followed to comfort her.

The days passed so slowly that it did, indeed, seem at times as though
the period of waiting would never have an end.

“Nine—ten—eleven months we may be gone,” Gerald had said, “and should
the time lengthen to a year you are not to be afraid.”

But the year passed, Spring came again and filled Master Simon’s garden
with flowers, yet its winds blew no great merchant ship into the
harbour. The roses bloomed and died, the midsummer crickets and katydids
sang in the long grass, the autumn flowers opened and the maples and
birches in the forest began to show their scarlet and yellow.

“He will come, he will come!” Clotilde would cry fiercely to herself
every day, but it had reached a point when she alone in all of Hopewell
believed it. A foreign sailor coming in on an English vessel brought a
tale of how, all the coast of Africa, a ship answering all descriptions
of the _Mistress Margeret_ had been seen, drifting idly with all sail
set and apparently no one on board.

“Just a moment we saw her in the fog,” he said, “for the mist lifted and
there she was like a picture, every sail hoisted and never a living soul
in sight upon her decks. I doubt not she has gone to the bottom long
before now.”

Yet still Clotilde went on hoping. Agnes Twitchell wore black and openly
mourned her husband as dead. She screamed after Clotilde upon the street
one day and, when people sought to hush her, only cried out the louder.

“Her husband murdered my good man,” she shrieked, frantic in her grief.
“Shall I not then cry out to reproach her?”

Probably the most cruel blow, however, was the one that Clotilde
received one summer evening as she was working among the flowers with
Stephen at her side. Two people, talking together, passed the gate.

“That is Master Simon’s garden,” said one to the other, who must have
been a stranger, and then the speaker added, not realising that Clotilde
was close enough to hear:

“It is there that the Widow Radpath dwells with her son.”

So that was what they called her now! Clotilde’s hand closed over the
branch of the rose vine that she was holding until the thorns tore her
fingers, but she never noticed.

“Mother, what is a widow?” asked Stephen, but he never learned, for she
snatched him up in her arms and burst into a passion of tears.

Every day, as the weather grew colder and autumn gales swept through the
dead garden, she and Stephen spent long hours at the little round window
of the stair-landing, looking and looking out to sea.

“Why are you not watching, Mother?” Stephen would exclaim at times.
“Your eyes are shut!”

[Illustration: “Why are you not watching, Mother?”]

“I was praying,” Clotilde would explain, “and that is better than
watching, little son.”

She had gone to sleep one windy night, listening to the heavy shutters
rattling and to the threshing of the branches in the great trees
outside, and had dreamed, as she always did in a storm, of high roaring
waves and a good ship pounding upon cruel rocks. She awoke suddenly with
the thunder of it still in her ears. But no, that noise was real, it was
some one beating upon the great front door, striking frantic blows on
the knocker in an effort to rouse the house.

Hastily slipping on some clothes and lighting a candle which guttered
and flickered as she passed down the stairs, she hurried to the door,
unbarred it, and flung it open. A gust of wind and rain rushed in,
extinguished the candle and fairly blew a wild dishevelled figure into
her arms. By the light from the dying coals that still glowed in the big
hall fireplace, Clotilde was able to recognise her visitor.

“Why, Agnes, Agnes Twitchell,” she cried, “what brings you here?”

Agnes Twitchell it was, clad only in her nightgown with a shawl wrapped
about her, with her hair flying and her teeth chattering.

“I—I came to tell you,” she began, and then broke all into wild and
joyful weeping. “God forgive me for all the wrong I have done you,
Mistress Radpath,” she cried, “there—there is a ship coming in!”

If she had more words to say, she could not speak them, for at that she
broke down utterly and clung to Clotilde, trembling and sobbing aloud.
Clotilde half carried her to the settle, blew up the fire and brought a
warm cloak to wrap about her. A startled servant came down the stairs
and was sent for hot water and restoratives. Whenever Clotilde even so
much as looked toward the door, Agnes screamed and wept afresh.

“Do not leave me,” she begged. “It might not be true! I might have
dreamed it.”

Clotilde felt that it would indeed be cruel to leave the girl in the
midst of such hysterical terror. Only once, when she ran upstairs for
more warm blankets, did she dare to stop for a moment at the small round
window and look out. There through the dark, she saw the ship speeding
up the harbour like a half-seen phantom, its close-reefed sails showing
like pale ghosts against the headland. It might indeed have been a
vision or a dream.

It seemed a long, long time before Agnes was quieted. At last, however,
her tense fingers relaxed, her tears ceased flowing and she leaned back
in the great chair.

“Yes,” she said, reading the longing in Clotilde’s eyes, “go you and see
if it is really so, Mistress Radpath. I could never bear to ask the
truth myself.”

Without waiting for further words, Clotilde snatched up a cloak and sped
out into the dark, windy garden. She stumbled and slipped many times on
the wet stones of the path, but at last reached the white gate and
leaned over it. Up the lane from the harbour was coming a crowd of
shouting people; they carried torches that tossed and flamed high in the
wind. The clamour and confusion were so great, the light was so
flickering and uncertain that it was not until they came near that she
could make out what it was that they bore in their midst. But at last
she saw; it was her husband lifted high among them, Gerald Radpath
carried in triumph on the shoulders of the shouting men of Hopewell. The
Mistress Margeret had safely sailed the long sea road to China and back
again.

They came close to where she stood and, still cheering, set their burden
down. When they saw Clotilde waiting, there fell a silence so complete
that the familiar creaking of the hinges could be heard as Gerald opened
the gate. The foremost of the crowd looked once at her white face and
spoke below his breath to his companions.

“Come away, lads,” he said. “We have no right within there now.”

Not that night nor the next day could Clotilde hear the tale of Gerald’s
adventures for oh, what need he had of resting and being tended, how
pale and utterly worn out he was! But at last he told the story, sitting
under the linden tree in the warm brightness of a perfect Indian summer
afternoon. He told how they had met storms, had been delayed by calms
and had narrowly escaped being wrecked a hundred times on account of
their ignorance of the proper course, but had at last come in safety to
the East India Islands and to the great sea-ports of China.

“I can spend all of my declining years in telling you of the wonders we
saw,” he said, “so I will not stop in my tale now or I would never come
to the end.”

He related further how, on their homeward voyage, they had put in for
shelter behind a little island and how two of the men, against his
orders had slipped ashore to trade with the natives. When they had set
forth again these two sickened with a tropical fever that spread, one by
one, to all on board. There were no men to tend the sails for all lay
ill, only one had strength to hold the tiller and keep the vessel from
destruction, and that one was himself.

“The wind held steady,” he said, “and when I could no longer stand, I
lay upon the deck, clinging still to the tiller and wondering whether we
should ever come to port. The sky seemed red-hot above us and the water
red-hot below, and at last I saw neither sea nor sail nor compass, nor
knew whither I was steering. I saw only a cool, green garden with a
linden tree and a sundial in its midst, I saw the white flowers nodding
in the wind and I vow that I could smell the verbena and mignonette and
hear the gurgle of the brook that runs beside the road. And I saw you
come down the path, it was straight to you that the Mistress Margeret
steered her course, for I had knowledge of nothing else.”

It was Joseph Twitchell, the first to recover from the fever, who
finally came to his aid and carried him down to his berth where he lay
delirious for days and talked of nothing but the bees among the apple
blossoms and the wind stirring the poplar trees. But finally, white,
thin and weak and needing the help of two companions, he had crawled up
on deck once more to enjoy the cool, fresh evening air. The hot tropical
wind had fallen, the Southern Cross that had shone so long in the sky
above them had dropped below the horizon and the friendly Northern stars
hung serene and clear in the heavens to show them the safe way home.

Gerald was still speaking when the white gate creaked as it opened to
admit a visitor. Many and many a person of high and low degree had come
and gone that way, but this man was, perhaps, the one whose coming meant
the most of all. Yet he was only a common sailor, dressed in rough
clothes, who shuffled his feet upon the path and fumbled with his
battered hat.

“Please, sir,” he said to Gerald, “I came to ask if, when you sail for
China again, you will take me with you.”

“But you did not wish to go before,” Gerald answered.

“Ay, that I know,” replied the sailor, “and I curse my folly now and
would give both my eyes to have been among your crew. For the news of
your safe return is running like wildfire through the country, it will
be all over New England in another day, while here in Hopewell there are
already a hundred seafaring men ready for a new voyage. And as for the
merchants, there is not one within fifty miles, which is as far as the
tale has gone as yet, but is looking through his stock and setting aside
the goods that he is going to venture in the new East India trade.”

“But there is only one ship that has gone and come back again,” said
Gerald. “Has that been sufficient to convince you all?”

“It is enough,” returned the man; “that has convinced us along with an
old saying that, they tell us, was first current in Master Simon’s time
and has now begun to go round again. It is that ‘Wherever a Radpath
goes, there it is no bad thing to follow!’”



                               CONCLUSION


It is many and many a long year now since Gerald and Clotilde walked
together down the high-hedged paths, but Master Simon’s garden still
blooms green and fair upon the hillside. Ships coming past the rocky
headlands of the harbour steer, by night, for the light streaming from
that little round window of the great brick mansion, for that is an
older landmark than the tall white lighthouse near the entrance of the
bay. They are not now the mighty East India merchantmen that luff and
tack in the narrow channel, for they, with their tall masts and towering
white sails have vanished from the seas forever. Along the shore,
nevertheless, you can still see the endless wharves and great, empty
warehouses clinging to their rotting piles and almost slipping into the
lazy, lapping tide. They manage, somehow, still to stand and tell all
people who go by how great was once the trade that brought prosperity
back to Hopewell. If you peep within you will see only bare, vacant
floors and a long dusty sunbeam or two, dropping from rifts in the
sagging roof, but you will sniff a vague scent of fruit and spices as a
reminder of the days of the clipper ships of Hopewell, laden with the
world’s goods and following Gerald Radpath’s long sea-road to China.

Although those wharves are idle and the warehouses empty, you need not
think, however, that the products of America stop at home. No, they are
carried by different ships, swift steel vessels that drop long trails of
smoke behind them as they speed upon their way, they go out through
different harbours, but, just the same, New England goods and New
England men find their way to the very ends of the world.

The hum of the spinning-wheel and the creak of the loom that once you
could hear in the warm noontide, through the open cottage doors, has
increased now a thousand-fold, for rows of great brick factories crown
the hill and, far out to sea, the fishermen can see, hanging over
Hopewell, the cloud of smoke from hundreds of spouting chimneys. The
tiny log but where Goody Parsons planted her rose, the cottage where
Samuel Skerry plied his trade, even the house with its white-painted
doorway where Miles Atherton used to live, have all vanished to make
room for newer, greater buildings. The little meeting house still
stands, but is overshadowed by a great stone church, where a huge organ
has taken the place of the droning psalm-singing, and where the pastor
has now neither time nor need for planting potato fields to eke out his
living. Yet amid all the stately buildings about it, schools, library,
church and Court House, the old grey log house is the most precious of
all, for it stands as a monument to the brave men who reared it and who
carried their love of freedom into a new world.

At the bend in the stream where the little Jesuit priest had built his
woodland chapel and decked his altar, there is now a busy humming
factory town, called by his name and driving its noisy spinning-wheels
by means of the river that once babbled past his door. Rows of toiling
men and women can look out through their tall windows down upon the
grave of Jeremiah Macrae where the Indians set up a rough white stone at
the bidding of their dearly loved French father.

In the midst of all this change and growth and bustle of new business,
Master Simon’s garden is still untouched. The roses and lilies, the pink
peonies and white hollyhocks, bloom on, undisturbed, year after year.
The great house of mellow brick, covered now with vines to the very
roof, looks out over the sea, unchanged. In the garden, romping down the
paths and tumbling on the grass, play Master Simon’s children to a far
generation. For but a few years, it seems, they frolic there among the
flowers and then, grown to men and women, they set off to do their share
of the world’s labour. And there, in June, when the linden tree blooms
and the bees hum loud in the branches, they sit upon the bench in the
Queen’s Garden and hear the story of Master Simon. Over and over, the
tale is told, by mother to daughter, by father to son, a long, long
story now, for it reaches back to the times of great Queen Elizabeth,
and it will go forward, who can tell how far. Each generation has
something new to add, some record of danger faced, of hardship endured,
of work well done for the good of all. And they who hear it, those
growing boys and girls, store it away as a memory to serve in time of
need, so that, when the time comes, they may do their part in the labour
of the world, that they may take up Master Simon’s work and bear it a
little further, that they may build higher and yet higher the roofs of
gold.


                                THE END
                Printed in the United States of America

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The following pages contain advertisements of books by the same author
or on kindred subjects.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                           BY THE SAME AUTHOR

THE KINGDOM OF THE WINDING ROAD

By CORNELIA MEIGS

With illustrations in color and in black and white by Frances White.
Cloth, 12mo, $1.25.

A romantic and fanciful story of a beggar who travels the country over
in his tattered red cloak, playing his penny flute—which is in reality a
magic pipe to help those in distress and to combat the bitterness of
life.

“There is a charm about the telling of the tales which will place them
in the front rank of works of the kind.”—Congregationalist and Christian
World.

THE STEADFAST PRINCESS

By CORNELIA MEIGS

Cloth, 12mo, Fifty cents

Fairy stories in the form of plays or tableaux for children are not
uncommon but few of them can be recommended as highly as “The Steadfast
Princess.”—Springfield Republican.

“A play of exceptional literary quality.”—Review of Reviews.

                         THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                 Publishers 64-66 Fifth Avenue New York

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                       NEW BOOKS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

ISABEL CARLETON’S YEAR

By MARGARET ASHMUN

The senior year in high school of a charming, bright and very human girl
is the theme of this story—her girlish ambitions, her occupations, her
amusements, her sacrifices and her triumphs. The scene is laid in
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Isabel’s sister—there are introduced a number of happy young people whom
Miss Ashmun characterizes with real insight into boy and girl nature.
Among these friends of Isabel is Rodney Fox, and while the story closes
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THE THREE PEARLS

By J. W. FORTESQUE

A fairy story of unusual charm is this, having to do with three pearls
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has delighted children and grown-ups for aeons past. The illustrations
are by Alice B. Woodward.

                         THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                 Publishers 64-66 Fifth Avenue New York

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                       NEW BOOKS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

THE KEY TO BETSY’S HEART

By SARAH NOBLE IVES

This is the story of Betsy and her dog. Betsy is a little country girl
who, after her mother’s death is taken into the family of her Aunt Kate,
a wise and charming person whose duty it is to bring Betsy up properly,
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of course, that proves to be the key to the shy girl’s heart—an
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girl story The Key to Betsy’s Heart is eminently satisfying, and it is
safe to conjecture that there will be many little girls in real life and
a few elders, too, who will be delighted with it.

KING ARTHUR AND THE KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE

By SIR THOMAS MALORY

Edited by Clifton Johnson. With illustrations in color and in black and
white by Rodney Thomson.

This is a very attractive edition of Sir Thomas Malory’s famous book. It
has been edited by Clifton Johnson, who has prepared it particularly for
children from ten to fifteen years of age. Not only is this one of the
golden stories that all boys and girls ought to read—it is one which
they will enjoy reading. Mr. Thomson’s illustrations in black and white
and in color are spirited and add both to the appearance of the volume,
and to the reader’s enjoyment of the text.

                         THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                 Publishers 64-66 Fifth Avenue New York

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                    TRUE STORIES OF GREAT AMERICANS

“Most admirable in their construction and purpose. The volumes are
interesting and attractive in appearance, graphic in style and
wonderfully inspiring in subject matter, reaching an enviable mark in
juvenile literature.”—Philadelphia Public Ledger.

Each volume is attractively bound in decorated cloth covers. Printed on
good paper and contains six page illustrations in half-tone. Cloth, $.50

ROBERT FULTON By ALICE C. SUTCLIFFE

“The volume is a thoroughly good piece of work and heartily to be
recommended.”—San Francisco Argonaut.

CAPTAIN JOHN SMITH By ROSSITER JOHNSON

“The picturesque story is one of the bright spots in the somewhat dreary
early American history, and all children should know it.”—New York Sun.

ROBERT E. LEE By BRADLEY GILMAN

“The story of Lee’s life is sympathetically told and with a fine
appreciation of those traits in his character that have commanded
universal respect.”—Review of Reviews.

NATHAN HALE By JEAN CHRISTIE ROOT

“There in more than the work of a gifted biographer here. There is a
message.”—New York World.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN By DANIEL E. WHEELER

“It is an excellent book, the author having used good judgment in
deciding what to leave out in a life about which there was so much to
say.”—Brooklyn Eagle.

THOMAS A. EDISON By FRANCIS ROLT-WHEELER

“Cannot fail to appeal to every boy.”—The Nation.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN By E. LAWRENCE DUDLEY

“Filled with the adventure that fascinates the boy, the story is still
thoroughly authentic and reliable.”—Congregationalist and Christian
World.

                    OTHER NEW VOLUMES IN THE SERIES

              GEORGE ARMSTRONG CUSTER By F. S. DILLENBAUGH
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              DAVY CROCKETT By WILLIAM C. SPRAGUE
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              U. S. GRANT By F. E. LOVELL COOMBS
              LA SALLE By LOUISE S. HASBROUCK
              DANIEL BOONE By LUCILE GULLIVER
              LAFAYETTE By MARTHA F. CROW
              GEORGE WASHINGTON By W. H. RIDEING

                      OTHER VOLUMES BEING PREPARED

                         THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                 Publishers 64-66 Fifth Avenue New York

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                     THE MACMILLAN JUVENILE LIBRARY
                            Each 12mo, $.50

    THE HORSEMEN OF THE PLAINS By JOSEPH A. ALTSHELER
    WHILE CAROLINE WAS GROWING By JOSEPHINE DASKAM BACON
    TWO CAPTAINS By C. T. BRADY
    ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, AND THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS
    HUNTING THE SNARK By LEWIS CARROLL
    THE STORY OF THE ILIAD By ALFRED J. CHURCH
    A LITTLE CAPTIVE LAD By B. M. DIX
    SOUTHERN SOLDIER STORIES By GEORGE CARY EGGLESTON
    TWO BOYS IN THE TROPICS By E. H. FIGYELMESSY
    HEARTS AND CORONETS By A. W. FOX
    PICKETT’S GAP By HOMER GREENE
    PEGGY STUART AT HOME
    PEGGY STUART AT SCHOOL By G. E. JACKSON
    THE SLOWCOACH By E. V. LUCAS
    THE BOOK OF CHRISTMAS By HAMILTON W. MABIE
    THE BEARS OF THE BLUE RIVER
    THE LITTLE KING By CHARLES MAJOR
    THE RAILWAY CHILDREN By E. NESBIT
    CHILDREN’S TREASURY OF ENGLISH SONG By F. T. PALGRAVE
    THE VOYAGE OF THE HOPPERGRASS By E. L. PEARSON
    HERO TALES OF THE FAR NORTH By JACOB A. RIIS
    THE BACKWOODSMEN By C. G. D. ROBERTS
    HONEY SWEET By E. H. L. TURPIN
    THE MAGIC FOREST By STEWART E. WHITE
    THE STORY BOOK GIRLS By CHRISTINA G. WHYTE
    DON’T GIVE UP THE SHIP By C. S. WOOD
    THE DREAM FOX STORY BOOK
    AUNT JIMMY’S WILL
    TOMMY, ANNE AND THE THREE HEARTS By MABEL OSGOOD WRIGHT
    LITTLE LUCY’S WONDERFUL GLOBE By C. M. YONGE

                         THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
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