To Have and To Hold
In Which We Prepare To Fight The Spaniard
A MAN came panting down the street. " Captain Ralph Percy!" he cried. "My master said it was your horse coming across the neck. The Governor commands your attendance at once, sir."
"Where is the Governor? Where are all the people?" I demanded.
"At the fort. They are all at the fort or on the bank below. Oh, sirs, a woeful day for us all!"
"A woeful day!" I exclaimed. "What's the matter?"
The man, whom I recognized as one of the commander's servants, a fellow with the soul of a French valet de chambre, was wild with terror.
"They are at the guns!" he quavered. "Alackaday! what can a few sakers and demiculverins do against them?"
"Against whom?" I cried.
"They are giving out pikes and cutlasses! Woe's me, the sight of naked steel hath ever made me sick!"
I drew my dagger, and flashed it before him. "Does 't make you sick?" I asked. "You shall be sicker yet, if you do not speak to some purpose."
The fellow shrank back, his eyeballs starting from his head.
"It's a tall ship," he gasped, "a very big ship! It hath ten culverins, beside fowlers and murderers, sabers, falcons, and bases!"
I took him by the collar and shook him off his feet.
"There are priests on board!" he managed to say as I set him down. "This time to-morrrow we'll all be on the rack! And next week the galleys will have us!"
"It's the Spaniard at last," I said. "Come on!"
When we reached the river bank before the fort, it was to find confusion worse confounded. The gates of the palisade were open, and through them streamed Councilors, Burgesses, and officers, while the bank itself was thronged with the generality. Ancient planters, Smith's men, Dale's men, tenants and servants, women and children, including the little eyases we imported the year before, negroes, Paspaheghs, French vignerons, Dutch sawmill men, Italian glassworkers, -- all seethed to and fro, all talked at once, and all looked down the river. Out of the babel of voices these words came to us over and over: "The Spaniard!" "The Inquisition!" "The galleys!" They were the words oftenest heard at that time, when strange sails hove in sight.
But where was the Spaniard? On the river, hugging the shore, were many small craft, barges, shallops, sloops, and pinnaces, and beyond them the masts of the Truelove, the Due Return, and the Tiger, then in port; on these three, of which the largest, the Due Return, was of but eighty tons burthen, the mariners were running about and the masters bawling orders. But there was no other ship, no bark, galleon, or man-of-war, with three tiers of grinning ordnance, and the hated yellow flag flaunting above.
I sprang from my horse, and, leaving it and Mistress Percy in Sparrow's charge, hastened up to the fort. As I passed through the palisade I heard my name called, and turning waited for Master Pory to come up. He was panting and puffing, his jovial face very red.
"I was across the neck of land when I heard the news," he said. "I ran all the way, and am somewhat scant of breath. Here's the devil to pay!"
"It looks another mare's-nest," I replied. "We have cried 'Spaniard!' pretty often."
"But this time the wolf's here," he answered. "Davies sent a horseman at a gallop from Algernon with the tidings. He passed the ship, and it was a very great one. We may thank this dead calm that it did not catch us unawares."
Within the palisade was noise enough, but more order than without. On the half-moons commanding the river, gunners were busy about our sakers, falcons, and three culverins. In one place, West, the commander, was giving out brigandines, jacks, skulls, muskets, halberds, swords, and longbows; in another, his wife, who was a very Mary Ambree, supervised the boiling of a great caldron of pitch. Each loophole in palisade and fort had already its marksman. Through the west port came a horde of reluctant invaders, -- cattle, swine, and poultry, -- driven in by yelling boys.
I made my way through the press to where I saw the Governor, surrounded by Councilors and Burgesses, sitting on a keg of powder, and issuing orders at the top of his voice. "Ha, Captain Percy!" he cried, as I came up. "You are in good time, man! You've served your apprenticeship at the wars. You must teach us how to beat the dons."
"To Englishmen, that comes by nature, sir," I said. "Art sure we are to have the pleasure?"
"Not a doubt of it this time," he answered. "The ship slipped in past the Point last night. Davies signaled her to stop, and then sent a ball over her; but she kept on. True, it was too dark to make out much; but if she were friendly, why did she not stop for castle duties? Moreover, they say she was of at least five hundred tons, and no ship of that size hath ever visited these waters. There was no wind, and they sent a man on at once, hoping to outstrip the enemy and warn us. The man changed horses at Basse's Choice, and passed the ship about dawn. All he could tell for the mist was that it was a very great ship, with three tiers of guns."
"She carried none."
"Humph!" I said. "It hath a suspicious look. At least we do well to be ready. We'll give them a warm welcome."
"There are those here who counsel surrender," continued the Governor. "There's one, at least, who wants the Tiger sent downstream with a white flag and my sword."
"Where?" I cried. "He's no Englishman, I warrant!"
"As much an Englishman as thou, sir!" called out a gentleman whom I had encountered before, to wit, Master Edward Sharpless. "It's well enough for swingebuckler captains, Low Country fire-eaters, to talk of holding out againt a Spanish man-of-war with twice our number of fighting men, and enough ordnance to batter the town out of existence. Wise men know when the odds are too heavy!"
"It's well enough for lily-livered, goose-fleshed lawyers to hold their tongues when men and soldiers talk," I retorted. "We are not making indentures to the devil, and so have no need of such gentry."
There was a roar of laughter from the captains and gunners, but terror of the Spaniard had made Master Edward Sharpless bold to all besides.
"They will wipe us off the face of the earth!" he lamented. "There won't be an Englishman left in America! they'll come close in upon us! they'll batter down the fort with their culverins; they'll turn all their swivels, sakers, and falcons upon us; they'll throw into our midst stinkpots and grenades; they'll mow us down with chain shot! Their gunners never miss!" His voice rose to a scream, and he shook as with an ague. "Are you mad? It's Spain that's to be fought! Spain the rich! Spain the powerful! Spain the lord of the New World!"
"It's England that fights!" I cried. "For very shame, hold thy tongue!"
"If we surrender at once, they'll let us go!" he whined. "We can take the small boats and get to the Bermudas. they'll let us go."
"Into the galleys," muttered West.
The craven tried another feint. "Think of the women and children!"
"We do," I said sternly. "Silence, fool!"
The Governor, a brave and honest man, rose from the keg of powder. "All this is foreign to the matter, Master Sharpless. I think our duty is clear, be the odds what they may. This is our post, and we will hold it or die beside it. We are few in number, but we are England in America, and I think we will remain here. This is the King's fifth kingdom, and we will keep it for him. We will trust in the Lord and fight it out."
"Amen," I said, and "Amen," said the ring of Councilors and Burgesses and the armed men beyond.
The hum of voices now rose into excited cries, and the watchman stationed atop the big culverin called out, "Sail ho!" With one accord we turned our faces downstream. There was the ship, undoubtedly. Moreover, a strong breeze had sprung up, blowing from the sea, filling her white sails, and rapidly lessening the distance between us. As yet we could only tell that she was indeed a large ship with all sail set.
Through the gates of the palisade now came, pellmell, the crowd without. In ten minutes' time the women were in line ready to load the muskets, the children sheltered as best they might be, the men in ranks, the gunners at their guns, and the flag up. I had run it up with my own hand, and as I stood beneath the folds Master Sparrow and my wife came to my side.
"The women are over there," I said to the latter, "where you had best betake yourself."
"I prefer to stay here," she answered. "I am not afraid." Her color was high, and she held her head up. " My father fought the Armada," she said.
"Get me a sword from that man who is giving them out."
From his coign of vantage the watch now called out: "She's a long ship, -- five hundred tons, anyhow! Lord! the metal that she carries! She's rasedecked!"
"Then she's Spanish, sure enough!" cried the Governor.
From the crowd of servants, felons, and foreigners rose a great clamor, and presently we made out Sharpless perched on a cask in their midst and wildly gesticulating.
"The Tiger, the Truelove, and the Due Return have swung across channel!" announced the watch. "They 've trained their guns on the Spaniard!"
The Englishmen cheered, but the bastard crew about Sharpless groaned. Extreme fear had made the lawyer shameless. "What guns have those boats?" he screamed. "Two falcons apiece and a handful of muskets, and they go out against a man-of-war! She'll trample them underfoot! She'll sink them with a shot apiece! The Tiger is forty tons, and the Truelove is sixty. You 're all mad!"
"Sometimes quality beats quantity," said West.
"Didst ever hear of the Content?" sang out a gunner.
"Or of the Merchant Royal?" cried another.
"Or of the Revenge?" quoth Master Jeremy Sparrow. "Go hang thyself, coward, or, if you choose, swim out to the Spaniard, and shift from thy wet doublet and hose into a sanbenito. Let the don come, shoot if he can, and land if he will! We'll singe his beard in Virginia as we did at Cales!
'The great St. Philip, the pride of the Spaniards,
Was burnt to the bottom and sunk in the sea.
the St. Andrew and eke the St. Matthew
We took in fight manfully and brought away.'
And so we'll do with this one, my masters! We'll sink her, or we'll take her and send her against her own galleons and galleasses!
'Dub-a-dub, dub-a-dub, thus strike their drums,
Tantara, tantara, the Englishman comes!' "
His great voice and great presence seized and held the attention of all. Over his doublet of rusty black he had clapped a yet rustier back and breast; on his bushy hair rode a headpiece many sizes too small; by his side was an old broadsword, and over his shoulder a pike. Suddenly, from gay hardihood his countenance changed to an expression more befitting his calling. "Our cause is just, my masters!" he cried. "We stand here not for England alone; we stand for the love of law, for the love of liberty, for the fear of God, who will not desert his servants and his cause, nor give over to Anti-Christ this virgin world. This plantation is the leaven which is to leaven the whole lump, and surely he will hide it in the hollow of his hand and in the shadow of his wing. God of battles, hear us! God of England, God of America, aid the children of the one, the saviors of the other!"
He had dropped the pike to raise his clasped hands to the blue heavens, but now he lifted it again, threw back his shoulders, and flung up his head. He laid his hand on the flagstaff, and looked up to the banner streaming in the breeze. "It looks well so high against the blue, does n't it, friends?" he cried genially. "Suppose we keep it there forever and a day!"
A cheer arose, so loud that it silenced, if it did not convince, the craven few. As for Master Edward Sharpless, he disappeared behind the line of women.
The great ship came steadily on, her white sails growing larger and larger, moment by moment, her tiers of guns more distinct and menacing, her whole aspect more defiant. Her waist seemed packed with men. But no streamers, no flag.
A puff of smoke floated up from the deck of the Tiger, and a ball from one of her two tiny falcons passed through the stranger's rigging. A cheer for the brave little cockboat arose from the English. "David and his pebble!" exclaimed Master Jeremy Sparrow. "Now for Goliath's twenty-pounders!"
But no flame and thunder issued from the guns aboard the stranger. Instead, from her deck there came to us what sounded mightily like a roar of laughter. Suddenly, from each masthead and yard shot out streamers of red and blue, up from the poop rose and flaunted in the wind the crosses of St. George and St. Andrew, and with a crash trumpet, drum, and fife rushed into
"Here's to jolly good ale and old!"
"By the Lord, she's English!" shouted the Governor.
On she came, banners flying, music playing, and inextinguishable laughter rising from her decks. The Tiger, the Truelove, and the Due Return sent no more hailstones against her; they turned and resolved themselves into her consort. The watch, a grim old sea dog that had come in with Dale, swung himself down from his post, and came toward the Governor at a run. "I know her now, sir!" he shouted. "I was at the winning of Cales, and she's the Santa Teresa, that we took and sent home to the Queen. She was Spanish once, sir, but she's English now."
The gates were flung open, and the excited people poured out again upon the river bank. I found myself beside the Governor, whose honest countenance wore an expression of profound bewilderment.
"What d' ye make of her, Percy?" he said. "The Company does n't send servants, felons, 'prentices, or maids in such craft; no, nor officers or governors, either. It's the King's ship, sure enough, but what is she doing here? -- that 's the question. What does she want, and whom does she bring?"
"We'll soon know," I answered, "for there goes her anchor."
Five minutes later a boat was lowered from the ship, and came swiftly toward us. The boat had four rowers, and in the stern sat a tall man, black-bearded, high-colored, and magnificently dressed. It touched the sand some two hundred feet from the spot where Governor, Councilors, officers, and a sprinkling of other sorts stood staring at it, and at the great ship beyond. The man in the stern leaped out, looked around him, and then walked toward us. As he walked slowly, we had leisure to note the richness of his doublet and cloak, -- the one slashed, the other lined with scarlet taffeta, -- the arrogance of his mien and gait, and the superb full-blooded beauty of his face.
"The handsomest man that ever I saw! " ejaculated the Governor.
Master Pory, standing beside him, drew in his breath, then puffed it out again. "Handsome enough, your Honor," he said, "unless handsome is as handsome does. That, gentlemen, is my Lord Carnal, -- that is the King's latest favorite."