Author: Dix, Beulah Marie, 1876-1970
Massachusetts — History — Colonial period
ca. 1600-1775 — Fiction
1584?-1656 — Fiction
Mayflower (Ship) — Fiction
Soldier Rigdale: How He Sailed in the Mayflower and How He Served Miles Standish
“As if he knew the place and held he had the right to come there.”
·HOW HE SAILED IN THE “MAYFLOWER”·
·AND HOW HE SERVED MILES STANDISH·
AUTHOR OF “HUGH GWYETH: A ROUNDHEAD CAVALIER”
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY REGINALD B. BIRCH
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
LONDON: MACMILLAN & CO., Ltd.
All rights reserved
By THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.
J. S. Cushing & Co.—Berwick & Smith
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.
|Playing with Powder||1|
|The Name of Miles||17|
|Hewers of Wood and Drawers of Water||45|
|News from the Shore||61|
|The Going Landward||74|
|The Man of the Family||81|
|In the Time of the Sickness||95|
|Master Hopkins’s Guest||108|
|The Lords of the Soil||125|
|When the Good Ship Sailed||141|
|The Sowing of the Fields||156|
|The Two Edwards||171|
|A Mighty Resolution||187|
|In the Southward Country||202|
|The House of Bondage||217|
|How they kept the Sabbath||228|
|At Nauset Village||243|
|Fallen among Friends||257|
|A Son of Perdition||270|
|Between Man and Man||283|
|The Bearer of Tidings||296|
|The Captain’s Soldier||311|
List of Illustrations
|“As if he knew the place, and held he had the right to come there” (p. 111)||Frontispiece|
|“With his arm up to shut out the glare of the lanterns”||14|
|“Dolly plaited a fold of her apron between her fingers”||66|
|“‘Do you like to do it, Captain Standish?'”||102|
|“Saw the two young men close in combat”||184|
|“‘Oh, Miles, ’tis the savages come for us!'”||214|
|“Miles made out the figures of the men in the shallop”||254|
|“The breath came gripingly in his throat”||308|
PLAYING WITH POWDER
WITH the approach of sunset, the wind that all day had ruffled the waves to white edges died down, till there was left on the water only a long, heaving motion, that rudely swayed the old ship Mayflower. One moment from her broad deck could be seen the steel-like gleam of the fresh-water pond on the distant beach; the next moment, as the ship rolled between the waves, the shore presented nothing but solid sand dunes and shrubby pine trees. But always overhead the sky, athwart which the yards, bulging with the furled sails, were raking, remained the same,—a level reach of thick gray that, as twilight drew on, seemed to brood closer over earth and ocean.
How those yards seesawed up and down with the rolling of the ship, and the mastheads, they dipped too, quite as if they might pitch down upon a body! Miles Rigdale, standing with legs craftily planted and head thrown well back, stared and stared at their measured movement till, dizzy with the feeling that the great spars were tottering loose, he was glad to straighten his aching neck once more.
“Did you see a goose, all roasted, flying for your mouth?” Francis Billington called from the waist of the ship, where he perched jauntily upon the bulwark.
Sauntering from his place near the companion way, Miles halted beside the speaker; not that he had a great liking for Francis Billington, but he was a sociable lad, who must talk to some one, and, as the bleak air had driven the women and children into the great cabin, while the men were absent,—the leaders conferring in the roundhouse and the lesser men seeking firewood on shore,—he could for the moment find no comrade save young Billington.
The latter was an unprepossessing lad, stunted and small for his fourteen years, with elfish eyes which he now turned sharply on Miles. “I take it, Jack Cooke is ill, and Giles Hopkins has packed you about your business, that you’ve come to spend the time with me,” he suggested disagreeably.
“I take it, maybe you’ve spoke the truth,” Miles answered unruffled, as he propped his chin on his fists and braced his elbows against the bulwark.
Gazing thus northward, he could see all about him green hills, wooded to the water’s edge, now higher, now lower, as the ship mounted upon the waves, and the strip of sand beach, off which rode the bobbing longboat. “I wish my father had taken me with him when they went to fetch the wood,” Miles broke out at that sight; “it’s weeks and weeks since I set foot on land.”
“Pooh! I’ve been ashore thrice already,” bragged Francis, setting one arm akimbo, though he took good care to grip the shrouds tightly with the other hand, for the bulwark was not the safest of perches.
Miles tried to swallow down his envy, but he could not help saying, with a touch of triumph: “Anyhow, you saw no savages, and my father saw ’em when he went exploring with Captain Standish,—six Indians and a dog, he saw.”
“So did my father,” Francis sought to crush him; but Miles, declaring sudden truce, was asking, with civil interest: “You did not see any lions when you went ashore, did you, Francis?”
“N—no, but Ned Dotey thought he heard one roar the other night.”
“Father would not take our mastiff Trug on land lest they kill him. Trug would give ’em a fight for it, though. But he couldn’t fight the serpents; nobody could. Did you know, Francie, there’s a serpent here in America,—they call it the rattlesnake,—and if it but breathe on you, you die presently.”
“How do you know?” asked Francis, awed, but incredulous.
“My father read it in a book about plantations in Virginia. Maybe the serpents lie close in cold weather, though, so you did not see them.” Miles was silent a long instant, while he gazed fixedly at the mysterious shore yonder, where all these rarities were to be met with. “The trees do not look like our English trees,” he said, half to himself, “but I’d fain go in among them. Perhaps you found conies there, Francis? There were a plenty of them on the common at home; Trug and I used to chase them, and ’twas brave sport.”
“Mayhap if you had Trug with you, you could start some here,” suggested Francis. “Tell you, Miles, you beg your father let you go ashore to-morrow, and I’ll go too, and we’ll seek for conies together. Will you?”
“‘Tis no use,” Miles answered, scowling straight ahead.
“Father says I cannot go,” the boy blurted out. “I answered him saucily this morning, and he said for that I should not stir foot off the ship for a week. I think—I think he might let me go ashore. Along the first I was coughing, so my mother said I must not venture in the boat; and then my sister Dolly was ailing, and I must stay to bear her company; and then it stormed; and now he will not let me go. And I am so weary of this ship!”
“I’d not bear such usage from any man,” Francis boasted grandly. “If ’twere my daddy treated me so harshly, I’d tell him to his face ‘a’ was a sour old curmudgeon, and—”
“You need not talk so of my father,” Miles interrupted sullenly, though he held his eyes fixed upon the shore line, not on the speaker. It was hard, while he looked toward the land of wonders, still unknown to him, to think quite kindly of the father who had arbitrarily shut him out from the enjoyment of it. “If you miscall him so again, Francis, I’ll fight you,” he added, conscience-stricken, in the hope of making amends for the disloyalty of his thoughts.
Francis bent his sharp eyes on his companion, but did not take up the challenge; indeed, a less discreet lad than he might have considered an instant before coming to fisticuffs with Miles Rigdale. The boy, for his scant eleven years, was of a proper height, with straight back and sturdy limbs, a stocky, yet not clumsy, little figure, that promised a vigorous stature when he came to man’s age. His deeply tanned face, that was lightly sprinkled with brown freckles, was square and resolute; his blue eyes were very level and honest; and his tousled brown hair tumbled about his forehead in a way to make more women than his mother think him a bonny boy. For the rest, he was clad humbly enough in doublet and breeches of dark gray frieze, with long gray stockings and stout shoes; he wore neither cloak nor hat, and his clenched fists, that now rested firmly on the bulwark, were bare and chapped red by the wind.
It was the sight of the aggressive fists that made Francis use a different tone: “You’re a pretty comrade, Miles, to fly out at me so.”
“You may leave my father in peace, then.”
“Perhaps you’d wish me to leave you in peace too. I know Goodman Rigdale has forbid his little son speak to me.”
“I’m still speaking to you, am I not?” answered Miles, and bent to adjust one of his shoes, so Francis could not see his face; those last words had hit dangerously near.
“But you’ll show me a clean pair of heels very speedily,” sneered his companion, “for yonder the boat with your good father is putting off from shore, and when he comes—”
“That’s how the wind blows, is it?” struck in a new voice close at hand. Looking over his shoulder, Miles saw, lounging on a coil of rope by the foremast, a certain Edward Lister, one of the servants of Master Stephen Hopkins. He was a slim, dark fellow of some twenty years, whom Miles admired for a tall swaggerer, because he always wore his red cap rakishly on one side, and, since the rules about lighting tobacco aboard ship were strict, was ever chewing at a long pine splinter instead of a pipe. “So if your father catch you with Master Billington here, he’ll swinge you soundly, eh, Miles Rigdale?” he asked, with his mouth quite grave, but a glancing mockery in his black eyes. “Better show us how briskly you can run into the cabin.”
Miles ostentatiously leaned his shoulders against the bulwark and crossed one leg over the other, as if he thought to finish the afternoon in that position. Shifting round thus, his gaze travelled beyond his companions to the high quarter-deck, where he spied several men trudging forth from the roundhouse. “Has the conference broken off?” he asked, forgetting in his curiosity that he was angry with both Francis and Ned Lister.
“How else?” the latter answered dryly, and, rising to his feet, sauntered over to the two boys. “D’ye think they would confer without the great Master Hopkins? And he quit the roundhouse long since. Wearied out, doubtless, with such vigorous labor. It has taken them an hour to determine no more than to send forth a gang to-morrow and try a third time for a place where we may settle.”
“Another exploration? Is my father to go on it, do you know?” Miles questioned.
“They won’t let any but the great folk have a hand therein; daddy said ‘twould be so,” commented Francis.
“True enough,” scoffed Lister; “the Governor, and Captain Standish, Master Bradford, Master Winslow, Master Hopkins, and—the worshipful Master Edward Dotey.”
“Aha!” jeered Francis. “They’re taking old Hopkins’s other man Dotey along, and Ned Lister is jealous of him.”
“Hold your tongue!” cried Lister, catching the lad by the scruff of the neck, “else I’ll heave you over the bulwark.”
Francis twisted up his face and opened his mouth in a prodigious, dry-eyed howl, which would have set Miles laughing, had he not been intent just then upon the approaching boat. He could see her visibly growing larger, as she bounded nearer and nearer over the swell of the water, and each moment he recalled more distinctly in what terms his father had forbidden him have to do with “that Satanish brood of the Billingtons.” Miles shuffled one foot uneasily; perhaps he really ought to go into the cabin now and see how his sick friend, Jack Cooke, was faring.
He turned away and had idled a few paces along the deck, when Francis, who had been suffered wrest out of Lister’s hold, called after him: “Ah, Miles daren’t let his father find him with me. I knew so.”
“It’s not so, neither,” Miles flung back, and made a great show of stopping by the mainmast, where he stood gazing down the open hatchway which led to those cabins that were in the depth of the hold. “Aren’t you coming with me, Francis?” he asked presently.
The other, quite undeceived, came snickering up to him: “Have no fear; I’ll take myself off ere your father come. Sure, you’re a stout-hearted one, Miles.”
“You’re a pretty fellow to talk of courage,” Miles was goaded into replying, “after the way you howled out but now. You might have known Ned Lister’d do you no hurt.”
“No doubt you’d not have been afraid,” his tormentor scoffed. “You’re not afraid of anybody save your father.”
“So are you, if you told the truth of it,” Miles took him up. “You’d not have Goodman Billington hear you vaporing so for all the silver crowns in England, and if Goodwife Billington came by and heard you, she’d cuff your ears smartly.”
Francis’s sallow face reddened. “Much she would!” he said angrily. “I’ll show you I be no milksop to stand in fear of my father and mother. Maybe now you think I’d not dare to—” he paused, his eyes half-closed, while he tried to concoct some peculiarly wicked sounding project—”to take some of my father’s gunpowder and make squibs?” he concluded, with a triumphant look at his companion.
“No, I don’t think you dare,” Miles answered stolidly.
“Come, then, I’ll show you,” the other cried, and headed for the companion way that descended beneath the quarter-deck.
Four steps down, and, passing through a narrow door, they entered into the stifle and stir of the “great” or main cabin. On every hand murmured the ceaseless confusion that always filled the straitened space: underfoot, sometimes with fretful wrangling, children were at play; women were passing to and from their cabins, or dressing their meat for the evening meal at the long table; upon the benches several sick men, whose heavy voices were audible through the shriller tones of those about them, sat together in talk. Over all, the brightness from the narrow skylights fell wanly, so the corners of the low apartment were dusky with thick shadows, and the dim outline of the great timbers overhead, and the slits of doors into the double tier of little cabins adjoining, could only just be made out.
Miles was glad of the half light, for he knew well that if his mother should chance to be there and see him with Francis, she would make a pretext of some task to call him to her. He caught sight of her now, as she stood by the table in speech with Constance Hopkins, and, almost treading on Francis’s heels in his hurry, he slipped into the Billingtons’ cabin.
It was the veriest closet of a room in which he found himself, black, save for a glint of sickly light that crept through an opening in the door, by which Miles contrived presently to discern the unmade bunk along the wall, the mattress, still spread out upon the floor, and the iron kettle and other vague household stuff that littered untidily the narrow space. Comparing it with his father’s ordered cabin, he recalled his mother’s indignant comment to Mistress Hopkins, that Ellen Billington was a poor, thriftless body, who would better be tidying her quarters than gossiping with her neighbors.
“Now you’ll see what I dare, Master Miles,” Francis broke in, as, with much panting, he dragged from beneath the bunk a small keg. “This is gunpowder, if you be not afraid of the sight of it.”
“It does not take much courage to touch gunpowder,” said Miles, bending forward from the bunk, where he had seated himself, and plunging his fist into the keg. “Let’s see your squibs, Francis.”
Young Billington stretched himself on his stomach and, grubbing once more beneath the bunk, drew out a fistful of rustling papers. “These are leaves I tore from a jest book of daddy’s,” he bragged. “No doubt you won’t believe I durst.”
Miles made no reply; after all, he scarcely cared to prolong his differences with a boy who had such a delightful plaything as a keg of powder. “Let me make a squib too, Francie,” he begged, squatting down on the mattress beside his host.
For a space there was silence, while, with some hard breathing, the two, guided more by touch than by any sight they had in the dark cabin, labored industriously. Blacker and blacker it grew all round them, till they struck their hands together as they groped in the keg, when a ray of faint yellow light, that must fall from a lantern in the great cabin, stole through the door.
Now they could see how they were faring at their work, and Francis, who had laid his handfuls of powder on the papers and folded them quite dexterously, laughed in provoking fashion at Miles, who, new to this game, had spilt the powder and failed to make his papers stay folded. “It’s all very well,” the boy ret