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To Have and To Hold
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IV. In Which I Am Like To Repent At Leisure
WHEN we had passed the mouth of the Chickahominy, I broke the silence, now
prolonged beyond reason, by pointing to the village upon its bank, and telling her
something of Smith's expedition up that river, ending by asking her if she feared
When at length she succeeded in abstracting her attention from the clouds, it
was to answer in the negative, in a tone of the supremest indifference, after
which she relapsed into her contemplation of the weather.
Further on I tried again. "That is Kent's, yonder. He brought his wife from home
last year. What a hedge of sunflowers she has planted! If you love flowers, you
will find those of paradise in these woods."
Below Martin-Brandon we met a canoe full of Paspaheghs, bound upon a friendly
visit to some one of the down-river tribes; for in the bottom of the boat reposed a
fat buck, and at the feet of the young men lay trenchers of maize cakes and of
late mulberries. I hailed them, and when we were alongside held up the brooch
from my hat, then pointed to the purple fruit. The exchange was soon made; they
sped away, and I placed the mulberries upon the thwart beside her.
"I am not hungry," she said coldly. "Take them away."
I bit my lip, and returned to my place at the tiller. This rose was set with thorns,
and already I felt their sting. Presently she leaned back in the nest I had made for
her. "I wish to sleep," she said haughtily, and, turning her face from me, pillowed
her head upon her arms.
I sat, bent forward, the tiller in my hand, and stared at my wife in some
consternation. This was not the tame pigeon, the rosy, humble, domestic
creature who was to make me a home and rear me children. A sea bird with
broad white wings swooped down upon the water, now dark and ridged, rested
there a moment, then swept away into the heart of the gathering storm. She was
liker such an one. Such birds were caught at times, but never tamed and never
The lightning, which had played incessantly in pale flashes across the low clouds
in the south, now leaped to higher peaks and became more vivid, and the
muttering of the thunder changed to long, booming peals. Thirteen years before,
the Virginia storms had struck us with terror. Compared with those of the Old
World we had left, they were as cannon to the whistling of arrows, as breakers on
an iron coast to the dull wash of level seas. Now they were nothing to me, but as
the peals changed to great crashes as of falling cities, I marveled to see my wife
sleeping so quietly. The rain began to fall, slowly, in large sullen drops, and I rose
to cover her with my cloak. Then I saw that the sleep was feigned, for she was
gazing at the storm with wide eyes, though with no fear in their dark depths.
When I moved they closed, and when I reached her the lashes still swept her
cheeks, and she breathed evenly through parted lips. But, against her will, she
shrank from my touch as I put the cloak about her; and when I had returned to
my seat, I bent to one side and saw, as I had expected to see, that her eyes were