To Have and To Hold
VII. 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