Salute to Adventurers HTML version

12. A Word At The Harbour-Side
The next Sunday I was fool enough to go to church, for Doctor Blair was announced to
preach the sermon. Now I knew very well what treatment I should get, and that it takes
a stout fellow to front a conspiracy of scorn. But I had got new courage from my travels,
so I put on my best suit of murrey-coloured cloth, my stockings of cherry silk, the gold
buckles which had been my father's, my silk-embroidered waistcoat, freshly-ironed
ruffles, and a new hat which had cost forty shillings in London town. I wore my own hair,
for I never saw the sense of a wig save for a bald man, but I had it deftly tied. I would
have cut a great figure had there not been my bronzed and rugged face to give the lie to
my finery.
It was a day of blistering heat. The river lay still as a lagoon, and the dusty red roads of
the town blazed like a furnace. Before I had got to the church door I was in a great
sweat, and stopped in the porch to fan myself. Inside 'twas cool enough, with a pleasant
smell from the cedar pews, but there was such a press of a congregation that many
were left standing. I had a good place just below the choir, where I saw the Governor's
carved chair, with the Governor's self before it on his kneeling-cushion making pretence
to pray. Round the choir rail and below the pulpit clustered many young exquisites, for
this was a sovereign place from which to show off their finery. I could not get a sight of
Doctor Blair preached us a fine sermon from the text, "My people shall dwell in a
pleasant habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places!" But his hearers
were much disturbed by the continual chatter of the fools about the choir rail. Before he
had got to the Prayer of Chrysostom the exquisites were whispering like pigeons in a
dovecot, exchanging snuff-boxes, and ogling the women. So intolerable it grew that the
Doctor paused in his discourse and sternly rebuked them, speaking of the laughter of
fools which is as the crackling of thorns under a pot. This silenced them for a little, but
the noise broke out during the last prayer, and with the final word of the Benediction my
gentlemen thrust their way through the congregation, that they might be the first at the
church door. I have never seen so unseemly a sight, and for a moment I thought that
Governor Nicholson would call the halberdiers and set them in the pillory. He refrained,
though his face was dark with wrath, and I judged that there would be some hard words
said before the matter was finished.
I must tell you that during the last week I had been coming more into favour with the
prosperous families of the colony. Some one may have spoken well of me, perhaps the
Doctor, or they may have seen the justice of my way of trading. Anyhow, I had a civil
greeting from several of the planters, and a bow from their dames. But no sooner was I
in the porch than I saw that trouble was afoot with the young bloods. They were drawn
up on both sides the path, bent on quizzing me. I sternly resolved to keep my temper,
but I foresaw that it would not be easy.