Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

The Cavaliers of Virginia, vol. 1 of 2

William Alexander Caruthers

  Produced by Roberta Staehlin, Mary Meehan and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at (Thisfile was produced from images generously made availableby The Internet Archive/American Libraries.)








  Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1834, by HARPER &BROTHERS, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the SouthernDistrict of New-York.



  The romance of history pertains to no human annals more strikingly thanto the early settlement of Virginia. The mind of the reader at oncereverts to the names of Raleigh, Smith, and Pocahontas. The traveller'smemory pictures in a moment the ivy-mantled ruin of old Jamestown.

  About the year 16--, the city of Jamestown, then the capital ofVirginia, was by no means an unapt representation of the Britishmetropolis; both being torn by contending factions, and alternatelysubjected to the sway of the Roundheads and Royalists.

  First came the Cavaliers who fled hither after the decapitation of theirroyal master and the dispersion of his army, many of whom becamepermanent settlers in the town or colony, and ever afterwards influencedthe character of the state.

  These were the first founders of the aristocracy which prevails inVirginia to this day; these were the immediate ancestors of thatgenerous, fox-hunting, wine-drinking, duelling and reckless race of men,which gives so distinct a character to Virginians wherever they may befound.

  A whole generation of these Cavaliers had grown up in the colony duringthe interregnum, and, throughout that long period, were tolerated bythose in authority as a class of probationers. The Restoration was nosooner announced, however, than they changed places with their latesuperiors in authority. That stout old Cavalier and former governor, SirWilliam Berkley (who had retired to the shades of Accomack,) was nowcalled by the unanimous voice of the people, to reascend the vice-regalchair.

  Soon after his second installation came another class of refugees, inthe persons of Cromwell's veteran soldiers themselves, a few of whomfled hither on account of the distance from the court and the magnitudeof their offences against the reigning powers. It will readily beperceived even by those not conversant with the primitive history of theAncient Dominion, that these heterogeneous materials of Roundheads andCavaliers were not the best calculated in the world to amalgamate in thesocial circles.

  Our story commences a short time after the death of Cromwell and hisson, and the restoration of Charles the Second to the throne of hisfathers.

  The city of Jamestown was situated upon an island in the Powhatan, abouttwenty leagues from where that noble river empties its waters into thoseof the Chesapeake Bay.

  This island is long, flat on its surface, and presents a semicircularmargin to the view of one approaching from the southeast; indeed it canscarcely be seen that it is an island from the side facing theriver--the little branch which separates it from the main land havingdoubtless worn its way around by a long and gradual process.

  At the period of which we write, the city presented a very imposing andromantic appearance, the landscape on that side of the river beingshaded in the back ground by the deep green foliage of impenetrableforests standing in bold relief for many a mile against the sky. Nearthe centre of the stream, and nearly opposite the one just mentioned,stands another piece of land surrounded by water, known to this day bythe very unromantic name of Hog Island, and looking for all the worldlike a nest for pirates, so impenetrable are the trees, undergrowth, andshrubbery with which it is thickly covered.

  To prevent the sudden incursions of the treacherous savage, the city wassurrounded with a wall or palisade, from the outside of which, at thenorthwestern end, was thrown a wooden bridge, so as to connect the firstmentioned island with the main land. A single street ran nearly parallelwith the river, extending over the upper half of the island and dividedin the centre by the public square. On this were situated the Governor'smansion, state house, church, and other public buildings. Near where theline was broken by the space just mentioned, stood two spacioustenements, facing each other from opposite sides of the street. Thesewere the rival hotels of the ancient city; and, after the fashion ofthat day, both had towering signposts erected before their respectivedoors, shaped something like a gibbet, upon which swung monotonously inthe wind two huge painted sign-boards. These stood confronting eachother like two angry rivals--one bearing the insignia of the Berkleyarms, by which name it was designated,--and the other the Cross Keys,from which it also received its cognomen. The Berkley Arms was therendezvous of all the Cavaliers of the colony, both old and young, andbut a short time preceding the date of our story, was honoured as theplace of assembly for the House of Burgesses.

  The opposite and rival establishment received its patronage from theindependent or republican faction.

  It was late in the month of May, and towards the hour of twilight; thesun was just sinking behind the long line of blue hills which form thesouthwestern bank of the Powhatan, and the red horizontal rays fellalong the rich volume of swelling waters dividing the city of Jamestownfrom the hills beyond with a line of dazzling yet not oppressivebrilliance.

  As the rich tints upon the water gradually faded away, their place wassupplied in some small degree from large lanterns which now might beseen running half way up the signposts of the two hotels beforementioned, together with many lights of less magnitude visible in thewindows of the same establishments and the various other houses withinreflecting distance of the scene. The melancholy monotony of therippling and murmuring waters against the long graduated beach now alsobegan to give place to louder and more turbulent sounds, as the negroescollected from their work to gossip in the streets--Indians put off fromthe shore in their canoes, or the young Cavaliers collected in theBerkley Arms to discuss the news of the day or perhaps a few bottles ofthe landlord's best. On this occasion the long, well-scrubbed oakentable in the centre of the "News Room" was graced by the presence ofsome half dozen of the principal youths of the city. In the centre ofthe table stood the half-emptied bottle, and by each guest a full bumperof wine, and all were eager to be heard as the wine brightened theirideas and the company received fresh accessions from without.

  "Oh, here comes one who can give us some news from the Governor's," saidthe speaker _pro tempore_, as a handsome and high-born youth oftwenty-one entered the room with a proud step and haughty mien, andseated himself at the table as a matter of course, calling for andfilling up a wine glass, and leisurely and carelessly throwing his capupon the seat and his arm over the back of the next vacant chair, as hereplied--"No, I bring no news from the Governor's, but I mistake thesigns of the times if we do not soon hear news in this quarter."

  All eyes were now turned upon the youth as he tossed off his wine. Hewas generally known among his companions by the familiar name of FrankBeverly, and was a distant kinsman and adopted son of the Governor, SirWilliam Berkley. News was no sooner mentioned than our host, turning achair upon its balance, and resting his chin upon his hand, was allattention.

  "What is it, Frank?" inquired Philip Ludwell, his most intimate friendand companion.

  "Some mischief is brewing at the Cross Keys to-night,"
replied Frank, asthe landlord moved up his chair nearer to the table, more than ever onthe _qui vive_, when the Cross Keys became the subject of discussion.

  "There is no one in the Tap of the Keys, as I can see from here," saidanother of the party, "and there is no light in any other portion of thehouse except the apartments of the family."

  "They hide their lights under a bushel," continued Frank, with anaffected nasal twang and a smile of contempt. Taking his nearestcompanion by the lappel of his doublet, and drawing him gently to wherethe rival establishment was visible through the door--"Do you not see aline of light just perceptible along the margin of the upper window? andif you will observe steadily for a moment, you will see numerous dimshadows of moving figures upon the almost impenetrable curtain which isdrawn over it."

  "Master Beverly is right, by old Noll's nose," said the landlord, asthey all grouped together to catch a glimpse of the objects mentioned.

  "You may well swear by Noll's nose in this case," returned Frank, "forunless I am much mistaken, those motions and gestures proceed from someof his late followers; indeed I know it. I was accidentally coming upthe alley-way between the Keys and the next house, when I saw four orfive of them cross the fence into the yard, and from thence enter thehouse by the back door."

  "That's true, I'll swear," said the host, "for there they are, somedozen of them at least, and I'm a Rumper if a soul has darkened hisfront door this night. But couldn't you, Master Beverly, or one of theother young gentry, just step to the stout Sir William's, and make anaffidavy to the facts? My word for it, he'd soon be down upon 'em with afiery facias or a capias, or some such or another invention of the law."

  The youths all burst into a loud cachinnation at the zeal of thelandlord to unmask his rival, and reseating themselves, called foranother bottle, which our friend of the Arms was not slow to produce, byway of covering his retreat and hiding his disinterested zeal. As theyall refilled their glasses, Frank waved his hand for silence. "Has anygentleman here seen Mr. Nathaniel Bacon very lately?"

  "I have not--I have not," replied each of the party, and theinterrogator then continued, "I would give the best pair of spurs thatever graced a Cavalier's heels to know whether his long absence has hadany thing to do with the getting up of yonder dark conclave?"

  Whether any of the party were Bacon's immediate friends, or whether theysuspected Frank's motives in the case, we shall not undertake todetermine at present; but certain it is they were all silent on thepoint except his intimate friend Ludwell, who replied--"By St. George,Beverly, I believe you are jealous of Bacon on account of the favourablelight in which he is said to stand in the eyes of your fair littlemistress."

  "If I thought that Virginia Fairfax would entertain a moment'sconsideration for a person of such doubtful parentage and more doubtfulprinciples as Mr. Nathaniel Bacon, the ill-advised protege of herfather, I would forswear her for ever, and dash this glass against thefloor, with which I now invite you all to join me in pledging her,--Whatsay you? Will you join me, one and all?" All rose at the invitation, andwhile standing with glasses suspended midway to their lips, Ludwelladded the name of "the pretty Harriet Harrison." It was drunk with threetimes three, and then the landlord was brought up by the collar of hisjerken between two of the liveliest of the party, and made to tell thereckoning upon the table with his well-worn chalk. Having settled thescore, they proceeded to decant full half the remaining bottle into oneof his own pint flagons, seized from his shelves for that purpose. "Minehost" made sundry equivocal contortions of the countenance, andpractised by anticipation several downward motions of the muscles ofdeglutition, and then swallowed the enormous potation without a groan.

  "There now," said Ludwell, "bear it always in your remembrance that alike fate awaits you, whenever your wine bears evidence of having passedrather far into the state of acetous fermentation." As the party werenow leaving the room in pairs, linked arm in arm, "Stop! stop!" criedBeverly; "I have one proposition to make before we separate. It is this.You know that there is to be a grand celebration the day afterto-morrow, which is the anniversary of the restoration. The whole toconclude with a ball at the Governor's, to which I feel myselfauthorized to say that you will all be invited. Now I propose that weall go at different hours to-morrow and engage the hand of the fairVirginia for the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth sets. Sothat when Mr. Nathaniel Bacon returns, as he assuredly will, to claimher hand, to which he seems to think he has a prescriptive right, hewill find no less than six different successful competitors. What sayyou, gentlemen?"

  The proposition was instantly acceded to by all the party, and then thelandlord of the Arms was left to digest the pint of his own sour wine insolitude, as he leaned his overgrown person against the casings of thedoor and watched the youths as they departed one by one in differentdirections to their respective places of abode.

  "Natty Bacon is a goodly youth, however," he muttered in soliloquy; "ha,ha, ha; but he shall know of the plot if I can only clap eyes on himbefore they see the young lady. Let me see; can it be possible thatNatty can have any thing to do with yonder dark meeting of Noll's men?I'll not believe it; he is too good a youth to meddle with such acanting, snivelling set as are congregated there. He always pays hisreckoning like any gentleman's son of them all; and a gentleman's sonI'll warrant he is, for all that no one knows his father but Mr. GideonFairfax."

  The Cromwellians alluded to, who were supposed by the youths to beassembled at the Cross Keys, were a few of the late Protector's veteransoldiers, and were the most desperate, reckless and restless of therepublicans who, as has been already mentioned, had fled to Jamestownafter the restoration. These soldiers were unfitted for any kind ofbusiness, and generally lived upon the precarious hospitality of thoseof their own party who had settled themselves as industrious citizens ofthe new community.

  The names of the leaders of these veteran soldiers and furious bigotswere Berkinhead, Worley, Goodenough and Proudfit; and of these thereader will hear more anon.