A FAMILY CONCLAVE

From this time it became evident that a strong public opinion was
gradually setting itself against the family. Mistress Vines, conceiving
herself in point of birth and family superior to any other woman in the
colony, might be pardoned some little haughtiness which so well became
her handsome head, and being of a higher culture than her neighbors,
it might not be surprising if some consciousness of it were apparent
in her manners; but these petty traits weigh heavily on the minds of
a people more ambitious than cultivated, and inclined to envy and
jealousy, as the proud and ignorant are sure to be.

The wife and daughters of Captain Bonyton more especially conceived
themselves aggrieved by the deportment of Mistress Vines, and though
the captain exerted his utmost influence to allay the growing
irritation, he was far from being successful, women being very apt to
think that when they have made a matter the subject of prayer, they
must necessarily be in the right. To these causes was added another
nearer home: John Bonyton, the son and brother, had, from the first,
shown himself not only interested in Hope Vines, but completely
absorbed in her. Seeing this, outraged as they conceived themselves to
have been by the mother, the undisguised devotion of John to Hope, “the
impish creetur’,” as they not unfrequently called her, was adding gall
to bitterness.

John Bonyton was a bold, headstrong boy, such as the period and
circumstances of a new and unsettled country would be likely to
develop, but such as the rigid disciplinarians of the day would regard
with little favor. It is well known that these iron-cast men and women
must either break down the high spirits engendered by their own flesh
and blood, and mental make, or be confronted by a spirit like their
own, which nothing can quell but the maker of the spirit of man.

Tall and dark, the youth John Bonyton was handsome withal, reckless
and roving; disinclined to toil, and expert in woodland sports, like
Hope, he found better companionship with the natives of the forest, and
dwellers in the wigwam, than in the more exact decorums of civilized
society. Generous and daring, he was also tender to the gentler sex,
even to a degree unwonted among the stern men who had found a refuge
from persecution amid the wilds of the New World.

The unthrifty son, and the white-haired, dark-eyed daughter of Sir
Richard Vines were considered one and inseparable. In the wildest
woods, adown the deepest ravines, up the highest hills, and off by
the sea-side, might be traced everywhere the footsteps of the strong,
peril-loving children, and the silvery laugh of little Hope rung like
the chimes of the wren-bird upon the air.

Nothing could be more wildly picturesque than the two–he with his
dark, flashing eyes and curling hair, athletic, and yet light and
flexible as a young mountain sapling, armed with pouch and gun, and
followed by a brace of hounds, his invariable companions, and the
pretty Hope in her short, crimson-velvet frock, revealing feet arched,
elastic and small, even for her diminutive figure, and molding the
pointed shoe by its firm pressure. A light velvet cap surmounted her
head, and bracelets of gems and strings of wampum intermingled upon
her arms and girdle. Over these hung her abundant hair, like a silvery
vail–rippling, wavy, and crisping into curls about her temples. She
generally carried a bow and arrow in her hands, and was nothing loth to
bring down a bird or arrest the flight of a rabbit in her pathway.

She was self-willed, like her companion; but while he was gentle always
in her presence, she was capricious and always imperious, not scrupling
to assert her claims with a high toss of her pretty head, and a stamp
of the little foot. Full of health, and naturally courageous, danger
rather allured than repelled her; living mostly in the open air, she
was as clear of eye and firm of foot as a young stag.

Hope neither felt nor affected timidity in roaming the stormy
sea-coast or climbing the wildest rocky crags. Her foot as readily
and instinctively leaped, unaided, the blackest chasms, the rudest
headlands, and the rockiest cliffs, as did that of her companion, and
she walked onward, after achieving these feats, without comment or
exultation.

In sailing over the Pool, or along the sea, John Bonyton gave her the
rudder to steer as a matter of course, and if the wind were high, so
they had recourse to the oar, Hope assumed one in the same manner.

Sir Richard’s family were standing upon the piazza, watching the
movements of Hope, who stood upon a slip of rock extending seaward,
with oar in hand, and her hair tied in a knot under her chin. She had
evidently determined upon a row to one of the islands in the distance,
to which her companion objected, pointing to the masses of dark cloud
rolling up from the sea, and the already dark purple hue of the waves
in the lurid light of the gathering storm.

Mrs. Vines laughed as Hope gesticulated rapidly, and seizing the rope
which held the boat, drew it in to land, and sprung therein. Her
companion could do no less than follow, and they were soon sailing down
the harbor, the little boat careening heavily.

“Is she not a perfect little Puck, as our Indians call the
wood-fairies?” said Mistress Vines.

“True, most true, sweetheart; but a fearful cloud, I fear, is gathering
over our house. Say not a word, my brave wife, but we must go home. I
hear that which chills me to the heart. Poor, dear, innocent little
Hope! Ah! dame, when we hear of tortures inflicted upon others,
we hardly realize their import till those we love are threatened
therewith.”

“They would not dare to touch a hair of her precious head,” responded
Mistress Vines.

“Indeed, they would, sweetheart; but we will leave them before their
plans are matured; and first, we must send this headstrong boy abroad.
He stays only to his and our ruin. Use that silvery tongue of thine,
dame, to urge his departure.”

“Ah! I see it all–we must abandon this dear Paradise of ours, where we
have been so happy, and where our children were born, and go to a new
land once more, and to a new people. Oh! my husband, my heart misgives
me.”

And she folded her two hands upon his shoulder, and bowed her head
thereon, with a burst of tears.

Mistress Bonyton sat with her daughters, busy with knitting-work and
sewing, when Dame Higgins entered, with work in hand, to pass an hour
in neighborly chat. Hardly were they seated, when in the distance were
seen John Bonyton and Hope Vines casting their hooks into the sea,
fishing; for from the point of rocks on which they stood, many a fine
bass had been brought ashore.

Dame Higgins eyed Mistress Bonyton sharply; she was making a net, and
as she drew the mesh home, the strong twine snapped with a keen,
biting sound, which seemed not unpleasant to the notable dame. Every
time she knotted the mesh, she lifted her eyes and scrutinized the face
of the hostess, as she drew the twine home.

“I think our brother John is certainly bewitched,” said Perseverance
Bonyton, to her sister, at the same time biting off the thread of the
seam she had just completed.

Nancy, who had been addressed, was darning a pair of stockings, with a
small yellow gourd inside to hold the parts in shape. She threaded the
darning-needle, arranged the gourd, and commenced working before she
spoke, and then her laconic answer was no more than:

“I shouldn’t wonder!”

“My conscience, Nance, is that all you’ve got to say, after waiting so
long to get it out?”

Nancy compressed her lips like one determined not to be provoked into
speech, holding the stocking close to her breast, and passing the
needle over and under the threads, weaving in a perfect piece of cloth.
At last the rent was closed, and she held it up in triumph, saying:

“Back and forth, over and under; not a thread lost. When a work is to
be done, Perseverance, I can wait.”

“And while we wait, John is every day more and more deluded.”

“Did you ever notice that little spot, like a drop of blood, on the
shoulder of Hope Vines?”

“It is plain enough to be seen,” returned Perseverance, running up a
long needleful of stitches upon a new seam.

“Did you ever see any natural-born, true human creature, with such
fiery dark eyes, and black brows, and a head of white hair to make
you think of the pale horse of the Revelations?” continued Nancy,
remorselessly pricking in and out, over and under, her little web, and
at each time wounding the yellow gourd.

“I never did, and I never want to see such another.”

“Did you ever see a face that is as white as if every stain had been
bleached out in the frost and snow–out all day, rain or shine, hot or
cold, yet never browned, never burnt, while the two lips are like two
red cherries?”

“You know, now, Nance, she is as handsome as any picture; there’s no
getting over _that_, so don’t spin out what you are going to say, but
out with it.”

“Well, then, if I must say it, here ’tis. I believe Hope Vines is a
born devil–an incarnate imp, and that the soul of John is in jeopardy.”

Mistress Bonyton had not removed her eyes from the pair fishing upon
the rocks, and Dame Higgins had continued to knot mesh after mesh,
twanging the knots, each one with a sharp bite, like a hiss, while the
two girls pursued the above conversation in a low but querulous tone of
voice.

“If that was a boy of mine, exposed to the snares of–of–a girl like
that, Mistress Bonyton, I should go and call him in–a wise woman
looketh well to the ways of her household.”

For the first time Mistress Bonyton withdrew her eyes, and mechanically
pursued her knitting, and she answered, with a somewhat sorrowful smile:

“If you had my son John to deal with, you would most likely have a good
time calling.”

“He is of no earthly use in the world, while that girl is about. I
shall be glad when the vessel is ready to go.” This from Perseverance.

“If I had my way, he shouldn’t go at all, to fight agin’ the
parliament,” was Nancy’s response.

“Never you mind, gals; there is more than one way to kill a cat.”

And, as Mistress Bonyton said this, the click of her knitting-needles
was like so many sharp stabs.

“Oh, yes, mother, but they are long a-dying,” said Perseverance, tying
a double knot in her thread, and digging her needle into her work.

Dame Higgins had been steadily tying the mesh after mesh of her net,
drawing out the thread with a twang, and she now laid her hands in her
lap, and looking Mistress Bonyton straight in the eye, said slowly:

“There will be no good come to this land, this church planted
in the wilderness, till the heathen are rooted out; root and
branch must be destroyed, and all that deal with, ‘wizards that
peep’–eh–and enchanters–eh–and witches–ah–and dealers in familiar
spirits–eh–shall be cut off and wholly destroyed–eh–ye shall show
them no mercy–eh.”

This was said with a rising inflection of voice, and an indescribable
sing-song drawl, which is ludicrous or impressive according as the
sympathies of the hearer are for or against the speaker.

“That is what I call a good word and fitly spoken,” cried Perseverance,
throwing her work into the basket, and hugging herself fiercely with
her two arms.

“That is coming to the point. Either there are witches or there are
not. If there are no witches, then the Bible lies.”

Perseverance contracted her brows, compressed her lips, and looked
around like one who has started a _clincher_. Mistress Bonyton moved
her knitting-needles with calmness and precision, and answered, slowly:

“My mind has been long greatly exercised on this point. I have seen
much and held my peace, till my soul crieth out within me, and I will
no longer be silent. I shall do my utmost to bring this question before
the council. If my husband speaks, well and good; if he forbears, the
guilt be upon his own head. I shall clear my skirts by calling upon the
Lord’s people to purge the land.”

“I was saying very nearly the same words to my son, Ephraim, last
night,” resumed Dame Higgins. “Ephraim is a devout youth, and a godly.
I wish your son John, Mistress Bonyton, were more disposed to walk in
the path he has chosen,” and the dame drew the mesh-knot with a long,
slow bite.

Mistress Bonyton straightened herself a trifle; her maternal instinct
had been touched, and she replied, a little tartly:

“It would need be a smart youth for my son to follow him. John has a
way of his own; but I like not a tame youth, which is most likely to be
succeeded by a cowardly old age.”

“True, true, Mistress Bonyton,” for now Dame Higgins winced from the
same cause. “I speak not in reprehension of your son John, but as in
praise of my son Ephraim. He is not carnally disposed, and yet, Nancy,
his eyes will turn too often of a Sabbath in your direction, and I have
taken him to task therefor.”

At this Perseverance gave Nancy a sly touch with the foot and the
latter colored a little, just a small, decorous blush, suitable to a
staid spinster, for Ephraim was not likely to create any very fiery
emotion.

“We are straying from the question in hand, gossip,” said the hostess.
“I learn, by the last arrivals from home, that the people are not
only at their wits’ end in the face of these civil commotions, but
that in sundry places have broken out divers cases of witchcraft and
possession, whereby the peace and safety of many devout persons has
been greatly jeopardized!”

“Yea, yea, I have read thereof; it were a goodly thing if this young
church in the wilderness, as yet little disturbed by heresies, should
give the older one a lesson. What think you, mistress?”

Mistress Bonyton did not reply directly to the question, but laying her
work in her lap, replied, slowly:

“At one time it was thought that your son Ephraim was falling into the
snares of this–this–”

“Witch devil.” Perseverance came thus to her mother’s aid.

“Yea, it is most true. Ephraim sat day after day, like a–eh–like a
sparrow upon the house-top–eh–lamenting.”

Perseverance eyed Nancy with a malignant smile, whereat the latter,
nothing daunted, replied:

“Many a godly youth has been led astray, but when he returns, and saith
‘I have sinned,’ it shall not be accounted to him.”

“Thou art of a goodly speech, Nancy, and I thank thee,” returned Dame
Higgins.

“There, did you see that?” cried Perseverance, with a sudden start.
“Upon my life, Hope Vines jumped off that cliff, the whole hight, and
then walked home as if nothing had happened. No goat can do such a
thing without help of some kind. I could swear I saw a shape holding
her up–there–I am sure I did, and it ran toward the woods in the
shape of a black cat.”

All eyes were turned in the direction indicated, where most certainly
was to be seen a harmless cat, making her way stealthily, in pursuit of
birds–a black, crafty, cruel beast when intent on such game.

John Bonyton now entered with a fine bass, which he laid upon the
shelf. He bowed slightly to Dame Higgins, but, observing her work,
expressed interest in its progress. It was wonderful how whist the four
women became upon his entrance, which observing, he passed out again,
saying, with a grave smile, which well became his handsome face:

“I am sure I nipped some woman’s story in the bud by coming in, so I
will even go, that ye may finish it,” and he went out again, whereat
Dame Higgins exclaimed:

“Ye surely put all your beauty into that boy, mistress, and saved
little for your girls.”

Both the girls pouted somewhat at this, but Perseverance hummed:

“What care I how black I be!
Forty pounds will marry me!”

And Dame Higgins soon after took her leave, followed to the door by
Mistress Bonyton, who implored her to give no currency to their recent
conversation.

“The time is not yet ripe,” she continued. “The Governor is powerful,
and Mistress Vines well esteemed. We must proceed with caution. John is
not to be trifled with, as ye may judge, and his father is strong and
willful. We must proceed only upon sure grounds.”

Dame Higgins promised discretion, but she had several visits to pay
that day.

.

It was just midnight, and John Bonyton still paced the sands at the
head of the Pool, striving in vain to wrest his thoughts from the one
object of his devotion. At length, as the moon was lost in the west, he
turned wearily homeward, with that vague unrest with which persons turn
to a disagreeable location. Emerging from a grove of pines, he observed
a figure leaning against the bole of one of these, with head drooping
upon its breast.

“What do you here, Acashee?” he asked, coldly, as he stood before her.

“Think of John Bonyton.”

“I like it not, Acashee. I like it not. Thou art beautiful–thou art
bright, and full of power. Go seek a chief of thy tribe best worthy of
thee, and pursue me no more.”

“I AM beautiful, John Bonyton. Fresh, and strong, and straight as the
mountain-ash. I am fit to mother heroes, John Bonyton, and you turn
from me to love a girl small as the rabbit compared with the panther.”

She approached him; she laid her slender wrist upon his arm, and looked
into his face with her dark eyes, that had a serpent fascination in
them, while her parted coral lips showed the small white teeth, and
gave an indescribable seductiveness to her person.

John Bonyton shook off her hand sternly.

“Go, Acashee. It is not becoming the daughter of a great chief to seek
the love of the white man.”

And he turned away.

Acashee’s face flushed with rage, but she did not follow him. In a low,
soft voice she called:

“Come back, John Bonyton, I have something of which to speak.”

He returned, and again she laid her slender wrist upon his arm, and he
could feel the pulse leap in its little round.

“Bethink thee, John Bonyton, thy people contemn thee; Sir Richard Vines
will not give thee his daughter, or if he did, the Great Spirit will
not suffer Hope Vines to wed!”

“What mean you?”

“She is set apart; she is a diviner of secrets, a prophet of the
future. Such are reserved for the good of the people.”

Bonyton laughed with scorn, and replied:

“You speak your wish, Acashee. Hope shall yet be my wife. Go, and let
us meet no more.”

The girl ground her teeth with rage as she saw him ready to leave her,
but she resumed, with a soft voice and seductive smile, detaining him
gently by the hand.

“Come to our people, John Bonyton; come, and be a great chief, and
command a thousand warriors; come, and all the tribes of the east
will bow down to the great chief, who has married the wisest and most
beautiful woman of the red-men. Come, and Acashee will deck your
wigwam; she who is proud as the eagle to the approaches of others,
shall coo like the wood-pigeon in the ears of him who has moved the
soul of the red maiden, and made her like the timid fawn–she who has
been proud as the eagle upon the rock.”

She spoke at first with pride, gradually softening her tones to a
tender, caressing beseechingness, which might have been dangerous to
one less steadfast than John Bonyton.

“Cease, I beseech thee, Acashee. I have no choice but to love Hope
Vines.”

“Listen to what I tell you,” she cried, fiercely. “Hope Vines shall
not be your wife while the sea rolls, or the sun shines. She shall be
burned for a witch. She shall know what it is to bring the blush of
shame and the blight of scorn upon the cheek of Acashee.”

With a wild look of rage and malevolence, she dashed into the forest.

Her language was not lost upon Bonyton, who recalled many words and
incidents which confirmed him in the belief that danger impended over
Hope Vines, and the threat, “She shall be burned for a witch,” had a
fearful significance.

Meanwhile, Acashee pursued her way homeward, half in doubt whether she
should forward the plans of the women of the colony, who, she was well
aware, designed to denounce Hope as a witch, or whether she should aid
her own people in their scheme to abduct her, in their belief that she
would prove a great medicine-woman, or priestess.

With these views, many a council had been held to devise the most
favorable method of securing her person, while at the same time no
indignity, no distress or injury should afflict the sweetness of her
soul. While the women of the Pilgrim faith were devising means to
degrade and torture this tender child of genius, this nightingale
smothered in its own sweets, these children of the woods were intent
only to raise her to the highest pitch of reverence and devotion.

Upon reaching home, Acashee found that circumstances were favoring
her designs against Hope, even beyond her expectations; for a council
was already convened whose object was to secure her person. Acashee,
though not allowed to be seated in council, was too wise and too much
respected to be excluded therefrom; hence, she leaned against a tree
behind her father, and listened.

“For many years the corn failed us, and the venison was poor; the
fish showed their dead white bellies all along the sea-shore; the
burial-places of our people were heaped with our dead; and then came
these pale-faces!”

Thus commenced a white-haired chief, recalling the misfortunes of his
people.

“Our medicine-men, our prophets, foretold their coming,” returned
another.

“Yes, my brother, and they foretold the ruin of the tribes. I see
already our people fading, fading, like the mist as the sun comes up.”

“Why look only at black omens, my father? Maybe the pale-faces have
brought to us one who can show us how to avert the calamities of our
people.”

Acashee started forward like a young panther at these words of her
father, and exclaimed:

“Thou hast well said, my father.”

Samoset lifted his hand and waved his daughter back; then he said, in a
low voice, meant for her ear alone:

“The net-weaver is keen and subtle; let her beware, or she may be
caught in her own trap.”

“What is Wa-ain (white soul) to me? Do I not seek the prophet-voice of
our people?”

Samoset’s eyes flashed fire upon the girl; he rose to his feet and
motioned her to follow, saying, as he went:

“Does the squaw hope to deceive a chief? Do I not know thee? Do I not
know that Hope Vines is to thee what the hazel is to the rattlesnake?
Go thy ways, lest I condemn thee to the hoe and the paddle.”

Samoset loved Hope with a paternal tenderness and a religious
reverence; and when he sought to secure her as a prophet, it was in
accordance with these sentiments only, and he resolved to protect her
from the animosity which he so well read in the mind of his imperious
daughter. Returning to the council at length, he was ready to adopt
measures to secure her person, and therefore listened to the reasons
assigned for their belief in her supernatural gifts.

“Hardly do her feet touch the earth,” said a chief. “Her hair is
the pearly hue of the spirit-land, fair as the snowy mist when the
evening star nestles beside the young moon. Her eyes seek the stars,
and like the eagle’s, penetrate the midday sun–she is a waif from the
spirit-land. Her own people would subject her to toil, or to their
foolish arts–they do not understand her. We see in her the gift of the
Great Spirit–let us take her to worship.”

This speech was received with approval, and many were the devices
suggested to accomplish this object. The chief turned to Samoset.

“Thy daughter is wise; she understands Wa-ain; let her be called.”

At a signal, Acashee approached with her hands folded, and with humble,
downcast eyes, for the threat of her father had terrified her. She
stood behind him in silence.

“Will it break the heart of Wa-ain to take her from her kind? Will she
learn to forget them?”

Acashee shook her head.

“Speak, my daughter,” said her father.

“Wa-ain has no heart; she will forget all but one.”

The chiefs exchanged significant glances.

“When that one is hidden from her eyes she will forget; she hears in
him the lost voices of the land of perpetual spring. When he is gone,
the voices now lost will come to her ear.”
“Хинкус Фармасьютикалс”, Общество с ограниченной ответственностью
142100, МОСКОВСКАЯ ОБЛАСТЬ, Г ПОДОЛЬСК, УЛ КОМСОМОЛЬСКАЯ, Д 1
Acashee glanced furtively at her father, and then said:

“Who will look to the comfort of Wa-ain?–who will spread the skins for
her couch, and provide the fine food for her lips? She can not live
like an Indian girl.”

“The old chief will provide, my daughter,” answered Samoset, a grim
smile crossing his features, for, proud as he was of his daughter, he
knew well the cruelty of her heart, and he would not trust Hope to her
keeping. He continued:

“John Bonyton goes over the great water; he goes to fight in behalf of
the great English father–we shall see him no more.”

In spite of her Indian nerves, Acashee trembled and turned pale at this
announcement.

“How shall we obtain the person of Wa-ain? Shall we wait till John
Bonyton is gone?” she at length asked.

“Unfold thy purpose, daughter,” said Samoset.

Acashee saw that her father read her mind clearly–knew the hatred she
bore to Hope Vines–knew of a something, which was not hate, that made
her heart throb at the name of John Bonyton–knew that he saw how the
abduction of the girl would work out her own revenge. She answered, at
length, in a clear, low voice:

“Wa-ain loves the games and festivals of the tribes; what hinders that
she should join in a dance before the departure of John Bonyton?”

“Why before his departure?” This from her father.

“Because, when he is gone, Wa-ain will no more be seen abroad; like the
wood-pigeon, she will seek the deepest shades, and thence go to the
spirit-land.”

The council was prolonged still further, but at length the hint of
Acashee was accepted, and it was resolved to induce Hope to join the
Indians in one of their annual festivals, in the progress of which it
would be easy to so far remove her from observation, that a few trusty
agents could carry her far beyond the reach of her own people.

Acashee retired, glad to hide her exultation at this plan to separate
the lovers, from the penetrating eye of her father.

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