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Midwife Catherine Williams senses trouble when Roger Whitcomb and his sister, Jane, both Quakers, arrive in Newbury seeking sanctuary from religious persecution. She knows her fellow townspeople will be nervous about the newcomers?and unwilling to extend a helping hand. Strangers are not welcome, especially when their arrival is heralded by the drowning death of a sailor from their ship?and other disturbing occurences. Even Catherine finds herself increasingly suspicious of the Whitcombs and the odd goings-on ...
Midwife Catherine Williams senses trouble when Roger Whitcomb and his sister, Jane, both Quakers, arrive in Newbury seeking sanctuary from religious persecution. She knows her fellow townspeople will be nervous about the newcomers—and unwilling to extend a helping hand. Strangers are not welcome, especially when their arrival is heralded by the drowning death of a sailor from their ship—and other disturbing occurences. Even Catherine finds herself increasingly suspicious of the Whitcombs and the odd goings-on that seem to surround them. And when Roger is killed, Catherine is finally compelled by reasons both personal and professional to find out the truth...
He broke into a trot and clapped his hands as he approached. One gull snatched something floating near the body and flew up with it in its mouth. Massaquoit watched the gull work its wings hard, lifting itself against the weight of what it carried in its beak, and then it was gone. Several of the remaining gulls looked at Massaquoit and then rose reluctantly, but the others cawed at him as though he were just another, oversized bird looking to compete for breakfast. He stooped to pick up a four foot long piece of driftwood, which he swung over his head as he reached the water's edge. Two gulls, one on each side of the body, pecked at each other, while the others flew off. With a final jab of its beak, one of the fighting gulls discouraged the other, which took off. The one that remained stared stubbornly at Massaquoit and then pecked its beak defiantly into the dead man's flesh. Massaquoit swung the wood at the bird and caught it on the side of the head. It fell off and floated a few feet away. Out of thecorner of his eye he saw something down the beach. He turned in that direction. A figure darted into the water, bent down, and then ran off. Massaquoit knelt and grabbed the feet of the man who had so attracted the birds? attention. He pulled him onto dry land.
The man was dressed as a sailor. The exposed skin of his face, neck, and hands had been shredded by the gulls? beaks. Massaquoit leaned over him with his cheek above what was left of the man's mouth. He waited until he was sure that there was no breath. The acrid smell of brine, along with the miasma of the decaying reeds in which he had been floating, rose from the corpse. He put his nose closer, and the sweet scent of rum greeted his nose..
He heard feet running toward him, and he stood up. A middle aged English approached to within ten feet and stopped. The man did not look anxious to come any closer.
"What have you there, Matthew?"
"A dead English," Massaquoit replied.
The man was sweating more than he should in the mild morning air. He looked past Massaquoit toward the hulking shape of The Good Hope, tied up at the dock.
"That is your mistress's ship," he said. "Do you think he fell in?" the man asked.
"I do not know," Massaquoit replied. "The gulls were feeding on him when I arrived."
"Indeed, that is peculiar," the man said. He came close enough to see the mangled flesh of the dead man, and he brought his hand to his mouth, and turned away. Massaquoit sensed movement coming towards him from the dock. A man wearing a coat adorned by brass buttons, followed by another whose gray hair and stolid bearing suggested someone used to responsibility were trotting towards him. Behind them came an ordinary sailor. Massaquoit recognized the man in the coat as Martin Gregory, the master of the ship, which was owned by Catherine Williams. He guessed that the other man must be the ship's mate. The ship had docked several days before and Massaquoit, sitting in front of his wigwam on a hot afternoon, had seen the captain accompany the young English man and woman to Mistress Williams? door.
* * * *
Captain Gregory had heard a commotion on deck some time during the middle of the night. The windows and doors to his cabin had been open to capture what little breeze might slice through the hot and heavy air. He did not pay particular attention to the voices, as they seemed to be two or three sailors in a drunken argument. He was a strict taskmaster, ordinarily, but this had been a particularly difficult voyage from England in his ship, which was better equipped for the coastal trade up and back between Newbury and the Carribean Islands, and he had lost one man to fever when becalmed in mid-passage, and another overboard during a violent storm just two days before reaching Newbury Harbor. So, he was inclined to let the fracas work itself out without his intervention. He tried to get back to sleep, hoping his first mate would deal with the situation. The voices stopped and he began to drift off, when he thought he heard one more cry and then a splash. He sat up in his bed and waited. He heard feet walking away, nothing more. He was very tired, and lay back down. He was not sure that he had not dreamed the episode.
A knock on his door a couple of hours woke him, and his mate stood there, his lined face serious.
"You had better come have a look," the mate said. "One of our men has got himself drowned. There must be a hundred hungry gulls at him."
Now the captain stared down at the man. The face was so badly disfigured he was not sure who he was looking at.
"That's young Billy Lockhart," the mate, who had accompanied the captain, said. "Isn't he Henry?" He looked to the sailor for confirmation. Henry, a young man barely out of his teens, and sporting a dark purple bruise beneath his eye, inched toward the body and leaned toward it as though afraid to get too close. He nodded his head and then turned away.
"He was a wild one," the mate said,--no doubt about that. I don't wonder if he just fell overboard after drinking a bit too much."
"I heard a noise outside my cabin," Gregory replied. "Some time during the night." He was about to continue when he turned toward Henry. "Tell me lad, how did you get that bruise?"
"I were not in any fight," Henry replied. "Not with him anyway," he pointed at the body.
"Well, come then," Gregory insisted.
Henry's lips quivered but he did not speak. The mate leaned toward him, and Henry whispered into his ear.
"The lad is ashamed," the mate said. "It seems he sneaked off the boat, and there was this woman, who was already..."
"Enough," Gregory snapped. He looked from the dead man to the young sailor. "You will know better in the future, I trow."
"Aye," Henry replied.
Gregory turned to his mate.
"Did you not hear anything?"
"Aye, that I did, too," the mate said. "And when I went to see what the trouble was a couple of the boys was having a disagreement, but Billy was not there with them. He liked his own company when he had a bottle, he did."
"Well, he is very much alone now, isn't he? Without a bottle, facing his God."
The mate lowered his head.
"He is that," he said. "As for that, I do not doubt that those Quakers we had on board might have had something to do with this. They are witches, you know. Could have cast a spell on Billy. Out of envy at the joy he took in his life."
Captain Gregory's frown suggested his desire to distance himself from speculation.
"Does he have kin?" Gregory asked.
"Not that I knows of," the mate replied.
"We have room in our graveyard," the constable interjected "if he was a good Christian, that is."
"As to that, I cannot attest," Gregory said "but I trust Mistress Williams would want one of her own properly put to rest."
"As you want, sir," the constable said. "I will see to it."
The captain turned, and followed by the mate, returned to the ship. Henry, though, lingered a few feet away.
"Do you mind waiting with him?" the constable asked Massaquoit, with a nod toward the body.
"No, I don?t," Massaquoit said. "I do not feel his spirit anywhere near."
The constable shrugged and walked off. Massaquoit waited until he had disappeared behind a turn in the path, and then knelt again to look at the body. Henry approached and looked down at the body.
"Did you not find anything on it?" he asked Massaquoit.
"He had a leather pouch he wore around his waist. I was thinking there might be something about his family in it."
"I thought he had none."
"As for that, do you think them officers know about us sailors, or that we tell them what they don't have no business knowing?"
Massaquoit studied the young sailor, his face aging from overexposure to the sun.
"I found nothing," he repeated.
"Aye. I imagine it must be at the bottom of the water," Henry said, and then he walked off toward the ship.
* * * *
Catherine looked to the door of the meetinghouse as though she could will the latch to turn. Captain Gregory, sitting between Catherine on one side, and Magistrate Joseph Woolsey on the other, shifted his angular body on the bench next to her as though he was unable to find a comfortable position. Catherine turned toward him and a small smile fought against the tension in her jaws, a tension that had been growing with each moment the door remained closed, while Minister Davis, too, waited.
"I do not think they attend meeting as we do," Catherine said.
"My mate thinks they cast a spell on Billy, that poor lad, and that is why he fell into the water and drowned."
Catherine saw no humor in his eyes, but then he was a man who faced life as though it were a series of storms through which he must navigate his ship, leaving no time for levity.
"What think you?" she asked.
"I know that the lad was a favorite of the young woman. And that the lad could not control his thirst. It is most like that he was drunk, and in the fog, for there was a mist on the water last night, he stumbled, lost his balance and fell."
"I fear we may never know more than that," Catherine replied, and then she glanced again at the door. "Did they dine with you?" she asked.
"Indeed, the young man did, as befits their status. But the young woman had such a terrible voyage, keeping to her cabin until we had cleared the Canary Islands. Why I did not lay eyes on her before we were almost half way across. Billy took her meals to her."
"And was her brother prompt to meals?" Woolsey asked.
"Aye, that he was."
"Perhaps then he has a larger appetite for food than to hear God's Holy Word preached as it should be. People say that at their meetings there is no preaching."
"No more of that, Joseph Woolsey," Catherine chided. "Let us judge their actions, not rumors about their sect."
Captain Gregory stretched against the back of the bench on which he sat. He seemed ill at ease.
?But perhaps you can sit more at your ease if you did not have to balance your hat," Woolsey offered.
"Yes, it is a grand hat," Catherine said, thankful for the distraction. The air in the meeting house still carried the rich aroma of the newly worked wood of the board that now ran along the side walls. Most of the pegs on the board held hats or an occasional cloak, but Catherine noted a couple of free ones toward the very back on the wall nearest where she sat. She pointed in that direction, and Captain Gregory smiled his thanks as he rose to his feet, carrying his tricornered and plumed hat . He walked in a wide legged gait, more appropriate for the rolling deck of a ship than the plank floor he now crossed, and found an empty hook toward the rear of the building. He brushed his hat off and just as he turned to regain his seat, the door flung open and in walked Roger and Jane Whitcomb, the brother and sister whose arrival he and Catherine had been so anxiously awaiting.
Catherine felt herself tense. She had heard about some of the Quakers? strange practices, and she feared an immediate disturbance. The young man was wearing a broad brimmed, high crowned hat. Catherine waited for his hands to move toward his head but they did not. Instead, he took his sister's elbow as they made their way toward Catherine. They arrived, just as Captain Gregory did, and there was a moment's confusion as the three stood not certain who should sit down. Captain Gregory stepped back and gestured toward a space on a bench several rows back.
"Master Whitcomb," he said with a slight nod "I can hear as well from there."
"That space will suffice for us, thank you kindly Captain," Roger said. Catherine's eyes fastened on Roger's hat until he sensed her glance, and his face reddened.
"You need not worry, Mistress Williams," he said "whatever you might have heard about our ways, we know how to show proper respect to God in His House." He lifted his hand to the brim and with a slow, graceful movement, he pulled his hat to his side, revealing his thick black hair. As if in sympathy, his sister raised her hand to her head and pulled at the strands of bright red hair that strayed from beneath her bonnet. She offered a quick, tentative smile that brightened her delicate face for a second, and then they walked back to the bench Captain Gregory had been looking at and found seats on the side of it closest to the wall. The brother located an available peg, and put his hat on it.
Minister Davis had been watching with an expression on his face somewhere between amusement and exasperation as the beginning of his service was delayed by the tardy arrival of the newcomers whom the whole town had been waiting to see.
"Mistress Williams," he said, in his deep, authoritative voice "I see that your guests have joined us. I trust they are well bestowed and ready to join our service."
Catherine felt caught off guard. Minister Davis did not usually interrupt himself at the beginning of meeting in such a manner as this. The colony was growing and it was not at all uncommon for new arrivals, either permanent or transitory, to attend a Sunday service. In fact, permanent Newbury residents were compelled, by law, to worship whether their hearts were involved or not. So, Catherine could only wonder what moved the minister to make a special case out of her guests. A moment's reflection brought his motive to mind, and a second later a comment from behind her confirmed her conclusion.
"They do say," a woman's voice said in tones louder than were necessary to communicate with her immediate neighbor "that they are members of that new sect."
"You don't mean," her neighbor, another woman, replied.
"Quakers in Newbury," the neighbor said. This last was said even louder, and rose above the heads of the waiting congregants to fill the meetinghouse with fear and loathing. All eyes now turned to Roger and Jane, sitting with expressionless faces.
Catherine stood up and glanced back at the two women, both of them in their forties, good wives of Newbury, smug beneath caps starched for Sunday.
"They, and I, await you," Catherine said, with her gaze aimed hard and bright at the two women although her remark was addressed to the minister.
"Well, then," Minister Davis said "let us begin."
From his seat at the rear of the meeting house Massaquoit watched with amusement in his mind but a passive expression on his face. He had now been living among the English for more than ten years, ever since Catherine Williams had chosen him from all his fellow sachems to live. The others had been dumped into the sea while he had gone to live as Catherine's servant, although she had never treated him as such. He lived in a wigwam under a tree behind her house. Over the years that he had been there he had contemplated trying the English style of living in their large wooden structures with many walls and doorways and stairs to higher levels. Catherine had often invited him into her house, but he had refused. It was not that he did not recognize the advantages of such a structure, especially in the middle of a severe New England winter. He might warm his feet better by a fireplace inside Catherine's house, just as he could cook better with an English iron kettle, or cut better with an English steel knife. But the simple, and essential fact, was that he was not English, and he had no intention of becoming absorbed into that culture as had his companion sitting to his right.
Wequashcook, too, had noted the disturbance caused by the newcomer's arrival. He nudged Massaquoit with his elbow, but his face, too, remained an impassive mask. He sat next to Massaquoit because the last bench in the meetinghouse was reserved for those Indians who had accepted Christ and had become good enough Christians to attend services, but not quite enough to permit them to mingle with the English Christians sitting in front of them. And on the bench reserved for them, there was just enough room for the dozen or so Indian congregants, and Wequashcook and Massaquoit found themselves side by side partially out of choice in recognition of their long and tangled history, and partly in preference to other possible neighbors, men and women whose spirits long ago had been crushed or who had heartily adopted the white people's god. Massaquoit made just enough pretense to such a conversion to permit him to maintain his relationship with Catherine while Wequashcook offered a more aggressive assimilation into the English faith so as to better promote his business interests. Neither was sincere, and neither respected the other's motives, but still, somehow, they felt closer to each other than they did to the other Indians sitting with either blank faces or exaggerated joy in their expressions.
Minister Davis looked out over his congregation, pausing as he always did on that last bench where the Indians sat as though to insist on his policy of inclusion of all those in his meetinghouse. He was preaching today on the question of sanctification, and how it followed justification in turning God's elect away from sin and toward Christ's model of goodness.
"By your acts shall you be known," the minister intoned "for a natural man can wallow only in his sin like a hog in the mud until he is cleansed by God's saving grace."
He paused, as he frequently did, for emphasis, waiting until the words he deemed most portentous had had an opportunity to penetrate the rational functions of his auditors. Like most New England Puritans ministers, he believed that human reason had been corrupted, but not destroyed, by Original Sin, and that preaching God's word could still have a positive effect, for its light was bright enough to shine through the dismal, sin induced fog that enshrouded his congregation's minds. He tapped his finger on the open page of the huge Bible on the lectern behind which he stood and observed the nodding heads and brightening eyes until he was satisfied that his point had been well received and he could go on. Yet just as he opened his mouth to continue, he became aware of a stirring to his right, and there, several rows behind Catherine Williams, Roger Whitcomb stood up.
He was tall, a little over six feet at a time when the average height for a man was something like half a foot less. Now that his large hat was removed, his black hair rose in wild disarray, tumbling over his ears and the nape of his neck. His eyes, which had been gentle in his deference to Captain Gregory, now were bright with intense focus. He looked down at his sister. She turned aside for a second, and then she nodded. Catherine, whose eyes had followed the minister's gaze, saw that an almost imperceptible shrug preceded the nod of her head.
"Thou are surely mistaken," Roger said, in a voice every bit as commanding as the minister's. "Thou would mislead these poor lambs to their damnation in hell."
The color rose in Minister Davis's face, moving up from the folds of his neck through his fleshy jowls and then continuing across his cheeks to his forehead, which now bulged with the pressure of the veins that had carried the angry blood. Catherine found herself worried that his head might explode, for much as she disagreed with the man of the cloth on many points of doctrine as well as his approach to pastoral care, which was far to magisterial for her taste, she yet retained a human care for the man beneath the cloth, and she now saw that his fury was reaching a level dangerous to his well being. He opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out as though he could not from the wealth of his erudite vocabulary select the words of opprobrium sufficient to contend with this brash challenge to his authority.
Roger filled the silence as all in the meetinghouse waited for the minister to gather himself.
"What sayest thou?" the young man demanded. "Are thou not confounded?"
Minister Davis clamped his mouth shut hard, passed his hand across his forehead as though to dispel its confusion, and then found his voice. A young woman on the front bench across from Catherine half rose and glanced from the minister to Roger. Catherine recognized her as Grace Davis, the minister's niece, recently arrived in Newbury. Grace's eyes lingered on Roger and then she sat back down as Minister Davis spoke.
"Surely not. Am I, who stood up before the tyranny of the King's ministers who could put my head in a noose for preaching the true gospel, now to be confounded by such a pup as you who do not know how to address your betters?"
"What meanest thou?" Roger asked, but the smirk on his face revealed that he full well understood the minister's point.
"Why that you show forth your ignorance even now."
"No, the fault is thine, as thou are surely but one person." He moved his arm in a sweeping gesture toward the congregation. "Now surely, you are many, and so correctly addressed." He brought his arm back to point at Minister Davis. "But he is but one man, although he seems unaware of that simple truth."
Minister Davis's face had resumed its more usual authoritative expression, and his color had almost lost its red glow.
"My young friend," he said "we need not argue over ?thou? or ?you?. And I will even forgive your impertinent interruption so that in answering your objection to my opening of the doctrine of sanctification, I can the better show you its truthfulness."
"Sayest thou so?" Roger said.
"I do," Minister Davis replied in a voice informed by the calm of thirty years in the ministry facing adversaries of every stripe.
Roger made his way to the aisle and strode to the rear of the meetinghouse. He stopped in front of the last bench and pointed at Wequashcook and Massaquoit.
"There is a light in all men," he said "even these that thou term savages. They too carry the light within them. Is it not so that heat follows from a flame but does not cause the fire?"
"It is," Minister Davis agreed, his voice raised to reach and confront Roger at the back of the building.
"Just so is the light within these savages like the flame. Heat follows the flames, and righteousness follows the light. Stand up men and leave this building, for you need it not," he declared. He seized Wequashcook by one arm, and Massaquoit by the other, and tried to raise them to their feet. He strained for a few moments but then dropped his arms.
"They have been better instructed," Minister Davis said. "They know they must hear the word of God opened to them by their minister."
"They are the more deceived, then," Roger retorted. He stepped back into the aisle and strode with deliberate pace toward the pulpit. He stopped at a point even with the front-most bench, and turned to face the congregation. He paused for a moment as his eyes engaged Grace's. His height gave him a commanding presence almost equal to the much shorter minister ensconced as he was behind the massive oaken pulpit. "Rise up I say and free yourselves from the slavery of this ministry. Learn to nurture the seed of righteousness that God has placed in your bosoms. It is not so difficult to do, for I have come to show you the way."
Catherine rose to her feet. She felt the blood full beneath her cheeks and she knew her face was red. At that moment she could not have said whether she was more angry or humiliated. Although she found Roger's point more than passingly compatible with her own distrust of a church polity based on a powerful ministry, she could not condone his rudeness. And further, as Roger's hostess, and therefore sponsor in the community, she would be held responsible for his behavior. The fact that she had first laid eyes on him two days ago would not lessen her responsibility in the eyes of her neighbors.
She wanted very much to reach Roger and silence him, but others had also stood and the congregation was forming itself into an angry human wall between her and Roger, whose head remained visible above everybody else. Catherine turned toward the pulpit, hoping that Minister Davis would find some word to dampen the hot anger she felt fill the meetinghouse, but for once the clergyman seemed struck speechless. He stood, face purple, with his elbows leaning on the pulpit on either side of the massive Bible open to the page of his text. He glanced down at that page, perhaps hoping to find something there that would defuse a situation that had escaped his usually iron grip on the emotions of his congregants. He moved his lips, as though the calming words he sought would thereby form themselves, but he could say nothing.
Roger, on the other hand, glowed with the confidence of those informed by a self-defined sense of righteousness, fueled by a fierce desire to bring the light of truth to the benighted. He cast his eyes toward the ceiling of the meetinghouse and then lifted both arms as though inviting his hostile audience to embrace his words. However, before he could utter them, an arm reached out from the human wall that was now leaning toward him from the benches immediately in front of him. Catherine saw the lace cuff of a shirt, and the hand, which held a leather glove rolled into a ball. She raised herself onto her toes, but still could not see the body to which the arm belonged. She nudged Woolsey with her elbow.
"Who is it?" she asked.
"Who..." the magistrate repeated, unsure of what he was being asked.
"The hand," Catherine said.
"I see it," Woolsey replied.
The hand's mate, another flash of white lace at the cuff, circled the back of Roger's head and its fingers grabbed a handful of hair. His expression turned startled, his mouth agape. The hand holding the glove shoved it into the opening. Roger pulled his head back, but the insistent hand followed until the balled glove all but disappeared down Roger's throat. He stepped back gagging for breath. Two more hands, these rougher and larger, extending from sleeves of coarse, dark brown wool, appeared from behind Roger's head and clamped his mouth shut by pressing his jaw up with one powerful hand while the fingers of the other pressed down on the crown of his head. Roger flailed his arms in a windmill motion.
"Let him go!" The voice boomed from the chest of a man who now stood clearly visible next to Roger. The other man released his grip from Roger's head, and the young man fell to his knees. The one who had issued the command straightened his lace cuffs and stepped aside, much as he would have done if Roger had been a steaming clump of manure encountered in his path. Roger attempted to rise but collapsed back on to the floor. The fingers of his right hand seized the tip of the leather glove and yanked, but the glove was caught in his throat, which now spasmed in terror. His jaws, perversely, had clamped shut. He grunted and pressed his left hand against his throat. His right hand now pounded the rough planks of the meetinghouse floor.
The man with the powerful hands knelt over Roger. He pried open Roger's mouth and grabbed the end of the glove. As he began to pull it out, Roger's mouth shut again, and his teeth drove into the man's fingers. The man brought his other hand down in a hard slap against Roger's jaw. Roger's mouth opened from the impact and the man removed his hand. The impression of Roger's teeth was clearly visible on the man's index finger. Where the skin had been broken by Roger's incisors, a thick drop of red blood oozed. The man lifted his finger to his nose, as though to smell the blood, and then wiped his finger on his sleeve.
"I do not think you will be wanting that glove back, Master Worthington," the man said.
"I will not miss it," Master Worthington replied.
Roger was now thumping the wooden floor with one fist while clutching his throat with the other. Catherine forced her way through the crowd that now formed a semi-circle in the aisle where Roger lay. She saw the telltale blue tint forming beneath his skin. Jane was right behind Catherine and seized the end of the glove. She pulled but to no effect.
"He cannot breathe," she said.
"He had breath enough for his blasphemy," Master Worthington replied. He addressed Catherine. "You will be better advised to see to George's wound."
George extended his hand toward Catherine. Another droplet of blood had formed on the wound. She brushed the hand aside and got down on her knees next to Roger. His eyes had all but rolled back into his head, and he thrashed about as he felt her cradle his head with her arm. He managed to focus his gaze on her, and he calmed long enough to point to his throat.
"Perhaps it is God's will," Minister Davis said from the edge of the semi-circle where he had stood for the past few moments after descending the pulpit. Grace stood by his side and shook her head.
"Uncle, I do not think it," she said.
Minister Davis turned a withering stare at his niece, and Grace retreated a few steps.
"Govern you tongue," the minister said, and Grace reddened.
Massaquoit was on his feet, observing this strange spectacle. He knew he could help, perhaps save the life of the tall English who had caused so much anger. He had to decide whether he wanted to, and he did not hurry himself, even as he saw the man's life ebbing. The English stood around the fallen man and seemed unable or unwilling to come to his aid as he brought his fists down on the floor with increasing violence. Massaquoit saw the concern in Catherine's face, and felt himself drawn to her aid. He strode toward her, but his way was blocked by the English who had now formed a full circle several bodies deep around Roger. . He pushed against the gap between two young English men. They turned toward him, their expressions changing from surprise to contemptuous resistance and finally to acquiescence before the set of Massaquoit's jaw and the determination in his eyes. He did not speak. Long experience had taught him that silence was far better than his words in dealing with the English who seemed to delight in willfully misunderstanding his intention. For a couple of moments, nobody moved, and then one of the English, a young man no more than sixteen, of slight build and poor complexion, shrugged and stepped aside. His companion, a little older and sturdier, held his ground as Massaquoit stepped by him.
He reached Catherine's side just as Roger began bucking so hard that she could no longer cradle his head. His face was now clearly blue and his eyes were indicated he was staring at death.
"Can you do anything?" Catherine said. "He will die."
"Yes," Massaquoit replied.
He squatted next to Roger and grabbed the young man's arms. Roger flailed in his agony, but Massaquoit was able to raise him to a sitting position with his arms pinned to his sides. Massaquoit lowered his head and buried his shoulder into Roger's abdomen, just below the sternum. He threw his arm's around Roger and tried to rise. He got halfway up, but then Roger's weight proved too much. Catherine seized one of Roger's elbows, and Jane, who had been standing helplessly by, took the other. The two women looked at each other for a moment, and then as though at a wordless signal, they lifted. Massaquoit added his effort and managed now to stand with Roger on his shoulder. He dipped his knees, almost lost his balance, and then steadied himself. He stiffened his legs with a sudden movement that lifted Roger off his shoulder by an inch or two. When Roger landed again, his mouth opened and the glove shot out. He gasped and pulled air into his lungs. Massaquoit sat him down on the floor. Roger threw his arms out as though to open his lungs to the air. He cast his eyes upward toward the ceiling of the meetinghouse and then he brought his glance down so that he could look at each of the bystanders in turn. A gurgling sound crept out of his throat, and it was followed by a large glob of spittle. He jerked his head to one side so that his saliva landed on the floor within a few inches of the buckled leather shoes of Master Worthington. The merchant stared at the small pool and then stepped back.
"What think you of our new arrival?" he said, addressing the question to Governor Peters whose head was clearly visible above the crowd around Roger.
"Why, that he is rude, in speech and in manner." The governor cast his eyes about until they landed on a stout, middle aged man.
"Constable Larkins," he said "be you so kind as to escort Mr. Whitcomb to our jail, there to be held until we can better decide how to further entertain him."
"He is in need of my attention," Catherine said. "I will accompany him, if the governor has no objection."
"I expect nothing less than that you should want to minister to your guest," Governor Peters said. "Stray Indians, dogs, or Quakers, you seem not to distinguish, Mistress Williams."
"Oh, but I do, Governor Peters. I know well the difference between an Indian, a dog, a Quaker, and even a magistrate."
Governor Peters? face reddened. Catherine braced herself for the rebuke, but it did not come. Instead, the governor felt himself yanked about as Magistrate Woolsey pulled on his elbow.
"Now, we must be about our business." He looked out over the crowd. The congregation ringed the spot where Roger lay. Many faces were dark with anger and words passed behind the screen of hands. Governor Peters nodded.
"Your friend and protector is right, Mistress Williams, for he reminds me that I have more important matters to attend to than correcting that wayward tongue of yours whose bite I have indeed felt these many years."
"For that I must beg your pardon," Catherine said, thankful that Woolsey had once again shielded her. Behind the acquiescent smile of a woman who had once again been shown her place, she fought to contain her emotions. The foolish young man at her feet had almost been murdered before her eyes for speaking words in public he knew would invite retribution, and now he was to be dragged off to prison from whence he would be summoned for his punishment. Catherine bowed her head to underscore her submission and knelt to offer Roger her hand. Jane did the same. Roger grasped each woman's hand and struggled to his feet. He looked toward Massaquoit and nodded.
"Thank you, friend," he said.
Massaquoit held the eyes of this strange young English and then returned the nod with a slight movement of his head. Constable Larkins stepped forward.
"Come along, now," he said "and don't be about calling me your friend when I never did lay eyes on you before this morning."
"And yet, a friend in Christ, I trust," Roger said.
"I would not know anything about that," the constable said, and took Roger's elbow in his hand."
"There is no need," Roger said. "I will follow thee where thou lead."
"To the jail, that is where," the constable said and he maintained his grip on Roger as they began to make their way out of the meetinghouse. Roger brought his free hand up to his head, and ran his fingers through his hair, stopping at the crown. He looked to Jane, who was walking at his side. She turned down an aisle of benches, now empty, to retrieve Roger's hat from its peg. She trotted back and held it out to him, and he put it on with elaborate care as though his head were as fragile as an egg that the hat might crush. Constable Larkins yanked on his elbow, but Roger, now seemingly fully recovered, braced himself against the pull until he settled his wide brimmed hat to his satisfaction. Then he nodded and let himself be led out of the meetinghouse and across the square to the jail, followed by Jane and Catherine.
Massaquoit watched them leave and then walked to the back of the meetinghouse to the last row of benches where Wequashcook still sat. Wequashcook stood up and stretched the stiffness from his joints.
"The English are sometimes amusing," he said.
"Even in their amusements they are dangerous," Massaquoit replied.
"I think I will follow after," Wequashcook said.
"To see what crumbs might fall from the English table?"
"I have seen enough for one day," Massaquoit said. He walked out of the meetinghouse, cast a glance of the knot of English gathered outside of the jail, and then turned up the road that led from the town square to Catherine's house and his wigwam beneath the huge maple.
Posted December 9, 2008
In Newbury, New England, Indian Massaquoit finds sea gulls eating the remains of a dead man. The captain of the nearby ship Good Hope owned by local resident Catherine Williams, who is also Massaquoit¿s employer, identifies the corpse as a sailor. The townsfolk wonder if Billy Lockhart drowned from too much to drink or did one of those traveling Quakers kill him? <P>Attending the Puritan religious services are two Quaker siblings, Roger and Jane Whitcomb as guests of Catherine. During the service, Roger takes exception to a comment by Minister Davis. Soon, a glove his shoved down the visitor¿s throat leaving him choking to death. Massaquoit saves Roger¿s life. However, not long afterward, someone succeeds in killing Roger. Though she rejected his beliefs, Catherine takes it personally that someone murdered her guest. She begins her own inquiries. <P> THE SEA HATH SPOKEN is a tremendous Colonial mystery that deserves a wide readership. The story line is well written, as seventeenth century life in New England seems so vividly alive. The who-done-it is fun and Catherine is quite the heroine. With a powerful support cast augmenting the plot with an insider¿s look at the times, Stephen Lewis hath spoken and readers will appreciate this tale and other novels (see THE BLIND IN THE DARKNESS and THE DUMB SHALL SING) in this superb series. <P>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 9, 2011
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