The theme of this book has its foundation head in a coming of a ship load of maidens from England to give themselves up for so much tobacco, to be the wives of the pioneers. They are of the common type, barmaids, rural lasses and domestics. But one among them is not of their type. She has flown from the king's court, where she was held dear as a royal daughter. Her royal guardian had commanded her marriage to his favorite, Lord Carnal, whose name and nature are well matched—naturally.
When Captain Ralph Percy saw her he did not regret that he had thrown dice to decide whether he should take a wife or not. They go through the marriage ceremony. From then on, the brave Percy's life is along painful pathways, for this woman, whom he had promised "to have and to hold." The brilliant Jocelyn Leigh, the king's ward, was not the one to tamely give herself up to her purchaser. The shame of her position overcomes her, until Lord Carnal appears upon the scene. Then she asserts her wifehood and swiftly passes from respect to admiration, then boundless love for her "knight, lover, lord, husband."
The story is running all through the history of one of the last Indian attacks upon Jamestown, where the friendly Nantauquas, kin to Pocahontas, is a fascinating character. Once in his boyhood days he was saved from a panther's vengeance by Captain Percy. Ever afterward he stood the Englishman's slave and it was always Nantauquas who appeared at the crucial minute to save his deliverer.
Mary Johnston has drawn with a fine hand the monster Jeremy Sparrow. Once an actor, and reckless with the most of them, he makes a tower of strength in orders. He is the saving humorist element in the story, without which it would be over tense. Captain Percy tells the story himself and yet this does not make the strong, manly hero seem conceited. He seems
only to be fulfilling his training to a noble manhood.
The detestable Lord Carnal, whom we have to admire for his proud beauty, goes off with slow poison, quite as we want him to. But the heart of the story is the beautiful Jocelyn Leigh, proud, courageous and developing into a perfect heroine. Just one point in the book seems outlandish, and not in keeping. It is the curious train of happening that sends the soldier landsman, with his little company in charge of a pirate ship to the West Indies. Miss Johnston makes her pirates sufficiently murderous and foul-mouthed, and they are exciting. But it is an aside for the story, other than to prove the resourcefulness of the gallant, genuine gentleman Ralph Percy.