I found one quicker than I had hoped. Almost at once I came on a track which led me into a carriage-road and out of the thickets to a big clearing. The daylight had not yet wholly gone, and it guided me to two gate-posts, from which an avenue of chestnut trees led up to a great house. There were lights glimmering in the windows, and when I reached the yard and saw the size of the barns and outbuildings, I wished I had happened on a place of less pretensions. But hunger made me bold, and I tramped over the mown grass of the yard, which in the dusk I could see to be set with flower-beds, till I stood before the door of as fine a mansion as I had found in the dominion. From within came a sound of speech and laughter, and I was in half a mind to turn back to my cold quarters by the shore. I had no sooner struck the knocker than I wanted to run away.
The door was opened instantly by a tall negro in a scarlet livery. He asked no questions, but motioned me to enter as if I had been an invited guest. I followed him, wondering dolefully what sort of figure I must cut in my plain clothes soaked and stained by travel; for it was clear that I had lighted on the mansion of some rich planter, who was even now entertaining his friends. The servant led me through an outer hall into a great room full of people. A few candles in tall candlesticks burned down the length of a table, round which sat a score of gentlemen. The scarlet negro went to the tablehead, and said something to the master, who rose and came to meet me.
“I am storm-stayed,” I said humbly, “and I left my boat on the shore and came inland to look for a supper.”
“You shall get it,” he said heartily. “Sit down, and my servants will bring you what you need.”
“But I am not fit to intrude, sir. A weary traveller is no guest for such a table.”
“Tush, man,” he cried, “when did a Virginian think the worse of a man for his clothes? Sit down and say no more. You are heartily welcome.”
He pushed me into a vacant chair at the bottom of the table, and gave some orders to the negro. Now I knew where I was, for I had seen before the noble figure of my host. This was Colonel Beverley, who in his youth had ridden with Prince Rupert, and had come to Virginia long ago in the Commonwealth time. He sat on the Council, and was the most respected of all the magnates of the dominion, for he had restrained the folly of successive Governors, and had ever teen ready to stand forth alike on behalf of the liberties of the settlers and their duties to the Crown. His name was highly esteemed at Whitehall, and more than once he had occupied the Governor’s place when His Majesty was slow in filling it. His riches were large, but he was above all things a great gentleman, who had grafted on an old proud stock the tolerance and vigour of a new land.