Then some must let out the major’s hogs, and they came rooting and tumbling with unwieldy gambols. And with this wild troop of animals, and the mob shrieking in a frenzy of delight, and now and then a woman in terror before the onslaught of a galloping horse, and now and then a whole group of cutters overset by a charging hog, and up and after him, and slaying him, and his squeals of agony, verily I had preferred a battlefield of a different sort. And all this time Major Robert Beverly’s house stood still in the moonlight, and not a noise from the slave quarters, and the fields were all in a pumice of wasted plant life, and we were about to go farther when I heard again the cry of the little child coming from a chamber window. I trow they had given her some quieting potion or she had broken silence before.
With all our efforts the mob could not be persuaded to return Major Beverly’s horses to his stables, which circumstance was afterward to the saving of his neck, since it was argued that he would not have abetted the using of his fine stud in such wise, some of the horses being recovered and some being lamed and cut.
So out of the Beverly plantation we swept; those on horseback at a gallop and those on foot tramping after, and above the tumult came that farthest-reaching cry of the world—the cry of a little child frantic with terror.
Then they were for going to another large plantation belonging to one Richard Forster, who had gone in Ralph Drake’s party, when all of a sudden the horses of us who were leading swerved aside, and there was Mistress Mary Cavendish on her Merry Roger, and by her side, pulling vainly at her bridle, her sister Catherine.
Mary Cavendish raised her voice high until it seemed to me like a silver trumpet, and cried out with a wave of her white arm to them all: “On to Laurel Creek, I pray you! Oh, I pray you, good people, on to Laurel Creek, and cut down my tobacco for the sake of Virginia and the honour of the Colony.”
It needed but a puff of any wind of human will to send that fiery mob leaping in a new direction. Straightway, they shouted with one accord: “To Laurel Creek, to Laurel Creek! Down with the tobacco, down with the governor, down with the king! To Laurel Creek!” and forged ahead, turning to the left instead of the right, as had been ordered, and Mary was swept along with them, and Catherine would have been crushed, had not a horseman, whom I did not recognise, caught her up on the saddle with him with a wonderful swing of a long, lithe arm, and then galloped after, and as for myself and Captain Jaynes, and Sir Humphrey, and others of the burgesses, whom I had best not call by name, we went too, since we might as well have tried to hold the current of the James River, as that headlong company.
But as soon as might be, I shouted out to Sir Humphrey above the din that our first duty must be to save Mary and Catherine. And he answered back in a hoarse shout, “Oh, for God’s sake, ride fast, Harry, for should the militia come, what would happen to them?”