The Heart's Highway eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 222 pages of information about The Heart's Highway.
the same class of folk as the culprits, but with a sort of contempt which held them as less than men and below pity even.  The thought that some day I, too, was to sit there, had never entered my head.  I looked at my two feet upholding the coverlid, and pictured to myself how they would look protruding from the boards of the stocks.  I recalled the faces of all I had ever seen therein, and wondered whether I would look like this or that one.  I remembered seeing them pelted by mischievous boys, and as the dusk thickened, it seemed alive with jeering faces and my ears rang with jibes.  I said to myself that now Mary Cavendish was farther from me than ever before.  Some dignity of wretchedness there might be in the fate of a convict condemned unjustly, but none in the fate of a man who sat in the stocks for all the people to gaze and laugh at.

I said to myself that that cruelest fate of any—­to be made ridiculous in the eyes of love—­was come to me, and love henceforth was over and gone.  And thinking so, those grinning and jibing faces multiplied, and the air rang with laughter, and I trow I was in a high fever all night.

XXIII

The sports and races of Royal Oak Day were to be held on the “New Field” (so called), adjoining the plantation of Barry Upper Branch.  The stocks had been moved from their usual station to this place to remind the people in the midst of their gayety that the displeasure of the King was a thing to be dreaded, and that they were not their own masters, even when they made merry.

On the morning of that day came my brother John’s man-servant to shave and dress me, and the physician to attend to my wounds.  It was a marvel that I was able to undergo the ordeal, and indeed, my brother had striven hard to urge my wounds as a reason for my being released.  But such a naturally strong constitution had I, or else so faithfully had the physician tended me, with such copious lettings of blood and purges, that except for an exceeding weakness, I was quite myself.  Still I wondered, after I had been shaven and put into my clothes, which hung somewhat loosely upon me, as I sat on a bench by the window, however I was to reach the New Field.

It was a hot and close day, with all the heaviness of sweetness of the spring settling upon the earth, and my knees had knocked together when my brother’s man-servant and the physician, one on each side of me, led me from the bed to the bench.

So very weak was I that morning, after my feverish night, that, although the physician had let a little more blood to counteract it, I verily seemed almost to forget the stocks and what I was to undergo of disgrace and ignominy, being principally glad that the window was to the west, and that burning sun which had so fretted me, shut out.

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The Heart's Highway from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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