The Hearts Highway

Mary Wilkins Freeman
The Heart's Highway
A Romance of Virginia in the Seventeeth Century
Mary E. Wilkins

The Heart's Highway

In 1682, when I was thirty years of age and Mistress Mary Cavendish
just turned of eighteen, she and I together one Sabbath morning in the
month of April were riding to meeting in Jamestown. We were all
alone except for the troop of black slaves straggling in the rear, blurring
the road curiously with their black faces. It seldom happened that we
rode in such wise, for Mistress Catherine Cavendish, the elder sister of
Mistress Mary, and Madam Cavendish, her grandmother, usually rode
with us--Madam Judith Cavendish, though more than seventy, sitting a
horse as well as her granddaughters, and looking, when viewed from
the back, as young as they, and being in that respect, as well as others, a
wonder to the countryside. But it happened to-day that Madam
Cavendish had a touch of the rheumatics, that being an ailment to
which the swampy estate of the country rendered those of advanced
years somewhat liable, and had remained at home on her plantation of
Drake Hill (so named in honour of the great Sir Francis Drake, though
he was long past the value of all such earthly honours). Catherine, who
was a most devoted granddaughter, had remained with her--although, I

suspected, with some hesitation at allowing her young sister to go alone,
except for me, the slaves being accounted no more company than our
shadows. Mistress Catherine Cavendish had looked at me after a
fashion which I was at no loss to understand when I had stood aside to
allow Mistress Mary to precede me in passing the door, but she had no
cause for the look, nor for the apprehension which gave rise to it. By
reason of bearing always my burthen upon my own back, I was even
more mindful of it than others were who had only the sight of it,
whereas I had the sore weight and the evil aspect in my inmost soul.
But it was to be borne easily enough by virtue of that natural resolution
of a man which can make but a featherweight of the sorest ills if it be
but put in the balance against them. I was tutor to Mistress Mary
Cavendish, and I had sailed from England to Virginia under
circumstances of disgrace; being, indeed, a convict.
I knew exceeding well what was my befitting deportment when I set
out that Sabbath morning with Mistress Mary Cavendish, and not only
upon that Sabbath morning but at all other times; still I can well
understand that my appearance may have belied me, since when I
looked in a glass I would often wonder at the sight of my own face,
which seemed younger than my years, and was strangely free from any
recording lines of experiences which might have been esteemed bitter
by any one who had not the pride of bearing them. When my black eyes,
which had a bold daring in them, looked forth at me from the glass, and
my lips smiled with a gay confidence at me, I could not but surmise
that my whole face was as a mask worn unwittingly over a grave spirit.
But since a man must be judged largely by his outward guise and I had
that of a gay young blade, I need not have taken it amiss if Catherine
Cavendish had that look in her eyes when I set forth with her young
sister alone save for those dark people which some folk believed to
have no souls.
I rode a pace behind Mary Cavendish, and never glanced her way, not
needing to do so in order to see her, for I seemed to see her with a
superior sort of vision compounded partly of memory and partly of
imagination. Of the latter I had, not to boast, though it may perchance
be naught to boast of, being simply a kind of higher folly, a somewhat

large allowance from my childhood. But that was not to be wondered at,
whether it were to my credit or otherwise, since it was inherited from
ancestors of much nobler fame and worthier parts than I, one of whom,
though not in the direct line, the great Edward Maria Wingfield, the
president of the first council of the Dominion of Virginia, having
written a book which was held to be notable. This imagination for the
setting forth and adorning of all common things and happenings, and
my woman's name of Maria, my whole name being Harry Maria
Wingfield, through my ancestor having been a favourite of a great
queen, and so called for her honour, were all my inheritance at that date,
all the estates belonging to the family
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