Viola In The New World - Part III

Viola Goes To A Country Dance...

The warm sun falls across my mending as I sit here this bright May afternoon, listening to the soft bird cries in the tall pines, and watching our little James play outside the door.

It is hard to believe that more than two years have passed since I looked with despair on my Lord Wessex’s suffering face, and thought him lost to me forever. He is now restored to health, and works, as I tell this tale, at our neighbor’s farm, helping him fell the trees needed to build a barn for winter.

So much has changed in those years, the happiest being the birth, in September of that year of sickness, of our son James, named for Wessex’s patron, the new King. He is sturdy and strong, our little one, and Robert dotes upon him. Indeed how could he not do so, for the child is the image of him, with dimples flashing, and eyes the colour of ripe chestnuts. I watch him now, sitting in the sun, talking excitedly to his own pet chick, and my heart overflows with love (and sorrow too, remembering Robbie).

I am mending my best undergarment, for tomorrow we are to go to the settlement for May Day celebrating. There will be booths of things to buy, and, with last year’s tobacco crop a good one, we can finally get the new cooking pot and bedding I covet.

Most of all there will be dancing! I have not danced since those long ago days at the Queen’s court. I can remember Will Shakespeare lifting me high, and Robert also, though I thought him such a boorish man in those days. Well, I have changed my mind in that regard…I blush to think of the pleasure we have given one another since our coming to Virginia.

These Virginians have some new dances they have brought from Ireland and from the villages outside London. I hear they are vigorous and fast stepping, and I so look forward to getting into the circle…but enough for now. I hear my Lord’s whistle as he comes home to us, and James needs feeding….

We are returned from town, but I will not soon forget the joy of our day and night among friends and neighbors.

We arrived around noontime, and had our lunch under a shady tree. James crowed with laughter at seeing all the other children, and I soon settled with the women. We were starved for conversation. Robert, being a leader among the men, left us for a time to counsel with the elders.

My baby and I napped peacefully, and then I washed us both at the well, and retired behind our wagon to don my best gown. It is nothing like the gilded clothes I wore in England, but the rose color favors my hair, and I knew I looked well when I saw the glances thrown my way.

The evening shadows lengthened, and the musicians tuned their instruments. Robert returned, and washed himself. I laced his new shirt, and kissed him quickly, for I was impatient to get to the dancing. He humors me in all things, and placing James on his shoulders, he encircled my waist and led us proudly to the campfire.

With kind Mistress Taylor watching James, we danced and danced. I stamped and twirled and laughed aloud as my husband’s strong hands led me this way and that. His eyes sparkled in the firelight, his curls lay damp on his forehead. Truly he was the handsomest man there, and he whispered to me that I was the fairest.

Later, as the children drowsed, refreshment was taken. Storytelling began, as one man after another told tales of savages, great rivers, and wild animals….There was a silence after the last epic tale, then my Lord spoke.

“You may not be aware, gentlemen and fair ladies, that my lady Viola was once an actor on Shakespeare’s stage. She spoke his words better than any boy actor. I can tell you this for truth, for I myself saw her as Juliet in that famed tragedy at the Rose in London.”

A murmur went around the circle, and I knew some were disapproving, but his strong voice continued, cutting through the whispering.

“ Indeed, the Queen saw her as well, and praised her highly.” Then, turning to me,

“Pray, my love, recite us a Shakespeare poem, for I know you have them all by heart.”

I tried to tell him no, but his laughing eyes were on me, and I could not embarrass him in front of the company, so I rose and began….

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken,
Love’s not Times fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error, and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

Every word was spoken to Robert from the deep wells of love I have for him. I told him so later as we snuggled in our wagon with James at our feet….

Ah, his hands were gentle and then rough under the blanket, and his mouth eager... Dawn broke before we slept.

To Part Four