Viola In The New World - Part IV

The Wessexes Return Home

The ship creaks and complains in this turbulent sea, and we are tossed about in our hammocks. Robert lies in his next to me, and James beyond him. How they can sleep in this endless tossing and roiling is beyond me. At my feet our Olivia lies, her thumb happily in her mouth, her small legs warming mine.

Yes, we are returning home to England. Our years in Virginia are over. I shudder as I recall the terrible events that brought us here to this ship, with few belongings, and troubled souls - but together at least, and safe, praise God.

My Lord, look at you, so fast asleep, your dark lashes fluttering on your cheeks, your strong hands plucking at the blanket. There is gray in your hair now, and fine lines on your face. You move and mutter! Perhaps you are dreaming of that dark night in our cabin, and the dreadful happening that plays and replays in my mind, and gives me no rest. I can still see, in vivid detail, those loved hands rising and falling, and coming away covered with blood.

We had many happy years in our New World home, as I have written. Arriving there (with me most unwilling!) in ’94, then James’s birth in ’99, greeting the new century with our fellow settlers, knowing that a new settlement called James Towne was rising a half days ride away. Planting tobacco, and seeing our crops prosper. Then, two years ago, rejoicing in the birth of our little one, Olivia. Robert has never minded my love of Master Will Shakespeare's plays. Indeed, it was he who suggested Olivia as our daughter’s name, from the comedy Will wrote after my leaving.

About a year after our daughter’s birth, news of trouble at James Towne reached us. We heard of quarreling among the residents, of rats from the ships eating the stores, of Indian raids when any would venture outside the fort. We ourselves had had good relations with the Indians. Indeed, in ’05, the great chief Powatan himself visited Robert and our neighbors, and both peoples mingled in friendship. But now, in those cold early months of 1610, times were unsettled. We were wary of unwelcome visitors, and kept weapons always close to hand. Robert taught our James how to use the musket we had bought, and he instructed me as well. James is eleven years old now, and still the image of his father. Olivia, my Lord tells me, is like I was when he met me at 17 – hair fair and golden, eyes blue.

Well, now I am 30 and 4 years old, and the gold has faded. My hands are rough and worn, and my body tired from the endless tasks each day brings. Still Wessex loves me, and my love for him is stronger than ever before.

Listen to the everlasting wind whipping the sails above…It was a windy night when it happened. A September wind blew through the pines, whispered around the cabin's eaves… We had just gone to bed, Robert & I in the large bed with Olivia, James in his cot. I heard nothing untoward, but Robert started up suddenly and lay his hand over my mouth.

“Viola, my love, you must not be alarmed, but do exactly as I say.”

He spoke in a quiet voice, and his eyes glittered in the firelight.

“Some one is outside the cabin. I am going now over to the door, and I ask you to take this knife, put Olivia behind you, and stay ready.”

He leaned over to the cot, and awakened James, who lay silent, listening to his father’s whispered words of instruction. Our son then came to our bed, and sat beside me.

My Lord silently moved across the room, and I grasped the knife, my heart in my throat, remembering the stores of the savages, and what they did to those they captured. I would kill my children before letting that happen.

Such quiet surrounded us. You could scarcely hear our breathing, and Olivia, thankfully, still slept.

Then…like thunder, the door slammed open, and two Indians hurtled into the room, weapons raised high above their heads. They filled the space and shrieked in the most bloodthirsty manner. The noise, and the smell of their unwashed bodies…their rush toward where we were…I pushed the children behind me against the wall, and thought I would faint. Then, as the first loomed above me, Robert grabbed him from behind, and twisting his head back, slashed him across the throat. The blood gushed out, and the wretch fell without a sound. The other savage then leaped upon Robert, and they rolled back and forth across the blood-soaked floor. God guided me then, for as the Indian jumped back by me and prepared to fell Wessex with his hatchet, I stabbed into his back with all my might. The knife went in to the hilt, and with a dreadful gurgle, this one too died. I sobbed with relief as Robert gathered me into his arms.

“Never did I think, my lady, that I would see you so brave and so daring. I owe you everything.”

“No, my dearest, “ I whispered against his chest. “It is I who owe you. You are my own true love, and no one but death will take you from me.”

…The rest of that night is a blur. Robert said that we must leave at once – that others may be lurking about ready to do us harm. Somehow we gathered a few things together, somehow we got into our wagon, and fled through the forest. All the while my heart was aching at leaving little Robert behind in his tiny grave, and I held Olivia the tighter....For three hours we traveled, always fearing attack, but none came, and as the sun rose, James Towne’s battlements appeared before us…and we were once again among friends.

When the elders decided to abandon the settlement a few months later - so many had died from disease and battle – we were among the lucky ones chosen to board The Deliverance.

And so here we are tossed upon the seas. Our little family together…Robert, Lord Wessex - 40 and more years old now, graying, a new man made so in Virginia territory, ready now to claim his lands in England for himself and his son. Me, no longer the eager Thomas Kent or the beautiful Viola De Lessup, but Mistress Wessex, my Lady Wessex, come to maturity in a hard land (come to love there too) ready now for the pomp and circumstance of James’s England.

I pray God we may find contentment and peace at last.

The End