Donated by Roberta
This article was published in November of 1886 in the magazine
"Overland Monthly and Out West
Magazine", Volume 8, issue 47.
by Edward Ingle
Roanoke: A Tale of Raleigh's Colony
The following story was written many years ago by a Virginian, who died without offering it for publication. Recently the manuscript was found among a collection of pamphlets which had once belonged to his library, but which had come into the possession of
a dealer in second hand books.
Other tales about the colonists at Roanoke have been told, but the plot and ending of this one are quite different from those of preceding ones, and as the author was evidently fully persuaded of the authenticity of the records which he used, there is no reason why others should doubt them. The following is the complete story as written by him.
A few months ago, while I was rummaging among old-fashioned spinning wheels, trunks, books and other neglected heirlooms, in a garret of an ancient dwelling house in the southern part of Virginia, I stumbled upon a dust covered Bible, which, to all appearances, had not been opened for a hundred years or more.
Deeming it to be of no greater value than most of the antiquarian rubbish lying around it, I merely opened it carelessly and then, tossing it aside, thought no more about it for the time. At the dinner table, however, I made some casual remark about my having found it, and learned then that the family knew not how it had come there, for it had passed with the house from generation to generation without being touched save when romping children used it in their sports as a footstool, or when now and then it was pushed away to make room for decrepit furniture.
After dinner the old darkey who had waited upon us, calling me aside, said that in his boyhood's days there was a tradition current, that the Bible had been given to the founder of the family by an Indian chief, and that the Indians had been very anxious to be rid of it, for the writing in it, unintelligible to them, had filled their minds with fear lest it might afflict them with an evil spirit.
I had noticed the writing, but believe it was only the scribbling of children. The old man's statements led me to examine the book more carefully. After considerable study, I was surprised and delighted to find that on the margins of the pages and between the widely separated lines of black letter type was written, in the form of a diary, a minute record of the doings and sufferings of the colony, which had been sent to America by Sir Walter Raleigh, but which had disappeared from the civilized world soon after their governor's return to England in 1587.
With great pains-taking, I copied the journal of Sydney More, - for that was the name of the industrious scribe - and it was fortunate that I did so, for the dwelling with its contents including the old Bible was destroyed by fire soon afterwards.
So deeply impressed was I by the sad romance that could be distinctly read between the lines of the record that I was moved to combine some of the chief incidents in this sketch. To explain certain allusions in my story, it may be well, however, to state briefly what, until the present time, had been known about the colony.
Undaunted by the failure of former attempts to settle Virginia, Sir Walter Raleigh, in 1587, again sent thither a band of emigrants with John White as governor. Although Raleigh had commanded that the colony should be planted somewhere on the present Chesapeake Bay, it was found necessary to settle in July on Roanoke Island. During the next few weeks the foundations of "the City of Raleigh" were laid. Manteo, the faithful Indian ally of the colonists, was baptized and dubbed Lord of Roanoke; and on the 18th of August, Virginia Dare was born. She was the granddaughter of White, who, 9 days after her birth, embarked for England to fetch back more supplies for the colony.
Unforeseen occurrences prevented his return for over 2 years. When he again reached Roanoke, the colonists had disappeared, leaving no clue to their whereabouts save the word Croatan inscribed upon a post. A storm induced him to relinquish further search for them, and when he turned again towards England, they were lost to history and would have remained so had not the record been discovered. The full account of the planting of the colony and of White's return voyage may be found in Captain John Smith's "General Historie, Etc." published in London in 1627.
With this short introduction, I shall now relate my story of the colonists, which I have endeavored to make as readable as imagination with strict regard for the facts will allow.
It was with sad hearts that the one hundred colonists remaining saw White's ship disappear below the horizon. The accident to the sailors at the weighing of the anchor was ill omened and when at last he cable had to be cut, it seemed to many that the only tie that bound them to the old world had been severed. Nevertheless they set to work with right good will to make themselves comfortable for the few weeks that were to pass before they should depart for the mainland.
By the middle of the following October, all preparations for removal had been completed and men, women and children embarked in canoes provided by the Indians. The houses had been taken down; the building materials, which had been brought from England, had been rafted to the mainland; the heavier articles, such as ordnance, heavy shot, superfluous utensils, etc., had been buried; and Ananias Dare, the father of Virginia, in accordance with instructions from White, had cut on one of the posts that formed part of the palisade around their buried treasure, in large capitals, the name of their destination, Croatan. There they spent the winter and spring, awaiting the return of the Governor, upon which they expected to return to the island, and learning to understand and to appreciate more fully the fidelity of Manteo.
But in July, when they were daily expecting the return of the English ships, when Eleanor Dare with her infant in her arms was wont every morning to take her place on the brown of a lofty hill, and to sit there for hours watching for the white sails of her father's vessel to appear far out at sea, Manteo announced that a plot for their destruction was forming among the neighboring Mangoaks; that this tribe had set apart the 17th of the month to fall upon the Croatans and their guests and to slaughter all.
During the few days that would elapse before that time, the Mangoaks would be engaged in their midsummer feast; and while that continued, nothing could induce them to use their weapons in warfare. At that time it was customary for all the members of the tribe to assemble within their fortified town to indulge in eating, drinking and barbarous dances. Manteo, therefore, urged the English to take advantage of this respite, either by withdrawing quietly to the island, where they might prepare themselves more perfectly against a heavy attack and possibly siege, or by accompanying the Croatans in secret flight to the mountains, where all would be safe from their savage foes.
The latter suggestion met with the approval of the colonists. Hasty was their departure. Little time was there for useless lamentation and vain regrets at relinquishing the hope of succor from their returning friends; then hours after Manteo revealed the plot, they had started for the wilderness.
The white women and children were borne on rudely constructed benches by their dusky sisters; the younger men walked, carrying the light tools and utensils, and driving the few remaining cattle; while a picked number of musketeers, with the Indian males, formed a guard before and behind the train. Thus for many days they journeyed, now passing over sterile districts, which barely supported the growth of scrubby pines, now pushing through the tangled undergrowth of the luxuriant primeval forests; crossing streams by fording, or upon rafts hastily made and almost breaking with the weight of their burdens; ascending steep hills, from which could be obtained glimpses of the distant mountains, almost as blue as the vault above them; and then descending into valleys filled with miasmal exhalations.
At length, after many weary wanderings, they came to a pleasant site for their permanent home - a level stretch of country covered with tall prairie grass, whose billowy heavings reminded them of the ocean far behind them. Tall spurs of the mountains hedged it in on every side.
The settlement, named Roanoke, was made here. Within a tall palisade were built neat rows of houses; at the corners of the fortification were raised tall watch towers; and around the whole was dug a deep ditch, over which was placed one bridge, which could be drawn up in time of danger.
Within five or six years a large area of the surrounding plain had been fenced in to prevent stray cattle from wandering into the mountain forests and to exclude wild beasts. A part of this area was tilled, and in other parts sleep cattle grazed. The little settlement was in every respect flourishing and the Indians and the whites, interested in the same undertakings, and living in daily intercourse with one another were becoming more affiliated as the years passed. The Indians, by nature inclined to roam through forests and to follow warlike pursuits, had been persuaded to throw aside much of their savagery and some had become excellent farmers and mechanics. Their squaws had adopted costumed patterned after those of the English women, while these had been obliged to use in their garments the same materials as their allies used. Unity and contentment prevailed and it seemed as if nothing could interfere with the evenness of their existence.
To mortals, however, is not given the power to see very far into futurity.
One beautiful evening in May, 1610, a number of the young people of the settlement, their days work being over, were gathered before the door of Roger Prat's cabin. He had been one of the original assistants of Raleigh's colony, and was the minister of the little settlement in the heart of the mountains. He had buried many of the older colonists, had joined in marriage the younger men and women, and had baptized their children. In his kindly old hart he had a soft place for all the young people growing up around him; while they on the other hand relied upon his good judgment and sound advice in their little perplexities, and shared with him their joys and sorrows. The old parson, now being under the weight of 70 years, and patiently awaiting the summons to lay aside his earthly burdens, was never more pleased than when the youths and maidens collected round his doorstep and listened eagerly to his narration of the colony's history, his descriptions of life in England, his reminiscences of their patron, Raleigh, and his fatherly counsels. They never wearied of his stories to which his well-stored mind always lent a freshness, notwithstanding constant repetition of details. For, in spite of his great age, Roger Prat's mind was as clear and his voice as firm as ever.
Among the dozen Indians and whites that composed the old man's audience that evening, were 4 persons who were to play no unimportant parts, directly or indirectly, in the later history of the colony. At the minister's feet, with her eager face turned toward his, sat Virginia Dare. She was a young woman of medium height and well-proportioned figure; her complexion was dark and clear; and beneath a low brow, crowned with rippling black hair, her straight-forward gray eyes looked out from below her long lashes. Some called her beautiful; and, indeed, her sweet, even disposition, and her calmness in emergencies, and her willingness to oblige caused her to be admired by all the men folks in the community, while at the same time - in apparent contradiction of all known human experience - she was equally beloved by nearly all the women. No one was more ready than she to watch through dreary night hours beside he sick or dying; no one knew better how to alleviate the fancied wrongs of little children, or to dispel the cares of the elders. But no man had yet persuaded her to leave her girlhood's home and to lavish all her tenderness upon him.
By her side, from which he was seldom absent on such occasions, Jack Coge, the son of Anthony Coge, lay stretched at ease upon the grass. His face was a contradictory one: when he addressed Virginia it was bright and open, but if she spoke or listened to other men, it would lose its sunshine, and cloud ominously, and into his dark eyes would creep a look like an Italian assassin. His father, who had been a gay young Englishman, had taken service under the Emperor Maximillian II and his his wanderings through Europe, had been fascinated by the tropic charms of an Italian peasant girl. Jack was their only child, and he had inherited from his mother all the cunning of her diplomatic race. This characteristic hitherto dormant, needed only an occasion to become manifest. He thought he loved Virginia; but those sullen looks belied his belief, for perfect love casteth out jealousy.
Nearby him, engaged in tipping an arrow with feathers, was his constant companion, Ensenore, the son of Manteo, the savior of the whites. Manteo had many years before gone to the land of the Great Spirit, and though he had been beloved by all, yet no one felt his loss more keenly than Virginia; and it was due to this that she had become and remained the firm friend of his son.
Roger Prat was telling them of the terrible deeds of St. Bartholomew's Day in France - how a fearful shudder ran through England at the news, and how Queen Elizabeth and her court in deep mourning attire, had received the French ambassador.
But in the midst of his narration he suddenly paused, and pointing towards the west, said: "See that dark cloud coming up over the mountains yonder. We shall have a thunder storm directly. Run away home, children, and you may hear the rest of my story at some other time.
They all scattered in various directions, and in a few moments the storm was raging wildly, bending down the trees, snapping the small branches, beating upon the housetops, and forming little pools in the depressions of the ground. But a gentle breeze arose and soon the
lightings were playing among the distant eastern mountains and in the pink western sky could be seen the faint crescent of the new moon.
After his frugal evening meal, Ensenore stepped out into the starlight, paused for a moment to enjoy the cool air laden with the pleasant smell of damp earth and dead leaves, and then turned his steps toward the home of Virginia. Though some few years her junior, the Indian youth deeply loved her. But he had felt that he was unworthy of her, not on account of the mere difference of race only, but because he knew that he, a half civilized Indian, could in no particular compare with the men of the English race. Still, she had been unusually gracious to him of late, and he had resolved to open his heart to her that evening.
At her cabin door, he halted as he wished to collect his thoughts, and though he did not confess it to himself, to summon up sufficient courage for his intended interview, for he was fearful of what its termination might be. He heard the sound of voices, and his own name mentioned. Virginia was talking and through the open door, from which the light of a small fire was streaming into the darkness, he saw her companion, Sydney More.
"How couldst thou think that Ensenore was more than a brother to me?" she said. "We have been much together, 'tis true. His father was my best friend among the Indians. Even should I love him - and I do not - I could not wed him. He is of another race."
Virginia knew nothing of the time when the Englishman Rolfe would lead to the altar a princess of Indian lineage, nor was she aware that the man of whom she was speaking was within earshot. Ensenore, in anguish and amazement, notwithstanding his feel that he was acting dishonorably was held to the shot by a fascination which compelled him to listen to a conversation that could but increase his misery.
"Give to me the love which other has not claimed" said Sydney. "Virginia, wilt thou not suffer me to hope or wilt thou let my whole happiness perish?"
"Sydney," she replied, "Unexpected is thy request. I have no answer now. Whether my feelings for thee are of friendship or of love I know not. Time must be given me to ponder tie matter. Speak naught of this for a month's time. After that shalt thou have my answer. Leave me now. I would be alone."
Ensenore shrank back into the shrubbery, heard good night said, saw his friend disappear into the shadows, then turns as if to go to his own home. But changing his purpose, he went toward a deserted part of the enclosure and came face to face with Jack Coge.
"I hope thy visit to Virginia has been a pleasant one," the latter said, in sarcastic tones.
Ensenore, if he heard him, made no answer, but went rapidly on his way, while Coge entered the cabin, and stood before Virginia, who was gazing pensively at the glowing embers of the fire, which was a necessity at night even in May.
"Hearken, Virginia. Thou canst not but know that I have long loved thee. Art thou ready to wed me? To ask the this is why I am here. Thou Knowest me full well."
Could that be the passionate, impulsive Coge who spoke in such set terms? The tones of his speech were pompous and self-confident enough, but they were belied, however, by the speakers evident attempt to conceal his real anxiety; as he stood there, fumbling at eh door latch, with his eyes averted, he resembled more a man detected in a petty thieving than the self willed and vain creature that he was. His assurance had failed him for once. When he did look at Virginia, he did not see the gentle, confiding maiden, ready at once to yield to his gracious proposal, but a dignified woman, with pale face, lips curled in contempt, and eyes flashing with anger. It was not so much his language that had caused the change; but the presumptuous, almost insolent, sound of his voice had rudely interrupted her pleasant revery. Pointing to the door, she said: "Whilst thou are in such a frame of mind they presence is an insult to me. To think that a woman's heart was to be had for such an asking! To be honest with thee, Jack Coge, there is that repels me in thy character. I have sought to persuade myself otherwise. Thy conduct proves that I have not mistaken thee. Go, ere anger causes me to lose self respect. Wilt thou not leave me?" she continued, for he stood staring in wonder. "My father is with Roger Prat, but I shall call one who..." "Yes, " he fiercely interrupted, "who is a murderous heathen, ignorant Indian; who...."
But Virginia did not hear the rest of the sentence. She had gently pushed the astonished Coge from the room, and the door was shut.
Baffled in his desire, smarting under the wound to his self esteem, he stood outside irresolute for a brief time, then rushed into the darkness. Not far from his cabin he saw Ensenore pacing nervously to and fro in the roadway.
"The poor fool!" he muttered. "So thou are the one for whom I am rejected! Virginia Dare, thou has presumed to slight me thus. That savage, or any other man, shall never be thine husband."
He stumbled into his cabin and closed the door with a slam. But Ensenore ceased not his solitary walk until the gray streaks of dawn appeared over the mountains.
The next day the Indian lad was missing. So was Jack Coge. But one per son had seen them go away, Sherando, the devoted cousin of Ensenore. Unobserved herself, she had witnessed the occurrences of the previous night, and had overheard the two conversations with Virginia. Her woman's heart had discovered in the words spoken by Virginia to Sydney More a deeper meaning than was, perhaps, intended to be conveyed. Her interest, sharpened by jealousy - for she had long had tender feelings toward Ensenore - had enabled her to understand his midnight anguish; and as night yielded to day her hatred for the women who unwittingly had deprived her of her love was intensified and made permanent. She had seen Ensenore scale the palisade as soon as it was light, and she was somewhat astonished when a short time afterward, Coge left the settlement in the same manner but in an opposite direction.
Anxiety for Ensenore caused Sherando to follow his trail later in the day. At a distance of 2 miles from the outer fortification, she came upon another trail, and by its sign of hasty and irregular steps, she was convinced that someone else was following the Indian. No one but Coge cold have made those tracks. But why should he be in pursuit of Ensenore? Then she remembered his bitter words and threatening actions and felt that his presence in the forest boded no good to her cousin. Pressing on therefore more rapidly, in eagerness to avert, if possible, what her heart told her was an impending calamity, she at last caught site of him in the distance. She halted suddenly. Stealthily as a cat, she crept nearer and hid behind a clump of low cedars upon a little knoll from which she could see Coge, and a few steps beyond him Ensenore, lying face downward by the side of a small mountain spring.
An unidentified impulse had induced Coge to seek the mountains that morning; a similar feeling had led him to follow Ensenore's trail, when by accident he crossed it. Only then did he learn that the lad had left the settlement. Now he beheld him, who he believed had robbed him of his live, prostrate on the ground, unaware of this presence and completely at his mercy. A demon suddenly possessed him. The savage which, is restrained in human beings only by the artificial checks of civilization was rapidly throwing off the culture of centuries.
"I said thou shouldst never wed Virginia, thou viper. If thou shuoldst be killed by an arrow, no one would suspect other than that thou hadst been slain by an Indian." So thought Coge. To hesitate between right and wrong is always perilous. He dallied with evil and was lost.
He fixed an arrow in his bow, which he bent. Fear paralyzed Shernando. A sharpeyed chipmunk, frightened by a slight noise, slipped away through the dried leaves. Crime makes cowards of us all. Coge startled by a gentle rustle behind him, looked around, but saw nothing. Ensenore, in the meantime, raising himself, bent over the spring and took a long draught of the refreshing water. It was his last conscious act. The arrow intended for his brain sank into his heart.
Was that a moan? "Pshaw, man," muttered Coge. "Thy nerves are unstrung. This will never do." With a hasty glance at his victim, the murderer turned back, carefully concealing hsi tracks as he walked.
As he brushed past Sherando cowering in the thicket, a hunting knife slipped from its case at his hip. Sherando, unnoticed by him, snatched it and rose, about to plunge it into his back. But on second thought, she sank back among the cedars, waited until he had disappeared, threw the knife among the bushes that grew about the spring, and ran rapidly by a different route towards the settlement. She made no effort to conceal her tail, for she knew that another dew and sun would do that for her.
When near her home she pulled a bundle of long dry grasses, which the Indian women used in making girdles, and carried them quietly into her cabin. No one could have perceived that behind the calm Indian repose of her face was the knowledge of such a frightful tragedy as she had witnessed. Equally unconcerned appeared Coge, when a few hours later, carrying a string of mountain trout, he sauntered into the village.
When another day had passed without the return of Ensenore, his friends became alarmed, for it was unusual for him to remain from his home overnight, except when he was off upon a hunting expedition. No one had heard him speak of going away, and everything in his cabin was in its usual good order.
A party was, therefore, formed to seek him, and among the foremost was Jack Coge. He gained the admiration of his white friends, and the secret envy of the Indians by the skill he displayed in tracing the nearly obliterated trail and by his apparent concern for the welfare of the missing lad.
Three days had passed since he disappeared and such difficulty was experienced in the search that some of the party were inclined to relinquish it. But at last they found him, lying with upturned face among the grass and pine cones. There were no signs of any struggle; only the arrow sticking in his breast and the tender blades of grass beneath him flecked with blood showed how he had died.
All were of the opinion that some wandering hostile Indian had caused his death, until one of the Indians who had been carefully searching for traces of the murderer found the knife among the bushes.
When Coge saw it, he turned ghastly pale for a moment, but by a mighty effort recovered his outward composure. Sydney More recognized the knife as one that he had mislaid a few days before, and he acknowledged the ownership.
The wily Coge saw his opportunity and exclaimed "Someone from the settlement was concerned in this crime. See, there is no rust upon this blade. This knife has not been here long."
"As the knife is mine,", said Sidney, "I yield myself to bonds until the mystery is cleared."
He was therefore bound, but someone suggested that as Coge also had been away from Roanoke at the time, he likewise should be detained.
In spite of Coge's protests and declarations of his innocence, his hands were also bound behind him; and the two prisoners, so different in bearing, were conducted to Roanoke under guard of two young Indians, who handled their tomahawks in a way calculated to make one's blood run cold. Behind them followed a little procession, with its sad burden, the body of Ensenore.
The villagers were deeply grieved at the death of Ensenore, and the Indians were with difficulty kept from throwing aside the restraints of their laws and slaying at once their two prisoners. But better counsels prevailed and the young men were left in custody until after a few and simple preparations, Ensenore was buried. When a new mount that marked his last resting place had been made among the grasses of the village, his companions returned to their homes, passing with feelings of deep resentment the cabins where Coge and More were confined, awaiting the trial in the morning.
The hour appointed for the trial arrived. The councilors assembled; before them were brought the prisoners. All manner of work in the village was suspended, and men, women and children thronged in and around the council house.
Jack Coge repeated his assertions of innocence and explained that he had been away on a fishing expedition which was corroborated by those who saw him returning with the fish. Sydney More said that he had spent the day in the forests, searching for a particular herb, which he wished to use in his practice, but which he did not find. But his knife - how had it been dropped at the spring? That he could not explain. The suspicion that he was concerned in the murder was strengthened and as Coge observed the dark looks with which the Indians regarded the young physician, his self-confidence revived.
It was then that Virginia Dare casting aside the maidenly reserve, came forward and told how violently Coge has spoken of Ensenore the night before the latter had been killed. But Sherando, the only witness of the crime, and the only person who suspected why it had been committed held her peace. When she threw, as she thought, Coge's knife among the bushes, it was with vague belief that it would bear a strong, though silent, testimony against him. Virginia's advocacy of Sydney More, both at the trial and among her friends, had confirmed the Indian girl's suspicions as to the real state of affairs. But jealous hatred prevented her speaking, for she thought that she could revenge herself upon Virginia in no better manner than by allowing Sydney More to be condemned. Vengeance on her unwilling rival was sweeter than the punishment of the criminal.
The councilors were sorely perplexed. Circumstantial evidence seemed to implicate both of the young men, an yet no sufficient cause for the deed could be assigned. Moreover, both Coge and More had hitherto been above reproach, and the later was highly honored by the colonists. The judges must have another day to ponder upon the grave matter. The two prisoners were again confined in their cabins.
But when the guards appointed for the purpose went to fetch the prisoners the next day, Jack Coge had disappeared. In the darkness of the preceding night, a woman had cautiously approached the cabin, drawn the outer bolts of the door, cut the withes that bound Coge's feet and hands, and after a hurried conversation in whispers, had departed. Coge had left no traces of his flight, for he had carefully obliterated his trail. Upon the rough pine table in his prison house, he had, however, scrawled with a piece of red-chrome a message, saying that he had fled because he was certain that the councilors were prejudiced in favor of their secretary, Sidney More, and that if he had remained he would have been adjudged guilty of Ensenore's death.
Some of the men were for pursuing and capturing him, but the majority , believing that hunger would drive him back or that he would die in he forests, deemed it best to await the results fo time. Sydney was released and as Coge's flight was to many a confession of guilt, he was restored to his official post.
Weeks passed; the fugitive did not return, nor were the efforts rewarded of the men, who, day after day, scanned the sky for the appearance of those noisome birds whose hoverings in mid air denote the presence below of a corpse. After many days, the settlement resumed its wonted peacefulness and the name of Coge was mentioned only in private.
But he was not dead. His bow and arrows, and fish hooks made from briers, provided him with food sufficient. Guided by the stars at night, and by day by his woodman's craft, he was rapidly leaving the settlement far behind, and journeying towards the ocean. He reasoned, and that, too, wisely, that if Englishmen had tried to colonize the new world a quarter of a century before that time, the loss of a few men would not have prevented them from continuing their efforts. His purpose, therefore, was to travel to Croatan; and in the event of his finding no settlement there, by inquiries among such Indian tribes as he might meet, to seek out a settlement of Englishmen, where, having explained his appearance by pretending to be a shipwrecked sailor, he might take passage for England. There amidst new surroundings, and separated by 3000 miles of water from the scene of his insane, and as he now knew, blundering act, he hoped to begin his life anew.
Buoyed by such hopes he plodded along towards the East. He saw the ocean at last and an island, which, from Roger Prat's oft repeated description he knew had to be Roanoke. But on the mainland there was no sign of civilization. Clustering near the beach were the rude huts of the natives, but everywhere else the wilderness was supreme. Haggard, with matted hair and bloodshot eyes, garments ragged and stained with marks of his toilsome journey, Jack Coge approached the village and stood before the startled inhabitants. We he mortal or was he a supernatural being?
He soon proved his human nature by his actions denoting hunger, and he endeavored to establish himself upon a friendly footing with them through the medium of the Croatan dialect, which he had learned from his Indian associates.
But why did they shrink away from him, and why did the men assemble in solemn conclave? As chance would have it, he had encountered the Mangoaks, and his Croatan speech had betrayed him. The members of the tribe had never forgotten the unaccountable disappearance of the Croatans and the English, but had cherished and instilled into their offspring all their bitter feelings at being robbed of what seemed their certain prey. Now they were debating whether to slay Coge, or to compel him to reveal the retreat of the colonists.
In apparent friendship, they again held intercourse with him, plying him with questions about the distance traveled by him, the place of his abode, and his object in coming to the coast. He in return for information given, gleaned from them the fact that white men had settled near a great inlet many miles to the northward.
Then his calculation had been correct and he was to see the fulfillment of his wishes. On the morrow he would start, and he would be on his way to England.
But he reckoned without his hosts. The wily savages, having gained sufficient general knowledge of the existence of the hated colonists, proceeded at once to put into execution the long deferred plans for their extermination. Coge was given the alternative of acting as their guide to Roanoke or dying by torture.
Hope fled from the heart of the miserable man. He shuddered at even the thought of death; yet if he lived he would be the instrument of the destruction of his former friends. But the desire for self preservation was uppermost and the same cowardice that had prompted him to strike dead an unsuspecting rival, and to endeavor to shift the responsibility of the deed upon Sidney More, led him to consent to the proposals of the savages - though he found a poor consolation and excuse in the purpose of cluding by some means the watch of the Indians and warning the colonists of the threatened attack upon them.
In a few days, therefore, he found himself surrounded by grim warriors, retracing in despair his steps through the wilderness, where but a short time before he had cheered his loneliness by thoughts of escaping forever the scenes and perhaps the memories of the past. To turn back now was impossible; he did not dare to mislead the savages and his only hope was that a merciful Providence might intervene to enable him to rid himself of their company. But as each day lessened the distance from the colony, and the Indians, in spite of his ready compliance with their wishes, relaxed none of their vigilance, he became more gloomy and almost wished for death. He was reaping in bitterness the fruits of his first and only crime.
The month during which Virginia was to make her decision had passed. She had decided, although no opportunity to make that fact known had been given her by her lover, for Sidney More had not again referred to the conversation. While he did not shun Virginia's society, his visits to her home were, nevertheless, not as frequent as formerly; and indeed, his whole conduct had changed since the trial. From a lighthearted youth, with a kind word and pleasant smile for everybody, he had developed into a silent, gloomy man, avoiding his fellowes, and spending most of his time pondering over the contents of his few but valued books, or wandering aimlessly through the forests. Care had set he marks upon his forehead; he lost his sprightly walk and seemed to have become many years older.
One day of more than usual depression, Sidney More failed to find solace in his books; and pushing them aside, he betook himself to the solitude of the mountains. To his grat wonder, he there met Coge, who had succeeded in his design of escaping from the Mangoaks and was hastening to warn the colonists. The two young men gazed at each other in silence for a moment, then Coge advanced with outstretched hand; but his friendly action was no heeded by Sidney, who could only gasp, "We thought thou had died in the wilderness."
"No," sadly replied Jack Coge. "Would to God I had perished two months ago. My rashness in leaving the settlement is about to result in untold misery for you all. Listen to me. Five miles from here is a band of Indians marching to destroy you. Return to Roanoke and prepare for their attack. If any of you escape, quit this place and search for English friends, who are living 200 miles from here, towards the northeast. Another matter I must mention - and yet I hesitate. Has the mystery of Ensenore's death been solved? No? Then ask the Indian girl, Sherando, whom she thinks is the criminal. She knows, for she nearly betrayed her secret when she opened my prison door and let me escape, while the guards slept."
"Wherefore dost thou tell me all this? Thou wilt come with me to the settlement and in person tell thy tale."
"No, Sidney More, I dare not. In time shalt thou know all. Now I must bid thee goodbye forever. If I be not slain by the Indians, which, no doubt, are now hunting me I shall try to return to the old world. Farewell."
Before Sidney More could utter his protest, or prevent Coge's departure, the latter turned and darted away through the forests. He was seen no more.
Surprised at Coge's unlooked-for return, his strange warning, and sudden disappearance, Sidney returned to Roanoke and hastily summoning the council, related his experience. They shook their heads doubtfully an some were prone to believe that Sidney's depression had culminated in insanity - so improbably was his tale.
To confirm what he had said, Sidney had Sherando brought forward and when he asked her abruptly, "What did you say to Jack Coge when you set him free?" the conscience-stricken woman, believing Sidney to be possessed of supernatural discernment, confessed all, her knowledge of the crime, her reasons for silence and her connivance at Coge's escape.
Only then did the councilors cease doubting; and as little time was to be lost, they collected all the colonists and cattle within the fortification, raised the drawbridge, arranged a watch system, and under arms waited the coming of the Mangoaks.
When he knew that all preparations were completed, Sidney went to seek Virginia. I n spite of the threatened attack, he was singularly happy; and by the time he had found Virginia at her home, his wonted cheerfulness had returned.
"Virginia, " he said, "I have come to learn they decision."
"I cannot wed thee," she tried to say; but the long spent tears could not be kept back and between her sobs she could only murmur: "It's too late now. Thou shalt never know what I might have answered. Why didst thou disturb my happy life by telling me of love, and then casting me aside?"
Sidney allowed her to have done with her weeping, and when she became more calm, he said: "I can well understand they reproaches. But, Virginia, I wished not t ask thee to give thy sweet life to that of one who, though acquitted of a grievous crime, is still under suspicion. That was the cause of my silence. But Sherando's confession has almost removed doubts from the minds of the Indians, and dreadful though it may be, only the appearance of the Mangoaks is necessary to prove my innocence. I could not go into the fight without explaining all to thee. Wilt though not answer me?"
Virginia crossed the room, placed her hands in his, and with glowing cheeks and eyes filled with a new light, said - "Until that night, I did not know myself. I have had time to consider, and I know that I have loved thee all the while. That was why I spoke in thy defense at the trial and why I have suffered so keenly from what I thought thy coldness during the past long weeks."
"Never mind - all is now made right. Bide just a little time and happiness will be ours. I must leave thee now, for the signal for assembling is sounding. God Bless thee. Before many days we shall be wedded."
One long, loving embrace and they had parted. Sidney was at last to be vindicated but at what a cost!
The hostile Indians, disturbed by the flight of Coge, and believing that he would try to warn the colonists, had determine to attack Roanoke at once instead of waiting another day. Under cover of the darkness they had crept to within a few feet of the fortifications and with a wild yell rushed against them. But the little guard were prepared for them, and as they clambered up the side of the ditch beat them back with arrows and heave rocks - for powder and shot had long since been exhausted.
All night the fighting was continued. Some of the more agile of the assailants succeeded in crossing the ditch and tried to root up the palisade; others cast burning arrows into the village and shot anyone of the defenders who exposed himself. Discipline and a judicious use of weapons, however, prevailed against the Indians who were broken down by their long march, and who, expecting an easy victory, had brought but few arrows. At dawn they abandoned their design and retreated, in fear that the survivors might be overwhelmed in a rally by the colonists.
The whites breathed more feely, although their thankfulness at being rid of the Mangoaks was modified by regrets at the death of several of their companions. They prepared the dead for burial, but when Sidney More went to summon Roger Prat to perform the last sad rites, he found the old man in his cabin sitting with his head resting on his arms; age together with the excitement had conquered the pastor and alone he had peacefully passed away, while the other colonists were watching or engaging in the tumult without.
When the scouts who had been sent to watch the Mangoaks returned and reported that the savages had undoubtedly started upon their homeward journey, Sidney More, who had tacitly been acknowledged as the leader of the colonists, advised that they should leave Roanoke, and travel northward to the English settlement that Coge had told him had been made on the great inlet. The others adopted this suggestion for they were convinced that the Mangoaks having discovered their home would return in greater numbers to attack them. Twenty five years of life in the wilderness, moreover, had not in the slightest degree deadened their English sympathies, and with joy at the prospect of again mingling with fellow countrymen, they hastened their departure.
Again was presented the spectacle of whites and Indians journeying through unknown, pathless forests. A quarter of a century before, some of them had sadly turned their backs upon the ocean and expected friends; but now in gladness, subdued by regrets at leaving Roanoke and the graves of kindred, they were seeking the ocean and old world connections.
It was at the season, when after the first nipping frosts, nature seems to strive after the warm summer days; the foliage takes on again, in deeper hues, the colors of spring, and the dry grasses rustle gently in the wind. Then the dark brown clusters of chestnuts can be seen nestling against the downy lining of the burrs and the fruit of hickories rattles to the ground to become the winter food of frisky gray squirrels; while man by nature inclined to ease is content to lie in the sun's rays, which through the smoky atmosphere fall slantly across the grounds. In later days the backwoodsman learned to look with horror and apprehension upon the advent of this season, then called Indian summer, from the fact that the savages took advantage of the mild weather to renew the attacks which had been interrupted by this chilly, rainy days of later September and early October. But the little company under Sydney More had to opportunity nor disposition to yield to the lazy, poetic influences of October haze. They must push on rapidly towards the north in order to reach their goal before winter snows should impede further progress.
They did not try to follow a direct line to the region where they supposed the great inlet lay, but hoped by traveling away from the settlement in a direction contrary to the southward inclination of the trees, to reach some river, upon whose waters they might embark in large skiffs, and thus by easy stages reach the inlet.
Recent bitter experience had taught them what they might expect from treacherous savages and the men therefore were obliged after the hardships of the day's march to keep guard at night over the encampment of women and children. But most of the Indians had retired to their winter squalor, and were spending their days watching their squaws brining in the scanty crops.
When, after many weary days and nights of vigilance, the wanderers paused on the banks of a small stream rushing away towards the northeast, they were persuaded that deliverance from the terrors and fatigues of the wilderness was near at hand, for the narrow brook must widen and find out let somewhere and where indeed, but into the long sought river.
The golden and crimson hues of the fall, however, had changed to the sombre browns and grays of winter, and, although no snow had fallen, there had been several heavy frosts. Should they follow the course of the stream of unknown length or should they build rude huts and remain there until the spring? Hesitancy as to which course to pursue gave way to a determination to adopt the latter, when they thought of the probable suffering of their wives and offspring during a winter's journey.
One circumstance that had great weight in bringing about this decision was the alarming condition of the health of Virginia Dare. Since that night attack upon the settlement, which had rudely checked the brief happiness resulting from the perfect understanding between her and Sidney More, a deep melancholy had taken possession of her. On the journey she had endeavored to keep up a good spirit under the cheerful, tender attentions of her distressed lover, but she had not succeeded. In a listless manner she passed her time and in spite of a powerful will to render assistance to the party, failing strength of body frequently caused her to loiter in some pleasant opening in the forest. In her face appeared that flush indicative of the presence of an insidious disease. When, therefore, a halt for the winter was called, she seemed to be perfectly satisfied, but as day by day she reclined in a sunny nook, sheltered from the cold winds, and apparently watching with interest the busy preparations for the temporary encampment, her thoughts were far away.
One evening a strange silence pervaded the settlement. Men instead of hurrying to their log cabins as was their wont after their labors of the day, stood in little groups, talking in subdued tones, while the women hushed the playful voices of the children. Something of grave import must be happening. Under a shelter of cedar branches, Virginia Dare lay dying. Her weeping friends surrounded her, and Sydney More, striving to appear calm, stood gazing at her through his tears.
For many minutes she lay in a stupor, but at last, as a wonderful twilight glow suffused the landscape and chased the palor from her face, she regained consciousness. Beckoning Sidney to her side, she whispered: "Thou knowest how I love thee. Had I not cared so much for thee, our friends, perhaps , might still be happy at dear old Roanoke. I am going now - it is best for me - for all - farewell."
Exhausted by the slight exertion, she sank back upon her couch. Those watching her were too awed to break the silence that followed. Again Virginia moved uneasily, looked from one to another of those standing by, as if she were searching for familiar faces, then raised her poor, white hands and pointing into space, said between her heavy gasps for breath: "There is a wide ocean - no, it is too smooth and quiet for that. Look - out of the distance come beautiful forms - they are near me - father, Ensenore, mother - Sidney - "
A sign of perfect contentment, a peaceful smile and Virginia Dare was dead. Sidney More felt the hand he held as if unconsciously seeking to retain Virginia, grow colder and colder; he saw the earthly light leave her eyes; and only then he began to realize his great loss.
The tall chestnut trees swayed softly in the evening breeze, their tops just touched by the sunset's after-glow, and the minute sounds of evening became perceptible. But Sidney heard or said nothing, and he felt as if the shadows of some great darkness were creeping over him. The vaunting threat of Jack Coge had been fulfilled.
The tale is ended, for the last record made by Sidney More reads" "Virginia Dare, ye 10th day of November, 1610."
What afterwards became of the colonists of Roanoke, whither they wandered, no one will ever tell. Save the record of Sidney More, every trace of them has been lost.