Tuesday, April 18, 2017

OUR RHODE ISLAND ROOTS #6: Story from the Seven Wise Men of Aquidneck

(Latham-Dungan/Vaughn-Barker-Winsor)


During the winter of 1669, seven friends met at seven o’clock on seven consecutive Friday evenings.  Gathered around a warm fire, each man told a tale.  Mr. Jefferay, being the eldest member of this group, held the first meeting at his home and told the first tale: “The Sea Serpent,” which was also recorded in his journal along with the other stories. With the exception of Governor Brenton, all of the men can be found in my family tree.
‘The Seven Wise Men of Aquidneck’ & their Winter, 1669 tales:
Gov. Benedict Arnold, 54 (10th great uncle) “Goblin Land”
Gov. William Brenton, 59 “Witch of Hammersmith”
Gov. William Coddington, 68 (son Thomas was husband of 9th great aunt, Priscilla Jefferay) “Secret Meeting”
Mr. Francis Brinley, 34 (brother to Wm. Coddington’s second wife) “Ghostly Revel”
Rev. Dr. John Clarke, 60 (2nd Baptist Church, Newport; responsible for securing the 1663 Rhode Island Royal Charter) possible 1st cousin 13x, not yet verified “Wrecked Galleon”
Mr. William Vaughan, 59 (husband of 10th great grandmother) “White Heron of Bedfordshire”
And Mr. William Jefferay, 78 (10th great grandfather) “Sea Serpent”


from THE SEVEN TALES found in THE JOURNAL OF WILLIAM JEFFERAY

MR. VAUGHAN'S TALE.
THE WHITE HERON OF BEDFORDSHIRE;
OR, HOW A WHITE FEATHER MAY NOT SHOW A COWARD

This is a tale told unto me by my wife [10th Great Grandmother FRANCES LATHAM, "The Falconer's Daugher"], she having heard it from her father, the king's faulconer,and thus it runs (the length thereof being his, not mine, so to be excused):

That princely art of hawking, which already
waneth somewhat, and I fear may decline the
more (though none so noble to follow), I have
e'en done my best to maintain, since I knew
what a faulcon was; and my brother Symon
hath writ a book, wherein he sets forth the
uses and curious ways of hawks and hawking.

It grieveth me sore to see any ebb in this
sport, which hath been my labour as well as
joy; but what vexeth me still more, at times
when I will let my mind dwell on it, is how I
could never rightly come at that great white
heron of Bedford, and it is of this I must tell.

What I relate befell me in my youth, when,
though well trained in faulconry, I had not
yet any advancement under prince or king,
not having come to that service yet. Still
had I much skill, if report spake true, and
hawked it with some other gentlemen of our
county; flying oft faulcons also for my own
behoof. It was when upon this last doing,
one day, that I first saw the white heron. He
was just rising from a marsh, and I almost
upon him, a young hawk with me, and this I
let fly at him, right quick. My faulcon, though
young, as I have said, was both strong and
fleet, the best trained of any I had, save one,
older; yet so well did the heron fly, and so
play my bird, that he had soon left me won-
dering at his fleetness, and how he had es-
caped.

I saw him not again for a month's space,
though seeking; and this time on the other
edge of the same marsh, and thought my
hawk (that best and older one) would now
have had the quarry; but dark coming on fa-
voured his again escape. I now hunted him
morning, noon, and night, and was once so
close that I could see how great his wings
did spread, the wonderful whiteness of his
plumage (surpassing any swan's that ever
was), and the bright sparkle of his eye, which
last had (it so seemed to me) a wicked look,
as of some evil to be worked.

I went through the marsh a hundred times,
and at last by steps, every part of it, to find
his nest, or breeding place, but none did find,
nor any mate to him; and when upon a day I
had finished for very weariness, would I then
see him rise or settle in the midst of that
great marsh.

I had at last near cursed him, and per-
haps did so (for I was young and something
violent then, and some say headstrong still),
which may have caused my near undoing
presently. Of this I will now relate; for still
I followed him, though warned by ancient
people that he was a wraith, and of ill he
might do me, the peril double since the curs-
ing that I almost did allow to. Now the way
of my near undoing, and thus not able to tell
this tale, was as follows:

I had promised, in a kind of jest, to a young
maid (my once schoolmate, but now growing
into some prettiness, as I did begin to think),
that I would give her one of the plumes of this
bird, when I had got him. So, whenever her
I did meet, she would put on a pretty anxiety,
though rather saucy under it, and say, "Now
I know thou hast my plume, and I can write
my letter;” for she had a letter, she said,
which she would only write by a pen fash-
ioned of that plume. When I said I had it
not, she would be much disappointed, or seem
to, and sometimes flout me a little, as — she
did not believe I did truly mean it for her,
and such like; which ever made me more re-
solved she should have it, for spite of her
words, if nothing else.

On the day of which I speak, the white
heron had drawn me on, in chase of him,
through the marsh, until, just at dusk (his
favourite time for flying), I was close upon a
black and most noisome quagmire, and he
so near that, in reaching, I almost touched
him; but, missing him, made no such miss of
the mire, wherein I was near smothered, and
had not a branch held true, that grew o'er the
side of it, had surely then lost my life.

I had hoped to escape any passing on my
way home; but, just at the stile, whom should
I come fairly upon but that maid I spoke of,
who, startled at first, fell back, and then to
laughing as though she might never stop.
"Faith," said she, "thou must not look so
grave, but let me laugh a space!" and then,
when she had her breath, she said, most pert-
ly, as it seemed to me: "Now, surely it hath
been a black heron thou huntest, for, certes,
thou art arrayed in his plumage!"

And, indeed, I was as black from the mire
as might have been any sweep from his soot.

Now I was something nettled at this jeer-
ing; and when she made pretence of looking
sadly, and said, "Alas for my white feather,
and my poor letter waiting!” I made short
answer — "Thou hast come near losing me, as
well as thy white feather; not that thou car-
est for my loss."

It was a churlish speech; and, turning then,
and seeing her so white and piteous looking
for the danger I had been in, I repented me
sore for what I had said.

She only answered, "I am most sorry for
thy danger, and —" (here she halted for a mo-
ment) "I surely would not lose thee."

Now did my heart leap within me, to think
it possible her heart could yet be mine; for I
had been much drawn to her in spite of her
sometimes jeering me (albeit so prettily done
that it liked me to have her).

So I quickly said: "If thou canst love one
so clumsy of speech as I have been, I pray
thee take me forever; for, trust me, I do love
thee with my whole heart."

"And I, thee," she said (so soft and low
that I did hold my breath), "and have known
thy love lately, hoping to tell thee of mine if
thou would but give me the chance."

Now this owning of her love (with the
sweet roguishness at the end of it, which I
did well deserve) did almost distract me, as
how to get her to my heart in these black-
ened clothes of mine; but love hath ever
found a way, and so did we.

Then fell I into a flood of questionings of
her; as to how it could be possible she loved
me? when first? would she always do so?
and was she not afraid to spoil me by so
much as she was giving? and, lastly, as to
who was to have that letter when I got her
the plume? When I gave her fair chance to
answer, she said:

"If I can remember all, I will answer thee
truly; and, first, as to the being possible, I
could not help it, fashioned as thou art
(though I mean not of thy present outward
garb of black!); and the beginning of it, I
scarce can remember; but the ending, never,
dearest. As to my fear of spoiling thee by
such bounty of it, indeed hath it been said
truly, 'love's bounty ne'er needed salt to keep
any worth the saving;' but, as to that plume
and letter, I had a little secret; which, indeed,
I must now tell, having none from thee hence-
forth."

Yet did she hesitate a little, and then said:

"If thou dids't gain the plume, I thought
to fashion of it a pen, and write therewith a
message to thee of my love, and place it in a
locket; which, heart-shaped, I wear e'en now
next mine, but should be thine if thou dids't
claim me; yet if I died unclaimed, haply thou
should then know how much I loved thee."

This, with a little tremble as she spoke the
last of it, did so affection me the more, if that
were possible, that I would e'en then have
started anew for the plume, if I could but
seize that without the bird, indeed; though
much I wished the whole. But here she
stayed me:

" Thou art grown so dear to me," she said,
"if dearer can be, and I do now so fear the
danger of thy quest, that I would fain have
thee forego it, and write my message with
another pen; though it needeth now no pen
to tell my love. Besides," she saith, " I am
grown to quite a woman to know my mind so
well of man's love, and have a claim on thee
to spare thyself danger for me."

This, in so pretty a way of speech, and a
straightening so prettily to show how child-
hood was left behind (though only then sev-
enteen), that I did at first think to give up
my mad race. Yet, did I wish the plume for
her so, that I said, “Once more let me try,
and, failing, I will give up, indeed, forever;
and, yet, thou knowest not how hard that
may be."

" I think I do know something of it," she
said, " and, also, of how sweet to men to pre-
vail over us, as showing them their power
on our poor hearts; but I know my power,
too, and have sweet content thereof; for I may
but say it and thou wilt stay thy chase. Go,
however, this once; and do keep thyself safe,
dearest; and so in God's hands I trust thee."

It was so like a prayer for me that I be-
lieved it would cure my curse upon the bird;
and, indeed, I was near ready to bless that
heron as a means of my knowing her love.

So once again I started forth, the next day,
and, following carefully, as not to make my
one trial a failure, at eve did come to the edge
of that great cliff that o'erhangs the south
edge of the marsh; and, strange to tell, did
start my quarry at that very edge.

Now was I so wild that my beloved should
have her plume, that, forgetting all else, I
leaped fair at him as he rose to clear me, and
did indeed seize one feather of him, which,
rest sure I did clutch as a drowning man a
straw.

He gave a most horrid shriek, as of a spirit
lost, and I went hurling through the air to
certain death, as seemed, and would have
been but for some growth out of trees below
me on that side the cliff, which, yielding and
breaking, let me through to the ground, well
bruised and scratched; and there I lay some
time, to gather my senses, thank God for my
escape, and wonder how much I durst tell my
love; when lo! she, turning the path, stood
before me.

Putting a good face on, I said, "here is thy
plume, my own, and now for the letter, so
soon as pen is fashioned."

She did look at me for but one moment,
ere she knew the danger I had been in.

"What has it cost thee," she said, trembling
and affrighted, as I drew her to me.

"If I, too, must have no secrets, then," said
I, "it did cost but a short flight in the air;
for, taking one plume from out that bird at
the top of this cliff, it did so lightly bear me,
that, save some holes through these branches,
and a few in my apparel, that thou shalt mend
by my fireside, when thou art my wife (in a
scant week's time), I am, indeed, safe and
sound throughout."

Now did she first pale and clutch me to her
heart, and then so inveigh at that bird, that,
albeit, knowing her spirit (though always so
tender to me), I could not but marvel.

" Wicked bird! ' said she, "who wouldst
have my own beloved's life, and I could gain
thee, I would tear thy black heart from out
thy white body, with these little hands of
mine."

And, truth to tell, I think she would, for so
she e'en looked. Now, after more tenderness
to me, and after much assuring that I had no
hurt, did she bid me tell her more closely
about the whole befalling; and then we both
did wonder, looking at that height, from which
I came (near an hundred feet), that even the
branches had 'scaped me. So, with first a
prayer on her lips, which my heart did echo,
of thankfulness to God, for his only help, we
got us home.

- Now, the chase over, for all and forever, I
thought the white heron had given me peace,
as I was ready to do for him. But more be-
fell, for, my love, upon that very evening, or
about dusk, having fashioned a pen of the
plume, was but trying its point on her hand,
ere using it, when it did so scratch into her
flesh, though on light pressing, that the blood
broke forth, and in such quantity that, not
quickly able to staunch it, there seemed dan-
ger that life itself might go with the blood.
Now did she again show that spirit of which
I spake; for, dipping her pen in the blood,
she wrote quickly, on the vellum — "Dearest,
to my heart's blood I love thee; keep this
near thine." Then, placing in the locket, and
that next her heart, she laid down her pen;
for, as she told me, she doubted something if
she should live, and more whether that bird
would not try some other art. It was well
she was quick, for no sooner had she safely
hid her locket (or mine), than the plume, as
if alive, did whirl from the table, and through
the open window, as from a gust behind
(though no door open); and anon flew by that
great white heron, with a shriek as of delight
in having back his own.

Then did the blood staunch, also, and never
since have I seen that bird, but once; for,
going now to the court, with my wife, my at-
tendance being required there, I was absent
much from Bedfordshire, and am now but
late returned, to pass my last days at home.
Whether this bird be flesh or wraith, I know
not, nor surely whether he liveth; but yester-
night I saw him pass, or thought so, though
these old eyes of mine see not as quickly,
mayhap, as of yore (howbeit clearer still than
some who till fields, or traffic in goods). I fol-
low him no more, and, giving him peace, only
wish the same of him, and that he take not
from me my locket, which, since it left my
wife's heart, has ever been next to mine.

There following then some discussion, on
the finishing of this tale, as to whether it was
indeed a spirit, or only some remarkable mis-
chancing with a wily old heron, Mrs. Vaughan
was called in, as to her father's final belief on
it. She said her father never missed any
other quarry to compare with that, and that
his last conclusion was that the heron, first
mortal, his cursing of it made a spirit ending,
to punish his folly.

To this there was some agreement, and
some dissent; and so we went our ways.
~~
LEWIS LATHAM Hon. Master Falconer (1584 - 1655)
11th great-grandfather
FRANCES (Dungan Clarke Vaughn) LATHAM 1637 imm. (1608 - 1677)
daughter of Lewis Latham Hon. Master Falconer
BARBARA DUNGAN 1637 immigrant  m. JAMES BARKER II 1634 immigrant
daughter of Frances (Clarke Vaughn) Latham 1637
James Barker III (1648 - 1722)
son of Barbara Dungan 1637
Mary Barker (1678 - 1718)
daughter of James Barker III
Joshua Winsor II. Deacon  (1709 - 1796)
son of Mary Barker
Charles M Winsor (1736 - 1775)
son of Joshua Winsor II. Deacon)
Jesse Winsor (1762 - 1817)
son of Charles M Winsor
Mortimer D. Winsor (1807 - 1876)
son of Jesse Winsor
Lydia Secord Winsor (1838 - 1885)
daughter of Mortimer D. Winsor
Mae Louise Dort, my great grandmother (1873 - 1964)
daughter of Lydia Secord Winsor