It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, peace; but there is no peace. The war is actually begun. The next gale that sweeps from the North will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms. Our brethren are already in the field. Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!–I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
Sarah Syme was a blooming widow, thirty-two in June–such widows are never over thirty-two–and she managed her estate of a thousand acres in Hanover County, Virginia, with business ability. That such a widow, and thirty-two, should remain a widow in a pioneer country was out of the question.
She had suitors. Their horses were tied to the pickets all day long.
One of these suitors has described the widow for us. He says she was “lively in disposition,” and he also uses the words “buxom” and “portly.” I do not like these expressions–they suggest too much, so I will none of them. I would rather refer to her as lissome and willowy, and tell how her sorrow for the dead wrapped her ’round with weeds and becoming sable–but in the interests of truth I dare not.
Some of her suitors were widowers–ancient of days, fat and Falstaffian. Others were lean and lacrimose, with large families, fortunes impaired and futures mostly behind. Then there were gay fox-hunting holluschickies, without serious intent and minus both future and past worth mentioning, who called and sat on the front porch because they thought their presence would be pleasing and relieve the tedium of widowhood.
Then there was a young Scotch schoolmaster, educated, temperate and gentlemanly, who came to instruct the two children of the widow in long division, and who blushed to the crown of his red head when the widow invited him to tea.
Have a care, Widow Syme! Destiny has use for you with your lively ways and portly form. You are to make history, help mold a political policy, fan the flames of war, and through motherhood make yourself immortal. Choose your casket wisely, O Widow Syme! It is the hour of Fate!
* * * * *
The widow was a Queen Bee and so had a perfect right to choose her mate. The Scotchman proved to be it. He was only twenty-five, they say, but he was man enough when standing before the Registrar to make it thirty. When he put his red head inside the church-door some one cried, “Genius!” And so they were married and lived happily ever after.
And the name of the Scotchman was John Henry–I’ll not deceive you, Sweet!
John and Sarah were well suited to each other. John was exact, industrious, practical. The wife had a lively sense of humor, was entertaining and intelligent. Under the management of the canny Scot the estate took on a look of prosperity. The man was a model citizen–honors traveled his way: he became colonel of the local militia, county surveyor, and finally magistrate. Babies arrived as rapidly as Nature would allow and with the regularity of an electric clock–although, of course, there wasn’t any electricity then.
The second child was named Patrick, Junior, in honor of and in deference to a brother of the happy father–a clergyman of the Established Church. Patrick Henry always subscribed himself “P. Henry, Junior,” and whether he was ever aware that there was only one Patrick Henry is a question.
There were nine altogether in the brood–eight of them good, honest, barnyard fowls.