The rock stood in the cedar-shaded garden of former Supreme Court Justice Orville Brand Windom, a giant boulder about which he had scattered earth from Plymouth, Valley Forge, Gettysburg, the Argonne. The justice was old, with a deep and brooding concern for the American land, its history, its people. He spoke some of his ideas to the world in a radio broadcast he made in 1944. He recorded others in three chronicles of the living past that his grandson, Captain Raymond Windom, veteran of Okinawa, found in a locked box after the old man’s death. These tales, like the antique bronze plaque inscribed with Roger Bacon’s Four Stumbling Blocks to Truth, were Justice Windom’s legacy of wisdom and love to his grandson, his grandson’s wife, and their son, Joseph Stilwell Windom.
In the first, red-haired Oliver Ball Windrow, the woodcarver, had on one side of his face the look of a poet and dreamer and, on the other, a countenance of wrath and storm. A seeker and questioner, he loved Mary Windling, a girl only half his age and a member of the Separatist congregation that worshipped secretly at Scrooby, and for her, he made a small plaque of bronze, on which he inscribed Roger Bacon’s Four Stumbling Blocks to Truth, to wear on a silver cord around her neck.
Mary liked his sudden whims and strange humors, but in the end, she married a young workman named John Spong. This happened in 1608, just before the Scrooby congregation escaped to Holland. For twelve years, Mary Spong and her husband lived in Leyden. Infrequent news came from England. Windrow had wed Matilda Bracken, the devoted mute who kept his house. Then, in 1620, he and his two daughters died of smallpox. Mary’s sadness for her friend was lessened by promises and fears surrounding plans of the Puritans to try their fortunes in the new world.
The Spongs and their daughter Remember were passengers aboard the Mayflower when it sailed. Little Remember had only one memory of Plymouth. One day, while she was playing on the wharf, some boys began to torment her. Another boy came with an ax handle and beat them off. She forgot to ask his name.
Mary Spong, dying during that first terrible winter in the wilderness, gave her daughter the tarnished keepsake Windrow had made years before. Remember grew up in Plymouth, a cluster of houses between forest and sea, and those gaunt years of hardship and toil helped to shape her strong body, her resolute will, and her sober decorum that hid deep passions. Her father grew grim and silent as time passed. He disliked Orton Wingate, a sojourner in Plymouth, a man whose face showed peace and calm on one side, turmoil on the other. Wingate was Remember’s friend, however, and came to sit with her from time to time. She knew without his saying that she could have had him for her husband. Restless and uncertain of her own mind, she waited.
Sometimes she rebelled against the harsh Puritan laws, as when she concealed Hode Latch, a convicted drunkard for whom constables were searching, and then she was afraid that she was damned. Perhaps Peter Ladd sensed that wild streak in her when he came courting. He was a young seaman who drifted into Plymouth, steadied himself for a while, and then fell once more into dissolute ways. When Remember refused him, he went away to make his fortune in the slave trade. Two years later, he was drowned in a wreck off the Virginia capes.
Roger Williams, a free-thinking preacher, lived in Plymouth for a time. Several years later, he was shaking the colonies with his liberal beliefs and teachings. A new age was beginning when Williams, a fugitive, built his own town beside Narragansett Bay, but Remember Spong could not know how far-reaching were to be his challenges to usages of authority and custom. She feared him most because he revealed the rebel in herself. For that reason, she was of two minds about Resolved Wayfare, a newcomer to the colony in 1638. Wayfare had crossed the ocean to learn for himself the meaning of Roger Williams’ message. He was also the boy, grown to manhood, who had defended Remember on the Plymouth wharf.
After he saved John Spong’s life during a blizzard, Remember nursed the young man back to health. During that time, there was a battle of wills between them. He wanted her to go with him to Providence, but she, like her father, held that the teachings of Roger Williams were of Satan. Although Wingate’s wisdom and the cruel lashing of an unmarried mother finally convinced her of the folly and blindness of custom, she could not quite make up her mind to go with Wayfare on his journey. Yet she walked with him some distance into the forest, and before they parted, she gave him the bronze keepsake she had from her mother. Knowing that they would meet again, they vowed to be true as long as grass would grow or water flow. That was the solemn promise between them.
The second tale begins in March, 1775. Ordway Winshore, master printer, left Philadelphia to visit his sons in New York and Boston. Below rusty hair, his face on one side promised peace, on the other wrath and doom—a face half serious, half comic, making him a man easy to confide in. Among his fellow travelers were two young British lieutenants, Francis and George Frame. During a tavern halt, Francis Frame broke his hand by striking a blacksmith who had cursed King George. The Philadelphia printer felt that the war was beginning.
Winshore spent two days in New York with Locke, his younger son, a typesetter for Henry Tozzer, printer of Independence leaflets. Locke reported that his brother Robert was deep in the activities of Massachusetts patriots. He also hinted at Robert’s romance with a dressmaker’s assistant.
Another passenger in the coach to Boston was Marintha Wilming, to whom George Frame paid marked attention. Winshore liked her, not knowing, however, that she was the girl his...