If you’re a descendant or admirer of the people mentioned in this chapter, you’re already primed to appreciate the historical research and writing expertise that went into this biographical novel:
Mary Barrett Dyer
Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick
And in the preceding chapter, you’d find:
Katherine Marbury Scott
Sir Henry Vane
There’s a lot of real, historical names and characterizations in my Mary Dyer books, because they were the people in William’s and Mary’s lives that helped define who they were, how they were interacting with one another, and what they were doing at the time.
Book extract from Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This Vol. 2 (2014),
© 2014 Christy K Robinson
May 12, 1660
Shelter Island, Long Island
Mary was exhausted. She was not in the mood to hear or make another condolence. She didn’t want to hear, much less feel, more angry words about the wickedness of the colonial governments against the Friends, not in New England, and not in Virginia. She wanted something, but what?
This morning, she and the Shelter Island Friends had gathered for a blessedly silent Meeting and then a burial service for Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick. Both of those dear people had died this week: first Cassandra and then a day later, Lawrence. Though Mary had done all she could to loosen the terrible knots under their skin caused by the triple lash, and soothe their pains by gently working scented and pain-relieving balm into their scars, all it took in the end was a respiratory fever. Once Cassandra was gone, Lawrence gave up and followed her.
Again, Mary thought of the life force in a human being: sometimes it was strong, like a mighty river current, and other times, it was merely a trembling leaf on an aspen. The sixty-two-year-olds could endure savage beatings, they could tolerate the loss of every material thing they’d worked so hard for, they could hear of their adult children sitting in dark, cold prison, and grieve that their adolescent children had barely escaped being sold as slaves. But finally, they had left behind their torn old bodies for freedom and eternal joy in God’s presence.
She wasn’t sure whether to rejoice or to weep, or to nurse a very natural fury at the evil that could inhabit the governor, assistants, and ministers of Boston, Salem, and Plymouth, who claimed to speak for God but were voracious lions seeking to devour harmless lambs.
Nathaniel Sylvester hadn’t been convinced of the Friends’ teachings when Copeland, Holder, Robinson, and others visited here in previous years. Perhaps his sympathetic support of the Friends had something to do with his Barbados partners and past experience with Friends there—and something to do with his antagonistic attitude to the New Haven Colony which administered the English settlements on Long Island and had so gravely injured the Quaker missionaries.
But something had changed. Perhaps it was Lawrence and Cassandra, perhaps it was Mary herself, for now Sylvester was in a hot lather to send a letter to the General Court at New Haven and declare himself a Friend. An outraged Friend, furious about the unwarranted, malevolent persecution by New England’s governments. How dare they, to hold Mary Fisher and Ann Austin in prison for five weeks, and inspect their naked bodies for marks of witchcraft or imp teats, to threaten death, and then ship them off to Barbados. Ann had said that though she’d borne five children in England, she’d never suffered as much as she had under those barbarous and cruel hands.
Mary already knew what the false minister Davenport would say: that Nathaniel was slandering New England’s godly magistrates and himself in particular, and blaspheming God with his pernicious doctrines, and that he was entertaining members of a cursed sect. There would be fury, accusations, and perhaps arrests. These were the people who had begun their bloody work with Humphrey Norton.
New Haven. Davenport. The earthquake. Was it really only two years ago? How the faces had changed in that time. Some had gone back to England. Sarah Gibbons drowned. William Robinson and Marmaduke Stephenson hanged. Richard Doudney, Mary Clark, and Mary Wetherhead all drowned in a shipwreck off Barbados. Anne Robinson dead of a fever in Jamaica. Now the Southwicks. And soon, Mary Dyer. She felt it. She knew the time was near, for the madness and hate of New England were still not ripe.
But did she mourn her Friends? Deep down, no, for she knew that their salvation was secure and they were now part of that great cloud of witnesses. Instead, she mourned the suffering of the converts who were only obeying the quiet voice of God, and acting as scripture prescribed: to visit the sick and imprisoned, to be just, merciful, and humble, to love one another. She mourned for the families and children who didn’t understand where the hate came from, and why their naked, bleeding mothers had been dragged out to the wilderness and left to die, or suffered the winter in Boston prison, with no heat and little food. And because these women were not well-known, were not as educated or experienced as men, and to be honest, not as privileged and connected as Mary Dyer, they needed an obelisk or flag to rally around. They needed an advocate, and someone important enough to draw the attention of Endecott and Bellingham away from the outrages they visited upon the faithful. They needed the hearts of the people of New England turned from bloodthirst to pity and charity.
And that Mary could do by God’s grace. She would have done it last October, but the Lord in his wisdom had used his two willing servants, Robinson and Stephenson, and reserved Mary’s sacrifice for such a time as this, when it would have a greater effect.
Ah! That’s what Mary had been longing for. Not the prison and hardship, but knowing that every moment, she was fulfilling God’s will. She longed for the kingdom that was closer and more real than this world, and being in that place of perfect love.
The annual Court of Elections would be held in Boston in ten days’ time, and she would be there. Even in taking the Southwicks home and releasing Mary from their care, the Lord was preparing her way. She had nothing to fear.
Read more from the five-star Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This.
On May 27, 1660 (360 years ago), Mary’s husband, William Dyer, wrote an impassioned letter to the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony, pleading with them to save his wife from the gallows. You can own a high-resolution 16x20” print of that letter written in William’s beautiful hand, by ordering it at this page: http://bit.ly/DyerHandwriting
Christy K Robinson is author of these books (click the colored title):
We Shall Be Changed (2010)
Mary Dyer Illuminated Vol. 1 (2013)
Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This Vol. 2 (2014)
The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport Vol. 3 (2014)
Effigy Hunter (2015)
And of these sites:
Discovering Love (inspiration and service)
Rooting for Ancestors (history and genealogy)
William and Mary Barrett Dyer (17th century culture and history of England and New England)
Editornado [ed•i•tohr•NAY•doh] (Words. Communications. Book reviews. Cartoons.)