A Scandalous Life: The Golden ShOre
Published by Neverest Press in Nov. 2017
The Golden Shore presents Herodias
Long with more decisions as she faces the
loss of her home, family, and her beloved
George Gardner. She faces her future
head-on, but what is Herod willing to
surrender for love?
Scroll down to try the first chapter:
HERODIAS GARDNER STEELED herself. Roxbury Neck, an earthen thread connecting Boston’s
peninsula to the mainland, was barely wide enough for wagons to pass. The neck was blocked by a
protective wall, but with the day’s execution done, the gate was open to traffic.
Close by the Roxbury side of the gate – evil-doers be warned! – stood Boston’s gallows. On this sunny
June morning, it bore the corpse of Herod’s best friend. Mary Barrett Dyer was neither thief nor murderer,
but she had defied the rulers of Massachusetts Bay Colony once too often.
New England’s Puritan colonies derided the Society of Friends as ‘Quakers.’ Even before the first Quaker
missionaries arrived from England, they were banned for blatant public disobedience and spreading
heresy. Mary Dyer was but one of the Quakers who defied those laws, then languished in jail for months.
It took the intercession of William Dyer, Rhode Island’s attorney general, to free his wife in 1657.
Jail didn’t discourage the Quakers. Neither did banishment, so the Puritans took up the lash. Though she
was not a Quaker, Herod Gardner was whipped and jailed for protesting the harsh sentences.
Mary Dyer wasn’t lashed the next time she visited Quakers jailed in Boston, but she joined them in
captivity. When released, she was banished on pain of death. She returned within the month to challenge
the court’s resolve, but Governor John Endecott and his assistants didn’t blink.
In November 1659, Mary watched the hangman push Marmaduke Stevenson and William Robinson from
the gallows ladder. Determined to share in her friends’ martyrdom and join them in Paradise, Mary
climbed the same rungs.
The executioner snugged a noose around her neck. An agonizingly long moment – then Mary Dyer was
given a final reprieve. She was sent home with her son, along with a stern warning. Set foot in the Bay
Colony again, and die. Saying that she had a strong power to go forward, but no strength to go back, Mary
did not stay at home for long.
New York’s Shelter Island was well-named. It was protected from Atlantic storms by Long Island’s
slender legs, and was also a haven for Quakers. Mary spent her final winter there in the company of
Friends, praying for guidance. In May, without bidding her family farewell, Mary walked to Boston.
When informed that she would hang for her defiance, she told Governor John Endecott: I came to do the
will of my Father, and in obedience to his will, I stand even to death.
Though Boston’s Puritans didn’t know it yet, Charles Stuart had just returned to England to reclaim the
throne stripped from his father. Mary’s death, the Quakers’ sufferings, and even Herod’s defiance quickly
caught the new king’s attention, and Charles II would soon order an end to the hangings.
But for now, Herod was reeling with exhaustion. Two days ago, she’d left her common-law husband and
their seven children in Newport while she and John Porter rode to Massachusetts. They hoped to talk
their dear friend into accepting clemency – if Governor Endecott would offer it. Slowed by a lame horse,
they reached Boston in time to watch Mary Dyer hang. Now they had to pass by her body to reach Boston’
s docks. Worse, Governor Endecott’s retinue lingered at the gate.
“Are you ready?” John asked. Herod nodded. “We’ll go quick as we can. This horse is too tired to make a
fuss, but if Endecott remembers you, hell’s furies will be loosed. Keep your eyes on me and say nothing.”
With her pulse racing, Herod tilted her cloak to shade her face. She fixed her eyes on his back as John
clicked his tongue at the horse and tugged it through the dispersing crowd. His shirt and green woolen
doublet were powdered with dust and so was his gray-streaked hair. Herod thought, ‘He must be as sore-
footed as this beast. He walked most of the way from Dedham.’
“John Porter, is that you?”
Herod’s neck creaked as her unwilling head swiveled toward the speaker. There, clad in somber black,
stood three men who still haunted her dreams.
Two years ago, Herod had learned that two Quaker women were sentenced to be whipped. Shouldering
her suckling infant, Herod walked 60 miles on wilderness paths to Weymouth, Massachusetts. She and
her first husband once dwelt there, so maybe she could persuade old friends to help stop the whippings.
Herod found friendly ears in Weymouth’s market, but she also caught a magistrate’s attention. Under
arrest, she was marched off for an interrogation by John Endecott. The governor who had ordered Herod
to be stripped to her waist and whipped stood before her now.
At his side was the Reverend Mr. John Wilson. After Herod was flogged, that black-cloaked hypocrite
came to her filthy cell. Under the guise of saving Herod’s soul, the preacher sought words that he could
twist into heresy or witchery done by Mary Dyer. A half hour ago Wilson endorsed Mary’s hanging, and
lent his neck cloth to cover her face as she died.
Beside the minister was General Humphrey Atherton, with eyes as cold as his polished iron breastplate.
At the whipping post, Atherton had tried to tear her baby from Herod’s arms. Certain that she’d never see
Rebecca again, Herod desperately clung to her daughter. The executioner turned his three-tailed whip on
Flushed with triumph, Governor Endecott asked, “Mr. Porter, what brings you to Boston?”
The white tuft of hair on the governor’s chin twitched as he spoke. Herod couldn’t tear her eyes from it,
thinking, ‘He looks like Papa’s old goat. Billy’s beard waggled like that when he cudded.’
John answered Endecott’s question, “Business with Mr. Hull,” and led Herod’s mount forward.
Atherton caught the animal’s bridle. The general’s full lips twitched into a smirk as he said, “You needn’t
hurry. The excitement is over.”
Herod’s bleak mood vanished. How could Atherton find amusement in Mary’s needless death? John
gripped her ankle in warning, so Herod focused on her dirty fingers, twisting them deep into the horse’s
John said to Atherton, “I was supposed to meet Hull an hour ago, but I’m late after this sad affair.”
Wilson growled, “Satan’s hand is snatched from our godly people, and you call it sad?”
“Do you not find cold-hearted murder of a godly woman sad, Mr. Wilson? I remember you condemning
Bishop Laud for far less.” King Charles I’s favorite advisor was widely despised by Puritans for his
Wilson’s face went crimson. “Dare you compare me to Laud?”
“Later, Mr. Wilson,” Endecott said. Herod stole another look at the governor. His mouth worked silently
before he asked John, “After you see Mr. Hull, you will return to Rhode Island?”
Behind the governor, movement caught Herod’s eye. The executioner had tied Mary’s gray skirt around
her ankles before turning her off the ladder, to keep the woman modestly covered while she died. Mary’s
face was still shrouded, but her skirt pulled free and was billowing in the wind. The elderly governor
jerked his head toward her. “Know you who that is?”
“William Dyer’s wife,” John replied, each word sharply bitten. “Mr. Dyer has influence with Parliament,
and Sir Henry Vane was Mistress Dyer’s friend. They won’t look kindly on your foul act.”
“Vane is out of favor with Parliament,” scoffed Endecott defiantly. “As for Dyer, his sole response was yet
another plea for mercy. Methinks he agrees his wife foolish in defying our laws. Mistress Dyer took her
own life today, surely as if she hurled herself on Atherton’s sword.
“Porter, carry a warning to your Quakers to keep themselves and their witchery in Rhode Island. That” –
Endecott pointed at the gallows – “is what heretics and law-breakers face here.” The governor’s pouched
eyes narrowed. “Mr. Hull warned me that we should question your notions.”
“Ask away!” Herod couldn’t see John’s face, but the veins in his sunburned neck bulged. “You’ve been
warned to keep your hands off Rhode Islanders, but this!” He stabbed a finger at the gallows. “Have you
no fear of our new king?”
“Charles? It will never come to pass.”
“The royalists have risen and called Charles back to the throne. You Puritans sliced off his father’s head,
so he won’t look kindly on you torturing harmless Quakers!” Endecott’s mouth opened, but John added,
“What if he sends his men to oversee your affairs?”
“Bugbears and vapors, Porter,” Atherton sneered. “Carry the governor’s warning to Rhode Island, and
mind that we don’t search you for pamphlets or witch’s tits. Is your woman one of them?” Herod’s mouth
The cold edge returned to John’s voice as he said, “She’s an innocent, so leave her be. I must away to see
Hull. Portsmouth’s court sits in a few days, so if I am to attend, I must sail on the first ship.”
Herod could see Endecott’s lips moving, but Mary’s bound feet dangled just behind his shoulder. She
watched with dreadful fascination as her friend’s skirt lifted again, bellying like a laundered sheet. Herod’
s mount flinched as Mary’s feet moved, toes rotating left, then right. For just a moment, hope flared too.
Somehow her friend had survived! Then she realized that it was no more than the wind turning Mary’s
body like a weathercock.
A man passing by commented, “She hangs like a flag.”
“Indeed,” said Atherton. “A flag to warn all Quakers.” Herod clenched her teeth on a furious retort, and
the militia’s leader peered more closely at the grimy woman. He said to John, “Are you bringing doxies
into Boston? Surely you can do better than this drab.”
Porter’s eyes narrowed. “Have courtesy, General. This is my wife’s servant, come to visit her sister. She’s a
little weak….” John tapped his temple.
“Miz Porter sent me,” Herod said. She bowed her head, but her voice trembled nervously. What would
Endecott make of this flimsy story?
“Kind of you to hire an unfortunate,” the governor told John. To Herod he said in dismissal, “Good day,
and serve your betters well.”
She stole a glance at Endecott through her eyelashes. Judging by the dark bags under his eyes, the
governor felt every one of his sixty-odd years. ‘I hope the plague takes you,’ Herod thought viciously,
picturing the gruesome death of her father when she was only twelve. ‘I pray that you rot!’ She would
have cheered to see the governor stagger and fall at her horse’s hooves, but Endecott merely turned back
to the crowd, assessing their mood about the morning’s work.
John jerked the tired horse forward. Though Herod kept her eyes on her sunburned hands, she glimpsed
Mary’s corpse as they passed the gallows. Her face was still shrouded by Reverend Wilson’s linen, but it
tilted down toward Herod. The wind freshened, turning Mary like she was watching her friend depart.
Herod’s scalp prickled as she murmured, “Goodbye, Mary. I hope you are with God now.”
Safely through the gate into Boston, John let the horse stumble to a halt at the grassy common. The animal
eagerly dropped its head to graze. John wiped his sweaty face on his sleeve as he asked Herod, “How are
you? Can you walk?”
“Are we near Mr. Hull’s home?”
“Not far, but I want to rest this nag. The hostler will charge double if I bring it in lame.” John helped her
ease down from the saddle onto trembling legs.
“Those men – I thought they would send us straight to jail.”
“They didn’t recognize you, and a good thing that was. Those are the blackest-hearted bastards I’ve ever
known. Wilson and Endecott claim to be about God’s work – Gah! In England these Puritans decried
Bishop Laud’s jailings, but just look at what they do now. As for that popinjay Atherton, he is naught but
Endecott’s minion.” John spat into the grass, then looked around as if someone might report his
Then he said, “Maybe I can cheer you. Remember when I took you up the Pettaquamscutt River?” John’s
change of topic drew a feeble smile from Herod. “My partners and I bought the west side from
Kachanaquant two years ago.”
“Kachana … who?”
“Bless you,” John said. Herod eyed him in bewilderment, so he winked, saying, “Kach-oo. Bless you.”
Despite the grim day and her weariness, Herod chuckled at John’s joke. He clarified, “Kachanaquant,
grandson of Canonicus. He’s the Narragansett tribe’s chief sachem now, but hardly the leader his
“The Pettaquamscutt River’s east bank is also a lovely piece of land, and my partners and I craved it too.
Instead, our old friend Humphrey Atherton spirited Kachanaquant up to Boston, got him falling-down
drunk, then sweet-talked him into ‘giving’ Atherton and his partners the whole neck in trade for baubles
and rum. Massachusetts uses it to lay claim to the whole Narragansett region, including the land Hull and
I bought two years ago.”
“Can they take it?” Herod asked.
John frowned. “The king’s charter gave Narragansett to Rhode Island twenty years ago, but Parliament
pays our protests little heed. The Puritan colonies are strong enough to wrest it from us, so that’s why I’m
here. I need Hull’s signature on a deed, but I also came to consult with him. If anyone has influence with
the Puritans, it’s John Hull.”
“He’s one of them.” Herod scowled, but John assured her, “That doesn’t make them all devils. Even I was
“You?” Herod asked skeptically.
“Most of us were Puritan before we became Rhode Islanders, but some were Purer than others.” John
watched the horse critically as it stepped forward, reaching for longer grass. “This beast looks better, so
let’s for the livery stable. As for Atherton; let him come on my land. I’ll set my dogs on him.”
“Can I watch?” Herod asked. “He helped the hangman whip me two years ago. When he tried to take
Rebecca from me, I bit him.”
“You bit Atherton?” John grinned for the first time that day.
“To the bone. Can I watch your dogs bite him too?”
“No dogs. I changed my mind.” John smiled; pleased that Herod was diverted from Mary’s hanging.
“Instead, we’ll catch him in ambuscade and the first shot is yours. Even if he’s only skulking across the
river on his own land, Humphrey Atherton is doomed.”
“I just pray Endecott is with him,” Herod said grimly.
John left Herod at a dockside inn, saying that he would ask about a ship to Newport. “Then I’ll meet with
John Hull. He’ll give me silver for our new purchase, presents for Kachanaquant and his wives.”
“How much silver?” Herod asked. John had offered Narragansett land to the Gardners at a bargain price.
“Twelve square miles for a mere £135.” Herod whistled in amazement, and John grinned smugly. “We’re
buying the rest of the western river bank, and much more. Just imagine: miles of prime pasture, oaks fit
for a ship’s keel, and pines tall enough for her masts.”
Herod sighed. “I beg George to buy from you. Maybe this time he’ll agree.” When John left, she was
planning the persuasion of George Gardner. But when the inn’s serving girl placed a bowl of chicken stew
with Indian meal dumplings before her, Herod forgot everything but her hunger.
It wasn’t long before John returned, red-faced and clipping his words short. He hustled Herod to the dock,
explaining, “There’s a ship bound south this afternoon, so I sped through my business with Mr. Hull.”
John had already paid for two recently vacated cabins, so Herod promised him a firkin of goat cheese in
return. He thanked her, adding, “We’re in luck! If the wind stays fair, I’ll get back before Portsmouth
meets. We’ll dock at Newport, but I’ll have an easy ride home.”
Herod watched the docks recede as a westerly breeze filled the ship’s sails. She thought grimly that John
Porter had also eased her escape from Boston two years ago. Listening to him with half an ear, she rubbed
a scar on her collarbone – a reminder of the executioner’s knotted lash.
“Be glad you didn’t meet Hull,” John said abruptly.
“He told me that Mary richly deserved what she got, with such vile glee that I’d have had to restrain you.
First it was the same old yarn about the monster she birthed and her monstrous notions, but then Hull
turned to her exceeding pride. He says,” John affected a caustic sneer, “‘Papists are right to call pride a
deadly sin. Quakers affect meekness to teach blasphemy and contempt of magistracy, but glory in it. That
limb of Satan should have faced her Maker’s judgment a year ago. Thank God, he strengthened our
magistrates to do his holy work this time’.”
“Pride,” spat Herod. “What of their hypocrisy? Isn’t that a sin?”
Porter nodded. “They say that Quakers are censorious and condemn all. I say the same of Puritans like
Endecott and Wilson, though once I admired much about them.” Herod nodded in agreement, but hid an
John didn’t seem to notice, saying “As for Mr. Hull, he approves our plans to build at Pettaquamscutt
next year, but wants someone to guide us in spiritual matters. I told him we aren’t numerous enough to
need a preacher yet. Hull warned me, ‘God turns his face from those who turn their backs on him,’ but we’
ll face that problem when its time comes.”
A couple of passengers nearby were conversing loudly enough to catch John’s ear. A Londoner in an
expensive leather doublet had news that Prince Charles was returning from his Netherland exile. John
must have welcomed a change of subject, for he exclaimed, “Rhode Islanders will have a friend on the
The stranger said, “Parliament demands a stronger hand for letting the prince return. Charles may have
Herod stifled another yawn, then told John, “I’m worn out. Do you mind if I go lie down?” With his
attention on the Londoner, Porter nodded absently.
After two days on horseback, Herod should have fallen asleep quickly. But she lay awake, remembering
Mary Dyer’s mischievous grin – and her trussed body dangling from a coarse hemp noose. What drove
Mary’ in her return to Boston, knowing that she was doomed?
Herod recalled their final conversation months ago. Mary’s face, bleached nearly white by a long bout in
Boston’s jail, glowed when she told Herod, “Friends are taking accounts of our brothers’ deaths to
Parliament. We hope they will act before Endecott stands for governor again.”
“What if they don’t?”
“God has six months to make my path clear.” Herod began to speak, but Mary said vehemently, “Herod,
it’s not fear of death which tortures my nights. What if I weaken when God calls me, and tell him, ‘I’ve
done enough already’?”
“Would you leave your husband and children broken-hearted?”
Mary’s chin trembled. “I do not do it lightly, for they have filled my life with love, but we shall be
reunited. I sacrifice but a few years and the miseries of old age to do God’s bidding.”
“You aren’t Jesus,” Herod observed tartly. “You won’t rise if they hang you.”
“Indeed, I will! In heaven I shall plead with our Lord to soften the hearts of Endecott’s magistrates. They
damn themselves, along with the innocents who live by their laws.”
“They deserve it!” Herod had shouted at Mary. “They crammed the square, laughing and lusting when I
was whipped. They should burn.”
Now anger made Herod’s heart pound anew, threatening barriers she’d placed around her anguish. She
commanded herself, ‘Stop! Think of something else.’ After all, she was on her way home and Boston was
out of sight. The jail where Herod had lain with her tiny daughter for two weeks no longer threatened.
The gallows where Mary’s body –
Alarm prickled Herod’s nape. Murderers and pirates were left hanging until they rotted. However, John
had assured her that Mary would be buried by her friends that night. Herod pictured men with shaded
lanterns cutting the rope; tenderly swathing Mary’s body in a sheet before laying her to secret rest. And
People said that King Charles would avenge his father’s death by curbing Puritan excesses. If so, Mary’s
sacrifice was unnecessary in Herod’s mind; a monstrous waste of New England’s most courageous
As for the Puritan leaders, if Herod knew how to call down God’s curse on them she would, beginning
with Governor Endecott. What of the rest? Even if they were innocent of Quaker blood, they tolerated
laws dictating that it be shed.
It was true that many had implored Mary to come down from the gallows. There were also protests when
Herod was scourged, but she vividly remembered the cheering men, and mothers who brought their
children to watch her bleed at the whipping post. Herod would never forgive them, and she would never
stop missing Mary.
However, Herod remembered the last words Mary spoke to her: “Fear not, Herod, they kill nothing but
my body, I” – Mary thumped her breast – “I shall rise to eternal joy with our God upon that day.”
Herod’s eyes flooded with tears as she thought, ‘Dear Mary, I pray you are right.’
|A Scandalous Life:
The Golden ShOre
by Jo Ann Butler
June 1, 1660