PEEP AT THE PILGRIMS.
PEEP AT THE PILGRIMS
SIXTEEN HUNDRED THIRTY-SIX
A Tale Of Olden Times.
BY THE AUTHOR OF DIVERS UNFINISHED MANUSCRIPTS,
Come, listen to my story,
Tho’ often told before,
Of men who passed to glory
Thro’ toil and travail sore;
Of men who did for conscience’ sake,
Their native land forego,
And sought a home and freedom here,
Two hundred years ago.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
PRINTED FOR GEO. B. WHITTAKER,
PEEP AT THE PILGRIMS
From native shores by tempest driven
He sought a purer sky,
And found beneath a wilder heaven
The home of
in the autumn of 1636 a British vessel approached the coast of
from his companions, stood a young man whose countenance and figure were
singularly prepossessing. In an attitude of deep attention, he regarded the new
world which stretched around him—his dark eyes now sparkling with admiration,
then softening into sadness; and, again, some object of sublimity or beauty
kindling the glow of enthusiasm on his cheek. To him they seemed approaching a
wilderness; for already the forests were enveloped in darkness, and the
gigantic hills invested with the shadows of twilight. Presently a dim speck
appeared on the horizon: —it was the little
The stranger experienced a momentary disappointment, as he rapidly surveyed the limited dimensions, and rude architecture of that new “city of refuge.” His fancy had sketched scenes of Arcadian loveliness, and coloured the picture which it drew with the fairy tints of romance; but he only saw, rising from the rocky and sea-girt shore the humble roofs of the Pilgrims, clustered together in two compact lines, and thinly shaded by native trees; each tenement encircled by a patch of vegetation, then wearing the seared and fading hues of autumn. The English colours waved gaily from the battlements of a square fort, which crowned the summit of a commanding eminence, and its flat roof was paced by several persons, who watched with curiosity the approaching vessel.
“And this is my adopted country!” was his first reflection, accompanied by a deep sigh, as his thoughts reverted to the refinements of polished life to which he had been accustomed. But this involuntary chagrin gave place to other feelings as the ship rode gallantly into the shallow but extensive harbour, and anchored beneath the very rock which, seventeen years before, received the intrepid band of adventurers, who had forsaken the enjoyments and comforts of civilized life, braved the howlings of the wintry blast, the horrors of famine, and the terrors of an unknown wilderness, for
“conscience’ sake,”—reposing an unwavering confidence in Him, who had hitherto sustained and kept them, as in the “hollow of his hand.”
Major Atherton, in the enthusiasm which the scene inspired, remained lost in a train of reflections, till accosted by the captain of the vessel, who inquired if he had any friend to welcome him on shore.
“No, I am friendless and a stranger,” he replied, and never had the loneliness of his situation struck so forcibly on his heart; for, looking around, he perceived the vessel was almost deserted, and there were few of his fellow-passengers who had not recognized some old acquaintance, and received a cordial greeting. The inhabitants of the town hastened towards the ship, eager to learn tidings from the friends and relatives they had left in their native, and still fondly remembered country; and it was pleasant to witness the interchange of kind inquirers, the mutual expressions of good-will, and the heartfelt earnestness with which they listened to even the minutest incidents relating to those with whom, though perhaps for ever separated, they still felt united by the ties of kindred affection, the sweet sympathies of one common country, and the delightful associations of childhood and youth.
Atherton indulged but a moment in gloomy reflections:—naturally cheerful, and always sanguine, he turned to the captain, who still regarded him with an air of kindness, and said—
“Pardon me, that I have so long trespassed on your patience; but I feel like one in a dream, to whom every object is strange and incongruous; we seem to have passed the threshold of earth, and to verge on a new creation.”
“To me it is not new,” replied his companion; “I have thrice before visited this rocky coast, and am well known to most of the inhabitants; and, if my services can be of use to you, I pray you to command them.”
“I thank you,” returned the young man, fervently; “but I have one kinsman in this land of strangers, to whom my first respects are due; Captain Standish, sir, with whom you are probably acquainted. I am personally unknown to him, but we are nearly allied by blood, and I would crave your courtesy to shew me the place of his residence.”
“The military commander of New Plymouth,” said the Captain. “You will find a warm heart, as well as a brave one, in him; and I will gladly go with you to his house, as soon as I can find a moment of leisure.”
So saying, they both sprang on shore, and Atherton continued walking alone, to and fro on the beach, until the crowd had dispersed, and he was rejoined by the Captain, from whom he learned with chagrin, that Captain Standish had gone to the Massachusetts Bay, to transact some public business, and that the period of his return was uncertain.
“It was an unlucky planet which presided at my birth,” he said, “but patience must be my counter-charm; and so, if it please you, Captain, I will return to your floating castle to-night, and the morrow may bring me better fortune.”
They, however, continued to walk on, for a considerable time, and almost in silence; it was a mild evening, in the early part of September; and, just escaped from the monotony of a long and tedious voyage, the bright and beautiful moonlight scenery floated before their eyes, like a vision of enchantment. Every object, half hid and half revealed, in the pale and uncertain light, was mellowed into grace; and not a sound was heard, except the sighing of the wind among the trees of the forest, which hung, like a cloud, around the skirts of the settlement; and the low murmuring of the ocean slowly rolling its waves upon the strand. The village of Plymouth, with its lowly houses and cultivated fields, alone interrupted the wild magnificence of nature; and, unimportant as it seemed amidst her vast dominions, was a striking monument of the enterprise of man, and the freedom and independence of his spirit.
The scene produced, in the mind of Atherton, sensations of mingled awe and delight; he felt as if translated to a holier and happier sphere; and, for a while, the passions, and hopes, and disappointments of earth, were lost in the novelty and intenseness of his emotions. He stopped, and gazed around; and his companion, who, if he did not comprehend the nature of his feelings, at least, forbore to interrupt them, retired within the shadow of a dwelling-house, apart from Atherton, who stood leaning against the twisted and gnarled trunk of a venerable oak, quite unconscious of his vicinity to the residence of man.
The evening was far advanced, the busy hum of voices had ceased, and a few feeble lights streaming through the narrow casements, and then suddenly extinguished, shewed, that the inhabitants were fast seeking their repose.
Suddenly, a low, sweet strain of vocal music stole upon the ear;—it gradually rose, and swelled into full cadence; and a female voice, soft, rich, and powerful, predominated in a slow and solemn tune of sacred melody. Atherton started, and looked round; but his half uttered exclamation of surprise was interrupted by the Captain, who softly approached, motioning him to silence.
“Hush,” said he in a whisper, “or we shall disturb the family, who are now at their evening worship; it is the custom here to begin and close each day with devotional exercises, in which the singing of a psalm is included.”
“And whose voice is that, so full of sweetness and harmony,” asked Atherton.
“It is Miriam Grey’s, the fairest maiden of New-England,” replied his friend; “but had we not better withdraw? I would not, for the world, be discovered loitering beneath the windows.”
“Oh no, not yet; hark!” said Atherton, almost breathless with attention; and again he listened, till the last notes died away; and even then lingered, hoping again to hear the voice, or at least to catch a glimpse of the fair musician: but he waited in vain; all continued silent; and, though a faint light shewed the apartment in which the family was assembled; they were screened from observation by a curtain, which hung against the casement. At that moment, too, a favourite dog, who had long shared the fortunes of Atherton, began to bark at some offensive object, threatening a speedy discovery; and he reluctantly turned from the spot.
During the remainder of their walk, Major Atherton sunk into a deep reverie: and his imagination was so excited by the events of the evening, and the novelty of his situation, that it was long after he retired to rest, before sleep visited his eyelids; —and, then, the sweet voice of Miriam Grey haunted his dreams. He awoke and heard only the waves lashing the sides of the vessel, and the wind whistling among the shrouds; and again closing his eyes, to exclude the day-light, which was beginning to steal into the cabin, he fell into a long and profound slumber.
Scenes of woe and scenes of pleasure,
Scenes that former thoughts renew,
Scenes of woe and scenes of pleasure,
Now a last and sad adieu! BURNS.
THE father of Major Atherton was left an orphan in early childhood; and, with an only sister, consigned to the guardianship of his maternal uncle, Sir Robert Fenly; who, in receiving his young charge from the hands of their dying mother, promised to watch over them with care, and faithfully discharge the duties of his interesting and responsible office; —a promise which he fulfilled, at least, to his own satisfaction, by entrusting their education and morals entirely to strangers; while, engaged in an eager pursuit of pleasure, which left no leisure from its selfish and absorbing engagements to observe the intellectual progress of his wards, he contented himself with remarking, from time to time, their proficiency in the outward accomplishments suited to their rank and age; and which, in his opinion, were alone of essential importance. But the gentleman he selected, as tutor to his nephew, was fortunately possessed of excellent principles, a vigorous understanding, and those attaching qualities of the mind and heart, which secured the entire confidence and affection of his pupil, and effectually counteracted his own pernicious example.
Young Atherton was naturally grave and reflective, but cheerful and unreserved in the society of those he loved, and susceptible of a depth and ardour of attachment, which could only be appreciated by those who knew him most intimately. Deeply feeling the indifference of his uncle, whose blind partiality to an only son seemed to exclude every other object of regard from his heart; and with few natural ties to interest his affections, they became almost entirely centered in his sister. Miss Atherton regarded her brother with enthusiastic tenderness; she was gay, innocent, and lovely; and, till her seventeenth year, scarcely experienced a pleasure, of which he was not the source, or participator. But, at that time, Atherton began to watch the progress of a still stronger and more engrossing passion; nor was it without many painful efforts, he could reconcile himself to the idea, that, in future, her heart would be devoted to another, and their pursuits and interests no longer united. But he was destined to receive a deeper and more lasting wound. The week previous to that appointed for her marriage, Miss Atherton was seized with a violent disorder, which brought her to an untimely grave, in the spring-tide of life and beauty, when all around her breathed of love and happiness, and the future seemed strewed with thornless and unfading flowers.
The health and spirits of Atherton sunk under the withering blow; nor was it till months of wretchedness had passed away, that a new misfortune aroused the dormant energy of his mind. Sir Robert Fenly died suddenly, leaving his affairs in a state of extreme derangement, and his improvidence and dissipation had not only ruined himself, but induced him to borrow freely from the inheritance of his ward, to support his extravagance, and pay the arrears of the gambling-table: and though he probably intended to refund it before his nephew became of age, death surprised him in the midst of his days, with his plan and schemes unaccomplished, and all that remained of a once noble fortune, was an entailed estate, which descended to his son and heir.
These tidings awoke Atherton from his lethargy of grief; stript at once of independence, and by the hand which ought to have cherished his interests, he felt the necessity of immediate exertion; and the effort happily diverted his mind from the calamity which had long entirely occupied it. Inclination decided him to embrace the profession of arms, and he obtained an ensign’s commission in a regiment of foot, then quartered in the village of ——, in Lancashire.
Atherton there became acquainted with Eleanor Standish, the heiress of an ancient family, whose hereditary estates were watered by the Douglas; and, deeply touched by the charms of her mind and person, he, for the first time, felt the full extent of his uncle’s injustice. It was no longer in his power to offer her an establishment suitable to her rank and expectations; and too generous to seek her affections under circumstances which must involve her in difficulties, he withdrew, in doubt and sadness, from her dangerous society.
The pacific reign of James the First, admitted few opportunities for military distinction; and, eager to engage in active duty, and acquire an honourable rank in his profession, Atherton obtained a furlough, and repaired to Holland, then the scene of contention between the disciples of Calvin and Arminius, each of whose followers had resorted to the sword to decide their controversy.
The intrepid bravery of the young Ensign, united with a prudence and judgment beyond his years, procured him the favour of the Prince of Orange, who distinguished him by his personal regard, and rewarded his services by promoting him to the command of a regiment. But amidst the bustle of a camp, Eleanor Standish retained her influence over his imagination, and occupied his thoughts in every moment of repose; for nearly two years he had been self-banished from her presence, and anxiety respecting her often weighed heavily on his spirits: he was, therefore, rejoiced when a suspension of hostilities at length permitted him to retire from the field, and return to his native country.
Colonel Atherton, on arriving in England, proceeded directly to Lancashire, impatient of a moment’s delay, until he reached the residence of Miss Standish. As he rode through the stately avenue, and looked wistfully at the mansion which used to be hospitably thrown open to admit the stranger, he was struck by the gloom and silence that surrounded it; and something like a melancholy foreboding damped the ardour of expectation. He knocked long and loudly at the door before he could make himself heard, and it was at last opened by an old domestic, whose countenance was familiar to him, though changed and sorrowful since the days when he had last seen it. His inquiries respecting the family were minute; but though he had fancied himself prepared for the worst, he was inexpressibly shocked by the intelligence he received.
Eleanor Standish had embraced the tenets of the Puritans; and with some others of her distinguished house, formally renounced the faith and worship of her ancestors. Her father, incensed at her conduct, and unable to effect a change in her newly adopted opinions, which were fixed by the dictates of conscience, banished her from his presence, and bequeathed his whole estate to a distant branch of the family. But a few months of loneliness, succeeded by a mortal illness, softened his heart towards his only child; and, in his last hours, she was again folded in his embrace, and blessed with his forgiveness. The arguments of the interested and prejudiced, however, had persuaded him that it would be criminal to leave his fortune at the disposal of one who would doubtless appropriate it to the use of a sect, which had already set at defiance the established laws and religion of their country; and he, therefore, made no alteration in his will; but added a codicil, which left his daughter heiress to her mother’s estate, sufficient to render her independent, but not rich. Eleanor was too happy at being restored to her father’s affection to regret the loss of superfluous wealth; though it was not without deep and painful emotion, that she bade farewell to the home of her youth, and retired to the house of a widowed relative in a distant part of the country.
Colonel Atherton listened with interest to the simple tale of the garrulous domestic¾he had been taught, from childhood, to believe the church of England infallible; and that, on the existence of its forms and privileges, depended the security of the crown, and all that was valuable to a loyalist. He had viewed with abhorrence, not unmixed with contempt, the surprising increase and firm resistance of the non-conformists, and conceived it the bounden duty of every faithful subject, to check their audacious pretensions. With these sentiments he naturally heard, with the keenest disappointment, that Eleanor Standish had united herself to that despised and persecuted sect; and, fondly as he loved her, pride and principle revolted from the idea of receiving a Puritan for the bosom companion of his future life.
Still, however, he would not at once relinquish his long cherished hopes; nor would he believe it possible that one so young and gentle could long remain blinded by the spirit of fanaticism. He resolved, at all events, to see her once more, were it only from respect to the memory of her father, and sympathy in her own misfortunes; and during his rapid journey thither he almost persuaded himself that these were the leading objects of his visit.
Colonel Atherton felt his heart beat quicker, as he drew near her sequestered dwelling; and, whatever had been his feelings and resolutions, prejudice vanished, and creeds and sects were forgotten, when he found himself again and alone in the presence of his beloved Eleanor. She looked paler than formerly, and her countenance was pensive, almost to sadness; but her smile was as sweet as ever, and her blushing confusion, more eloquent than language, revealed the untold secret of her heart.
Colonel Atherton, too happy to think of reason or resolve, yielded to the impulse of passionate tenderness, and whispered a tale of love, and hope, and constancy, which drew from her lips a confession, that her affections had been long devoted to him, nor did she shrink from a firm but modest avowal of the principles she had adopted, in the earnestness of sincere conviction, candidly acknowledging, that no worldly advantage would ever tempt her to forsake them; and her lover, convinced that arguments would be vain, freely conceded to her the rights of conscience, and promised her the full exercise of her religious principles and worship.
Their union, which shortly took place, proved happy beyond the common lot of mortals, and though Colonel Atherton had probably indulged the hope, that the tacit influence, or mild persuasions of the husband, would eventually restore his wife to the bosom of the church, a more intimate knowledge of her character satisfied him, that the opinions she had deliberately chosen, would continue to guide her through life. Mrs. Atherton was firm, but not bigotted; and, though strongly attached to her own creed, was far from condemning all others as erroneous. She reverenced the virtues of her husband, and happily exercised the rare prudence to avoid all religious controversy with him; while he, though unwavering in his faith, could not but respect the doctrines, which she so beautifully exemplified, by a life of uniform and unobtrusive piety and benevolence.
This mutual forbearance and liberality produced the desired effect on the mind of their only child, who, though educated in the forms of the established church, honoured the more austere principles of his mother, and listened, with submissive attention, to the pure and virtuous precepts, which distilled, like the ‘dews of Hermon,’ from her lips. His mind thus unprejudiced, and left to the guidance of reason and scripture, in all matters of mere nominal importance, escaped the infection of party-spirit, which excited so much rancour during his youth, and, afterwards burst forth, and subverted the pillars of church and state.
Edward Atherton grew up, gay, spirited and handsome; with all the vigour and enthusiasm of his father’s character, happily tempered by the vivacity and gentleness of his mother’s. Educated in retirement, and accustomed to little society, beyond his family circle, he entered into manhood with an ingenuous and well disciplined mind, a sanguine and adventurous disposition, and spirits buoyant with hope and happiness. Active in his pursuits, he betrayed an early pre-deliction for a military life, and, though not without many scruples, his parents at length consented to his wishes; and, at the age of eighteen, he received a lieutenant’s commission, in a regiment then commanded by his father. The regiment soon after received orders to sail with the army of the Duke of Buckingham, to succour the Huguenots of Rochelle; and, in that ill starred expedition, both father and son were distinguished by their courage and address; but Colonel Atherton received a mortal wound in the engagement, and died, a few hours after, in the arms of his afflicted son.
Edward Atherton, stricken in heart with the irreparable loss he had sustained, returned to the desolate mansion of his mother with the fatal intelligence; and, though it was disclosed to her with the utmost precaution, the shock produced an effect upon her health and spirits, from which she never entirely recovered.
Atherton’s talents and zeal in his profession, acquired him many friends, and he was advanced to the rank of major far sooner than he had anticipated; but, though surrounded by every allurement to pleasure and dissipation, his principles were untainted, and his heart ever turned, with affectionate solicitude, to the scenes of his earliest enjoyments; and, in every interval of duty, he flew to their quiet shades, and almost regretted, when the call of honour again forced him from the society of his beloved parent.
Mrs. Atherton survived her husband several years; they were passed in profound retirement, but filled up with active duties, employed in noiseless efforts to promote a cause, in which she believed the interests of religion involved; in works of charity and benevolence, particularly towards the persecuted Puritans, who were relieved by her bounty, and often sheltered beneath her roof. In the meridian of her days, she awaited, with perfect composure, the expected moment of her departure from a world, which had ceased to charm, happy in the virtue and prosperity of her son, and soothed in the last stages of a lingering decline, by his affectionate and unwearied attention. Never was a parent more deeply and justly lamented; and it was fortunate for Major Atherton that professional engagements drew him from the indulgence of his solitary grief.
Public events, at that time, engaged the attention of every one, and the affairs of the kingdom seemed daily assuming a more dark and threatening aspect. The number and influence of the Puritans was rapidly augmenting. Far from being intimidated by threats, they opposed a determined and zealous resistance to the arbitrary measures, which the impolitic obstinacy of Charles, instigated by the implacable Archbishop Laud, had adopted. An alarming insurrection had taken place in the Scottish capital, when, in compliance with a royal mandate, an attempt was made to read the Liturgy in its churches; and, already, a military force was regarded by many as indispensably necessary to crush the power and check the progress of the rebels.
Major Atherton was firmly attached to his father’s religion, and would cheerfully have encountered death, to advance the interests of his sovereign, and the glory of his country. But his conscience revolted from the idea of aiding in a war of persecution, against an inoffensive sect of Christians, who claimed nothing but the privilege of enjoying their opinions unmolested, and of sharing, with their fellow-subjects, the protection of the government, to which they acknowledged allegiance. Respect for the memory of his mother, and subduing recollections of her tenderness, her purity, her unaffected piety, strengthened these lenient sentiments. He could not cherish harsh and groundless prejudices against a sect which she had loved, and his father favoured; and, though he was daily accustomed to hear them derided and denounced, his judgment remained unbiassed, and, in spite of arguments and raillery, and against interest itself, he remained convinced that their cause was just, however mistaken, and that the rights of conscience were too sacred to be infringed by the arbitrary will of a monarch.
Still, however, an ardent love of his profession, and the natural desire to attain the honours which tempted his ambition, and seemed within his grasp, struggled long and powerfully against the convictions of reason and conscience. But the generous impulse of a candid and well-principled mind finally prevailed over every selfish consideration, and determined him to resign his commission, and with it the dreams of glory, which had so long delighted his imagination.
Major Atherton returned to Lancashire, depressed in spirits, and his father’s house no longer cheered by the smiles of those he had so fondly loved, awakened the most melancholy reminiscences. He had few around him to excite interest or affection, and in relinquishing the active duties, which had so long occupied his attention, he felt as if he had resigned the gay and busy world, and had no object worthy of pursuit and exertion. With such sombre feelings, the winter passed away drearily enough; but a dejection so foreign to his natural disposition could not long retain its influence; and the return of spring, with its train of rural pleasures, and varied occupations, gradually withdrew his thoughts from the past. An unexpected occurrence also took place, which gave a new impulse and direction to his mind.
Mr. Fullerton, an intelligent young man, who had resided several years in the colony of New-Plymouth, just at that time chanced to revisit England, and frequently met with Major Atherton at the house of a mutual friend. Warm and sanguine in his feelings, he confidently believed that New-England would soon become the most happy and favoured region of the earth; and painted its charms and advantages with an enthusiasm which completely dazzled the imagination of Atherton. Mr. Fullerton, without dreaming of such an effect, was daily imbuing him with a portion of his own spirit; and, from repeated conversations respecting the early colonists of America, he began to wish himself transported to their land of simple habits and uncorrupted morals. It was not long before these incipient desires became confirmed and active; and Major Atherton, romantic, fond of novelty and adventure, and rapid in his decisions, made speedy preparations for a voyage to the western world. Mr. Fullerton was pleased with his determination, and regretted that he could not accompany him; but business detained him in England, whence it was his intention to proceed to the Continent, and the period of his return was uncertain.
Major Atherton, eager to execute his project, committed his affairs to a trusty agent, and hastened to Falmouth, where a vessel was in readiness to cross the Atlantic. He arrived there just in time to secure a passage; in a few moments the moorings were loosed, and the white cliffs of his native land receded fast from his view. He stood with his eyes fixed on the shore he had left, perhaps for ever, till the highest stretch of land dwindled to a point, and hung like a light cloud in the distant heavens, and at last faded from his sight. He looked around¾the vessel pursued its tranquil course, cutting the deep green waves, and leaving far behind a foamy track; a strong breeze swelled the canvas, and, all around the circling horizon, the vast ocean mingled with the blue and cloudless sky.
¾¾¾ A man in chiefest trust,
Whose life was sweet and conversation just,
Whose parts and wisdom most men did excel;
An honour to his place, as all can tell.
NEW ENGLAND’S MEMORIAL.
THE day after his arrival at Plymouth, Major Atherton delivered several letters of introduction, with which Mr. Fullerton had furnished him, and, among others, one to Mr. Winslow, then governor of the colony. He was received by that gentleman with the most cordial hospitality, and so earnestly solicited to remain his guest, at least till he had arranged his future plans, that Atherton could not, without an appearance of affectation, refuse the offered courtesy. It was, indeed, a courtesy truly grateful to his feelings. Exhausted by the fatigues of a long voyage, and cast on a world of strangers, the society of an intelligent friend, and the comforts of a well-ordered family, were peculiarly soothing to his spirits. The unobtrusive attentions of all around him, which delicately inferred that they received rather than bestowed obligations, and the ease with which he found himself included in their domestic arrangements, removed from his mind every idea of intrusion, and he soon felt as perfectly at home, and free from restraint, as if only renewing an intercourse with his early and familiar friends.
Mr. Winslow, himself an experienced traveller, had too often enjoyed the kindness of strangers not to appreciate its value, and the native benevolence of his heart led him to embrace every opportunity to confer on others such civilities as he had gratefully received, under various circumstances, during his eventful life. A zealous adherent to the principles of the non-conformists, he attached himself to the church at Leyden, and embarked with the first adventurers for the then inhospitable region of North America. Possessed of uncommon activity and address, a sound judgment and discriminating mind, he acquired great influence with the colonists, and was early associated with others of approved worth in the management of their civil affairs. Every action of his life was dictated by the purest motives, and rendered subservient to their interests, and the advancement of that religion for which they had made such astonishing sacrifices. His prudence and gentleness rendered him particularly agreeable to the Indians, with whom he was often selected to negotiate; and the goodness of his heart and lenity of his disposition were, perhaps, as useful in maintaining harmony with them, as the more prompt and severe measures of the military commander.
Mr. Winslow, at the time of Major Atherton’s introduction to him, was still in the prime of life; he had experienced many vicissitudes of fortune, and, in travelling through various countries, had acquired an intimate knowledge of human nature, and that variety of information, which rendered him a most useful and entertaining companion. There was in his manners nothing of the gloom, so generally, and, too often, justly attributed to the Puritans; and Atherton ceased to remember the distinctions of party, in the freedom of social intercourse, and the interchange of liberal and enlightened sentiments.
At the hour of sunset,¾for it was Saturday¾the labours of the week were ended, and the Sabbath commenced. Every worldly employment was suspended, and the children forsook their playthings, and gathered in submissive silence around the knees of their parents. Books of devotion, religious conversation, and instruction, filled up the evening; and, at the customary hour, the assembled family united in the evening sacrifice of prayer and thanksgiving.
It was so long since Major Atherton had enjoyed the luxury of a neat and quiet bed, that he would, perhaps, have slept till an unseasonable hour on the following morning, had he not been awakened by a concert of young voices in an adjoining apartment. They were audibly repeating their Sabbath lessons; and, every now and then, a young urchin, more learned than his brethren, assumed the office of prompter, though generally hushed to silence by the mild command of Mrs. Winslow.
Atherton thought it rather uncomfortable to rise before the sun in a chilly September morning; but civility required him to observe the regulations of the house, and he hastened to join the family in the sitting-room. The duties of that holy day, as of every other, were commenced with religious exercises; a practice which the early settlers of New-England never omitted, though like many others which were their “glory and defence,” it has since become unfashionable, and, of course, too generally disregarded. Breakfast immediately followed, and all the children, as usual on Sunday, enjoyed the privilege of sitting at table, and sharing the wheaten loaf and a basin of chocolate, instead of their daily nutritious fare of milk and Indian bread. Every countenance beamed with cheerfulness and contentment; and Atherton thought he had never seen a more interesting family group.
At the accustomed hour, the governor and his whole household repaired to church, or rather to meeting, for that was the term which the dissenters substituted for one that savoured too much of prelacy. The public funds had not yet permitted the erection of a house of worship, but the fort already mentioned, which crowned the summit of a hill in rear of the village, had been prepared for that purpose. It was built with two stories; the upper planted with ordnance and flanked with battlements, and, in the lower, benches were arranged to accommodate the audience, with a desk elevated at one extremity for the minister, and, just below it, seats for the ruling elders or deacons.
Thither the inhabitants of the town were hastening, all arrayed in their best attire; mothers leading their tottling little ones, and young people supporting their aged parents, whom no consideration short of absolute necessity could detain from the public duties of the day. Atherton was struck with the air of reverence and respect with which every one seemed to approach the house of God; no news was circulated, no scandal whispered, no dress or fashion discussed, and even the mirthful faces of the children had assumed an expression of gravity and reflection.
The people bowed respectfully as Mr. Winslow and his family entered, and passed on to their usual places¾the governor’s rank entitling him to the upper seat with the magistrates, while the females ranged themselves on the opposite side of the edifice, separated by a broad passage from the other sex. Major Atherton, according to the usage of the church, remained a few moments absorbed in mental devotion, from which he was roused by a deep groan from an elderly female, accompanied by a look of horror, which could scarcely have been more profound had the whole hierarchy, or the Pope himself, stood before her. Reminded by the incident that he was not in an English chapel, but amidst a congregation of Puritans, who regarded the least approach to episcopacy with as much abhorrence as an act of sacrilege, he resolved to abstain from a practice which occasioned so much offence, and would probably excite many prejudices against him. As these reflections were rapidly crossing his mind, Mr. Reyner, the clergyman, a man of grave and solemn deportment, entered the assembly. He commenced the duties of his sacred office with a devout and fervent prayer, and then selected a psalm from the unharmonious version of the day, which he briefly expounded, for the benefit of the ignorant and the prevention of any false interpretation. One of the elders then arose and read the first line, when all the audience who could, and many who could not sing, united their melody to the words, and having completed the line, another was read, and so on through the psalm.
Strangely as this intermixture of reading and music sounded in the ears of Atherton, he was impressed with the deep devotion which seemed to animate every countenance, as they thus mingled their hearts and voices in the praises of their Maker. There was a touching eloquence in this simple worship, that he had seldom felt when listening to the most skilful performance that ever woke the tones of the organ, amidst the more imposing ceremonies of his national religion. An extemporaneous discourse succeeded this vocal harmony: and, though not copiously sprinkled with the flowers of oratory, it breathed a spirit of ardent piety, and strongly enforced the observance of moral duty, with a scrupulous regard to the peculiar tenets of the sect. This sermon, which, in matter and dimensions, exceeded half a score of modern ones, at length drew to a close; and the singing of another psalm concluded the services.
In this last exercise, Major Atherton was strangely attracted by a sweet and powerful voice, which sometimes soared above the others, and then, as if shrinking from the melody it created, murmured into silence, and again rose and mingled in the general strain. It came over his memory like a half forgotten dream of enchantment; nor was it till the lapse of several moments that he could identify it with the one which had so lately held him lingering beneath the windows of Miriam Grey. He looked around for the object which unexpectedly revived the interest then so strongly excited; and, directed by the same bewitching tones, his eye rested on a figure of uncommon delicacy and grace, closely enveloped in the folds of a silken scarf, which, with a hood of the same material, completely baffled his curiosity. Yet there was something superior, Atherton thought, something more tasteful, in short, indescribable, about this female. Young she must be, and how beautiful, he longed to know¾which rivetted his attention. Occupying a seat nearly parallel to her own, he could watch every movement without altering his position so much as to occasion remark; and the unconscious girl little suspected with what diligence every article of her dress, and every motion of her person, was scanned.
As soon as the congregation was dismissed with a blessing from the pastor, Atherton, in his haste to intercept her retreat, and to obtain a glimpse of her face, overturned a seat against the unlucky shins of a curly-pated boy, who, forthwith, set up a cry, which resounded through the building, and fixed the eyes of every one upon them. Miriam Grey turned, of course, and Atherton saw, peeping from beneath her hood, a pair of laughing blue eyes, with the features and complexion of a Hebe. Her cheeks were dimpled with smiles, which seemed excited by his disaster; but the instant she met his fixed and admiring gaze, she moved away with a deep and almost painful blush. Atherton could scarcely regret an accident which had crowned his wishes with success, but he felt bound in conscience to offer an apology for his carelessness, and, if possible, to pacify the still sobbing child, who was kicking lustily, in utter contempt of the tender caresses of several venerable damsels, who had gathered about him, and whose sympathy seemed to have a most perverse effect upon his temper.
Major Atherton, however, found his interference quite unavailing; and, as he was looking round for Governor Winslow, his step-son, Peregrine White, came towards him with a countenance which shewed how highly he was diverted by the passing scene. They left the house together, and, as they descended the hill, the quick eye of Peregrine readily detected the eagerness with which his companion continued to regard the figure of Miriam Grey, who tripped lightly on before them.
“There goes the handsomest lass in Plymouth,” said the youth; “and there, too, is the sanctimonious Benjamin Ashly walking by her side, whom her father wants her to marry, because he is gifted, and makes a speech almost every sabbath day at meeting, which generally lasts till the congregation are well nigh all asleep.”
“A powerful recommendation truly!” returned Atherton; “and is it likely to prove successful with the damsel?”
“It may be so,” replied the other; “but she is a sly little witch, and nobody can find out yet. I believe Master Ashly himself is as much at a loss to know as any one.”
“That respectable looking man, to whom she is now speaking, is her father, I presume?” said Atherton.
“Yes, and the most rigid sprig of orthodoxy that ever walked in the steps of Calvin: he is thought a ‘burning and shining light’ in the church here, but I confess there is too much smoke about it to enlighten my path, at least.”
“I am afraid you are wilfully blind,” said Atherton, smiling: “but has he been a long time in New-England?”
“Oh yes, he came over in the Mayflower, with the first company of settlers, and brought with him his wife, and Miriam, then scarcely a year old, and her cousin Lois, whom you see leaning on her arm. Mrs. Grey, I have heard my mother say, was very delicately brought up, and did not many years survive the change of climate and situation.”
Mr. Grey and his family, at that moment, reached the door of their residence; and, shortly after, Atherton and Peregrine White entered the house of Governor Winslow.
Peregrine White was a tall, handsome youth of seventeen, with a frank, intelligent, and very animated countenance, which was perfectly characteristic of his disposition. He was the first English child born in New-England, and his birth took place while the vessel, which had brought the Pilgrims to a frozen coast, was lying exposed to the severity of the season, before they had found a spot to rest upon, or a shelter for their wives and little ones. But neither these gloomy circumstances, nor the hardships to which his childhood was exposed, had left any traces on his mind. He was gay and thoughtless, loved a frolic better than any thing else, and though perfectly good-humoured and affectionate, so inconsiderate as to involve himself in frequent difficulties, and occasion constant anxiety to his friends. His father died soon after his arrival at Plymouth; and, in the following spring, Mrs. White was united to Mr. Edward Winslow, whose wife had fallen a victim to the sickness which carried away more than half their numbers, during the preceding winter; and this was the first marriage that was celebrated in the colony.
Peregrine White drew his hand over his face with a whimsical expression, as he threw open the parlour door; and then, with the utmost gravity and composure, followed Major Atherton into the room. The family were shortly reassembled, and partook, rather sparingly, of some light refreshments which were placed before them. Mrs. Winslow apologized to her guest for not having provided a dinner, observing that it was an established custom with the colonists to refrain from unnecessary labour on the Lord’s day, that their domestics might enjoy the privilege of public worship, to which they were equally entitled with themselves.
After an hour’s intermission they returned to the meeting-house: and the afternoon services differed considerably from those in the former part of the day. The puritans, on leaving their native country, adopted many opinions and modes of teaching, suited, perhaps, to their peculiar situation, but unpractised by their brethren in England. Being at first destitute of clergymen, the ruling elders, and others in esteem, were obliged to exercise their gifts to edify the people; a practice which became too common, and often misused, even after the settlement of a minister.
Instead of a regular discourse, the Governor arose, and propounded a question, touching certain controverted doctrines of their creed, and was answered in a brief and comprehensive manner by the pastor. Mr. Brewster, a ruling elder, then exhorted, or prophesied, as it was called, in a style of persuasive eloquence, and with a force and clearness of expression, which always distinguished his public teaching, and usually carried conviction to the heart and understanding of his hearers. He was followed by several of the congregation, and, among others, Benjamin Ashley spoke at some length, with a zeal, not exactly according to knowledge, and which Atherton thought strongly tinctured with arrogance and self-conceit. He certainly attended with more interest to the father of Miriam Grey, whose strongly marked, and rather severe countenance, energetic manner, and bold and searching language, rendered him a meet representative of the eminent reformer whose doctrines he so strenuously advocated. The assembly was then reminded of their duty in contributing to the support of the church and the necessities of the poor; when all advanced to the deacon’s seat, and put their mites into the bag destined to receive the offering. The singing of psalms also formed a part of the exercises, and Atherton again listened to a voice which had twice charmed him with its unrivalled melody, though he fancied that Miriam Grey cautiously avoided his observation; and, whether from accident or design, he was unable to obtain another view of her features.
“You will find our religious customs and opinions somewhat singular, Major Atherton,” observed the Governor, when they had left the house; “but I hope there has been nothing unpleasant to your feelings, though I am aware that our ideas essentially differ.”
“Perhaps not so very essentially, sir,” returned Atherton; “you will recollect that my mother was a dissenter, and I should feel a regard for her religion, even if my own experience did not bear witness to the purity and rectitude of many of its professors, and the wisdom and piety which have adorned their lives.”
“Many judicious and good men,” said Mr. Winslow, “have objected to the practice of prophesying, as it is generally used amongst us, and which is allowed in no other churches of New-England. It is a truth, and to our reproach be it spoken, that dissensions have already disturbed our peace, and grievous wolves have entered into the fold, and divided the sheep of the flock.”
“Do you attribute these divisions,” asked Atherton, “to the admission of the custom alluded to?”
“In a certain degree,” returned the Governor; “were the liberty of speaking subject to particular regulations, and confined to men who, like Elder Brewster, are gifted with the spirit of grace, and prepared by education and habit, it would doubtless tend to edification; and in the early period of the settlement, it was our only method of public Christian instruction. But, in later days, many godly ministers who have ‘cast in their lot’ with us, have been discouraged by finding their office assumed by brethren who vainly imagine themselves qualified to exhort; and thus a ‘door of contention’ has been opened, which our adversaries have not failed to use to our disadvantage, and sometimes to the hindrance of gospel ordinances.”
“I thought,” said Atherton, “that here, at least, the church was at rest; and that those free and virtuous spirits who braved so much for liberty of conscience, and the enjoyment of their religious privileges, were now reaping the reward of their laudable exertions, and sitting quietly under their ‘own vine and fig tree.’”
“They have done all that fallible man judged right and suitable,” replied the Governor; “and though perfection and complete success are not the portion of earth, we may still be permitted to hope, that what we have ‘sown in tears’ we hall hereafter ‘reap in joy;’ and that He who has ‘planted a vine,’ in this wilderness, will not cease to water it with his blessing. We are deemed enthusiasts, Major Atherton,” he added, with a smile; “but slight disappointments will never discourage those whose hearts are truly interested in a great design; and I trust that our children, and children’s children, even to the remotest posterity, will eat of the fruit of the tree which we have rooted and nourished; and that New-England will yet become the most favoured country of the world, even that ‘happy land whose God is the Lord.’”
Grave in council,
Firm in resolve, invincible in arms;
Yet jocund in the hour of ease, he lov’d
The merry jest and laughing brow of youth.
IN the course of a week, Captain Standish returned to Plymouth, and being soon apprised of his kinsman’s arrival, during his absence (for even in those early days the good people found some leisure to discuss the affairs of the village), he sent a message to the Governor’s, desiring Major Atherton to visit him as soon as he found it convenient and agreeable. Atherton’s curiosity to see a man who was regarded by the colonists as a second Joshua for valour and address, induced him to accept the invitation without delay. Peregrine White attended him as guide on the occasion; and after a walk of eight miles, they reached the house of his relative just in the dusk of twilight.
Peregrine White led the way without ceremony into a large, low apartment, brightly illuminated by a huge fire, which was blazing on a hearth occupying no inconsiderable part of the room, and which diffused a cheering warmth, peculiarly agreeable in a cool autumnal evening. One recess of the chimney-corner was occupied by a stout Indian, dressed after the English fashion, with the addition of a wampum belt, and other savage ornaments, strangely blended with his European costume. A fowling-piece rested beside him, and on a ledge, over the fire-place, lay his still smoking pipe, which seemed to have been put aside while he satisfied the cravings of hunger from a pewter basin of savory pottage, occasionally adding a relish from the carcase of a fowl which garnished his lap. His bold features were composed into the gravity peculiar to his race, and his tawny complexion was rendered more dark by the fitful light of the flame, which now flashed upon it, and again left him involved in shadow.
Captain Standish, the early hero of New-England, was seated in a three-cornered elbow chair, beside a round oaken table, discussing the merits of a brace of partridges, from which, with the assistance of some dried fish, and a quantity of Indian cakes, he was preparing to make a hearty supper. His repast was shared by his only son, a robust lad, while two surly mastiffs sat erect on each side of them, with their eyes fixed wistfully on the well-filled platter.
Captain Standish was small of stature, but his well-proportioned figure denoted great agility and muscular strength; his features were spirited and intelligent, his eyes dark and piercing, and his whole countenance indicated a frank and hasty temper, an active and decisive mind, and a warm and sanguine disposition.
This group was first apprised of the approach of visitors by the portentous growling of the dogs, who inhospitably attacked the defenceless favourite of Major Atherton, which had followed, or rather preceded him into the room.
“Come away, Towser, down with you, Bess,” cried the Captain in a loud voice, “shall I never teach you to be civil! Ah, is it you, Master Peregrine,” he added, on seeing his young acquaintance enter, “well, I am glad to see you, though you do always bring noise and confusion with you.”
“Thank you Captain,” said Peregrine White; “but, as it happens, I find the noise already here, for once, and have brought with me something which I think will be more acceptable.”
“Ah, my cousin Atherton!” exclaimed the Captain, rising briskly from the table, and seizing his hand, without the ceremony of an introduction; “you are truly welcome to Plymouth, though I am sorry I was not here to tell you so sooner; but sit down now, and we shall be better acquainted over our soldiers’ fare, if you will share it with me.”
“I am used to a soldier’s fare,” returned Atherton, “and thank you for a soldier’s welcome; but I should judge from the appearance of your trencher, that your campaigns had been made in a fruitful land; a camp does not often furnish such a profusion of good things.”
“True,” replied the Captain, “the Dutch burgo-masters know, as well as most people, how to regale their palates; and I served long with them in the days of our good Queen Elizabeth. But we will try what is set before us now, if you please, Major Atherton. Alexander, my lad, get up and give your kinsman a seat; are you so hungry as to forget your manners!”
The boy, with a very good grace, arose and placed chairs for the guests, and the important business of eating, was shortly resumed with alacrity.
“We want a light here,” said Captain Standish, again attacking the partridges; “Hobamock, throw away your pipe; it may not be quite so agreeable to every one, as it is to you and me; and give us a candle here quickly; we are none of us owls to see in the dark.”
The Indian rolled a column of smoke from his mouth, knocked the ashes from his pipe upon the hearth, and gravely rising, obeyed the Captain’s command. He then threw some dry wood into the fire, which sent forth a crackling sound, and a heat that penetrated to every recess of the apartment; after turning his eyes deliberately round the room, to ascertain if any thing else required his attention, reseated himself on a wooden stool, to doze away the evening.
The candle, which had been placed on the table, first distinctly revealed to Captain Standish the features of his kinsman; he examined them a moment in silence, and then observed,
“I see you have true Standish blood in your veins, Major Atherton; and I can now trace in your countenance a strong resemblance to my cousin Eleanor, though it is many long years since we met. She was just sixteen, when I left England, and the comeliest lass in Lancashire. Many a joyous hour have we passed together in the halls of our fathers; but I little thought, when I last bade her farewell, that I should never see her or my country more.”
“My mother often spoke of you, sir,” returned Atherton, “and always with affectionate interest; but I was then far from anticipating, that we should ever sit down together in this remote region of the earth.”
“It is the fortune of war to encounter sudden reverses,” replied the Captain; “but you have reached a quiet land at last, though if you love your profession, our savage neighbours will contrive to keep your sword from rusting.”
“My sword and best services will ever be at the command of any who stand in need of them,” returned Atherton; “but I have resigned my commission in the army, and expect, in future, to lead a retired and private life.”
“Well, we can find employment that will suit you in either case, if you like to remain with us. Your mother has brought you up in her own religion, I hope.”
“No, I am of the Church of England.”
“Humph, that is unlucky; but you need not make much stir about it; be regular and peaceable, and no one has a right to intermeddle with your conscience, though, to be sure, the good people here are rather fond of doing such things. But, may I ask, have you any particular plans to execute.”
“None at all. I am at present a citizen of the world; and have travelled hither from mere curiosity, and the want of other employment. I admire the country, as far as I have seen it; am charmed with the simplicity and goodness of those who inhabit it; and, if nothing occurs to change my feelings, may yet sojourn with you for a long time.”
“Admirable!” cried the Captain, rising and leading the way to the fire. “I think we shall fix you here for life. I tell you cousin Atherton, there is no country in the world so happy, or that will be so glorious, as New-England. Had you seen it in 1620, when we landed, famishing and almost frozen, you might have turned back a longing eye to the goodly fields of England; but, by the blaze of this warm fire, and on the strength of our evening’s meal, I think we can arrange a better prospect for you.
“And what shall I do to keep myself out of mischief?” asked Atherton. “I have been used to an active life, which gave constant exercise, both to my mind and body.”
“We will contrive to amuse you, through the winter,” answered the Captain; “and in the spring you can learn to till a farm, and provide for a family, when you have one, which will be exercise enough.”
“Rather more than I had anticipated,” said Atherton, smiling; “a wife is a blessing I have scarcely thought of as yet.”
“It is a thought, which is very apt to run in a young man’s head, though,” replied the Captain, “at least, till he is fairly tied to one. But we will not hurry you in that matter; though I can shew you as comely maidens, and as prudent ones withal, as you could meet with in Old England itself.”
“Now I’ll wager any thing, Captain,” said Peregrine White, “that you are thinking of Miriam Grey; but Major Atherton has seen her already.”
“What, seen my little rose-bud, Major Atherton?” said the Captain. “You are a true soldier, to be looking about for pretty damsels, as soon as you get into new quarters.”
“It was quite accidental,” returned Atherton; “and, after all, only a momentary glimpse at church.”
“There was no lack of peeping though,” rejoined Peregrine, archly; “but her new hood is unluckily a very close covering; don’t you think so, Major? ”
“Never mind, Peregrine,” said the Captain significantly; “as Benjamin Ashly is to be her husband, what does it signify;” while he spoke he fixed his keen eye on Atherton, who, without exactly knowing why, turned his towards the fire.
“And what news do you bring us from England, Major,” resumed Captain Standish, after a moment’s pause.
“None particularly interesting, I believe,” answered Atherton:¾“indeed I have lived almost out of the world for the last few months; and, to confess the truth, have been too much engrossed by my own concerns, to observe what was passing around me.”
“Well, and our good King Charles has lost none of his obstinacy, I suppose; I doubt you would have heard of that.”
“Not enough, I fear, for his own good, or the welfare of his subjects. His hereditary zeal for kingly prerogative is likely to prove a fruitful source of evils to the kingdom.”
“So I thought; and that comes of having an obstinate father, and a papist wife; the former he could not help, the more’s the pity; and for the last, the Lord help us; but the women will have their own way; they would rule us all, if they could, cousin Atherton.”
“Yet Queen Henrietta is a beautiful and accomplished woman, with a high and dauntless spirit, worthy of her descent from the most illustrious monarch, who ever sat on the throne of France.”
“So much the worse, if her husband cannot govern it,” persisted the Captain; “but that Archbishop Laud,¾is he fining, imprisoning, and persecuting yet?”
“I did hear that a warrant had been issued, at his instigation, to prevent any non-conformist ministers from leaving England; and the severities exercised against the laity of that persuasion, are also attributed to his influence. Great numbers have sold their estates, and intend, shortly, to embark for America.”
“It is an ill wind that blows nobody good,” said Peregrine White, who thought it was quite time for him to speak; “I hope they will help us to clear out the wilderness, when they get here.”
“The great hurricane of last year,” replied the Captain, “felled a good many trees; and, if it had moved them out of the way, I should have made more speed on my journey homeward. And now tell me, Peregrine, what you have been doing since I left Plymouth?”
“Me! Captain? I have been hunting, and fishing, and¾”
“And all sorts of good-for-nothing things, I warrant thee,
jack-a-napes,” interrupted the Captain; “I don’t mean you, but the town, the colony, Master Peregrine.”
“Why just what they have been doing ever since I came into it,” returned Peregrine; “but I hope you have brought something to entertain us, from the Massachusetts.”
“I heard of nothing there,” said the Captain, “but Mrs. Hutchinson, who has set them all in a flame, and the new governor, with whom some are already discontented. He has taken great state upon himself, and goes to the court and meeting with four sergeants walking before him, carrying halberds in their hands. Mr. Winthrop, who spent his fortune in the service of the people, had more humility; and, I do believe, this Governor Vane, in spite of his quality, and his grave visage, and clipped head, is imposing on them.”
“And what are they doing to Mrs. Hutchinson?” inquired Peregrine White¾
“Doing to her!” returned the Captain with some warmth, “what, they fled from England to avoid themselves!
These Massachusetts are a meddling people, and they seem to have grown so fond of persecution, since they escaped from the reach of it, that they have a mind to try its efficacy in their own church, and undertake to discipline whomsoever they choose. God knows there is little enough of charity in our colony; but it is some comfort to find we are not quite so bad as our neighbours.”
“Who is this female,” asked Atherton, “and of what crime has she been guilty, to draw upon herself so much reproach?”
“The crime of thinking differently from her opposers,” said the Captain. “She is a respectable gentlewoman, and her husband was long a representative in the court. But she is now accused of teaching false doctrines, holding unlawful meetings, and divers other misdemeanors: and the whole country is divided into parties, for and against her. I am sure it is no such strange thing for a woman’s head to be filled with idle notions; and, if the magistrates would only let her alone, she would soon come to her senses; but I am told she is to be tried by a council, and, it is thought, will be banished from the colony.”
“Well, peace go with her!” exclaimed Peregrine White, “I only hope she will not come here; for we have meetings and exhortations enough now to keep the elders employed, and Benjamin Ashly too. But did you hear any thing about the Pequods, Captain? It is reported here, that they have murdered John Oldham at Block Island, and are detected in plotting against the English.”
“It is true; the traitorous savages!” said the Captain, “and instead of treating for peace with them, the whole race ought to be exterminated. Oldham was a pestilent fellow, to be sure, but that is no reason why he should be hacked up, when trading peaceably with them, in their own country.”
“Was the unfortunate man alone,” asked Atherton, “when the crime was perpetrated?”
“No, he had with him two boys, and as many Narraganset Indians, whose lives were all spared. The master of a bark from Connecticut accidentally fell upon the wretches, soon after the deed was accomplished, and, assisted only by a man, and two lads who were with him, retook Oldham’s vessel, which was filled with hostile Indians, several of whom were drowned in attempting to escape. Block Island is subject to the Narraganset tribe; but they seem to have had no hand in the murder, which was, doubtless, instigated by the Pequods, with whom the offenders have sought refuge.”
“Have no further attempts been made to punish the murderers?” asked Atherton.
“Yes, the Governor of Massachusetts sent four-score men, under Captain Endicot of Salem, with offers of peace, if they would give them up; but after parleying for some time, they refused, and fled into the woods.”
“And Captain Endicot pursued them, I hope,” said Peregrine.
“No, he burnt their wigwams, destroyed their corn, staved their canoes, and returned home to seek more comfortable winter quarters. I wish I had been there,” continued the Captain, with earnestness; “not a dog of them should have escaped; I know their metal well; and, though generally fearless of death, a few dauntless Englishmen can put half a tribe of them to flight. These savages, Major Atherton, are so perfidious, that no treaty can bind them; and so jealous of us, as to aim continually at our total ruin. Many a foul plot has been revealed to us; and, in the days of our feebleness, nothing but the watchful providence of God preserved us from their evil designs.”
“And your own valour, Captain,” observed Peregrine White; “you always forget to bring that into the account. But I can tell Major Atherton, how you went with only eight men, to the settlement of Wessagusset, which was filled with Indians, and boldly attacked the sachems Wittuwamet and Pecksuot, who were the terror of the whole land; and a great many other wonderful stories.”
“Yes, yes,” interrupted the Captain, impatiently, “nobody doubts your ability to tell wonderful stories, Peregrine. I have had proof enough of it from your youth up. But there is Hobamock nodding in the corner, and Alexander fast asleep on a bench yonder. The boy seems wearied by his long march yesterday; and, in truth, his young legs have never executed so much in one day before.”
“And I had forgotten,” said Atherton, rising, “that you had been travelling so lately, and must need repose; indeed, the evening has passed so pleasantly, that I scarcely thought of returning.”
“Oh, we think lightly of a walk through the woods, once or twice a year, to the Massachusetts,” said the Captain, “and should be half ashamed to acknowledge ourselves fatigued by it. But you must not leave me to night, cousin Atherton; I have a bed ready for you, such as it is, and you will not forsake the house of your kinsman, for a stranger’s roof.”
“I scarcely feel that any are strangers here,” returned Atherton, “I have been treated with so much kindness and attention; but the Governor expects me to return, and I cannot leave his hospitable family with so little ceremony.”
“Yes, you must indeed, go home with me,” said Peregrine White, “or you will disappoint us all; to-morrow, you know, we are to have some sport in the shooting way, and the next day¾”
“Oh, your endless plans,” interrupted the Captain. “I tell you, young man, they will some day bring you into mischief.”
“Well, I know, Captain, you will do your best to get me out of it.”
“Not I, at least, till you have suffered enough for your folly to cure you of it, which will be no brief period. An’t now, Major Atherton, promise to come back, to-morrow, and take up your abode with me.”
“To-morrow, then,” said Atherton, “I will see you again.” And cordially shaking hands, they parted.
Peregrine White lingered a moment behind, while Captain Standish attended Atherton to the outer door; and, feeling his habitual love of mischief prevail, adroitly contrived to roll the sleeping Alexander upon the floor. He fell with a dead weight on one of the surly mastiffs, which set up a howl that awakened his companion, who instantly joined in the chorus, producing a confusion of sounds, that speedily recalled the Captain and Atherton to the room. They entered, just as the lad was scrambling up, with a somniferous growling, and the Indian, roused by the noise, was starting on his feet, and instinctively seizing his fowling-piece. His straight black hair, which had been discomposed by his recumbent posture, stood almost erect, and his dark eyes rolled wildly round, as if seeking the cause of the unusual commotion. Captain Standish quickly discovered the author of the bustle; but his intention of rebuking the culprit vanished, the moment he saw him, and his gravity yielded to a fit of laughter, in the midst of which, Peregrine White made his escape.
From the crown of his head, to the sole of his foot, he is all
mirth; he hath a heart as sound as a bell; and his tongue
is the clapper; for what his heart thinks, his tongue speaks.
THE broad disk of the sun was just visible above the horizon, when Major Atherton and Peregrine White, with their fowling-pieces and dogs, left the house to engage in the projected sports of the day.
They were accompanied, a short distance by the Governor, whose agricultural pursuits often required his early attendance in the field of labour; for, like the Roman Cincinnatus, the primitive rulers of New-England were accustomed to mingle the useful arts of husbandry with the higher duties of their office. Elected by a grateful people, not from the prejudices of party spirit, or the paltry attractions of outward state; but for sterling qualities of the mind, piety of heart, and rectitude and uprightness of character, they presided with dignity, and commanded respect, alike in the council chamber, and in the more humble duties and familiar intercourse of life. Ambition had not then assumed the mask of patriotism, nor were the unprincipled and licentious elevated to the “high places” of the land.
As Mr. Winslow and his companions pursued their walk, they were continually greeted by the inhabitants of the village, who were scattering abroad on their daily vocations; and Atherton remarked with pleasure, the cordial salute of the Governor, equally removed from pride and meanness, and the respect and hearty good-will with which it was returned. He involuntarily compared it with the fatiguing splendours of royalty, and the often heartless shouts of applause, which follow the steps of a monarch; and his already favourable prepossessions of the country were augmented by the comparison. They rested a few moments on the summit of a hill beyond the town; and while Peregrine White amused himself with training his dogs to perform various feats of dexterity and cunning, the Governor and Major Atherton regarded in silence the varied and beautiful scenery, which was stretched around them.
“I love to rest on this spot,” said the Governor, at length, “nor can I look round on this goodly prospect, without emotions of gratitude to Him, who has so wonderfully prospered the work of our hands, who ‘remembered us in our low estate,’ ‘ brought us out of our afflictions,’ and in the latter end, has ‘ blessed us in our basket, and in our store.’”
“I regard with surprise,” replied Atherton, “the astonishing success of your exertions; how dreary must this place have been when you first arrived here!”
“Nor is it possible now to form an idea of it,” returned the Governor. “Expecting to reach a fruitful and temperate climate, we found ourselves treacherously cast on an icy and barren coast, obliged to struggle with disease and famine; while those, whom we most loved, were perishing miserably before our eyes, through excess of hardship and fatigue. Some were at times well nigh discouraged; but the Lord gave us ‘strength, according to our day,’ and when our ‘staff of bread’ failed, the earth yielded us ground nuts, and we eat of ‘the abundance of the seas, and of the treasures hid in the sand.’”
“How,” asked Atherton, “did you escape destruction from the savages, who so greatly exceeded you in numbers, and always viewed you with dislike?”
“They seemed filled with dread of us, feeble as we then were,” said Mr. Winslow; “we seldom saw them, except in small numbers, as we sailed along the coast, and they always fled at the report of our fire-arms. We were informed by a friendly Indian, who came to us in the spring, that, four years previous to that time, a dreadful sickness had almost depopulated this part of the country; and we could not but regard it as a signal interposition of Providence which had thus ‘cast out the heathen’ before us, to make way for a people who would spread the true religion throughout the land. Had they fallen upon us when we were sick and defenceless, we could have opposed but little resistance to their savage ferocity.”
“I understand,” said Atherton, “that many of their tribes now maintain a friendly intercourse with you.”
“They do so, and particularly the powerful Sachem Massasoit and his subjects, who inhabit the northern shore of the Narraganset Bay, about forty miles distant from us. A few months after our arrival, the Sachem sent us a present of furs, with a message announcing his intention of visiting us; and, shortly after, he appeared on this very hill, with a train of sixty attendants, all decorated with the skins of wild beasts, and frightfully disfigured by paint. The chief signified his pleasure that one of us should come to him; and, being requested by the Governor, I went alone, and carrying a present; though, I assure you, Major Atherton, I could hardly approach such wild looking beings without trembling. I remained with them as an hostage, while Massasoit, with twenty of his men, unarmed, descended to the brook yonder, where they were received by Captain Standish and six of our people, who conducted the Indians to a house. They were seated on cushions placed on the floor, and feasted after the English fashion. Governor Carver presently entered, followed by a few musketeers, with a drum and trumpet, which caused them great astonishment and delight. We then entered into a treaty of peace and friendship with them, which has ever since been faithfully preserved on both sides.”
“How could you understand their barbarous dialect?” inquired Atherton; “or did you converse only by signs?”
“We found an interpreter,” said Mr. Winslow, “in an Indian sagamore, who early adventured amongst us, and had learned something of our language from the English traders and fishermen who used to frequent the coast. There was also another savage, called Squanto, who attached himself to us, and on many occasions did us good service, though he eventually proved treacherous. Several years before, he, with twenty others, were decoyed on board a vessel by one Master Hunt (who came hither under pretence of trading with the natives), and carried to Malaga, where they were sold for slaves. Squanto was afterwards sent to England, and is the only one who has ever returned here. This perfidious act of our countryman justly incensed the savages against all white people, and it is not strange that they should wish to exclude such dangerous neighbours. But I must leave you, Major Atherton: we lead a pastoral life here, you see, and the labour of our fields, and welfare of our flocks, must be attended to.”
“I am glad my father has done his speech,” exclaimed Peregrine White, springing from the ground, the moment he had left them. “But who comes here? Hobamock, as I live, with Alexander and the mastiffs.”
And, in truth, the Indian, who had heard their arrangements on the preceding evening, and loved every wild adventure, now came running swiftly towards them, followed by Alexander Standish, who was tugging up the hill, almost out of breath, and pettishly accusing his more nimble-footed companion for leaving him in the rear.
“Why won’t you stop for me, Hobamock? I can’t keep up with you,” they could hear him say.
“Your legs be younger than mine, and I do carry your gun,” returned the Indian, who was, in fact, loaded with two pieces.
“And what have you come here for, Hobamock?” asked Peregrine, as soon as he was within hearing.
“I come for shoot you, Master Peregrine.”
“Shoot me! you copper-coloured rascal, do you mean so?”
“Shoot for you the birds, Master Peregrine, I mean, and then make a fire for eat them in the woods.”
“Oh, you come to eat, did you? Well, let’s on then. But stop; what ails you, Alexander?”
“Nothing,” said the boy, and snatching his fowling-piece from the hand of Hobamock, he followed them a few moments in silence. But his cheerfulness soon returned; for he was naturally gay and good-tempered, though rather self-willed, which might be attributed to the want of early discipline, having lost his mother in infancy, and, his father’s public duties calling him frequently from home, had left him much at his own disposal.
The little party proceeded gaily on their way, and soon struck into the mazes of a deep forest, where Peregrine White augured they should find plenty of game. They followed a winding path along the margin of a clear stream, that floated on its billows the red and decaying leaves of autumn; and, after struggling on its course, and frequently forcing a passage over fragments of rocks and trunks of fallen trees, from which they dashed in broken and foaming sheets, producing miniature water-falls of exquisite beauty, at length terminated in a small lake, fringed with the quivering birch and drooping willow, which dipped their flexile branches in the waves, already strewed with their transient foliage.
Major Atherton, charmed with the romantic beauty of the spot, lingered far behind his companions; and, busied with his own thoughts, heeded not their merry voices and loud peals of laughter, which grew fainter and fainter, till they were no longer distinguished from the whistling of the breeze and the monotonous rippling of the waters. The report of a gun at length roused him to a consciousness of his lonely situation; and, hastening to the place from whence the sound proceeded, he found Peregrine White reloading his piece, with an air of extreme vexation.
“I thought we had lost you, Major Atherton,” he said; “I wish you had been here, just to have seen the fine covey of partridges that I started; but the foolish birds chose to make the best of their way off as soon as the shot began to fly.”
“Foolish indeed!” replied Atherton, “to make use of their wings when such an honour awaited them; but I fear we shall not find much sport here; there seems little but dried leaves stirring to-day!”
“Not much else in the bottom of that muddy pool where you have been looking this half hour,” said Peregrine; “but see there!” and he aimed steadily at a bird which was perched at some distance. But the keen eye of Hobamock had already marked it, and his unerring aim brought it in an instant fluttering to the ground. Peregrine White’s third attempt however proved more fortunate, and abundantly recompensed him for his past mortification; and each having been more or less successful, they began to feel strong appetites produced by their exercise, and commissioned Hobamock to kindle a fire under the trees, and cook their game. The Indian obeyed with alacrity; and stripping the birds of the beautiful plumage which they had lately sported with such innocent joy in their native bowers, he was preparing to lay them on the coals, when the distant echo of fire-arms announced that other sportsmen were amusing themselves in the forest.
“We will see who is here,” said Peregrine, springing forward, and crushing the brushwood under his feet; “and do you run on, Hobamock; and if it is any of your sooty brethren, warn them to be civil to us.”
“I will stay and take care of the dinner,” said Alexander; “only don’t be gone long if you want me to save any for you.”
“You must have a lion’s appetite to eat all those birds,” said Peregrine, laughing; “but mind and keep a good bunch to carry home and show.”
Again he bounded onward, and Atherton with equal agility, followed through the various intricate windings, where the bending saplings marked the footsteps of Hobamock, who had left the beaten track, and trusted to the guidance of his ear for a nearer course to the place from whence the sound had proceeded.
They at length overtook him, just on the verge of a sunny slope, which for a considerable space had been cleared of trees; while the ruins of a wigwam and some vestiges of a corn-field shewed that it had once been the abode of Indians. Three savage warriors, in the prime of manhood, were carelessly reclined on the ground, and, as usual when weary or idle, regaling themselves with smoking tobacco; while, at a little distance, a female was busied over a large fire, apparently in some culinary preparation. She occasionally stooped and sung, in a low sweet tone, to an infant child that lay on the ground beside her; and which, according to their custom, was stretched on a board, and its little limbs confined with cords; a custom which kept it secure when travelling on the back of its mother, and doubtless contributed to form that straightness of limb for which the race are so remarkable.
The men were partially covered with deer skins, extending, like trowsers, to their feet, which were guarded by mocassins of the same material. From their shoulders depended a sort of cloak, composed of a beautiful variety of furs; their heads were decked with feathers, and their faces painted with divers colours, extracted from the juice of certain plants, and representing the most hideous figures. The eldest, and apparently a chief, was distinguished by a plume of eagle’s feathers, and a necklace of carved bone hanging down to his waist, which was encircled by a belt of wampum.
The dress of the Squaw differed little from the others, except that, with the usual predilection of her sex for ornament, she had profusely, and with some taste, mingled the most gaudy colours with her straight and glossy hair, and adorned her neck, arms, and ancles, with bracelets of glass beads.
As soon as the keen-eyed Indians observed the approaching figures of Major Atherton and Peregrine, they started on their feet with extreme quickness; and the chief, advancing forward a few paces, waited to receive them, leaning on his fowling-piece, his companions standing on either side of him, with their bows bent, prepared to take deadly aim, if any violence were offered them. Nothing could exceed the dignity and grace of their attitudes, the vigour and symmetry of their forms, or the noble, though fierce expression of their countenances. Hobamock hastened to meet them with words of peace; and, after listening to him with profound attention, they threw aside their weapons, and reseating themselves on the ground, by expressive gestures invited the young men to join their circle. They accordingly seated themselves, and through the interpretation of Hobamock, entered into conversation with the Indians, which was particularly interesting to Atherton, who had much curiosity to learn something of that singular race of people, and to see them in their native wildness.
These warriors were of the Wamponeag tribe, subjects of the Sachem Massasoit, and on their way to Plymouth, to trade with the people in furs. They were very courteous in their manners; and, as a mark of peculiar kindness, offered each of their transient guests a share of their lighted tobacco, and seemed much surprised that Atherton declined so great a luxury, which was however accepted with becoming gravity by Peregrine, though the use of it excited many wry faces. The squaw was then ordered to fetch an earthen vessel of strong water; for so they called the ardent spirits which were given them by the Europeans, and which was even then a fruitful source of traffic and of cheating, for they would barter the most valuable articles to satisfy their thirst for what has proved the instrument of their destruction.
Atherton felt obliged to put the draught to his lips, though he thought it scarcely more palatable than the pungent weed he had just refused; and, in returning the remainder to the young female who stood waiting to receive it, he could not but remark with admiration the timid gentleness of her manner, which gave a charm to the delicacy of her features and the softness of her olive complexion. She seemed to regard with great tenderness the little papoose, who awoke and began to cry; but the moment she attempted to soothe him she was sternly ordered back by her savage lord, whose commands were implicitly obeyed; for the females of those tribes are accustomed to endure the caprice of their indolent tyrants, and to perform the most servile and fatiguing labour with unrepining meekness.
Peregrine White at length reminded Atherton that their dinner would be spoiled by waiting, or eaten up by Alexander and his dogs; and having no inclination to lose their feast after so long an abstinence, they parted from their friendly entertainers, leaving with them a small present, which was always expected by an Indian from a white person with whom he had any intercourse.
On returning to the spot where they had left their game under the care of Alexander, Peregrine White, who preceded his companions, startled them with exclaiming¾
“What is here? The boy has served us a pretty trick, in good truth. Alexander! Alexander!”
But no voice replied to him, and Atherton hastening to the place, perceived with surprise the fire which they had kindled almost extinct, and their birds lying blackened to a coal on the mouldering embers. Those which they had reserved as trophies of their success had all disappeared with the faithless guard who was entrusted with the care of them. Peregrine White gave vent to his indignation by a blow aimed with his foot, and with a force that threw the half-consumed brands in various directions, and ejected a fragment into the face of Hobamock, leaving a dark stain upon his swarthy skin, though his countenance preserved its usual gravity, mingled with an expression of astonishment, as he regarded the impotent wrath of the youth, whose anger proved as transient as it had been ungovernable, and yielded to a burst of mirth on beholding the blackened visage of the Indian, who began leisurely to wipe it off with a bundle of dried leaves.
“Let it be, Hobamock,” said Peregrine, “it will serve you for paint as well as any other daubing.”
“I use no paint, Master Peregrine, now that I live with white people.”
“Well, I wish it had been Alexander instead of you; but he shall pay dearly for his roguery yet. And now, what can we find to eat?”
Hobamock had brought a few Indian cakes to relish their expected repast, which, for the want of better fare, they consumed with sportsmen’s appetites; and, with this meagre refreshment, and a draught from a pure stream, to the fountain-head of which Hobamock led them (for an Indian will long endure thirst, rather than drink but at the source of even the clearest water), they returned, somewhat crest-fallen, to the village.
Peregrine White in particular, who boasted much of his dexterity in shooting, and had promised in the morning to return well laden with game, felt no little mortification; and expecting the raillery of his family, proposed to Atherton, as they passed the beach, to try their luck in fishing, that they might have something to carry home with them. Atherton readily consented; and, hailing a boat which was just pushing from the shore, they were cheerfully admitted by the man who occupied it, leaving Hobamock, at his own desire, to return to his family.
The little bark skipped lightly over the waves, and was soon without the harbour, where they anchored and prepared their baits, assured by the experienced fisherman who guided them, that there would be no lack of nibbling. His prognostic proved correct, and the place yielded such an abundance of its finny treasure, that in a short time they procured sufficient to make amends for the disasters of the morning;¾about sunset they steered towards the shore. Several boats which had been fishing in the bay also tacked about and bore homeward, and in one of them Peregrine White perceived Mr. Grey and Benjamin Ashly; but they were far behind, and in a larger vessel, which struggled hard against the wind.
On approaching the shore, they observed two females walking the beach, and occasionally stopping to regard them with attention. As they came near enough to distinguish objects with certainty, Peregrine White exclaimed¾
“That is Miriam Grey and her cousin Lois, as I am alive; shall we go and speak with them, Major Atherton?”
“As you please; I have no objection.”
“So I thought,” said Peregrine, significantly. “Tug hard at your oars, John, or they will be off.”
The boatman applied all his strength; but Atherton thought the bark moved slower than ever, particularly when the females approached near the water’s edge, and apparently ascertaining their persons, turned carelessly away, and retreated behind a cliff that entirely concealed them.
“I will find them yet,” said Peregrine White, leaping on the strand, which they at that moment gained; “follow me, and be still.”
He sprang quickly forward, in a direction opposite to that chosen by the persons he was seeking, and throwing down his scaly burthen, began to ascend a craggy rock, which projected one side into the sea, and was rendered extremely slippery by the adhesion of sea-weeds left by the receding tide, and the spray which continually dashed over it. Atherton followed him in silence to the summit, remaining a few paces behind, till he distinctly heard the sound of voices rising from beneath the cliff.
Peregrine White stooped, and looking down, saw, as he expected, Miriam Grey and her cousin below, talking together, and quite unconscious that any one was observing them. He silently dropped a small pebble on the head of Miriam; who, supposing it accidental, continued conversing without regarding it; but another, and another, fell on her neck and shoulders: and before she had time to look around, a large handful rattled down the crag and lay scattered at her feet. She uttered an exclamation of surprise, which brought Atherton to the verge of the precipice, though he remained screened from observation by a fragment of the rock, from whence he watched with interest the light figure of Miriam Grey. She stood in an attitude which expressed an intention of flight, with one foot extended as in the act of bounding forward; yet, still lingering on the spot, and casting an eager glance around to ascertain the cause of her alarm. She had pushed back the hood that shaded her countenance, which was flushed with surprise; though the first impulse of womanish fear had given place to an expression of spirit and resolution. On looking up and perceiving Peregrine White, she assumed an air of displeasure, which, however, seemed unusual to her, and her features soon resumed their wonted sweetness and vivacity, and her deep blue eyes an archness peculiarly their own.
Lois Grey, a demure and comely damsel of twenty-eight, first broke the silence.
“Your time is well employed, I think, Master Peregrine, in showering down stones upon us.”
“Not upon you, Lois, they did not touch so much as the hem of your garments. I only gathered a few small stones, like David of old, from the great brook yonder, to frighten Miriam, and revenge myself on her for running away when she saw me coming to her.”
“I run away from you!” said Miriam, “I only saw you sailing on the water, and how could I know you were coming to me?”
“Ah, you knew well enough,” said Peregrine; “but it is not the first time that you have served me so.”
“And it is not the first time,” said Miriam, pointing with a smile to the pebble stones, “that I have had good reason for avoiding you. But I came hither to meet my father¾did you see his boat coming in?”
“Yes, and Benjamin Ashly was with him; but I suppose you know that already.”
“Indeed I did not,” said Miriam eagerly, and slightly colouring.
“Well, I tell you he is,” returned Peregrine; “and they have this moment touched the strand¾there goes the honest deacon that is to be, with a heavy load of fish on his back; I would you were up here to look at him, Miriam.”
“I have not the least curiosity on the subject, and am quite satisfied with my lowly station,” replied the damsel; “but I must be gone; good bye to you, Peregrine.”
“Stop a moment,” cried Peregrine, “here is somebody who wants to see you.”
Before Atherton was aware of his design, the youth pulled him suddenly by his arm from behind the rock, in view of Miriam Grey, who had instinctively stopped, and now stood abashed before him.
Atherton, though provoked at the awkwardness of his situation, retained his self-possession; and, on the whole, acquitted himself better than could have been expected, considering the uneasiness of his position on the summit of a dizzy crag. Miriam Grey silently courtesied to his salute; but a smile played on her lips as she glanced at him through her long eye-lashes, and beheld him hovering in the air above her; then taking the arm of Lois, they walked quietly away, leaving Atherton to deprecate the mischievous spirit of Peregrine, which had led him into so ridiculous an adventure.
“Now wasn’t that well done!” exclaimed Peregrine White in an exulting tone, and striking the shoulder of Atherton with a force which at once started him from his musing posture. “I tell you, Major Atherton, there’s not a man in Plymouth could have contrived a neater way of giving you a peep at a pretty girl; you ought to thank me on bended knees.”
“Thank you!” returned Atherton drily, “for making me look like a fool: what could she think to see me perched, like a sea-gull, on this vexatious rock?”
“She!” returned Peregrine, with a provoking laugh; “so you saw but one, did you? and now I think me of it, that must have been Lois; this confounded crag was between you and Miriam; but I will call her again, since I know you are longing to look at her.”
“Stay,” said Atherton quickly; “indeed, I saw them both; so have done with this folly, I entreat you.”
But Peregrine had already mounted the highest pinnacle of the rock, and in spite of his remonstrance called aloud to Miriam, who, though now far from them, turned to look back as his clear and sonorous voice, rising above the dashing of the waves, repeated her name.
Peregrine White tore a branch from a dwarf cedar which grew in a fissure of the rock, and waved it on high with a motion expressive of his wish for her return; but she shook her head and was again turning away, when he pointed significantly towards the sea shore.
Miriam looked in that direction, and saw Benjamin Ashly advancing from it alone, and at a pace unusually brisk for him; and probably construing his speed into a design to overtake her, she darted from the highway, and was instantly buried from sight in a thick copse of evergreens. Her cousin followed, more leisurely; and Mr. Ashly, after lingering a moment, and regarding the spot from whence she disappeared with a visage evidently lengthened, drew the fish over his shoulder with a doubtful jerk, and quietly retreated into another path.
“Excellently well done, my pretty Miriam,” said Peregrine, laughing;
“I declare there is not another such witch in the country, Major Atherton.”
“She seems to have bewitched you,” replied Atherton; “I hope you do not intend to enter into competition with worthy Mr. Ashly.”
“Not at all,” returned Peregrine, carelessly; “but Miriam and I have frolicked together ever since we were born; and I do love to see her torment that whining fool, who thinks every one, save himself and a godly few, are in the broad road to destruction. But the tide is coming in fast; so we had better get down, or we may be left standing here, like flag-staffs, till to-morrow morning.”
“And our fish may swim off in the mean time, and leave us fasting again,” said Atherton; “we left them at the foot of the rock.”
“Here they are, safe,” returned Peregrine, sliding rapidly down the precipice; “a pretty joke on us it would have been, if they had vanished like the partridges. And now you will go home with me, Major Atherton, and help to eat some of them.”
“You know I promised Captain Standish to return to his house
“It is full eight miles there, and I can never walk it, in my present weak state; to speak the truth, these fasting days don’t suit my stomach at all. There is no living without eating, Major Atherton; and it was a provident thought in good master Calvin to get released from a monkish church, that kept one starving more than half one’s life.”
“I shall be very glad of a good supper for my part,” said Atherton;
“and I wish we had shot across the bay to the Captain’s, when we were on the water, just now.”
“Never mind,” said Peregrine; “if you will go home with me first, I will walk back with you; I want to pay off my debt to the little rascal who ran away with the birds, and the moon will be up in season to light me home.”
Major Atherton consented to the arrangement; and during the remainder of the way to the Governor’s, Peregrine White was in vain exercising his wits to invent some plausible excuse for the morning disasters; but his mind was still unsatisfied, when he opened the door and entered a passage leading to the sitting-room, which at that hour was entirely in darkness.
“Is that you, brother Peregrine?” said a little damsel, who was groping her way through the place.
Peregrine drew the cold slimy tails of the fish across her neck, in mysterious silence; and in an instant, the cries of the frightened child brought all the family to her assistance.
“I should have known it was you, my son,” said Mrs. Winslow, drawing the little girl to her arms, “you are apt to announce yourself in this noisy manner.”
“Me, mother! I was as dumb as the fish that Susy ran against, like a silly thing. But here is Major Atherton half starved, as well as myself, and I am glad to see you have not done supper yet.”
“Major Atherton is truly welcome,” said Mrs. Winslow, leading the way back to the room, “our repast has but just commenced, and you bring us a liberal supply, and I suppose excellent appetites after your day’s amusement.”
“That we do,” returned Peregrine; “for I assure you we have not been overburthened with food to day.”
“But where are your birds?” inquired the Governor; “I saw you enter the woods this morning, and have waited impatiently for the game you promised us in such abundance.”
“And here is a bunch of as fine fresh fish as ever smoked on the table of a prince,” said Peregrine. “It was so fair a day, and the water looked so smooth and tempting, we thought best to alter our plans; no strange thing in this changeable world.”
“We are never surprised to find you wavering,” observed Mrs. Winslow; “but I hope you consulted Major Atherton’s wishes as well as your own.”
“Certainly,” replied Atherton, “so far as it was in his power; but we have both been the sport of an adverse destiny to-day.”
This answer led to inquiries, and an explanation, which afforded much amusement; and after a cheerful and hearty meal, which received a double relish from their long abstinence, Major Atherton and Peregrine White commenced their evening’s walk. Pursuing their way at a brisk pace, in spite of the formidable obstacles, which they encountered at every step, in the shape of log bridges, half burnt stumps, and straggling underwood, they at length approached the house of Captain Standish, long visible from the bright unsteady light which streamed from the windows, discovering the comforts within, and promising rest to their weary feet. The cheerful voice of the Captain greeted them as they entered.
“Ah my lads, have you come at last? I waited for you till Alexander and the dogs growled for hunger, and now the beasts have just swallowed the very last bone.”
“The bones of my partridges, I suppose,” said Peregrine.
“Here is some beer to refresh you,” continued the Captain, “as good as you could find brewed in London itself; and you shall not go to bed without eating, after a day’s march in the wilderness. It will be lean quarters, indeed, if our larder cannot furnish something for you.”
“This delicious beverage is sufficient,” said Atherton, as he returned the foaming tankard: “we supped at the Governor’s, and too heartily to wish for any thing more to-night.”
“I need not ask if you had good luck in the woods to-day,” said the Captain. “Alexander brought home a load of birds that I should not be ashamed to own myself: the boy knows how to take a good aim, with his gun, better than most lads of his age.”
“A good aim with his heels! the poltroon, to run off with what don’t belong to him,” cried the indignant Peregrine.
“Not belong to me!” said Alexander, at that instant thrusting his head into the door; “did’nt I leave your partridges broiling on the coals, and bring away only my own and Hobamock’s?”
“Broiling, burning you mean, you mischievous imp! what did you leave us but cinders and black coals?”
“I don’t know,” returned Alexander, coolly, “those that I eat relished very well.”
This answer irritated Peregrine beyond all bounds, and springing over a table that stood between them, and which he overset, extinguishing the candles in its fall, he pursued the flying Alexander, from the room and house. Captain Standish stood in amazement, and almost total darkness, till Atherton rekindled the lights by the decaying embers, which lingered in the chimney corner, and related the events that had given rise to so unexpected a scene. The Captain, who relished such jests exceedingly, had scarcely finished laughing, when the objects of his mirth returned amicably together, Peregrine declaring that the delinquent had sued for pardon, though the roguish expression of Alexander’s countenance, showed any thing rather than repentance for his offence.
“Have a care, boys, have a care,” said the Captain, shaking his head with mock gravity, “or we shall have fine work with your fallings out by and bye. The next thing, I suppose, we shall see sword and dagger flourishing about your heads, and you know the end of that Master Peregrine.”
“To kill or be killed, I should think it likely,” said Peregrine.
“No, no; we don’t suffer things to proceed to such extremities in our well ordered colony; we shall cut short the matter by tying your head and feet together, and putting you on short commons for a time.”
“A summary mode of justice,” observed Atherton, “and a truly novel invention.”
“It is of seventeen years standing, and of approved efficacy,” said the Captain. “You must know, cousin Atherton, some of our Company’s servants began to be unruly when they first came to this new land, and thought themselves beyond reach of the laws¾so two of them quarrelled, and challenged each other to single combat; they were both slightly wounded, but we saw fit to make an example of them, that our peace might not in future be disturbed by the foolish brawls of every cowardly knave. We ordered them to be bent up like bows, their neck and heels strapped together, and so to lie twenty-four hours without meat or drink; but they made humble concessions and promises of amendment; and their masters interceded so earnestly in their behalf, that they were released: and I can tell you, the offence has never been repeated by any one.”
“It was certainly a very suitable punishment,” returned Atherton, “considering the rank of the offenders.”
“It is suitable to any rank,” said the Captain; “our laws, thank Heaven, are impartial, and both magistrates and people are amenable to them; and, happily, our code does not admit the barbarous practice of cutting one another to pieces in cold blood.”
“It is seldom done in cold blood, I believe,” said Atherton, smiling; “and, in a country like this, I should imagine one would seldom be obliged to have course to such fatal measures to wipe away an offence.”
“Neither in this, or any other country,” persisted the Captain. “I am a military man as well as yourself, Major Atherton; and no one can say I ever shrunk from the fight when God and my king called me to arms; but I do believe no man who is not led away by the suggestions of the devil, will draw upon himself the guilt and infamy of murdering a fellow-being, or shedding his own blood in a contemptible and idle quarrel.”
“I would not justify the practice,” said Atherton; “I most sincerely regret that custom has so long sanctioned it; and that so many, who seemed born for better things, are unhappily sacrificed to the laws of honour.”
“Honour!” repeated the Captain indignantly, “is it honourable to despise the laws of God? To tear asunder the most sacred ties of humanity? ¾ Is it honourable to place your life at the hazard of a scoundrel’s weapon; or by taking his, to set upon your forehead the mark of Cain, and bear for ever on your conscience the stain of blood?”
“I acknowledge the justice of your arguments,” replied Atherton; “but there are few men who can bear the imputation of cowardice, or who have independence enough to set at defiance the opinion of the world; or to endure its ridicule even when conscious that their conduct is upright.”
“And who is the bravest man?” asked the Captain, “he who can despise the opinion of the world,¾when that world is enlisted on the side of vice and folly, ¾ and firmly obey the dictates of his duty and conscience; or he, who like a wavering poltroon, yields to the dread of ridicule, and quietly submits to be led by the very fools who pity and condemn him. No, no, Edward Atherton; that man must be at his wits-ends, who seeks to regain a character in the world, or hopes to establish a reputation for bravery by such cowardly expedients.”
“You have reason on your side of the question, Sir,” replied Atherton; “and I hope the good principles of this new world will effectually exclude the vicious practices of the old from its society.”
“I well know,” returned the Captain, “how young men, and particularly soldiers, regard these things; but I think I need not fear that the son of my cousin Eleanor will bring a reproach upon his name.”
“Not, at least, while I remain with you,” said Atherton, laughing, “I have too much regard for my neck and heels to bring them into jeopardy; and, of course, shall take care not to make a breach upon your laws.”
¾¾¾¾¾—— But then her face,
So lovely, yet so arch, so full of mirth,
The overflowings of an innocent heart. ROGERS.
MAJOR ATHERTON embraced the earliest opportunity, which the unwearied attentions of his host left at his own disposal to visit his warm-hearted friend, Captain Martin, whose ship was still at anchor in the Plymouth harbour. Captain Standish excused himself from attending him; for the labours of a plentiful harvest required his attention; during a period of repose from military duty he had “beat his sword into a plough-share,” and with characteristic activity and ardour, engaged in the pursuits of agriculture.
Atherton, for the first time, left to range alone through the woods, which he had only passed in the obscurity of evening, was continually in danger of leaving the beaten pathway, in many places, nearly filled by withered leaves, for the diverging tracks which led in various directions, into the depths of the forest, and sometimes terminated in a cleared spot, where the log hut of the settler, or the blue smoke curling from its wooden chimney, broke upon the eye of the solitary pedestrian, conveying images of comfort and repose, and softening the savage wildness of the scene.
But the sagacity of his dog, who gambolled around his feet, and, in cases of difficulty, was sure to scent out the right path, at length conducted him to the broader highway, which led into the chief settlement of Plymouth, where the animal seemed quite at home, and, with curled tail and erect ears, proceeded at a very grave dog-trot on his accustomed route towards the house of Mr. Winslow.
“This way, Rover,” said Major Atherton, turning in a nearer direction to the water’s edge; and another moment brought him to the well-remembered residence of Miriam Grey. The house certainly did not display any architectural elegance; but Atherton remarked it as one of the largest and best in the village. A peculiar air of neatness seemed diffused around it, which evinced the competence and good management of its possessor. It stood on a green bank, which, sloping to the southern sun, still preserved a fresh and cheerful verdure, and was half hid by a venerable oak that embraced it in a shelter of its wide-spreading branches. It was inclosed by a slight wooden paling, and some tasteful hand had twined the flexile branches of the sweet-briar around the windows, and reared the wild-rose to breathe its sweetness beside the door. In rear of the building was a garden of esculent roots and herbs, with a small orchard of fruit trees, and extensive fields of corn and other grain.
Major Atherton scrutinized every object as he leisurely approached the house, but no person was visible till he had nearly reached the little gate which led through the inclosure, when the door unexpectedly opened, and Miriam Grey, with a smiling face, sprang lightly from its steps upon the velvet turf. She did not observe him, but, stooping down, seemed busied in training her rosebushes; and Atherton ventured to pause an instant to admire the grace of her attitudes, and the loveliness of her figure. Without perceiving it, Miriam Grey had dropped a knot of ribands, that was eagerly seized upon by a frisking kitten which bounded after her mistress, and forthwith began to toss it high in air, and unmercifully twist it around whatever came in contact with it.
But Rover, who held his eye fixed on his hereditary enemy, could not long brook her insulting mirth, and set up a bark of defiance, which at once changed the frolick of her face into a gaze of fear and aversion¾her mottled back rose with astonishing dignity, and, retreating a few steps, she stood on the defensive, elevating one paw to retain the riband; but a second and fiercer shout from Rover drove her within the door, with a portentous growl, where she remained secure; her dilated eyes and long whiskers occasionally protruded from her lurking-place, to ascertain the movements of the enemy. The dog was about to leap the wicket in pursuit of her, when the voice and well-known whistle of his master recalled him; and at the same time attracted the attention of Miriam Grey. She started in confusion, and blushed deeply at finding herself so closely observed. Major Atherton bowed, and passed on; but could not refrain from turning his head to look back at her. She was at the moment examining her disfigured riband, and then patting her affrighted pet, retired into the house, and closed the door.
“What is the matter with you, Miriam?” inquired Lois Grey, as her cousin entered the room where she was sitting with a few female visitors; “has any thing alarmed you?”
“Nothing in the world, Lois; but see my beautiful ribands, which were the pride of my new cap, and now they are quite spoiled.”
“It is a mere trifle, Miriam; but you are always so heedless.”
“Dear cousin, you must blame my mischievous kitten. I would not care,” she added in a lower tone, “but I have been saving them so long to grace your wedding, Lois!”
“Nonsense!” said Lois, quickly; “give me the knot, Miriam: you think me ingenious, and perhaps I can make it look tolerable again.”
“Such worldly vanities,” observed an elderly female, “are empty and unsatisfying as the wind; and I do fear, Miriam Grey, that your heart is too much bound up in them.”
“Not my heart, good mistress Gilbert,” returned the damsel; “these vanities reach no farther than my head; and sometimes touch only the outside of that.”
“They are all relics of popery,” replied the other; “we read that the heathenish Egyptians were decked out in ornaments of gold and goodly apparel, and were they not fearfully punished for their idolatry?”
“Yet,” returned Miriam, “the Israelites borrowed these same ornaments for their own use, and were permitted to carry them from the land of Egypt.”
“And the Lord gave them up to their wicked imaginations,” replied the dame, “and they made a golden calf in the wilderness, and bowed down before it, and worshipped it.”
“Well, Mistress Gilbert, I cannot make a calf of this poor knot of ribands; and I am sure nobody will ever admire it now.”
Miriam Grey rose from her seat, as she finished speaking, and the brief pause which ensued was broken by a female somewhat past the bloom of youth, who was looking earnestly from a window.
“Was not that the stranger they call Major Atherton,” she asked, “who past just as you left the door, Miriam?”
“I believe it was the same.”
“He has left the crag, then,” whispered Lois Grey to her cousin; “I thought the blue knot gave you an unusual colour.”
“That must be the youth whom they say is near akin to our Captain,” observed another female who had remained silent in a corner, until her companions began to imagine she had fallen asleep, or gone into a trance.
“It is,” said Lois Grey; “he arrived here during his kinsman’s absence, and the Governor entertained him in his own house till Captain Standish returned from the Massachusetts. It is said he is courteous and well disposed.”
“And yet,” said the spinster, “he has a strange way of staring with his eyes; he looked so bold at the window as he passed, I was fain to turn away.”
“Indeed!” said Miriam, gravely, though her brow slightly curved; “he was probably admiring the view.”
“I wonder what has brought him to this country,” said Lois Grey; “he does not seem of our religion, and has been in the service of the king.”
The female whose silence rendered her quite a prodigy in the group, answered in a mysterious tone.
“They do say that he is a papist, sent over by the queen to spy out the ‘nakedness of the land,’ as scripture hath it; by which I mean, to watch the chosen people of this country, to whom the rulers of the kingdom bear no good will.”
“I cannot believe that,” said the spinster; “such a comely and well-favoured
youth!”¾for, like most maidens, even old ones, her feelings balanced in favour of a handsome young man.
“The Lord forgive him, if it is so!” cried Mistress Gilbert, with uplifted eyes; “and now I think of it, did you see how he stood at the meeting when he first went in, with his face covered, praying to himself, as it were?”
“He is probably of the Church of England,” said Lois; “and that is one of its forms.”
“It is an evil form which savoureth of the mark of the beast,” returned Mistress Gilbert; “and I do much marvel that our worthy Governor could harbour such an one in his family.”
“And,” resumed the silent one, who seemed suddenly inspired, “his hair was like unto Absalom’s, falling over his neck and forehead to please the eyes of the vain and worldly.”
“It is an awful thing,” said Mistress Gilbert, “to see young people given up to follow the devices of the sons of Belial. Now I think, Miriam Grey, that worthy Master Ashly is an example to our youths; it does one good to see how closely his hair is clipped.”
“His head certainly contains very little,” replied Miriam, with the utmost gravity.
“That it does not,” returned the dame; “there is not on it a hair more than our godly ministers have, in their pulpits and assemblies, thought proper to recommend.”
“True,” answered Miriam, “it is as smooth and round as a green pumpkin.”
“And it is edifying,” continued the other, “to hear him prophesy in our meetings; his ‘words are like arrows,’ and they enter into the ‘bones and marrow.’”
“They are apt to stick long in the ear,” observed the damsel.
“Yes,” replied Mistress Gilbert, “he is gifted with the spirit of utterance; and it is thought that if one of our pious deacons should be called to ‘put off his fleshly tabernacle,’ he would be chosen to fill up the breach.’”
“May our worthy deacons be long continued to us,” said Miriam Grey, “that our churches may have peace and be edified.”
“We must leave the event to Providence, Miriam Grey; but as the aged Eli waxed in years, the people cast their eyes upon young Samuel to minister in his place.”
“Your doctrine savours of worldly wisdom, Mistress Gilbert.”
“God forbid,” ejaculated the dame, “that our spiritual concerns should have ought to do with the affairs of this transitory state.”
Their dialogue was here interrupted by the sound of footsteps; and the subject of their conversation, after a preparatory hem and a slight scraping of his feet, entered the apartment. The female visitors exchanged knowing looks, and then fixed their eyes on Miriam Grey, probably to discover from her countenance what effect the unexpected appearance of her guest might produce upon her feelings; and her easy and unembarrassed manner evidently perplexed them. Mr. Ashly paid his respects to the company with great civility, reserving his last bow for Miriam, and perhaps intending it for his best; but by one of those unluckly chances that often defeat our favourite projects, it proved particularly awkward; a circumstance which not only excited a slight smile on the lips of the damsel, but likewise covered the young man with confusion, who plunged into the nearest chair and thrice crossed his legs before he could assume a comfortable position.
Benjamin Ashly had long been considered the lover of Miriam Grey; nor did he ever deny his pretensions, though he had not as yet been able to extort from the maiden a word or look to support them; while her alternate reserve and playful familiarity, kept him in a state of anxious suspense. Still he was encouraged by the kindness of her father, who openly favoured his suit; and unable to command sufficient resolution to learn his destiny from her own lips, he remained the prey of doubt and distrust; and with the diffidence which sincere affection invariably produces on a timid mind, his wish to please and dread of offending, continually embarrassed him, and destroyed the advantages he might otherwise have acquired in the eyes of his mistress. His person and countenance were naturally rather agreeable than otherwise; though the puritanical cut of his head, which Mistress Gilbert so highly commended, was certainly unbecoming; and the excessive gravity of his features presented a strong and almost absurd contrast to their youthful appearance. Educated in the strictest manner of his sect, he was early taught to consider an outward conformity to its prescribed forms of essential importance; and though really upright in conduct and sincere in his professions, the bigotry of his principles had tended to narrow his intellect, and prematurely to destroy the vivacity and cheerfulness of youth.
“Here is my father’s elbow-chair, will you take it, Mr. Ashly?” said Miriam Grey, rising with alacrity, and really anxious to dispel his embarrassment.
“Thank you, Miriam;” and he settled into it with a grateful look, and a smile reflected from her own countenance: “I hope,” he added, “the good man is well!”
“Quite well, but very busy; our loaded corn-fields require much labour, and he has yet to prepare for his intended voyage.”
“Captain Martin will sail shortly, I understand,” observed Mr. Ashly; “the departure of your father, Miriam, will remove a candlestick from our temple.”
“Do not speak of it, Mr. Ashly: I cannot yet endure the thought of a separation from him,”¾and Miriam bent her head to conceal a tear which she in vain struggled to suppress.
“He is in the keeping of One, who will never forsake those who put their trust in him,” said the youth in a softened voice, “and you have many friends, Miriam, to comfort you during his brief absence.”
“I do not indulge in idle fears for his safety,” returned Miriam; “but if I might be allowed to share his fatigues and dangers, I should be happy.”
“And would you leave me alone, and in solitude?” asked Lois Grey, reproachfully.
“Not alone, dear Lois!” replied Miriam, her face again brightening into smiles, “but with one whose society is far dearer to you than mine can be.”
Miriam spoke in a low voice, which, however, reached the ears of the spinster, who was remarkably acute in detecting sounds of mysterious import.
“I thought,” she said, “something like that would happen before Mr. Grey left the country; but we shall know all about it in good time, I suppose.”
“Are you speaking of a wedding, Rebecca Spindle?” asked Mistress Gilbert. “Well, you need not blush about it, Lois Grey; marriage is a divine institution, and wisely ordained for the happiness of mankind, as it is written, ‘it is not good for man to be alone.’”
“That is as people choose to think, Mistress Gilbert,” said Rebecca Spindle, “as the apostle hath it, ‘the married woman careth for the things of the world that she may please her husband; but the unmarried woman seeketh to please the Lord,’ and I have hitherto experienced the benefit of the exhortation and resisted all temptations to alter my present state.”
“Your temptations have doubtless been manifold,” said Miriam Grey; “but I trust you will now have strength to persevere unto the end.”
“God willing, it is my intention,” she replied, “unless it should be clearly my duty to enter into a wedded state. But I would not blame you, Mistress Lois, for holding a different mind.”
“Perhaps our opinions on the subject are not so very different;” said Lois, smiling.
“But do you know, Benjamin Ashly, if any passengers go out in the ship with my uncle?”
“I have heard of none; but there was a young gentleman, a kinsman of Captain Standish, came hither in her, as I am informed, to view the country; perchance, he may be ready to return at that time.”
“I wish he may,” said Miriam; “my father would find much pleasure in the society of an agreeable companion.”
“Do you know aught of him?” asked Mr. Ashly in an anxious tone.
“Nothing, but our Governor commends his courtesy and polite accomplishments, and his countenance speaks well for him.”
“You have seen him, then?” rejoined Master Ashly.
“By chance only, once or twice; but I think he can hardly have satisfied his curiosity yet, in looking at this new world.”
“He is a son of the church,” observed Mistress Gilbert; “and what lot or portion can he have in our favoured Zion?”
“Churchman or not, he is certainly a most comely looking young gentleman;” said Mistress Spindle, whose thoughts evidently reverted with pleasure to the handsome stranger.
“Judge not by the outward appearance, Rebecca Spindle,” returned the matron; “but remember that the ‘Lord looketh at the heart:’ these time-serving idolators of images and ceremonies are well likened unto white sepulchres, which are, indeed, ‘outwardly fair,’ but within full of ‘all uncleanness.’”
“And we also read,” said Miriam Grey, ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged;’ and what right have we to condemn one, of whom we have heard no evil?”
“The Lord forgive you, Miriam Grey! I should have expected the child of one, so godly and gifted as thy father is, would have too much regard for our privileged mode of worship, which, as our minister hath it, is derived from the apostles themselves, and the rites of the primitive church, and is the only sure method of salvation, to be upholding the vain superfluities of those disciples of Antichrist.”
“I can value my own privileges and opinions, Mistress Gilbert, and yet have some charity for those who differ from me. I doubt not there are many sincere Christians, even in the church of England.”
“It may be so,” returned Mistress Gilbert, with an incredulous shake of the head, “I would not be uncharitable; but there are older and wiser ones than you, child, who believe them to have gone clean astray from the word, following the devices of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of iniquity.”
“I think,” observed Benjamin Ashly, first stealing a hesitating look at Miriam, “I think, Mistress Gilbert is very able in her reference to the scriptures, which are in truth our only sure guides; and my poor memory might furnish me with divers illustrations of what she hath spoken therefrom; but, but”¾he stopped abruptly, for the eye of Miriam was fixed upon him, and he found it impossible to withdraw his gaze from the face, whose arch expression completely disconcerted him; but at length relieved by a fit of coughing, he ventured to proceed:
“I believe we can no where find any foundation for the Popish custom of reading prayers from a printed book, which must have been a conceit and invention of the evil one, to save careless and worldly-minded men, the trouble of composing, and digesting their own thoughts; neither can I find the custom of kneeling to repeat such prayers, authorized in the pages of Holy Writ; and I know not by what arguments you can seek to uphold it, Miriam Grey.”
“You entirely mistake me, Master Ashly,” returned Miriam. “Heaven forbid that I should seek to justify the errors and superstitions of a church, which has loaded with calumny and persecution those who presumed to differ from her in forms and faith; or that I should cease to prize, far above every earthly blessing, the pure and simple worship which our fathers have established in this wilderness, and for which they have sacrificed ease and comfort, endured the scorn of enemies, the reproach of friends, and the loss of all that the world esteems most dear and desirable. No!” she added with energy, “the daughter of a devoted, self-denying Christian, of one who forsook fortune, kindred, and country, to plant the truth, and establish a Christian church and colony, in an unknown, savage land, would not exchange her proud title, to become the jewelled empress of a world.”
Mr. Ashly regarded the glowing countenance of the maiden with mingled awe and admiration, but quickly resuming her usual playfulness of manner, she continued: ¾ “I did not intend to enter into the lists of controversy with you, Mr. Ashly; and I crave your pardon, Mistress Gilbert, you were speaking of Major Atherton.”
“Yes, but I am sure I know no harm of the youth, apart from his false
doctrines¾of which, may he have grace given him to repent and turn away from; and I do in truth wish him well, for the sake of his kinsman, our brave Captain.”
“Our Captain,” said Rebecca Spindle, “was himself once of the church, and don’t you remember, Mistress Gilbert, when we first came over from Holland, I was then but a child, as it were, that there were some who thought he was not over sparing of Indian blood.”
“Yes, I do,” returned the other; “they were wild savages, to be sure, who had no bowels of mercy in them; but they had souls to be saved, as well as ourselves; and as that man of God, Mr. Robinson¾the like of whom, I fear, will not rise up again in our
Israel¾as he wrote from Leyden to our church of Plymouth, in the grief of his righteous spirit, ‘he would that they had converted some before they had killed any.’”
“I am afraid,” said Miriam, “that none of us would have been left alive, either to kill or convert them, if he had waited their time. No, our Captain is a good man, as well as brave and fearless; as my father says, he is one who ‘chose to suffer affliction with the people of God,’ and ‘through faith wax valiant in fight, and turn to flight the armies of the aliens.’”
“And his young kinsman has been long in the king’s army, I understand,” said Lois Grey.
“I thought as much,” observed Mistress Spindle; “he has such an upright carriage, and moves so straight and easy, though he did twist aside, somewhat, to look into this window.”
“And is it not strange,” remarked Mistress Gilbert, “that a reasonable creature who has been safely brought over the yawning deep, where he had seen the wonders of the Lord, should not render public thanks in the tabernacle for his goodness? I wonder, that, like Pharaoh and his host, he was not overturned in the sea, or, as another Jonah, swallowed by a monster of the floods?”
“Probably it is not the custom of his church,” said Miriam Grey.
“Very likely,” returned the dame; “I doubt they are sparing of their offerings, these children of an idolatrous and polluted church¾but when do our chosen people delay to put up a note to ask the prayers of the congregation in seasons of mercy or affliction?”
“It is, doubtless, a scriptural and edifying practice,” rejoined Mr. Ashly, “for it is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and praise is comely in his eyes.”
“If the heart is sincere,” observed Lois, “our ignorance of forms will doubtless be forgiven.”
Lois Grey had at that moment put the finishing stroke to her cousin’s knot of ribands, which formed the principal ornament to a new cap, of more courtly fashion than was usually thought consistent with the extreme simplicity of dress at that time adopted by the Puritans; and, in the height of her surprise and pleasure at its renovated beauty, Miriam Grey forgot the recent reproof of Mistress Gilbert, and flying to a looking-glass, began to arrange it on her head. The whole assembly was mute during this proceeding. Mistress Gilbert looked at her with the air of one who considered any farther words on the subject as “pearls cast before swine;” the silent female nodded as usual¾Rebecca Spindle watched her with curiosity, Lois Grey with some interest, and the quick eye of Miriam detected the figure of Mr. Ashly reflected in the mirror, sitting, as he supposed, remote from her observation, and regarding her with undisguised admiration. A spice of coquetry, perhaps¾and what girl of eighteen is quite free from it? Induced Miriam Grey to push back the lawn cap, which partly concealed her snowy brow, and leisurely arrange several braids of glossy brown hair, then carefully adjusting her new head-gear, she turned suddenly to the abashed young man and inquired in a tone of simplicity¾ “Do you like it, Benjamin Ashly?”
“I like every thing of thine, Miriam,” he answered in a low voice, and quickly approaching her, for once forgetful of his habitual reserve¾
“That will do¾pray sit down again, Mr. Ashly,” said the damsel in a hurried accent, herself completely abashed by his unexpected manner and reply; nor had her heightened complexion quite faded to its usual delicacy, when her father entered the room.
Mr. Grey, after paying due courtesy to his guests, approached his daughter, and surveyed her a moment in silence, with a look of peculiar meaning, which did not at all lessen her confusion.
“What are you looking at so steadfastly, dear father?” inquired Miriam, turning up her face to him, perhaps to observe his countenance better, or it might be to throw the blue knot into the back ground; for it was, in truth, the gayest she had ever ventured to wear.
“It is this which surprises me, Miriam,” returned her father, laying his hand upon the riband, which at once yielded to his touch.
“Dear father, pray do not crumple it so¾indeed you will quite spoil it.”
“And is it in a Christian assembly, Miriam Grey, that you would exhibit this vain bauble?”
“Any where, no where, if you will spare it, father; my kitten has pulled it in pieces once to-day, but she did it in sport, and Lois has been so kind as to repair it for me.”
“It is too, too gay,” said her father; “I would not see you, my child, decked out in garlands, like a victim prepared for sacrifice, or a pagan image set up for worship.”
“I am sure, father, no one would liken a woman to an image who was within the sound of her tongue.”
“And where did you get this gaudy thing, Miriam?”
“My aunt sent it me from England,” returned Miriam; “it came with my new hood and scarf; and you remember that you thought they looked very brave at first, but in a little time you grew familiar with them, and said they would do for a giddy young thing like me;¾now, dear father,” and she laid her hand playfully on his arm, “my head is not much older or wiser than it was then, so I think this will not displease you by and bye.”
“Do you know, Miriam,” resumed Mr. Grey, “that a law of our land has enacted fines and penalties against those who indulge in costly apparel and immodest fashions.”
“I remember it well, father; for, at that very time, my kind aunt had given me an embroidered ‘kerchief, which I was compelled to lay aside till it was quite ruined. But I am sure this cap is not immodest, and it cost me nothing, but the trouble of writing an epistle of thanks.”
“Your aunt is very mindful of you, Miriam; but she is apt to forget that we have renounced those vanities which allure the worldly to their destruction. What says the apostle Paul upon the subject?”
“I forget the exact words,” said Miriam; “something it is about plaiting the hair, and wearing goodly apparel.”
“Go, learn the passage from your bible, Miriam, and I will leave the application to your own conscience.”
“Indeed I will not wear any thing which is displeasing to you, dear father; and, in truth, the sacrifice is too trifling to cause one moment’s regret.”
“Consult your inclinations, my child,” returned her father; “I know you would not willingly give the world occasion to speak reproachfully of yourself or me; and I am only anxious to see you adorned with the ‘ornament of a meek and quiet spirit,’ which is indeed a ‘jewel of great price.’”
When Lois Grey retired to her chamber at night, she found her cousin busily engaged in twining the obnoxious ribands around the frame of a small picture which ornamented the apartment, representing a thick-waisted Dutch peasant girl, glowing in the richness of Flemish colours, though divers fearful cracks in the canvas bore undoubted witness to her great antiquity. Miriam turned round with a smiling countenance as Lois Grey entered the room.
“I am hanging this up for a peace-offering, Lois,” she said; “and I am sure good Mistress Gilbert herself would not do it with greater pleasure, though she might bring forward more texts of scripture than I can just now think of, to prove the necessity of it.”
“Are you quite willing to give it up, Miriam?”
“Do I look unwilling, Lois? No, it is rather gay for me; and, on the whole, I think something else will look as well for the wedding.”
“The wedding seems a great event with you, Miriam; is it because Benjamin Ashly is to be invited?”
“Benjamin Ashly! Good night, Lois, I am fast asleep. But I will just ask you, if one would not think it must take him a long time to close his enormous eyes! Why, I thought to-day they looked as big as chocolate basins.”
“Is that a dream, Miriam?”
“Yes; you need not wake up to interpret it. Good night, Lois, once again.”
Scenes must be beautiful, which daily view’d,
Please daily. COWPER.
MAJOR ATHERTON, after a long interview with Captain Martin, repaired to the Governor’s, where the remainder of the evening glided swiftly away: and, if the testimony of Mistress Rebecca Spindle may be relied on, who related the circumstance with an air of mysterious caution to some half dozen of wondering female friends on the following day, he was seen loitering around the dwelling of Miriam Grey, precisely at the hour when the music of the vesper psalm was heard to issue from a room, where occasionally a figure flitting before the shaded windows, denoted the family were assembled.
Perhaps it was a gossip’s story; but, however that may be, his absence was prolonged till Captain Standish became uneasy; and, fearful that he had missed his way in the forest, dispatched a stout young man, who served him in various capacities, both within doors and without, to search for his kinsman, and guide him back. But the heart of the emissary quaked when he found himself alone at the entrance of a forest of lofty trees, so thickly matted, that scarcely a ray of the rising moon could pierce their foliage; and, after listening with trembling nerves till fancy had conjured up a thousand terrific sounds, he thought fit to retire from the danger, and, ashamed to encounter his master’s eye, entered an outbuilding, and threw himself on a bundle of straw. There he lay listening for the returning steps of Atherton, as a signal to sally out; but, unfortunately, long before they reached his ears, he sunk into a deep slumber, from which he was at length unceremoniously aroused by a smart blow from the flat side of the Captain’s broad sword, accompanied by the angry tones of his voice.
“Is this the way you obey my commands, you lazy loon?”
The man started on his feet, simultaneously rubbing his eyes, and the shoulder which had received the blow; and, more alarmed than he had been in the woods, began to stammer forth an apology.
“I did go, please your honour; but the wolves made a fearful howling, and I thought no Christian man would want me to put myself in their mouths.”
“The wolves! you poltroon! no fear that they would relish such a cowardly
knave;¾no, no, David, even the wild beasts would snuff at thee; they love to pick the bones of braver men than thou art. But the next time you escape their jaws in this way I’ll have you tied to the whipping-post, or put in the stocks till your legs ache; so away with you.”
David, obedient to orders, commenced his retreat with as much alacrity as his illustrious namesake evinced when eluding the javelin of Saul, but, on the way, he received another stroke in the rear, which not a little accelerated his speed. Captain Standish and his attendants then left the building, to which they had been attracted by observing the dog which followed David, lying at the entrance, where the sonorous music of the young man’s nose betrayed his situation within; for Major Atherton had returned without meeting him, and the party set out to learn his fate.
“Well, cousin Atherton,” said Captain Standish, as they rose from breakfast the next morning, “since you have not engaged a passage back to England with Captain Martin, I conclude you intend to winter amongst us; and, before spring arrives, perhaps we may persuade you to pitch your tent with us for life,¾ha, Major?”
“You may find it necessary to exert your persuasive powers in the opposite scale,” replied Atherton; “I confess I am so happy here, that the time of my return seems every day more distant and uncertain. I am here, too, removed from the scene of active duties which lately occupied me, and feel less keenly the sacrifice I have been compelled to make in relinquishing my profession.”
“Ah, you left both that and your country in good time, Major Atherton, if you have no mind to be set about fighting with your own flesh and blood. There must be warm work in England before long, if King Charles makes such a fuss about his parliaments, and continues to persecute his dissenting subjects as he has lately done.”
“He has bad counsellors,” said Atherton; “but is himself a virtuous and humane prince, and really solicitous for the happiness of his people.”
“I believe it, from my heart,” replied the Captain; “and I would cheerfully shed the last drop of my blood to sustain the honour of his illustrious name; but I still maintain, that every man has a right to judge for himself, in matters of faith and conscience; and, so long as we remain peaceable and loyal subjects, neither king nor bishop is privileged to molest us, for thinking differently from themselves.”
“An established religion is certainly desirable,” said Atherton, “and I am inclined to believe, that those who fled from persecution, and have here founded a church on what you term apostolic principles, would be as severe towards those of different modes and opinions, and as much influenced by prejudice, as the church of England has ever been, in regard to her dissenting children.”
“Well, well, cousin Atherton, we will not begin with calling you to account, unless some amongst us should see fit to imitate the Massachusetts people, who are always fond of raising a breeze. But they have got a woman in hand now, who, I doubt not, will give them trouble enough with her Antinomianism, and other conceits of the devil, who has been a friend to the sex, ever since he had such good luck with mother Eve. But I am going to walk, now; and if you have no better way of amusing yourself, will ask you to accompany me.”
“With all my heart: shall we try the woods again?”
“No, I should like to give you a glimpse of our Canaan, from the top of mount Pisgah, yonder,” replied the Captain, pointing to a hill which rose to a considerable height above the level of the Bay; and, to this day, is known by the name of the Captain’s Hill.
“This,” he continued, as he led the way to its summit, by a tolerable easy ascent,
“this hill, and the beautiful stretch of land which you see running into the Bay, was assigned to me, by the Plymouth Company; and I think I may say without boasting, that my farm looks as well as any of my neighbours, though I hardly knew a hoe from a pitchfork, till I was obliged to use them to satisfy the cravings of hunger; for we had scanty rations when we first came over here.”
“And why were you located so far from the first settlement?” asked Atherton.
“We found it necessary to remove as our numbers increased, to give each other
elbow-room, and land enough to cultivate; and the old colony is still sending forth her children to people new settlements. That village, lying at a short distance north of us, is called Scituate, and is the only town that has yet been incorporated; even Plymouth has no bounds affixed to it, though the little clusters of houses which you see here and there, bid fair to limit it, ere long.”
“Have you given any name to this tract of land?” asked Atherton; “you seem to have already gathered a flourishing village around you.”
“The Indian name is Mattakeeset; but we begin to call it Duxborough, and hope, at the next sitting of our court, to have it incorporated. It is now nearly ten years since we first felled the trees, and began to build our houses; and, till within two or three I continued to reside at Plymouth during the winter season, that being our head-quarters; and it was a long march through the snow-banks to do military duty; for we were obliged to keep on the look-out, lest the barbarous savages should rally their undisciplined tribes, and come howling upon us, unawares.”
“This is, indeed, a glorious view,” said Atherton; who, lost in admiration at the prospect opening before him, had scarcely heeded the last remark. “With what grandeur the swelling ocean tosses its troubled waves, till, lost as it were in the immensity of space, it mingles with the dusky clouds that rise, like gigantic mountains, from its foaming bosom! Here it seems lulled to rest, and scarcely ripples upon the silver beach; and, again, it rolls proudly along the indented shore, and, curving into a broad full basin, breaks against the sandy and barren promontory which stretches yonder, as if in defiance of its fury.”
“That is Cape Cod,” said Captain Standish; “the most southerly point of the Massachusetts Bay; and a dreary place we found it, when we landed there, in the frosts of November. Our ship was driven in amongst dreadful shoals and breakers, and right thankful we were to step ashore on almost any spot. It was there we combined ourselves into a body politic, enacted our first laws, and elected a Governor for the following year; but the place being found inconvenient to winter in, we made several voyages around the coast, to discover a better situation, and Providence at length guided us to this harbour. We put into it in a storm of wind and snow, in a dark and fearful night, and landed on the fine wooded island which you see just below us, near by the beach. It is named Clark’s island, from the mate of the ship who first stepped upon it; that other one, joined to the Gurnet’s Nose by a strip of sand, is called Sanguish.”
“They are pleasant objects,” replied Atherton; “and agreeably diversify the scene; but how magnificent is the distant view! how beautifully the flitting clouds riot, for a moment, on the dark and undulating forests, and then pass off and leave them glittering in the morning sun, and varied with the thousand tints of autumn! And, to the north, far as my eye can stretch, beyond these sloping hills, and hanging woodlands, and above the summits of the tallest trees, I see a range of lofty mountains, blue as the skies which shelter them, rising like monarchs of the surrounding wilderness.”
“Those are the blue hills of Massachusetts,” answered the Captain; “they are the highest in the colony, and the first point of land visible, as you approach this coast. This is, indeed, a noble prospect, and well worth the trouble of scrambling up here, to gaze at. Look down, now, upon my house; and see how warmly it is sheltered in that sunny valley. Those trees, which shade it, were but saplings when I first knew the spot; and no foot, but the wild Indian’s, had trod those fields, where the ripened grains now wave in the light sea-breeze.”
“I think, sir,” said Atherton, “you have discovered much taste, as well as good husbandry, in your improvements. Those groups of trees are finely disposed about the dwelling; but what is that single one, shooting its branches with so much regularity from the aspiring trunk, and dropping its leaves into the stream, which rushes by it? It is tricked out in gaudy colours, and, at this distance, might be mistaken for a crimson banner, floating on a citadel.”
“To me,” said the Captain, laughing, “it looks more like a fair-weather officer, dressed up for a gala day; and, like many who strut well at a field review, is the first to shrink from peril. The slightest touch of frost changes its hue, and its gay foliage is conspicuous in our forests, long before any other tree has dropped a withered leaf; it is the Maple, and I planted that one with my own hand. I lived long enough in England, Major Atherton, to learn the value of fine trees, though many here seem to think there are enough in the woods, without keeping them around their doors. Perhaps my taste arises from the predilections of youth; for, I well remember, my father would as soon have seen the old walls of Standish Hall rased to the foundations, as an old tree cut down from the lawn.”
“They are certainly no novelty in this country,” returned Atherton; “but, to me, it seems a strange perversion of taste, which can induce any one to prefer those blackened stumps, or desert plains, to the living green, which would so agreeably shelter their roofs. I perceive, too, sir, that you have paid some regard to minor ornaments; that luxuriant sweet-briar, chequering the casement with its dancing leaves, reminds me of the simplicity and neatness of an English cottage.”
“Ah, that is not to my liking,” replied the Captain; “the prickly things are springing up, every where, and tearing one, without mercy; but I left that growing, to please my little rose-bud, Miriam Grey, who is for having every thing sweet and flowering about her. She took a great fancy to this one, and begged its life of me; and, I know not how it is, but these pretty maidens will contrive to make us do any thing they like.”
“It is even so,” said Atherton, smiling; “but that bush certainly looks very well, though it seems to require the pruning knife, just now; and, if you will allow me, I will try my skill in training those crooked branches.”
“Do, if your fingers are proof against the thorns; and now we will return to the house, if it please you;¾yet stop a moment, cousin Atherton, and look once again around you.”
“I could scarcely weary of doing so,” replied Atherton, “and shall often ascend this hill, when I wish to regale my eyes with the charms of nature.”
“And could you be content to remain here for life?” asked the Captain. “If you could, cast your eyes on the spot which pleases you, and it is yours.”
“And would you have me renounce my country and religion?” said Atherton.
“Your country will shortly renounce you,” replied the Captain, “unless you unsheath your sword against the defenders of a faith which your mother loved; you must become persecutor, or persecuted.”
“And who will sustain the honour of my father’s name, if the last, who bears it, flies from the land which gave him birth?”
“It is only transplanting it to another region; our country is the same, and we are all subjects of the same gracious king.”
“Consider, dear sir,” said Atherton, “that I am yet but just landed on your shores; all is novelty to me; and though I am at present well pleased and happy, time alone can strengthen or remove my prepossessions.”
“True,” said the Captain, who perceived he had been premature in disclosing his wishes. “We will wait patiently till spring arrives; young men are apt to waver in their minds, I know. At your age, I little dreamed of ending my days in that cottage; but we know not what is before us; those who deprived me of my lawful inheritance, and obliged me to resign the privileges of my rank, and the home which sheltered my infancy, to seek a name and subsistence in a foreign land, doubtless intended it for evil to me; but Providence, I trust, has made it instrumental of good to myself and those who have relied on my arm for defence, in this wilderness; and I can now truly say, I would not exchange my situation for all the luxuries of my youth, and all the distinctions, which then seemed within my grasp.”
“It is well,” said Atherton, “that happiness is not confined to any particular place or circumstances; I am even inclined to think, that I could pass the remainder of my life in such a cottage, without casting many fond looks after the gay world which I have left behind me; but at present I am a wanderer on the face of the earth, and shall probably visit many climes before I return to England.”
“We will think of that another time,” returned the Captain, “and now that you have seen the goodliness of the land, I have but to shew you some of its comely daughters, and we can boast of many ruddy cheeks and bright eyes here, Major Atherton.”
“So I have seen, Captain; but spare my heart, in pity. You know I cannot give that away to one of your demure little puritans, without shaving my head; and I should by no means relish the alternative.”
“We shall see,” answered the Captain, as they descended the hill; and, after walking for a time about his farm¾for he would explain all its arrangements and conveniences¾they returned to the house, at an early dinner hour.
When the repast was ended, Major Atherton left his kinsman to enjoy a solitary pipe of tobacco, and commenced a zealous attack upon the sweet-briar, which he intended to make resemble, as nearly as possible, the beautiful one he had observed around the windows of Miriam Grey; but owing to his want of skill, perhaps, he lopped away branch after branch, till nothing but a mere skeleton remained. Dissatisfied with his own work, he was in the act of abandoning it, when the dashing of oars in the water attracted his attention; and looking round, he perceived a small boat approaching the shore, and occupied by four persons, two of whom were regarding him with particular attention. These he quickly discovered to be Miriam Grey and Peregrine White, who seemed engaged in a merry conversation, of which Atherton fancied himself the subject, though the damsel averted her eyes, and half turned her light figure from him, when she found herself observed. On the seat beside her reclined her father, with folded arms, as if engrossed by his own meditations: his eyes now fixed upon the watery deep, and then turned upwards, apparently to watch the swelling clouds which began to flit rapidly before a rising autumnal blast. Benjamin Ashly wielded the oars with slow but determined accuracy, and evidently listened to the conversation of his companions with a degree of interest that rendered him inattentive to his manual exertions; for the boat was gliding past the spot where Major Atherton stood, when Peregrine White, starting on his feet and standing firm and erect in the tossing bark, seized the arm of Ashly with a force and suddenness that almost ejected the oar from his hand, and bowed the side of the vessel to the water’s edge.
“Bless me, Peregrine,” said Miriam Grey, catching her father’s arm; “you give us more exercise than the winds, and in truth I think they are less rude than your boyish tricks.”
“Now don’t be angry, Miriam, for it was not me after all, but this grampus floundering about here. Ho! Benjamin Ashly, are you asleep again? I believe, on my conscience, you were nodding at the oars just now.”
“It would be well, Master Peregrine, if you would be quiet a little oftener,” replied the other in a grave voice.
“Better said than done, that, Mr. Ashly; but are you steering out to Cape Cod?” and, without ceremony, he snatched the oars from his hand, and dashed them into the water with quick and powerful strokes, which brought them in a moment to the strand.
“Why do you bring us here, young man?” said Mr. Grey, sternly; “is it to serve thy gamesome humour at our expense?”
“No, sir,” replied Peregrine; an air of respect mingling with his habitual levity; “but I wish to speak with Major Atherton who stands gazing at us from under the rose-bush, yonder; and I am mistaken if my absence be much regretted here.”
“None on my word, as we value our lives and comfort,” said Miriam Grey; and the sweet and sportive tunes of her voice fell like music on the ear of Atherton.
“Fare you well then,” said Peregrine, springing on the shore; “here are the paddles Master Benjamin Ashly, so paddle yourself off swiftly, and dexterously; but have a care that you don’t flounce about and upset: for the damsel there, though she is light enough, cannot float for ever, and you would shoot to the bottom like a bullet.”
“Methinks our voyage will prosper,” said Miriam, “now that we are no longer burthened with a Jonas to endanger us.”
“You will see me again in season to pilot you home,” said Peregrine, elevating his voice, as they receded from the shore, “and I shall bring the Captain with me; shall I, Miriam?”
Miriam nodded assent.
“And Major Atherton?” he added; but the damsel probably did not hear, for she turned at the moment to address her father, and Peregrine laughing, proceeded towards the house.
“Well now, Major Atherton,” exclaimed the youth, “why don’t you speak to me, instead of staring at the water as if there was a whale spouting in it!”
“I am truly glad to see you,” returned Atherton; “but I was busily watching the boat you have just left¾see how fast it scuds before the wind!”
“It is a trim little bark enough,” replied Peregrine, “and decked out with fair lading, as I doubt not you were thinking.”
“It dances like an egg-shell,” pursued Atherton, “and I should think there are few females who would not feel some degree of alarm on such tossing waves.”
“There is really no danger,” said Peregrine; “and Miriam Grey would be the last person in the world to imagine it: she is used to such things, and never plagues one with her idle fears like other women.”
“How far are they going?” asked Atherton.
“Just round the bay, to a house near the beach, north of us. I fell in with them by good luck, as they were pushing off from Plymouth, and I was thinking how I should get here this afternoon without taxing my legs with the trouble of bringing me. It was long though before I could make that round-eared Ashly hear my call, for which I owe him a ducking, and I have some idea that the old man himself would have been as well pleased if I had staid behind.”
“You mean to wait here till they return?” asked Atherton.
“No, I’ll not trust to their stopping for me, and I want you and Captain Standish to go with me and meet them at Worthy Mr. Woodman’s. You shall have a treat from Benjamin Ashly, who, I know, means to hold forth like a saint; and Miriam Grey will look¾”
“Like an angel, I suppose you would say,” interrupted Atherton with a smile; “but here comes the Captain, who can speak for himself.”
“Ah!” said Captain Standish, at that moment thrusting his head from the door. “I thought you were here, Master Peregrine; I can no more mistake the sound of your tongue than I could the clapper of a wind-mill.”
“You mean that they both make a noise, I suppose,” said Peregrine; “and in my mind they were both made for that purpose.”
“Yes, and they are both used to grinding out chaff,” said the Captain.
“Which shews that there is some good grain at the bottom, and so Captain, I expect mine will sprout up, and produce a wonderful harvest some of these days.”
“May the time be hastened,” said the Captain, “or we shall begin to think it is choked by the tares.”
“All in good time, Captain. And now I will deliver my message, if it please you to hear.”
“Speak on, young man.”
“Well,” continued Peregrine, “you see yon skiff dipping into the waves like a sea-gull! It landed me safe in your dominions, and a certain laughing damsel, called Miriam Grey.”
“Ah! my little rose-bud!” interrupted the Captain, “and why did she come so near without stopping to see me?”
“I do not know, indeed,” replied the youth, “unless Major Atherton, who was standing there, like a giant to defend your castle, frightened her away.”
“I should be sorry to produce such an effect on her,” said Atherton, laughing.
“You are right,” returned Peregrine archly. “I am thinking you meditated something entirely different.”
“Young maidens are not apt to be alarmed at the sight of a gallant young man,” observed the Captain: “but, bless me, Major Atherton, what have you been doing to this briar-bush?”
“Trimming it,” said Atherton; “though I must confess it is done clumsily enough. I intended it should look precisely like Miriam Grey’s.”
“It looks as much like hers,” said Peregrine White, “as she does like mistress Rebecca Spindle; but I crave your pardon, Captain, perhaps the spinster is a favourite of yours.”
“You are a saucy lad, Peregrine, and not worth the minding, or I should try to mend your manners with the point of my sword.”
“With your leave, Captain, I think it might help to make a breach in my manners; but I doubt if it would readily mend them.”
“No, no, boy; they are past all mending; but, if it please you, unburthen yourself of the remainder of that message: I am waiting to hear it now.”
“The message? oh! It is, that you will go with me to Master Woodman’s, and spend an hour or so. Miriam Grey expects you, and likewise Major Atherton.”
“Take care, master Peregrine,” said Atherton! “remember I was near to you, and could hear all that past.”
“True; and now I recollect, Major, she did not want you: but you do not know what she said before we reached the shore.”
“Perhaps it was something I should not care to hear.”
“It was nothing very remarkable,” said Peregrine; “she only wondered who that tall savage could be who was hacking up her rose bush so unmercifully, and said¾”
“That is quite enough,” interrupted Atherton.
“Oho, you have not had the cream of it! She says¾”
“Never mind the girl,” interposed the Captain; “she is privileged to say any thing that suits her; and now let me know, Peregrine, who is with her in the boat. But the wind grows raw and blustering, and it is my mind that we have stood in it long enough.”
“Her father and Benjamin Ashly,” said Peregrine, as he followed into the house; “and the last-mentioned personage, I believe, has been putting his brains in order, to settle the dubious points of faith and doctrine to-night; for he towed us along, like a snail dragging a cockle-shell.”
“And do you mean to render him assistance with your knowledge and experience?” asked Atherton.
“Not I truly; they would look upon me with as much astonishment as the people of old did when they found Saul among the prophets.”
“You had better stay the evening with us then,” said the Captain; “it is far to go; and unless Major Atherton wishes it, I had rather remain at home.”
“Certainly not; I should by no means wish to intrude myself into the house of an entire stranger.”
“I wish I had kept on in the boat then,” said Peregrine White; “for I have no fancy for a lonely jaunt, with nothing but a dog or my walking stick to speak with. But where is Alexander?”
“He has been out with Hobamock to fish since morning,” said the Captain. “I believe the boy will turn Indian before long, he is so won over by their wandering sort of life.”
“I should like very well to walk part of the way with you, Peregrine,” said Atherton; “but you can stay with us yet an hour or two.”
“Be it so then,” replied Peregrine; “the savoury smell of a venison pasty, which reaches me from the kitchen, is very refreshing, and will, doubtless, prove as substantial as Benjamin Ashly’s exhortations, and be far more quickly despatched.”
The evening proved dark and chilly; but, with health and spirits which bade defiance to its inclemency, the young men at a seasonable hour commenced their walk towards the house of Mr. Woodman. It was two or three miles from the residence of
Captain Standish; and the few stars that now and then broke through the general gloom, served to direct their course; which, after a short distance, seemed to diverge from the abodes of man, and at one moment, led them through the intricacies of a wood, and the next, brought them to the shore of the restless ocean.
“Heaven defend us from a cold bath!” said Peregrine White. “I am not inclined to try my skill in swimming on such a night as this!”
“Since we have escaped those breakneck stumps which threatened our downfall in the woods,” said Atherton, “I think we may find our path clear for the remainder of the way. Yonder is a light, if I mistake not.”
“Yes, and that is the end of our journey,” said Peregrine, joyfully.
“Here then we must part,” rejoined Atherton.
“Go with us,” replied Peregrine, “and we can land you at the Captain’s on our return, without the least difficulty. It is a tedious walk for you alone.”
“No, Rover and I shall be there before you; so look up to the window for a signal light as you pass by.”
“I must then bid you good bye, Major; for see! the door is this moment opening, and they are all sallying forth.”
“Good night, then; but let me intreat you to be prudent, and manage your boat cautiously; it is a trying night, and I fear your voyage will be uncomfortable at the best.”
“Never doubt me,” said Peregrine; “I know the paths of the ocean as well as the fish that swim in it; so fare you well.”
¾¾¾ To hear
The roaring of the raging elements
To know all human skill, all human strength,
Avail not; to look round and only see
The mountain-wave incumbent with its weight
Of bursting waters, o’er the reeling bark,¾
Oh God! this is indeed a dreadful thing! SOUTHEY.
THE house to which Peregrine White directed his steps, was situated near the extremity of a narrow beach which separated the ocean from a projecting bay, and Atherton paused till the little party had exchanged their last adieus; and Miriam Grey, leaning on her father’s arm, approached the bark, which was loosed from the moorings, and shortly commenced its passage across the Bay. The morning of that day had been serene and brilliant; but, with the variableness so common in the capricious climate of New-England, its noon-tide splendour was overcast by dark, though passing clouds, and the setting sun was shrouded in a lurid mist, portending an approaching change of weather. Still, however, the clouds hung back, as if unwilling to collect, and to blacken the pure arch of heaven; and as Major Atherton yet lingered on the spot where his companion had left him, the heavy masses seemed rolling away, leaving large tracts of blue and spangled sky; and the waning moon, encircled by a broad zone of crimson vapour, began to rise from her watery bed, and to shoot a trembling light across the track of the lonely voyagers.
Actuated by a latent interest, which he however ascribed to the mere impulse of curiosity, Major Atherton enveloped himself more closely in the ample folds of a military cloak, to ward off the piercing blast; and turning from the path that led back to his kinsman’s house, proceeded with rapid steps along the beach, which, extending nearly three miles in a south-easterly direction, terminated in an eminence called the Gurnet’s Nose, then joined to the Sanguish by a strip of sand, though it is now many years since the encroaching waves have insulated it. On his left, the Atlantic tossed its foaming billows, sending forth suppressed and sullen murmurs, and seeming to await the rising blast to lash them into fury; while on the other side, the agitated waters of the bay dashed fearfully against the strand, as if seeking to submerge the slight barrier which separated them from the boundless deep. The moon was struggling with the clouds that constantly flitted across her disk, affording to Atherton but partial glimpses of the little bark, which he continued to watch with an anxiety that rendered him insensible to personal inconvenience. It rode manfully on a heavy sea, and in the eye of the wind, which rendered its management difficult, and even dangerous, and required the most strenuous efforts of the young men, who plied the oars with a dexterity and skill that promised ultimate and well-earned success. They were still near the beach, to which, in spite of their exertions, the wind continually impelled them; and as a ray of light occasionally glanced on the countenance of Miriam Grey, Atherton remarked with admiration the serenity of its expression, and the air of calmness, mingled with awe, with which she regarded the angry elements. Apparently unmoved by fear or anxiety, she gently reclined on her father’s protecting arm, while both maintained a profound and unbroken silence. Indeed all were so much engrossed by their peculiar situation or reflections, that Atherton was entirely disregarded, though frequently so near, that the sound of his footsteps, on a calm evening, might have been distinctly heard by them. Presently, the voice of Miriam Grey, more sweet and touching from the contrast of discordant sounds which raved around her, stole upon the ear of Atherton, as in solemn measure she sung the following psalm:
“The Lord doth reign, and cloth’d is he
With majesty most bright:
His works do shew him cloth’d to be,
And girt about with might.
The world is also ’stablished,
That it cannot depart:
Thy throne is fix’d of old, and thou
From everlasting art.
The floods, O Lord, have lifted up,
They lifted up their voice,
The floods have lifted up their waves,
And made a mighty noise.
But yet the Lord that is on high
Is more of might, by far,
Than noise of many waters is,
Or great sea-billows are.”
As she proceeded in the last verse, her voice became slightly tremulous; for the wind, which at the commencement of it seemed dying away, as if lulled to silence by her melody, suddenly rose with redoubled energy, and the darkened sky almost concealed from his view the frail bark, which was at one moment borne on the top of a tremendous wave, and the next almost ingulphed beneath it. They were now nearly opposite the Gurnet’s Nose; and the wind, eddying around the point of land, rendered their endeavours to keep out in the open bay every instant more precarious.
Major Atherton could no longer distinguish any object amidst the deepening gloom; but he still occasionally caught the cheerful voice of Peregrine White, and once distinctly heard Mr. Grey with his usual calmness, say,
“Bear off from the shore, and by the leave of Heaven, I trust we shall soon be in safety.”
Atherton listened for another voice, and longed to know if the countenance of Miriam still retained the sweet tranquillity he had just remarked on it, and which struck him as even more fascinating than its usual sportive gaiety. But he heard only the heavy strokes of the oars which became momently more and more distant; and satisfied that they were well acquainted with the navigation of the Bay, his fears for their safety gradually subsided; though it was not till convinced they were beyond his observation, that he began to feel his own situation to be uncomfortable, if not hazardous.
The wind, which had exhausted its fury, and seemed to be sinking away in hollow murmurs, had indeed enabled the party in the boat to make some progress in the direction they wished; but its violence was shortly redoubled, and the light skiff appeared totally unable to resist the combined force of the winds and waves, that threatened to dash it among the shoals and rocks around the Gurnet. The only hope of safety remaining to them, was the chance of reaching a spot where they could land in safety; but at which, amidst the darkness of the night and the roaring of the waves, it seemed almost impossible to arrive.
Until the moment of extreme peril, Mr. Grey remained by the side of his daughter, and while pressed by his encircling arm, Miriam felt in comparative safety; but when the danger became more pressing, and required his experience and skill to assist the exertions of his younger companions, all the fortitude and resignation of a vigorous and well principled mind could hardly support her amidst the terrors of a scene, which might have appalled even the stoutest heart.
Mr. Grey, agonized with apprehensions for his daughter, which rendered him almost insensible to personal danger, pressed her to his bosom with the mingled sorrow and affection which the danger inspired; and silently commending her to the protection of Him, who directs the storm, and controls the raging winds, he applied himself with all the promptitude and energy which the exigence demanded, to guide the tossing bark amidst the jarring of the contending elements. Miriam Grey covered her face with both her hands, if possible, to screen her eyes from the threatening danger, though she could not shut her ears against the terrific sounds; and endeavouring to collect her agitated thoughts, and compose her mind to meet the will of Providence, awaited in profound stillness the event. Benjamin Ashly, who felt a double pang in prospect of the fate which seemed to await himself and the woman whom he devotedly loved¾feeling his affection rising above its usual reserve, approached with language that expressed his powerful interest, and endeavouring to inspire her with a hope which she felt to be fast gliding away.
“Leave me, I entreat you,” she faltered out¾“as you value our safety, suffer no thought, no fear for me, to distract your attention at this critical moment.”
Ashly pressed her hand with silent emotion.
“God reward you for all your kindness to me,” added the maiden, the tears quickly coursing each other down her cheeks; “and forgive me, Ashly, if I have at any time done aught to give you pain.”
Before he had time to reply, Peregrine White exclaimed joyfully, “yonder is a deep cove¾I know it well¾pull away like a man, Ashly, and if we can pass these breakers, with the help of Heaven, we shall find safe landing.”
The young man seized the oar which Mr. Grey relinquished to him, and for one moment every heart beat high with renovated hope; the next, Ashly cried in a tone of despair, “We are lost!” and at the same instant a loud crash proceeding from the oar which had broken in his hand, struck like a knell on every ear. The boat, propelled by the sudden shock, swung swiftly round; and though Peregrine White, with admirable presence of mind, endeavoured to counteract the danger by his skilful management of the remaining oar, it was swept back by a tremendous wave rolling towards the strand, and left fast grounded on a rock, surrounded by foaming breakers which threatened its speedy destruction. The violence of the gale had passed away, and the moon breaking through the clouds, served but to render their situation more frightful, by exhibiting all its horrors, embittered by their recent hopes of reaching the wished-for shore that lay at a short distance, now visibly inaccessible by reason of a boiling surge. A deadly chill seemed to have seized on every heart; but the rushing of the waves, which soon began to fill the shallow bark, renewed their energies with the additional consciousness of their extreme peril.
“Now may God have mercy on us! there is no longer any hope from man!” ejaculated Mr. Grey in a solemn voice; and he folded his daughter in his arms with the tenderness of a last embrace.
“Say not so!” said Peregrine White, vainly endeavouring to speak with firmness¾“we will not give up life without an effort to preserve it; we can swim, and perhaps¾”
“And Miriam Grey,” interrupted Ashly in great agitation¾“think you that she can struggle with these waves?”
“If you can save my child,” exclaimed the father, with deep emotion, “I shall die contented.”
“No, we will perish together,” said Miriam¾and she twined her arms more closely around her father’s neck.
“Dearest father,” she added, “it is but a brief, though stormy passage to a world, where all will be sunshine and happiness for ever.”
Scarcely had she spoken, when the loud barking of a dog was heard from the shore; and with a sudden revulsion of feeling, every heart bounded with the hope of approaching succour. A sound, as of some one plunging into the water instantly followed; and through the gloom, they could perceive a figure buffeting with the waves, another moment of expectation, and Miriam Grey felt herself gently, but firmly grasped, and a well-remembered voice said to her, “fear not but trust yourself to me, and you will soon be in safety.”
“Major Atherton! Is that you?” said Peregrine White.
“Yes¾follow me, and we shall shortly reach the strand.”
Atherton leaped first into the surge with his half lifeless burthen, whom he firmly supported with one arm, while with the other he resisted the violence of the tide, and at length reached the shore, though nearly exhausted by the effort, which his uncommon muscular strength alone had enabled him to make. Atherton thought only of the lovely being whom he had rescued from an early grave; and wrapping his warm and dry cloak around her, he gently seated her on a bank at some distance from the water’s edge; and kneeling by her side, supported her head against his shoulder, holding her wet and chilled hands between his own. Miriam had not fainted, but conflicting emotions and acute feeling, for a time, nearly deprived her of sensation; and when she began to revive, it was with difficulty she could arrange her bewildered thoughts, or comprehend her singular situation. Atherton, by the imperfect light, which still glimmered from the heavens, watched with intense interest the returning animation of her countenance, and saw with delight a faint colour stealing over her pale features.
As Miriam revived to perfect consciousness, she withdrew, in maiden bashfulness, from the support of Atherton; and disengaging her hand, which he felt slightly tremble between his own, leaned against the trunk of a pine, at the foot of which she was seated. Atherton arose from his lowly posture, and respectfully withdrew a few paces from her. Miriam also rose, and in an instant Atherton was again by her side. She looked at him with a countenance full of gratitude; but felt that language was powerless to express the deep emotions which his disinrested exertions had inspired. In silent eloquence, she again offered him the hand that she had just withdrawn; and Atherton pressed it to his heart, with all the passion which his active ardour and a newly awakened enthusiasm could inspire. Miriam bent her head upon her bosom; she could only articulate, in a tone of deep anxiety, “my father!” and burst into a flood of tears.
“Your father is safe, I trust,” said Atherton; “I even now hear his voice from the beach, and will go and bring him to you;” and he left her, believing that, at such a moment, solitude would be most acceptable to her.
The party had all reached the shore in safety; and Atherton found the young men reclining on the ground, and Mr. Grey standing apart, with folded arms, while Rover lay motionless and panting at his feet; though, the moment he saw his master, the faithful animal flew to meet him, wagging his tail, and whining to attract his notice and caresses, as a reward for his exertions. He had, indeed, been of essential service to Mr. Grey, whom, with the sagacity of his nature, he discovered to be the most indifferent swimmer, and, by keeping fast hold of his clothes, had greatly assisted him in struggling through the waves. Atherton patted him, with many kind expressions, which the dog seemed perfectly to understand; but, at the sound of his voice, Mr. Grey started, and turned suddenly round, with a degree of animation that strongly contrasted with his usual calmness; and, grasping his hand, he said, with energy¾
“To you, young man, under God, I am this night indebted for the life of my only child; accept a father’s blessing; and may the God of mercy reward you!”
“You esteem my services too highly, sir,” said Atherton; “they were nothing more than duty and humanity enjoined; and I shall ever bless God for conducting me hither in such an hour of need.”
“Again I thank you, young man,” said Mr. Grey, in an accent of strong feeling; “and I trust we shall shortly meet again; but, at present, my heart yearns to behold my daughter.”
“I will conduct you to her, sir,” returned Atherton; and he led the way to Miriam; but, without intruding upon their interview, immediately returned to the beach.
“You have done us good service to-night, Major Atherton,” said Peregrine White, rising to meet him, with extreme seriousness; “and I hold myself deeply indebted to you.”
“To your own exertions, rather say,” replied Atherton; “you must have managed skilfully, to keep afloat so long on such a sea.”
“Ah! but when we struck on that rock!” answered Peregrine; “I shall never think of it without shuddering; and I am sure we should never, all of us, have got away from it, but for your assistance. As for Mr. Grey, he would not have held out long but for the help of your dog; and I am sure none of us could have beat the waves as you did, with Miriam tugging at your arm.”
“You speak without knowledge, Master Peregrine,” said Benjamin Ashly, who perhaps felt a twinge of jealousy at Atherton’s success; “of this be assured, that my arm should not have been slack to uphold the maiden amidst the buffetings of the waves.”
“Your arm! Master Ashly,” said Peregrine, losing his brief fit of gravity “why, you puffed like a porpoise, man, and moreover, pulled at my arm ever and anon, to keep your nostrils out of water, so that, for my own safety, I was obliged to shake you off, as the apostle Paul did the viper.”
“It is your custom to use unseemly jests, Peregrine White,” answered the other, somewhat disconcerted; “but, nevertheless, I tell you that I would have saved the damsel, Miriam Grey, or perished with her.”
“Now, from the last mentioned act of kindness, Mr. Ashly,” said Peregrine, “I think she would hold herself excused. It is my mind that she has seen enough of you in this world, without going out of it in your company. So, after all, we are obliged to my friend Major Atherton for his assistance.”
“Truly, I esteem him for his works’ sake,” returned Ashly; and he turned rather stiffly to Atherton, “yet we are bound to remember that we are but as ‘clay in the potter’s hand,’ and, after all we can do, it is ‘of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed.’”
“Consumed! friend Ashly,” said Peregrine, “say drowned, washed away¾any thing but consumed; it is a most far-fetched word in this frozen region, though I wish most truly that some of these trees were consuming, for us to warm ourselves by; I am shivering with the cold;” and, as he spoke, his teeth began to chatter violently.
“Our quarters are indeed uncomfortable,” said Atherton, “and, in our wet condition, it is perilous to remain here long; we had better make some arrangements to depart.”
“If yonder good man has done rejoicing over his lost sheep,” returned Peregrine,
“we will consult his pleasure, though we are in none of the best plight either to go or stay.”
“The wind has subsided, and the tide is going down,” said Atherton; “perhaps we can get the boat off, and return in it.”
“It has got itself off,” replied Peregrine, “went to pieces as my last leg came out of it; so that scheme is up; we must walk round by the beach. But there is Miriam, poor thing! tired enough, I suppose, and soaked through like a sponge, withal. I doubt, Major, you did not bring her through the water dry, though you darted along like a flying-fish with a bug in its mouth; and I think, too, you must have flown to this spot just in the time of need; for I left you far off, plodding alone through the woods.”
Atherton smiled, but made no answer; for they at that instant reached the spot occupied by Mr. Grey and his daughter. The latter, on seeing them approach, flung back from her face a profusion of dark brown hair, out of which she had been wringing the moisture; and drew the cloak more closely around her, to conceal her wet and disordered dress. Rover, who preceded his master, began to fawn about her feet.
“This is one of our deliverers, Miriam,” said her father; “and he craves your notice for his late services.”
“Thou art a brave fellow,” said Miriam, stooping down to caress him; “and I can never, never forget thy services, but to-night I feel unable to express my obligations as I ought to any one.” She stole a timid glance at Atherton, and again bent her face upon the short curly hair of his dumb favourite.
“What arrangements shall we make, sir, for our return home?” said Atherton, addressing Mr. Grey: “if we can endure cold and wet, I fear your daughter will suffer severely from this long exposure.”
“I find a warm shelter within your cloak,” said Miriam; “though I ought not, perhaps, to deprive you of its comforts.”
“It would be rather an incumbrance to me,” replied Atherton; “and I fear you will hardly endure its weight in walking: it was made for a soldier’s wear, rough weather and a camp, not to shield the delicate form of woman, though I am most happy if it can contribute to your comfort or protect you from danger.”
A short consultation was then held, but it was presently broken off by the unexpected appearance of a bright flame rising at a short distance from behind a copse of evergreens, and flashing its red light upon the still troubled waters. While they were yet looking and wondering, Peregrine White, whose absence for a few moments they had scarcely observed, came running towards them with an exulting air.
“Come and warm yourselves,” said he, “I found a few embers which were doubtless left by some charitable fishermen for our use, and have kindled a fire to cheer us before we take up our line of march.”
So saying, he seized the arm of Miriam Grey, and hurried her along with great velocity in spite of the cumbrous cloak which impeded her progress: the rest of the party followed more leisurely, and found a huge pile of underwood and dried branches lighted up, which soon rendered them dry and comfortable.
“Here are some of the planks of our poor boat,” said Peregrine, “which the sea has washed ashore, and we may be thankful that none of us are clinging to them; but they make a bright flame to warm us.”
“Master White,” said Mr. Grey, “methinks your levity is ill-timed and unbecoming. After the signal mercy we have this night experienced, it behoves us to shew our thankfulness by a composed and cheerful deportment, but not to indulge in idle mirth.”
“I was never more serious in my life, sir, than I have been to-night,” returned Peregrine, “and that for an unusual length of time. But now, like David of old, I have washed myself, and would like him, eat and drink with a hearty good-will, if there was any thing to set before me.”
“Hark!” exclaimed Atherton, starting up, “if I mistake not, I hear the distant sound of oars.”
“It is so,” said Ashly, “and yonder is a boat moving over the waters.”
“You must be akin to the owl, Master Ashly, if you can see so far in the dark,” said Peregrine; “but blow up the flame for a beacon, and I will crawl up the Gurnet’s Nose with this brand: it would be a bad joke if they should pass us.”
Snatching a flaming stick from the fire, he ran quickly up the highest eminence, where now stands the light-house, and waved it aloft as a signal of distress; and they soon saw a stout boat with three men in it, advancing towards the cove which they had vainly endeavoured to reach before striking upon the rock. Every one approached the spot with more or less haste, except Miriam Grey, who retained her station on the trunk of an uprooted pine, from whence she could distinguish the various figures in the broad glare of the flame, and distinctly hear most of their conversation. Atherton was the last to leave her; indeed he lingered near the spot under various pretexts, till Miriam observed, with a smile,¾
“I suspect, Major Atherton, you fear from my drowsy countenance that I shall fall asleep by this warm fire; but curiosity will keep me wakeful, for I am really all eagerness to learn who has visited our barren island.”
“Some one I hope who will soon convey you to a comfortable shelter,” said Atherton. “Your looks do indeed betray your fatigue and need of repose.”
“Nay, but you pay me an ill compliment,” returned Miriam playfully; “though I have no glass to consult, I had fancied this cloak extremely becoming, and thought that bright flame would not deny me the ruddy tinge it lavishes so freely on every other object.”
“Shall I be more gallant then,” replied Atherton, “and declare that Miriam Grey can require no artificial aid to render her lovely!”
“No,” returned Miriam, in some confusion, “I did not intend to extort flattery from your lips.”
“The language of flattery is unknown to me,” said Atherton, turning his dark eyes full upon her blushing face; “I speak only what truth and feeling dictate;” and bowing low, he reluctantly quitted her.
Miriam Grey looked after him a moment with a thoughtful air; then leaning back her head, seemed to regard attentively the wild scenery which surrounded her, and particularly the group collected on the shore, where the crimson flame glanced brightly, giving a peculiar, and at times, fantastic expression to their features, and reflecting their dark shadows in the broken waves.
Mild hospitality spreads wide her door,
And, with the loaded banquet, courts the stay
Of passing stranger. COTTLE.
“WELL, how now,” exclaimed Captain Standish, springing from the boat, “what sort of a frolic is this, good people? a pretty tune you have made us dance to this stormy night!”
“One of Beelzebub’s tunes, I think, Captain,” said Peregrine White; “and here is Hobamock, on my life, looking like one of his fiddlers, with the blaze dancing on his copper-coloured visage!”
“Explain boy, explain,” said the Captain, impatiently, “or hold your peace, and let some one older and wiser speak for you. But what means this? Cousin Atherton here too!” and he looked in surprise as his kinsman that moment approached the spot.
“Yes,” resumed Peregrine; “he has been chief actor in the tragedy.”
“Tragedy!” interrupted the Captain; “I can well believe, jack-a-napes, that you would keep away from any thing tragic; so now you mean to teaze us with your nonsense.”
“He jumped into the sea,” pursued Peregrine, with the utmost gravity, “seized the damsel, and swam off with her like a fish.”
“Who? Miriam Grey? where is she, where is my rose-bud?” said the Captain, quickly; “I hoped they had kept her on solid ground this dark night.”
“My daughter,” said Mr. Grey, “is safe and well, thanks to Heaven, and the courage of your young kinsman, who has indeed stepped between us and death.”
“You have done well, Edward,” said the Captain with warmth; “as I said before, you have Standish blood in your veins; and ne’er a one of us has ever yet turned his back upon danger! But I must know all, every thing that has happened.”
“The substance of the matter is this;” answered Peregrine White; “our boat was driven on a rock by a violent head wind, and stove to pieces; and so being all fairly ducked in the sea, we made use of our fins to good advantage, and with the help of Major Atherton and his dog, who chanced to be near, I know not how, we reached this Melita, safe and sound; but unluckily found no ‘barbarous people’ to ‘shew us kindness.’”
“You were not in the boat then, cousin Atherton,” said the Captain; “and how came you near them in their distress?”
“I was wandering on the beach,” said Atherton, evading a direct answer, “and fortunately perceived their danger in time to render some assistance.”
“You missed the road I suppose,” returned the Captain, “and it is no odd mistake for a stranger; we have not made broad English highways through our woods as yet; and you would hardly understand our rustic land-marks.”
“To what cause,” asked Atherton, “are we indebted for the unexpected pleasure of seeing you?”
“Principally to Mr. Calvert,” replied the Captain, “with whom I must make you acquainted;”¾and he turned to address a young man who had accompanied him in the boat, and was talking apart with Mr. Grey and Benjamin Ashly.
“Calvert!” repeated Atherton thoughtfully; for the name sounded familiar, and he regarded with more attention the stranger, whom he had before scarcely remarked. His figure was slight, but peculiarly graceful; his complexion sallow; his countenance strongly marked, and animated by intelligent features and piercing black eyes, with hair of the most jetty hue. There was a degree of singularity in his appearance rather attractive than pleasing; and Atherton, as soon as he had heard his voice, identified him as a native Virginian who had been sent to England for education, and served some time as lieutenant in the same regiment with himself; but quitted the profession about two years previous, being recalled by the death of his father, to take possession of a valuable plantation. Major Atherton knew that he was insinuating and unprincipled, and master of those specious talents and artful manners which enabled him to support any character that suited his inclination; and he was therefore not surprised to find him treated with marked attention even by the scrupulous Mr. Grey.
As Atherton advanced towards Mr. Calvert, he expressed his recognition by politely bowing, which the latter instantly returned, at the same time observing,¾
“I did not anticipate the pleasure of meeting with Major Atherton in this new world.”
“And the pleasure of seeing you, sir, was equally unexpected,” returned Atherton. “A voyage from your distant province I have always considered nearly as formidable as one from the parent country.”
“We endeavour to keep up a good neighbourhood,” said Calvert; “and it is quite a deed of charity to convey intelligence occasionally through our thinly scattered settlements; not to mention the powerful suggestions of interest, or the old fashioned claims of friendship.”
“It was a good chance at any rate which brought you here to-night,” said Peregrine White; “for though I don’t exactly know how, the Captain says we are indebted to you for succour.”
“Not exactly so,” returned Mr. Calvert. “I arrived at Plymouth about noon to-day, and early in the evening crossed the Bay to visit Captain Standish. I found him very uneasy about his friends; and as I had felt the violence of the wind in my short passage, which boded no good to so light a skiff as he told me you were in, I proposed enlisting Hobamock in my service and sailing out in quest of you. The Captain insisted on accompanying me, and we were soon directed in our course by your blazing watch fire; though it also excited considerable anxiety respecting your situation.”
“We have cause to regret the trouble and concern you have sustained on our account,” said Mr. Grey, “though Providence has doubtless permitted it for some wise and benevolent purpose.”
“Peradventure for the trial of our faith and love,” said Benjamin Ashly.
“I dare say there will some love come out of it,” whispered Peregrine White to Atherton; “and I do believe, after all, Master Ashly would rather have been drowned with Miriam than have had you save her.”
“It is my mind,” said Captain Standish, “that we had better think of returning home; the night wanes, and my little rose-bud I know begins to droop her head.”
So saying he walked with hasty steps to Miriam Grey, and had exhausted a score of congratulations before his more tardy companions could overtake him; though the echo of a hearty salute which he bestowed on her cheek, reached them even at a distance.
“That went off like a cannon ball!” cried Peregrine White. “I should think, Captain, you were charging the enemy with a full round of grape shot!”
“Have a care, young man,” said the Captain, “or I will give you a shot about the ears, that will make you cry out for quarter, before you can have time to retreat.”
Miriam at that moment rose to receive Mr. Calvert, who greeted her with the familiarity of long acquaintance; and taking her passive hand, conveyed it to his lips with the most easy gallantry, leaving Atherton at a loss whether the bright blush which mantled her cheeks was excited by pleasure or bashfulness; and before he could solve the doubt to his own satisfaction, she was leaning on her father’s arm, and directing her steps to the boat. The sea was still rough, and the wind keen, though it had tacked about to a point more favourable for their progress; but Miriam could not avoid shuddering as she entered the boat, and again entrusted her safety to the keeping of the elements, from whose wrath she had so severely and recently suffered. These natural emotions were, however, transient, and passed away even before the bark had glided from the cove which was still burnished with the light of the expiring fire.
Captain Standish would allow no one to share with himself and Hobamock the toil of rowing, insisting that they were fresh and vigorous, and the others wearied by exertion; and claimed, as his only recompence, that they would proceed no farther than his house that night; where he had ordered preparations to be made for their accommodation, in case of need. His hospitality was cheerfully accepted by all but Mr. Calvert, whose affairs obliged him to return to Plymouth; and as it was agreed that Hobamock should go with him to convey intelligence of their safety to the friends of those who remained behind.
The little party then sunk into almost total silence, each apparently exhausted in spirits; and the boat moved slowly over the heavy waves, while at intervals, the Indian burst into a low solemn chaunt in the harsh and guttural language of his nation. The animated voice of the Captain at length roused them.
“Haul up, Hobamock,” he said; “here we are safe and ready to land.”
As he spoke the boat was made fast to the shore, and all, except Mr. Calvert and the Indian, leaped from it with joyful hearts, and proceeded to the house, which stood at no great distance.
Mistress Saveall, Captain Standish’s provident housekeeper, rightly judging from her master’s prolonged absence, that he would not return unaccompanied by those whom he went out to succour, had piled high the blazing logs in the ample fire-place, and marshalled round it a goodly row of comfortable elbow chairs ready for their reception. As they entered the room she was, with bustling activity, preparing a liberal table to satisfy their farther wants¾though the disordered appearance of the guests so strongly excited her curiosity, and her ears were so fully engrossed by the conversation, from which she hoped to gather an account of what had passed, that her task proceeded very slowly: when a sharp rebuke from the Captain, whose commands were equally peremptory in his house and garrison, discharged her from the room with the swiftness of an arrow, though her countenance, for some time, marked her resentment of the indignity. In a few minutes a substantial repast engrossed the attention of every one; and the culinary skill of Mistress Saveall was discussed so much to her satisfaction (for the worthy dame was seldom out of hearing), that her smiles and exertions were speedily redoubled, and the late affront seemed quite forgotten.
“Let Mistress Saveall alone for cooking to my liking, at least,” said the Captain;
“she has a curious way of seasoning her viands just to suit the palate; and if you have a mind to take some lessons of her, Miriam, I’ll be bound they will stand you in good service when you have a house of your own to look after.”
“I am an experienced housewife already, sir,” replied Miriam; “I believe my father is very well satisfied with my abilities.”
“With the help of your cousin Lois,” said Mr. Grey, “you have hitherto been pretty expert in the duties of your sex.”
“But Mistress Lois will not be with you long, I suppose,” returned the Captain; “and we shall see if the garrison is well victualled, and fit for duty then.”
“I doubt not,” Benjamin Ashly ventured to say, “that Miriam Grey is competent, albeit alone and unassisted, to manage the affairs of a household with discretion.”
“And so you have a mind,” said Peregrine White, “to make her chief ruler over your affairs!¾ha, master Ashly?” and he added in a whisper, though loud enough to be heard by all at the table¾”But the deuce take me, if you don’t find it hard tugging to get the pinnace into that harbour!”
Mr. Ashly coloured with resentment, but made no answer; aware from experience, that it would only provoke a retort; nor could Atherton refrain from smiling as he glanced from him to Miriam Grey, whose countenance evinced a slight degree of vexation, mingled with an expression of archness which increased as she stole a glance from under her long eye-lashes at her abashed lover; while Captain Standish indulged in a long and loud laugh.
“You whisper over loud, Master Peregrine,” he said at its conclusion¾ “but we never mind you¾so no offence. And now lay your mirth aside, and help Miriam to a slice from that sirloin by you.”
“I should prefer a share of that dish which you seem to keep for your sole benefit, Peregrine,” said Miriam.
“Of the dish? the corn that is in it you mean,” replied Peregrine; “though if you had spoken a moment later, I doubt if there would have been any thing left but the platter:” and as he heaped her plate with a quantity of broken corn, boiled, and called Samp, or Nasaump by the Indians, he continued¾“I dare say, Captain, this corn is descended from the very ears you had the Christian charity to steal from the poor Indians when you first landed in their dominions.”
“Young man,” said Mr. Grey in a severe tone, “you speak lightly, or are ill-informed of that which your fathers have done in this wilderness. Providence, which manifestly brought us out from our native land, and watched over us in all our straits, was pleased, in our hour of extremity, to avert the horrors of famine by conducting our steps to the subterranean granaries of the idolatrous heathen, whereby we were supplied with food to eat, and seed for the future harvest.”
“And left the owners thereof to starve,” returned the unabashed youth. “That was a way of cutting off the enemy without the trouble of driving them out before you to come into possession of their goodly inheritance.”
“We did them no injustice,” resumed Mr. Grey; “we found the country desolate and deserted for many leagues from the coast, as we afterwards learned by reason of a great plague which the Lord had visited upon this people who knew him not. In the succeeding autumn we sent an embassy to Aspinet, sachem of the Nauset tribe, from whom we had taken the corn, to repay them from our substance that which they demanded as recompense; and they having sufficient left for their own use, were well satisfied to truck with us.”
“I suppose,” said Peregrine, “you paid them for their grain with rusty penknives and glass beads.”
“They have found to their cost,” replied the Captain, “that we know how to pay off our debts, even with good round shot and cold steel. It is my mind they would not greet us again with a shower of arrows when we came to take peaceable possession of the land in God’s name and the king’s.”
“Strange enough,” observed Peregrine White, “that the dusky rascals should not be willing to give up their rights to us comely white people.”
“At least,” said the Captain, “they have leaned to fear us, and that with a very few lessons¾aye, they took to their heels at the first musket shot; only one fellow dared to defend himself behind a tree, and he soon ran after the rest, with half a score of our bullets in him.”
“Hark! it is raining fast,” exclaimed Peregrine White¾“I am right glad that we went no farther to-night.”
“I wish we had prevailed on Calvert to remain,” said the Captain; “he will be half drowned ere he get to Plymouth.”
“Why did you not persuade him to stay, Miriam?” asked Peregrine.
“To tell the truth, I scarcely thought of it,” returned the damsel; “and if I had, should probably have had no interest with him.”
“Do you think so?” said Peregrine, significantly; “with your leave I should like to whisper a word in your ear.”
“You will not have my leave to be so uncivil,” said Miriam, smiling; “besides, your whispers are apt to be very audible.”
“Another time will do, then,” returned Peregrine, as they all rose from the table; and soon after Captain Standish caused his household to assemble and close the day with their customary devotions, which on that evening were rendered peculiarly impressive, by the circumstances of danger and difficulty from which so many present had been providentially delivered. The psalm selected as a portion of the exercise, chanced to be one which Atherton had often heard warbled from the lips of his mother, and it awakened associations that thrilled his heart with sad yet pleasing recollections, and compelled him almost involuntarily to unite in the song of praise and thanksgiving, which arose like a cloud of incense from the family altar of the puritans. He caught the eye of Miriam Grey as his fine and manly voice mingled with her own, and false note from which she instantly recovered, shewed a momentary abstraction of mind, that was however perfectly natural, and perhaps shared with her by all who heard him; for in those days of rigid separation, when every sect proclaimed by actions, if not in words, “stand off, for I am holier than thou;” the act of countenancing, much more of assisting each other in their different forms of worship, argued an unusual degree of lenity or an unpardonable indifference to prevailing modes and opinions. The family and guests soon after separated for the night; and Mistress Saveall insisted on attending Miriam Grey to her chamber, to administer a composing draught which she had prepared to ward off the effects of her recent exposure.
The opening and closing of doors, and tread of footsteps above and around the apartment of Major Atherton, was succeeded by a profound silence throughout the house, long before he could divert his thoughts from the events of the evening; and the occurrences of the few last weeks, which had so strongly impressed his imagination, as to banish from his pillow the repose which his late exertions rendered necessary. The situation into which he was so unexpectedly cast, possessed a tinge of romance peculiarly calculated to excite the enthusiasm of his character, at a moment, too, when he was gradually recovering from a deep depression of spirits, occasioned by the loss of a parent whom he devotedly loved, and the subsequent abandonment of a profession on which he had, with well founded ambition, rested his future hopes of glory and advancement.
Till that period arms had been his passion, and fame his mistress; and when obliged to relinquish them, he had turned with restless eagerness to the shores of the new world, as a scene where he might again find exercise for the energy and activity of his mind. At a distance, he had listened with interest to descriptions of its local advantages, its majestic scenery, and its rising importance. He had regarded it as an asylum for the persecuted, and the future home of a free and virtuous people. On a near approach, he found that description had fallen short of reality, and fancy but faintly portrayed the magnificence of its untamed landscapes. He viewed with astonishment and admiration its gigantic mountains, its lofty hills and fruitful valleys, its boundless forests, its dashing torrents, and broad and fertilizing rivers. Where the wildness of nature had yielded to the hand of cultivation, villages were arising, and the soil teemed with all the rich and varied bounties which could spring up to reward the labours of the husbandman. He regarded, too, the men whom the prejudiced and worldly-minded stigmatized as bigots and seditious enthusiasts; they were men who had forsaken power and riches and distinction for the “gospel’s sake;” who with holy lives and blameless conversation shared with each other the tender charities of life, and the sweetness of social and domestic intercourse; while many, whom opportunity favoured, had drank deeply at the fountain of intellectual knowledge. He admired the wisdom of their political compact, which, while it rendered them subservient to the laws of England, provided for the internal peace and prosperity of the colony, the administration of justice, and the promotion of order, piety and learning. If their doctrines were censured as intolerant, and their morals as too rigid, it was an extreme produced by the spirit of the times, and which might naturally appear essential to those who had separated from a church, which, under the influence of a dissolute court and vindictive prelacy, openly countenanced vice, and secretly connived at bribery and corruption.
Yet there were softer thoughts and fairer images imprinted on the mind of Atherton. The lovely figure of Miriam Grey, her playful sweetness, the brilliant beauty of her countenance, its spirit and intelligence, the graceful timidity and unaffected artlessness of her manners, were all registered in his memory, and delineated on his heart. In his native land he had seen as fair, perhaps fairer maidens; the gay, the beautiful, and high-born; the smiling idol of a courtly throng, and the rustic belle, whose charms relieved the dulness of country quarters, had alternately claimed from him the brief homage of a compliment, or the passing tribute of a sigh; but never till now had he felt the sorcery of a woman’s eye, or the resistless spell which sports in her smile, and lurks beneath her blushes. Romance lent her aid to heighten the enchantment, and involved him in her shadowy but delightful mazes. A lover of music, and himself well skilled in the harmony of sweet sounds, from the moment he had listened to the voice of Miriam on the evening of his arrival, his curiosity had been awakened, and the transient glimpse he soon obtained of her, deepened that curiosity to a powerful interest. It was a vision, of which he had never dreamed, and, least of all, expected to realize, amidst the wild scenery of New-England. Every succeeding interview increased his interest, and the late scene, which seemed so closely to connect them, kindled the latent spark into enthusiasm. As yet, however, it had not become a sentiment, but a pleasing fancy, which future circumstances were to enliven or destroy; but it was already sufficiently powerful to engross his midnight thoughts, and the rain had ceased to beat against the casements, and the moon shone brightly on his uncurtained bed, long before his eyelids were closed in slumber.
Major Atherton slept long enough on the following morning, to make amends for the restlessness of the night; and Captain Standish and his guests had been some time assembled before he joined them in the breakfast room. He was apprised of his remissness as he was descending the stairs by the impatient voice of Mistress Saveall rising from the kitchen, who declared to David, that “the venison steak were well nigh done to death, and all because the Captain would wait for the young Major to get up.”¾ “And I am sure,” responded David, who was pounding corn with all his might between two stones, “if Master Ashly should be for making one of his long prayers, the chocolate will be clear boiled away.”
Major Atherton, thus warned of his tardiness, expected to be greeted with raillery by his kinsman, but the Captain was struck with the unusual languor of his countenance, and, as he entered the parlour, exclaimed¾
“Well, cousin Atherton, I thought something must ail you, to keep you in bed so long; and here you are, looking as pale as a Dutch ghost.”
“I know not how I could oversleep myself so strangely on so bright a morning as this,” returned Atherton; “you have a capricious climate, Captain, and storms and sunshine succeed each other so rapidly, that we have scarcely time to guard against the one or enjoy the other. Last evening, I scarcely expected to see blue sky again for a week at least.”
“Our southerly gales,” said the Captain, “are short and violent; and, had you asked me, I could have told you last night that it would be fair weather today. But that is nothing to the purpose; so tell me truly now, if that confounded game of swimming has not washed away your colour, and given you a cold.”
“I am perfectly well,” replied Atherton; “and I believe my colour is not on the surface, to be rubbed off so easily.”
“As for that,” said the Captain, “my little rosebud here has generally as bright a tinge as most damsels on her cheek; but just look at her now, she is as wan and drooping as a lily.”
Atherton was looking at her, and with an anxious expression, which, as his eyes encountered those of Miriam Grey, suffused her face with the deepest blush, which again gradually faded into its former paleness.
“How now?” said the Captain, regarding her with attention; “I believe the girl is feverish¾such a flush, and all for nothing. Mistress Saveall must steep you some more of her herbs, and mess you up in her way.”
“No, no,” said Miriam, laughing, “I only wanted to contradict you, Captain; and, not daring to do it with my lips, conjured up that colour, which was a modest way of saying you are mistaken, sir.”
“And a very pretty way, truly,” returned the Captain; “and were I a few years younger, Miriam, there is no knowing what effect it would have upon my heart.”
“Now I pray you, Captain,” said Miriam, blushing more deeply than before, probably from observing the gaze of Atherton, who was admiring the bright glow, “do not give me the trouble of trying it again. To tell you the truth, I have a keen appetite this morning, and have been wishing for breakfast for the last half hour or two.”
“I am sorry to have caused so much delay by my indolence,” said Atherton.
“Nay,” said Miriam, gaily, “but you must take more leisure if you mean to apologize, Major Atherton. There is Master Peregrine looking very hungry; and my father, I know, is in haste to return home.”
Mr. Grey had expressed a wish to return as early as possible to Plymouth. Captain Standish, therefore, ordered a boat to be prepared; and, soon after breakfast, they were all in readiness to depart. Atherton felt a strong desire to go with them, which he was hesitating to make known, when the Captain said¾
“I had thoughts of taking a trip with you, Mr. Grey, if it pleased you to accept my company and cousin Atherton’s; but, on second thoughts, he had enough of the water last night, and had better rest a while.”
“Indeed, sir,” replied Atherton, “I am perfectly well; and, if not, this elastic air might restore health to an invalid.”
“We have many such days in autumn,” said the Captain; “and, if Hobamock were here, I think he would predict an Indian summer to us after this storm; so we will see you soon, Mr. Grey, and I will teach Major Atherton to harvest corn this morning.”
Atherton tried not to look vexed, though he really felt so; and Mr. Grey, with much cordiality, expressed a hope that he should see him as soon, and as often as he could find it convenient; a hope which Atherton fancied was confirmed by Miriam’s eyes, and to which he yielded a ready assent.
“All’s ready,” said Peregrine White; “so good bye to you all. And now, away, Master Ashly; but take care that you do not break the oar, and set us all adrift again:” and, looking back, he called out, “I pray you, Captain, to look sharp at your corn, and not teach Major Atherton to bind it into sheafs like wheat, as you did me once. I can tell you, the Governor had some trouble to unlearn me.”
“It would be well if he had no other trouble with you,” said the Captain. “Master Peregrine,” he added to Atherton, “is like a king’s jester, privileged to say aught that pleases him, without giving offence; and if he is rude at times, we don’t mind him; for the lad means well and is kind at heart, though he has come near being spoiled by indulgence. His father died soon after his birth, and I suppose the Governor does not care to meddle much with his mother’s management.”
“It is natural that he should not,” said Atherton, who answered almost mechanically; for his eyes were following the boat as it shot rapidly across the Bay ¾and he was perhaps admiring the deep blue of the heavens, the glassy smoothness of the waters dimpled by the dipping oars, and slightly furrowed by the track of the light vessel, which soon dwindled to a fairy skiff. The figure of Miriam Grey was no longer distinguishable; and Atherton, whistling carelessly to his dog, returned to the house.
What is fanatic frenzy, scorn’d so much,
And dreaded more than a contagious touch?
I grant it dang’rous, and approve your fear,
That fire is catching, if you draw too near;
But sage observers oft mistake the flame,
And give true piety that odious name. COWPER.
AS Captain Standish was reviewing the labour of his fields after dinner with
Major Atherton, they observed Hobamock approaching towards them, on the road from Plymouth.
“There comes my trusty messenger,” said the Captain; “I wonder what brings him back here to-day.”
“He seems swift-footed,” returned Atherton; “and you must find him very serviceable in your colony.”
“Yes,” replied the Captain, “and he is shrewd and faithful, and moreover exceedingly brave; being what the Indians call a Paniese, which means, a chief of great courage, who they think has had intercourse with the devil, to render him invincible.”
“Has he resided long with you?” asked Atherton.
“He came to us within a year after we landed, and we have since employed him in our service. He has been our interpreter and guide amongst the savage tribes, and a good soldier too, after his manner, in all our engagements. But he begins to lose the agility of youth. I doubt civilization does not agree with him.”
Hobamock, at that moment, stood before them bowing with profound respect.
“Well, Hobamock, what news do you bring us?” said the Captain.
“No news, Captain; come to walk, and see if you want me for do any thing.”
“No, nothing,” returned the Captain; “but stop; have any vessels come into Plymouth this day or two?”
“Yes, one last night, from the Massachusetts, and young Master Weldon come in him.”
“Master Weldon, ha! well, we must brush up for a wedding, Edward; that is Lois Grey’s lover. You may go into the house Hobamock, and tell Mistress Saveall to give you something to eat.”
The Indian obeyed with alacrity.
“I think,” continued the Captain, “if you please, cousin Atherton, we will go to the old town this afternoon; I should like to see Henry Weldon, and it is long since we were at the Governor’s.”
“I will go with pleasure,” said Atherton; “do you try the land or water?”
“Land, I think,” replied the Captain. “I have two horses, and you may take your choice of them.”
In a short time they were both mounted, and on the way to Plymouth; and quickly clearing the intermediate woods, the village and harbour lay in full prospect before them.
“There is the Massachusetts’ shallop,” said the Captain; “she has been here before on trading voyages; and that stout pinnace at anchor near her, must be the Virginian. I will warrant there is a goodly hoard of tobacco stowed away in her.”
“Mr. Calvert seemed well known to you,” said Atherton; “has he made frequent voyages to New-England?”
“Only one, about a year since; but he cultivates a large plantation, and has often sent vessels here and to the Massachusetts. He has ever dealt honourably with us, and conducted himself discreetly, so as to gain the good-will of the people; but you probably know more of him than we do?”
“I saw him seldom, except on duty, even when we served together;” said Atherton. “But here are two roads, which of them shall we take?”
“You can go on to Mr. Grey’s, if you like,” returned the Captain, “and I will shortly join you there; I have some business that leads me first in the opposite direction.”
They accordingly separated, and a few moments brought Major Atherton to the residence of Mr. Grey. He alighted and fastening his horse to the wooden paling, knocked at the outer door. No one appeared, and after repeating the knock several times, without being heard, he ventured to lift the latch and enter a small apartment, which seemed to be the usual sitting room. It was extremely neat, and conveniently furnished, but unoccupied; and Atherton, while waiting for some person to answer his summons, had leisure to examine every object which it contained. True, there was nothing remarkable in it; the heavy chairs; the wooden-framed looking-glass and carved oaken table, though brightly polished by time and industry, might be seen in any other place; there was a beaufet too, carefully decorated with china and a few vessels of massive plate; and over the fire-place hung a piece of embroidery, representing the garden of Paradise in all its original splendour. It was crowded with a gay assortment of colours, wrought into flowers and birds, and “all manner of four-footed beasts,” and some with no feet at all,¾with our first parents standing under the “tree of good and evil,” which spread forth its goodly branches loaded with a kind of non-descript fruit, of a tempting red and yellow. Around the trunk a serpent of prodigious dimensions had awfully twined himself, stretching out his head to gaze at the guilty pair, with eyes that resembled bullets.
This ingenious specimen of female industry bore the date of 1616; it could not, therefore, be the production of Miriam’s needle; and Atherton in turning from it was attracted by a small Indian basket of curious workmanship. Some unfinished work lay in it, with several implements of housewifery as if recently left, and probably he thought by Miriam herself. He had taken up, and was examining with the eye of a connoisseur, a pocket-book of famous tent-stitch, when the door opened, and not Miriam, but a tidy looking housemaid entered. She started with some surprise on seeing a stranger, and so employed, and Atherton hastily replacing the basket and its contents, inquired for Mr. Grey. The family were all from home, and it was uncertain when they would return.
Atherton left the house in disappointment; and remounting his horse struck into a bye-way which led in a circuitous route to the Governor’s. He was presently surprised to hear the quick trampling as of several horses approaching him in that unfrequented road; and on turning a sudden angle, he came in full view of two damsels mounted on a spirited palfry; nor did it require a second glance to convince him that the light maiden, who rode with so much grace, and managed her steed with such ease and dexterity, was Miriam Grey, and on a pillion behind her he recollected the features of her cousin Lois. Mr. Calvert, apparently in high spirits, followed close in the rear, for there was not room for two abreast; and Atherton caught the gay tones of his voice as Miriam, at the moment, looked back to speak with him.
Major Atherton drew up on one side to let them pass; and Miriam as soon as she saw him, checked her horse, and looked as if hesitating whether to speak or wait for him to address her. But Atherton, from one of those unaccountable sensations peculiar to lovers, particularly in the incipient stages of their disease, contented himself with a passing salute, and continued his course in silence.
Miriam seemed to regard him with surprise and perplexity; she however courteously returned his salutation; but as they passed each other, with some difficulty in the narrow defile, her slender foot caught in the stirrup of his saddle. He instantly stopped, but she extricated herself before he had time to assist her, or even speak, as he then felt strongly inclined; and slightly touching the curved neck of her steed, she set off with speed that almost alarmed Atherton for her safety. He bit his lip with vexation, and vainly deprecated the perverse feeling which had suffered him to pass her in silence. He looked back again¾she maintained her seat with the utmost firmness, and in another moment had passed beyond his sight. Atherton sunk into a deep reverie; and the animal he rode, which had been used to a plough, and thereby lost the exuberance of his spirits, and become fond of his ease, encouraged by the lenity of his rider and attracted by a spot of fresh grass, endeavoured by a vigorous shake to free himself from all incumbrances, to enjoy the tempting morsel at his leisure. But Atherton, completely aroused by the exertion, plunged his spurs into the sides of the reluctant beast, and urged him to a gallop which soon brought him to Mr. Winslow’s gate.
Peregrine White saw him approaching from a window, and hastened to the door to welcome him.
“I am heartily glad to see you, Major,” said he; “though methinks you might as well have come with us in the morning, as to burthen this miserable old sheep, which looks as if it was going to baa at this very moment. The Captain has a high-mettled steed that he might have lent you, instead of this shaggy thing.”
“I had my choice of the two,” returned Atherton; “but as he was coming with me, I left the best for his own use.”
“That was vastly civil of you,” said Peregrine; “but if you had been with us, I would have treated you with some rare sport.”
“You are very liberal with such entertainment,” said Atherton; “how was it served up this morning?”
“Oh, it was Benjamin Ashly’s own contrivance. You must know he was the last to leave the boat, and twisting about in his clumsy fashion, he tipped it on one side, and went souse into the water to his neck. I wish you could have seen him! there he stood, with his jaws distended like a crocodile’s, and croaking for all the world like a frog.”
“I suppose you had no hand in the accident?” said Atherton.
“No hand in it, on my honour; though I can’t say but my foot might possibly have touched the keel; it was purely accidental, however.”
“Oh, of course, we could not suppose you mischievous; but I hope you helped him out of the difficulty.”
“He crawled out like a great mud turtle,” said Peregrine; “and how he got home I know not, for I came off with the pretty Miriam, who could not for her life help laughing, though her father tried to frown us both into long faces to suit the cut of the young deacon’s woeful visage.”
“I should think Mr. Ashly would keep aloof from you,” said Atherton; “you are apt to come into rude contact with him. But we had better go into the house now if you are ready.”
“Whenever you please; but I forgot to tell you there is some half dozen of good people in there, who seem very well satisfied with themselves, but in my opinion are terribly stupid.”
“Perhaps I shall intrude on them,” said Atherton.
“Oh no, you will not; and it may be you will enliven them a little; I am sure I have been half asleep for an hour past, and once do verily believe my head dropped on Mrs. Rebecca Spindle’s shoulder; the last thing in the world I should choose for a pillow.”
“Let us go then, said Atherton, “they will wonder that we stay so long on the threshold.”
“No matter,” returned the careless youth; “they have been talking about you all the afternoon, and it will give them time to wind off with a good grace.”
So saying, he entered and threw open the parlour door, at which Atherton was met by the Governor with his habitual courtesy, and introduced to his guests. Mrs. Winslow also rose with matronly dignity to receive him; and the usual civilities being ended on all sides, she returned to her station with her female friends, who were seated in a formal row on one side of the apartment, and the conversation was resumed which had been suspended on the entrance of Major Atherton.
The subject in discussion was certain heretical opinions that were said to be gaining ground in the Massachusetts Bay; and concerning which, reports, probably exaggerated, had been received by the late arrival from that place. These heresies were considered by all as dreadful, and till of late, unheard-of enormities, though their precise nature seemed to be imperfectly understood, and variously interpreted. That a woman should become the promulgator of such doctrines, was evidently no slight addition to the crime.
“To think,” as Mistress Spindle judiciously remarked, “that a frail woman should take it on herself to set forth new, and strange doctrines! it was an awful thing!”
“But,” said Peregrine White, who could seldom keep silence, “all women are not so frail, Mistress Spindle, as your experience may lead you to believe; and this
Mrs. Hutchinson, we are told, has the sense and spirit of a lion.”
“The spirit of a devil!” exclaimed a little austere-looking man; “and when our youth rise up to defend such in their apostacy, well may we tremble for the ark which we have builded here.”
“My son did not mean to defend her principles,” said Mrs. Winslow; “but, with his usual haste, has spoken unadvisedly with his lips.”
“No, mother, I did not speak.”¾Peregrine began; but the Governor, in a mild, though decisive tone, interposed.
“We will waive that discussion at present, Peregrine, and, if it please you, attend to what Mr. Bradford hath to say.”
Peregrine yielded with a very good grace; and Mr. Bradford related the substance of certain information he had received from Mr. Weldon, respecting the ecclesiastical affairs of their Massachusetts’ brethren; and concluded with some judicious remarks, which strikingly exhibited the candour and liberality of his mind.
Mr. Bradford had been eminently useful in the settlement and advancement of the Plymouth colony; he was still in the meridian of life; his countenance and deportment were prepossessing, dignified and grave, without austerity, and strongly expressive of that good sense and benevolence, solid judgment and fervent piety, which had early won the entire confidence and affection of the people with whom he was associated. Their unanimous suffrages had continued him in the executive chair from the death of the lamented Carver, through sixteen successive years; with the exception of one only, when, at his own urgent request, he was permitted to resign it to Mr. Winslow. It cannot be supposed that the office of chief magistrate was considered otherwise than as a post of honour, even in that early period of the country; but so far from being an object of contention, or “root of bitterness,” the humility and disinterestedness of the primitive settlers induced them rather to decline the distinction, and prefer others before themselves; insomuch, that an act of the general court was passed, imposing a fine of twenty pounds on any one who should refuse the office of Governor, unless chosen two years successively; and a penalty of ten pounds for rejecting an inferior office. Could the venerable fathers of New-England look forth in these degenerate times, how would they start back with horror and amazement, at beholding the electioneering columns of our modern newspapers?
“I am well-pleased,” said the Governor, when Mr. Bradford had concluded, “that young Weldon is so prosperous in his worldly estate; he seems modest and well disposed, and is, moreover, about to bear away from us one of our choicest vines.”
“I think,” returned the little man, “we have no authority to speak with confidence of him, seeing he is the blossom of a strange branch, and but a stranger and sojourner amongst us.”
“We are bound, in the judgment of charity, to think well of him, Mr. Scruple,” replied Mrs. Winslow; “for he has ever borne himself discreetly with us, and the church and people with whom he dwells bear testimony to the worthiness of his character.”
“And yet,” said Mistress Spindle, “to think that Lois Grey should be tempted by the love of man, to turn from our ‘goodly tents of Kedar,’ and wander in the wilderness, where the ‘dews of the sanctuary’ cannot abide.”
“Our God is not confined to any spot, but is found in every place by those who seek him aright,” replied Mr. Bradford; “and even as Moses and Aaron led the children of Israel through the desert of Sinai, so have those godly ministers of the word, Mr. Hooker and Mr. Stone, led their congregation through a trackless wilderness, more than a hundred miles from the spot which their hands had planted.”
“What,” asked Atherton, “could induce them to remove so far from their first settlement, and, it must be, into the midst of savages?”
“They went forth in the name of the Lord,” said Mr. Bradford, “and trusted in his mercy for protection. If you have not visited our sister colony of Massachusetts, Major Atherton, you can scarcely form an idea of its rapid growth and prosperity. The foundations of many flourishing towns are laid, even to the extremest limits of the patent; and the increase of cattle, with the great numbers who annually arrive from England, has caused many to remove to distant parts. Plantations are already formed on the banks of the great river Connecticut, which, being beyond the charter of Massachusetts, has been created a separate jurisdiction, and is governed by its own laws, without being considered amenable to the mother colony.”
“The church of Newtown, to which Mr. Weldon belongs,” said the Governor to Atherton, “was among the first that contemplated a removal thither; and, in the early part of this summer, a new company arrived from England, which purchased their estates, and left them at liberty to commence their toilsome march. They penetrated through the pathless wilderness, upwards of an hundred and twenty miles, to a place called Suckiang, now Hartford, which they had fixed upon for their abode, and to which they were nearly a fortnight in travelling. They took with them their wives and little ones, their cattle and all their substance. Their only guide was the compass: the rocks were their pillows, and the heavens their covering. They subsisted on the milk of their kine, and the herbs and wild fruits of the earth; they had rivers to ford, and deep morasses and high mountains beset their path: nevertheless, the Lord watched over them and led them by the right way, and in peace, to the desired land. Mr. Hooker, their minister, and Mr. Stone, teacher of their church, went with them ¾for in all their wanderings our people of New-England are encouraged and edified, by the presence and council of the pastors, whom their own choice, and the consent of the neighbouring churches, have connected with them.”
“Your civil and religious concerns appear to be so closely blended,” said Atherton, “that the clergy must possess an influence equal, if not superior, to that of the secular rulers.”
“It is an influence which we cheerfully yield to them,” returned Mr. Winslow, “and which they must exercise so long as we retain the views and principles that led us to endure reproach and exile, rather than submit to the discipline of a church, which we consider unscriptural and corrupt.”
“Your situation is peculiar,” resumed Atherton; “and, so far as my limited observation enables me to judge, your laws and institutions approximate more nearly to the ancient patriarchal government, than I should have supposed practicable at this late period of the world.”
“We may be said almost to possess a world of our own,” said Mr. Bradford; “we are so remote from the countries of Europe, that the government, even of our own sovereign, can only impose on us certain general laws, while the interior regulations of the colony must rest entirely on ourselves; an in this, and all our concerns, we endeavour to make the word of God our rule and guide.”
“It is a guide which every church professes to follow,” said Atherton; “but its political code, I believe, has not been found adapted to the genius of any nation since the Christian era.”
“Yet, as far as circumstances permit,” returned Mr. Bradford, “we have followed the law of Moses, which, being delivered by the Most High, must be more perfect and better suited to the capacity and wants of man, than any which human wisdom can devise; and, therefore, most worthy the regard of Christians, who wish to establish a colony, not from motives of human ambition, but for the advancement of pure religion.”
“And the Lord has conducted us, even as he did the children of Israel,” interrupted Mr. Scruple, “and given unto us the inheritance of Jacob, whom he loved.”
“And made us a chosen people,” responded Rebecca Spindle,” to whom he delighteth to show favour.”
“Those who are not of us, Mistress Spindle,” returned the other, glancing at Atherton, “understand none of these things, and our words seem unto them like idle tales.”
“Perhaps, sir, your counsel may enlighten us,” said Atherton, looking at the little man who had evidently intended the observation for him, and whose countenance expressed no small degree of spiritual pride, with that long favoured contraction, if the term may be allowed, which always arises from sectarian prejudice.
With undaunted self-complacence, however, he replied: “They who wilfully indulge the errors of prelacy, are like as the ‘deaf adder, which stoppeth her ears against the voice of the charmer, charm he never so wisely:’ and it is but ‘casting pearls before swine,’ to intermeddle with them.”
Atherton could not repress a smile, but avoided any farther controversy with one, whose narrow intellect seemed to admit but a single idea; and an embarrassing pause of a moment was relieved by the entrance of Mr. Grey, and Captain Standish.
“Well, cousin Atherton,” said the latter, when he had bowed with military precision to the company, “I expected you would be here before me. I met my little rose-bud, just now, riding off at full speed with the Virginian.”
“And she told you,” interrupted Atherton, “that I did not find her or any one at home.”
“No, she did not,” replied the Captain. “I asked her if she had seen you, and she said that she had met your spirit in the woods, but it was dumb, so she put no questions to it.”
“She seemed in haste,” returned Atherton, “and both her own horse and
Mr. Calvert’s were fleet and spirited.”
“This reminds me, sir,” said Mrs. Winslow to Mr. Grey, “of a report in circulation, that Mr. Calvert has returned hither, in the hope of conveying your daughter back to Virginia with him.”
“And you gave no credit to such a rumour, I trust!” said Mr. Grey.
“I was loth to believe it for a moment,” returned Mrs. Winslow. “I am sure Miriam would not willingly remove so far from her father’s house, and the privileges of her own people.”
“And to marry an idolatrous churchman,” said Mistress Spindle, “and go amongst those blind Egyptians, who know not the ways of Sion.” But as the good woman concluded, she recollected the presence of Atherton; and, looking at him with some confusion, hastily added¾“I mean, touching their outward observances; for some, doubtless, may have pure hearts, though they are led astray to follow ‘cunningly devised fables.’”
“This is a strange story,” said Captain Standish; “but I well know there can be no truth in it.”
“You judge rightly, Captain,” said Mr. Grey; “my daughter knows her duty too well to enter into a covenant with the enemies of our faith.”
“Ay, I thought as much,” replied the Captain; “but Calvert is a sober youth, and
well-disposed, and withal, of an honourable descent.”
“He claims kindred with the noble lord of Baltimore, I think,” said the Governor,
“to whom the king has granted a patent for the territory of Maryland.”
“And who,” said Mr. Grey, “has brought over the crafty inventions of popery to corrupt this new world, which might otherwise have remained free from such abominable delusions.”
“Yea,” rejoined Mr. Scruple, “and did not the lord of Baltimore name his possessions in honour of the papist queen of Charles? and when his brother, the Governor Calvert, with upwards of two hundred souls, landed in the province, with idolatrous mockery they set up a cross, that relic of superstition, and ensign of the Pope, who is none other than the horned beast of the Revelations.”
“But,” said Mrs. Winslow, “they appear to have been conscientious; and certainly conducted their affairs with integrity and wisdom, so as to give no offence, even to those who differed from them in modes of worship; and, if they act honestly, according to the knowledge which is in them, nothing more can be expected or required.”
“It may be so,” returned the other; “but it is an awful thing to have the banner of the Pope, that Prince of darkness, planted in the midst of our land, for an example to the heathen and stumbling block to weak brethren.”
“It is well that you are not there to be tempted, Mr. Scruple,” said Captain Standish. “I acknowledge, for my part, a high respect for the character of Governor Calvert, papist as he is. He has purchased the lands fairly of the natives, which planters do not always think necessary, and established good government, and granted liberty of conscience and equal privileges to all sects of Christians,¾and what more or better could be done, I pray you?”
“Truly the outward part appeareth fair,” replied the other, “but the worshipping of saints and images I hold to be a corruption of ‘the faith once delivered to the saints.’”
“He has brought forth good fruit,” said Mrs. Winslow; “and it is not for us to judge his heart, or to speak uncharitably of his actions.”
“Spoken like a true woman and a good one,” cried the Captain; “what say you to that, Mr. Bradford?”
“He has, doubtless, been an instrument in the hand of Providence,” said Mr. Bradford, “of establishing a well-ordered colony, and flourishing according to human wisdom; but it may be questioned if these benefits are not overbalanced by the spiritual errors which are mingled with them.”
“We must humbly trust,” said Mr. Winslow, “that these errors will in time be washed away, even as they have gradually declined in the parent country.”
“And what has followed to fill up the breach?” asked Mr. Scruple, “even the blindness of prelacy, the putting on of robes and mitres, and kneeling down to repeat prayers from printed books; these are the gods to whom the people have bowed down.”
“Our ancestors¾those of us who had any,” said the Captain, “were all Catholics, for which reason we are bound to speak lightly of their errors. My great grandfather’s uncle, who was Bishop of St. Asaph in the reign of Henry the Eighth, was a learned prelate; and I have too much respect for his memory not to be in charity with his persuasion. But here is Mr. Calvert, we will ask his opinion.”
“You have come just in time, Mr. Calvert,” said Mrs. Winslow, “to settle a disputed question.”
“And what is it, madam?” asked Mr. Calvert.
“It is,” said Mrs. Winslow, “whether the settlement of Maryland has been beneficial, or otherwise, to the country at large?”
“No one would doubt the advantage, I think,” replied Calvert, “who could witness its rapid improvement in the short space of the three years which have elapsed since the arrival of the Governor and first planters, and the wise administration, and salutary laws, which have marked its progress.”
“But the religion which they have established,” said Mrs. Winslow; “have we not cause to dread its consequences on our land?”
“Of that I am incompetent to judge,” returned Calvert; “but I can say, from personal observation, that no governor south of New-England has been more beloved and respected by every sect and party. My opinion is disinterested, for the patent of Lord Baltimore has dismembered many fair acres from our ancient colony; and we have in vain sought redress from the monarch, whose favour to that distinguished nobleman is exercised in defiance of our superior claims.”
“I think we need not quarrel about waste lands in this country, till we have more hands to plant them,” said Captain Standish; “but I hope what remains of your fine province is in a flourishing state.”
“Extremely so,” returned Calvert; “though I am sorry to say that our government has been less liberal than that of Maryland, and that its recent laws against sectaries have caused many to abandon the territory, and prevented others from coming into it.”
“In my humble judgment,” said the Captain, “you Virginians have ever been a turbulent people, and apt to verge on extremes. At one time you were almost exterminated by famine, and, when a supply reached you, it was wasted in extravagance; again, you were all running wild without government, moral or religious; and now you are for making every man worship in your own way, or pay a penalty.”
“Spare us, if you please,” said Calvert; “it was in the days of our infancy that we were so undisciplined. We are now grown up into steady and orderly citizens; though it will perhaps be long before we attain to the purity and strictness of New-England principles.”
“The early Virginia Companies,” said the Governor, “were too anxious for its rapid settlement; and it must require many years to obliterate the effects of that blind policy which induced them to transport dissolute and criminal persons into a young country.”
“And King James, in later days,” said Calvert, “graciously improved upon the hint, and we have yet living mementos of his royal clemency, which let loose upon our society the malefactors destined for his own prisons.”
“A less acceptable cargo, I suppose,” said the Captain, “than the young and handsome females whom the Company sent over to be helpmates for your bachelors.”
“By far,” said Calvert. “Sir Edwin Sandys did justice to Virginian gallantry in proposing so fair a freight; and, as wives were in great requisition at that time, a hundred and fifty pounds of tobacco, the price demanded, was not considered too much for a good one.”
“I think, though,” said the Captain, “your treasurer should have been more impartial; and, instead of culling all the young and pretty maidens, have given a few old and ugly ones a chance to get husbands in your ready market.”
“I hope, Captain,” returned Calvert, “that if your Plymouth Colony should have recourse to a foreign traffic for wives, you will adopt that amendment; but I can answer for our southern planters, that Sir Edwin’s proposition is far better suited to their taste.”
“I do not doubt you,” said the Captain; “but I take it, you have enough of that commodity now for home consumption, and have no need of an outward trade to supply yourselves.”
“There is certainly no necessity for it,” replied Calvert; “but it is well to keep up a friendly commerce with our neighbours, particularly the few whom we can call such on this side the Atlantic.”
“Well, I heard Major Atherton talk about visiting Virginia the other day,” said the Captain; “but whether he intends to turn merchant or married man, I hav’nt yet discovered.”
“Neither at present,” returned Atherton; “but I have ever felt a strong curiosity to see that country, which, from its first discovery, has excited so much interest in England, and is, moreover, associated with many pleasing and romantic recollections. The adventurous courage of Smith, the chivalrous spirit of the unfortunate Raleigh, and the devoted heroism of Pocahontas, would alone render it immortal.”
“You should add the raising of tobacco, cousin Edward,” said the Captain, laughing. “You know it is a favourite plant of mine, and a great promoter of good-humour. I hope, Mr. Calvert, it continues in demand, and produces good crops.”
“The crops are plentiful enough,” returned Calvert; “but I think since King James’s ‘Counterblast’ is getting out of date, it rather declines in value. Courtly opposition undoubtedly contributed to its circulation, and induced very many persons to try the effect of a weed, which their sovereign deigned to exercise his royal talents in writing a book to condemn.”
“I never could agree with his Majesty on that subject,” said the Captain, “not to mention some others; and I will not give up my comfortable pipe of tobacco, though he is pleased to say it is only ‘fit to regale the devil after dinner.’”
A summons to Mrs. Winslow’s hospitable supper, here interrupted the conversation; and soon afterwards the company dispersed to their respective places of abode.
END OF VOL. I.
PRINTED BY COX AND BAYLIS, GREAT QUEEN STREET.