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Rocked on the rising tide, and ready to sail on the morrow;
Heard the voices of men through the mist, the rattle of cordage
Thrown on the deck, the shouts of the mate, and the sailors' “ Ay,
ay, Sir! ”
Clear and distinct, but not loud, in the dripping air of the twilight.
Still for a moment he stood, and listened, and stared at the vessel,
Then went hurriedly on, as one who, seeing a phantom,
Stops, then quickens his pace, and follows the beckoning shadow.
“Yes, it is plain to me now,” he murmured ; “ the hand of the Lord is
Leading me out of the land of darkness, the bondage of error,
Through the sea, that shall lift the walls of its waters around me,
Hiding me, cutting me off, from the cruel thoughts that pursue me.
Back will I go o'er the ocean, this dreary land will abandon,
Her whom I may not love, and him whom my heart has offended.
Better to be in my grave in the green old churchyard in England,
Close by my mother's side, and among the dust of my kindred;
Better be dead and forgotten, than living in shame and dishonor ;
Sacred and safe and unseen, in the dark of the narrow chamber
With me my secret shall lie, like a buried jewel that glimmers
Bright on the hand that is dust, in the chambers of silence and darkness,-
Yes, as the marriage ring of the great espousal hereafter !”
Thus as he spaķe, he turned, in the strength of his strong resolution, Leaving behind him the shore, and hurried along in the twilight,
Through the congenial gloom of the forest silent and sombre,
Till he beheld the lights in the seven houses of Plymouth,
Shining like seven stars in the dusk and mist of the evening.
Soon he entered his door, and found the redoubtable Captain
Sitting alone, and absorbed in the martial pages of Cæsar,
Fighting some great campaign in Hainault or Brabant or Flanders.
“ Long have you been on your errand,” he said with a cheery demeanor,
Even as one who is waiting an answer, and fears not the issue.
“ Not far off is the house, although the woods are between us ;
But you have lingered so long, that while you were going and coming
I have fought ten battles and sacked and demolished a city.
Come, sit down, and in order relate to me all that has happened."
Then John Alden spake, and related the wondrous adventure, From beginning to end, minutely, just as it happened ; How he had seen Priscilla, and how he had sped in his courtship, Only smoothing a little, and softening down her refusal. But when he came at length to the words Priscilla had spoken, Words so tender and cruel: “Why don't you speak for yourself, John ?” Up leaped the Captain of Plymouth, and stamped on the floor, till
his armor Clanged on the wall, where it hung, with a sound of sinister omen. All his pent-up wrath burst forth in a sudden explosion, Even as a hand-grenade, that scatters destruction around it.
Wildly he shouted, and loud : “ John Alden! you have betrayed me! Me, Miles Standish, your friend ! have supplanted, defrauded, betrayed
One of my ancestors ran his sword through the heart of Wat Tyler ; Who shall prevent me from running my own through the heart of a
traitor ? Yours is the greater treason, for yours is a treason to friendship ! You, who lived under my roof, whom I cherished and loved as a
brother; You, who have fed at my board, and drunk at my cup, to whose keeping I have intrusted my honor, my thoughts the most sacred and secret,You too, Brutus ! ah woe to the name of friendship hereafter! Brutus was Cæsar's friend, and you were mine, but henceforward Let there be nothing between us save war, and implacable hatred !”
So spake the Captain of Plymouth, and strode about in the chamber, Chafing and choking with rage ; like cords were the veins on his temples. But in the midst of his anger a man appeared at the doorway, Bringing in uttermost haste a message of urgent importance, Rumors of danger and war and hostile incursions of Indians ! Straightway the Captain paused, and, without further question or parley, Took from the nail on the wall his sword with its scabbard of iron, Buckled the belt round his waist, and, frowning fiercely, departed. Alden was left alone. He heard the clank of the scabbard
Growing fainter and fainter, and dying away in the distance.
Then he arose from his seat, and looked forth into the darkness,
Felt the cool air blow on his cheek, that was hot with the insult,
Lifted his eyes to the heavens, and, folding his hands as in childhood,
Prayed in the silence of night to the Father who seeth in secret.
Meanwhile the choleric Captain strode wrathful away to the council, Found it already assembled, impatiently waiting his coming;
Men in the middle of life, austere and grave in deportment,
Only one of them old, the hill that was nearest to heaven,
Covered with snow, but erect, the excellent Elder of Plymouth.
God had sifted three kingdoms to find the wheat for this planting,
Then had sifted the wheat, as the living seed of a nation ;
So say the chronicles old, and such is the faith of the people !
Near them was standing an Indian, in attitude stern and defiant,
Naked down to the waist, and grim and ferocious in aspect ;
While on the table before them was lying unopened a Bible,
Ponderous, bound in leather, brass-studded, printed in Holland,
And beside it outstretched the skin of a rattlesnake glittered,
Filled, like a quiver, with arrows; a signal and challenge of warfare,
Brought by the Indian, and speaking with arrowy tongues of defiance.
This Miles Standish beheld, as he entered, and heard them debating
What were an answer befitting the hostile message and menace,
Talking of this and of that, contriving, suggesting, objecting ;
One voice only for peace, and that the voice of the Elder,
Judging it wise and well that some at least were converted,
Rather than any were slain, for this was but Christian behavior !
Then outspake Miles Standish, the stalwart Captain of Plymouth,
Muttering deep in his throat, for his voice was husky with anger,
“ What! do you mean to make war with milk and the water of roses ?
Is it to shoot red squirrels you have your howitzer planted
There on the roof of the church, or is it to shoot red devils ?