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There with his boat was the Master, already a little impatient Lest he should lose the tide, or the wind might shift to the eastward, Square-built, hearty, and strong, with an odor of ocean about him, Speaking with this one and that, and cramming letters and parcels Into his pockets capacious, and messages mingled together Into his narrow brain, till at last he was wholly bewildered. Nearer the boat stood Alden, with one foot placed on the gunwale, One still firm on the rock, and talking at times with the sailors, Seated erect on the thwarts, all ready and eager for starting. He too was eager to go, and thus put an end to his anguish, Thinking to fly from despair, that swifter than keel is or canvas, Thinking to drown in the sea the ghost that would rise and pursue him. But as he gazed on the crowd, he beheld the form of Priscilla Standing dejected among them, unconscious of all that was passing. Fixed were her eyes upon his, as if she divined his intention, Fixed with a look so sad, so reproachful, imploring, and patient, That with a sudden revulsion his heart recoiled from its purpose, As from the verge of a crag, where one step more is destruction. Strange is the heart of man, with its quick mysterious instincts; Strange is the life of man, and fatal or fated are moments, Whereupon turn, as on hinges, the gates of the wall adamantine! "Here I remain!" he exclaimed, as he looked at the heavens above him,
Thanking the Lord whose breath had scattered the mist and the madness,
Wherein, blind and lost, to death he was staggering headlong.
Koll thyself up like a fist, to threaten and daunt me; I heed not
Either your warning or menace, or any omen of evil!
There is no land so sacred, no air so pure and so wholesome,
As is the air she hreathes, and the soil that is pressed by her footsteps.
Here for her sake will I stay, and like an invisible presence
Hover around her for ever, protecting, supporting her weakness;
Yes! as my foot was the first that stepped on this rock at the landing,
So, with the blessing of God, shall it be the last at the leaving!"
Meanwhile the Master alert, but with dignified air and important, Scanning with watchful eye the tide and the wind and the weather, Walked about on the sands; and the people crowded around him Saying a few last words, and enforcing his careful remembrance. Then, taking each by the hand, as if he were grasping a tiller, Into the boat he sprang, and in haste shoved off to his vessel, Glad in his heart to get rid of all this worry and flurry, Glad to be gone from a land of sand and sickness and sorrow, Short allowance of victual, and plenty of nothing but Gospel! Lost in the sound of the oars was the last farewell of the Pilgrims. O strong hearts and true! not one went back in the May Flower! No, not one looked back, who had set his hand to this ploughing!
Soon were heard on board the shouts and songs of the sailors Heaving the windlass round, and hoisting the ponderous anchor.
Then the yards were hraced, and all sails set to the west wind,
Long in silence they watched the receding sail of the vessel, Much endeared to them all, as something living and human; Then, as if filled with the spirit, and wrapt in a vision prophetic, Baring his hoary head, the excellent Elder of Plymouth Said, "Let us pray!" and they prayed, and thanked the Lord and took courage.
Mournfully sobbed the waves at the base of the rock, and above them
Sun-illumined and white, on the eastern verge of the ocean
So they returned to their homes; but Alden lingered a little,