« PreviousContinue »
Ever was spinning her thread from a distaff fixed to her saddle.
sweetest, Drew from the reel on the table a snowy skein of her spinning, Thus making answer, meanwhile, to the flattering phrases of Alden : “ Come, you must not be idle ; if I am a pattern for housewives, Show yourself equally worthy of being the model of husbands. Hold this skein on your hands, while I wind it, ready for knitting ; Then who knows but hereafter, when fashions have changed and the
manners, Fathers may talk to their sons of the good old times of John Alden!” Thus, with a jest and a laugh, the skein on his hands she adjusted, He sitting awkwardly there, with his arms extended before him, She standing graceful, erect, and winding the thread from his fingers, Sometimes chiding a little his clumsy manner of holding, Sometimes touching his hands, as she disentangled expertly Twist or knot in the yarn, unawares—for how could she help it ?Sending electrical thrills through every nerve in his body.
Lo! in the midst of this scene, a breathless messenger entered, Bringing in hurry and heat the terrible news from the village. Yes ; Miles Standish was dead !-an Indian had brought them the
tidings, Slain by a poisoned arrow, shot down in the front of the battle, Into an ambush beguiled, cut off with the whole of his forces ; All the town would be burned, and all the people be murdered ! Such were the tidings of evil that burst on the hearts of the hearers. Silent and statue-like stood Priscilla, her face looking backward Still at the face of the speaker, her arms uplifted in horror ; But John Alden, upstarting, as if the barb of the arrow Piercing the heart of his friend had struck his own, and had sundered Once and for ever the bonds that held him bound as a captive, Wild with excess of sensation, the awful delight of his freedom Mingled with pain and regret, unconscious of what he was doing, Clasped, almost with a groan, the motionless form of Priscilla, Pressing her close to his heart, as for ever his own, and exclaiming : “ Those whom the Lord hath united, let no man put them asunder!”
Even as rivulets twain, from distant and separate sources,
Coming in sight of each other, then swerving and flowing asunder,
Forth from the curtain of clouds, from the tent of purple and scarlet,
This was the wedding morn of Priscilla the Puritan maiden. Friends were assembled together ; the Elder and Magistrate also Graced the scene with their presence, and stood like the Law and
the Gospel, One with the sanction of earth and one with the blessing of heaven. Simple and brief was the wedding, as that of Ruth and of Boaz. Softly the youth and the maiden repeated the words of betrothal, Taking each other for husband and wife in the Magistrate's presence,
Prayed for the hearth and the home, that were founded that day in
affection, Speaking of life and of death, and imploring divine benedictions.
Lo! when the service was ended, a form appeared on the threshold, Clad in armor of steel, a sombre and sorrowful figure ! Why does the bridegroom start and stare at the strange apparition ? Why does the bride turn pale, and hide her face on his shoulder ? Is it a phantom of air,-a bodiless, spectral illusion ? Is it a ghost from the grave, that has come to forbid the betrothal ? Long had it stood there unseen, a guest uninvited, unwelcomed ; Over its clouded eyes there had passed at times an expression Softening the gloom and revealing the warm heart hidden beneath them, As when across the sky the driving rack of the rain-cloud Grows for a moment thin, and betrays the sun by its brightness. Once it had lifted its hand, and moved its lips, but was silent, As if an iron will had mastered the fleeting intention. But when were ended the troth and the prayer and the last benediction, Into the room it strode, and the people beheld with amazement Bodily there in his armor Miles Standish, the Captain of Plymouth ! Grasping the bridegroom's hand, he said with emotion, “ Forgive me ! I have been angry and hurt,—too long have I cherished the feeling ; I have been cruel and hard, but now, thank God ! it is ended. Mine is the same hot blood that leaped in the veins of Hugh Standish,