Page images
PDF
EPUB

Big enough have you been to lay him speechless

before you !”

Thus the first battle was fought and won by the

stalwart Miles Standish. When the tidings thereof were brought to the vil

lage of Plymouth, And as a trophy of war the head of the brave Wat

ta wamat Scowled from the roof of the fort, which at once

was a church and a fortress, All who beheld it rejoiced, and praised the Lord,

and took courage. Only Priscilla averted her face from this spectre

of terror, Thanking God in her heart that she had not mar

ried Miles Standish; Shrinking, fearing almost, lest, coming home from

his battles, He should lay claim to her hand, as the prize and

reward of his valor.

VIII.

THE SPINNING-WHEEL.

Month after month passed away, and in Autumn

the ships of the merchants Came with kindred and friends, with cattle and corn

for the Pilgrims. All in the village was peace; the men were intent

on their labors, Busy with hewing and building, with garden-plot

and with merestead, Busy with breaking the glebe, and mowing the grass

in the meadows, Searching the sea for its fish, and hunting the deer

in the forest. All in the village was peace; but at times the rumor

of warfare Filled the air with alarm, and the apprehension of

danger. Bravely the stalwart Miles Standish was scouring

the land with his forces, Waxing valiant in fight and defeating the alien

armies, Till his name had become a sound of fear to the

nations. Anger was still in his heart, but at times the remorse

and contrition Which in all noble natures succeed the passionate

outbreak, Came like a rising tide, that encounters the rush of

a river, Staying its current awhile, but making it bitter and

brackish.

Meanwhile Alden at home had built him a new

habitation,

Solid, substantial, of timber rough-hewn from the

firs of the forest. Wooden-barred was the door, and the roof was

covered with rushes; Latticed the windows were, and the window-panes

were of paper, Oiled to admit the light, while wind and rain were

excluded. There too he dug a well, and around it planted an

orchard : Still may be seen to this day some trace of the well

and the orchard. Close to the house was the stall, where, safe and

secure from annoyance, Raghorn, the snow-white bull, that had fallen to

Alden's allotment In the division of cattle, might ruminate in the night

time Over the pastures he cropped, made fragrant by

sweet pennyroyal. Oft when his labor was finished, with eager feet

would the dreamer Follow the pathway that ran through the woods to

the house of Priscilla, Led by illusions romantic and subtile deceptions of

fancy, Pleasure disguised as duty, and love in the seni-

blance of friendship. Ever of her he thought, when he fashioned the

walls of his dwelling; Ever of her he thought, when he delved in the

soil of his garden; Ever of her he thought, when he read in his Bible

on Sunday Praise of the virtuous woman, as she is described

in the Proverbs, How the heart of her husband doth safely trust in

her always,

Ilow all the days of her life she will do him good,

and not evil, How she seeketh the wool and the flax and worketh

with gladness, How she layeth her hand to the spindle and holdeth

the distaff, How she is not afraid of the snow for herself or her

household, Knowing her household are clothed with the scarlet

cloth of her weaving ! So as she sat at her wheel one afternoon in the

Autumn, Alden, who opposite sat, and was watching her

dexterous fingers, As if the thread she was spinning were that of his

life and his fortune, After a pause in their talk, thus spake to the sound

of the spindle. Truly, Priscilla,” he said, “ when I see you spin

ning and spinning, Never idle a moment, but thrifty and thoughtful of

others, Suddenly you are transformed, are visibly changed

in a moment; You are no longer Priscilla, but Bertha the Beautiful

Spinner." Here the light foot on the treadle grew swifter and

swifter; the spindle Uttered an angry snarl, and the thread snapped

short in her fingers ; While the impetuous speaker, not heeding the mis

chief, continued : “ You are the beautiful Bertha, the spinner, the

queen of Helvetia; She whose story I read at a stall in the streets of

Southampton, Who, as she rode on her palfrey, o'er valley and

meadow and mountain,

Ever was spinning her thread from a distaff fixed

to her saddle. She was so thrifty and good, that her name passed

into a proverb. So shall it be with your own, when the spinning

wheel shall no longer Hum in the house of the farmer, and fill its cham

bers with music. Then shall the mothers, reproving, relate how it was

in their childhood, Praising the good old times, and the days of Pris

cilla the spinner!" Straight uprose from her wheel the beautiful Puritan

maiden, Pleased with the praise of her thrift from him whose

praise was the 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

« PreviousContinue »