The Two Letters
Letter writ in 1635-36 to Mistress Alice Lovell.
WHY dost thou go ? ” that was thy question, dear Alice, when I parted with thee. “ Why dost thou go ? ” saidst thou ; the same words have sounded in my ears all the way hither. All, why ? It was too late before I found that I could not well answer the question. And yet — and yet do I wish that I had stayed behind ? Thou seest it is still a question ; and so, for mine own good, I will try and write thee down an answer.
As to these others that are around me, it is easy to see for what they came. Methinks I ought to hide my face in shame, that I came hither with so little purpose, and they with such high meaning. Many women are here from homes as comfortable, as luxurious, as that I left behind ; many who left fathers, mothers, dear sisters, brothers, and all because they heard God call them, because they would find a land of freedom in which to worship Him. I think they look at me to ask what led me hither, what called me to cross the wide sea; and I have no answer to make to them, as I had no answer for thee. “ Why dost thou go ? ”
Alas ! why was my father taken away, and I still so young ? Yet let me not go back into the depths of old sorrows. Surely if ever a girl was left fatherless and motherless, yet in the midst of many friends, with much cause for gratitude, ’t was I. On the one side all my father’s family ; I might have had with them a home among great people, have even tasted the pleasures of the court. For my uncle, Sir Hugh, hath always been truly kind to me, and, though a Papist, has never urged his worship on me. And thou knowest what a happy Christmas-tide I passed there a year ago, only a year ago! Well, but my father would never love to have me consort much with this high folk. He could himself remember the tales of the terrible days of Popedom, and never recovered from his sadness when Sir Hugh was led by a Popish wife back into heathenish ways. Yes, it was this that made me seek a home with my Cousin Wetherell and his dear wife Ursula, my cousin too, and so like my own mother that often she has put me to sleep by the soft sound of her voice. And with them I might be living now if not — Ah well, why did I leave them ?
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1873, by JAMES R. OSGOOD & Co., in the Office of the , Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
Thou hast been often enough with us to have heard the jokes and the jibes — and often coarse enough they were — of my Cousin Wetherell with regard to Geoffrey Patteson. Long ago he would insist that Patteson had a liking for me. And, foolish virgin that I was, it was not displeasing to me to have it said, that among my followers was one of the richest landholders of Nottinghamshire ; and when Cousin Wetherell would point with his whip to the old stone-walls that looked down the hillside, and say, “Well, Cousin Rose, thy domain looks lordly and well,” I but laughed, and asked him when would he visit me, and would I serve the pasty that he liked best, and would he counsel the repairing of the break in the old walls. So it answered well enow for pastime; but if Geoffrey himself came, the talk was not wont to be so lively. Spite of a play of words between my cousin and me, the converse was like to move slow. I might ask for Patteson’s hounds or the game; but glad were we womenkind to leave the men to their bottles.
But then came a serious time. Geoffrey did come to my cousin for me, with offer of his hand. I laughed in Cousin Wetherell’s face when he brought it me, “ 'T is very well for a sport,” said I, “but none of your heavy farmers for me.” We had many words, and it was hard to make my cousin perceive that I was in earnest, truly meant what I said. When at length he fathomed my real meaning, he became wroth, and swore he would take Geoffrey no such answer. Again he sent Cousin Ursula to me, and her pleadings, I can say, ’t was hard to listen to. I will not tell you all the scenes that passed. My Cousin Wetherell reproached me that my head was turned by thoughts of lords and ladies, that I pined for the court, and threatened to send me back to Sir Hugh, would I not listen to Geoffrey Patteson. My blood was up. I had no leaning, said I, to be sent back to Sir Hugh, hither and thither like a poor shuttlecock, a bird that has no resting-place.
And then he turned upon me, to ask, How did I differ, what home had I, and what claim had I upon his home? — words that I think he sorrowed for when he had uttered them ; yet they held a sharp edge, that wounded even when he would have healed. I sat a while buried in my thoughts. Were not the words true ? Did I go to Sir Hugh, could I hope that he would treat me more kindly than Cousin Wetherell? He might too favor some court dangler to force him upon me in marriage; there were many such around him, indeed, at Christmas-time. I looked across the court-yard, and saw a milkmaid bearing her brimming pails towards the dairy.
“Ah ! why am I not such as she ? ” cried I ; “ then I might have only the labor of mine own hands to thank for sustenance ! ”
“Thy hands, thy little hands,” cried Cousin Wetherell, “they could not dig for thee a grave ! ” He had been walking up and down ; then, seeming to feel sorrowful for his distempered words, he came to me, and spake to me caressingly. I should always have a home with him and Ursula; but then — did I think never to marry ? and Geoffrey Patteson ! It was all over again, — the same words, the same threats and reproaches. Why had I let a worthy man believe himself to be encouraged ? In short, I gave way; I promised I would see Patteson that same afternoon.
And yet, in my own room, as I arrayed myself to receive him, — Of what shall I speak to him ? I thought ; already I know he hath his turnips set in his field for the spring crop, and the brown mare Bess is like to recover from the jaundice, and John Hardon will not sell his hounds for any price !
Were I to live inside those walls on the brown hills there, and have no other words to offer to him, — my mate for life ! —and he never to know what other thoughts are passing through my mind, and all because I must have bread to eat, and a soft pillow, and a shelter from the wind ! And then I thought again of the milkmaid ; and thou canst think in what mood I went down to meet my suitor. Awkward enough he came to greet me, and my Cousin Wetherell was there with his rude jokes, in which my man was willing enough to join. Happily he was to leave the country for a few days, and the meeting was soon over.
It was in these days came Cousin Patience, own sister to Ursula, like her, and so different. Ursula is soft and gentle : it soothes and sets one to sleep to listen to her words ; it is like the softness of a down pillow on which one might gladly rest a weary head. Dear Patience, too, is soft and gentle ; but hers is the softness of a breath of wind. It comes with a sweet strength to it, bringing freshness and healthy wood savors. She came to say farewell, just betrothed to Gabriel Sharpe, about to go in the Puritan company to the New England.
Now, Cousin Wetherell had set down his foot that Gabriel Sharpe should not enter his house ; but out of kindness to Ursula, he sent for Patience, that she should come and abide for a few days with us ere she left forever. Yet he never let her rest. He would have her give up her purpose, and called upon Ursula to help him with his urgings. Poor, soft Ursula, she was torn both ways; for Patience, though younger, had always much sway with her. In a gentle voice Patience said, “ I follow my chosen husband : man cannot set us asunder.”
Then as I looked admiring on the quiet steadfastness that Patience showed, of a sudden I bethought me, I too might break away. On the day before she was to leave us, I brake to her my purpose. She doubted ; for what she seeks always is the right. For her to go, she doubted not; but for me ? I painted the hopeless marriage that waited for me did I stay; and I think my words moved her to a yearning of love, and a longing to protect me. She sent a message to Gabriel, who was not far away, to ask for his decision. Had he then known how unstable and timid a maid he was adding to his company, I think he had hardly counselled as he did. But he saw only another convert to the Lord he follows, another planter in his kingdom. And thou knowest all the hurry of that last day at Stacy: of my intemperate parting with Wetherell; and how I stood by the side of Patience at her bridal; and of my farewell to thee ; and of thy words, “ Why dost thou go ? ”
And thy words echoed through my heart all through that long passage across the monstrous sea, a little plank alone shielding us from those savage waves, into which at times, indeed, I would fain have plunged to flee my misery.
And long have I been in bringing my mind to write to thee. I cannot tell whether it was sickness of body or of soul that most prevailed with me, and fain would I have tarried longer with the kind friends that greeted us in the town of Boston, which was the first port we reached. But my cousins were fixed to come to this place, which once bore the heathenish name of Naumkeag, but happily is now more peaceably styled Salem.
In respect to my woful sickness of the sea, my cousins strove to come hither by land, but we met with a great river that barred our way along the shore. And here I incurred severe displeasure from my Cousin Sharpe, by fainting quite away, in a fancy that we had met with a band of heathen Indians, which proved, indeed, to be our friends, — among them a youth whom I have since seen here, and who is wont to rally me, in somewhat uncomely manner, for my too feminine weakness.
Indeed, often Cousin Sharpe reproacheth me for my feebleness, and fondness for things of the world, of which, indeed, but little show can be seen here, where are no tapestries, nor velvet hangings, nor rich arras, but where all must be of the simplest. A poor knot of cherry satin ribbon of mine slipping from a broken hamper, he seized and flung it from him, then stamped upon it, saying, “ Methinks such foolery doth not become a new world. Here we have set aside the idle vanities of the old. May we never see such gewgaws flaunting here !”
“Nay,” said I, “I fear thou wilt be letting some tears drop at loss of this one bit of gay color. Thou mayst find it hard to cage the butterflies.”
.... Yet I strive to give some help to these my friends ; for here all must labor with the hands, and I sorrow much that I am so useless a thing. Here each man helps his neighbor. Now it is to work in getting in the harvest, now in building a house. Handicraftsmen are few ; gentlemen and all must work. All came to our aid, as we left the ship to bear our few household wares. The hinges for the doors were lacking, that were to have accompanied us from Boston ; so one here and another there, with kindly cheer and some laughter, we hung up our mantles in place of doors. One service I find I can offer : all are so busy with their labor in housebuilding,— each house of hewn planks, daubing in with clay, to make them close for the winter, and setting up stockades of planks — thou wilt shudder to hear it! — for defence against the heathen foe. A score or more of houses are as yet built. In all these labors, women come, too, with their help ; and that I can spin, is held happily as some amends for my weak spirits and body. I sit me in a sunny nook in quiet, while the rest are going hither and thither, hasting busily ere the winter shall come. Happily the harvest has been more plentiful than in the last years, when there was great suffering for want of food, and much sickness, and many pined and died. And often I think it cause for gratitude that times are more hopeful ; for how much might I have to reproach myself had I been thrown here even worse than a burden on the shoulders of dear friends, had I brought them only another mouth to fill, another creature needing food, had I brought but a poor, weary body, going up and down.
Yet there assemble about Cousin Gabriel many men whose converse is moving and strange. When I sit at my spinning, and list to the words of these men, I wonder at what manner of people I have come among. I hear a new word uttered that at court would have been deemed treason, but here it is spoke out into the full air: the word is liberty. Thou couldst not understand the discourse, even did I strive to write it thee ; methinks it needs this wide region to speak it in, where are no battlemented walls or hushing tapestry to keep its echo.
.... For a while their talks lift me above my little self. I would be willing to let my little day pass on, without cumbering myself if it be light or dark, if only this great free air might blow and prevail. But mostly it all hangs upon me to oppress me, and I feel myself too little for such great work, and would fain sink back into the whirl of the thoughtless life of pleasure out of which I have so strangely fallen. Not fallen,—I will say risen, — who knows or can tell ?
For these men come to talk with my Cousin Sharpe, not of cattle nor fat beef, as friend Patteson would like to dwell upon. In sooth, the tale of cattle is here soon told ; and for fields — I smile when I fancy Geoffrey Patteson or Cousin Wetherell looking out upon these rocky pastures. Something of this sort I said one day to Cousin Sharpe. He had been talking high of the great, numerous people that should in time inhabit this vast country.
“ But how wilt thou gather corn for so great a people ? ” said I, somewhat sorrowfully. He turned upon me with words from Scripture. “ ‘ Where shall we find food for so many ? ’ Don’t ask.” Then, shaking his head, he said, “ I say to thee, one day we shall be sending corn back to the folk in the old land.” “ Nay, now I must needs doubt,” said I, laughing, “ unless the rocks can bring forth corn.”
.... We hear much spoken of one Roger Williams, but have not seen him yet, though he returns hither shortly. There are various and strong opinions with regard to him. Some make it, that there are none like him in persuasiveness of speaking, and in all goodly things. Others will have it that he thinks only to stir up discord in the settlement, and set one against another. For my part, I could hardly like him, in that he has used such distempered Words against the Prayer-Book, and all who commune with the Church of England. My cousins Sharpe, indeed, and all of our little company, hold themselves separated from the mother Church, yet this Williams goeth further still, and will not have to do with those who have not made public repentance of former communion with the Church of England. He hath refused even to join in family prayers or grace at table with his wife, because she hath continued to frequent their communion. Thou wilt scarce understand this, or believe that some have already been sent back to England for setting up worship according to the Common Prayer.
I think it is to do me a pleasure that my cousins have bidden a niece of Gabriel’s to abide with us for a while. Perhaps they thought ’t would cure my moping habits, if I had one of my own age to consort with. Yet, at first, I do not take a liking to her. She scarce ventures to say a word in my cousins’ presence, yet prattles freely behind their backs, oft in jest of Cousin Gabriel. This I like not, though he fain would have me take pattern of Rachel’s meekness, for never does she show she hath a mind of her own. She is handy with her work, and helpful to Cousin Patience, and I might mayhap take lesson of her. But truth to tell, dear Alice, it but maketh may sickness at heart the greater to find it so hard to make companionship with her, as she is of those who love to intrigue. I, as thou knowest, am of the other sort, and often come out with words for which I am sorrowful afterwards, and I like not underhand ways. I have a small room apportioned to me for mine own, to which I come, and pour out my weariness and disconsolateness to thee. Winds and tempests out of doors also, that make the heart moody and desponding.
.... Christmas Day, and I have had a storm with my cousins. So fresh and bright yesterday, I ventured out alone. A hot sun had caused a light snow almost to disappear, and I pulled my hood about my ears, and ran on joyously. If this is all the embrace of the cold winter they speak of, thought I, I can only laugh at it. I made my way towards some green shrubs I had marked before ; yes, they were green, still fresh as Christmas holly. I seized and plucked many branches, then sought among the snow till I found a trailing vine still green. I filled my arms with my prize, and would fain break out into a song of gladness. It brought me back to the thoughts of Christmas-time, of gay berries, of Christmas songs, of rich, plentisome dinners, with wassailbowl and smoking pudding, of the crackling of the Yule log, of cheer and laughter. I would run back with my gay bundle, and make joyful the first Christmas Eve of the new home. I was startled by a voice behind me, and turned me round. “ What art doing, young mistress ?” A comely looking man, scarcely young, yet with fresh cheeks and a kindly smile, accosted me. But the smile passed away as he beheld my bundle. “ Greens, Christmas greens, young lass!” he said reprovingly, and then waxed more wroth ; “ an abomination—an abomination of Popedom! Cast them from thee! ” And more would he have said, when he looked up into my astonished face and smiled at my affright. “ Nay,” said he, “here are Christmas roses; why not Christmas greens? ” So he passed on, turning round more than once, and shaking his stick at me, but smilingly. This discomposed me, so that I flung away a part of my load, and made my way to the house secretly, and hid my poor greens in my own room. I did not venture to bring them forth that night ; my Cousin Sharpe held a meeting of elders with him. But before the morning sun, I awaked me early, and stole down ere the household had stirred, and planted some of my greens above the fireplace, and hung the trailing vine across the small casement. I had scarce done so when the door opened, and Cousin Gabriel came in. ’T was but a moment ere he saw it all. “ How ! dost thou make a Popish day of this ?” he cried ; and in another moment he had dashed my vines to the ground, and then, in quicker time than ere I thought a flame could be lit with the flint lock of his fowling-piece, he had raised a blaze in the fireplace, and thrust in the poor, crackling greens, treading them in the roaring fire, and burning every leaf and twig ; then set on more wood and logs, as though even the ashes might be pagan and spread mischief. In all this so quick were his motions, so intemperate his speech, his eyes glared with such fierceness, I thought some savage beast had entered him, and moved him with its spirit. He turned then upon me, and so terrified was I with his bearing that I cowered before him ; methought I, too, were to be laid upon the flames as sacrifice for wantonness. He did indeed glare at me for some moments as I stood with crossed hands ; then bethought himself, and put a strong bridle upon his passion, and was then rueful and moved with repentance: “ I had nigh killed thee, Cousin Rose.” I would have burst into tears at his softness, and have pleaded that mine was but a thoughtless act, a mere happy remembrance of old home customs that clung to me, but at that moment I saw Rachel standing at the entrance of the room, holding up her hands, as in wonder at my guiltiness, with expression of a sanctified amaze. Then I broke out, and know not what I said, not only against Rachel, but Gabriel and Patience, taunting them with hypocrisy that set themselves above others in religion, but were as the Pharisees of old, but whited sepulchres. My words were for Rachel, for it was only yesterday she had talked with me regretfully of the gay Christmas in Old England, and how gladly would she join even in its dances, and in many other merrymakings more rude, which even I have been taught to despise. But Patience was sorely wounded, and would lead me from the room. “ Nay, nay,” cried Gabriel, “ let her not go shut herself up in her closet and write treason and heresy to her fellows at home. Better she should pass her Feast day in some godly work, and in the company of reasonable beings.” Yet even his anger passed off somewhat, though he himself set me a task at spinning ; and at dinner he smiled grimly as he gave me my share of the only dish,— naught but fish, as’t were a Fast day, — a poor food, salted; and I was forced to eat a dinner the most sorry we have yet partaken. And this is merry Christmas !
It seems the stranger who met me with the Christmas greens is no other than this famous Roger Williams ! He hath the gift of prophecy ; and a few evenings since, he came to cousins' house, where had assembled the elders and many women to listen to his instructions. I started when I saw him, and could scarce believe that he who has been so strict with the practices of the Church of England could have smiled upon me then. He shook his head at me, indeed, on seeing me ; but it was not till after his discourse that he addressed some words to me. And then, so moved was I with these, I fain would almost fall down to worship him. Something of this I let out, when he had left us, and Cousin Sharpe reproved me. “ Worship is for God,” said he. So I scarcely dare say to paper all that his wondrous sayings wrought in me. Methought whatever road he should point out to be the path of life, must be the way. His words persuasive, his manner gentle, while he blamed many yet he would have freedom of thought for all. All petty thoughts and desires in life seemed low and mean ; what were they all before the great thirsts of the soul ? Methought I could have listened all night; and indeed, long after all had left, and ere I slept, and in dreams, I seemed to hear the words, winning me, beseeching me, calling me, even me.
What stirring converse now, in these long evenings ! I am forced often to let my wheel stay a little, as I sit, hands in my lap, casting my glances from one to another of the speakers, as the pine-knots blaze upon their faces. The young man of whom I spoke is often among the company ; I mean he who met us as we were lost in our wanderings on the way hither, Roger Ashley by name. I am not yet gotten over the feeling I had against him at that first sight of him, when he seemed inclined to mock at my distress and make game of my terror. Nay, he himself seemeth not to have forgotten it; for oft he asks, do I faint still at sight of friends? and telleth how he came into the town with two squaws yestereve, and how he hopeth the stockade is well manned. I do not take upon myself to answer him, nor give him many words in any way. Yet when he will he can be more serious, and, in converse with cousin and the men, he hath much to say to which I gladly listen. He hath but lately returned from a perilous journey into the wilderness, by land, with one John Oldham, a bold adventure, all say, for many hundreds of miles, — a small party of men, passing through many savage tribes. He told of a sight that suddenly came upon them one eve, after long travel, when a broad river broke upon them, green meadows on either side, and here and there the wigwams, the homes of the savage tribes.
“ A river ! ” I cried, — for I could not keep my silence,—“ I had thought it had been a sea.” “ Nay, young mistress,”— and he turned to me of a sudden,— “ we live on no such small island as that thou camest from. Here we have a broad continent that cannot be trod over in one season. Here will be homes for all who seek liberty from the Old World. Thy little isle has scarce air enough for liberal souls to breathe, or soil for them to tread.” “ For soil,” I put in angrily, “ hadst thou been there, thou mightest have known that, besides its fair homesteads and comfortable fields, it holds forests wide and uninhabited as any in this land, and wild beasts enow, didst thou covet their companionship.” But here Cousin Patience looked upon me mournful and reproving, and Cousin Sharpe spoke on, not heeding me, as though my words had been but the buzzing of an importunate fly that he would brush away. And some one asked of the advantage of this new land Oldham hath discovered, for tilling. It seemeth the fields are more wide and fruitful, the soil more rich, than are these rock-bound shores, and many counsel the forming a settlement there as being more hopeful for harvests, seeing these regions may be approached by less dangerous ways, by ship, as the river is a comely one, and hath water for anchorage.
.... My cousin saith this John Oldham is a restless character; he doubteth if he betokeneth much good; yet his boldness and adventure are of profit, and lead to much discovery. I said I thought this young man Ashley bore some of his companion’s boldness. But Cousin Sharpe defendeth him. He saith he hath great courage and purpose of mind ; then he fell to chiding me for my too great forwardness in speaking.
Roger Ashley, this eve, came to my side to ask me to pardon the seeming words of disrespect towards the mother country. “ It is our mother country indeed,” said he, “yet oft I am led to forget it, since I was weaned early from her care, and have little cause to treasure kindness towards her.”
“ Nay, none of us love her too well,” broke in Rachel; “and what, indeed, hath England e’er done for us ? ” Rachel’s voice is wont to set my soul on edge, and drop some acid into the current of my thoughts. “ ’T is only our home,” said 1 ; “ some love to speak lightly of their homes.” And I turned myself away.
.... We hear more and more the teaching of Roger Williams. There is not a day but we meet together in one or another house to listen to his goodly words. No snow too deep, no wind too bleak, to keep us from meeting upon the Sabbath. Indeed, there is much stir with regard to him ; for the magistrates would fain banish him from among us, for having published certain matter tending to bring disquiet upon all tides to estates, and displeasure at the English court. To hear him speak, one could but think it were impossible for one so gentle in words, so benevolent in look, so wise and penetrating in judgment, to bring compulsion among us. Rather would I believe that the elders and magistrates in the other towns are envious of his influence, and would fain bring him to discredit by unjust means.
Rachel and I have been much brought together of late ; the preaching of Roger Williams hath awakened in us a kindred feeling, and I have been much touched by her fervency and zeal. Yesterday we accomplished a secret expedition together. I had cherished a volume of the Common Prayer, to which I was wont to resort, in my little closet. I had hardly ventured to take it forth openly; since Cousin Sharpe is so zealous a Separatist, he had fain burned down his house and all within, rather than have such token of papacy, as he would deem it, beneath its roof. Yet at times I have sought consolation in it, when cast down and depressed with drear homesickness, and I longed for words that sounded of the dear old church. But on last Sabbath Roger Williams gave us a searching discourse upon the using of such books. “ ’T is such that we have come away from,” he saith ; and he declareth that thence arise many simple corruptions, and a leading to other abominable, even papal gear. But from this he passed to glorifying the prayer that is not read out from the book, but cometh from the soul of the sinner, from the heart of the child of God. And then, indeed, he poured forth words that it seemed as if mine own soul were pleading, and I alone were standing in the presence of the Lord God .... So it was when we returned home I spake to Rachel of my purpose to put away all signs of Babylon, as Mr. Williams is wont to call the Romish Church,— nay, even the Church of England and all its belongings. And we plotted to go out at eventide, and leave my book in its purple velvet and its clasps of gold in the deep sea. Rachel took me to a steep rock upon the shore, not far from the stockade. We passed out easily, for of late there has been little fear of attack from outward foe. The short afternoon had glided away, and the evening shadows were beginning to grow heavy; yet along the smooth beach, had any hostile step approached us, we had detected it afar off. We climbed the high cliff and looked hither and thither: no one to behold us. The sea moaned heavily, and the high wave struck the hard rock. “ Thou art a cruel sea,” I cried, “thou dividest, thou wouldst destroy. Is thy master the Evil One ? Then take to him his own.” And I flung far from me the poor gilded book, into the embrace of the deepocean.
.... My letter to you still lingers. Goodman Phillips, who thinketh to take this to you with his own hands, goeth first to Boston, then to Plymouth, then returneth hither.
Mr. Williams telleth us much of the savages, the Indians. He hath dwelt in their rude houses, and sat by their barbarous fires, and in part speaketh their language.
A question hath come forward of much moment to us women, regarding the duty of wearing veils in public assemblies. In Boston there hath been much said against it. Methinks Mr. Williams must needs have the right of it, when he saith, “Judge in yourselves ; is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered ? ” He useth the very words of the Apostle Paul. One Mr. Cotton will discourse to us next Sabbath, in the place of Mr. Williams. ’T is said he will preach upon this subject. Shall we then wear our veils next Sabbath ? I have not hesitated to say openly, “ I will not be hindered in the wearing of my veil by any man, cometh he from new Boston or old. I will not forsake the teaching of Elder Williams.” But Cousin Patience chideth me for my quick speech. “ Nay,” said I, “ doth not our own pastor teach us ’t is more comely for a woman to appear in public in her veil, and that it is a shamefacedness if she cometh only to show the plaiting of her hair and the tiring of her head?” Said Patience, “ Thou art too quick, Cousin Rose. A woman showeth her weakness by her submission to authority ; and there may be more vanity in the broidery of the veil than in simple tiring of the head.” I had many words in answer, but there were others to take up my side. ’T is thought by all we should not lay aside our veils. Seeing that Mr. Williams hath enjoined upon us the wearing them, ’t is a foolish yielding to the prejudices of another community, do we forsake them, especially in his absence. Nay, where indeed are those principles of liberty that have been so much discussed among us, if men and women are to be restricted in following out their consciences ?
Methinks there was not one woman absent of our whole community, and not one but had worn her veil. Even poor Eunice Smith, who liveth nigh to us in much poverty, and who hath suffered much in the death of husband and mother, and who hath met with losses by sea, came to Cousin Patience, the eve of the Lord’s day, begging some scrap she might wear as a veil. I bethought myself of a strip of lace I had broidered in my childhood, and fetched it her. “ We women,” said I, “ must show we can wear colors in the cause of liberty as well as the men.” ‘'Yea, I will take my stand with Pastor Williams,” said she, “even though it must be on the very steps of the block.” Alone in my room, the words returned to me and gave me a shudder. Tales my old Elspeth used to tell me as a child came back, of days when men, women, yea children, were dragged to the flames for conscience’ sake, and gave their lives gladly. Would such .days come again, and among righteous men, in this peaceful land, planted in the fear of the Lord ? Let them come, I said. So we walked to the church as’t were to the fires of Smithfield. Mr. Cotton did indeed preach to us on the much-vexed subject, and in sooth, I must say, with much earnestness and vigor, and many felt touched, and many convinced. He speaketh like one led by conscience, not as though he would impose a rule upon all men, but as though men should be a rule unto themselves. I saw many women weeping, nay, shed some tears myself. Coming out, there was much whispering and talking, and I heard some women — wives of the elders, indeed— declare they should leave their veils at home in the afternoon, calling on all others to do the same. I declared to Rachel I would not be so easily moved, and she stoutly agreed with me. On reaching home, much talk and discussion. Patience meekly folded her veil and laid it aside without words, till Gabriel said, “ Come, maidens, Patience is right; ’t is no day for little things. Lay aside with the rest of the congregation such worldly gear ; it is the day of the Lord ! ” “ What,” cried I, all flushing, “ can we so soon forget the words of our dear teacher ? Let the rest of the congregation do what they will, let us be among the few willing to suffer for conscience’ sake.” Gabriel smiled, and this heated me the more. But Patience put in, in her quiet way, “ Hath not the Scripture bade us take no thought what we shall put on ? Is not life more than meat, the body than raiment ? To array our souls in meekness and purity, this is the dress fit for the Lord’s day. And to question if one or another hath a veil, or to cause another to wander in thought, as Mr. Cotton hath said, because of our arraying, is a sin, God looketh at the heart.” A moment I was silent, yet the name of Mr. Williams was on my lips.
But Gabriel called us to table, and said grace. I would then again bring up the subject. “ Let us hear no more,” said Gabriel ; “Mr. Cotton and the elders have requested that the veils be laid aside ; !t is fitting that the women should comply.”
“ Nay, if it had been men,” murmured I, “ the question of obedience had not been so smoothly answered.” Rachel plucked my garment, and I was silent. When the meal was over, she drew me aside. “Why waste words?” she asked ; “ Gabriel and Patience will leave us to care for the house and follow them, and we will do our own pleasure with regard to wearing our veils.”
This is ever Rachel’s way, — to gain by intrigue what she ventureth not to reach by courage. This time I yielded to her ; thou wilt see, with indifferent success in the result. We tied on our veils, indeed, with some heart, and followed Gabriel and Patience at a distance. We had not gone far, before we could see that the whole assembly of women had yielded to Mr. Cotton’s request ; nay, more, that they looked askance at us who wore our veils, avoiding us, and passing to the other side. For my part, I walked on more bold, and turned to give courage to Rachel, but found her silently folding up her veil and tucking it in her pocket. Still, I held my head high, my cheeks flushed : what matter if I alone held to the truth ? and I recalled Smithfield fires. But Gabriel came back to find us, at the very door of the place of meeting.
“ Off with thy mummery ! ” he said to me. “ ’T is the Lord’s day ; set thy soul to prayer.” The quickness of his words surprised me : I must needs obey.
There was not one veil worn in the assembly.
.... More and greater trials. Our Mr. Williams is to leave us, — a sentence of banishment against him from the General Court. At first, he must leave in six weeks. Now he may stay until spring, yet some say a ship will come to take him to England. So good a man to be punished for his very goodness ! Yet he goeth about to hold up' our hearts.
.... He hath gone. He had notice that indeed there was a plot of conveying him to England, and in midwinter hath betaken himself to the woods. He hath left with his family and a few companions, among them Roger Ashley. They will steer their course to the Narragansett, where I know not, where Mr. Williams thinketh to plant a colony.
Naught but parting in this world. I feel that our number is sadly diminished, yet am I not so sad as some months back. The days bring much occupation.
Cousin Patience down with fever. For many weeks I have been by her bedside, fearing for her life; but God hath raised her up again to be our stay. Cousin Sharpe sore put about by this great sorrow.
Cousin Gabriel is wont to call me Rhoda; he thinketh it hath a sound more suited to a Christian woman. Just now he came to me: “Cousin Rhoda, ’t is thy care has saved my dear wife’s life. God be praised that he led thee to come forth with us.” He could not say more; ’t is much for Cousin Gabriel to have said,— and to me of whom he has been wont to think so lightly.
.... Roger Ashley back again, and Cousin Patience sitting with us once more, and methinks the airs blow milder as though heralding the spring. Ashley went not far with Mr. Williams, of whom we speak much. Cousin Gabriel thinketh to join Mr. Williams in the summer, for he hopeth to found a new colony in the Narragansett region, where the rights of all may be more considered. It is for questioning of politics and of the government, for which the Court has pronounced his banishment. Patience thinketh he could never lead a quiet life. Yet in his strife he hath a friendliness that wins.
.... At my spinning-wheel, this evening, Ashley sat watching me. Methought he was observing my motions, and I studied some answer, in case he allowed himself a mere idle compliment, At last, “ It might be done,” said be, turning to Gabriel : “ why not set one of our numerous streams to wind such a wheel ? ’T is only required that the stream should flow even and uniform. It needeth an even hand to hold the thread ; why not a hand mechanically contrived ? Methinks I could plan a wheel.” I grew impatient at his utilities, and some sudden motion broke my thread. “Thou seest,” said Cousin Gabriel, “thy machine must not have his humors, else the thread were often broke.” I let my spindle fall in some anger. “ Indeed,” said Ashley, as he rose to give it to me again, “ I had not thought to discompose thee. Why should I seek to take the slender thread from hands as white and slender ? ’T were dull music to list but to the spinning of mere machines.”
.... ’Tis heard of Mr. Williams that he was sorely tossed many weeks, in the bitter winter season, not knowing what bread or bed cloth mean. O, how much have his persecutors to answer for ! And Roger Ashley regretteth that he consented to Mr. Williams’s advice to await and join him with John Oldham. He would fain have shared Mr. Williams’s discomforts.
Patience’s sore sickness has discovered to us many friends who had stood aloof from us, because we so readily listened to the teachings of Mr. Williams.
It is pleasing to have again the counsel of the elder women, to see the motherly face of Mistress Endicott within our walls, and to have the kindly ministrations of many others. Cousin Patience, her face doth light up marvellously, if good old Mistress Sharpe, a kinswoman of Gabriel’s, cometh in to gossip with her by the hour or more, bringing more than one cure for divers pains.
. . . . ’T is amazing how much learning this Roger Ashley hath stored up. He cometh night after night, and by the light of the pine-torch, with Gabriel, pondereth over sundry charts he hath drawn up portraying the coast, the islands, even marking out the wilderness. I had taken him for a bold adventurer, — one who might by his courage found new lands, and hold heathen savages in subjection ; but I had not thought to bear him talk of books ancient and new, as might Master Eaton or his own namesake, Roger Ascham. This giveth Cousin Gabriel much comfort; for, in sooth, he hath passed his days more among books than in the planting of fields, and it pleaseth him to linger still among them. Yet Ashley is fond of spicing his words with poesy, and brought upon himself yesternight some chiding from Cousin Gabriel, in that he used the words of the playwright Will Shakespeare. Dost thou not remember how wont Cousin Everard was to resort to the playhouse for the mere purpose of witnessing this man’s plays ? and thou and I were not sorry to list to every word he would vouchsafe us concerning them. The matter yesternight went thus : the fire was low, and I rose from my wheel to seek some logs to plenish it, but Ashley would forestall me. I would not have his help. “ Nay, precious creature,” — so he began and spoke forth, —“ I had rather crack my sinews, break my back, than you should such dishonor undergo, while I sit lazy by.” Whereat I looked amazed, the more that he accosted me as Fair Miranda. But when he had set down his logs, he related to us the wonderful imagery of the poet who painteth the assembling of a princely party on a desert shore, mayhap such as our fathers lighted on in planting this land. Ask Cousin Everard to tell thee of one play called “ The Tempest.”
.... ’T is said that the airs round Narragansett are soft and healthful, and Gabriel purposeth to join with some others in concert with Roger Williams to erect a plantation on the bay. Some say that country is filled with Indians; but Roger Ashley telleth us they are friendly. Thou seest, then, there is here no abiding city for us.
.... I am sore disturbed at words of Rachel’s. She has summoned me aside to impart to me a secret. She saith that Ashley stayed behind from joining Roger Williams, wishing to plot a marriage with her, with Rachel ; but that I must not say one word to Gabriel of this. I could scarce believe her tale. But why such secrecy? I cried. And she saith that of late Gabriel has showed her an unkindly feeling, and that it is Roger Ashley’s wish to delay asking his consent. I am not to speak of it. I had, indeed, seen of late some whisperings between these two,but had thought they were of Rachel’s seeking; but now she explaineth to me many things.
.... I know not why I am so moved. I had come to esteem this Roger Ashley, and there was that in his straightforward manner that I had deemed would have been displeased with the bearing of Rachel. It is this love of intrigue in her that hath disturbed Cousin Gabriel, since he hath found she holds not to plain speaking. Yet why should I marvel ? There are many who love the fair outside ; and why Should not Roger Ashley be one of these ? Why not ? — except, indeed, certain words and looks of his.
But ah ! I had been bringing myself to think I had fallen, among a higher race of men than those I had ever wot of before. How different these from Geoffrey Patteson, treading only in furrows of the plough ! . . . . Indeed, let Roger Ashley love Rachel ; but why should he have ever feigned to think slightly of her ? For his bearing hath always borne that meaning, though he hath never uttered it in words.
.... Chill days, snow deep outside, all shut in to one small house. ’T was happy when all were of one mind, when we greeted the presence of Patience among us once more after her sore illness. The busy, crackling sound of the flame among the logs, the broad sunlight striving to pierce the windows, or better even, the flickering torchlight of an evening gave us all a warmth that shut out the thought of ice and snow. We had within a happy, cordial gayety, a witty talk, a joyous friendliness. But now there has come among us a restraint. Gabriel and Patience suspect not its cause, but the rest among us are ill at ease with each other; for there are tempests without, so I cannot go forth to spend my ill-humors in the air or breathe in a fresh element. I leave Rachel much to Roger Ashley.
.... Gloomy, chill days, winds beating against the casement. Roger Ashley comes each eve, as has been his wont, readeth to us much, discourseth much ; but the converse falls into his hands and Cousin Gabriel’s. They speak of governments ; we sit silent. This question of cutting the red cross from the flag is truly a weighty one. Ashley thinketh it hath not to do with the question of Papistry merely,—though the red cross savors, indeed, of idolatry, — but he asketh if a free people need borrow their colors even from their mother country. Fancy Geoffrey Patteson and his stolid look at such a question !
.... Yester eve, Ashley summoned us to the porch. He would have us see how the stars shone in the clear, cold sky, and pointed out the constellations of Orion and the Pleiades, that have stood there since the days of Job. “They have followed us to another continent,” said I ; and then bethought myself how wide a home is this that God hath built for us beneath this same ceiling studded over with such golden lamps; when my thoughts were roused by Ashley’s voice near my shoulder, asking would I let him speak with me. I looked round. Gabriel had gone in to shield Patience, lest a chill draught of air should reach her. I saw Rachel just within the doorway. I turned me suddenly, and hastened in. “ ’T is very cold,” said I. Ashley followed close. “Yes, 't is cold,” he said ; “ cold without, but more cold within, methinks.” But I had spoken falsely : there was a flaming heat raging within me. I felt my cheeks glow, my heart throb in fever. When he took a hasty leave, glad was I to hurry to my room. He would speak to me of his love for Rachel ; they would make me their confidante ! Not I ! I am not wont to hold my feelings under cover, and know not how to gloss over a secret. Let them love in their way, let them marry: what have I to do with it? Gabriel is Rachel’s appointed guardian ; yet she telleth me he is the last person to whom she will speak of her proposed marriage with Ashley. Why so? Hath Gabriel not alway proved himself her best friend? I love not these underhand dealings.
Ashley hath not been here to-day. Was I too hasty in refusing to listen to him ? Might I not have acquainted him openly with my disapproval of his secrecy ? I might have told him how noble is Gabriel’s nature ; that he could have, indeed, no reason to thwart Rachel’s wishes ; how could he throw an obstacle to such a marriage ? But ah ! I am ever too quick. All through the long sea-sick and home-sick days and nights on shipboard, I bemoaned my too great hastiness in venturing into perils I knew not of. God hath kindly turned that mourning into joy, and given me peace where there seemed little hope. But now again, by my jealous thoughts of self and hasty temper, I have turned from me a kind friend. Perhaps 't is not too late to amend when he cometh again.
But he cometh not again; perhaps, he cometh never. He hath gone forth alone into the wilderness, no one knoweth why or wherefore, Even Rachel telleth me no reason for his sudden departure ; none of his nearest friends can say. He left early in the morning. It seemeth now, an Indian came to speak to him, — I mean, to Roger Ashley, — telling of the sore danger of his former companion, John Oldham, who hath ventured, it is feared too boldly, among the Indians on the shore of Connecticut and he hath set forth alone to seek for him, — alone in these winter days, without guide ; for even the Indian refused to accompany him. Cousin Gabriel hath spoken with the man.
Now am I sorely punished for my hastiness. I might have said some words of cheer to this brave man ; but now have let him go to meet danger, starvation, death, — who knows ? Poor Rachel! I am ever thinking of myself, but should most pity her.
.... General Fast proclaimed on account of distractions in the churches. The snow heavy, alas ! for all travellers.
.... The days pass but tediously; the evenings, indeed, by calendar grow shorter, yet methinks I count every sand that falleth. Mr. Peter, preaching at Boston, requesteth earnestly that order be taken for the employment of women and children, especially in the winter time ; and I, in sooth, would say amen heartily, and would pray Mr. Peter fetch something for hands and head to busy themselves with ; heart is already full. I weary of the sound of my wheel, of the converse of the men, of questionings concerning the magistrates, — shall they be chosen for life, or no. Methinks ’t were well indeed to find some business for women and children. I have no mind to seek it for myself.
_The Rebecka from Bermuda, with thirty thousand weight of potatoes, and store of oranges and limes. It remindeth me of Roger Ashley. He was wont to call those isles the “ vexed Bermoothes ” from his favorite poet. As I look each night upon Orion and the Pleiades, I ask, Can he also look up to them ? finds he shelter still beneath this wide roof?
....A scene with Rachel. I scarce can write it down, I am so stirred with passion and with anger ; yet methinks I must impart my wrath to thee, for I could not trust myself to speak to Gabriel or Patience. One Simon Wither hath been sojourning the last week in our neighborhood, fresh from Virginia, where he hath been the last twelve months, and proposeth to return thither, — a bold man, quick in speech, well known to Rachel, and hath alway seemed to admire her, and she to smile on him, to whom I did not give much attention. Yet this very day, not many hours ago, I was about to leave the house to wander to the seashore, whence came a soft, wooing wind, .— the first time for many days that I have broke out from doors, full weary of my long imprisonment. At the door met Cousin Gabriel, and told him my intent. “ Hadst been a little sooner,’' said he, smiling, “thou hadst witnessed a tender parting. Simon Wither puts off in his boat, he leaveth for Plymouth for a few days. Rachel was there, saying farewell. If you hasten you will find her weeping his loss, adding a few more salt drops to the brine.” I lingered, looking at him wonderingly. “What hath Rachel to do with Simon Wither ? ” questioned I. “It cannot be,” said he, “ that Rachel hath kept her secrets from thee ! What else could women-folk discourse upon, but such like affairs ?” I grew impatient. “ But I pray thee, do not fume, dear Cousin Rhoda,” continued he. “ Thou surely must know that Simon goeth to Plymouth to set his house in order for his young wife, for Rachel.” I stood with open mouth. “Is it true, is it possible?” I cried. “ Nay, go and find her.” And I hurried to the shore.
Yes ; I saw a white sail fast disappearing behind the point. O, the blue sea ! and the blue sky, calm and still! But in my tossed soul came rushing a tempest of wild thoughts. Over the broad sand came moving towards me a solitary figure ; it was Rachel. Far a way I could see how she drooped sadly, then that she saw me, and hastened to meet me. I had hurried on, so that my breath choked me ; so I stood waiting her, and my anger grew and flamed, and struggled for utterance. She did not heed my panting, but cried out, with her eyes filled with tears, and hands raised, “ O Cousin Rose, dost thou think he will reach there safely ? ” Then I burst out: “ Which he?” I cried ; “ whom dost thou mean ? ”
She gazed at me, then fell to laughing. O, how suddenly can such as Rachel pass from tears to laughter! Is it that all her feelings lie so near the surface that they can swiftly shift their colors ? I cannot say her former grief was heartless, but surely now her mirth was so ; nay, more ; ’t was cruel.
“ Nay, simple cousin,” she broke out, at last, “could I believe you would give credence to my tale ? Could I think that you would trust my secret words more than the public acts of your Ashley he showed to you ? I thought to stir a little breeze between you, that might only fan your flame. I had much to ask about Simon Wither of Roger, who knows him well, therefore held some secret counsel with him. To tell the truth, Cousin Rose, methought you knew Roger Ashley better than to believe me, and that you knew me too well ! ”
What answer could I give as I stood blazing ? Could I ever learn to know her wholly ? Could she ever know me ? Indeed, she knew not what she had done, — she who knew not what truth was, or faith in friendship. Of what avail, indeed, to upbraid her ! She stood, half sad, half penitent for the mischief she had worked, alas ! too shallow of heart even to know what mischief, or bow great. Anger of mine only led her to marvel. Her malice had been the malice of the moment, and her easy confession showed that her repentance was no deeper.
I broke away, — the smooth sand beneath my feet, my broad pathway hemmed here by the ebbing tide, then by the pebbly bank. Dizzy and wild, I ran on, wrapping my cloak about me that the rising breeze strove to wring from me. Yet I saw all, — the yeasty waves far out in the distance, low clouds catching the red light of the set sun, the rose and blue of the clear sky above, the gray golden of the sand ; and all moved and tossed and swayed with my changing passions.
First came a bitter anger. It was Rachel that had thrust Roger Ashley into the wilderness. Could I have seen him but once, but once before he ventured forth, I might have prevailed with him, I might have stayed him from going ! All together, — anger, contempt, bitterness, regret, — it was a seething and a whirl of passions, dark, gloomy, sad ; yet strange to say, through them all gleamed a wondrous ray of joy, a sudden lightness about my heart, a radiance and a glow like that of the past sunset on the blue waves. Ah, then, be did love me, he loved me! and ah, he had gone,—gone, perhaps, forever! These two passions swayed and throbbed in my heart, now one gaining the mastery, now another, along with them both a pang of remorse, an agony of regret. ’T was I that sent him from me !
Long time since I have written thee, and yet methinks I must send thee this, thinking thy love for me will make my tale less tedious. Since I wrote last, we have set forth on one long journey towards the new plantations to join Mr. Williams and his party. We now are tarrying many days at Newtown, whence a large company will go with us, and much cattle. Mr. Williams had first planted himself in another spot, but having been reproached by them of Plymouth that he had placed himself within their bounds, he hath moved farther on towards the Narragansetts.
Mr. Hooker, formerly pastor of the church here, hath left with most of his congregation not many weeks ago, for Connecticut,still farther on. This land, indeed, offereth wide space ; there is room for all those who will dissent to live apart, and none to crowd another with his opinion. As Mr. Hooker’s wife was borne on a horse litter, Gabriel thinketh that Patience may journey the same way, for her strength hath wasted much lately. They too drove one hundred and sixty cattle, and fed of their milk by the way. These latter months have been filled with care and sorrow, so that I could think I might never smile again. Yet, strange to say, my heart and courage grow stronger as the days go on. These days lock more solemn, yet so more valued, and I lake them up more cordially. I find we cannot live out our sorrow ; yet we can take it along with us, perhaps, at times, as support, defence.
Since Rachel’s marriage, Gabriel, Patience, and I are drawn more closely together. With the little band who accompany us, we had felt shut out from the community of Salem, on account of our attachment to Roger Williams and his teaching. All this brings us more nigh together, and we cling to each other with a brotherly love. Thou wouldst smile at hearing me ever called Rhoda, and I think the name would not be as sweet to thee as that of Rose. Yet on Gabriel’s tongue and that of Patience it hath a pleasing sound. Yea, indeed, before he left us, Roger Ashley had once or twice addressed me by that name. It hath a more formal sound, perhaps, and he might venture it when he had not dared speak a more familiar name. Yet I would have liked to have heard him once call me Rose.
We find here at Newtown the certain tidings that Mr. John Oldham was murdered by the Indians at Block Island, two companions with him, their bodies found in a boat, — Roger Ashley one. He did indeed pass through here in the winter months to join Oldham. The sachems of the Narragansett were the contrivers of Mr. Oldham’s death, and the governor has written back to Mr. Williams to let the Narragansetts know that they are expected to take revenge upon the islanders, and they profess they will do so. For Block Island is under the Narragansetts, and Canonicus, their chief, is even under suspicion, and he must clear himself.
Revenge! 'T is but a poor word. I shudder when I take it on my lips ; then bow my bead when I think that it may have been my own jealous passions working my coldness that sent this man to the wilderness and death. Ah ! what a fight indeed is this life ; not merely with heathen foes, but with the untamed passions of our own hearts, beleaguered without and within.
I long to leave here, — to plunge into the wilderness. Let the savage Indians howl about us, let that terrible silence of the night encompass us ; yet naught surpasseth the sorrow and the agony of the soul, however housed.
He would, indeed, have gone to meet his friend,— I mean Roger Ashley,— whatever words I might have said ; yet the thought ever comes back to me, — I sent him forth alone !
I find certain words often come back to me that Roger Ashley was wont to repeat from his favorite poet,
Are to a wise man ports and happy havens,”
and more of such meaning.
Could I but keep these words in my heart, the wilderness might not seem lone. And in truth I almost feel I am going towards that haven to which Heaven leadeth me.
I was born the year Shakespeare died. So I have never breathed that same air he breathed, and came into another world than he.
We call this the New World on which we colonists have entered. Nay, will that world the other side of death differ more than this from our old home ? Nay, will not that be more our home ? God here, there, everywhere ; but there the clear friends we have parted with. Here in this New World we find old things. — things that we knew in the Old World, — the oaks, the pines, the green grass, along with trees and leaves and flowers hitherto unknown. Will it not be so there ? The dear old friends, and the new loveliness, like, yet different.
Writing once more ! The lonely, desolate wilderness is passed, and the blue bay of the Narragansett before my eyes! A ship, the Blessing, comes up the bay ; ’t will bring us letters from thee, and I will close this long journal of a winter’s life to send thee in exchange for thine.
Didst thou remember thee of my birthday ? Didst thou recall a year ago, how we drank syllabub at the farm, when Geoffrey Patteson ambled about us, and strove to make merry with his antics ? Merry we were, but sorely at his expense, and Cousin Wetherell joined in our laughter at the foolish clown. Yet afterwards he could bid me take this boor for my husband !
Ah well! that day came again. A year had passed. I was again beneath green trees, but how different the scene ! Not the blithe party of a summer’s day, but serious men and women journeying through the wilderness, and I among them, my heart saddened nigh to breaking with grief and regret. I was roused by some strange cries, then friendly voices, as of new-comers to our camp, and glad greetings. I looked out from my nightly tent, and saw a group, among them savage Indians, I knew not how many, for my eyes were fixed on one, — on one, — no wonder, for he stood high, lofty above all the rest. Was he truly there ? Was I still dreaming? I rubbed my eyes, and heard them call Roger Ashley by name, and heard a noisy clamor, then heard them summon him to tell whence he came, what had saved him, what led him among us, why he came there ! Let the rest murmur and ask and question : it was enough for me that he stood there among the living. Were it a miracle of God that brought him I could not ask, nor think of aught but gazing on him !
How he came there ? What, indeed, was that to me ? God forgive me that I thought little of the cruel, murderous death of poor John Oldham, which all reported, in the storm of thankfulness that was flooding my heart. I had wept Roger Ashley dead, had thought I could never meet him but in the heavenly fields, had thought the green earth forever saddened by bis loss. Yet, strange to say, at that first bound of joy that throbbed in my heart I felt no question nor wonder of how or whence he came ! Think you that when we meet in that other world it will be so ? That we shall so readily claim our joy, accept our happiness, and pass so easily from the body’s agony into the soul’s bliss ?
The meeting here was indeed an earthly one ! So many times I have pictured such a meeting; but how different ! Ah ! we quick souls that jump so readily at conclusions, we gain time to press down our eager words, to smooth our anxious faces, careful lest we over-speak! With all the rest so noisy in their greeting, so earnest with their questions, so clamorous for answer, what could I do but stay silent, and offer my hand as coldly as at our parting !
A day of rest followed, to listen to this long story of adventure, to give our weary cattle time for repose. Before it was over, after he had satisfied all questions, Ashley, who knew the region well, summoned us to show us what he esteemed an enchanted spot. All the young people made ready to follow.
It was all familiar to him, he said, and, drawing near to me, he said he would show me namesakes of mine that hid themselves in the moist swamps. Then he led the way, and all followed. I have not told you of the summer flowers we have been meeting, — of the roses, of the white flowering shrubs, blue violets, that smell, indeed, not so sweet as thine beneath the hedge, the trailing virgin’s bower, gay field-lilies,— ah, how little I tell thee of this beauteous land ! Our way led over briers and stones into a wet morass, where one must leap from mound to mound, or make a bridge of some fallen tree. Roger’s hand was ever ready, his eyes to guide, and point where was a safe footing. Many lagged behind. At last we came into an open space, the ground still wet, and the soft earth moist, but covered with long, rich grass, all the copse filled with high reeds, trailing vines, large leaves and lilies ; but over all drooped down upon us, or towered above us, tall sprays of rich, rose-colored flowers. “ Trees of roses ! ” exclaimed I, as I stood in amaze, and thought myself in some scene of the tropics, out of this cold Northern land. So large and gorgeous in color, the rich flowers flashed in hue, and they seemed to light up the space as though it were a hall for banqueting. Nay, one branch of these glowing blossoms would have made gay the boudoir of any princess.
“ Trees of roses, thou dost call them,” said Roger Ashley, by my side ; " ’t is well to baptize them with thy name. The learned must needs more reverently call them rhododendrons.” Rhoda or Rose, he lingered over the name, then called me to look up into his face.
I looked as I had not yet ventured to look, and saw how sorrow and anxiety had set lines there; then saw a meaning in his eyes that his words, too, began to interpret. I cast down mine, then looked up once more, but to give forth a scream of terror ; for lo! upon the bank above I saw a crouching, savage form, axe in hand, at that moment reaching towards my Roger Ashley !
Dost thou remember, one day, sitting in the oriel corridor, when Cousin Everard first came out from Italy, how he gave us account of a painting of one of the new masters there, — where the archangel was casting the Evil One, Satan, down from the courts of heaven ? He told us of the blue, glittering armor of the angel; how, light in form, he planted his foot upon the shoulder of the dark, powerful demon, thrusting him into the abodes of hell. The picture oft has haunted me, as though I had looked upon it myself; and now, in all my agony, strange to say, it flashed before me, as a scene acting before my eyes. Here again was the fair, glorious, glittering angel, and here the strong, dark-browed Satan ! But it was all reversed. My angel, Roger, lay below ; and above, trampling upon his shoulder, a wild, savage being, with hate and anger in his eye, and Satanic power in his lifted arm !
A moment, when reality seemed a terrible dream, and when all horrid dreams seemed to mingle in one reality,— a moment of senseless agony, when I was flinging myself forward to come between him and the blow. There were shouts and cries and savage yells, blows given and returned, voices of our friends, wild whoops of our enemies, quiet again, — and we were safe. Roger was safe, stunned by that first blow, but recovered again ; his treacherous enemy, who had been stealthily pursuing him many days, all for the sake of some fierce words he had uttered against the murderers of John Oldham, — his enemy lay in his death agony at his side. Some of our people had been aware of his intent, had followed him, and stayed him ere it was too late.
And this was our betrothal ! For, ah yes, my Alice ! this is, indeed, a man, — a man with heart and strength, with firm body and firm soul. And he would have me for his wife, — even me, weak, foolish, passionate !
And so thy question with which I began this long epistle finds its answer at its close. I, too, asked myself, Why didst thou go ? It is Roger who answereth for me. I, who had no home, have found a home even in the wilderness. God hath led us all with his hand from sorrow into light. I left behind a tedious life of little things, and there openeth before me a glorious future with the man I have chosen, who hath chosen me to lead me henceforth. He speaketh often of a great nation that some time is to arise from this small colony of men.
Ah ! he is not like him to whom they would fain have married me, — poor, stolid Geoffrey, with eyes upon the ground, like his own oxen, thinking of naught but meat and drink, of cattle and barns, of hounds and fattening swine ! Let him find a partner after his own kind : there are such who can drowse with him in the comfort of the chimney-corner. Glad am I, I came hither, and cast my lot with those who will live, nay, die, for the soul’s freedom, and will plant a nation where they set their homes !
The Second Letter for Mistress Alice Lovell and that was sent.
MANTIC, August, 1636.
MISTRESS ALICE LOVELL : Cousin, thy letter is received by the Blessing, which will bear this to thee. Gabriel sendeth many thanks to thy father for the oatmeal ; the beef, too, cometh sweet and good.
These letters will scarce reach thee ere thy marriage with Geoffrey Patteson, of which thine inform us. May he prove a good husband to thee.
Thy Cousin Rose biddeth me say she writeth not at this time.
God has surely graciously preserved and blessed us. We are refreshed by the goods and provisions brought by the Blessing, though much received damage by wet. Of eight cows but four are living. With love to thee and all of our good friends, I desire the Lord to bless thee, and rest thy loving cousin,
Let Brother Sharpe send, as he purposeth, store of*pitch, tallow, and wick, also some small axes. Rose desireth to be remembered to thee. Roger Ashley, whom she will shortly marry, is a godly man, of good estate. The Lord hath brought us all through great trials. His mercies are great.
Gabriel biddeth me say that he hath appointed money to be paid to Brother Sharpe, by one Mr. Stone, who goeth with this. He is to discount for two mares and a horse that died by the way. Let the cheese be brought loose, or packed in very dry malt.
Lucretia P. Hale.