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Talked of their Captain's departure, and all the dangers that
He being gone, the town, and what should be done in his
Merrily sang the birds, and the tender voices of women
Consecrated with hymns the common cares of the household.
Out of the sea rose the sun, and the billows rejoiced at his coming;
Beautiful were his feet on the purple tops of the mountains; Beautiful on the sails of the "Mayflower" riding at anchor, Battered and blackened and worn by all the storms of the
Loosely against her masts was hanging and flapping her can
Rent by so many gales, and patched by the hands of the
Suddenly from her side, as the sun rose over the ocean,
Ah! but with louder echoes replied the hearts of the people! 35 Meekly, in voices subdued, the chapter was read from the
Meekly the prayer was begun, but ended in fervent entreaty!
Then from their houses in haste came forth the Pilgrims of Plymouth,
Men and women and children, all hurrying down to the seashore,
Eager, with tearful eyes, to say farewell to the "May
Homeward bound o'er the sea, and leaving them here in the
Foremost among them was Alden. All night he had lain without slumber,
Turning and tossing about in the heat and unrest of his fever. He had beheld Miles Standish, who came back late from the council,
Stalking into the room, and heard him mutter and murmur, 45 Sometimes it seemed a prayer, and sometimes it sounded like
Once he had come to the bed, and stood there a moment in silence;
Then he had turned away, and said: "I will not awake him; Let him sleep on, it is best; for what is the use of more talk
Then he extinguished the light, and threw himself down on
Dressed as he was, and ready to start at the break of the
Covered himself with the cloak he had worn in his campaigns
Slept as a soldier sleeps in his bivouac,' ready for action.
But with the dawn he arose; in the twilight Alden beheld
Put on his corselet of steel, and all the rest of his armor,
Often the heart of the youth had burned and yearned to em
Often his lips had essayed to speak, imploring for pardon;
1 Pronounced bĭv'-wǎk: the night-watch of an army when in danger of surprise, or an encampment for the night without tents or shelter. Cf. O'Hara's beautiful use of the word in his poem in memory of the Kentuckians who fell at Buena Vista:
"On Fame's eternal camping-ground,
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
All the old friendship came back with its tender and grateful emotions; 60
But his pride overmastered the nobler nature within him,— Pride, and the sense of his wrong, and the burning fire of the insult.
So he beheld his friend departing in anger, but spake not, Saw him go forth to danger, perhaps to death, and he spake not! Then he arose from his bed, and heard what the people were saying, 65
Joined in the talk at the door, with Stephen and Richard and
Joined in the morning prayer, and in the reading of Scripture,
And, with the others, in haste went hurrying down to the
Down to the Plymouth Rock, that had been to their feet as a doorstep
Into a world unknown,-the corner-stone of a nation!
There with his boat was the Master,' already a little im
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 75 Into his narrow brain, till at last he was wholly bewildered. Nearer the boat stood Alden, with one foot placed on the gunwale,
1 The actual names of three of the "Mayflower " Stephen Hopkins, Richard Warren, and Gilbert Winslow.
passengers surviving in 1621 :
2 The title, in the seventeenth century, of the commander of a merchant vessel. Cf. Tempest, I. i.
One still firm on the rock, and talking at times with the
Seated erect on the thwarts, all ready and eager for start
He too was eager to go, and thus put an end to his anguish, 80 Thinking to fly from despair, that swifter than keel is or
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 inten85
Fixed with a look so sad, so reproachful, imploring, and
That with a sudden revulsion his heart recoiled from its pur
As from the verge of a crag, where one step more is destruc
Strange is the heart of man, with its quick, mysterious in
Strange is the life of man, and fatal or fated are moments, 90 Whereupon turn, as on hinges, the gates of the wall adaman
"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 head
Yonder snow-white cloud, that floats in the ether above
Seems like a hand that is pointing and beckoning over the
There is another hand, that is not so spectral and ghost-like, Holding me, drawing me back, and clasping mine for protec
Float, O hand of cloud, and vanish away in the ether!
Roll thyself up like a fist, to threaten and daunt me; I heed not
Either your warning or menace, or any omen of evil!
Here for her sake will I stay, and like an invisible pres
Hover around her forever, protecting, supporting her weak
Yes! as my foot was the first that stepped on this rock at the
So, with the blessing of God, shall it be the last at the leav
Meanwhile the Master alert, but with dignified air and im
Scanning with watchful eye the tide and the wind and the weather,
Walked about on the sands, and the people crowded around
Saying a few last words, and enforcing his careful remem
Then, taking each by the hand, as if he were grasping a tiller,
Short allowance of victual, and plenty of nothing but Gospel! Lost in the sound of the oars was the last farewell of the