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"No; you were angry with me, for speaking so frankly and freely.
It was wrong, I acknowledge; for it is the fate of a woman Long to be patient and silent, to wait like a ghost that is speechless, 30
Till some questioning voice dissolves the spell of its silence.
Chafing their channels of stone, with endless and profitless
35 Thereupon answered John Alden, the young man, the lover of women:
"Heaven forbid it, Priscilla; and truly they seem to me
More like the beautiful rivers that watered the garden of Eden,
More like the river Euphrates, through deserts of Havilah flowing,
Filling the land with delight, and memories sweet of the garden!"
"Ah, by these words, I can see," again interrupted the maiden,
"How very little you prize me, or care for what I am saying. When from the depths of my heart, in pain and with secret misgiving,
Frankly I speak to you, asking for sympathy only and kindness, Straightway you take up my words, that are plain and direct
and in earnest,
1 Longfellow may have had in mind the classic Alpheus, a river in the Peloponnesus, which flowed for some distance underground. The story of the pursuit of the nymph Arethusa by the river-god is told in Ovid's Metamorphoses, v. 10, and in Shelley's Arethusa. Cf. also Coleridge's Vision of Kubla Khan.
2 The Pison, "which compasseth the whole land of Havilah," the Gihon, the Hiddekel, and the Euphrates. Genesis, ii. 11-13.
Turn them away from their meaning, and answer with flattering phrases.
This is not right, is not just, is not true to the best that is in you;
If you say aught that implies I am only as one among many,
Mute and amazed was Alden; and listened and looked at Priscilla, 55 Thinking he never had seen her more fair, more divine in her beauty.
He who but yesterday pleaded so glibly the cause of another, Stood there embarrassed and silent, and seeking in vain for an
So the maiden went on, and little divined or imagined
What was at work in his heart, that made him so awkward and speechless.
Let us, then, be what we are, and speak what we think, and
in all things
Keep ourselves loyal to truth, and the sacred professions of friendship.
It is no secret I tell you, nor am I ashamed to declare it:
I have liked to be with you, to see you, to speak with you always.
So I was hurt at your words, and a little affronted to hear
Urge me to marry your friend, though he were the Captain Miles Standish.
For I must tell you the truth: much more to me is your friendship
Than all the love he could give, were he twice the hero you think him."
Then she extended her hand, and Alden, who eagerly grasped it, Felt all the wounds in his heart, that were aching and bleeding so sorely,
Healed by the touch of that hand, and he said, with a voice. full of feeling:
"Yes, we must ever be friends; and of all who offer you friendship
Let me be ever the first, the truest, the nearest and dearest!"
Casting a farewell look at the glimmering sail of the "Mayflower"
Distant, but still in sight, and sinking below the horizon, 75 Homeward together they walked, with a strange, indefinite feeling,
That all the rest had departed and left them alone in the desert.
But, as they went through the fields in the blessing and smile of the sunshine,
Lighter grew their hearts, and Priscilla said very archly: "Now that our terrible Captain has gone in pursuit of the Indians,
Where he is happier far than he would be commanding a household,
You may speak boldly, and tell me of all that happened between you,
When you returned last night, and said how ungrateful you found me."
Thereupon answered John Alden, and told her the whole of the story,
Told her his own despair, and the direful wrath' of Miles Standish.
1 An echo from the opening lines of the Iliad, where Homer "sings the direful wrath of Pelides."
Whereat the maiden smiled, and said between laughing and earnest,
"He is a little chimney, and heated hot in a moment!” But as he gently rebuked her, and told her how he had suffered,
How he had even determined to sail that day in the "Mayflower,"
And had remained for her sake, on hearing the dangers that threatened,90
All her manner was changed, and she said with a faltering accent,
“Truly I thank you for this: how good you have been to me always!'
Thus, as a pilgrim devout, who toward Jerusalem journeys, Taking three steps in advance, and one reluctantly backward, Urged by importunate zeal, and withheld by pangs of contrition;
Slowly but steadily onward, receding yet ever advancing, Journeyed this Puritan youth to the Holy Land of his long
Urged by the fervor of love, and withheld by remorseful misgivings.
THE MARCH OF MILES STANDISH.
MEANWHILE the stalwart Miles Standish was marching steadily northward,
Winding through forest and swamp, and along the trend of
1 Pilgrimages from western Europe to Jerusalem and other sacred spots were especially common during the middle ages. The pilgrim went at his own charges and under a vow of ascetic observances; the palmer, however, remained wilfully poor, had no home, and visited all shrines. The abuses which grew out of the custom are vividly portrayed in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.
All day long, with hardly a halt, the fire of his anger Burning and crackling within, and the sulphurous odor of powder
Seeming more sweet to his nostrils than all the scents of the forest.
Silent and moody he went, and much he revolved his discomfort;
Ah! 'twas too much to be borne, and he fretted and chafed in his armor!
"I alone am to blame," he muttered, "for mine was the folly.
What has a rough old soldier, grown grim and gray in the harness,
Used to the camp and its ways, to do with the wooing of maidens?
'Twas but a dream,-let it pass,-let it vanish like so many others!
What I thought was a flower, is only a weed, and is worthless;
Out of my heart will I pluck it, and throw it away, and henceforward
Be but a fighter of battles, a lover and wooer of dangers." Thus he revolved in his mind his sorry defeat and discomfort, While he was marching by day or lying at night in the forest, Looking up at the trees and the constellations beyond them.
After a three days' march' he came to an Indian encampment
1 The original of this part of Longfellow's narrative is found in Winslow's Relation of Standish's Expedition against the Indians of Weymouth, and the breaking up of Weston's Colony at that place, in March, 1623.