Etexts from Twice Told Tales
Part 5 out of 5
closet, or other out-of-the-way nook of the house. This wealth,
according to tradition, had been accumulated by a former Peter
Goldthwaite, whose character seems to have borne a remarkable
similitude to that of the Peter of our story. Like him he was a
wild projector, seeking to heap up gold by the bushel and the
cartload, instead of scraping it together, coin by coin. Like
Peter the second, too, his projects had almost invariably failed,
and, but for the magnificent success of the final one, would have
left him with hardly a coat and pair of breeches to his gaunt and
grizzled person. Reports were various as to the nature of his
fortunate speculation: one intimating that the ancient Peter had
made the gold by alchemy; another, that he had conjured it out of
people's pockets by the black art; and a third, still more
unaccountable, that the devil had given him free access to the
old provincial treasury. It was affirmed, however, that some
secret impediment had debarred him from the enjoyment of his
riches, and that he had a motive for concealing them from his
heir, or at any rate had died without disclosing the place of
deposit. The present Peter's father had faith enough in the story
to cause the cellar to be dug over. Peter himself chose to
consider the legend as an indisputable truth, and, amid his many
troubles, had this one consolation that, should all other
resources fail, he might build up his fortunes by tearing his
house down. Yet, unless he felt a lurking distrust of the golden
tale, it is difficult to account for his permitting the paternal
roof to stand so long, since he had never yet seen the moment
when his predecessor's treasure would not have found plenty of
room in his own strong box. But now was the crisis. Should he
delay the search a little longer, the house would pass from the
lineal heir, and with it the vast heap of gold, to remain in its
burial-place, till the ruin of the aged walls should discover it
to strangers of a future generation.
"Yes!" cried Peter Goldthwaite, again, "to-morrow I will set
The deeper he looked at the matter the more certain of success
grew Peter. His spirits were naturally so elastic that even now,
in the blasted autumn of his age, he could often compete with the
spring-time gayety of other people. Enlivened by his brightening
prospects, he began to caper about the kitchen like a hobgoblin,
with the queerest antics of his lean limbs, and gesticulations of
his starved features. Nay, in the exuberance of his feelings, he
seized both of Tabitha's hands, and danced the old lady across
the floor, till the oddity of her rheumatic motions set him into
a roar of laughter, which was echoed back from the rooms and
chambers, as if Peter Goldthwaite were laughing in every one.
Finally he bounded upward almost out of sight, into the smoke
that clouded the roof of the kitchen, and, alighting safely on
the floor again, endeavored to resume his customary gravity.
"To-morrow, at sunrise," he repeated, taking his lamp to retire
to bed, "I'll see whether this treasure be hid in the wall of the
"And as we're out of wood, Mr. Peter," said Tabitha, puffing and
panting with her late gymnastics, "as fast as you tear the house
down, I'll make a fire with the pieces."
Gorgeous that night were the dreams of Peter Goldthwaite! At one
time he was turning a ponderous key in an iron door not unlike
the door of a sepulchre, but which, being opened, disclosed a
vault heaped up with gold coin, as plentifully as golden corn in
a granary. There were chased goblets, also, and tureens, salvers,
dinner dishes, and dish covers of gold, or silver gilt, besides
chains and other jewels, incalculably rich, though tarnished with
the damps of the vault; for, of all the wealth that was
irrevocably lost to the man, whether buried in the earth or
sunken in the sea, Peter Goldthwaite had found it in this one
treasure-place. Anon, he had returned to the old house as poor as
ever, and was received at the door by the gaunt and grizzled
figure of a man whom he might have mistaken for himself, only
that his garments were of a much elder fashion. But the house,
without losing its former aspect, had been changed into a palace
of the precious metals. The floors, walls, and ceiling were of
burnished silver; the doors, the window frames, the cornices, the
balustrades and the steps of the staircase, of pure gold; and
silver, with gold bottoms, were the chairs, and gold, standing on
silver legs, the high chests of drawers, and silver the
bedsteads, with blankets of woven gold, and sheets of silver
tissue. The house had evidently been transmuted by a single
touch; for it retained all the marks that Peter remembered, but
in gold or silver instead of wood; and the initials of his name,
which, when a boy, he had cut in the wooden door-post, remained
as deep in the pillar of gold. A happy man would have been Peter
Goldthwaite except for a certain ocular deception, which,
whenever he glanced backwards, caused the house to darken from
its glittering magnificence into the sordid gloom of yesterday.
Up, betimes, rose Peter, seized an axe, hammer, and saw, which he
had placed by his bedside, and hied him to the garret. It was but
scantily lighted up, as yet, by the frosty fragments of a
sunbeam, which began to glimmer through the almost opaque
bull's-eyes of the window. A moralizer might find abundant themes
for his speculative and impracticable wisdom in a garret. There
is the limbo of departed fashions, aged trifles. Of a day, and
whatever was valuable only to one generation of men, and which
passed to the garret when that generation passed to the grave,
not for safe keeping, but to be out of the way. Peter saw piles
of yellow and musty account-books, in parchment covers, wherein
creditors, long dead and buried, had written the names of dead
and buried debtors in ink now so faded that their moss-grown
tombstones were more legible. He found old moth-eaten garments
all in rags and tatters, or Peter would have put them on. Here
was a naked and rusty sword, not a sword of service, but a
gentleman's small French rapier, which had never left its
scabbard till it lost it. Here were canes of twenty different
sorts, but no gold-headed ones, and shoe-buckles of various
pattern and material, but not silver nor set with precious
stones. Here was a large box full of shoes, with high heels and
peaked toes. Here, on a shelf, were a multitude of phials,
half-filled with old apothecaries' stuff, which, when the other
half had done its business on Peter's ancestors, had been brought
hither from the death chamber. Here--not to give a longer
inventory of articles that will never be put up at auction--was
the fragment of a full-length looking-glass, which, by the dust
and dimness of its surface, made the picture of these old things
look older than the reality. When Peter not knowing that there
was a mirror there, caught the faint traces of his own figure, he
partly imagined that the former Peter Goldthwaite had come back,
either to assist or impede his search for the hidden wealth. And
at that moment a strange notion glimmered through his brain that
he was the identical Peter who had concealed the gold, and ought
to know whereabout it lay. This, however, he had unacountably
"Well, Mr. Peter!" cried Tabitha, on the garret stairs. "Have you
torn the house down enough to heat the teakettle?"
"Not yet, old Tabby," answered Peter; "but that's soon done--as
you shall see."
With the word in his mouth, he uplifted the axe, and laid about
him so vigorously that the dust flew, the boards crashed, and, in
a twinkling, the old woman had an apron full of broken rubbish.
"We shall get our winter's wood cheap," quoth Tabitha.
The good work being thus commenced, Peter beat down all before
him, smiting and hewing at the joists and timbers, unclinching
spike-nails, ripping and tearing away boards, with a tremendous
racket, from morning till night. He took care, however, to leave
the outside shell of the house untouched, so that the neighbors
might not suspect what was going on.
Never, in any of his vagaries, though each had made him happy
while it lasted, had Peter been happier than now. Perhaps, after
all, there was something in Peter Goldthwaite's turn of mind,
which brought him an inward recompense for all the external evil
that it caused. If he were poor, ill-clad, even hungry, and
exposed, as it were, to be utterly annihilated by a precipice of
impending ruin, yet only his body remained in these miserable
circumstances, while his aspiring soul enjoyed the sunshine of a
bright futurity. It was his nature to be always young, and the
tendency of his mode of life to keep him so. Gray hairs were
nothing, no, nor wrinkles, nor infirmity; he might look old,
indeed, and be somewhat disagreeably connected with a gaunt old
figure, much the worse for wear; but the true, the essential
Peter was a young man of high hopes, just entering on the world.
At the kindling of each new fire, his burnt-out youth rose afresh
from the old embers and ashes. It rose exulting now. Having lived
thus long--not too long, but just to the right age--a susceptible
bachelor, with warm and tender dreams, he resolved, so soon as
the hidden gold should flash to light, to go a-wooing, and win
the love of the fairest maid in town. What heart could resist
him? Happy Peter Goldthwaite!
Every evening--as Peter had long absented himself from his former
lounging-places, at insurance offices, news-rooms, and
bookstores, and as the honor of his company was seldom requested
in private circles--he and Tabitha used to sit down sociably by
the kitchen hearth. This was always heaped plentifully with the
rubbish of his day's labor. As the foundation of the fire, there
would be a goodly-sized backlog of red oak, which, after being
sheltered from rain or damp above a century, still hissed with
the heat, and distilled streams of water from each end, as if the
tree had been cut down within a week or two. Next these were
large sticks, sound, black, and heavy, which had lost the
principle of decay, and were indestructible except by fire,
wherein they glowed like red-hot bars of iron. On this solid
basis, Tabitha would rear a lighter structure, composed of the
splinters of door panels, ornamented mouldings, and such quick
combustibles, which caught like straw, and threw a brilliant
blaze high up the spacious flue, making its sooty sides visible
almost to the chimney-top. Meantime, the gleam of the old kitchen
would be chased out of the cobwebbed corners and away from the
dusky cross-beams overhead, and driven nobody could tell whither,
while Peter smiled like a gladsome man, and Tabitha seemed a
picture of comfortable age. All this, of course, was but an
emblem of the bright fortune which the destruction of the house
would shed upon its occupants.
While the dry pine was flaming and crackling, like an irregular
discharge of fairy musketry, Peter sat looking and listening, in
a pleasant state of excitement. But, when the brief blaze and
uproar were succeeded by the dark-red glow, the substantial heat,
and the deep singing sound, which were to last throughout the
evening, his humor became talkative. One night, the hundredth
time, he teased Tabitha to tell him something new about his
"You have been sitting in that chimney-corner fifty-five years,
old Tabby, and must have heard many a tradition about him," said
Peter. "Did not you tell me that, when you first came to the
house, there was an old woman sitting where you sit now, who had
been housekeeper to the famous Peter Goldthwaite?"
"So there was, Mr. Peter," answered Tabitha, "and she was near
about a hundred years old. She used to say that she and old Peter
Goldthwaite had often spent a sociable evening by the kitchen
fire--pretty much as you and I are doing now, Mr. Peter."
"The old fellow must have resembled me in more points than one,"
said Peter, complacently, "or he never would have grown so rich.
But, methinks, he might have invested the money better than he
did--no interest!--nothing but good security!--and the house to
be torn down to come at it! What made him hide it so snug,
"Because he could not spend it," said Tabitha; "for as often as
he went to unlock the chest, the Old Scratch came behind and
caught his arm. The money, they say, was paid Peter out of his
purse; and he wanted Peter to give him a deed of this house and
land, which Peter swore he would not do."
"Just as I swore to John Brown, my old partner," remarked Peter.
"But this is all nonsense, Tabby! I don't believe the story."
"Well, it may not be just the truth," said Tabitha; "for some
folks say that Peter did make over the house to the Old Scratch,
and that's the reason it has always been so unlucky to them that
lived in it. And as soon as Peter had given him the deed, the
chest flew open, and Peter caught up a handful of the gold. But,
lo and behold!--there was nothing in his fist but a parcel of old
"Hold your tongue, you silly old Tabby!" cried Peter in great
wrath. "They were as good golden guineas as ever bore the
effigies of the king of England. It seems as if I could recollect
the whole circumstance, and how I, or old Peter, or whoever it
was, thrust in my hand, or his hand, and drew it out all of a
blaze with gold. Old rags, indeed!"
But it was not an old woman's legend that would discourage Peter
Goldthwaite. All night long he slept among pleasant dreams, and
awoke at daylight with a joyous throb of the heart, which few are
fortunate enough to feel beyond their boyhood. Day after day he
labored hard without wasting a moment, except at meal times, when
Tabitha summoned him to the pork and cabbage, or such other
sustenance as she had picked up, or Providence had sent them.
Being a truly pious man, Peter never failed to ask a blessing; if
the food were none of the best, then so much the more earnestly,
as it was more needed;--nor to return thanks, if the dinner had
been scanty, yet for the good appetite, which was better than a
sick stomach at a feast. Then did he hurry back to his toil, and,
in a moment, was lost to sight in a cloud of dust from the old
walls, though sufficiently perceptible to the ear by the clatter
which he raised in the midst of it. How enviable is the
consciousness of being usefully employed! Nothing troubled Peter;
or nothing but those phantoms of the mind which seem like vague
recollections, yet have also the aspect of presentiments. He
often paused, with his axe uplifted in the air, and said to
himself,--"Peter Goldthwaite, did you never strike this blow
before?" or, "Peter, what need of tearing the whole house down?
Think a little while, and you will remember where the gold is
hidden." Days and weeks passed on, however, without any
remarkable discovery. Sometimes, indeed, a lean, gray rat peeped
forth at the lean, gray man, wondering what devil had got into
the old house, which had always been so peaceable till now. And,
occasionally, Peter sympathized with the sorrows of a female
mouse, who had brought five or six pretty, little, soft and
delicate young ones into the world just in time to see them
crushed by its ruin. But, as yet, no treasure!
By this time, Peter, being as determined as Fate and as diligent
as Time, had made an end with the uppermost regions, and got down
to the second story, where he was busy in one of the front
chambers. It had formerly been the state bed-chamber, and was
honored by tradition as the sleeping apartment of Governor
Dudley, and many other eminent guests. The furniture was gone.
There were remnants of faded and tattered paper-hangings, but
larger spaces of bare wall ornamented with charcoal sketches,
chiefly of people's heads in profile. These being specimens of
Peter's youthful genius, it went more to his heart to obliterate
them than if they had been pictures on a church wall by Michael
Angelo. One sketch, however, and that the best one, affected him
differently. It represented a ragged man, partly supporting
himself on a spade, and bending his lean body over a hole in the
earth, with one hand extended to grasp something that he had
found. But close behind him, with a fiendish laugh on his
features, appeared a figure with horns, a tufted tail, and a
"Avaunt, Satan!" cried Peter. "The man shall have his gold!"
Uplifting his axe, he hit the horned gentleman such a blow on the
head as not only demolished him, but the treasure-seeker also,
and caused the whole scene to vanish like magic. Moreover, his
axe broke quite through the plaster and laths, and discovered a
"Mercy on us, Mr. Peter, are you quarrelling with the Old
Scratch?" said Tabitha, who was seeking some fuel to put under
Without answering the old woman, Peter broke down a further space
of the wall, and laid open a small closet or cupboard, on one
side of the fireplace, about breast high from the ground. It
contained nothing but a brass lamp, covered with verdigris, and a
dusty piece of parchment. While Peter inspected the latter,
Tabitha seized the lamp, and began to rub it with her apron.
"There is no use in rubbing it, Tabitha," said Peter. "It is not
Aladdin's lamp, though I take it to be a token of as much luck.
Look here Tabby!"
Tabitha took the parchment and held it close to her nose, which
was saddled with a pair of iron-bound spectacles. But no sooner
had she began to puzzle over it than she burst into a chuckling
laugh, holding both her hands against her sides.
"You can't make a fool of the old woman!" cried she. "This is
your own handwriting, Mr. Peter! the same as in the letter you
sent me from Mexico."
"There is certainly a considerable resemblance," said Peter,
again examining the parchment. "But you know yourself, Tabby,
that this closet must have been plastered up before you came to
the house, or I came into the world. No, this is old Peter
Goldthwaite's writing; these columns of pounds, shillings, and
pence are his figures, denoting the amount of the treasure; and
this at the bottom is, doubtless, a reference to the place of
concealment. But the ink has either faded or peeled off, so that
it is absolutely illegible. What a pity!"
"Well, this lamp is as good as new. That's some comfort," said
"A lamp!" thought Peter. "That indicates light on my researches."
For the present, Peter felt more inclined to ponder on this
discovery than to resume his labors. After Tabitha had gone down
stairs, he stood poring over the parchment, at one of the front
windows, which was so obscured with dust that the sun could
barely throw an uncertain shadow of the casement across the
floor. Peter forced it open, and looked out upon the great street
of the town, while the sun looked in at his old house. The air,
though mild, and even warm, thrilled Peter as with a dash of
It was the first day of the January thaw. The snow lay deep upon
the house-tops, but was rapidly dissolving into millions of
water-drops, which sparkled downwards through the sunshine, with
the noise of a summer shower beneath the eaves. Along the street,
the trodden snow was as hard and solid as a pavement of white
marble, and had not yet grown moist in the spring-like
temperature. But when Peter thrust forth his head, he saw that
the inhabitants, if not the town, were already thawed out by this
warm day, after two or three weeks of winter weather. It
gladdened him --a gladness with a sigh breathing through it--to
see the stream of ladies, gliding along the slippery sidewalks,
with their red cheeks set off by quilted hoods, boas, and sable
capes, like roses amidst a new kind of foliage. The sleigh-bells
jingled to and fro continually: sometimes announcing the arrival
of a sleigh from Vermont, laden with the frozen bodies of
porkers, or sheep, and perhaps a deer or two; sometimes of a
regular market-man, with chickens, geese, and turkeys, comprising
the whole colony of a barn yard; and sometimes of a farmer and
his dame, who had come to town partly for the ride, partly to go
a-shopping, and partly for the sale of some eggs and butter. This
couple rode in an old-fashioned square sleigh, which had served
them twenty winters, and stood twenty summers in the sun beside
their door. Now, a gentleman and lady skimmed the snow in an
elegant car, shaped somewhat like a cockle-shell. Now, a
stage-sleigh, with its cloth curtains thrust aside to admit the
sun, dashed rapidly down the street, whirling in and out among
the vehicles that obstructed its passage. Now came, round a
corner, the similitude of Noah's ark on runners, being an immense
open sleigh with seats for fifty people, and drawn by a dozen
horses. This spacious receptacle was populous with merry maids
and merry bachelors, merry girls and boys, and merry old folks,
all alive with fun, and grinning to the full width of their
mouths. They kept up a buzz of babbling voices and low laughter,
and sometimes burst into a deep, joyous shout, which the
spectators answered with three cheers, while a gang of roguish
boys let drive their snowballs right among the pleasure party.
The sleigh passed on, and, when concealed by a bend of the
street, was still audible by a distant cry of merriment.
Never had Peter beheld a livelier scene than was constituted by
all these accessories: the bright sun, the flashing water-drops,
the gleaming snow, the cheerful multitude, the variety of rapid
vehicles, and the jingle jangle of merry bells which made the
heart dance to their music. Nothing dismal was to be seen, except
that peaked piece of antiquity, Peter Goldthwaite's house, which
might well look sad externally, since such a terrible consumption
was preying on its insides. And Peter's gaunt figure, half
visible in the projecting second story, was worthy of his house.
"Peter! How goes it, friend Peter?" cried a voice across the
street, as Peter was drawing in his head. "Look out here, Peter!"
Peter looked, and saw his old partner, Mr. John Brown, on the
opposite sidewalk, portly and comfortable, with his furred cloak
thrown open, disclosing a handsome surtout beneath. His voice had
directed the attention of the whole town to Peter Goldthwaite's
window, and to the dusty scarecrow which appeared at it.
"I say, Peter," cried Mr. Brown again, "what the devil are you
about there, that I hear such a racket whenever I pass by? You
are repairing the old house, I suppose,--making a new one of it,
"Too late for that, I am afraid, Mr. Brown," replied Peter. "If I
make it new, it will be new inside and out, from the cellar
"Had not you better let me take the job?" said Mr. Brown,
"Not yet!" answered Peter, hastily shutting the window; for, ever
since he had been in search of the treasure, he hated to have
people stare at him.
As he drew back, ashamed of his outward poverty, yet proud of the
secret wealth within his grasp, a haughty smile shone out on
Peter's visage, with precisely the effect of the dim sunbeams in
the squalid chamber. He endeavored to assume such a mien as his
ancestor had probably worn, when he gloried in the building of a
strong house for a home to many generations of his posterity. But
the chamber was very dark to his snow-dazzled eyes, and very
dismal too, in contrast with the living scene that he had just
looked upon. His brief glimpse into the street had given him a
forcible impression of the manner in which the world kept itself
cheerful and prosperous, by social pleasures and an intercourse
of business, while he, in seclusion, was pursuing an object that
might possibly be a phantasm, by a method which most people would
call madness. It is one great advantage of a gregarious mode of
life that each person rectifies his mind by other minds, and
squares his conduct to that of his neighbors, so as seldom to be
lost in eccentricity. Peter Goldthwaite had exposed himself to
this influence by merely looking out of the window. For a while,
he doubted whether there were any hidden chest of gold, and, in
that case, whether he was so exceedingly wise to tear the house
down, only to be convinced of its non-existence.
But this was momentary. Peter, the Destroyer, resumed the task
which fate had assigned him, nor faltered again till it was
accomplished. In the course of his search, he met with many
things that are usually found in the ruins of an old house, and
also with some that are not. What seemed most to the purpose was
a rusty key, which had been thrust into a chink of the wall, with
a wooden label appended to the handle, bearing the initials, P.
G. Another singular discovery was that of a bottle of wine,
walled up in an old oven. A tradition ran in the family, that
Peter's grandfather, a jovial officer in the old French War, had
set aside many dozens of the precious liquor for the benefit of
topers then unborn. Peter needed no cordial to sustain his hopes,
and therefore kept the wine to gladden his success. Many
halfpence did he pick up, that had been lost through the cracks
of the floor, and some few Spanish coins, and the half of a
broken sixpence, which had doubtless been a love token. There was
likewise a silver coronation medal of George the Third. But old
Peter Goldthwaite's strong box fled from one dark corner to
another, or otherwise eluded the second Peter's clutches, till,
should he seek much farther, he must burrow into the earth.
We will not follow him in his triumphant progress, step by step.
Suffice it that Peter worked like a steam-engine, and finished,
in that one winter, the job which all the former inhabitants of
the house, with time and the elements to aid them, had only half
done in a century. Except the kitchen, every room and chamber was
now gutted. The house was nothing but a shell,--the apparition of
a house,--as unreal as the painted edifices of a theatre. It was
like the perfect rind of a great cheese, in which a mouse had
dwelt and nibbled till it was a cheese no more. And Peter was the
What Peter had torn down, Tabitha had burned up; for she wisely
considered that, without a house, they should need no wood to
warm it; and therefore economy was nonsense. Thus the whole house
might be said to have dissolved in smoke, and flown up among the
clouds, through the great black flue of the kitchen chimney. It
was an admirable parallel to the feat of the man who jumped down
his own throat.
On the night between the last day of winter and the first of
spring, every chink and cranny had been ransacked, except within
the precincts of the kitchen. This fated evening was an ugly one.
A snow-storm had set in some hours before, and was still driven
and tossed about the atmosphere by a real hurricane, which fought
against the house as if the prince of the air, in person, were
putting the final stroke to Peter's labors. The framework being
so much weakened, and the inward props removed, it would have
been no marvel if, in some stronger wrestle of the blast, the
rotten walls of the edifice, and all the peaked roofs, had come
crushing down upon the owner's head. He, however, was careless of
the peril, but as wild and restless as the night itself, or as
the flame that quivered up the chimney at each roar of the
"The wine, Tabitha!" he cried. "My grandfather's rich old wine!
We will drink it now!"
Tabitha arose from her smoke-blackened bench in the
chimney-corner, and placed the bottle before Peter, close beside
the old brass lamp, which had likewise been the prize of his
researches. Peter held it before his eyes, and, looking through
the liquid medium, beheld the kitchen illuminated with a golden
glory, which also enveloped Tabitha and gilded her silver hair,
and converted her mean garments into robes of queenly splendor.
It reminded him of his golden dream.
"Mr. Peter," remarked Tabitha, "must the wine be drunk before the
money is found?"
"The money IS found!" exclaimed Peter, with a sort of fierceness.
"The chest is within my reach. I will not sleep, till I have
turned this key in the rusty lock. But, first of all, let us
There being no corkscrew in the house, he smote the neck of the
bottle with old Peter Goldthwaite's rusty key, and decapitated
the sealed cork at a single blow. He then filled two little china
teacups, which Tabitha had brought from the cupboard. So clear
and brilliant was this aged wine that it shone within the cups,
and rendered the sprig of scarlet flowers, at the bottom of each,
more distinctly visible than when there had been no wine there.
Its rich and delicate perfume wasted itself round the kitchen.
"Drink, Tabitha!" cried Peter. "Blessings on the honest old
fellow who set aside this good liquor for you and me! And here's
to Peter Goldthwaite's memory!"
"And good cause have we to remember him," quoth Tabitha, as she
How many years, and through what changes of fortune and various
calamity, had that bottle hoarded up its effervescent joy, to be
quaffed at last by two such boon companions! A portion of the
happiness of the former age had been kept for them, and was now
set free, in a crowd of rejoicing visions, to sport amid the
storm and desolation of the present time. Until they have
finished the bottle, we must turn our eyes elsewhere.
It so chanced that, on this stormy night, Mr. John Brown found
himself ill at ease in his wire-cushioned arm-chair, by the
glowing grate of anthracite which heated his handsome parlor. He
was naturally a good sort of a man, and kind and pitiful whenever
the misfortunes of others happened to reach his heart through the
padded vest of his own prosperity. This evening he had thought
much about his old partner, Peter Goldthwaite, his strange
vagaries, and continual ill luck, the poverty of his dwelling, at
Mr. Brown's last visit, and Peter's crazed and haggard aspect
when he had talked with him at the window.
"Poor fellow!" thought Mr. John Brown. "Poor, crackbrained Peter
Goldthwaite! For old acquaintance' sake, I ought to have taken
care that he was comfortable this rough winter."
These feelings grew so powerful that, in spite of the inclement
weather, he resolved to visit Peter Goldthwaite immediately. The
strength of the impulse was really singular. Every shriek of the
blast seemed a summons, or would have seemed so, had Mr. Brown
been accustomed to hear the echoes of his own fancy in the wind.
Much amazed at such active benevolence, he huddled himself in his
cloak, muffled his throat and ears in comforters and
handkerchiefs, and, thus fortified, bade defiance to the tempest.
But the powers of the air had rather the best of the battle. Mr.
Brown was just weathering the corner, by Peter Goldthwaite's
house, when the hurricane caught him off his feet, tossed him
face downward into a snow bank, and proceeded to bury his
protuberant part beneath fresh drifts. There seemed little hope
of his reappearance earlier than the next thaw. At the same
moment his hat was snatched away, and whirled aloft into some far
distant region, whence no tidings have as yet returned.
Nevertheless Mr. Brown contrived to burrow a passage through the
snow-drift, and, with his bare head bent against the storm,
floundered onward to Peter's door. There was such a creaking and
groaning and rattling, and such an ominous shaking throughout the
crazy edifice, that the loudest rap would have been inaudible to
those within. He therefore entered, without ceremony, and groped
his way to the kitchen.
His intrusion, even there, was unnoticed. Peter and Tabitha stood
with their backs to the door, stooping over a large chest, which,
apparently, they had just dragged from a cavity, or concealed
closet, on the left side of the chimney. By the lamp in the old
woman's hand, Mr. Brown saw that the chest was barred and clamped
with iron, strengthened with iron plates and studded with iron
nails, so as to be a fit receptacle in which the wealth of one
century might be hoarded up for the wants of another. Peter
Goldthwaite was inserting a key into the lock.
"O Tabitha!" cried he, with tremulous rapture, "how shall I
endure the effulgence? The gold!--the bright, bright gold!
Methinks I can remember my last glance at it, just as the
iron-plated lid fell down. And ever since, being seventy years,
it has been blazing in secret, and gathering its splendor against
this glorious moment! It will flash upon us like the noonday
"Then shade your eyes, Mr. Peter!" said Tabitha, with somewhat
less patience than usual. "But, for mercy's sake, do turn the
And, with a strong effort of both hands, Peter did force the
rusty key through the intricacies of the rusty lock. Mr. Brown,
in the mean time, had drawn near, and thrust his eager visage
between those of the other two, at the instant that Peter threw
up the lid. No sudden blaze illuminated the kitchen.
"What's here?" exclaimed Tabitha, adjusting her spectacles, and
holding the lamp over the open chest. "Old Peter Goldthwaite's
hoard of old rags."
"Pretty much so, Tabby," said Mr. Brown, lifting a handful of the
Oh, what a ghost of dead and buried wealth had Peter Goldthwaite
raised, to scare himself out of his scanty wits withal! Here was
the semblance of an incalculable sum, enough to purchase the
whole town, and build every street anew, but which, vast as it
was, no sane man would have given a solid sixpence for. What
then, in sober earnest, were the delusive treasures of the chest?
Why, here were old provincial bills of credit, and treasury
notes, and bills of land, banks, and all other bubbles of the
sort, from the first issue, above a century and a half ago, down
nearly to the Revolution. Bills of a thousand pounds were
intermixed with parchment pennies, and worth no more than they.
"And this, then, is old Peter Goldthwaite's treasure!" said John
Brown. "Your namesake, Peter, was something like yourself; and,
when the provincial currency had depreciated fifty or
seventy-five per cent., he bought it up in expectation of a rise.
I have heard my grandfather say that old Peter gave his father a
mortgage of this very house and land, to raise cash for his silly
project. But the currency kept sinking, till nobody would take it
as a gift; and there was old Peter Goldthwaite, like Peter the
second, with thousands in his strong box and hardly a coat to his
back. He went mad upon the strength of it. But, never mind,
Peter! It is just the sort of capital for building castles in the
"The house will be down about our ears!" cried Tabitha, as the
wind shook it with increasing violence.
"Let it fall!" said Peter, folding his arms, as he seated himself
upon the chest.
"No, no, my old friend Peter," said John Brown. "I have house
room for you and Tabby, and a safe vault for the chest of
treasure. To-morrow we will try to come to an agreement about the
sale of this old house. Real estate is well up, and I could
afford you a pretty handsome price."
"And I," observed Peter Goldthwaite, with reviving spirits, "have
a plan for laying out the cash to great advantage."
"Why, as to that," muttered John Brown to himself, "we must apply
to the next court for a guardian to take care of the solid cash;
and if Peter insists upon speculating, he may do it, to his
heart's content, with old PETER GOLDTHWAITE'S TREASURE."
THE SHAKER BRIDAL
One day, in the sick chamber of Father Ephraim, who had been
forty years the presiding elder over the Shaker settlement at
Goshen, there was an assemblage of several of the chief men of
the sect. Individuals had come from the rich establishment at
Lebanon, from Canterbury, Harvard, and Alfred, and from all the
other localities where this strange people have fertilized the
rugged hills of New England by their systematic industry. An
elder was likewise there, who had made a pilgrimage of a thousand
miles from a village of the faithful in Kentucky, to visit his
spiritual kindred, the children of the sainted mother Ann. He had
partaken of the homely abundance of their tables, had quaffed the
far-famed Shaker cider, and had joined in the sacred dance, every
step of which is believed to alienate the enthusiast from earth,
and bear him onward to heavenly purity and bliss. His brethren of
the north had now courteously invited him to be present on an
occasion, when the concurrence of every eminent member of their
community was peculiarly desirable.
The venerable Father Ephraim sat in his easy chair, not only
hoary headed and infirm with age, but worn down by a lingering
disease, which, it was evident, would very soon transfer his
patriarchal staff to other hands. At his footstool stood a man
and woman, both clad in the Shaker garb.
"My brethren," said Father Ephraim to the surrounding elders,
feebly exerting himself to utter these few words, "here are the
son and daughter to whom I would commit the trust of which
Providence is about to lighten my weary shoulders. Read their
faces, I pray you, and say whether the inward movement of the
spirit hath guided my choice aright."
Accordingly, each elder looked at the two candidates with a most
scrutinizing gaze. The man, whose name was Adam Colburn, had a
face sunburnt with labor in the fields, yet intelligent,
thoughtful, and traced with cares enough for a whole lifetime,
though he had barely reached middle age. There was something
severe in his aspect, and a rigidity throughout his person,
characteristics that caused him generally to be taken for a
school-master, which vocation, in fact, he had formerly exercised
for several years. The woman, Martha Pierson, was somewhat above
thirty, thin and pale, as a Shaker sister almost invariably is,
and not entirely free from that corpse-like appearance which the
garb of the sisterhood is so well calculated to impart.
"This pair are still in the summer of their years," observed the
elder from Harvard, a shrewd old man. "I would like better to see
the hoar-frost of autumn on their heads. Methinks, also, they
be exposed to peculiar temptations, on account of the carnal
desires which have heretofore subsisted between them."
"Nay, brother," said the elder from Canterbury, "the hoar-frost
and the black-frost hath done its work on Brother Adam and Sister
Martha, even as we sometimes discern its traces in our
cornfields, while they are yet green. And why should we question
the wisdom of our venerable Father's purpose although this pair,
in their early youth, have loved one another as the world's
people love? Are there not many brethren and sisters among us,
who have lived long together in wedlock, yet, adopting our faith,
find their hearts purified from all but spiritual affection?"
Whether or no the early loves of Adam and Martha had rendered it
inexpedient that they should now preside together over a Shaker
village, it was certainly most singular that such should be the
final result of many warm and tender hopes. Children of
neighboring families, their affection was older even than their
school-days; it seemed an innate principle, interfused among all
their sentiments and feelings, and not so much a distinct
remembrance, as connected with their whole volume of
remembrances. But, just as they reached a proper age for their
union, misfortunes had fallen heavily on both, and made it
necessary that they should resort to personal labor for a bare
subsistence. Even under these circumstances, Martha Pierson would
probably have consented to unite her fate with Adam Colburn's,
and, secure of the bliss of mutual love, would patiently have
awaited the less important gifts of fortune. But Adam, being of a
calm and cautious character, was loath to relinquish the
advantages which a single man possesses for raising himself in
the world. Year after year, therefore, their marriage had been
deferred. Adam Colburn had followed many vocations, had travelled
far, and seen much of the world and of life. Martha had earned
her bread sometimes as a seamstress, sometimes as help to a
farmer's wife, sometimes as school-mistress of the village
children, sometimes as a nurse or watcher of the sick, thus
acquiring a varied experience, the ultimate use of which she
little anticipated. But nothing had gone prosperously with either
of the lovers; at no subsequent moment would matrimony have been
so prudent a measure as when they had first parted, in the
opening bloom of life, to seek a better fortune. Still they had
held fast their mutual faith. Martha might have been the wife of
a man who sat among the senators of his native state, and Adam
could have won the hand, as he had unintentionally won the heart,
of a rich and comely widow. But neither of them desired good
fortune save to share it with the other.
At length that calm despair which occurs only in a strong and
somewhat stubborn character, and yields to no second spring of
hope, settled down on the spirit of Adam Colburn. He sought an
interview with Martha, and proposed that they should join the
Society of Shakers. The converts of this sect are oftener driven
within its hospitable gates by worldly misfortune than drawn
thither by fanaticism and are received without inquisition as to
their motives. Martha, faithful still, had placed her hand in
that of her lover, and accompanied him to the Shaker village.
Here the natural capacity of each, cultivated and strengthened by
the difficulties of their previous lives, had soon gained them an
important rank in the Society, whose members are generally below
the ordinary standard of intelligence. Their faith and feelings
had, in some degree, become assimilated to those of their
fellow-worshippers. Adam Colburn gradually acquired reputation,
not only in the management of the temporal affairs of the
Society, but as a clear and efficient preacher of their
doctrines. Martha was not less distinguished in the duties proper
to her sex. Finally, when the infirmities of Father Ephraim had
admonished him to seek a successor in his patriarchal office, he
thought of Adam and Martha, and proposed to renew, in their
persons, the primitive form of Shaker government, as established
by Mother Ann. They were to be the Father and Mother of the
village. The simple ceremony, which would constitute them such,
was now to be performed.
"Son Adam, and daughter Martha," said the venerable Father
Ephraim, fixing his aged eyes piercingly upon them, "if ye can
conscientiously undertake this charge, speak, that the brethren
may not doubt of your fitness."
"Father," replied Adam, speaking with the calmness of his
character, "I came to your village a disappointed man, weary of
the world, worn out with continual trouble, seeking only a
security against evil fortune, as I had no hope of good. Even my
wishes of worldly success were almost dead within me. I came
hither as a man might come to a tomb, willing to lie down in its
gloom and coldness, for the sake of its peace and quiet. There
was but one earthly affection in my breast, and it had grown
calmer since my youth; so that I was satisfied to bring Martha to
be my sister, in our new abode. We are brother and sister; nor
would I have it otherwise. And in this peaceful village I have
found all that I hoped for,--all that I desire. I will strive,
with my best strength, for the spiritual and temporal good of our
community. My conscience is not doubtful in this matter. I am
ready to receive the trust."
"Thou hast spoken well, son Adam," said the Father. "God will
bless thee in the office which I am about to resign."
"But our sister!" observed the elder from Harvard, "hath she not
likewise a gift to declare her sentiments?"
Martha started, and moved her lips, as if she would have made a
formal reply to this appeal. But, had she attempted it, perhaps
the old recollections, the long-repressed feelings of childhood,
youth, and womanhood, might have gushed from her heart, in words
that it would have been profanation to utter there.
"Adam has spoken," said she hurriedly; "his sentiments are
But while speaking these few words, Martha grew so pale that she
looked fitter to be laid in her coffin than to stand in the
presence of Father Ephraim and the elders; she shuddered, also,
as if there were something awful or horrible in her situation and
destiny. It required, indeed, a more than feminine strength of
nerve, to sustain the fixed observance of men so exalted and
famous throughout the sect as these were. They had overcome their
natural sympathy with human frailties and affections. One, when
he joined the Society, had brought with him his wife and
children, but never, from that hour, had spoken a fond word to
the former, or taken his best-loved child upon his knee. Another,
whose family refused to follow him, had been enabled--such was
his gift of holy fortitude--to leave them to the mercy of the
world. The youngest of the elders, a man of about fifty, had been
bred from infancy in a Shaker village, and was said never to have
clasped a woman's hand in his own, and to have no conception of a
closer tie than the cold fraternal one of the sect. Old Father
Ephraim was the most awful character of all. In his youth he had
been a dissolute libertine, but was converted by Mother Ann
herself, and had partaken of the wild fanaticism of the early
Shakers. Tradition whispered, at the firesides of the village,
that Mother Ann had been compelled to sear his heart of flesh
with a red-hot iron before it could be purified from earthly
However that might be, poor Martha had a woman's heart, and a
tender one, and it quailed within her, as she looked round at
those strange old men, and from them to the calm features of Adam
Colburn. But perceiving that the elders eyed her doubtfully, she
gasped for breath, and again spoke.
"With what strength is left me by my many troubles," said she, "I
am ready to undertake this charge, and to do my best in it."
"My children, join your hands," said Father Ephraim.
They did so. The elders stood up around, and the Father feebly
raised himself to a more erect position, but continued sitting in
his great chair.
"I have bidden you to join your hands," said he, "not in earthly
affection, for ye have cast off its chains forever; but as
brother and sister in spiritual love, and helpers of one another
in your allotted task. Teach unto others the faith which ye have
received. Open wide your gates,--I deliver you the keys
thereof,--open them wide to all who will give up the iniquities
of the world, and come hither to lead lives of purity and peace.
Receive the weary ones, who have known the vanity of
earth,--receive the little children, that they may never learn
that miserable lesson. And a blessing be upon your labors; so
that the time may hasten on, when the mission of Mother Ann shall
have wrought its full effect,--when children shall no more be
born and die, and the last survivor of mortal race, some old and
weary man like me, shall see the sun go down, nevermore to rise
on a world of sin and sorrow!"
The aged Father sank back exhausted, and the surrounding elders
deemed, with good reason, that the hour was come when the new
heads of the village must enter on their patriarchal duties. In
their attention to Father Ephraim, their eyes were turned from
Martha Pierson, who grew paler and paler, unnoticed even by Adam
Colburn. He, indeed, had withdrawn his hand from hers, and folded
his arms with a sense of satisfied ambition. But paler and paler
grew Martha by his side, till, like a corpse in its burial
clothes, she sank down at the feet of her early lover; for, after
many trials firmly borne, her heart could endure the weight of
its desolate agony no longer.
ENDICOTT AND THE RED CROSS
At noon of on autumnal day, more than two centuries ago, the
English colors were displayed by the standard-bearer of the Salem
trainband, which had mustered for martial exercise under the
orders of John Endicott. It was a period when the religious
exiles were accustomed often to buckle on their armor, and
practise the handling of their weapons of war. Since the first
settlement of New England, its prospects had never been so
dismal. The dissensions between Charles the First and his
subjects were then, and for several years afterwards, confined to
the floor of Parliament. The measures of the King and ministry
were rendered more tyrannically violent by an opposition, which
had not yet acquired sufficient confidence in its own strength to
resist royal injustice with the sword. The bigoted and haughty
primate, Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, controlled the religious
affairs of the realm, and was consequently invested with powers
which might have wrought the utter ruin of the two Puritan
colonies, Plymouth and Massachusetts. There is evidence on record
that our forefathers perceived their danger, but were resolved
that their infant country should not fall without a struggle,
even beneath the giant strength of the King's right arm.
Such was the aspect of the times when the folds of the English
banner, with the Red Cross in its field, were flung out over a
company of Puritans. Their leader, the famous Endicott, was a man
of stern and resolute countenance, the effect of which was
heightened by a grizzled beard that swept the upper portion of
his breastplate. This piece of armor was so highly polished that
the whole surrounding scene had its image in the glittering
steel. The central object in the mirrored picture was an edifice
of humble architecture with neither steeple nor bell to proclaim
it--what nevertheless it was--the house of prayer. A token of the
perils of the wilderness was seen in the grim head of a wolf,
which had just been slain within the precincts of the town, and
according to the regular mode of claiming the bounty, was nailed
on the porch of the meeting-house. The blood was still plashing
on the doorstep. There happened to be visible, at the same
noontide hour, so many other characteristics of the times and
manners of the Puritans, that we must endeavor to represent them
in a sketch, though far less vividly than they were reflected in
the polished breastplate of John Endicott.
In close vicinity to the sacred edifice appeared that important
engine of Puritanic authority, the whipping-post--with the soil
around it well trodden by the feet of evil doers, who had there
been disciplined. At one corner of the meeting-house was the
pillory, and at the other the stocks; and, by a singular good
fortune for our sketch, the head of an Episcopalian and suspected
Catholic was grotesquely incased in the former machine while a
fellow-criminal, who had boisterously quaffed a health to the
king, was confined by the legs in the latter. Side by side, on
the meeting-house steps, stood a male and a female figure. The
man was a tall, lean, haggard personification of fanaticism,
bearing on his breast this label,--A WANTON GOSPELLER,--which
betokened that he had dared to give interpretations of Holy Writ
unsanctioned by the infallible judgment of the civil and
religious rulers. His aspect showed no lack of zeal to maintain
his heterodoxies, even at the stake. The woman wore a cleft stick
on her tongue, in appropriate retribution for having wagged that
unruly member against the elders of the church; and her
countenance and gestures gave much cause to apprehend that, the
moment the stick should be removed, a repetition of the offence
would demand new ingenuity in chastising it.
The above-mentioned individuals had been sentenced to undergo
their various modes of ignominy, for the space of one hour at
noonday. But among the crowd were several whose punishment would
be life-long; some, whose ears had been cropped, like those of
puppy dogs; others, whose cheeks had been branded with the
initials of their misdemeanors; one, with his nostrils slit and
seared; and another, with a halter about his neck, which he was
forbidden ever to take off, or to conceal beneath his garments.
Methinks he must have been grievously tempted to affix the other
end of the rope to some convenient beam or bough. There was
likewise a young woman, with no mean share of beauty, whose doom
it was to wear the letter A on the breast of her gown, in the
eyes of all the world and her own children. And even her own
children knew what that initial signified. Sporting with her
infamy, the lost and desperate creature had embroidered the fatal
token in scarlet cloth, with golden thread and the nicest art of
needlework; so that the capital A might have been thought to mean
Admirable, or anything rather than Adulteress.
Let not the reader argue, from any of these evidences of
iniquity, that the times of the Puritans were more vicious than
our own, when, as we pass along the very street of this sketch,
we discern no badge of infamy on man or woman. It was the policy
of our ancestors to search out even the most secret sins, and
expose them to shame, without fear or favor, in the broadest
light of the noonday sun. Were such the custom now, perchance we
might find materials for a no less piquant sketch than the above.
Except the malefactors whom we have described, and the diseased
or infirm persons, the whole male population of the town, between
sixteen years and sixty, were seen in the ranks of the trainband.
A few stately savages, in all the pomp and dignity of the
primeval Indian, stood gazing at the spectacle. Their
flint-headed arrows were but childish weapons compared with the
matchlocks of the Puritans, and would have rattled harmlessly
against the steel caps and hammered iron breastplates which
inclosed each soldier in an individual fortress. The valiant John
Endicott glanced with an eye of pride at his sturdy followers,
and prepared to renew the martial toils of the day.
"Come, my stout hearts!" quoth he, drawing his sword. "Let us
show these poor heathen that we can handle our weapons like men
of might. Well for them, if they put us not to prove it in
The iron-breasted company straightened their line, and each man
drew the heavy butt of his matchlock close to his left foot, thus
awaiting the orders of the captain. But, as Endicott glanced
right and left along the front, he discovered a personage at some
little distance with whom it behooved him to hold a parley. It
was an elderly gentleman, wearing a black cloak and band, and a
high-crowned hat, beneath which was a velvet skull-cap, the whole
being the garb of a Puritan minister. This reverend person bore a
staff which seemed to have been recently cut in the forest, and
his shoes were bemired as if he had been travelling on foot
through the swamps of the wilderness. His aspect was perfectly
that of a pilgrim, heightened also by an apostolic dignity. Just
as Endicott perceived him he laid aside his staff, and stooped to
drink at a bubbling fountain which gushed into the sunshine about
a score of yards from the corner of the meeting-house. But, ere
the good man drank, he turned his face heavenward in
thankfulness, and then, holding back his gray beard with one
hand, he scooped up his simple draught in the hollow of the
"What, ho! good Mr. Williams," shouted Endicott. "You are welcome
back again to our town of peace. How does our worthy Governor
Winthrop? And what news from Boston?"
"The Governor hath his health, worshipful Sir," answered Roger
Williams, now resuming his staff, and drawing near. "And for the
news, here is a letter, which, knowing I was to travel hitherward
to-day, his Excellency committed to my charge. Belike it contains
tidings of much import; for a ship arrived yesterday from
Mr. Williams, the minister of Salem and of course known to all
the spectators, had now reached the spot where Endicott was
standing under the banner of his company, and put the Governor's
epistle into his hand. The broad seal was impressed with
Winthrop's coat of arms. Endicott hastily unclosed the letter and
began to read, while, as his eye passed down the page, a wrathful
change came over his manly countenance. The blood glowed through
it, till it seemed to be kindling with an internal heat, nor was
it unnatural to suppose that his breastplate would likewise
become red-hot with the angry fire of the bosom which it covered.
Arriving at the conclusion, he shook the letter fiercely in his
hand, so that it rustled as loud as the flag above his head.
"Black tidings these, Mr. Williams," said he; "blacker never came
to New England. Doubtless you know their purport?"
"Yea, truly," replied Roger Williams; "for the Governor
consulted, respecting this matter, with my brethren in the
ministry at Boston; and my opinion was likewise asked. And his
Excellency entreats you by me, that the news be not suddenly
noised abroad, lest the people be stirred up unto some outbreak,
and thereby give the King and the Archbishop a handle against
"The Governor is a wise man--a wise man, and a meek and
moderate," said Endicott, setting his teeth grimly.
"Nevertheless, I must do according to my own best judgment. There
is neither man, woman, nor child in New England, but has a
concern as dear as life in these tidings; and if John Endicott's
voice be loud enough, man, woman, and child shall hear them.
Soldiers, wheel into a hollow square! Ho, good people! Here are
news for one and all of you."
The soldiers closed in around their captain; and he and Roger
Williams stood together under the banner of the Red Cross; while
the women and the aged men pressed forward, and the mothers held
up their children to look Endicott in the face. A few taps of the
drum gave signal for silence and attention.
"Fellow-soldiers--fellow-exiles," began Endicott, speaking under
strong excitement, yet powerfully restraining it, "wherefore did
ye leave your native country? Wherefore, I say, have we left the
green and fertile fields, the cottages, or, perchance, the old
gray halls, where we were born and bred, the churchyards where
our forefathers lie buried? Wherefore have we come hither to set
up our own tombstones in a wilderness? A howling wilderness it
is! The wolf and the bear meet us within halloo of our dwellings.
The savage lieth in wait for us in the dismal shadow of the
woods. The stubborn roots of the trees break our ploughshares,
when we would till the earth. Our children cry for bread, and we
must dig in the sands of the sea-shore to satisfy them.
Wherefore, I say again, have we sought this country of a rugged
soil and wintry sky? Was it not for the enjoyment of our civil
rights? Was it not for liberty to worship God according to our
"Call you this liberty of conscience?" interrupted a voice on the
steps of the meeting-house.
It was the Wanton Gospeller. A sad and quiet smile flitted across
the mild visage of Roger Williams. But Endicott, in the
excitement of the moment, shook his sword wrathfully at the
culprit--an ominous gesture from a man like him.
"What hast thou to do with conscience, thou knave?" cried he. "I
said liberty to worship God, not license to profane and ridicule
him. Break not in upon my speech, or I will lay thee neck and
heels till this time tomorrow! Hearken to me, friends, nor heed
that accursed rhapsodist. As I was saying, we have sacrificed all
things, and have come to a land whereof the old world hath
scarcely heard, that we might make a new world unto ourselves,
and painfully seek a path from hence to heaven. But what think ye
now? This son of a Scotch tyrant--this grandson of a Papistical
and adulterous Scotch woman, whose death proved that a golden
crown doth not always save an anointed head from the block--"
"Nay, brother, nay," interposed Mr. Williams; "thy words are not
meet for a secret chamber, far less for a public street."
"Hold thy peace, Roger Williams!" answered Endicott, imperiously.
"My spirit is wiser than thine for the business now in hand. I
tell ye, fellow-exiles, that Charles of England, and Laud, our
bitterest persecutor, arch-priest of Canterbury, are resolute to
pursue us even hither. They are taking counsel, saith this
letter, to send over a governor-general, in whose breast shall be
deposited all the law and equity of the land. They are minded,
also, to establish the idolatrous forms of English Episcopacy; so
that, when Laud shall kiss the Pope's toe, as cardinal of Rome,
he may deliver New England, bound hand and foot, into the power
of his master!
A deep groan from the auditors,--a sound of wrath, as well as
fear and sorrow,--responded to this intelligence.
"Look ye to it, brethren," resumed Endicott, with increasing
energy. "If this king and this arch-prelate have their will, we
shall briefly behold a cross on the spire of this tabernacle
which we have builded, and a high altar within its walls, with
wax tapers burning round it at noonday. We shall hear the sacring
bell, and the voices of the Romish priests saying the mass. But
think ye, Christian men, that these abominations may be suffered
without a sword drawn? without a shot fired? without blood spilt,
yea, on the very stairs of the pulpit? No,--be ye strong of hand
and stout of heart! Here we stand on our own soil, which we have
bought with our goods, which we have won with our swords, which
we have cleared with our axes, which we have tilled with the
sweat of our brows, which we have sanctified with our prayers to
the God that brought us hither! Who shall enslave us here? What
have we to do with this mitred prelate,--with this crowned king?
What have we to do with England?"
Endicott gazed round at the excited countenances of the people,
now full of his own spirit, and then turned suddenly to the
standard-bearer, who stood close behind him.
"Officer, lower your banner!" said he.
The officer obeyed; and, brandishing his sword, Endicott thrust
it through the cloth, and, with his left hand, rent the Red Cross
completely out of the banner. He then waved the tattered ensign
above his head.
"Sacrilegious wretch!" cried the high-churchman in the pillory,
unable longer to restrain himself, "thou hast rejected the symbol
of our holy religion!"
"Treason, treason!" roared the royalist in the stocks. "He hath
defaced the King's banner!"
"Before God and man, I will avouch the deed," answered Endicott.
"Beat a flourish, drummer!--shout, soldiers and people!--in honor
of the ensign of New England. Neither Pope nor Tyrant hath part
in it now!"
With a cry of triumph, the people gave their sanction to one of
the boldest exploits which our history records. And forever
honored be the name of Endicott! We look back through the mist of
ages, and recognize in the rending of the Red Cross from New
England's banner the first omen of that deliverance which our
fathers consummated after the bones of the stern Puritan had lain
more than a century in the dust.
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