THE KNIGHT OF THE GOLDEN MELICE
A Historical Romance
JOHN TURVILL ADAMS
The Author of "The Lost Hunter."
New-York: Derby & Jackson, 119 Nassau-Street. Cincinnati: W.H. Derby & Co.
"One ... calling himself ... Knight of the Golden Melice."
Winthrop's History of New England.
Alles weiderholt sich nur im Leben; Ewig jung ist nur die Fantasie: Was sich nie und nirgends hat begeben, Das allein veraltet nie!
To whom but to yourself; my H., should I dedicate this Romance, which may be said to be the fruit of our mutual studies? With what delight I have watched the unfolding, like a beautiful flower, of your youthful mind, while instead of indulging in frivolous pursuits, so common to your age, you have applied yourself to the acquiring of useful knowledge as well as of elegant accomplishments, none but a parent can know. Accept what I have written, my darling, as a tribute to a love which makes the happiness of my life.
He cast, (of which we rather boast,) The Gospel's pearl upon our coast, And in these rocks for us did frame A temple where to sound His name. O let our voice His praise exalt Till it arrive at Heaven's vault, Which there perhaps rebounding may Echo beyond the Mexic bay. Thus sang they, in the English boat, A holy and a cheerful note, And all the way to guide their chime, With falling oars they kept the time.
Andrew Marvell's "Emigrants in the Bermudas."
The beginning of the 17th century is an interesting epoch in American annals. Although the Atlantic coast of that vast country now comprised within the limits of the United States and Canada had previously been traced by navigators, and some little knowledge acquired of the tribes of red men who roamed its interminable forests, no attempt at colonization worthy of the name had succeeded. The principal, if not the only advantage derived from the discovery of North America, came from the fisheries of Newfoundland and Labrador, frequented mostly by the adventurous mariners of England, France and Spain. In these cold seas, to the music of storms howling from the North Pole, and dashing with ceaseless rage the salt spray against the rocky shore, they threw their lines and cast their nets, at the same time enriching themselves, and forming for their respective countries a race of hardy and skilful sailors. The land attracted them not. The inducements which led to the more speedy conquest and settlement of South America by the Spaniards, were wanting. Gold and silver to tempt cupidity were not to be found, and the stern, though not inhospitable character of the Northern tribes was very different from the imbecile effeminacy of the Southern races. The opposition likely to be encountered was more formidable, and the prize to be won hardly proportioned to the hazard to be incurred. While, therefore, the atrocious Spaniards were enslaving the helpless natives of Peru and Mexico, and compelling them by horrid cruelties to deliver up their treasures, the wild woods of all that region to the north of the Gulf bearing the name of the latter country, continued to ring to the free shout of the tawny hunter. Not that attempts had not been made to obtain footing on the continent, but they had all failed by reason of the character of the emigrants, or the want of support from home, or of a thousand other causes reducible to the category of ill luck, bad management, or providential determination.
But the 17th century introduced a new order of things, beginning with the arrival of the first permanent colony on the coast of Virginia in the year 1607, indissolubly associated with the name of the chivalrous Captain John Smith; followed in 1614 by the occupancy of the mouth of the river Hudson, and of the island of Manhattan, the present site of the city of New-York, by the Dutch; and, in 1620, of New-England, by the English. The fulness of time had arrived, when the seeds of a mighty empire were to be sown.
A diversity of opinion prevails with regard to the motives of the early colonists to leave their homes. Without entering into an elaborate discussion of the subject, and thereby invading the province of the historian, it may perhaps be permitted me to say, that, in my judgment, they were partly political, partly religious, partly commercial, and partly adventurous.
One of the first acts of James the First of England, on his accession to the throne in 1603, was the conclusion, by a peace with Spain, of the long war so gloriously signalized by the destruction of the Armada. The pacific policy wherewith he began his administration, he never abandoned during the twenty-two years while he held the sceptre. Hence the spirit of enterprise which exists in various degrees in every flourishing nation, finding itself diverted from that warlike channel wherein it had been accustomed to flow, was obliged to seek other issues. The immense region beyond the sea claimed by England by priority of discovery, offered a theatre for a portion of that spirit to expend itself upon. Hither turned their eyes those who, in the wars, had contracted a fondness for adventure, and were unwilling to sink back into the peaceful pursuits of laborious industry. For such men, the vague and the uncertain possess irresistible attractions. For them, emigration was like the hazard of the gaming-table; ruin was a possible consequence, but fortune might also crown the most extravagant hopes. The merchant regarded with favor a scheme which would furnish employment for his ships by the transportation of men and stores. Besides, the fisheries had always been productive; they might be largely extended, and a trade in furs and other products of the country opened with the Indians. Perhaps the precious metals, found in such quantities by the Spaniards at the South, might enrich the North. Happily they found not that pernicious bane which is alike the corrupter of private morals and the debaucher of nations. To these considerations may be added a willingness at least on the part of the government, to rid itself of idle profligates and unruly spirits. Guided by this chart, it is not difficult to understand why efforts similar to those which had proved abortive, should now be successful.
The character of the first emigrants to the Virginia colony, and the products of the country sent home, confirm these views. They are described as "many gentlemen, a few laborers, several refiners, goldsmiths, and jewellers," and the returning ships were freighted with cedar and with a glittering earth, which was mistaken for gold. Another party is spoken of by a chronicler of the times, as "many unruly gallants sent hither by their friends to escape ill destinies." Doubtless among those denominated gentlemen and gallants were some noble souls, like, though longo intervallo, to the heroic Smith.
While the Virginia colony was slowly struggling against adverse circumstances, and attracting to herself the cavaliers who, in various capacities and with different fortunes, had figured in those troubled times, important changes were going on at home destined to exert a mighty influence on the New World. That awakening of the intellect occasioned by the speculations of Wyckliff, the morning star of the Reformation, more than two hundred years before, and to which Luther and Calvin had imparted a fresh impulse, was performing its destined work. By the assertion of the right of private judgment in matters of religion, the pillars of authority had been shaken. Nothing was considered as too sacred to be examined. To the tribunal of the mind of every man, however undisciplined and illiterate, were brought, like criminals to be tried, the profoundest mysteries and most perplexing questions of theology, and in proportion to the ignorance of the judge, was the presumption with which sentence was pronounced. A general love of dogma prevailed. The cross-legged tailor plying his needle on his raised platform; the cobbler in the pauses of beating the leather on his lap-stone; and the field-laborer as he rested on his spade; discussed with serene and satisfied assurance problems, before the contemplation of which, the ripest learning and highest order of mind had veiled their faces. Dissatisfaction with the condition of things spread more and more. All, in both Church and State, was considered out of joint. The former had not sufficiently cleansed herself from the pollutions of Rome, and lagging behind at a wide distance from the primitive model, required to be further reformed; the latter by encroachments on the liberties of the subject, and assistance furnished to a corrupt hierarchy, had become odious, and was to be resisted and restrained. The idea of abolishing the monarchy had indeed not entered the mind of the most daring reformer; but it is certain, that when his feelings were inflamed by brooding over real and fancied wrongs from the established Church, his anger would overflow upon the government, which, with no sparing hand, wielded the sword to enforce pains and penalties, imposed, ostensibly for the protection of religion, but in reality for the interests of an ally and its own safety. It was this exasperation, partly of a religious and partly of a political nature, that bore its legitimate fruit in the execution of Charles.
Before that awful lesson, however, discontent had increased until the unhappy zealots, too feeble to resist, yet too resolute to submit, determined to leave their country. Hard fate! Self-banished from the associations of childhood, from the memorials of their ancestors! But whither should they fly? They had heard indeed of a country; far beyond the sea, where a refuge might be found, and whither some of their countrymen had gone; but those first emigrants were cavaliers, men of the same creed as their persecutors, and who had been induced to leave England by motives different from those which controlled their minds. Their purpose would not be attained by joining the Virginia colony. They were not merely adventurers, hunting after earthly treasures, but pilgrims in search of the kingdom of heaven. Their company consisted of delicate women and children, from whom they could not part, as well as of hardy men; and such were unfit to encounter the perils of a new settlement, in an untried climate, and an unknown country, infested by savages. Their principal want was religious liberty; that they could find in Holland, and to Holland they went. It was close at hand, and should any favorable change occur in England, it would be easy to return. But after an experience of some dozen years, they found insuperable objections to remaining there, and determined, no such changes having taken place as they anticipated when they left their native land, to emigrate to America. In a season of the year as stern as the mood of their own minds, they sought the stormy shores of New-England, and their example was soon followed by others direct from the parent country. This first column was composed exclusively of Protestants, who had refused conformity to the established Church, or as they were called, Puritans. Later arrivals brought more mixed companies, but still the Puritan element always largely prevailed. Now separated by an ocean from, kings and bishops, they resolved to realize the darling idea which, like the fiery pillar before the wandering Israelites, had conducted them across the sea, and that was the establishment of a commonwealth after the model of perfection which they fondly imagined they had discovered. And where should they find that perfect system, except in the awful and mysterious volume wherein was the revelation of God's will, and which, with a devotion that had impressed its every syllable on their minds, they had day and night been studying? Was there not contained therein a form of government which He had given to his favored people; and what did both reason and piety suggest but to accommodate it to their circumstances? All things favored the undertaking. They were at too great a distance to be easily molested by their enemies: the distracted condition of the government at home afforded little opportunity for a strict supervision of their affairs; and the few savages in their neighborhood left by the devastating pestilence wherewith Providence had swept the new Canaan, in order to make room for them, they soon found powerless before the terror of their fire-arms. By excluding all whom it was their pleasure to call lewd and debauched, or, in other words, who differed from them in opinion, from participation in the government, they expected to avoid confusion, and secure the blessing of heaven. It is absurd to suppose that human pride, and ambition, and avarice did not intrude into these visions of a reign of the saints on earth, but unquestionably notions like these exerted a strong influence. They established their commonwealth upon their theocratic model, and commenced the experiment.
Soon, in logical and honest sequence with the principles which they professed, followed a system of persecution rivaling that of which they complained in England. To be true to themselves and creed, they were obliged to adopt it. We may do as we please; we may say that the fanatical notion, the horrid Erinnys, the baleful mother of woes innumerable, that the dogmas of religion may rightfully be enforced by the sword of the civil, power, dominated the world, and in this way account for their conduct; or apologize for it by the necessities of their situation, and the peculiarities of their creed; or combine these causes, and so extenuate what cannot be defended.
I can well understand how a Puritan of 16—would justify his rigor. His opinion of himself would be like that of the amiable Governor Winthrop, as found in his first will, (omitted, however, in his second,) as one "adopted to be the child of God, and an heir of everlasting life, and that of the mere and free favor of God, who hath elected me to be a vessel of glory." Such was the Puritan in his own eyes. He was the chosen of heaven. He had, for the sake of the Gospel, abandoned his country and the comforts of civilization, to erect (in the language of Scripture which he loved to use) his Ebenezer in the wilderness. He wanted to be let alone. He invited not Papists or English Churchmen, or any who differed in opinion from him, to throw in their lots with his. They would only be obstacles in his way, jarring-strings in his heavenly antique-fashioned harp. Away with the intruders! What right had they to molest him with their dissenting presence? The earth was wide: let them go somewhere else. They would find more congenial associates in the Virginia colony. He would have no Achans to breed dissension in his camp. With bold heart and strong hand would he cast them out. His was the empire of the saints; an empire, not to be exercised with feebleness and doubt, but with vigor and confidence.
It is obvious that a very wide difference existed between the characters of the two colonies. The cavalier, sparkling and fiery as the wines he quaffed, the defender of established authority and of the divine right of kings, was the antithesis of the abstemious and thoughtful religionist and reformer, dissatisfied with the present, hopeful of a better future, and not forgetful that it was in anger God gave the Israelites a king.
Meanwhile the Roman Catholics had not been idle. Their devoted missionaries, solicitous to occupy other regions which should more than supply the deficiency occasioned by the Protestant defection, and confident of the final triumph of a Church, out of whose pale they believed could be no salvation, had scattered themselves over the continent, and with marvellous energy and self-sacrifice, were extending their influence among the natives. No boundaries can be placed to the visions of the enthusiastic religionist. His strength is the strength of God. No wonder, then, that the Roman Catholic priest should cherish hopes of rescuing the entire new world from heresy, which he considered worse than heathenism, and should enlist all his energies in so grand a cause. It is almost certain that extensive plans were formed for the accomplishment of this object.
Such were the elements which the seething caldron of the old world threw out upon the new. A part only of the materials furnished by these elements have I used in framing this tale. It is an attempt to elucidate the manners and credence of quite an early period, and to explain with the license accorded to a romancer, some passages in American history.
Thus much have I thought proper to premise. It is impossible to judge correctly of the men of any age, without taking into consideration the circumstances in which they were placed, and the opinions that prevailed in their time. To apply the standard of this year of grace, 1856, to the religious enlightenment of more than two hundred years ago, would be like measuring one of Gulliver's Lilliputians by Gulliver himself. I trust that the world has since improved, and that of whatever passing follies we may be guilty, we shall never retrograde to the old narrow views of truth. If mankind are capable of being taught any lesson, surely this is one—that persecution or dislike for opinion sake is a folly and an evil, and that we best perform the will of Him to whom we are commanded to be like, not by contracting our affections into the narrow sphere of those whose opinions harmonize with ours, but by diffusing our love over His creation who pronounced it all "very good."
THE KNIGHT OF THE GOLDEN MELICE.
Come on, Sir! now you set your foot on shore, In novo orbe.
BEN JONSON'S Alchemist.
Our tale begins within a few years after the end of the first quarter of the 17th century, at Boston, in Massachusetts, then in the infancy of its settlement.
On an evening in the month of May, were assembled some seven or eight men around a table, in a long, low room, the sides only of which were plastered, the rough beams and joists overhead being exposed to view; the windows were small, and the floor without a carpet; and the furniture consisted of the table, over which was spread a black cloth, whereupon stood several lighted candles in brass candlesticks, of a dozen chairs, covered with russet-colored leather, and of some wooden benches, ranged against the walls, and which were occupied by various persons. At one end of the apartment the floor was raised a few inches, and the chair standing on this elevation differed from the others in having arms at the sides, and in being of ampler proportions, as if by its appearance to vindicate a claim to superior position. But unpretending as was the room, it was a place of no little importance, being no less than the Court Hall and Council Chamber of the "Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay, in New England." At the moment of which we are speaking, it was appropriated to a meeting of the Court of Assistants of the Colony.
The person occupying the arm-chair, on the platform, was a man of not unpleasing appearance, somewhat less than fifty years of age, and dressed with considerable precision in the style prevailing among gentlemen of distinction at that day. His face was rather long, and surmounted by a high and well developed forehead, from the top of which, dark, parted hair fell in curls down the temples over a white ruff, fringed with costly lace, that encircled his neck. His eyes were blue; his eye-brows highly arched; his nose large; beard covered the upper lip and chin; and so far as an opinion could be formed, from his sitting posture, he was tall and well-made. The expression of his countenance was gentle, and there was an air of introspection and abstraction about it as if he were much in the habit of communing with his own thoughts. The upper part of his person, which only was visible, the rest being hid by the table and depending cloth, was clothed in a black coat or doublet, without ornament or even the appearance of a button, and at his side he wore a rapier, evidently more as a badge of his rank than for use.
Seated at his right hand, and below the platform, was a man a dozen years at least his elder, whose stout look and fiery glances indicated that if time had grizzled his thick and close cut hair, it had not quenched the heat of his spirit. Like the gentleman first described, he was dressed in sad-colored garments, differing but little from them, except that instead of a ruff, he wore a plain white band, falling upon his breast, cut somewhat like those worn by clergymen at the present day, but longer, and passing round the neck and covering the collar of the coat. Although the oldest of the company, he seemed to have himself the least under control, continually moving in his chair, drawing forward and pushing away the sheets of paper that lay before him, and now and then darting an impatient glance at the person in the arm-chair, from whom it would wander over his companions, and then fasten on the door.
The third and last gentleman whom we think proper to describe, was a man of about the age of the first, but utterly unlike him. His head was covered with a black skull cap, (probably to protect his baldness,) beneath which, rose ears more prominent than ornamental, being very little relieved by the hair, which was cropped short. His complexion was florid, and the parts of the face, about the chin and jaws, full and heavy, giving an appearance of great roundness to the countenance. His features were regular, the mouth small and compressed, and on the upper lip he wore a moustache, parted in the centre, and brushed out horizontally, balanced by a tuft on the chin, four or five inches long. An adventurous spirit gazed out of his clear steady eyes, and altogether he looked like a man of determined temper, and one who, having once formed a resolution, would find it difficult to relinquish it. Around his neck he also had a broad band, divided in the middle, and falling half way down his breast. The remainder of the persons around the table bore the same general resemblance to these three, in dress, that one gentleman ordinarily does to another, and all were engaged in conversation.
Presently the gentleman in the arm-chair, who was evidently the President, took up a small bell that was placed before him, and sounding it, the summons was replied to by the entrance of a man from a side-door. He was the servitor or beadle of the Court, and moving to the end of the table opposite the President, he stood facing him and waiting his commands.
"Bring in the prisoner," said the President, in a low tone, but so distinct that it was heard all over the room.
The beadle noiselessly glided out, and in a few moments returned, leading a man, whose wrists were fastened with gyves, whom he conducted to the end of the table he had just left, and placed so as to confront the President.
"Take off the irons," said the same, low, musical voice.
The man, thus unpleasantly introduced, was in the prime of life, certainly not more than thirty-five or six years of age, and from his bold and erect carriage, seemed (as was the fact) to have been bred a soldier. Upon the order to take off the shackles being complied with, he cast a look of acknowledgment toward the speaker.
"Master Nowell," said the President, "read the accusation."
The person addressed, who was the Clerk or Secretary, rose hereupon from his seat near the centre of the table, and read "the information," which it is unnecessary to give at length, charging the prisoner with using most foul, scandalous, indecent, defamatory, and unseemly invectives, reproaches, and passionate speeches, toward and against the worshipful magistrates and godly ministers of the colony, thereby contriving and designing to bring into contempt, all law, order, religion, and good government, &c., and to subvert the authority of the magistrates and undermine the wholesome influence of the godly ministers, &c., to the disgrace and ruin of the colony and scandal of true religion, &c.
When the paper had been read, the President demanded—"Are you guilty or not?"
"I am as innocent as the worshipful Governor himself, and whoever wrote those lies, is a villain and a foresworn knave," replied the prisoner.
"Enter that the prisoner says he is not guilty," said the President, addressing the Secretary; "and do thou, Philip Joy, remember where thou art, and express thyself in a manner more becoming this presence."
"It is hard to be tied up like a mad dog and not get angry," replied the accused.
"Sirrah!" cried the gentleman, whose appearance was described next after the President, "dost thou bring a contumacious spirit here to bandy words with the right worshipful Governor? Silence, and answer peremptorily to the questions of thy betters."
"Nay, worthy Deputy Governor Dudley, the poor man is, I doubt not, already sensible of his error, and sinned more out of ignorance than design," observed the President.
"The honored Governor," spoke an assistant from near the bottom of the table, "is, I fear, disposed to be too lenient in respect of these foul-mouthed carrion."
"Our law condemns no man unheard; nor will I be more stern," answered the mild Governor Winthrop, (for it was he). "It seems to me to be the part of a judge to allow no harsh suspicions to enter his mind, lest they throw baleful shadows over his decisions. Philip Joy," he added, turning to the prisoner, "thou hast declared thyself innocent; wilt thou be tried by a jury, or art content to trust thy cause to the judgment of the honorable Court of Assistants?"
"I care not who tries me," replied Joy. "I am a true man; and, though I don't belong to the congregation, am as honest as a great many who do, and he is a horrid villain, who—"
"Enough," interrupted the Governor, "a quick tongue often prejudices, while a slow one seldom doth. Do I understand that it is thy desire to be tried by the Assistants?"
"It is not my desire to be tried by any one," said Joy; "but, sith I am to be put on my deliverance, I think that I shall stand a better chance in the hands of honorable gentlemen, some of whom have been soldiers, than in the dirty paws of tinkers, and cobblers, and mere mechanicals."
No smile mantled over the faces of his grave judges, but it was obvious, from the twinkling of eyes and glances shot by one to another, that the speech of Joy had done him no harm with those who, even thus early, began to feel annoyed at the approach of the clouted shoe.
"Art thou prepared for thy trial? inquired the President.
"At any moment, and the sooner the better, your worship. I had rather mount guard, for a week, in steel helmet and corselet, with breast, back, culet, gorget, tasses, sword, musket and bandoliers, in the hottest sun that ever roasted a blackamoor, or stand up to my knees, six months, in snow, without my mandilion, than lie a day longer in that ace—I mean that kennel of a lock-up."
"It, meseems, thou art in a hurry to have justice done thee, good fellow," said, with a grim smile, the gentleman who was the third one described, stroking, with his embroidered glove, the tuft of hair that hung below his chin.
"You are a soldier, Captain Endicott, and can look a man straight in the eyes," paid Joy; "and, though people give you credit for a hot temper, I will trust you."
Endicott elevated his eye-brows at this ambiguous compliment, and for a moment seemed at a loss how to take it, especially as he remarked a peculiar expression on the faces of his colleagues.
"Being a soldier thyself," he replied, fastening his eyes sternly on the face of the prisoner, "thou art bound to know that it becomes not one in the ranks to prattle."
Joy made no answer, but returned a cool and unabashed look to the gaze of the other.
"If the witnesses have been called, let them appear," said the President.
Two men, of a rather moan appearance, now stepped forward; an oath by the uplifted hand was administered, and one commenced his testimony.
The substance of his story was, that Joy, on a certain occasion, and, at a certain place, in his presence and hearing, had declared, with a profane exclamation, that there were men in the colony, wiser, and more learned, than either the magistrates or ministers; and that, between them both, what with their long prayers and intermeddling in every body's affairs, they were like to ruin the plantation.
Upon the conclusion of the testimony, the witness was sharply cross-questioned by Governor Winthrop, and some inquires were made by various Assistants, but nothing further was elicited. As for Joy, he disdained to ask a question, declaring that his accuser, Timpson, had already been in the stocks for leasing; and, besides, had been cudgelled by himself for stealing.
Hezekiah Timpson, a villainous, lean, crop-haired fellow, with a hang-dog look, and sanctimonious air, upon hearing himself charged with delinquencies, which were notorious to the whole Court, raised to heaven his eyes, which, until now, he had kept fastened on the floor, and, sighing deeply, exclaimed:
"I do confess my iniquities and my sins are ever before me. Verily, was I thus given over to Satan to be buffeted but by free-grace have I been snatched, as a brand from the burning, even as I yet hope to see thee, Philip."
"Canting rogue, I want none of thy hopes, good or bad," said Joy.
"Cease thy reviling," cried Dudley, starting from his seat. "What! are we to sit here to listen to malapert railings against men of godly life and conversation?" he added, addressing himself to Winthrop. But before the Governor could reply, one of the Assistants interposed.
"Let the poor man unbosom himself freely," he said, "that the whole truth may come to light."
"Our worshipful brother Spikeman," answered the Deputy Governor, with a sneer, (which he did not attempt to suppress,) "was not always ready to allow such free-speech, as witness the case of Martin Wrexham, banished for speaking to his disparagement."
"I trust that I shall be able to give the worshipful Deputy Governor such reasons for my conduct, as will satisfy him," said Spikeman.
Dudley threw himself back into his chair, as if not half satisfied; and Winthrop, who had calmly listened to the colloquy, took advantage of the pause that ensued, to direct the other witness to testify.
From the examination, it appeared that he had been present at the conversation referred to by Timpson, that, indeed, it was between Joy and himself, and that the former had not been aware of the presence of the informer, until on turning round, when Timpson was standing at his elbow. He recollected nothing said by Joy about the ministers, except that he had, any day, rather listen to one of Corporal Joly's songs, than Mr. Cotton's long sermons; nor respecting the magistrates, but that there were better judges in England.
The testimony being concluded, the prisoner was asked what he had to say for himself, to which he replied:
"Only that Hezekiah Timpson was an eves-dropping, lying villain, and that the other witness had told the truth. He meant no harm by anything he had said."
"Dost think it advisable to retract anything?" inquired Spikeman.
"I know not why I should deny the truth," answered Joy.
"Remand the prisoner, and clear the court-room," cried the President; and Joy was accordingly led out, followed by the spectators.
As soon as the members of the Court were left to themselves, Winthrop began to collect the opinions of the Assistants, commencing with the youngest, who were placed most remote from him. At first, a considerable diversity of sentiment prevailed, several seeming disposed to discredit Timpson, and to acquit Joy. They pronounced their opinions shortly and pithily, giving their reasons in a few words, until it came to Spikeman's turn, who spoke more at length.
"The vice," he said, "of backbiting godly ministers, and maligning magistrates, had risen, in consequence of the mistaken leniency of the Court, to an alarming height, so as to threaten the very foundations of their government. There was not a Satan-instigated railing Rabsheka, who did not now have his daily fling at the servants of the Lord, engaged in much tribulation in planting his vineyard, and there were many saints who were already calling out, O Lord, how long! They had themselves just been witnesses of the audacity, wherewith, in the very presence of the right worshipful Governor, and the worshipful Assistants, the prisoner had assumed to sit in judgment upon a member of the congregation, and to foul him with abuse. Never had he dared to exhibit such topping insolence, had he not supposed himself supported by a mutinous spirit from without. It was a dangerous spirit which, if inflamed by indulgence, would become a deadly boil to poison the whole body politic. Prick therefore the imposthume at once, and, like wise surgeons, let out the offensive matter. He was not surprised at the indignation of the worthy Deputy. It was a zeal unto godliness, and devoutly did he wish, that himself, and all, were more inspired with it. When he had asked that the prisoner might be permitted to speak freely, it was that every Assistant might be convinced by his own ears of the boldness wherewith rebellion to constituted authority, impudently bursting from the bottomless pit, ventured to obtrude into a court of justice, and to boast of its misdeeds. Was a child of the covenant of grace, and our brother in Christ, to be reproached with the sins which he had committed when in the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity, and which had been washed out by the blood of the New-Testament? Nay, then, give a universal license to every lewd fellow, to rake up the sins of your youth, and let him send to England—that England which spewed us out of her mouth, as if we were not the children of her bowels—to obtain the proofs. Had there been no word of evidence, the bare conduct of the prisoner before them was enough to satisfy them of his dangerous character, and he should feel his conscience accusing him of failure in his obligations to the Church and the Colony, were he not to advise exemplary punishment, whereof banishment would be a necessary but the slightest part."
The speech of Spikeman was evidently acceptable to a majority of the Assistants. It appealed to the fanaticism of some, and to the fears of others; but there were some on whom it produced no such effect. Captain Endicott, fierce zealot as he was, found in it something disagreeable. As his manner was, he stroked with his hand the long tuft on his chin, before he commenced speaking:
"There are things," he said, "in the speech of the worshipful brother whereof I approve, and others, again, whereunto I may not give my assent. Though it may savor of worldly pride, and be proof of the old Adam lingering in me, I will say, that however guilty in the sight of God, before whom I acknowledge myself the chief of sinners, I challenge before man an examination of my life, and fear no evil report from England or elsewhere. But for this self-boasting, I crave the pardon and prayers of my brethren. Touching the prisoner, which is the matter in hand, I find him somewhat bold, and not altogether in other respects what I desire, but yet not worthy of severe punishment, or likely to be a dangerous person in the Commonwealth. Where need requires, I trust, with preventing grace, never to be deficient in prompt and energetic action, but no necessity therefor hath, in my judgment, at present arisen. For, as for this young man, ye are to recollect that he is a soldier, and that a stout one, and may yet do the Commonwealth service in her defence, whereunto I doubt not his willingness, and that his free speech doth proceed rather from the license of camps than from malignity of temper. Moreover, I find not the rule of Scripture whereby we are bound that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established altogether complied with, meaning not, thereby, to impugn the statement of our brother of the congregation, worthy good man Timpson, but only that his words are not confirmed as our law requires."
Thus spoke Endicott, who was afterwards so notorious for his severities against dissidents; but these sentiments found no echo in the mind of the Deputy Governor.
"I thank God," he said, "that however gross and innumerable my errors and backslidings, I am no libertine." (Here Endicott's eyes flashed, but he contented himself with stroking, in a musing manner, the long tuft of hair on his chin.) "The evil we are called upon by the united voice of the suffering saints in this wilderness to suppress," continued Dudley, "demands, I trow, sharper practice than has hitherto been applied, and I do admire at the milk-and-water temper of the worthy Assistant at this present. Not thus is he wont to speak, but in the common is zealous even unto slaying. What incantation or witch of Endor hath blinded him, I know not."
The blood mounted into the face of Endicott, for he, as well as the others present, understood the remark to refer to the young and gentle wife of the ex-Governor of Salem, and who was supposed to exert a great influence in soothing the fierceness of his disposition, (alas, if it were so; how short a time that influence lasted!) and many were the smiles that circled the table, but Winthrop, apprehensive of a storm, interposed.
"My worthy friend," he said, "can surely intend no disrespect toward one of the stoutest champions of our Israel. Doubtless he will be able so to explain his words, as to make their meaning innocent."
"I complain not," burst forth Endicott. "If it were lawful to try conclusions in the manner of the Gentiles, and he a fit man for me to deal with, his lips should never repeat such vituperations;" and as he concluded, he threw one of his embroidered gloves violently on the table before Dudley, who sat opposite.
"Peace, gentlemen," cried Winthrop, rising with dignity, and looking alternately at one and the other. "Forget not that ye are brethren, and that upon your harmony depends the prosperity of our Zion, If ye who are of the household of faith permit idle bickerings to divide your hearts, how can ye expect the blessing of Heaven on your labors? If the cement to hold together the stones of the temple be untempered mortar, must not the fabric fall, and bury the worshippers in its ruins? If you love me, Captain Endicott, my brave and generous, but hasty friend, take up your glove; if you have respect for the high station you so worthily fill, noble Dudley, extend your hand in token of amity, and assure our brother that no offence was designed."
The time occupied by the governor had afforded opportunity for the passions of the two gentlemen to cool, and for them to become sensible of the unbecoming parts they were playing. As if they had at the same instant arrived at a like conclusion, Endicott reached forward to pick up his gauntlet, while Dudley stretched out his open palm. It was grasped by the other, and the two men wrung each other's hand as if whatever might be their private quarrels, they were resolved to stand by one another against the rest of the world.
"I crave forgiveness," said Dudley, at the same time resuming his seat and speech, "of the honorable Assistants in general, and of my excellent brother Endicott in particular, and beseech them to ascribe the vehemency of my speech to no want of respect for them, but to my zeal in the common service, and to a natural impetuosity. I solemnly protest that my observation pointed at nothing offensive, and that come whence it might, I would resent a wrong to my honored brother as quickly as to myself. Yet I will say, that I marvel that one so familiar with the nature of wounds as my honorable and dear friend, the worthy founder of our infant commonwealth, (and this is an ancient and increasing evil,) should not know that old wounds require rather vinegar than oil, the cautery instead of unguents. As a member of the persecuted Church, I will not allow the declarations of a brother of that holy and mystical body to be overborne and set at naught by an ill liver like this Philip Joy. I say that men have become too free in uttering their licentious imaginations about those who are placed by God's Providence above them for their soul's good and bodies' health, and that an example should be made to repress the gossip of light tongues and evil thinkers. In punishing this Joy, (who might more properly be called mourning,) we exalt the honor of the congregation, one of whose sons, even in your presence, and with intent to dishonor you, he has abused with perverse epithets, while at the same time we strike a wholesome terror into others in like case to offend."
He ceased, and looked around as if to gather the suffrages of his associates, but since the little interruption to their harmony, the wary Assistants were too politic, by word or sign, to betray a bias, so that he beheld only downcast eyes, and countenances purposely vacant, in order to conceal the thoughts of their owners.
It was now the turn of the Governor to express his opinion, and as he opened his lips, all eyes were fastened on him. His manner was grave, yet soft and persuasive, and a desire was manifest to pursue a course which should offend none, but reconcile differences by yielding something to all.
"Tumultuosa libertas", (he said, commencing his remarks a Latin quotation,) "tranquilitati probrosoe anteponenda est, and in the lively observations we have heard, I mark not the signs of dissension, but of free thought, having in view the honor of God and the welfare of his little flock scattered abroad in a strange land. But the good shepherd will yet gather the dispersed into his arms, and gently lead them through green pastures and by still waters. Our Israel owes you thanks, brethren, for the vigilance wherewith ye watch the walls of Jerusalem, and are quick to spy the lurking wolf and ravening bear. If the watchmen sleep, what shall become of the city? But her strong towers of defence and bulwarks are ye, emulous only to show your love.
"It hath been said—to come more immediately to the matter in hand—that the vice of evil speaking of dignities had greatly increased, and needed to be repressed. It is so, and cannot be denied; and I would thereupon note a caution to my brethren, and that is, the necessity of rather discouraging that democratical spirit which is threatening to sweep away all distinctions, and to strip the Assistants themselves of necessary power. It is an insubordination, whereof foul breaths, licentious imaginations, and undisciplined tongues, are the inciters and fomenters. Now, if one can legitimately be proved guilty of the offence, I would be forward as well for the salutary discipline of the offender as highest weal of the state, to visit him with a due measure of punishment. But it behooves the court to see that the charge is proved.
"In the present case, even although the testimony of the principal witness were thrown out, which, howbeit, cannot be done, he standing unimpeached before us, yet there remains sufficient from the testimony of the second, the truth of which is not denied by the prisoner, to convince us that something light and trivial has been uttered reflecting upon the godly Mr. Cotton, whose edifying discourses were degraded beneath the value of a song. This is in a manner to impeach the sanctity of religion, by making light of the character of her ministers. As for what the prisoner said touching the magistrates, I trust that it is true, and am disposed to connect no evil intent therewith. My judgment is to pronounce him guilty of using indecorous language respecting a minister of the gospel, and to condemn him therefor in a light fine, to help replenish our lean treasury."
"Did not the right worshipful Governor remark the profane exclamation of the prisoner even in this presence?" inquired Spikeman.
"None, Master Spikeman," answered Winthrop. "I did indeed observe that the prisoner, in one instance, commenced what I supposed was the word 'accursed,' but checked himself in mid utterance as if sensible that it was unmeet to be spoken, which rather savors of respect than of the contrary."
But the Assistant shook his head. "I have seldom seen," he said, "a more stiff-necked and perverse offender, and one more deserving of many stripes."
Hereupon followed a discussion of some length, which terminated favorably to the opinions of the Deputy Governor and of the Assistant Spikeman, and it was finally agreed that Joy should be found guilty, generally, and condemned to be confined for the space of one month, in irons, to a fine of L5, and to banishment from the colony. This result was not attained without strong resistance from Winthrop, who strove to mitigate the punishment to a fine, and from Endicott, who endeavored to obtain remission of the banishment; but in vain—the vehemence of Dudley, and the insinuations of Spikeman, overbore all opposition.
Upon the conclusion being arrived at, Joy was placed again before the Governor, who, with a grieved look, pronounced sentence, and immediately dismissed the Court.
A gentle knight was pricking on the plaine.
On the morning of a fine day, a fortnight after the occurrences above narrated, a horseman was riding over the neck, or narrow strip of marshy ground, which connects the peninsula on which Boston is situated with the main land. The rider was a tall, handsome man, of apparently some thirty-five years of age, who sat on his steed and handled the reins with a practiced grace, as if the saddle and himself were familiar acquaintances. Under a broad-brimmed, slouched hat, fell curls of dark hair, down the sides of an oval though rather thin face, embrowned by exposure to the weather. The nose was curved like the beak of an eagle, the eyes bright and wild as those of the royal bird, and a close beard curled over the face, including the upper lip, the bold yet sweet expression of which it did not conceal.
The dress of the cavalier was in the fashion of the times, though sobered down, either for the purpose of attracting less attention, or out of deference to the customs of the people he was among. A close fitting doublet or jerkin, of black velvet, over which was thrown a light cloak of the same color, but of different material, and a falling collar, shaped somewhat like those in Vandyke's portraits, edged with a narrow peccadillo or fringe of lace, ornamented the upper part of his person; his hands and wrists were protected by long gloves or gauntlets, reaching half way up to the elbow, and opening wide at the top; russet-colored boots expanded at the aperture and garnished with spurs reached high up the legs, and a small cut and thrust sword, suspended by a belt, which was also russet-colored, hung at his side. The handle of the sword was exquisitely beautiful, worthy of being the work of Cellini himself. It was mostly of massive gold, the hilt smooth and shining, and the guard embossed with a variety of elegant devices. But the part which first arrested attention and attracted the most admiration was the head, whereupon was sculptured a gigantic honey-bee, with wings expanded, as if about to fly from its perch; the eyes were sparkling diamonds, the body was composed of different colored metals, in imitation of life—and the whole so cunningly wrought, that it seemed a living bee about to mount into the air. The man rode and looked as if not anticipating, and incapable of fearing danger, carelessly glancing round, while the noble animal he bestrode, as if he had caught the spirit of his rider, stepped high and gallantly along. But in truth there was little or no danger, the white settlers being, at the time, at peace with the neighboring Indian tribes.
It was a mere bridle-path the horseman was following, which wound about in various directions, in order to avoid marshy ground, or trunks of trees, or other obstacles, and appeared to be perfectly familiar to the horse, who trotted on without any guidance from his rider. As for the latter, as if to beguile the tediousness of the way, he would pat at one moment the neck of his dumb companion, and address a few words to him, and at the next, break out into snatches of song. Thus he proceeded until he emerged from the woods, and an open space, the site of the future city of Boston, once the cornfields of warlike tribes, mysteriously removed by pestilence, in order as to the excited imaginations of the early settlers it seemed, to make room for the fugitives, lay spread before him.
The rider stopped his horse, and for some moments sat in silence gazing on the scene. From the eminence, to whose top he had ridden, declined before him the sloping hills, on whose sides open cultivated spaces were interspersed with woods. On the waters' edge, for the most part, were scattered the houses of the colonists, the majority of them rude huts, made of unhewn logs, with here and there a frame building, or a brick or stone house of less humble pretensions, while beyond, rolled the sparkling waves of the bay, sprinkled with "a great company of islands, whose high cliffs shoulder out the boisterous seas," as the old chronicler Wood expresses it, and rocking a few small vessels lying at anchor. He who viewed the region that morning, must have had a brilliant imagination to dream of the magnificent cities destined to stud those coasts, and of the millions to fill those extensive forests within two hundred years. Westward, indeed, the star of Empire had taken its way, and the wise men of the East were following its heavenly guidance; but who knew it then?
At last, excited by the view and his thoughts, the rider rose in his stirrups, and stretching out his arms, gave expression, in a low voice, to his feelings—
"Well may these men, who hope to found a new dynasty, be proud of the lovely land which they have chosen for a refuge! If iron resolution, scorn of delights and contempt of death could do it, they would accomplish the emprise—mais l'homme propose et Dieu dispose. Without the directing mind and sustaining arm of the source of all wisdom and power, in vain is the labor of man. Ruin and disgrace shall overwhelm all undertakings not founded on the Rock of Ages. With what great events teems the bosom of futurity? O, that my eyes could pierce the misty distance; that my dim presaging soul could behold the stately advance of the coming centuries, whose sounding feet I fancy that I can hear! Bear they in their hands weal or woe to humanity? Hath the creative energy set a limit, beyond which the tide of human accomplishment, like the hidden power in yonder heaving ocean, may not rise; but, having reached its destined apex, must, with hoarse murmurs, recoil back upon itself in disordered fragments?—or in these later times, when men were ripe for the blessing, revealed to the world these virgin regions, separated from the vices of Europe and of the East by a mighty sea, here to recommence that experiment which hath partially failed elsewhere, and imparted sufficient measure of His spirit to chosen instruments to work out the problem of human happiness, and to conduct mankind to heights of felicity, beginning here and never ending?—the bare contemplation whereof causes my flesh to quiver with delight."
As he uttered these words, forgetful of his situation, he stuck the spurs into his horse's flanks, and the astonished animal started with a bound. It was then the consummate address wherewith the stranger sat, his horse specially exhibited itself. As if the feeling of the startled steed were instantly communicated to himself; and one spirit animated both, his body bent gently forward in the saddle, catching at once the motion, and accommodating itself thereto, so that the rider appeared as firmly fastened, and as much at his ease, as though he were a part of the animal. After half a dozen plunges, and some soothing words, the excited horse having expressed his displeasure by snorts, frequent and loud at first, but gradually decreasing in rapidity and loudness, yielded to the strong arm of his master, and reduced his pace to the long trot at which he had before proceeded.
"My noble Mourad," said the rider, patting the steed's neck, and addressing him as if capable of understanding language—"I wonder not at thine astonishment; but when these thoughts possess me, I am oblivious of everything else. I will be more heedful henceforth, nor allow splendid imaginations to prick thine innocent sides."
The flexible ears of Mourad moved backward and forward while his rider was speaking, his dilated eyes glanced repeatedly back at him, and he shook his head as if not half satisfied with the apology.
And now the stranger, leisurely advancing, soon reached the little collection of houses. Guiding his horse carefully through the unpaved streets, and avoiding the stumps of trees which were occasionally to be met, he stopped at a house of somewhat more imposing appearance than the rest. It was of wood, like most of the other dwellings, and differed from them principally in being larger. It could not be said to belong to any order or style of architecture, but bore a general resemblance to buildings erected in England at the time. It stood with its gable-ends, three in number, to the street, the roof rising up steeply, and making a considerable garret, the side of the gable-ends projecting over the second story, as did also that over the first. The windows were of a square form, with small diamond-shaped panes, opening by hinges at the sides, and there was but one entrance in front, to protect which a small verandah or porch was thrown across the building. Two men, in the ordinary dress and equipments of soldiers of the period, their clumsy muskets leaning against the side, were seated on a bench near the entrance, and by their presence indicated the residence of Governor Winthrop.
"Is the right worshipful Governor at home so that he may be seen?" inquired the stranger, as he dismounted from the horse, whose bridle was held by one of the soldiers.
"He is at home, and may be seen, Sir Christopher," replied one of the men, "I will conduct you to his presence."
So saying, the soldier opened the door, and preceding the visitor, ushered him into a hall some ten feet wide, and thence into a small ante-room, or room of reception, where he was entreated to be seated, while his arrival should be announced. It required but a moment, which was the whole time of the soldier's absence, for the stranger to take a survey of the room wherein he sat.
It was not more than twelve or fifteen feet square, and destitute of paper or hangings, and the floor, like that of the hall, was bare, and made of coarsely-planed boards. It had two doors, one opening into the hall and another into an adjoining room, and was lighted by a single window. Its furniture consisted of only a few wooden chairs and benches.
"The right worshipful Governor directs me to invite you to him," said the messenger, throwing open the second door above mentioned.
The stranger rose, and crossing with a stately step the ante-chamber, followed the soldier into the adjoining apartment.
"Welcome, Sir Christopher," exclaimed the Governor, rising from a desk, at which he had been writing, and advancing with extended hand to his visitor, "I am honored in seeing you again in my poor house."
"He may deem himself a minion of fortune," courteously replied the stranger addressed as Sir Christopher, grasping the offered hand, "who either in this far wilderness or in the proud streets of London, is privileged to exchange salutations of friendship with so worthy and every way accomplished a gentleman as the honored chief magistrate of this colony."
"Alas! I fear," rejoined Winthrop, taking a seat, after first formally seating the other, "alas! I fear that my shoulders are too weak for so great a burden. Were it not for the prize of the high calling set before me, and the sweet refreshment sometimes breathed into me by the Spirit, I should faint beneath its weight."
"We are commanded neither to faint nor to be weary of well-doing," said Sir Christopher, "with comfortable assurances that as is our need, so shall our strength be. But, honored sir, I much mistake the nobility of your mind, if you would be willing to exchange your high place for a meaner lot. I thank God that you are placed upon an eminence to be a tower of strength to those who do well, and a terror to the evil."
"Better," replied Winthrop, "is the humble cottage than the lordly structure whereunto your poetical and extravagant politeness hath likened me. Remember," he added, with a smile, wherein there was some bitterness mingled with its melancholy, for he had of late been annoyed by the rougher nature of Dudley, and the jealousy of some of the Assistants, "altoe turres cadunt dum humiles casoe stant."
"Noble sir," said Sir Christopher, "be not cast down. The foundations of your house are built upon a basis too broad and firm to be blown down by the disorderly breaths of lackeys and trencher-scrapers. Pardon me, if in my zeal I apply ignominious terms to your enemies."
"There be those to be ranked in that category who yet in no wise deserve such epithets," answered the generous Governor. "Were opposition to come only from so base a quarter, little should I heed, and rather consider it an incitement to keener action; but there are also choice spirits, elect vessels, pillars of the congregation, men inspired with godly zeal, who are persuaded themselves, and would persuade others, that I am lukewarm in the cause, and bear the sword in vain."
"If the peevish captiousness of these persons is greatly to influence, I will not say over-awe you, noble sir," said Sir Christopher, "I tremble lest the errand of mercy whereon I come should fail of its purpose."
"Ever true to the principle of the [Greek: Melissa]," said the Governor, smiling "what can the Knight of the Golden Melice crave which John Winthrop can deny?"
The Knight of the Golden [Greek: Melissa], or Melice, as he was commonly called, meaning thereby the Knight of the Golden Honey-Bee, and who, by wearing conspicuously about his person the device or badge adopted when he received the order of knighthood, only complied with the fantastic notions of the times, gazed a moment at the figure of the bee on the handle of his sword, before replying:
"The golden bee does indeed remind me," he said, "that even as he, in the summer of his days, collects the yellow treasure which is to sustain him in the death of winter, so should I, while the day is mine, be busy to perform the will of Him who hath called me to a post in his creation, that I be not ashamed in the grave. I came to ask a favor in behalf of the soldier Philip Joy."
The eyes of Winthrop, which, while the knight was speaking, had been fastened on his face, fell upon the rich Turkey carpet that, with its intricate figures and varied dies, covered, in place of a modern cloth, the table supporting the desk whereat he had been writing.
"The soldier," he said, sit last, slowly, "is enduring the punishment awarded to him by the Court of Assistants."
"A harsh and cruel sentence," said the knight, "and one at the infliction whereof I know your noble nature relucted."
"I may not, without censure of my own conscience, hear those who are associated with me in the government blamed."
"I would not trespass on the bounds of courteous license, but cannot believe that your gentle temper approves of proceedings at once severe and impolitic."
"It becomes me not," said Winthrop, modestly, "to set up my sentiments against the opinion of a majority. This is not the government of one man, and I am, as I may say, it being properly understood, only primus inter pares."
"Then avouch yourself to some purpose to be truly primus, and by your kingly mercy not only put to silence the unruly tongues of men complaining of harshness not without reason, but also take away the occasion for reproach."
"Hitherto," said Winthrop, "you have spoken in riddles, though they are not hard to be guessed; but, nevertheless, let me entreat you to explicate, in plainer phrase, your meaning, and reveal your full desire."
"I came, then," answered the knight, "to solicit the full pardon of Joy."
"It may not be. Though the right to pardon would seem inherent in him to whose hands is entrusted the power to punish, that the sorrow of inflicting pain might be balanced by the joy of conferring pleasure, and so his office be not wholly converted into that of an executioner, yet were I ever so much disposed, I could not, in the present case, grant your request. It would raise a storm which, however little to be regarded for its consequences to myself, might be seriously injurious to the budding interests of our infant state."
"I pray you to consider," said the knight, "the good character of the man accused, ever approving himself brave and faithful in all trusts confided to him; no drone, but an active honey-bee, laying up store in your hive, with no fault charged but speaking too freely, and if that be true, only imitating therein, his betters. Next reflect upon the opposite reputation of his accusers, and I venture to say malingers, though in truth there is but one, not sustained by the other. Men are murmuring at your sentence, and holding your justice for naught, a sure presage of troublous times; and be assured, that a commonwealth not founded in righteousness cannot stand, for on it rests not the blessing of Heaven."
"Sir Christopher Gardiner," said Winthrop, "you have spoken boldly, and but that I believe in your honesty, and am assured of your friendship, I should be offended. But you belong not to the congregation, your notions differing from our faith; the light which illuminates the minds of the chosen remnant which Providence hath planted in this far off land, this ultissima Thule, not yet having penetrated your understanding; Your freedom of speech, therefore, because in favor of mercy, shall not prejudice, though it might injure you were it to reach the ears of some of whom we wot. But know, Sir Christopher, that your zeal makes you unjust, and that you have defamed a God fearing Commonwealth, and one in covenant with God. Not without His guidance did we trust ourselves to a waging sea, calmed for our sake by His breath; and not without His inspiration are we building up a State, after His own divine model, which shall be the admiration of the world. The kings of the earth may rise up, and the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing; but know, Sir Christopher, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against us."
As the usually calm Winthrop concluded his prophecy, he smote the table with his hand, as if to give emphasis to his words.
"My wise, and prudent, and most valued friend," said Sir Christopher, rising and approaching the Governor, "pardon me, if with sacrilegious, though unwitting hand, I have touched the sacred ark of your faith. But I were meaner than a stock or a stone; I were duller than an insensible clod; I were worse than an idolatrous heathen or a beast, if I were unwilling to encounter any danger, even to the hazard of losing your friendship, for the sake of a man, who, at the risk of his own life, saved mine."
"I heard not of your debt before," said Winthrop.
"It was in Moldavia, on the bloody field of Choczim, where the Poles defeated the Turks. I was then but a stripling, and the impetuosity of youth, or the fiery temper of my horse, had borne me in advance of my friends, when I was surrounded by the infidels and hard bested, and my life beyond peradventure had paid the penalty of my rashness, and my bones been left cleaned by the wolf's teeth to whiten on the sand, but for this valiant soldier. Disregarding danger, he leaped among the foe, and so lustily plied his blows, that together we bore the turbans down, until his bridle-hand was struck. Then was it time to fall back, for verily we had need of both hands, with the one to guide out horses, and with the other to defend our heads. I seized his rein, and with our flashing swords, side by side, we fought our way through the throng. Judge, then, if I were not an ingrate to forget the service."
"It is a pity, for the sake of the prisoner," said Winthrop, "that either Standish or Endicott is not in my place: a tale of daring were sure to win their ears, and upon its recital, the cause were as good as gained; but much as I admire the valor of the soldier and respect your feelings, I, who was bred a lawyer, and not a warrior, see not therein a motive to grant your request."
"If friendship for me, and personal merit in the man, avail not to move you, at least listen to the voice of humanity. You intend not surely to murder him."
"What?" exclaimed Winthrop. "Speak plainer, Sir Christopher."
"I say, honored sir, that the treatment of this Joy, for an offence which can rank as a crime only by reason of some peculiarity in your situation, justifying extraordinary severity, is unworthy of you as the Vicegerent of his Majesty in this colony.
"Methinks," said Winthrop, coldly and formally, "you have already, in other phrase, said the same thing."
"But I aver now that this hapless, and, but for me, unfriended man, (alas that my influence in his behalf is less than nought,) is likely to escape the greater part of his sentence, by perishing on your hands, if not soon released from confinement."
"Is he ill?"
"Ill unto death. I fear. Surely you cannot be acquainted with the cruelties practised upon him. I have not beholden them with mine own eyes; but my knowledge is this—as soon as I heard of Philip's misfortune, in whom, why I feel an interest you now know, I hastened to his prison, and there, with some difficulty learned, that not only is he manacled, and his ancles chained, but also is confined by a band of iron around his body, to a post erected in the centre of his dungeon, so as to be unable to lie down, under a pretext of the desperation of the man and the weakness of his dungeon."
"Believe me, Sir Christopher, I knew not this; but the thing shall be looked into, and if there be no error in your information, I will venture to brave the resentment of my colleagues and the rest, and release this Joy for the present, taking such order in other respects that the remaining sentence of the Court shall not remain a nullity."
"I pray you, excellent sir, of your bounty, to be speedy in the inquiry into this matter," urged the knight, "being well assured that you will find my information verified."
"Rest satisfied with my peremptory promise," replied Winthrop. "And now, Sir Christopher, that this business which you have so much at heart is in a fair train to arrive at a result to content you, tell me something of your doings at the Mount of Promise, as it is your pleasure to call your retirement. How fares it with your kinswoman, the lady Geraldine? Time, I trust, doth blunt the edge of her melancholy."
"Alas, no! she still continues to grieve with an unreasonable grief. Time brings no balm."
"It should not be so. The sooner we become reconciled to the afflictive dispensations of Providence (under which I understand she suffers,) the better for both soul's and body's health."
"There are some natures, whereupon, when an impression is once made, it is not readily effaced, and the lady Geraldine's is such. Yet do I not despair of her restoration to tranquillity."
"I must request godly Mr. Eliot to visit her. There is no soother so effectual as the soft voice of the Gospel. But for yourself, Sir Christopher, tire you not of the monotony of your forest life?"
"So far therefrom, I love it hourly more. My early days were wild and stormy, of some particulars whereof I have possessed you; and although I have not reached my meridian, yet am I satiated with vanity. I am like a ship, whose tempest-beaten sides rest sweetly in a haven. As contentedly she hears the winds howling without, so I listen from afar to the uproar of the world, and pleased, contrast my calm therewith."
"Man was not made for inaction," said Winthrop.
"I shun no honorable labor. Instruct me how to be useful to the little State which enjoys the happiness to call you father and ruler, and no toil or danger but shall be welcome."
"You know there is but one difficulty that stands in your way to occupy the position due to both your rank and merit."
A shadow passed over the face of the knight.
"We will not speak thereof," he said. "When I offered to join the congregation, who would have thought that so trifling a difference could close your bosoms against me?"
"Call not the difference slight, nor our bosoms closed," answered Winthrop; "but I trust that further reflection, your spirit being lighted by beams of grace, will convince you that in our exposition we erred not."
At this moment a slight rustling was heard at the other end of the apartment, and the knight turning, beheld a man having the appearance of a servant advancing.
"How now, sirrah," cried Winthrop, "what means this intrusion?"
"I thought I heard the Governor call," said the man.
"I called not," said Winthrop; "but being here, bring refreshments. His presence opportunely reminds me," he added, turning to the knight, "of my breach of hospitality, occasioned by my interest in the conversation."
In a short time the servant returned bearing a silver salver, on which were placed wine and a venison pasty, (for the robuster appetites of our ancestors would have scorned more delicate viands,) which he placed on a sideboard.
Before the knight addressed himself to the pasty, which he soon did, with an appetite sharpened by his morning ride, he filled two goblets with wine, and presenting one to his host, begged to pledge him in a health to the prosperity of the infant Commonwealth.
"The building up of our Zion lies nearest my heart, and unceasingly do my prayers ascend on her behalf," answered Winthrop; "but—think me not discourteous—I may not, without sin, comply with your request in the drinking of healths."
"How!" exclaimed the knight, "is there any forbidding thereof in Holy Scripture?"
"Nay, I find no interdiction therein, but manifold cause in the reason of the thing itself for the suppressing of a vain custom. Thus do I argue: Every empty and ineffectual representation of serious things is a way of vanity. But this custom is such; for it is intended to hold forth love and wishes of health, which are serious things, by drinking, which neither in the nature nor use it is able to effect, for it is looked at as a mere compliment, and is not taken as an argument of love, which ought to be unfeigned. Or the same proposition may be proved diversely, as thus: To employ the custom, out of its natural use, without warrant of authority, necessity or conveniency, is a way of vanity. But this custom doth. Or, again; such a resolution as frees a man from frequent and needless temptations, to dissemble love, et cetera, (quatenus it doth so,) is a wholesome resolution. But this resolution doth. Ergo, Sir Christopher, pray have me (with protestation of no discourtesy) excused."
"Although your scruples appear strange, yet will I respect them, my honored host, as it becomes me to, any opinion entertained by you," replied the knight; "but if the tongue be tied, the spirit, at least, is free to indulge in wishes for your welfare."
So saying, he raised the goblet to his lips, and drained it of its contents. Nor did the Governor, though refusing to join in the idle custom of drinking healths, which, by his influence, had been pretty generally banished from the tables of the principal inhabitants, decline a draught, therein bearing in mind the advice of Paul to Timothy, and considering it an allowable solace and strengthener to enable him the better to bear the cares of state. Upon the conclusion of the interview, the knight courteously took leave, after thanking the Governor for his promise in behalf of the imprisoned soldier, and, mounting his horse, returned the way he came.
When he was gone, Winthrop fell into a fit of musing.
"What am I to think of this man?" (such was the tenor of his reflections.) "Is he what he appears? Doth the garniture of his spirit conform to the polished and attractive surface? Is he, as sometimes from his language might be surmised, one who, though young in years, is old in experience, and hath already discovered how unsatisfactory are the vanities of the world? There be such men in these strange days. And yet, how wonderfully hath he preserved his cheerfulness, and though chastened, is not cast down! That he hath been a cavalier, I plainly see, and he doth admit; that he is fit at present to be one of us, I doubt; that he will be, I hope. The jealous Dudley, the suspicious Endicott, and the subtle Spikeman, are disposed to regard him as one who, under the mask of an angel of light, doth conceal dangerous designs; as a plotter of mischief; some cunning tool of our enemies, who have sent him hither to creep into our confidence, that he may the better detect our weakness and confound our plans. I cannot harbor these latter notions. There is that about the knight which gives the lie to suspicion. Who can look upon his noble countenance and listen to the tones of his sincere voice, and not be satisfied of his truth? Did he not, on his arrival, communicate to me his views, which, however romantic, are consistent both with the training of his previous life and the change which hath been effected in his feelings? And doubtful myself, lest the gracious impression he made upon me might pervert my judgment, did I not set a watch upon his motions, and find them all to harmonize with his frank and gallant bearing? I see no cause to alter my conduct or withdraw my confidence. Yet will I be guarded in our intercourse. If I err, it shall be on the side of prudence; but this matter whereunto he hath called my attention, shall forthwith be searched. It were shame if the cruelty whereof he complains has been practised. Ah me, the eye of the ruler cannot be everywhere! There be those who already term our justice tyranny, and who would be glad to be furnished with another occasion of complaint. Nor can I conceal from myself that the sentence of the soldier is harsh. It was against both my feeling and my judgment. How often am I compelled to practise a severity over which my softer, and perhaps weaker nature, mourns!"
"I am sorry one so learned and so wise, As you, Lord Angelo, have still appeared, Should slip so grossly, both in the heat of blood And lack of tempered judgment afterward."
MEASURE FOR MEASURE.
Early in the afternoon of the same day, a man whom we recognize as the servant we saw at the Governor's house, entered a building which stood not far from the margin of the bay. It belonged to the Assistant Spikeman, and it was he whom the man sought. The Assistant was found sitting before his ledger, whose pages were open, and surrounded by the articles of his traffic, for he was a merchant, largely engaged in the purchase and sale of the products of the country, from which he had drawn substantial gains. Quintals of dried fish were piled up in one part of the store-room, in another, bundles of furs procured from the Indians, in a third, casks and barrels containing spirituous liquors, and elsewhere were stored cloths of various descriptions, and hardware, and staves and hoops, and, in short, almost everything necessary to prosecute a trade between the old country and the new.
The Assistant raised his head at the noise made by the entrance of the man, and passing his fingers through the short, thick red hair that garnished his head, demanded, "What new thing bringest thou, Ephraim?"
"There has been," answered the man, "him whom they call the Knight of the Golden Melice, though I know not what it means, with the Governor this morning, and according to your wishes, I have come to acquaint you therewith."
"Thou hast well done, and thy zeal in the service of the Commonwealth and of the congregation merits and shall have reward. What passages passed between them?"
"I heard only part of the conversation, but enough to make me believe that the Governor, at the prayer of the strange knight, means to release the soldier Philip Joy."
"Verily!" exclaimed Spikeman. "Art sure you heard aright? Rehearse to me what was said."
The spy employed by the Assistant to be a watch upon the conduct of Winthrop, here went into a detail of his discoveries, to all which the other listened with fixed attention.
When the man had concluded his narration, which was interlarded with protestations of pious zeal, the Assistant said:
"I do commend thee greatly, Ephraim, for thy sagacity, and the promptitude wherewith thou hast made me acquainted with these matters. Not that thou or I have any more interest in this thing than other godly men who have fled from the persecution of the priests of Baal, to worship the God of our fathers in the wilderness according to the promptings of our own conscience, but it doth become every one to keep his lamp trimmed and burning, and to watch, lest the lion leap into the fold. I misdoubt me much, that this same Sir Christopher Gardiner, as he calls himself, or this Knight of the Golden Melice, as some have it, meaning thereby, doubtless, malice, is no better than some emissary of Satan, unto which opinion his interposing for this blaspheming Joy doth strongly incline me. Therefore, good Ephraim, keep thou thine eyes upon him, and shouldest thou be the instrument elected by Providence to bring his wicked devices to light, great will be thy praise and reward."
Having thus spoken, Spikeman waved his hand and turned away, to intimate that the conference was at an end, but the man remained standing.
"Wherefore do you delay? You may retire," said Spikeman. "I bethink me that but a little time remains for preparation for the afternoon lecture."
"Is not the laborer worthy of his hire?" inquired Ephraim. "Shall they who work in the Lord's vineyard receive no wage?"
"My mind ran not on the perishable riches of this world," answered the Assistant, pulling out, with a very ill grace, a well filled leathern purse, and taking from it a silver piece, which he offered to the servant, but the fellow had caught sight of gold, and was not so easily to be satisfied.
"Is thy servant a dog?" he demanded. "The princely Governor would give me gold for information of less value."
"Take two," replied Spikeman, holding out another, "and be content. Reflect that you are one of the congregation, and have an equal part in this inheritance with myself."
"I think not," said Ephraim, looking around the well-filled store-house. "Is that a proper wage, your worship," he added, glancing disdainfully at the money, "to offer one, who, on your account, risks the slitting of his nose, and cutting off of his ears? Make the white yellow and it will not be too much."
"Would that I had the treasures of Ophir for thy sake," exclaimed Spikeman; "but I am a ruined man if thou require so much, Ephraim Pike. But there, take the Carolus, and let it be an incentive to godly action."
Ephraim received the gold piece, and his features relaxed into something like a smile.
"Truly," said he, "did David, the man after God's heart, speak by inspiration when he declared—'Never saw I the righteous forsaken, or his seed begging bread.'"
Spikeman made no reply, and the man having attained his object, and observing the other's desire to be rid of him, withdrew.
The countenance of the Assistant expressed chagrin and displeasure as he looked after the retiring form of the serving-man; but presently he buried his face in his hands, leaning his elbows on the tall writing-table that stood before him. In this attitude he remained some little time, and when he removed them, the expression of his face was changed, and his mind evidently filled with other thoughts. The look of vexation had been succeeded by one it is difficult to describe—a kind of smile played around his lips, his eyes sparkled, his color was heightened, and a slight moisture exuded from the corners of his mouth—he was uglier and more repulsive than before. He bent over, and on a piece of paper which lay before him, wrote with a hand that trembled a little—"How fair and how pleasant, art thou O love, for delights." This sentence he scrawled several times, and then taking up the piece of paper, he tore it into small fragments, and scattered them on the floor, after which, composing his face into an austere seeming, he placed his high steeple-crowned hat on his head, and, leaving the building, proceeded in the direction of his dwelling-house. As he advanced leisurely along, he soon heard the sound of a drum beaten through the streets, to summon the people to one of those weekly lectures, in which spiritual instruction was not unfrequently leavened with worldly wisdom and directions for political conduct.
Meetings for religious lecture, on week days, were exceedingly common, and held in high favor; indeed, so attractive were they, that in the language of an old historian, an actor on the spot—"Many poor persons would usually resort to two or three in the week, to the great neglect of their affairs and the damage of the public." To these, the people were summoned by beat of drum, the martial roll of which instrument called them also to muster for defence, upon a hostile alarm, a different tattoo being adopted for the latter purpose. An attempt was at one time made by the magistrates to diminish the frequency of these meetings, as a serious inroad upon the industry of the colony; but the effort was resisted, and that successfully, by the elders, "alleging their tenderness of the church's liberty, as if such a precedent might enthrall them to the civil power, and as if it would cast a blemish upon the elders, which would remain to posterity; that they should need to be regulated by the civil magistrate, and also raise an ill savor of the people's coldness, that would complain of much preaching, &c, whereas liberty for the ordinances was the main end professed of our coming hither." They were social beings, and loved stimulus like the rest of mankind, and had no public amusements. These causes are sufficient to account for the fondness for the weekly lecture; but if to them be superadded the peculiarity of their civil and religious polity, which inculcated an extraordinary affection for each other as God's chosen people destined to communion, not here only, but forever; and the isolation of their situation, cutting them off from participation in the stirring events to which they had been accustomed, we should wonder if they had not met frequently together. The elders, jealous of their influence, showed in this instance, as they did in others, a knowledge of human nature, superior to that of the magistrates, and the latter were glad to retreat from the position they had taken, "lest the people should break their bonds through abuse of liberty," if the wholesome restraint exerted by the elders, by means of the lectures, in order to retain the people in subjection to the civil power, should be withdrawn.
As the Assistant walked on, he began to meet persons coming out of their houses, in obedience to the invitation. There was the staid citizen, whose sobriety bordered on sternness, with hair closely cropped to avoid the "unloveliness of love-locks," covered with a large flapped peaked hat, and arrayed in broad white band and sad-colored garments, on whose arm leaned his wife, or walked independently at his side, bearing on her head a hat of similar shape to her husband's, or else having it protected with hood, or cap, or coif; a white vandyke neckerchief falling over the shoulders, and rising high in the neck; long-waisted bodice of velvet or silk, open in front, and laced down to a point, on which was placed a rosette, with voluminous fardingale of like material, gathered up in folds behind, and supplying, though with more modesty and less bad taste, the place of the more modern "bishop," now happily banished these regions. Behind came the sons and daughters, attired like their parents, and imitating them in gravity of demeanor. There were also some indented apprentices and serving men and serving women, whom either the zeal of their masters and mistresses required, or their own tastes or ideas of duty induced to be present, while here and there, at the corners of the streets, might be seen an occasional Indian, with bow in hand, listening with admiration to the marvellous music of the blood-stirring instrument, and gazing with feelings compounded of fear and envy at the strange people gathering together to a talk with the Great Spirit.
The Assistant Spikeman, as he passed the wayfarers, returned their demure salutations with solemn dignity, as became one in high station, and in whose ears was sounding a call to a meeting of the congregation. Thus exchanging greetings, he proceeded to his house, where, entering the room used by the family as a sitting apartment, he hung up his hat and took a seat. But his agitation did not permit him to remain still, and almost immediately he arose and began to pace the floor. Hearing presently advancing footsteps, he dropped into a chair, and leaning back and shutting his eyes, assumed an expression of pain and lassitude. In a moment the door of the room was opened, and a comely woman of middle age entered, dressed for the "meeting."
"Dear heart," she exclaimed, "here have Eveline and I been waiting for thee this quarter of an hour. You must not, if you are so late, complain of me hereafter, when the lacet of my bodice troubles me, or the plaits of my hair refuse to keep their place, and so I delay thee unreasonably, as thou sayest, though it is all to honor thee; for would it not be unbeseeming for the help-meet of a worshipful Assistant to appear like a common mechanic's wife? But art thou ill?" she added, observing his air of dejection, and instantly changing the tone that had in it something of reproach into one of anxiety; "then will I remain at home to comfort thee."
"No, dame," said her husband, "there is no cause to detain thee from the sanctuary. The godly Mr. Cotton holds forth to-day, and it would be a sinful neglect of privileges. I feel not well myself, and must, therefore, for thy sake, as well as my own, deny myself the refreshment of the good man's counsel. Thou shalt go, to edify me on thy return with what thou mayest remember of his discourse."
But the kind heart of dame Spikeman was not so easily to be diverted from its purpose, and she persisted, with some pertinacity, in a determination to remain, until her husband laid his commands upon her to attend the lecture.
"I will obey," she then said, "sithence it is thy wish; and is it not written, Adam was first made, and then Eve; and I will pray for thee, dear heart, in the congregation, that He will keep thee in all thy ways, nor let the enemy approach to harm or to tempt thee."
Spikeman winced, and perhaps his conscience pricked him at the moment, but he betrayed no confusion as he replied:
"I thank thee, sweet duck, and may the Lord recompense thy love a thousand fold. But hasten, now, for it would ill-become the wife of my bosom to lag in attendance on the lecture. Meanwhile, I will meditate on the holy volume, and comfort myself as a Christian man may."
Dame Spikeman's ample fardingale swept the sides of the doorway as she turned to take a last look at her husband over her shoulder—a look that contained as much of suspicion as of affection. He must be, indeed, a paragon of hypocrisy who can conceal himself from his wife, however dull she may be, and the faculties of the dame were as sharp as those of most of her sex.
Presently she was heard calling, "Eveline; why, Eveline, art not ready yet?" to which a sweet voice responded, "here am I, dame," succeeded by the pattering of quick, light feet, and a young woman, veiled, glided to her side, and they left the house together, accompanied by a servant. Spikeman gazed after them through the window, which, as belonging to a house of the better class, was made of glass instead of oiled paper, which supplied its place in the humbler tenements, till they were out of sight. The drum had some time before ceased its sonorous rattle, indicating thereby that the services had commenced, and the streets were bare of the last loiterer. Spikeman then resumed his seat, listening and glancing occasionally at the door, as if he was expecting some one to enter. At last, as if tired of waiting, he rose, and going to the door, called softly, "Prudence." No answer was returned, and in tones a little raised he called again. This time a voice replied, "I am coming, your worship," and the Assistant returned to his seat. Perhaps five minutes longer passed, and he was becoming more impatient, and had risen from his chair, when a young woman in the dress of an upper domestic, or lady's maid, entered the room. She was apparently twenty-three or twenty-four years of age, large and plump, and glowing with health, and altogether of a most attractive appearance. Her complexion was brilliant, brighter on account of the contrast with the white tunic which fell over her peach-blossom colored fustian skirt, and her eyes, which were cast down when she came into the room, disclosed hazel pupils as she raised them, and looked red, as if she had been weeping.
"I have remained behind, according to thy desire," said the Assistant, advancing toward her, "for there is nothing I would not do to pleasure thee, Prudence."
"I know not that I requested you to tarry," answered the girl; "but an I remember right, you said you had some tidings of Philip Joy which you did wish to communicate to my private ear."
"Something have I to tell thee of the poor varlet," said Spikeman; "but first would I rather speak of one who doth interest me more. But say, why is thy mind so careworn about this soldier?"
"He is a friend of mine," said Prudence, blushing; "that is, we were neighbors, and acquainted in dear old England—a cousin," she added, telling naturally a little fib, "and so I am sorry to hear of his misfortune."
"I hope that you do not long after the flesh-pots of Egypt," said Spikeman, attempting to take her hand, which, however, she coyishly withdrew. "What have we to do with England or her cramping ordinances, which we have turned our backs upon forever? Was it not because of the yoke she sought to put upon our necks that we abandoned her, here to enjoy a wider liberty? Believe me, beautiful Prudence, there are delights scattered all over the world, if there be only boldness and wisdom to find them; nor is their enjoyment inconsistent with the joys promised hereafter, whereof, indeed, they are the foretaste."
"O, sir," exclaimed the girl, "can you tell me anything about Philip? Have you entreated the Governor, as you promised, to let him out of that dreadful dungeon?"
"It is a horrid place," said Spikeman, "and men live not long who are confined therein. If the soldier be imprisoned there a few days longer, he is no better than a dead man. Vain has been my intercession, though I despair not."
He paused to watch the effect of what he had said upon the girl. She turned deadly pale, and seemed about to sink upon the floor. Spikeman took her hand, which she no longer withdrew, but yielded passively, as if in a state of stupefaction, and pressing it within his own, led her to a sofa.
"Lovely Prudence," he said, "thou hast found favor in my eyes. Let not the distance betwixt us overawe thee. These worldly distinctions are but the inventions of men to suit a purpose, and there are times when they are more easily torn away than the withes of the Philistines on the hands of Samson. Dost thou comprehend me?"
Prudence raised her eyes, and fixed them with a bewildered stare upon his face. She was so terrified at the thought of the danger to which the soldier was exposed, and her mind so confused by the unusual language of her master, that she was as much in a dreaming as a waking state. Her lips quivered as she attempted to reply, but they made no sound, and tears began to steal down.
"Would that I could stop the current of these tears, more precious than orient pearls," sighed Spikeman. "Ask of me any other favor, and I will move heaven and earth but it shall be granted."
"O, sir, said Prudence," sliding off from the sofa in spite of his efforts to prevent her, and kneeling at his feet, "I have no other favor to ask; but if you are truly willing to show kindness to a poor girl like me, take Philip out of prison."
"But is it so light a thing to be done, sweet Prudence?" replied Spikeman, raising her in his arms, and straining her to his bosom before he replaced her on the sofa. "Nay, kneel not again," he added, seeing that she was about to resume her attitude of supplication; "that were a posture as fitting for me as for thee."