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The Courtship of Miles Standish.
MILES STANDISH. In the Old Colony days, in Plymouth the land of the Pilgrim To and fro in a room of his simple and primitive dwelling, Clad in doublet and hose, and boots of Cordovan leather, Strode, with a martial air, Miles Standish the Puritan Captain. Buried in thought he seemed, with his hands behind him, and pausing Ever and anon to behold his glittering weapons of warfare, Hanging in shining array along the walls of the chamber, Cutlass and corslet of steel, and his trusty sword of Damascus, Curved at the point and inscribed with its mystical Arabic sentence, While underneath, in a corner, were fowling-piece, musket, and
matchlock. Short of stature he was, but strongly built and athletic, Broad in the shoulders, deep-chested, with muscles and sinews of iron; Brown as a nut was his face, but his russet beard was already Flaked with patches of snow, as hedges sometimes in November. Near hiin was seated John Alden, his friend, and household companion, Writing with diligent speed at a table of pine by the window; Fair-haired, azure-eyed, with delicate Saxon complexion, Having the dew of his youth, and the beauty thereof, as the captives Whom Saint Gregory saw, and exclaimed, “Not Angles but Angels." Youngest of all was he of the men who came in the May Flower.
Suddenly breaking the silence, the diligent scribe interrupting, Spake, in the pride of his heart, Miles Standish the Captain of Plymouth “Look at these arms,” he said, “ the warlike weapons that hang here Burnished and bright and clean, as if for parade or inspection !
This is the sword of Damascus I fought with in Flanders; this
breastplate, Well I remember the day! once saved my life in a skirmish; Here in front you can see the very dent of the bullet Fired point-blank at my heart by a Spanish arcabucero. Had it not been of sheer steel, the forgotten bones of Miles Standish Would at this moment be mould, in their grave in the Flemish
morasses.” Thereupon answered John Alden, but looked not up from his writing : “ Truly the breath of the Lord hath slackened the speed of the bullet; He in his mercy preserved you, to be our shield and our weapon!” Still the Captain continued, unheeding the words of the stripling: “ See, how bright they are burnished, as if in an arsenal hanging; That is because I have done it myself, and not left it to others. Serve yourself, would you be well served, is an excellent adage; So I take care of my arms, as you of your pens and your inkhorn. Then, too, there are my soldiers, my great, invincible army, Twelve men, all equipped, having each his rest and his matchlock, Eighteen shillings a month, together with diet and pillage, And, like Cæsar, I know the name of each of my soldiers !” This he said with a smile, that danced in his eyes, as the sunbeams Dance on the waves of the sea, and vanish again in a moment. Alden laughed as he wrote, and still the Captain continued : “Look! you can see from this window my brazen howitzer planted High on the roof of the church, a preacher who speaks to the purpose, Steady, straightforward, and strong, with irresistible logic, Orthodox, flashing conviction right into the hearts of the heathen. Now we are ready, I think, for any assault of the Indians; Let them come, if they like, and the sooner they try it the better,-Let them come, if they like, be it sagamore, sachem, or pow-WOW, Aspinet, Samoset, Corbitant, Squanto, or Tokama hamon !”
Long at the window he stood, and wistfully gazed on the landscape, Washed with a cold grey mist, the vapoury breath of the east wind, Forest and meadow and hill, and the steel-blue rim of the ocean, Lying silent and sad, in the afternoon shadows and sunshine. Over his countenance flitted a shadow like those on the landscape, Gloom intermingled with light; and his voice was subdued with emotion, Tenderness, pity, regret, as after a pause he proceeded : “ Yonder there, on the hill by the sea, lies buried Rose Standish; Beautiful rose of love, that bloomed for me by the wayside! She was the first to die of all who came in the May Flower! Green above her is growing the field of wheat we have sown there, Better to hide from the Indian scouts the graves of our people, Lest they should count them and see how many already have perished!" Sadly his face he averted, and strode up and down, and was thoughtful.
Fixed to the opposite wall was a shelf of books, and among them Prominent three, distinguished alike for bulk and for binding; Bariffe's Artillery Guide, and the Commentaries of Cæsar,
Out of the Latin translated by Arthur Goldinge of London,
LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP. NOTHING was heard in the room but the hurrying pen of the stripling, Or an occasional sigh from the labouring heart of the Captain, Reading the marvellous words and achievements of Julius Cæsar. After a while he exclaimed, as he smote with his hand, palm downwards, Heavily on the page: “A wonderful man was this Cæsar! You are a writer, and I am a fighter, but here is a fellow Who could both write and fight, and in both was equally skilful !" Straightway answered and spake John Alden, the comely, the youthful: “Yes, he was equally skilled, as you say, with his pen and his weapons, Somewhere have I read, but where I forget, he could dictate Seven letters at once, at the same time writing his memoirs." “Truly," continued the Captain, not heeding or hearing the other “Truly a wonderful man was Caius Julius Cæsar! Better be first, he said, in a little Iberian village, Than be second in Rome, and I think he was right when he said it. Twice was he married before he was twenty, and many times after; Battles five hundred he fought, and a thousand cities he conquered; He, too, fought in Flanders, as he himself has recorded; Finally he was stabbed by his friend, the orator Brutus ! Now, do you know what he did on a certain occasion in Flanders, When the rear-guard of his army retreated, the front giving way too, And the immortal Twelfth Legion was crowded so closely together There was no room for their swords? Why, he seized a shield from a
soldier, Put himself straight at the head of his troops, and commanded the
Calling on each by his name, to order forward the ensigns;
All was silent again; the Captain continued his reading. Nothing was heard in the room but the hurrying pen of the stripling Writing epistles important to go next day by the May Flower, Filled with the name and the fame of the Puritan maiden Priscilla; Every sentence began or closed with the name of Priscilla, Till the treacherous pen, to which he confided the secret, Strove to betray it, by singing and shouting the name of Priscilla ! Finally closing his book, with a bang of the ponderous cover, Sudden and loud as the sound of a soldier grounding his musket, Thus to the young man spake Miles Standish the Captain of Plymouth : “When you have finished your work, I have something important to
tell you. Be not however in haste; I can wait; I shall not be impatient!” Straightway Alden replied, as he folded the last of his letters, Pushing his papers aside, and giving respectful attention : “ Speak; for whenever you speak, I am always ready to listen, Always ready to hear whatever pertains to Miles Standish.” Thereupon answered the Captain, embarrassed, and culling his phrases : “'Tis not good for a man to be alone, say the Scriptures. This I have said before, and again and again I repeat it; Every hour in the day, I think it, and feel it, and say it. Since Rose Standish died, my life has been weary and dreary; Sick at heart have I been, beyond the healing of friendship. Oft in my lonely hours have I thought of the maiden Priscilla. She is alone in the world; her father and mother and brother Died in the winter together; I saw her going and coming, Now to the grave of the dead, and now to the bed of the dying, Patient, courageous, and strong, and said to myself, that if ever There were angels on earth, as there are angels in heaven, Two have I seen and known; and the angel whose name is Priscilla Holds in my desolate life the place which the other abandoned. Long have I cherished the thought, but never have dared to reveal it, Being a coward in this, though valiant enough for the most part. Go to the damsel Priscilla, the loveliest maiden of Plymouth, Say that a blunt old Captain, a man not of words but of actions, Offers his hand and his heart, the hand and the heart of a soldier. Not in these words, you know, but this in short is my meaning; I am a maker of war, and not a maker of phrases. You, who are bred as a scholar, can say it in elegant language, Such as you read in your books of the pleadings and wooings of lovers, Such as you think best adapted to win the heart of a maiden."
When he had spoken, John Alden, the fair-haired, taciturn stripling, All aghast at his words, surprised, embarrassed, bewildered,
Trying to mask his dismay by treating the subject with lightness,
THE LOVER'S ERRAND.
So the strong will prevailed, and Alden went on his errand,