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Suddenly you are transformed, are visibly
changed in a moment; You are no longer Priscilla, but Bertha the
Beautiful Spinner." Here the light foot on the treadle grew swifter
and swifter; the spindle Uttered an angry snarl, and the thread snapped
short in her fingers; While the impetuous speaker, not heeding the
mischief, continued: "You are the beautiful Bertha, the spinner,
the queen of Helvetia; She whose story I read at a stall in the streets
of Southampton, Who, as she rode on her palfrey, o'er valley
and meadow and mountain, Ever was spinning her thread from a distaff
fixed to her saddle. She was so thrifty and good, that her name
passed into a proverb.
So shall it be with your own, when the spinning-wheel shall no longer
Hum in the house of the farmer, and fill its chambers with music.
Then shall the mothers, reproving, relate how it was in their childhood,
Praising the good old times, and the days of Priscilla the spinner!"
Straight uprose from her wheel the beautiful Puritan maiden,
Pleased with the praise of her thrift from him whose praise was the sweetest,
Drew from the reel on the table a snowy skein of her spinning,
Thus making answer, meanwhile, to the flattering phrases of Alden:
"Come, you must not be idle; if I am a pattern for housewives,
Show yourself equally worthy of being the
model of husbands.
Hold this skein on your hands, while I wind it, ready for knitting;
Then who knows but hereafter, when fashions have changed and the manners,
Fathers may talk to their sons of the good old times of John Alden!"
Thus, with a jest and a laugh, the skein on his hands she adjusted,
He sitting awkwardly there, with his arms extended before him,
She standing graceful, erect, and winding the thread from his fingers,
Sometimes chiding a little his clumsy manner of holding,
Sometimes touching his hands, as she disentangled expertly
Twist or knot in the yarn, unawares — for how could she help it ? —
Sending electrical thrills through every nerve in his body.
Lo! in the midst of this scene, a breathless messenger entered,
Bringing in hurry and heat the terrible news from the village*
Yes; Miles Standish was dead ! — an Indian had brought them the tidings, —
Slain by a poisoned arrow, shot down in the front of the battle,
Into an ambush beguiled, cut off with the whole of his forces;
All the town would be burned, and all the people be murdered!
Such were the tidings of evil that burst on the hearts of the hearers.
Silent and statue-like stood Priscilla, her face looking backward
Still at the face of the speaker, her arms uplifted in horror;
But John Alden, upstarting, as if the barb of the arrow
Piercing the heart of his friend had struck his
own, and had sundered Once and for ever the bonds that held him
bound as a captive, Wild with excess of sensation, the awful delight
of his freedom, Mingled with pain and regret, unconscious of
what he was doing, Clasped, almost with a groan, the motionless
form of Priscilla, Pressing her close to his heart, as for ever his
own, and exclaiming: "Those whom the Lord hath united, let no
man put them asunder!"
Even as rivulets twain, from distant and
separate sources, Seeing each other afar, as they leap from the
rocks, and pursuing Each one its devious path, but drawing nearer