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But in the midst of his anger a man appeared at

the doorway, Bringing in uttermost haste a message of urgent

importance, Rumors of danger and war and hostile incursions

of Indians! Straightway the Captain paused, and, without

further question or parley, Took from the nail on the wall his sword with its

scabbard of iron, Buckled the belt round his waist, and, frowning

fiercely, departed. Alden was left alone. He heard the clank of the

scabbard Growing fainter and fainter, and dying away in

the distance. Then he arose from his seat, and looked forth into

the darkness, Felt the cool air blow on his cheek, that was hot

with the insult, Lifted his eyes to the heavens, and, folding his

hands as in childhood, Prayed in the silence of night to the Father who Meanwhile the choleric Captain strode wrathful

seeth in secret.

away to the council, Found it already assembled, impatiently waiting

his coming; Men in the middle of life, austere and grave in de

portment, Only one of them old, the hill that was nearest to

heaven, Covered with snow, but erect, the excellent Elder

of Plymouth. God had sifted three kingdoms to find the wheat

for this planting, Then had sifted the wheat, as the living seed of a

nation; So say the chronicles old, and such is the faith of

the people! Near them was standing an Indian, in attitude

stern and defiant, Naked down to the waist, and grim and fero

cious in aspect; While on the table before them was lying un

opened a Bible, Ponderous, bound in leather, brass-studded, printed

in Holland, And beside it, outstretched, the skin of a rattle

snake glittered,

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Filled, like a quiver, with arrows; a signal and

challenge of warfare, Brought by the Indian, and speaking with arrowy

tongues of defiance. This Miles Standish beheld, as he entered, and

heard them debating

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What were an answer befitting the hostile mes

sage and menace, Talking of this and of that, contriving, suggest

ing, objecting; One voice only for peace, and that the voice of the


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Judging it wise and well that some at least were

converted, Rather than any were slain, for this was but Chris

tian behavior! Then outspake Miles Standish, the stalwart Cap

tain of Plymouth, Muttering deep in his throat, for his voice was

husky with anger, “What! do you mean to make war with milk and

the water of roses? Is it to shoot red squirrels you have your howitzer

planted There on the roof of the church, or is it to shoot

red devils? Truly the only tongue that is understood by a

savage Must be the tongue of fire that speaks from the

mouth of the cannon!" Thereupon answered and said the excellent Elder

of Plymouth, Somewhat amazed and alarmed at this irreverent

“Not so thought Saint Paul, nor yet the other

Not from the cannon's mouth were the tongues of

fire they spake with !”

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But unheeded fell this mild rebuke on the Captain, Who had advanced to the table, and thus contin

ued discoursing : "Leave this matter to me, for to me by right it

pertaineth. War is a terrible trade; but in the cause that is

righteous, Sweet is the smell of powder; and thus I answer

the challenge!"

Then from the rattlesnake's skin, with a sudden,

contemptuous gesture, Jerking the Indian arrows, he filled it with powder

and bullets Full to the very jaws, and handed it back to the

savage, Saying, in thundering tones : “Here, take it! this

is your answer !" Silently out of the room then glided the glistening

savage, Bearing the serpent's skin, and seeming himself

like a serpent, Winding his sinuous way in the dark to the depths

of the forest.

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