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III.

THE LOVER'S ERRAND.

So the strong will prevailed, and Alden went

on his errand, Out of the street of the village, and into the

paths of the forest, Into the tranquil woods, where blue-birds and

robins were building Towns in the populous trees, with hanging

gardens of verdure, Peaceful, aerial cities of joy and affection and

freedom. All around him was calm, but within him com

motion and conflict,

Love contending with friendship, and self with

each generous impulse. To and fro in his breast his thoughts were

heaving and dashing, As in a foundering ship, with every roll of the

vessel, Washes the bitter sea, the merciless surge of

the ocean ! “ Must I relinquish it all,” he cried with a wild

lamentation, “ Must I relinquish it all, the joy, the hope, the

illusion ? Was it for this I have loved, and waited, and

worshipped in silence ? Was it for this I have followed the flying feet

and the shadow Over the wintry sea, to the desolate shores of

New England ? Truly the heart is deceitful, and out of its

depths of corruption

Rise, like an exhalation, the misty phantoms of

passion; Angels of light they seem, but are only delu

sions of Satan. All is clear to me now; I feel it, I see it dis

tinctly! This is the hand of the Lord; it is laid upon

me in anger, For I have followed too much the heart's de

sires and devices, Worshipping Astaroth blindly, and impious

idols of Baal.

This is the cross I must bear; the sin and the

swift retribution."

So through the Plymouth woods John Alden

went on his errand; Crossing the brook at the ford, where it brawled

over pebble and shallow, Gathering still, as he went, the May-flowers

blooming around him,

Fragrant, filling the air with a strange and

wonderful sweetness, Children lost in the woods, and covered with

leaves in their slumber. “Puritan flowers,” he said, " and the type of

Puritan maidens, Modest and simple and sweet, the very type

of Priscilla! So I will take them to her; to Priscilla the

May-flower of Plymouth, Modest and simple and sweet, as a parting

gift will I take them; Breathing their silent farewells, as they fade

and wither and perish, Soon to be thrown away as is the heart of the

giver.” So through the Plymouth woods Jolin Alden

went on his errand; Came to an open space, and saw the disk of

the ocean,

Sailless, sombre and cold with the comfortless

breath of the east-wind; Saw the new-built house, and people at work

in a meadow; Heard, as he drew near the door, the musical

voice of Priscilla Singing the hundredth Psalm, the grand old

Puritan anthem, Music that Luther sang to the sacred words of

the Psalmist, Full of the breath of the Lord, consoling and

comforting many. Then, as he opened the door, he beheld the

form of the maiden

Seated beside her wheel, and the carded wool

like a snow-drift Piled at her knee, her white hands feeding the

ravenous spindle, While with her foot on the treadle she guided

the wheel in its motion.

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