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Let there be nothing between us save war, and implacable hatred!”
So spake the Captain of Plymouth, and strode about in the chamber,
Chafing and choking with rage; like cords were the
veins on his temples. 425
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, 430
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 check, that was hot with the insult, 435
Lifted his eyes to the heavens, and, folding his hands as in childhood,
Prayed in the silence of night to the Father who seeth in secret.
Meanwhile the choleric Captain strode wrathful away to the council, Found it already assembled, impatiently waiting his
Men in the middle of life, austere and grave in deportment, 440
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,
437 Look up Matthew vi. 4.
442 Elder of Plymouth: this was William Brewster. The church had an Elder for teaching and another, called the ruling Elder. Brewster was the teaching Elder, that is, the pastor of the church.
“8 Sifted three kingdoms: the people of the dissenting churches of England, France, and Holland had been fear-fully persecuted for their religion. Only those of the utmost courage and endurance remained true to their faith. When these refugees met in Holland, the common refuge, they formed practically one church. In Winslow’s narration, page 395, it is stated: “For the truth is the Dutch and French churches, either of them being a people distinct from the world and gathered into a Holy Communion and not national churches— nay, so far from it as I verily believe the sixth person is not of the church—the difference is so small, if moderately pondered, between them and us, as we dare not for the world deny communion with them.”
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 ! 445
Near them was standing an Indian, in attitude stern and defiant,
Naked down to the waist, and grim and ferocious in aspect;
While on the table before them was lying unopened a Bible,
Ponderous, bound in leather, brass-studded, printed in
Holland, And beside it outstretched the skin of arattlesnake glittered, 45o Filled, like a quiver, with arrows : a signal and challenge of warfare,
444 Sifted the wheat: these people were again sifted out in Holland, only the most zealous electing to go to America.
443 Bible: what did they intend to do with the Bible? The Pilgrims used the old Geneva Bible long after King James' Version was printed in 1611. What Version do we use?
Brought by the Indian, and speaking with arrowy tongues of defiance.
This Miles Standish beheld, as he entered, and heard them debating
What were an answer befitting the hostile message and menace,
Talking of this and of that, contriving, suggesting, objecting ; 455
One voice only for peace, and that the voice of the Elder,
Judging it wise and well that some at least were converted,
Rather than any were slain, for this was but Christian behavior!
Then out spake Miles Standish, the stalwart Captain of Plymouth,
Muttering deep in his throat, for his voice was husky with anger, 460
“ 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!” 465
Thereupon answered and said the excellent elder of Plymouth,
Somewhat amazed and alarmed at this irreverent language:
“Not so thought Saint Paul, nor yet the other Apostles;
Not from the cannon’s month were the tongues of fire they spake with ! ”
But unheeded fell this mild rebuke on the Captain, 47::
Who had advanced to the table, and thus continued
“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, 475 Jerking the Indian arrows, he filled it with powder and bullets Full to the very jaws, and handed it back to thffiv savage,