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Ever of her he thought, when he read in his Bible on

Sunday Praise of the virtuous woman, as she is described in

the Proverbs, How the heart of her husband doth safely trust in her

always, How all the days of her life she will do him good, and not evil,

860 How she seeketh the wool and the flax and worketh

with gladness, How she layeth her hand to the spindle and holdeth

the distaff, How she is not afraid of the snow for herself or her

household, Knowing her household are clothed with the scarlet

cloth of her weaving!


So as she sat at her wheel one afternoon in the

Autumn, Alden, who opposite sat, and was watching her dexter

ous fingers, As if the thread she was spinning were that of his life

and his fortune,

858 Look up Proverbs xxxi. 10–28.

867 Thread: the old legend was that the three Fates spun out the thread of each one's life and cut it off where they pleased. A very


After a pause in their talk, thus spake to the sound of

the spindle. “ Truly, Priscilla,” he said, “when I see you spinning

and spinning, Never idle a moment, but thrifty and thoughtful of others,

870 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 :

875 6 You are the beautiful Bertha, the spinner, the queen

of Helvetia; She whose story I read at a stall in the streets of


famous picture represents the three Fates, Clótho spinning, Láchesis drawing out the thread, and Átropos ing it off.

876 Helvetia : southern Burgundy, which used to include a part of Switzerland. Bertha was the wife of Rudolph II of Burgundy, and was famous for her domestic virtues. On the monuments of the time she is represented spinning.

877 Southampton: locate on the map.


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



879 Spinning: the primitive method of spinning, which may be seen to-day in Greece, as Homer described it, is as follows: a bunch of wool is stuck on a short staff called the distaff. Then there is a small rod or stick with a notch in it and slightly weighted. A tuft of wool is fastened in this notch, and the weight of the stick or spindle hanging down serves to draw out the tuft so that the fingers by running up and down it can twist it into a uniform thread of yarn. When the thread becomes too long, it is wound up on the spindle and the process continues.

881-884 The inventions which took spinning out of the homes into the factories were patented from 1770–1775. Would John Alden. have been likely to make such a prophecy?

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.

890 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,

895 She standing graceful, erect, and winding the thread

from his fingers, Sometimes chiding a little his clumsy manner of hold

ing, Sometimes touching his hands, as she disentangled


Twist or knot in the yarn, unawares for how could

she help it ? Sending electrical thrills through every nerve in his



Lo! in the midst of this scene, a breathless messen

ger 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;

905 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 ar



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