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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,
865 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 “ 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 cutting 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 maiden,
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 body.
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; 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