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Joined in the morning prayer, and in the reading of Scripture,
And, with the others, in haste went hurrying down to the sea-shore,
Down to the Plymouth Rock, that had been to their feet as a door-step
Into a world unknown,—the corner-stone of a nation!
There with his boat was the Master, already a little impatient
Lest he should lose the tide, or the wind might shift to the eastward,
Nearer the boat stood Alden, with one foot placed on the gunwale,
One still firm on the rock, and talking at times with the sailors,
Seated erect on the thwarts, all ready and eager for starting.
He, too, was eager to go, and thus put an end to his anguish,
Thinking to fly from despair, that swifter than keel is or canvas, Thinking to drown in the sea the ghost that would rise and pursue him.
But as he gazed on the crowd, he beheld the form of Priscilla
Standing dejected among them, unconscious of all that was passing. Fixed were her eyes upon his, as if she divined his intention,
Fixed with a look so sad, so reproachful, imploring and patient,
That with a sudden revulsion his heart recoiled from its purpose,
As from the verge of a crag, where one step more is destruction.
Strange is the heart of man, with its quick, mysterious instincts !
Strange is the life of man, and fatal or fated are moments,
Whereupon turn, as on hinges, the gates of the wall adamantine!
"Here I remain!” he exclaimed, as he looked at the heavens above him,
Thanking the Lord whose breath had scattered the mist and the madness, Wherein, blind and lost, to death he was staggering headlong.
“Yonder snow-white cloud, that floats in the ether above me,
Seems like a hand that is pointing and beckoning over the ocean.
Holding me, drawing me back, and clasping mine for protection.
Either your warning or menace, or any omen of evil!
As is the air she breathes, and the soil that is pressed by her footsteps.
Here for her sake will I stay, and like an invisible presence
Hover around her for ever, protecting, supporting her weakness ;
Meanwhile the Master alert, but with dignified air and important,
Scanning with watchful eye the tide and the wind and the weather,
Walked about on the sands; and the people crowded around him
Saying a few last words, and enforcing his careful remembrance.
Glad in his heart to get rid of all this worry and flurry,
Glad to be gone from a land of sand and sickness and sorrow,
Short allowance of victual, and plenty of nothing but Gospel !
Lost in the sound of the oars was the last farewell of the Pilgrims.
O strong hearts and true! not one went back in the Mayflower!
No, not one looked back, who had set his hand to this plowing!
Soon were heard on board the shouts and songs of the sailors Heaving the windlass round, and hoisting the ponderous anchor. Then the yards were braced, and all sails set to the west wind, Blowing steady and strong; and the Mayflower sailed from the harbor, Rounded the point of the Gurnet, and leaving far to the southward Island and cape of sand, and the Field of the First Encounter, Took the wind on her quarter, and stood for the open Atlantic, Borne on the send of the sea, and the swelling hearts of the Pilgrims.