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We've moved onto the “burning, glowing beauty” of New England summers as Chapter 7 opens, and Content and her brother Timothy have taken their chores to the open air. However, in Timothy's case, he's performing imaginary chores. Instead of playing with Transformers, or some other bizarre nonsense of the post-millenial here and now, Timothy is shoeing an imaginary horse. As the narrator reminds us, even that type of idle playacting is borderline degenerate. Silly Timothy! Don't you know only girls are supposed to imagine being useful? Pardon me while I shoot some sense into you with my imaginary ray gun. Pew pew pew.

Anyway, my grandmother always said there's nothing quite as entertaining as watching kids play, and apparently Content agrees.

The imaginary horse was a restless brute, and Timothy, planting his short legs well apart, braced himself for the arduous task of keeping him quiet with one hand, while he heated his implements with the other.

“Whoa, whoa! Have a care with thy hind feet,” he exhorted ; “'tis for thy good, I tell thee. Softly, now!”

“It is the flies that makes him restless this hot day,” said Content, smiling.

“If thou wouldst but wave this branch to keep them off, the job would be an easier one,” said Timothy, promptly taking advantage of her awakened interest, — it was not too often that his elders joined in his plays, — and he handed her a little twig, which she waved once or twice in indolent acquiescence.

“Now, stand!” he went on resolutely, while he heated a bit of stick upon a convenient boulder. “Nay, toss not thy head and neigh!—the iron is well-nigh hot. Thou shalt pay me well, neighbor,” he continued to the horse's owner, who stood not far from them, in what must have been a negligent attitude, since he took no pains to control his animal, “an thou teach him not to stand better.”

“He hath a fine black mane and tail,” said Content, admiringly. Timothy paused long enough to cast a judicial glance into space.

“Well enough, well enough,” he admitted grudgingly; “but 'tis a horse's hoofs that I think the most on,” and he dropped the bridle, and struck mighty blows upon his primitive anvil. There was no sound under the trees, save the murmur of insects, and now and then a shout, tempered by distance, from the nearest haying field there was no sight but grass and trees, and the child of serious deportment, and the fair young girl with smiling lips, waving, at careless intervals, a leafy twig; but, in the blessed light of imagination, there was active, stirring excitement, satisfying labor, and deserved success. Horse, neighbor, hammer, anvil, bridle, and forge were visible enough to the participants, yet the only bit of realism was the hot air that brooded over the earth, and might have been breathed forth from the open door of a veritable furnace.

“Is thy horse not shod yet, sweetheart?” asked Content, dropping the twig, and rising to her feet; “or shall I frighten him with this wave of my white apron?” and she shook some bits of thread from her dress. “Methinks I can minister no longer to his comfort and thy convenience.” (pp. 126-8)

As she says this, who should show up but Degory Copton (yes, Degory...and no I've never seen that name in the wild, either), who is very happy to offer Timothy tips in imaginary horsemanship. Since it looks it's clabberin' up for rain, Content asks Copton if he thinks she can make it to Salome's before the bottom falls out. Well, she actually says “Shall I go hence to Mistress Salome's without a wetting?” but I wouldn't dare lay a line like that on you without a little advance work. “'By the feel of the air, and the looks of such things as be visible, I think there be things invisible at hand,' he remarked with the obscurity of the prophet. 'An you want my advice, Mistress Content, you will bide, and leave Mistress Salome alone till another day.'” But no, she's just not seeing it his way, so away she scoots, but not before Copton puts a tale of vague portents in her head.

“I am telling thee about the ship, Master Blacksmith,” said Copton, undisturbed by criticism, “a ship that was sent out by our neighbors of New Haven Colony — and when I tell thee they sent it out, be sure all things were done with an eye on Holy Writ even to the tassels of the tabernacle.”

“The tabernacle of the Most High,” observed Timothy, with the utmost gravity of comment.

“Even so. She set sail in January, as they tell me, in the bitter cold — and cold is cold on a ship's deck, with seventy souls aboard; and since then nor word nor message has come from her to those who sent her forth, until —” Copton paused. The girl's eyes were fixed on his face with startled attention; Timothy was lending his ears with critical seriousness; a light-minded grasshopper chirped loudly at their feet.

“Until?” repeated Content.

“Until last month, — a warm day in June, — when those who were looking saw her coming up New Haven harbor, with one officer aboard. No sailors to cast the anchor, or reef the sails, nor yet no passengers to wave a greeting nor,” his voice dropped a tone lower, “a farewell; no man at the helm, and yet she sailed steadily into the harbor with one officer on her deck.” Content moved a little restlessly, the monotony of the recital jarred on her nerves. “And the officer was leaning on his sword, and gave no word of command, only, they do say, as saw, that he looked heavily, as one in sorrow, towards the shore. And then, in sight of them all, she sank,— sank as though she was gripped fast from beneath, and the water went over her, and the harbor was empty as before.”

“And what of the seventy souls?” inquired Timothy.

Copton looked over to the horizon, and back again to Timothy.

“Them as careth for souls, be it for good or bad,” he answered, “they be the ones that know.”

Content stood upon her feet, and picking up her sunbonnet put it on her head.

“I like not tales of phantom ships,” she said. (pp. 131-2)

Too late for that, sweetie. Now that you've heard that story, you can't unhear it. Timothy, of course, ate that stuff up with a spoon, but Content really had to scoot down the road now. And sure enough, the clouds started gathering once she was on the familiar path, which really helped Copton's tale get inside her head. “She was lightly dressed; she felt singularly frail and alone; and the clouds held vague threats of destruction.”

The gale blew up so quickly that she almost didn't notice Stukely, the wayward cavalier, coming in the other direction. When he spotted her, he managed the same courtly shtick that he laid on her on the day at the meeting-house, only not so much, since his frippery and finery was getting tossed about by the inclement weather. Alack! My dainty velvet is squashed like a field of wheat in the wake of advancing French forces... Soon they find themselves in Salome's house. She's singing a familiar air at the spinning wheel...well, familiar to Stukely, anyway, who begins to sing along as the room grows darker, lit by vivid flashes of lightning. Well, that can't be good.

Salome knows the young man—she knows everybody, of course—and gives Content (and us) a proper introduction: “'Mistress Content Cradock, let me present to thee young Mr. Cyprian Stukely,' said Salome, with a change to her grand manner, which, with all its dignity, seldom lost entirely a tinge of irony, 'late of our mother country beyond seas, now testing the slender resources of those her children who have been cast out to seek otherwheres their bed and board.'” Cyprian. Woof. The name sounds like a medication you put on bug bites.

Stukley, thus presented, wastes no time laying on the charm with a trowel until Salome reminds him how well idle flattery goes over in Puritanland. Content, reminded of what turned her off about his tone the last time they met, isn't taking any lip today, but as we'll see, the needler is about to get the needle.

“I stand reproved,” he said with a gesture of affected humility. “This is not the place, I see, to shout the praises of thy country and mine. It becomes not the stranger to cherish allegiance to the sovereign to whom thy rulers also owe fealty!” Content listened with kindling eyes. Her antagonism to this young trifler revived with new force. She recalled her last meeting with him; and the man who had been her companion then seemed the more earnest and the more purposeful by contrast.

“And thou wouldst have us lift up our voices to lament that the measure they meted to us hath been meted to them again?” she demanded, her voice raised that it might be heard above the sound of the noisy rain. “And that the strong hand hath curbed the passionate strokes of oppression?”

“And thou, too, fair mistress!” exclaimed Stukely, turning towards her, while Salome watched her with the smile a mother yields the precociousness of her child. “What can a man do but strike his colors in the presence of such odds? But verily this is an iron country! I expected not to hear the sweet lips of its daughters uttering approval of murder.”

“I approve no murder,” asserted Content, her cheeks flushing crimson. “I would Charles Stuart were alive again; but I see not that God hath made one law for the oppressed and yet another for the oppressor.”

“The sweet lips of the daughters of New England are seldom found without an answer, Master Stukely,” observed Salome, dryly. “It is well for thee to remember that there be here few voices without signification.'

“Small wonder,” he answered with deliberate utterance, “that there be some who, affrighted by the rigors of argument falling from a woman's lips, however fair, seek peace where soft voices raise not the cry of rebellion.”

The room was nearly dark, for the tempest was at its height, and the silence that ensued was shattered by a crash of thunder. Content turned, half in affright, towards Salome, and the superb disdain in her white face, startlingly visible in the shadow, banished her own apprehension with a shock of surprise. It was as if she had not even heard the thunder; her shining eyes were fixed on Stukely, whose own eyes showed anger, though his lips kept their careless smile.

“Yes, it is well,” she said slowly, as the thunder died away; “we have no place for cowards here.”

Content saw that there was a feeling on the part of the speaker that the words did not express, and the moment that followed seemed to her tense with something beside the power of the storm.

“Did you think I was afraid?” she asked Salome, half laughing, as much to break the silence as to defend herself. “Truly I think I was not altogether free from a touch of apprehension that the thunder would knock the house about our ears. But, believe me, I am not altogether a coward, though I start at such a commotion of the elements.” (pp.140-2)

At this point, Stukely turns back to flattery and their first meeting in Salem at the address of Roger Williams. Content is floored when he says that in spite of his smug, glib appearance, he respects Williams as a “man of power,” even if he doesn't agree with the ends he's pursuing. Softening under this new approach, Content observes that Williams was counting on the confusion around the Winthrop funeral to cover his tracks, combined with the colony's abiding mutual friendship borne from shared hardship and suffering. Well, except for that Anne Hathaway woman. But hush, we don't talk about her.

And that's where Stukely attempts what for him is a subtle masterstroke: “Yet it is but as an outsider that I can see the truth, alas! for it is but a meagre measure that one like myself is allowed to find!” Oh, woe, to be a lone and lonely figure in this new land! Oh, woe! Oh, alas! Oh say, who was that guy I saw you with that day in Salem? Was he your brother or something? Oh, Cyprian... (snicker...Cyprian)

The color grew a little deeper in Content's warm cheeks.

“He is not my brother,” she replied; “but young Mr. Archer of Providence, now gone to England at the behest of Mr. Williams and others.”

“Ah! if he be not your brother,” said Stukely, lightly, “then I may say that methought there was a certain truculency in his bearing that would single him out as a man meet for dealing with those who hold themselves his superiors, now in England.”

The implied criticism vexed her; but there was not the same freedom in defending Archer that there was in the case of more conspicuous men. Moreover, there had been a hint of implication in the transition from friendship on general grounds to the particular case of young Mr. Archer which had not escaped her.

“He hath been Mr. Williams' companion in adversity, as well as in such prosperity as hath been his,” she observed, while her thoughts reverted to Archer's enthusiasm with a flash of sympathy.

“And well might there be something assuming in the bearing of a stern young councillor weighted with cares of state, to the careless eyes of one who would push such heavy matters aside with a foot prone to easier paths," said Stukely, his handsome eyes seeking hers, “even had he not the added responsibility of guarding safely through the perils of Salem so precious a companion.”

The ironical tone did not please Content, though there was a scarcely disguised envy audible through the last words that it is not in the heart of woman altogether to withstand.

“There is one fashion, Mistress Salome,” she said, turning from him to their hostess, “that Mr. Stukely hath not yet caught from us of New England.”

“There is more than one," answered Salome; “but what is it that is evident to thy special observation?”

“He talks of perils where there be none; we have had them without our doors too many times to see them in the midst of safety.”

Stukely's dark cheek flushed; and for an instant the studied indifference of his manner gave way under the sting of the gently spoken words.

“Methinks it hath not been the part of Cyprian Stukely to shrink from perils, seen or unseen,” he said hotly. “But,” he added a second later, with a return to his usual manner which cost him some effort, “I should not be unwilling to dream of them if, by so doing I might win the privilege of guarding Mistress Cradock against them in any path she may choose.”

Perhaps neither of the women liked him the less for his momentary loss of temper. (pp. 146-9)

And gee, the sun is breaking through outside! Can't be symbolic, oh nooooo. Maybe if a bird landed on her shoulder with a gift certificate to Outback Steakhouse tied to its leg, I'd change my mind.

Stukely offers to walk her home, but after Salome drops a king's-corpse-sized hint that she and Content have business to attend to, he leaves well enough alone. After he's gone, the two women discuss him a bit more freely. The main question, of course, is “Who and what is he?” Who he is, Salome informs Content, is a “young English gallant” who doesn't have much use for (or in) a country without a king, but would put his life on the line on its behalf just out of habit. As for what he is, she continues, at this point he probably doesn't know either. He's a cavalier who's lost his cav, so he's got nothin' but leer.

Content brings up the ghost ship of Copton's story, which has been buzzing around in her head like a nest of hornets. “Was it a real ship — or was it —but — a — vision?” “It must be a wiser one than I to tell you whereabouts in the real a vision begins. And how should I know? Thinkest thou I saw it?” Content had never broached the subject that brought her to Salome that day—she was worried about Archer—but this reply was noncommittal enough to put her mind at rest for Archer's fate as Salome went back to her spinning and her singing:

" ' Go, Love, go! for Love is unkind.'
But Love came again,
With the rush of the rain,
On the breath of the wind."

And with the subtlety of a sledgehammer comes the cue that the central triangle is finally established. Will Content Cradock end up with the earnest, hard-working man of the people? Or the smarmy flatterer with the lace doily around his neck? Place your bets, please...

Next: Still no Archer, but plenty of slings and arrows. Cyprian. Buahahahahahahaha!

Even a year after the launch of this project, the posts about Mór Jókai's A Hungarian Nabob are still very popular...or at least as popular as anything I've put on here since. In honor of the primacy of place he holds in the legend of The 1899 Project, I have T-shirts.

(Preview image in lower quality.)

That's right, it's a handsome photographic portrait of Jókai himself (Hungarian statesman, novelist, poet, painter, and sculptor) paired with one of my trademark atrocious puns. How can you possibly go wrong? Or rather, how can you possibly go wronger? It's definitely a conversation starter, especially if you don't hang out with world literature majors. Regardless, if this looks like something you'd like on your shirt, coffee mug, or mousepad, follow the link to my CafePress shop. Who knows? We might start a trend!

Oh, and before any natives ask, I used the Western name order because that's the only way my lame pun would work. Cheers!

We're back in Salome's house as we begin Chapter 6, and still she insists on that brazen self-expression that we've gradually become accustomed to. This time, the narrator picks out a splash of gold (Consteration! Uproar!) joining the ends of her “crimson, crape-like scarf,” and her dress was a “rich, lustrous material.” This is a puzzler, since we've been convinced that the Bay Puritans' idea of “rich and lustrous” is about as on the money as the concept of “decadence” in a Diet Dr. Pepper ad, but never you mind, because she hears a sound on the water. Company's coming.

“Welcome,” she uttered the word in her low voice whose carrying quality seemed to bear the word into the darkness further than the firelight could penetrate. Still there was no one to be seen, but the sound of steps had grown more distinctly audible. She did not speak again, and in a few moments the figure of a man drew near out of the darkness, and Williams stepped into the contracted circle of light.

“I thank thee,” he said, as with almost foreign courtesy, he bent before her. “I draw near in the darkness and the mystery befitting an exiled man, and I find an open door and a glowing hearthstone, and a welcome that waits not for my challenge. I thank thee again, Mistress Salome.” As he entered the house and closed the door behind his hostess and himself, the marks of weariness were on his face, and he moved like one who is travel-worn and would be glad of rest. In silence Salome went about with an air that with all its dignity spoke the pleasure of serving an honored guest. She placed the highbacked chair far enough from the fire to feel its generosity without being oppressed by it, and set a silver tankard of ale upon a rough stand, the product of Copton's ingenuity.

The gleam of the rich plate banished the poverty of its surroundings, and imparted a hint of magnificence to Williams' reception. When all was finished, and Salome seated herself at the other side of the fireplace, and, still silent, turned her queenly head towards him, the two figures completed the impression of distinction.

“Still chary of thy words, Mistress Salome?” said the man, smiling.

“Not if need call for them,” she answered ; “but a weary man should have breathing space unhampered by giving change for the silver of speech.”

“Not all thy sex have thy tolerance — as I have found in other matters as well,” he said, still smiling.

“And have all thine?” she demanded swiftly.

“Nay, verily,” he admitted, “I am not able to claim that for the sons of men.”

“Then spare their daughters,” she admonished.

“The oppressor may well spare when the besieged city hath such defenders,” he said dryly. “It is well for us that we are not always kept beyond their tender mercies.” (pp. 103-5)

Well, this is downright cordial for Salome, but there's a good reason for that. The topic shifts to the meeting in Salem, which Simone intuits from twenty years of acquaintance with Williams didn't go well at all, because his “prophecy was contention.” That cuts Williams to the quick, “You believe that it is the love of bickering and strife that leads me forth from the congregations of men? That my very soul yearned not after those my people; that I would not fain have bound myself to them with the bond of peace?” Then, sadly, “God knoweth my heart loveth them too well to love their errors. It is a burden that He hath laid upon me, and at times it presseth hardly upon weary shoulders.”

Well, Williams even got to Salome, who, confronted with this, lays a hand on his arm and words of kindness on his ear. She's all scrutable now, and suddenly there's no telling where this scene will go. She asks about Williams' wife and children and how his colony in Providence is coming along, and for awhile both their spirits lift, but then things take a turn.

“Would that Mistress Hutchinson had tarried there!”

“Ay, would that she had!” he answered sadly. “There are nights of silence, when the remembrance of the bloody end of that woman of great gifts and of marvellous grace of carriage weighs my spirit down, and I lie awake in a shuddering rebelliousness against the divine decree that let her go forth but to perish.”

The brutally short version, if your history teacher never got around to it: Anne Hutchinson, who was banished for the heresy of coming up with and teaching her own interpretations of scriptures, co-founded Rhode Island with Williams, but after her husband's death, she and her followers to New Netherland (now the Bronx). Unfortunately, she and her followers got caught in the middle of a sporadic but persistent war between the Dutch and the native tribes and met one of those tragically violent ends you've heard so much about from this period of history It's also worth mentioning that during her heresy trial, the powers that be relentlessly mocked her stress-induced miscarriage as God's punishment for falling from grace. If you want a quick trip through what Williams was reacting to, you couldn't do any better than Hutchinson's story.

Anyway, the mention of Hutchinson breaks Salome's aloof veneer.

“And what think you of my nights of silence!” demanded Salome, her eyes kindling with a deep radiance, as she rose suddenly and stood before him. “Then there come to my ears the cries of the lonely household, though there be no wind abroad ! Then I see Anne Hutchinson as I saw her first, sitting under the preaching of the Reverend Mr. Cotton, her face alight with the grace that of a truth dwelt within; or, later, ministering to a sick and dismayed girl whose courage and whose life seemed slipping away together! — and then, I catch a vision of her fleeing from the hand of murderers — and fleeing in vain!” Her usually impassive voice trembled, and she threw her arm up against the side of the chimney-place and rested her head there an instant before she continued, “And the girl whom she brought back from the gates of death was not there to help —”

“Nor to perish with her,” interpolated her hearer, gently, “thank God!”

“To perish with her then — nor any hand to minister to her, dying, as she ministered to me and others like me, when death seemed at hand and was not! Small wonder,” she added, “that I see visions and dream dreams.”

Williams watched her closely, noting the heavy sadness that settled upon her features, usually so immobile in their regular beauty, and the fire that burned in her eyes. “And who sent her there? Those in authority. Authority! Authority!” she exclaimed passionately, “had we not enough of authority before we crossed the seas?” (pp. 107-10)

Williams gently implores her to come back to Providence, which brings back her icy composure. She presumes he's heard the rumors about her, since, as we've already observed, a woman who chose to live single and alone in this place and this time draws all sorts of bad attention. “Or have they more specific and graver charges? That I know strange properties of herb and root; that I have mysterious visitors? and that somehow,—good men and women know not how, — I have intelligences and revelations and — only soothsayers, witches and the like know what not?” Yes, the W word. And I don't mean “'s Deal of the Day.”

Salome insists that she isn't scared of that word (which is “witchcraft,” by the way, if you really need an answer key to my clever hints), but in the process of listening to her mocking assertions, Williams is disquieted that she recites almost verbatim the loose talk and comments that had made him fearful for her future in the first place. Again he returns to his Conscience Relocation Plan.

“Come back with me to Providence,” he repeated. “Mary, my wife, will give thee a warm welcome, and Mary Dyar —”

“Yes, and Mary Dyar —” said Salome, coming nearer, “her name hath been, unuttered, on my lips many times.”

“Will give thee room in her house, and thy wisdom will perhaps hold her back from imprudence, while thy tolerance will not strive to quench her spirit.”

“Mine is an ancient bond of friendship with Mary Dyar,” she said slowly. “I pray no harm come to one so dazzled by what she looks to as the light of morning.”

“Thou shalt lead her if she be further blinded.”

“Nay, nay,” and Salome shook her head; “I must stay here, it is here I have pitched my tent. And who knows," she went on, with her enigmatical smile, “but I might introduce further discord into the diversity of thy manifestations. If I should feel called upon to lift up my voice with my head uncovered, who knows but even the liberal founder of the colony might see cause for discipline.”

A frown flitted across Williams' expressive face, Salome watching it unmoved from her composure.

“'Judge in yourselves: is it becoming that a woman pray unto God uncovered?' says the great Apostle,” he answered with a shade of sternness.

“Yea, verily, and 'avoid contentions and strivings about the law, for they are unprofitable and vain,' says also the great Apostle. Were it not well to leave to each one his favorite interpretation?” she asked as if in passing curiosity. He started to his feet; but, before he could reply, the satirical voice went on, “And yet perhaps that scandal would be removed from me, for I might find no congregation to disturb. I hear your settlement is in itself something of a scandal among the colonies, inasmuch as it has as yet no meeting-house within its borders.”

Williams sank back into his chair.

"It is not always within four walls that a man communes best with his God," he said.

“And truly it were not possible to have four walls for each one of thy communions! Is Mary, thy wife, admitted now to thine?” the query fell from her calm lips with an indescribable accent. (pp. 112-4)

Williams bows his head as a man who feels like his last port in the storm has washed away. Since even Salome can tell when she takes something one step too far, she tries to reel some of it back in. But no, she's not packing up her kit and moving to Providence unless things get really frosty.

She also remembers to tell Williams that Reverend Killjoy—um, Glover—has picked up his scent, and he replies that he was planning to leave at dawn...alone, because Archer had by this time left for England. “We fear certain intrigues and mishaps for our infant colony possible under the new rule that obtaineth, and news that has come since I came hither demands the presence there of a trusty agent.”

So, a few final words and then goodbye.

Salome,” said Roger Williams, breaking the silence with his magnetic voice, “Archer has gone to England, and it may be that I shall be called there before we meet again, — if in the providence of God we ever meet again, — and if I am called, I go; manifold changes are in the air there, and may bring manifold changes here. And if I go, hast thou no message to send?”

Salome's features grew rigid, but she turned her dusky eyes upon the speaker.

“I have no message.”

“Not if it be for his soul's good?” he asked gently.

“His soul is not mine to benefit,” she answered, without a flicker of emotion; “neither do I greatly think it is his to be saved. He parted with it, methinks, fifteen years ago.”

“That is not for thee to say.”

“Let him say it who will, or leave it unsaid, I care not,” she said, indifferent to the reproof. “I have no message.”

“It may be he knew not the furrow that the ploughshare should cut when he turned back his hand.”

“He left the field for the house of feasting, and others have gotten the harvest.”

“It is no longer the house of feasting — remember that. For him and for such as he, there may be bitter mourning.”

“I go not beyond the hour of his choice.”

“You are hard, Salome.”

“Yes, I am hard.”

He rose to his feet and passed his hand over his forehead.

“My word is spoken,” he said, “and I go. Once more, hast thou no message?”

“Yes,” exclaimed Salome; “since thou hast come for it at much risk and small profit, I will send a word. Say to him,” — and she caught up a Bible from the table and rapidly turned its leaves, — “say to him this, ' Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them.'” (pp. 117-20)

That quote block, by the way, is dedicated to early adopter Matt, who, to my never-ending delight, is being broken by this type of writing much faster than he claimed I'd be. The fact that he can't get past his hatred of the intolerant Puritans being held up for centuries as the paragon of Americanism is just the cherry on the sundae. Eat it, bub. Choke it down! But I digress...

Anyway, those would've been the famous last words, except that Nishokou appears in the doorway with a warning that Rev. Glover is on his way down, looking for “the friend of the Indian.” Well, we can't have Williams and the seeker of heresies in the same room, so Salome instructs Nishokou to bring Glover down on a different path than Williams will be using for his escape. Her face settled back into its standard ice-cold configuration just in time for Glover's entrance...with a constable.

“You have a distinguished visitor to-night,” he said sternly.

“Yes,” said Salome, graciously moving aside that he might enter, “the Reverend Mr. Glover. Truly it is an honor that he seeks this humble roof again so soon, though not without the protection of the law, I perceive, lest there be spells in the air — ”

“Cease your jeers!” he commanded, while his keen eyes took in every corner of the room, which offered not the slightest chance of concealment.

“Where is yon rebel,” he demanded, turning to her, “who dares — ” and his words died upon his lips as he met her tranquil gaze. The superb dignity of her appearance silenced him like a hand laid suddenly upon his mouth. Was this the woman who lived alone and in unassuming poverty? Was he a pastor and a teacher armed with the majesty of ecclesiastical authority? The silken folds of her dress swept the rush-strewn floor as grandly as though they fell upon a marble pavement. The rich crimson of her drapery glowed in the changing reflections of the fire, and the gold of her girdle gleamed as she moved slightly, to face him more directly. His world trembled on its foundations; the daughter of Heth, cowering beneath the frown of one of the chosen household, had become a princess tolerating the presence of an unfriendly ambassador. New experiences seem longer than they are.

“Where is Roger Williams?” he asked hoarsely; while the constable quietly removed the physical power of the law outside the door, feeling that the crisis was diplomatic rather than active.

“He has gone,” replied Salome; “and you will not find him.”

“You are confident, Mistress Salome.”

“Yes, I am confident,” she assented, as calmly as a few moments earlier she had accepted another accusation.

He chafed against her tone; but he could not resist the influence that she carried with her, that influence that said that she knew where others could only guess. (pp. 121-2)

We're running a little bit long in this post, so here's how the rest of it goes: Salome and the Reverend engage in some back-and-forth recriminations, which works better on the Rev. than it does on the eerily placid Salome. She calmly invites Crackston, the constable, to step in, but apparently he's freaked out by how well she's taking all of this and decides to stay at the doorway, lest she turn him into a newt...whether he gets better or not. Having gotten nothing which he can use—except for the knowledge that Williams was there, but not any more—Glover exits with a melodramatic flourish: “'Behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you,”' muttered the Reverend Mr. Glover, as he stumbled hastily on in the darkness; 'serpents, cockatrices, — which will not be charmed, — and they shall bite you — they shall bite you, — saith the Lord!”'”

That almost felt like the end of a pro wrestling interview. “Serpents and cockatrices, I tell ya! Hit my music... (Strikes ridiculous poses as the camera closes in and we see his nostrils flare. Trust me, if it's wrestling, that shot's aways there.) Strong words from the Reverend Glover. Chris Jericho after the break. What's a cockatrice, J.R.?”

Next: Stukely gets a more suitable presentation. By which I mean something other than “Home of the world-famous nut log. Exit 115.”

Before we push on, a note on the illustrations. So far, they have been functional (if very, very, very dull and static), but the line drawing for Chapter 3 of the "exotic" Mistress Salome either betrays the century's unimaginative view of what exoticism actually is or that the author and the artist were working against each other. I lean towards the second possibility.

(Click for a larger version)

Yes, that's exotic, inscrutable, scandalously unseemly Salome, instantly recognizable by her look of boredom and her nondescript appearance. The complete absence of any distinguishing characteristics from the text gives it away, really.

But hark, let's see how the flower flirting from the last chapter was represented:

(Click for a larger version)
Well, neither one of them seems to be having much fun. You'd think she'd be more into it, at least. Content is indeed holding out the fragrant spray of flowers, albeit more out of duty than anything--after all, that's what the caption says, so that's what we do. Archer, on the other hand, seems to be transfixed by something just past and above her left shoulder. Is it a sign from the Great Beyond? A bear? A giant gleaming metallic robot from the future with machine guns for arms and a speaker in its chest blasting "Who Let The Dogs Out?" Alack-a-day, we shall never know...

Before you get the idea that it's all stiff posing and immobile faces...well, it's mostly true, but check out this detail from the "Freudian" candle-lighting scene.

(click for full picture)
"I'm sorry, I've never missed the wick before." "Oh, hold still and let me do it."

And that deep sense of shame from typing the above is one of the many, many reasons I'm not yet Internet Famous. The secret is out.

Yes, we're still walking and still talking as Chapter 5 begins—and yes, another pair of epigraphs from that same poet fella—but away from the tempest in the meeting house, at least Content has unlaxed a little bit. We're climbing a small hill that overlooks the settlement; “It was a rough path, and at last no path at all; but Content felt in the mood for physical difficulties, and to Archer it was no hardship to follow whither this companion led.” In the open air, she's also getting playfulness back in her mockery, so when Archer broaches the subject of his mentor Roger Williams, she's ready to roll once again.

“And you yourself, would you have banished beyond seas — I say not the leader of controversy, but the man that sat beneath your father's roof-tree, and told Timothy tales of knighthood, and called down blessings upon Mr. John Eliot?”

Content stooped, and, pushing aside the moist dead leaves, plucked a tiny flower from the roots of a sturdy tree.

“Poor little blossom,” she murmured irrelevantly, “born out of due time. If I had not found thee thou wouldst have had no companion, and have died thinking that thou alone didst remember that there was a spring! And if he would pull down my father's rooftree,” she resumed, “I should have thought it were a less disastrous outlay of money and labor if he built his own roof in another colony, that he might build up and pull down, and spare me a place to lay my head! "

“Give me the flower,” said Archer, holding out his hand to hers, which lightly swung the tinted mayblossom. “It hath found its spring in the warmth of thy greeting; I will keep it till we discover its fellow.”

The girl looked up into the strong face of the man ; there was a hint of compulsion in his tone which touched her sensitiveness, and yet was not altogether repelling.

“There is no companion for one who hath mistaken the meaning of the hour,” she objected. “One swallow makes not a summer — one poor little flower cannot make a spring,” and she blew softly upon the half closed petals, which gave out the faintest suggestion of delicate perfume.

“But it belongs to the hour, nevertheless,” said Archer; “I pray you, Mistress Content, give me the flower.”

The slender hand fell again to her side, still swinging the trifling thing.

“I say not,” she said, with a second most trying irrelevancy, “that I would not have sent to him privately and bade him get him gone without further mischance — like Mr. Governor — and maybe a word or two of personal friendship — I say not I would not have done that — and maybe, withal, a token,” she went on; “yes, a token — there could be no harm in sending a token to take with him to Providence.”

Her wide-open eyes shone with something that Archer had not seen before in their starry depths; he was not sure what it was, but it was bewilderingly pleasant to look upon. (pp. 83-5)

There's a cute bit of back-and-forth as Archer tries to talk Content into giving him the flower to take back to Providence as a token, to which she eventually yields. “'Prithee, take it,' she said, with a half affected petulance; 'while you and I have the esteemed Mr. Williams and his controversies before our eyes, we shall lack not ever an unsettled score!'” He accepts it with a tenderness that she couldn't help but note.

They're finally at the top of the hill, and as they rest on a fallen tree trunk, Archer takes a journey through the past. This is a long trip, but kind of important for our eventual destination, so bear with me here.

Archer's eyes were not on the roofs of the settlement, but following a course pointed out by memory.

“Do you see yonder woods?” he asked, indicating a path towards the south.


“It was there that Roger Williams spent his first night of unsheltered exile.”

“And you were with him?”

“Yes ; but what was it to me —a lad used to court the elements for naught but pleasure? But to him — his heart bound to his people, his head weary with thought and struggle, his love hurt with wounds met in the house of his friends, his shoulders bowed beneath the burden of reproach!” — the young man's voice trembled, and he paused.

“Tell me further,” said Content, gently.

“The heathen of the forest was kinder to him than were they in the bonds of Christian fellowship; for the non-believer made him welcome when those of his own household of faith sent him forth. It was cold, — cold with the very coldness of death, — and he might have warmed himself at many hearths had he but respected less the sanctity of his own conscience ; he was hungry, and he might have been fed at many tables had he but admitted that some may give and others only take. He wandered, lost in the dreary sameness of untrodden forest, because he would not follow the leadership of blind guides!”

Archer had risen, and a stern indignation swept his words in a current so impetuous that Content was thrilled by his emotion; he was no longer the somewhat literal youth she had jested with. His eyes were sad with the same sadness that now and then looked forth from those of his leader and friend. Again she perceived that resemblance between them that was rather spiritual than physical.

“But how should they know? — they did not know —” she stammered. His eyes fell upon her with a certain scorn that seemed, for the moment, to be for her.

“They knew that winter is cold,” he said slowly; “that wild beasts are in the forest; that bread lies not in the path that a wanderer makes through the wilderness ; that the endurance of a man unspared and ungrudged in the service of his God, cannot forever withstand cold, hunger and exhaustion. They knew these things, and they sent him forth. And the Lord led him to a pleasant place; but it was from out the shadow of a great weariness.”

Content's eyes were full of tears; she shivered in the warm rays of the sun; looking at the patches of snow in the hollows, she felt their cruel wet chill.

“I knew not,” she half whispered; “it was a wrong. And you were with him,” she said again ; “and you saw him. And you have listened to my levity and my reproaches, and you rebuked me not — till now.”

Archer's face softened. “And I rebuke thee not now,” he said; “I do but tell thee. Yes, I was with him, and what think you? That he railed at the severity of those at whose hands he had received exile? Nay, Mistress Content, from the lips of yonder man who was driven forth a second time to find a home, there fell not a word of bitterness against those whose will it was. They were in his eyes men who stood ever before the Lord, though they saw not all things clearly, even in the light of His presence.” (pp. 87-89)

Well, friends, that was all it took. “'Forgive my cavilling spirit!' she exclaimed. 'He has conquered me too.'” And then, temporarily at a loss for words, he takes her hand for a moment.

Now that we've broken through, their banter takes a more earnest tone, as Archer returns to all that “meaning of the hour” talk she was spouting a few minutes ago. “'It seems to my loving consideration, more and more, that it may be only that Mr. Williams hath mistaken the meaning of the hour —' he paused, and then went on, sadly, 'so he goeth alone, without even the countenance of his friends and well-wishers.'” We also return to the topic of Lord Douchey McDouchedouche, and the unseemliness of his cheek to “the sober men of our colony.” His proper name is Stukey, but he'll always be Douchey to me. After all the other picturesque names we've been hit with, Stukey doesn't exactly trip from the tongue.

Stukey (ugh) pops up right on cue—his ears must've been burning—making an almost parodic show of deference and doffing his plumed hat as the two passed. They don't even toss him a backwards glance. “'A quaint and most unyielding dignity,' he said to himself. 'Truly, I am glad that there be something in these provinces, besides discussions of church and state, that a man of the world may divert himself with!'” Haha! Such foibles of these colonists! I darest not soil my pinafore beweeping them! But dig the local talent...whoops, too colorful.

Finally they reach Mistress Doty's house, where Content's staying while the family's in town, and the lady of the house invites Archer to sit for a bite of dinner, but before he can, Master Cradock has a few words for him outside. As the gents take private conference, Mistress Doty, “portly almost to clumsiness” (well thanks loads for sharing that), is all “Don't worry your pretty little head, Content honey.” Well, she uses a few more words than that. A few hundred more words.

“It is nothing to rouse thy apprehensions, dear heart,” said Mistress Dotey, comfortably, “that I promise thee, though I know not precisely the subject; but I do know that they but speak of the public weal, and to weak women like us that seemeth but a little thing when brought alongside our private woe — hast ever thought that? — as for me I be not of the seed of the martyrs. Sit thee down there and let me lay aside thy warm cloak — ah, that weaving is of thy mother's warp and woof! — no, so they leave me my roof and my son and my husband, and let me bake bread for them in peace, I fear me I would grow fat in a slothful ease, even though there be dangerous upsetting of creeds and a usurpation of power that pertaineth to spiritual things! Dry thy feet, sweetheart, thou hast been through damp paths 5 our roads, the best of them, are but in a sorry plight, —sloughs of despond that discourage a timid soul like mine more than doubts of the calling and election of certain church members that sit heavy on the consciences of the more truly godly.” (p. 96)

And she chatters on like that for three whole pages. In a situation like this, a wing is as good as the whole damn goose if you just want to get the flavor. It's enough to make you wish somebody would invent the radio so you could drown her out. I hope she remembered to breathe...

Archer does eventually return to put us out of our misery, but a new misery awaits Content.

“Mistress Dotey,” he said, “I come but to thank thee for thy courtesy, and to decline it. Mistress Content,” he went on, and there was a quality in his tone which held the attention of both the women, “thy father, speaking for others, hath committed to my youth and inexperience a trust that it will go hard if I do not faithfully guard. It leaveth me but little time for farewells, ere I take it up. I sail for England at dawn — “

“Alack-a-day!” exclaimed Mistress Dotey, who could hold her peace no longer, and slipped past him to meet Cradock, who was just entering.

“And there be but few hours,” went on Archer, without heeding her, “between now and then. My service to thy mother, whom I had thought to thank in person, and a word to Timothy of the tales I mayhap will have to tell him when I return; and now, Mistress Content,” he paused a moment, and looked down at the graceful head, its hair slightly roughened by the hood, a look of startled non-comprehension in her wide eyes, before they fell before his, “farewell. The stranger that came to thy gate but yesterday may say no more. But,” and his voice was too low to reach other ears, “he bears away with him the fragrance of a flower that hath dared to bloom too early — farewell.” He bowed low over her hand with a respect unsurpassed by the young elegant who had saluted her a half hour earlier. (pp. 98-9)

Well, that's the end of him for awhile, I guess. And as Mistress Dotey fills another page with obnoxious idle chatter—I assume it's meant to be comic relief, since I shudder to think Mistress Human Infodump is intended to be taken any other way—Content Cradock stares morosely through the window as the figure of Resolved Archer vanishes in the darkness.

“Alack-a-day!”? Did somebody bus her in from Blackadder?

Next: Another audience with the mystifying Salome! You'll never guess who pops in!

The arrival of Roger Williams in Salem has spread along a grapevine of sympathetic ears; the unfriendlies so far either locked out by ignorance of or apathy to the news.”As by general consent, and as in all moments of general interest which called for a common meeting ground, the steps of the people turned towards the wooden house where this beloved, if misguided, pastor had so often met them in public worship.” So that's where they find gathered at the beginning of Chapter 4, in a standing-room-only audience with this controversial man, all united in earnestness of cause and attentiveness...with one notable exception. A flashily dressed young man whose “indolence” set him off from the crowd wasn't listening so much as indulging in a little people-watching, his eyes roaming the crowd and eventually landing on...well, you tell me. What's the title of this book, after all? Mistress Salome's Two-Fisted Tales of Puritan Herbalism? Didn't think so.

“It were hard to find fault with that face,” he said to himself, “though it be a picture but poorly framed. It would not disgrace the laces and brocades of Whitehall. In truth,” he continued to muse, “these colonial beauties, while they have lost something of the vigorous bloom and superb outline of our English dames, have already won in their place, whether from the sharp climate or the thin air of theological discourse, a certain delicate pallor and springlike grace of form that it would not be hard to make a fashion even among people of taste. This young Puritan now, though she be no Venus nor Juno, might pose not inaptly as a Flora or a Psyche — but what have we here ? Verily, the lion of controversy hath begun to roar!” and his handsome eyes, with their drooping eyelids and lashes, turned from Content's cheek, which would certainly have flushed an indignant red at his comparisons, had she been cognizant of their levity, to the reading desk where from the midst of a group of men Roger Williams' voice rose in clarion tones. (pp. 65-6)

Befitting a man reaching beyond the standards of the time, this definitely doesn't sound like a standard sermon. I certainly don't remember hecklers when I went to church, such as the intense man who debates points of doctrine from the crowd with Williams, but I'm not entirely convinced that's a bad thing, since at least they're engaging with his message. Fortunately, the man in the crowd is feeding Williams arguments that he can answer, so let's not ring the bell on this match just yet. The topic Master Scowlyface is reacting to is (surprise) keeping the church out of civil law...specifically, Williams' contention that it shouldn't be the duty of the court to (for example) repress heresy. His counterpoint: why should the “broken cistern” of a secular judge to hold water over us? Williams picks up the ball and runs with it from here.

“Yea, if we be not taught of the Lord — if the teaching come not to our souls, that is, and not through the lips of another.”

“Pause, lest you lead some into error!” cried the former speaker. “Would you speak to us of a covenant of grace, and of an inward light, and of such matters as lead to anarchy and unseemliness?”

“Nay, nay, but I would remember that there be diversity of gifts,” said Williams, his eyes glowing with the excitement of argument so dear to his soul. “Were you a stranger without the Bay, it is to a doctor of physic, or to a pilot that you would trust the conduct of your ship and the life of those within it?” He paused a moment and then went swiftly on. “Verily, I say it would be to the man who knoweth the rocks and the shoals from previous knowledge and experience, rather than to that mayhap better man who hath studied the wants of human bodies but after a different fashion. It hath been proved in older civilizations than is ours, that a magistrate may be a godly man and but an indifferent guardian of the public weal. There are ' differences of administration' and 'diversities of operations' and ' to one is given the word of wisdom and to another faith —'”

“Yea,” interrupted his opponent; “but let us try the spirits whether they be of God — else do we cut loose from all that we have come hither to establish."

“Yea,” assented Williams, in his turn; “but let us not try those spirits by the law of man, but by the divining rod of our own consciences.” (pp. 67-8)

The crowd was getting uncomfortable, if not restless. It was too much, too soon, and even Content felt that the Williams' aggressiveness was driving a wedge between the man and the people that he loved. It was while glancing around to take the temperature of the room that she first locked onto the bemused eyes of Lord Cheeky McDouchingham. “Her eyes were held an instant by his, in a surprised curiosity, before she withdrew them, while her tinge of color grew into a deeper crimson at her own folly.”

The debate rages on, Roger Williams displaying why he won Controversialist of the Year more often than he would World's Greatest Grandpa. Meanwhile, Caleb Cradock's face grows sadder, and McDouchingham looks like he's about to ask an usher for a beer and a chili dog, only adding to Constant's irritation. If he struck a nerve with some over the church-and-state material, what Williams says next goes straight to the bone: “No more right […] than have ye a right to the lands that ye have taken well nigh by force from those to whom they were divinely given, and who are even now learning to acknowledge the Giver.”

His stance on giving fair value for the land to its natives (as he did with Providence), rather than a government just grabbing it from the unwashed savages, was a major bone of contention with Williams. This crowd can't believe he's going there again, since they felt the issue had been settled through their blood, sweat, and tears, and I can't be the only one who flashes to 21st century Israel at this point. Archer enters to the murmurs of discontent that follows, while Williams is building to a crescendo: “'And if our God be our God, then is the land not ours save by honest purchase and Christian charity!' he thundered. 'Was it the God of the Christian who led the council of your united colonies to yield the friend of Roger Williams to the tomahawk of his foes? Upon their heads be the blood of Miantonomoh!'” Ouch. Forget about going to the bone, that's a drill right through the marrow.

It's at this point that Caleb Cradock interjects “Beware lest you speak treason!”, which pulls his friend's rhetoric in just a bit, and that's the cue for the snotty interloper at the back of the room to open his smartass mouth.

“It jars somewhat on the ears of a loyal subject,” interrupted a clear voice which seemed not to raise itself above its natural tone, but which was distinctly audible in the growing confusion of the crowded room, “that the names of your magistrates are so often upon the lips of this worshipful assembly. If there be differences concerning the holding of your lands, as one might judge from the late eloquence so abounding in most recondite allusion,” and he smiled slightly, “is it not to the owner of these lands of Massachusetts Bay that such difficulties should be referred ? Methinks your holdings be of his Majesty King Charles the First,” and his slow glance, with its flavor of impertinence, travelled about the room, while he struck lightly his embroidered gloves one against the other — as if to speak to these provincials it were not necessary to intermit even so slight an occupation. Archer had left Cradock's side and was making his way towards Content, when these words arrested his attention. He stopped in the middle of the crowded room, and across the heads of the seated company, and between the figures of those who stood about, the glances of the two young men met with the flash of crossing swords, and while they held each other for an instant, the speaker's grasp tightened on his glove, holding it suddenly still, and then, unhurriedly, his eyes passed on, dwelt curiously on Cradock, and finally rested on Williams and those nearest him. A silence tense with meaning, though no throb of impatience was audible through it, fell upon the assembly. Content had not turned her head to identify the speaker. She knew as well as if the voice had repeatedly sounded in her ears that it came from the haughty lips of the young man whose attitude she blindly resented from the first.

“Surely I am not mistaken in thinking that his Majesty has not resigned his over-lordship to these—“ the supercilious tones hesitated a moment, — “to these giants of theology that sit upon the bench of the magistracy, judging souls and bodies.”

His words had roused a keen resentment, he had touched a chord it were well for English supremacy not to set vibrating too harshly; but these men were not children to be baited by a boy with an assumption of authority. It was Cradock who spoke, while Archer went on to Content's side, holding back the retort that had sprung to his young lips.

“It is not a thing to be forgotten either by us or thee,” he said with calm dignity, “that our charter is from the hand of a king. But neither is it,” and the company held its breath as his voice grew sterner and weightier, his eyes fixed upon the slender handsome man who leaned forward, a plumed hat swinging lightly in his hand, apparently unconscious of the tide that was rising in the breasts of those about him, “neither is it a thing to be set aside, that we be freemen and not serfs; and while our consciences approve, we have no appeal to make to a more distant tribunal save in a cause, yet unforeseen, that must needs go beyond our own doors — into the presence of the King of England.” The company breathed freer, it was not a disloyal answer; but neither could it be said to positively invoke the excellent discretion and unswerving justice of the first Charles.

“An appeal to the king!” muttered the antagonist of Williams, under his breath. “Who is this young blade who is in such haste to hide him under the ermine?”

“I know not,” answered his neighbor, in the same tone; “and if the royal mantle be long enough to sweep across yonder sea, it may knock down a spire or two ! It behooves us to be careful,” and they exchanged looks of a certain austere humor. (pp. 73-6)

And the saucy lad releases the debate, such as it was, back to the people who were taking at seriously. Mwa-ha-ha! I am such a saucy lad babbling on in my finery! But I am a lad at leisure and must unknot the monotony with due speed! Whiskey for my men and beer for my horses! Maybe he put a coy finger to his pursed lips while the Puritans stared at him like he just landed from another planet...and parked his spaceship on somebody's mule. Third side of the triangle? Well, he's obviously not going away after making a scene like that.

Since news moved slowly in those days, nobody present was aware that Charles the First had lost an appeal to the axe a few months before. Having the king's ear doesn't do much if it's separated from the rest of his body.

Archer tells Content at this point that her father asked him to take her out of the meeting house, since their business could take at least another hour. The events she had just witnessed were still buzzing around in her head like a nest of yellowjackets—Roger Williams, the neigbors, the douchebag with the lace cuffs...everything. Once they were well into the open air, it all came spilling out.

“He is two men!” she exclaimed after a few moments in the clear buoyant air, and she spoke with an accent of irritation. “And it lies not beyond the wit of a maid to denote which is the more winning.”

“Nay, I pray thee,” said Archer, whose single-eyed conscientiousness was apt to lead him into an unfortunate choice of times and seasons for differing with Content, “then were he double-faced — which even no enemy had ever ground for saying of Mr. Williams.”

“And why not double-faced, if two-souled?” she persisted. “And that he be two-souled, I do contend. It was one soul that looked from his eyes upon little Timothy and the Apostle Eliot, and another that saw his old flock come with warm hearts to greet him, and a warm hand-grasp ready for him — those who stood by him in times of trouble, alas ! — and yet held out to them naught but the — the stone — of old differences.”

It were well that Caleb Cradock's ears were safely shut into the meeting-house, while his daughter spoke of the stone instead of the lifegiving bread of religious discussion! As for Archer, it was not the first time that he had been staggered by her eloquence.

“He held his own, I warrant me,” he observed. His craven avoidance of the point at issue met with the check it deserved.

“His own? Yea, verily — it be ever his own that he is holding! I would he held that something hath been committed to other saints as well! If his own be ever the good thing he would have us believe, let him share it with those about him.”

This species of logic dazzled, if it did not convince. Archer realized anew the unwisdom of provoking an argument. Nevertheless the curves of Content's lips were ameliorating.

“Would ye have them accuse him of Antinomianism,” he ventured, having picked up most of the scraps of the conversation he had not heard from the bystanders, “and have him keep silence?”

Content paused and faced him. The spring air waved the soft hair about her low forehead, a thrush sang from an elm.

“I am aweary of Antinomianism!” she exclaimed.

And the heavens fell not. (pp. 78-80)

Which is probably supposed to mean more than it does now, but we're at the chapter break...let it go, let it go.

Hmm, this entry wasn't exactly slopping over with wall-to-wall hilarity. Maybe I'm taken by the idea that, unlike Dave's last choice, things are actually happening in this story. It may not be art, but it's artful.

Next: The sound of reticence giving way. And no, I don't mean mine. Trust me, it'll make more sense when you read it.

Y'know, it feels like I've shortchanged you on Ms. Trumbull's descriptive diablerie, so what do you say we beat you repeatedly over the head with it to launch into Chapter 3? No? What do you mean “a thimbleful of that stuff is as good as a gallon drum”? Well, it's happening anyway, so stop kicking the chair. In for a penny, in for a pound.

Salome opened the door of her house in the early morning, a week later, and stood looking toward the eastern sky where the rose of dawn had let its petals slowly fall into the sea and grown into a paler flower. In the pearly light she lacked some of the vividness which made her so conspicuous a figure in the dimness of her room; her heavily lashed dark eyes, in whose depths was something that observers felt was always about to flash into self-revelation which nevertheless was always withheld, had under them the shadows of weariness; but the poise of her head was as calm, and the lines of her mouth as immobile as though, if she recognized disturbing forces, it was only to ask them whence they were. There was the slight crunch of sand under a slow and heavy step, and Salome instantly turned her head in the direction from which it came, and saw, as if coming out of the vanishing mist itself, the stooping, but in nowise feeble figure of an elderly man. He was still at some distance, for her hearing was remarkably acute; and she looked back at the water and saw two birds sweep down and up, and down again, and finally lose themselves in the vagueness of the sky, before he came near enough to exchange a word with her. His was not the dignified precision of the Puritan gentleman's costume, but the frieze coat and leather breeches of a workman whose training in manual labor had been that of the discipline of circumstances.

“You go early to Charlestown, Copton,” said Salome, letting her level glance fall upon him as his step sounded before the house. The wayfarer stopped and touched his weatherbeaten cap.

“A man that lets the sun get far ahead of him in his risin' over the colony, Mistress Salome,” he answered, with a glance at the eastern sky, “won't find anythin' particular to put his hand to when he does get up” He spoke with a deliberation one felt might easily degenerate into grumbling.

“A likely tale,” replied Salome, unmoved, “with the work of a whole colony to be done.” (pp. 39-41)

Oh boy, here to repair Mistress Salome's spinning wheel is a colorful but bent rustic whose sentences circle the block a few times before finding the front door. When it comes to Copton, the cap isn't the only thing that's weatherbeaten, as apparently the whole guy looks like he's been out in the elements for too long. Not entirely a wretch, but there's a life of hard toil on every inch of him. Also, the mark of the sinner is on his head. That's not a metaphor, either; twelve years before, he was slapped in the stocks and had his ears bobbed for some transgression of the faith we're not made privy to. “They stood in silence a moment, while the water lapped the shore, and the keen air of a spring morning ruffled Salome's hair with a chilly caress, and their thoughts went back to a richer, warmer, less harsh and lonely country where the branding-iron and the knife had upheld true religion, and spiritual wickedness had sneered and revelled in its high places.” Ah, for the good ol' bad ol' days. Oh, to be in England, now that my lobes are gone...

Copton also brings news of Roger Williams:

“He journeys to Salem to-day with the young man Archer, to get back at the week's end — with or without a strait waistcoat,” the last words he added meditatively, as he stooped to pick up his tools. Salome arrested him by a gesture.

“Yes,” she said, “there is something to do.”

Copton, accustomed to her intuitions, blinked at her seriously without replying. “It was a good deed to come around about to your daily work that you might see if the lonely woman wanted aught that the hand of a skilled ship's carpenter might supply,” she said, with the touch of graciousness that was more impressive than effusiveness from another woman, as she turned and led the way into the house. “My wheel hath stood silent since yesterday noon, and I have more knowledge in applying remedies to trees than to dead wood.”

The old man bent over the broken wheel, and Salome stood in the stream of light from the open doorway watching him.

“That young man Archer,” she said with one of her sudden transitions, “is a personable youth enough, and hath the stuff in him of which the councillors of our new colony be made.”

“I think,” said the old man, as he slowly turned the large wheel with his left hand, while his right sought for the injury, “that that young Archer'll stand without being hitched.”

Salome's rare smile banished for a moment the gravity of her lips.

“A good disposition for one seeking the company of his elected leader, who waiteth not for the spur to throw aside the bridle altogether,” she observed. (pp. 44-5)

All this talk is interrupted by a “stalwart bronze-colored man” in her doorway, an Indian named Nishokou, who brings an offering of two partridges he probably shot out of a pear tree while eight maids were a'milking. “The friend of the Indian makes a journey and returns. He comes to the house upon the sand. He would speak with Salome. He, too, has a word, and she is not to think that he has gone away bearing it with him.” Hoo-boy. If the natives are going to take their line readings from the I Ching, this book is going to need subtitles.

Salome offers her visitors a piece of corn cake before sending Nishokou on his way. “There was a strong suggestion of the dramatic in the scene, which, if to Salome the normal flavor of existence, was an offence in the nostrils of the man who, coming slowly along the sandy beach, paused long enough before the open door to catch the aspect of the vivid little group before he walked swiftly away without salutation of any kind, an outward and visible frown the sign of his inward and spiritual disapprobation.” We'll deal with that fella in depth in a moment, but first to dispatch the present company.

“I ain't never very easy with one of them critters around myself,” he said casually. “Those folks that look like a curiosity and talk like —like a Twelfth Night Revel — they make me suspicious; they're more for show than use. They always seem kind of more naturally related to wild cats than pale faces, as they say. You ain't afraid of him, I presume?” he concluded with mild inquisitiveness.

“Afraid?” Salome repeated the word, not indignantly, but as if it had no meaning in her ears. “The Pequots have had their lesson,” she added indifferently.

“Yes, and there ain't many of 'em left to say it,” he replied with a grim chuckle, as he stepped from the door-stone. (pp. 50-1)

Salome offers a piece of silver for payment, but while Copton's eyes say “Yes, please,” his mouth refuses payment until he feels he's earned it, which makes an interesting impression on her.

Okay, now with the other visitor? Okay, now with the other visitor. Everyone present at his disgusted about-face knew him, but then again, you couldn't not know this particular clergyman in town.

[The colonists on the street] bowed with respect to the tall, black-coated minister, and he returned their salutation with a solemn dignity that bespoke no inclination to minimize his office. Never once did his face break into a smile, and the deep frown in his high, narrow forehead seemed carved in its original formation. Just now the shadow of recent irritation deepened the habitual sternness of his countenance. It was caused by the sight that had met his eyes as he had paused before Salome's door. The picturesqueness of the little scene had struck the austere Puritan like the impotent blow of a childish hand ; it seemed to him antagonistic, defiant, and yet it was difficult to express resentment. Life should be sad-colored, monotonous; and Salome's brilliant, inscrutable figure, Nishokou's savage dignity, the shrewd face of Copton, — which carried in its lines a subtle hint of independence, — side by side, as if in alliance, — these made it seem assertive, unrestrained. They had to his stern eyes almost been declaring themselves outlaws, at least aliens, to the commonwealth of Israel.

Finally, a creature of theology I can sink my chops into, a gloweringly joyless figure who believes that life is something to be endured and existence is a setter of traps. I know I got a false positive from the somewhat eerie Salome, but let's read on to see if we've finally got a real heavy for this story.

Of course they had flashed upon his sight at an unfortunate time, and he was ready to see in their attitude something only perceptible to a diseased vision. He had been disturbed by rumors of the audacious confidence and the kindly reception of a dangerous and an exiled man; and, moreover, he had been on his way to deal with Mistress Salome anent certain reports concerning her free expression of individual opinion, and to examine somewhat her relations to church and state — one and indivisible! The reports were of the vaguest, and touched not her moral character; but the solitary independence of a woman was a thing too unusual not to be looked into, especially when the woman was of somewhat unusual wisdom. “Should women undertake to be wise beyond the bounds set by Holy Writ as interpreted by the masculine understanding,” said the Reverend Isaac Glover to himself, with firm lips, as he turned into a warehouse; “who knoweth but there might be a second irruption like that led by the misguided Mrs. Anne Hutchinson[.](pp. 52-4)

Ladies and gentlemen, Isaac Glover: Colonial Taliban. If he's not a primary antagonist from here on, I'll eat my hat. (Note to self: buy a hat. Second note to self: see if Slim Jim makes jerky hats.)

Sad-colored and monotonous...just like the dialogue! (rimshot) The plot I still have hope for...

Anyway, after seeking (and not finding) Caleb Cradock at home, Reverend Killjoy steels himself once again for the Salome experience. I dunno, maybe he sat on a tack or hit his thumb with a hammer. We do know he had prepared himself for a mild exorcism in case she was addressing her rumored infernal familiars. Instead, she was back to her spinning, only this time in the company of Timothy Cradock, who was playing with his two toy ark animals. Of course, Rev. Glover takes issue with that, too. “'It seemeth not to me,' he said in hard metallic accents, 'a godly and a sober recreation for even a woman and a child, to make a play out of a catastrophe that destroyed a sinning world. It savoreth of irreverence.'” Awww, too soon? I have some scorching Lot's wife material that you won't be happy with, either. Anyway, that attitude earns him some understated backsassery from Salome, as does his suggestion that Caleb shows a remarkable lapse of judgment by leaving his child where he may fall in with “dangerous companions,” by which he means the “heathen man” Nishokou and Master Clipped-Ears.

“At least there is no danger that this young Timothy will learn from him to give heed to fables and endless genealogies which minister to questions rather than godly edifying — Nishokou's language is but that of the woods and fields.” Mr. Glover did not specifically reply, for he found himself alarmingly near the unauthorized wish that the laity were not so familiar with the epistles; but he continued severely, —

“Ephraim is joined to his idols.”

“Yes, but Ephraim is also a 'pleasant child,' — and we have the Apostle's warrant for believing that even the lawless are under the law of charity.”

“And Copton — it hath occurred to me now and again that Copton hath known swervings from the ordained path of thought, though he be a skilled workman and a law-abiding citizen.”

“He hath stood in the pillory, and hath had his ears cropped for the truth,” said Salome's unmoved even tones; “and it befitteth not one like me, who hath barely come under the physical hand of spiritual tyranny, to gird at him.”

Glover's gloomy eyes lightened with sudden fire. “He hath borne witness,” he said briefly, yielding that tribute to suffering for conscience' sake which even present disapproval could not check upon Puritan lips.

“But the more shame if he falter now,” he persisted the more dogmatically for the admission.

“Fear not!” said Salome, shortly, as if a little weary of the discussion. “He is not one that leadeth children astray.”

There was something in the words that penetrated the panoply of self-righteousness in which this really conscientious man was too apt to array himself. (pp. 59-61)

Not liking where this chat was going to leave him, he turned to the door and asked over his shoulder where the boy's parents were. In his chatty little-kid way, Timothy innocently replies that the whole family and young Mr. Archer are in Salem with Roger Williams...and suddenly the Reverend isn't going anywhere.

“What!” demanded the Reverend Mr. Glover, “I had heard — what dost thou say?” he repeated.

Timothy had been taught that clerical wrath had an edge for evil-doers more fearsome than that of Mr. Archer's knife, and his tongue clove to the roof of his mouth.

”The child speaks truth,” said the woman, laying her hand on his quaking shoulder. “But it is not a truth that is meant for all hearers nor yet doers of the word.” There was a moment's pause, as the two confronted each other, and then for the second time that day the Reverend Israel Glover left Salome's door in a state of mind bordering on the anger of the unregenerate. (p. 62)

Oh, look at what you did. Way to rat your folks out, kid!

Next: At the meeting house with Roger Williams. Also, more walking, more talking.

(edited @ 11:01pm because I thought of something else that probably won't be clever in the morning)

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