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We open Chapter 2 with a couple more epigraphs and Content running an errand and pondering out loud the Roger Williams problem, that a man who is so predisposed to win friends and influence people should be rejected by the community as a dangerous and seditious. With her on the way is Archer, who would be a good sounding board, except that Content is feeling up to some good-natured needling of this guy.

“It is a hard question for one that loves him to answer,” said Archer, thoughtfully, “as thy father hath doubtless found it before now — for that he loves him, none can doubt. Perhaps he is one of those men who must be, verily, a law unto himself—“

“And will submit only to those laws himself hath made?” asked Content, with a gleam of decorous mischief in her starry eyes.

“Nay, nay; for in our colony there of Providence, there is a justice, yes, and an equity, administered according to laws that are not of one individual, but unchanging and universal — but — but — there be those, thou knowest, who, knowing a right, will yet sit down under a wrong and call it expediency — and Master Roger Williams is none of that race—”

“And is my father? And was Governor Winthrop? And is the young Governor Winthrop, his son? Are they, and many more, of those that sit down under a wrong and call it expediency?” There was a visible hint of contumacy in the turn of her head as she looked up at the tall young Puritan at her side. “Why did they, then, not stay in England, and abide by laws that they knew were iniquitous, and worship as they were bidden by false prophets?” she demanded. Archer began to question the wisdom of his embarkation upon the sea of argument.

“I said not so, Mistress Content,” he declared, somewhat bluntly; “and it is a wilful misconstruction that findeth such irreverence in my words —”

“It is ever another's will that maketh a man wilful, never one's own.” He looked at her askance. She was very grave, and her profile, framed in her gray hood, was almost severe; but her mouth trembled a little as if it were not quite safely beyond the jurisdiction of mirth. (pp. 21-2)

Archer finally latches on to an argument that sounds to him like it should work: if the choice is between following your conscience or biting your lip and bowing to the false, dangerous doctrine that Some Guy feeds you just because it's expedient, then you should realize that you're not going to answer to Some Guy on Judgement Day. It might have worked if that was Content's agenda—and she was somewhat impressed with the force he delivered the argument—but alas, idealists rarely see when someone's stringing them along. “'But if there be no agreement whatsoever as to what may be worship and law, will it not soon be the end of all worship and law together?' asked Content, with deceptive candor. 'Methinks were all men like thy Master Roger Williams in freedom of controversy, it would be a difficult thing to gather together even the two or three in the name of Him who hath commanded it.'” If you can't come to a consensus on what the church actually means and where the state should pick up, what's preventing anybody from pitching 'em both and going fishing instead? Archer is flummoxed; this freedom of conscience stuff is trickier than he thought.

Fortunately for him, they've reached the house Content was looking for. Archer cools his heels outside while Content retrieves a cough syrup from the “inscrutable” Mistress Salome.

The building consisted of but one room, raftered, and containing no articles of furniture, save those demanded by the simplest living, with the exception of a spinning wheel. From the rafters hung the usual supplies of a woman reputed wise in the properties of nature's remedies,— bunches of dried herbs whose faint, pungent, and aromatic scent imparted to the place a suggestion of the exotic which was singularly appropriate to the owner of the house, who turned her head quickly as Content came in. Hers was not the shrewd and wrinkled face naturally associated with the gatherer of simples or the prescriber of ancient remedies. She was a woman still young, though not perhaps far from middle age, tall and straight, with a regularity of feature and impassiveness of expression that was not unlike the level-lidded mystery of the Egyptian type. A brilliant red scarf about her shoulders added to the oriental suggestion, and its color had the effect of a defiance, so vivid it was amid the colorlessness of the neutral harmonies of. the New England environment. (pp. 24-5)

See, you can tell she's brazen because she wears colors. Ooooooospookyfingers... Red's the color of whores, y'know. Hawthorne told me, or that blonde chick on The Office. I can't remember exactly which one.

Salome isn't one for making idle chatter, for no sooner does she fetch Content's bottle than she blurts out “Roger Williams is thy guest.” That was a real surprise, since the announcement of his arrival had been withheld. “Hath he spoken of his visit to England?” Well, no, but we're all very proud of him. This leads to a looser line of talk about how “to the discomfiture of the elect, he buildeth a Zion upon every little hill.” She also notes that someone waits for Constant “whose voice, after all, speaketh things fitter for thine ears than perhaps the tongues of wiser men.” Really lady, I know this is a full-service counter, but there are some places a customer just doesn't want you to go.

With a colonial-style thank-you-come-again, Salome abruptly turns around and goes back to her spinning wheel, leaving Content to puzzle things out for herself. Well, herself and Archer, to whom she recounted the baffling incident while he was attentively ineffective in helping her piece it together, being distracted by curves of her purty mouth. No really, it's in there. But hark! What new incident is this? Where the path meets the highway, they find Content's little brother, father, Roger Williams, and...some guy.

“Who is their companion — he of the tawny coat?” asked Archer. As Content looked intently down the road, the stranger raised his head so that the waning light made its outline more clear, and swept his hand towards the distant horizon, as though including, in what might have been a gesture of appeal, the scene of low lying farms and flat marshes, letting it fall at his side again with a suddenness that made the motion dramatic.

Evidently there was something characteristic in the little manifestation, for Content exclaimed, —

“Yes, it is he! it is the godly Mr. Eliot, the pastor of Roxbury, who spends much of his life among yon poor heathen whom we seek to befriend, but who, alas ! have as many complaints against us, and we against them, as though we could never be aught but declared enemies. But Mr. Eliot neither they nor we can misunderstand.”

That's John Eliot, known as the Apostle to the Indians, but I digress...

The three men drew nearer, and the two small groups met, and after a word or two of greeting, went on their way together, the diminutive Timothy letting go the hand of Roger Williams to join his sister and her companion, who fell, as befitted them, in the rear of their elders. Timothy was somewhat out of breath physically, and, in all likelihood, mentally as well, with his sustained effort to keep up with the great men of this new world Israel; but he had his consolations. They took the material form of a wooden animal of a certain catholicity of design, since it might be called almost anything according to the varying moods of the owner, and find its habitat in a barnyard or a jungle without feeling too much out of place in either. (pp. 31-3)

Timothy's toy was carved by Reverend Williams from a shingle he found by the side of the road, although the boy's not certain which one it is. Archer promises the boy that if they find another shingle, he'll make the animal a mate for the Ark. Anything to impress the kid's sister, I suppose.

The get-together is taken up with shop talk.”There was a note of deep, underlying sadness in the preacher's voice, the depression of all solitary labor was upon him; but in another moment it had yielded to enthusiasm, as he replied to one earnest question after another, while Williams, guided by his own familiarity with the Indian tongue, suggested, discussed, and approved with an intelligence that was like wine to the translator.” Cradock held his tongue and nodded when it was appropriate, while the young people stayed at the back of the pack, the way the kids are supposed to. When they reached the Cradock doorway, Eliot could not linger, and wished his friend farewell.

Timothy, who was in nowise disconcerted by benedictions and amens at, what a later generation might consider, odd times, revived under the influences of light, warmth, and the sight of his mother, and scarcely waited for the door to be closed, before his voice rose confident and serene: “It is an animal that the Reverend Mr. Williams has carved for me, mother, out of a shingle found upon the highroad, and it is in the likeness of one of the animals that went into Noah's Ark; and,” he added, “young Mr. Archer is to make me its companion.”

Roger Williams' wonderful smile glanced from the child to its mother and then to Content.

“'Every one loveth gifts,'” he said; “it is well when so small an one satisfieth”

“Mother,” said Content, as they stood together a moment alone, “he is a man of God.”

“Yes,” said Mistress Cradock, “he is a man of God. But,” and she shook her head with a doubtful but friendly smile, “he is a laborer who, I fear me, is overfond of the harrow, even where the good seed is already planted.” (pp. 37-8)

Y'know, I never thought I was hoping we'd hurry up and get to the romance angle, but dang it, it feels kind of unseemly to sink the fangs of sarcasm into all this religious material. Oh, I can dance all over everything else, but I have a split level head in such matters.

Next: More of Salome and her exotic, scandalous scarf! There's possibly some skulduggery afoot, too! Or maybe she'll use the power of herbalism to invent pastels just to screw with everybody's heads! Yes, I'm clinging to that hope like the last life jacket on the Titanic.


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