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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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