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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!


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