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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 “Woot.com'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.”

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