THE GENTLE BOY

THE GENTLE BOY

In the course of the year 1656, several of the people called
Quakers, led, as they professed, by the inward movement of the
spirit, made their appearance in New England. Their reputation,
as holders of mystic and pernicious principles, having spread
before them, the Puritans early endeavored to banish, and to
prevent the further intrusion of the rising sect. But the
measures by which it was intended to purge the land of heresy,
though more than sufficiently vigorous, were entirely
unsuccessful. The Quakers, esteeming persecution as a divine call
to the post of danger, laid claim to a holy courage, unknown to
the Puritans themselves, who had shunned the cross, by providing
for the peaceable exercise of their religion in a distant
wilderness. Though it was the singular fact, that every nation of
the earth rejected the wandering enthusiasts who practised peace
towards all men, the place of greatest uneasiness and peril, and
therefore, in their eyes the most eligible, was the province of
Massachusetts Bay.

The fines, imprisonments, and stripes, liberally distributed by
our pious forefathers; the popular antipathy, so strong that it
endured nearly a hundred years after actual persecution had
ceased, were attractions as powerful for the Quakers, as peace,
honor, and reward, would have been for the worldly minded. Every
European vessel brought new cargoes of the sect, eager to testify
against the oppression which they hoped to share; and when
shipmasters were restrained by heavy fines from affording them
passage, they made long and circuitous journeys through the
Indian country, and appeared in the province as if conveyed by a
supernatural power. Their enthusiasm, heightened almost to
madness by the treatment which they received, produced actions
contrary to the rules of decency, as well as of rational
religion, and presented a singular contrast to the calm and staid
deportment of their sectarian successors of the present day. The
command of the spirit, inaudible except to the soul, and not to
be controverted on grounds of human wisdom, was made a plea for
most indecorous exhibitions, which, abstractedly considered, well
deserved the moderate chastisement of the rod. These
extravagances, and the persecution which was at once their cause
and consequence, continued to increase, till, in the year 1659,
the government of Massachusetts Bay indulged two members of the
Quaker sect with a crown of martyrdom.

An indelible stain of blood is upon the hands of all who
consented to this act, but a large share of the awful
responsibility must rest upon the person then at the head of the
government. He was a man of narrow mind and imperfect education,
and his uncompromising bigotry was made hot and mischievous by
violent and hasty passions; he exerted his influence indecorously
and unjustifiably to compass the death of the enthusiasts; and
his whole conduct, in respect to them, was marked by brutal
cruelty. The Quakers, whose revengeful feelings were not less
deep because they were inactive, remembered this man and his
associates in after times. The historian of the sect affirms
that, by the wrath of Heaven, a blight fell upon the land in the
vicinity of the "bloody town" of Boston, so that no wheat would
grow there; and he takes his stand, as it were, among the graves
of the ancient persecutors, and triumphantly recounts the
judgments that overtook them, in old age or at the parting hour.
He tells us that they died suddenly and violently and in madness;
but nothing can exceed the bitter mockery with which he records
the loathsome disease, and "death by rottenness," of the fierce
and cruel governor.

. . . . . . . . .

On the evening of the autumn day that had witnessed the martyrdom
of two men of the Quaker persuasion, a Puritan settler was
returning from the metropolis to the neighboring country town in
which he resided. The air was cool, the sky clear, and the
lingering twilight was made brighter by the rays of a young moon,
which had now nearly reached the verge of the horizon. The
traveller, a man of middle age, wrapped in a gray frieze cloak,
quickened his pace when he had reached the outskirts of the town,
for a gloomy extent of nearly four miles lay between him and his
home. The low, straw-thatched houses were scattered at
considerable intervals along the road, and the country having
been settled but about thirty years, the tracts of original
forest still bore no small proportion to the cultivated ground.
The autumn wind wandered among the branches, whirling away the
leaves from all except the pine-trees, and moaning as if it
lamented the desolation of which it was the instrument. The road
had penetrated the mass of woods that lay nearest to the town,
and was just emerging into an open space, when the traveller's
ears were saluted by a sound more mournful than even that of the
wind. It was like the wailing of someone in distress, and it
seemed to proceed from beneath a tall and lonely fir-tree, in the
centre of a cleared but uninclosed and uncultivated field. The
Puritan could not but remember that this was the very spot which
had been made accursed a few hours before by the execution of the
Quakers whose bodies had been thrown together into one hasty
grave, beneath the tree on which they suffered. He struggled
however, against the superstitious fears which belonged to the
age, and compelled himself to pause and listen.

"The voice is most likely mortal, nor have I cause to tremble if
it be otherwise," thought he, straining his eyes through the dim
moonlight. "Methinks it is like the wailing of a child; some
infant, it may be, which has strayed from its mother, and chanced
upon this place of death. For the ease of mine own conscience I
must search this matter out."

He therefore left the path, and walked somewhat fearfully across
the field. Though now so desolate, its soil was pressed down and
trampled by the thousand footsteps of those who had witnessed the
spectacle of that day, all of whom had now retired, leaving the
dead to their loneliness. The traveller, at length reached the
fir-tree, which from the middle upward was covered with living
branches, although a scaffold had been erected beneath, and other
preparations made for the work of death. Under this unhappy tree,
which in after times was believed to drop poison with its dew,
sat the one solitary mourner for innocent blood. It was a slender
and light clad little boy, who leaned his face upon a hillock of
fresh-turned and half-frozen earth, and wailed bitterly, yet in a
suppressed tone, as if his grief might receive the punishment of
crime. The Puritan, whose approach had been unperceived, laid his
hand upon the child's shoulder, and addressed him
compassionately.

"You have chosen a dreary lodging, my poor boy, and no wonder
that you weep," said he. "But dry your eyes, and tell me where
your mother dwells. I promise you, if the journey be not too far,
I will leave you in her arms to-night."

The boy had hushed his wailing at once, and turned his face
upward to the stranger. It was a pale, bright-eyed countenance,
certainly not more than six years old, but sorrow, fear, and want
had destroyed much of its infantile expression. The Puritan
seeing the boy's frightened gaze, and feeling that he trembled
under his hand, endeavored to reassure him.

"Nay, if I intended to do you harm, little lad, the readiest way
were to leave you here. What! you do not fear to sit beneath the
gallows on a new-made grave, and yet you tremble at a friend's
touch. Take heart, child, and tell me what is your name and where
is your home?"

"Friend," replied the little boy, in a sweet though faltering
voice, "they call me Ilbrahim, and my home is here."

The pale, spiritual face, the eyes that seemed to mingle with the
moonlight, the sweet, airy voice, and the outlandish name, almost
made the Puritan believe that the boy was in truth a being which
had sprung up out of the grave on which he sat. But perceiving
that the apparition stood the test of a short mental prayer, and
remembering that the arm which he had touched was lifelike, he
adopted a more rational supposition. "The poor child is stricken
in his intellect," thought he, "but verily his words are fearful
in a place like this." He then spoke soothingly, intending to
humor the boy's fantasy.

"Your home will scarce be comfortable, Ilbrahim, this cold autumn
night, and I fear you are ill-provided with food. I am hastening
to a warm supper and bed, and if you will go with me you shall
share them!"

"I thank thee, friend, but though I be hungry, and shivering with
cold, thou wilt not give me food nor lodging," replied the boy,
in the quiet tone which despair had taught him, even so young.
"My father was of the people whom all men hate. They have laid
him under this heap of earth, and here is my home."

The Puritan, who had laid hold of little Ilbrahim's hand,
relinquished it as if he were touching a loathsome reptile. But
he possessed a compassionate heart, which not even religious
prejudice could harden into stone.

"God forbid that I should leave this child to perish, though he
comes of the accursed sect," said he to himself. "Do we not all
spring from an evil root? Are we not all in darkness till the
light doth shine upon us? He shall not perish, neither in body,
nor, if prayer and instruction may avail for him, in soul." He
then spoke aloud and kindly to Ilbrahim, who had again hid his
face in the cold earth of the grave. "Was every door in the land
shut against you, my child, that you have wandered to this
unhallowed spot?"

"They drove me forth from the prison when they took my father
thence," said the boy, "and I stood afar off watching the crowd
of people, and when they were gone I came hither, and found only
his grave. I knew that my father was sleeping here, and I said
this shall be my home."

"No, child, no; not while I have a roof over my head, or a morsel
to share with you!" exclaimed the Puritan, whose sympathies were
now fully excited. "Rise up and come with me, and fear not any
harm."

The boy wept afresh, and clung to the heap of earth as if the
cold heart beneath it were warmer to him than any in a living
breast. The traveller, however, continued to entreat him
tenderly, and seeming to acquire some degree of confidence, he at
length arose. But his slender limbs tottered with weakness, his
little head grew dizzy, and he leaned against the tree of death
for support.

"My poor boy, are you so feeble?" said the Puritan. "When did you
taste food last?"

"I ate of bread and water with my father in the prison," replied
Ilbrahim, "but they brought him none neither yesterday nor
to-day, saying that he had eaten enough to bear him to his
journey's end. Trouble not thyself for my hunger, kind friend,
for I have lacked food many times ere now."

The traveller took the child in his arms and wrapped his cloak
about him, while his heart stirred with shame and anger against
the gratuitous cruelty of the instruments in this persecution. In
the awakened warmth of his feelings he resolved that, at whatever
risk, he would not forsake the poor little defenceless being whom
Heaven had confided to his care. With this determination he left
the accursed field, and resumed the homeward path from which the
wailing of the boy had called him. The light and motionless
burden scarcely impeded his progress, and he soon beheld the fire
rays from the windows of the cottage which he, a native of a
distant clime, had built in the western wilderness. It was
surrounded by a considerable extent of cultivated ground, and the
dwelling was situated in the nook of a wood-covered hill, whither
it seemed to have crept for protection.

"Look up, child," said the Puritan to Ilbrahim, whose faint head
had sunk upon his shoulder, "there is our home."

At the word "home," a thrill passed through the child's frame,
but he continued silent. A few moments brought them to a cottage
door, at which the owner knocked; for at that early period, when
savages were wandering everywhere among the settlers, bolt and
bar were indispensable to the security of a dwelling. The summons
was answered by a bond-servant, a coarse-clad and dull-featured
piece of humanity, who, after ascertaining that his master was
the applicant, undid the door, and held a flaring pineknot torch
to light him in. Farther back in the passage-way, the red blaze
discovered a matronly woman, but no little crowd of children came
bounding forth to greet their father's return. As the Puritan
entered, he thrust aside his cloak, and displayed Ilbrahim's face
to the female.

"Dorothy, here is a little outcast, whom Providence hath put into
our hands," observed he. "Be kind to him, even as if he were of
those dear ones who have departed from us."

"What pale and bright-eyed little boy is this, Tobias?" she
inquired. "Is he one whom the wilderness folk have ravished from
some Christian mother?"

"No, Dorothy, this poor child is no captive from the wilderness,"
he replied. "The heathen savage would have given him to eat of
his scanty morsel, and to drink of his birchen cup; but Christian
men, alas, had cast him out to die."

Then he told her how he had found him beneath the gallows, upon
his father's grave; and how his heart had prompted him, like the
speaking of an inward voice, to take the little outcast home, and
be kind unto him. He acknowledged his resolution to feed and
clothe him, as if he were his own child, and to afford him the
instruction which should counteract the pernicious errors
hitherto instilled into his infant mind. Dorothy was gifted with
even a quicker tenderness than her husband, and she approved of
all his doings and intentions.

"Have you a mother, dear child?" she inquired.

The tears burst forth from his full heart as he attempted to
reply; but Dorothy at length understood that he had a mother,
who, like the rest of her sect, was a persecuted wanderer. She
had been taken from the prison a short time before, carried into
the uninhabited wilderness, and left to perish there by hunger or
wild beasts. This was no uncommon method of disposing of the
Quakers, and they were accustomed to boast that the inhabitants
of the desert were more hospitable to them than civilized man.

"Fear not, little boy, you shall not need a mother, and a kind
one," said Dorothy, when she had gathered this information. "Dry
your tears, Ilbrahim, and be my child, as I will be your mother."

The good woman prepared the little bed, from which her own
children had successively been borne to another resting-place.
Before Ilbrahim would consent to occupy it, he knelt down, and as
Dorothy listened to his simple and affecting prayer, she
marvelled how the parents that had taught it to him could have
been judged worthy of death. When the boy had fallen asleep, she
bent over his pale and spiritual countenance, pressed a kiss upon
his white brow, drew the bedclothes up about his neck, and went
away with a pensive gladness in her heart.

Tobias Pearson was not among the earliest emigrants from the old
country. He had remained in England during the first years of the
civil war, in which he had borne some share as a cornet of
dragoons, under Cromwell. But when the ambitious designs of his
leader began to develop themselves, he quitted the army of the
Parliament, and sought a refuge from the strife, which was no
longer holy, among the people of his persuasion in the colony of
Massachusetts. A more worldly consideration had perhaps an
influence in drawing him thither; for New England offered
advantages to men of unprosperous fortunes, as well as to
dissatisfied religionists, and Pearson had hitherto found it
difficult to provide for a wife and increasing family. To this
supposed impurity of motive the more bigoted Puritans were
inclined to impute the removal by death of all the children, for
whose earthly good the father had been over-thoughtful. They had
left their native country blooming like roses, and like roses
they had perished in a foreign soil. Those expounders of the ways
of Providence, who had thus judged their brother, and attributed
his domestic sorrows to his sin, were not more charitable when
they saw him and Dorothy endeavoring to fill up the void in their
hearts by the adoption of an infant of the accursed sect. Nor did
they fail to communicate their disapprobation to Tobias; but the
latter, in reply, merely pointed at the little quiet, lovely boy,
whose appearance and deportment were indeed as powerful arguments
as could possibly have been adduced in his own favor. Even his
beauty, however, and his winning manners, sometimes produced an
effect ultimately unfavorable; for the bigots, when the outer
surfaces of their iron hearts had been softened and again grew
hard, affirmed that no merely natural cause could have so worked
upon them.

Their antipathy to the poor infant was also increased by the ill
success of divers theological discussions, in which it was
attempted to convince him of the errors of his sect. Ilbrahim, it
is true, was not a skilful controversialist; but the feeling of
his religion was strong as instinct in him, and he could neither
be enticed nor driven from the faith which his father had died
for. The odium of this stubbornness was shared in a great measure
by the child's protectors, insomuch that Tobias and Dorothy very
shortly began to experience a most bitter species of persecution,
in the cold regards of many a friend whom they had valued. The
common people manifested their opinions more openly. Pearson was
a man of some consideration, being a representative to the
General Court and an approved lieutenant in the trainbands, yet
within a week after his adoption of Ilbrahim he had been both
hissed and hooted. Once, also, when walking through a solitary
piece of woods, he heard a loud voice from some invisible
speaker; and it cried, "What shall be done to the backslider? Lo!
the scourge is knotted for him, even the whip of nine cords, and
every cord three knots!" These insults irritated Pearson's temper
for the moment; they entered also into his heart, and became
imperceptible but powerful workers towards an end which his most
secret thought had not yet whispered.

. . . . . . . . .

On the second Sabbath after Ilbrahim became a member of their
family, Pearson and his wife deemed it proper that he should
appear with them at public worship. They had anticipated some
opposition to this measure from the boy, but he prepared himself
in silence, and at the appointed hour was clad in the new
mourning suit which Dorothy had wrought for him. As the parish
was then, and during many subsequent years, unprovided with a
bell, the signal for the commencement of religious exercises was
the beat of a drum. At the first sound of that martial call to
the place of holy and quiet thoughts, Tobias and Dorothy set
forth, each holding a hand of little Ilbrahim, like two parents
linked together by the infant of their love. On their path
through the leafless woods they were overtaken by many persons of
their acquaintance, all of whom avoided them, and passed by on
the other side; but a severer trial awaited their constancy when
they had descended the hill, and drew near the pine-built and
undecorated house of prayer. Around the door, from which the
drummer still sent forth his thundering summons, was drawn up a
formidable phalanx, including several of the oldest members of
the congregation, many of the middle aged, and nearly all the
younger males. Pearson found it difficult to sustain their united
and disapproving gaze, but Dorothy, whose mind was differently
circumstanced, merely drew the boy closer to her, and faltered
not in her approach. As they entered the door, they overheard the
muttered sentiments of the assemblage, and when the reviling
voices of the little children smote Ilbrahim's ear, he wept.

The interior aspect of the meeting-house was rude. The low
ceiling, the unplastered walls, the naked wood work, and the
undraperied pulpit, offered nothing to excite the devotion,
which, without such external aids, often remains latent in the
heart. The floor of the building was occupied by rows of long,
cushionless benches, supplying the place of pews, and the broad
aisle formed a sexual division, impassable except by children
beneath a certain age.

Pearson and Dorothy separated at the door of the meeting-house,
and Ilbrahim, being within the years of infancy, was retained
under the care of the latter. The wrinkled beldams involved
themselves in their rusty cloaks as he passed by; even the
mild-featured maidens seemed to dread contamination; and many a
stern old man arose, and turned his repulsive and unheavenly
countenance upon the gentle boy, as if the sanctuary were
polluted by his presence. He was a sweet infant of the skies that
had strayed away from his home, and all the inhabitants of this
miserable world closed up their impure hearts against him, drew
back their earthsoiled garments from his touch, and said, "We are
holier than thou."

Ilbrahim, seated by the side of his adopted mother, and retaining
fast hold of her hand, assumed a grave and decorous demeanor,
such as might befit a person of matured taste and understanding,
who should find him self in a temple dedicated to some worship
which he did not recognize, but felt himself bound to respect.
The exercises had not yet commenced, however, when the boy's
attention was arrested by an event, apparently of trifling
interest. A woman, having her face muffled in a hood, and a cloak
drawn completely about her form, advanced slowly up the broad
aisle and took a place upon the foremost bench. Ilbrahim's faint
color varied, his nerves fluttered, he was unable to turn his
eyes from the muffled female.

When the preliminary prayer and hymn were over, the minister
arose, and having turned the hour-glass which stood by the great
Bible, commenced his discourse. He was now well stricken in
years, a man of pale, thin countenance, and his gray hairs were
closely covered by a black velvet skullcap. In his younger days
he had practically learned the meaning of persecution from
Archbishop Laud, and he was not now disposed to forget the lesson
against which he had murmured then. Introducing the often
discussed subject of the Quakers, he gave a history of that sect,
and a description of their tenets, in which error predominated,
and prejudice distorted the aspect of what was true. He adverted
to the recent measures in the province, and cautioned his hearers
of weaker parts against calling in question the just severity
which God-fearing magistrates had at length been compelled to
exercise. He spoke of the danger of pity, in some cases a
commendable and Christian virtue, but inapplicable to this
pernicious sect. He observed that such was their devilish
obstinacy in error, that even the little children, the sucking
babes, were hardened and desperate heretics. He affirmed that no
man, without Heaven's especial warrants should attempt their
conversion, lest while he lent his hand to draw them from the
slough, he should himself be precipitated into its lowest depths.

The sands of the second hour were principally in the lower half
of the glass when the sermon concluded. An approving murmur
followed, and the clergyman, having given out a hymn, took his
seat with much self-congratulation, and endeavored to read the
effect of his eloquence in the visages of the people. But while
voices from all parts of the house were tuning themselves to
sing, a scene occurred, which, though not very unusual at that
period in the province, happened to be without precedent in this
parish.

The muffled female, who had hitherto sat motionless in the front
rank of the audience, now arose, and with slow, stately, and
unwavering step, ascended the pulpit stairs. The quiverings of
incipient harmony were hushed, and the divine sat in speechless
and almost terrified astonishment, while she undid the door, and
stood up in the sacred desk from which his maledictions had just
been thundered. She then divested herself of the cloak and hood,
and appeared in a most singular array. A shapeless robe of
sackcloth was girded about her waist with a knotted cord; her
raven hair fell down upon her shoulders, and its blackness was
defiled by pale streaks of ashes, which she had strown upon her
head. Her eyebrows, dark and strongly defined, added to the
deathly whiteness of a countenance, which, emaciated with want,
and wild with enthusiasm and strange sorrows, retained no trace
of earlier beauty. This figure stood gazing earnestly on the
audience, and there was no sound, nor any movement, except a
faint shuddering which every man observed in his neighbor, but
was scarcely conscious of in himself. At length, when her fit of
inspiration came, she spoke, for the first few moments, in a low
voice, and not invariably distinct utterance. Her discourse gave
evidence of an imagination hopelessly entangled with her reason;
it was a vague and incomprehensible rhapsody, which, however,
seemed to spread its own atmosphere round the hearer's soul, and
to move his feelings by some influence unconnected with the
words. As she proceeded, beautiful but shadowy images would
sometimes be seen, like bright things moving in a turbid river;
or a strong and singularly-shaped idea leaped forth, and seized
at once on the understanding or the heart. But the course of her
unearthly eloquence soon led her to the persecutions of her sect,
and from thence the step was short to her own peculiar sorrows.
She was naturally a woman of mighty passions, and hatred and
revenge now wrapped themselves in the garb of piety; the
character of her speech was changed, her images became distinct
though wild, and her denunciations had an almost hellish
bitterness.

"The Governor and his mighty men," she said, "have gathered
together, taking counsel among themselves and saying, 'What shall
we do unto this people even unto the people that have come into
this land to put our iniquity to the blush?' And lo! the devil
entereth into the council chamber, like a lame man of low stature
and gravely apparelled, with a dark and twisted countenance, and
a bright, downcast eye. And he standeth up among the rulers; yea,
he goeth to and fro, whispering to each; and every man lends his
ear, for his word is 'Slay, slay!' But I say unto ye, Woe to them
that slay! Woe to them that shed the blood of saints! Woe to them
that have slain the husband, and cast forth the child, the tender
infant, to wander homeless and hungry and cold, till he die; and
have saved the mother alive, in the cruelty of their tender
mercies! Woe to them in their lifetime! cursed are they in the
delight and pleasure of their hearts! Woe to them in their death
hour, whether it come swiftly with blood and violence, or after
long and lingering pain! Woe, in the dark house, in the
rottenness of the grave, when the children's children shall
revile the ashes of the fathers! Woe, woe, woe, at the judgment,
when all the persecuted and all the slain in this bloody land,
and the father, the mother, and the child, shall await them in a
day that they cannot escape! Seed of the faith, seed of the
faith, ye whose hearts are moving with a power that ye know not,
arise, wash your hands of this innocent blood! Lift your voices,
chosen ones; cry aloud, and call down a woe and a judgment with
me!"

Having thus given vent to the flood of malignity which she
mistook for inspiration, the speaker was silent. Her voice was
succeeded by the hysteric shrieks of several women, but the
feelings of the audience generally had not been drawn onward in
the current with her own. They remained stupefied, stranded as it
were, in the midst of a torrent, which deafened them by its
roaring, but might not move them by its violence. The clergyman,
who could not hitherto have ejected the usurper of his pulpit
otherwise than by bodily force, now addressed her in the tone of
just indignation and legitimate authority.

"Get you down, woman, from the holy place which you profane," he
said. "Is it to the Lord's house that you come to pour forth the
foulness of your heart and the inspiration of the devil? Get you
down, and remember that the sentence of death is on you; yea, and
shall be executed, were it but for this day's work!"

"I go, friend, I go, for the voice hath had its utterance,"
replied she, in a depressed and even mild tone. "I have done my
mission unto thee and to thy people. Reward me with stripes,
imprisonment, or death, as ye shall be permitted."

The weakness of exhausted passion caused her steps to totter as
she descended the pulpit stairs. The people, in the mean while,
were stirring to and fro on the floor of the house, whispering
among themselves, and glancing towards the intruder. Many of them
now recognized her as the woman who had assaulted the Governor
with frightful language as he passed by the window of her prison;
they knew, also, that she was adjudged to suffer death, and had
been preserved only by an involuntary banishment into the
wilderness. The new outrage, by which she had provoked her fate,
seemed to render further lenity impossible; and a gentleman in
military dress, with a stout man of inferior rank, drew towards
the door of the meeting-house, and awaited her approach.

Scarcely did her feet press the floor, however, when an
unexpected scene occurred. In that moment of her peril, when
every eye frowned with death, a little timid boy pressed forth,
and threw his arms round his mother.

"I am here, mother; it is I, and I will go with thee to prison,"
he exclaimed.

She gazed at him with a doubtful and almost frightened
expression, for she knew that the boy had been cast out to
perish, and she had not hoped to see his face again. She feared,
perhaps, that it was but one of the happy visions with which her
excited fancy had often deceived her, in the solitude of the
desert or in prison. But when she felt his hand warm within her
own, and heard his little eloquence of childish love, she began
to know that she was yet a mother.

"Blessed art thou, my son," she sobbed. "My heart was withered;
yea, dead with thee and with thy father; and now it leaps as in
the first moment when I pressed thee to my bosom."

She knelt down and embraced him again and again, while the joy
that could find no words expressed itself in broken accents, like
the bubbles gushing up to vanish at the surface of a deep
fountain. The sorrows of past years, and the darker peril that
was nigh, cast not a shadow on the brightness of that fleeting
moment. Soon, however, the spectators saw a change upon her face,
as the consciousness of her sad estate returned, and grief
supplied the fount of tears which joy had opened. By the words
she uttered, it would seem that the indulgence of natural love
had given her mind a momentary sense of its errors, and made her
know how far she had strayed from duty in following the dictates
of a wild fanaticism.

"In a doleful hour art thou returned to me, poor boy," she said,
"for thy mother's path has gone darkening onward, till now the
end is death. Son, son, I have borne thee in my arms when my
limbs were tottering, and I have fed thee with the food that I
was fainting for; yet I have ill performed a mother's part by
thee in life, and now I leave thee no inheritance but woe and
shame. Thou wilt go seeking through the world, and find all
hearts closed against thee and their sweet affections turned to
bitterness for my sake. My child, my child, how many a pang
awaits thy gentle spirit, and I the cause of all!"

She hid her face on Ilbrahim's head, and her long, raven hair,
discolored with the ashes of her mourning, fell down about him
like a veil. A low and interrupted moan was the voice of her
heart's anguish, and it did not fail to move the sympathies of
many who mistook their involuntary virtue for a sin. Sobs were
audible in the female section of the house, and every man who was
a father drew his hand across his eyes. Tobias Pearson was
agitated and uneasy, but a certain feeling like the consciousness
of guilt oppressed him, so that he could not go forth and offer
himself as the protector of the child. Dorothy, however, had
watched her husband's eye. Her mind was free from the influence
that had begun to work on his, and she drew near the Quaker
woman, and addressed her in the hearing of all the congregation.

"Stranger, trust this boy to me, and I will be his mother," she
said, taking Ilbrahim's hand. "Providence has signally marked out
my husband to protect him, and he has fed at our table and lodged
under our roof now many days, till our hearts have grown very
strongly unto him. Leave the tender child with us, and be at ease
concerning his welfare."

The Quaker rose from the ground, but drew the boy closer to her,
while she gazed earnestly in Dorothy's face. Her mild but
saddened features, and neat matronly attire, harmonized together,
and were like a verse of fireside poetry. Her very aspect proved
that she was blameless, so far as mortal could be so, in respect
to God and man; while the enthusiast, in her robe of sackcloth
and girdle of knotted cord, had as evidently violated the duties
of the present life and the future, by fixing her attention
wholly on the latter. The two females, as they held each a hand
of Ilbrahim, formed a practical allegory; it was rational piety
and unbridled fanaticism contending for the empire of a young
heart.

"Thou art not of our people," said the Quaker, mournfully.

"No, we are not of your people," replied Dorothy, with mildness,
"but we are Christians, looking upward to the same heaven with
you. Doubt not that your boy shall meet you there, if there be a
blessing on our tender and prayerful guidance of him. Thither, I
trust, my own children have gone before me, for I also have been
a mother; I am no longer so," she added, in a faltering tone,
"and your son will have all my care."

"But will ye lead him in the path which his parents have
trodden?" demanded the Quaker. "Can ye teach him the enlightened
faith which his father has died for, and for which I, even I, am
soon to become an unworthy martyr? The boy has been baptized in
blood; will ye keep the mark fresh and ruddy upon his forehead?"

"I will not deceive you," answered Dorothy. "If your child become
our child, we must breed him up in the instruction which Heaven
has imparted to us; we must pray for him the prayers of our own
faith; we must do towards him according to the dictates of our
own consciences, and not of yours. Were we to act otherwise, we
should abuse your trust, even in complying with your wishes."

The mother looked down upon her boy with a troubled countenance,
and then turned her eyes upward to heaven. She seemed to pray
internally, and the contention of her soul was evident.

"Friend," she said at length to Dorothy, "I doubt not that my son
shall receive all earthly tenderness at thy hands. Nay, I will
believe that even thy imperfect lights may guide him to a better
world, for surely thou art on the path thither. But thou hast
spoken of a husband. Doth he stand here among this multitude of
people? Let him come forth, for I must know to whom I commit this
most precious trust."

She turned her face upon the male auditors, and after a momentary
delay, Tobias Pearson came forth from among them. The Quaker saw
the dress which marked his military rank, and shook her head; but
then she noted the hesitating air, the eyes that struggled with
her own, and were vanquished; the color that went and came, and
could find no resting place. As she gazed, an unmirthful smile
spread over her features, like sunshine that grows melancholy in
some desolate spot. Her lips moved inaudibly, but at length she
spake.

"I hear it, I hear it. The voice speaketh within me and saith,
'Leave thy child, Catharine, for his place is here, and go hence,
for I have other work for thee. Break the bonds of natural
affection, martyr thy love, and know that in all these things
eternal wisdom hath its ends.' I go, friends; I go. Take ye my
boy, my precious jewel. I go hence, trusting that all shall be
well, and that even for his infant hands there is a labor in the
vineyard."

She knelt down and whispered to Ilbrahim, who at first struggled
and clung to his mother, with sobs and tears, but remained
passive when she had kissed his cheek and arisen from the ground.
Having held her hands over his head in mental prayer, she was
ready to depart.

"Farewell, friends in mine extremity," she said to Pearson and
his wife; "the good deed ye have done me is a treasure laid up in
heaven, to be returned a thousand-fold hereafter. And farewell
ye, mine enemies, to whom it is not permitted to harm so much as
a hair of my head, nor to stay my footsteps even for a moment.
The day is coming when ye shall call upon me to witness for ye to
this one sin uncommitted, and I will rise up and answer."

She turned her steps towards the door, and the men, who had
stationed themselves to guard it, withdrew, and suffered her to
pass. A general sentiment of pity overcame the virulence of
religious hatred. Sanctified by her love and her affliction, she
went forth, and all the people gazed after her till she had
journeyed up the hill, and was lost behind its brow. She went,
the apostle of her own unquiet heart, to renew the wanderings of
past years. For her voice had been already heard in many lands of
Christendom; and she had pined in the cells of a Catholic
Inquisition before she felt the lash and lay in the dungeons of
the Puritans. Her mission had extended also to the followers of
the Prophet, and from them she had received the courtesy and
kindness which all the contending sects of our purer religion
united to deny her. Her husband and herself had resided many
months in Turkey, where even the Sultan's countenance was
gracious to them; in that pagan land, too, was Ilbrahim's
birthplace, and his oriental name was a mark of gratitude for the
good deeds of an unbeliever.

. . . . . . . . .

When Pearson and his wife had thus acquired all the rights over
Ilbrahim that could be delegated, their affection for him became
like the memory of their native land, or their mild sorrow for
the dead, a piece of the immovable furniture of their hearts. The
boy, also, after a week or two of mental disquiet, began to
gratify his protectors by many inadvertent proofs that he
considered them as parents, and their house as home. Before the
winter snows were melted, the persecuted infant, the little
wanderer from a remote and heathen country, seemed native in the
New England cottage, and inseparable from the warmth and security
of its hearth. Under the influence of kind treatment, and in the
consciousness that he was loved, Ilbrahim's demeanor lost a
premature manliness, which had resulted from his earlier
situation; he became more childlike, and his natural character
displayed itself with freedom. It was in many respects a
beautiful one, yet the disordered imaginations of both his father
and mother had perhaps propagated a certain unhealthiness in the
mind of the boy. In his general state, Ilbrahim would derive
enjoyment from the most trifling events, and from every object
about him; he seemed to discover rich treasures of happiness, by
a faculty analogous to that of the witch hazel, which points to
hidden gold where all is barren to the eye. His airy gayety,
coming to him from a thousand sources, communicated itself to the
family, and Ilbrahim was like a domesticated sunbeam, brightening
moody countenances, and chasing away the gloom from the dark
corners of the cottage.

On the other hand, as the susceptibility of pleasure is also that
of pain, the exuberant cheerfulness of the boy's prevailing
temper sometimes yielded to moments of deep depression. His
sorrows could not always be followed up to their original source,
but most frequently they appeared to flow, though Ilbrahim was
young to be sad for such a cause, from wounded love. The
flightiness of his mirth rendered him often guilty of offences
against the decorum of a Puritan household, and on these
occasions he did not invariably escape rebuke. But the slightest
word of real bitterness, which he was infallible in
distinguishing from pretended anger, seemed to sink into his
heart and poison all his enjoyments, till he became sensible that
he was entirely forgiven. Of the malice, which generally
accompanies a superfluity of sensitiveness, Ilbrahim was
altogether destitute: when trodden upon, he would not turn; when
wounded, he could but die. His mind was wanting in the stamina
for self-support; it was a plant that would twine beautifully
round something stronger than itself, but if repulsed, or torn
away, it had no choice but to wither on the ground. Dorothy's
acuteness taught her that severity would crush the spirit of the
child, and she nurtured him with the gentle care of one who
handles a butterfly. Her husband manifested an equal affection,
although it grew daily less productive of familiar caresses.

The feelings of the neighboring people, in regard to the Quaker
infant and his protectors, had not undergone a favorable change,
in spite of the momentary triumph which the desolate mother had
obtained over their sympathies. The scorn and bitterness, of
which he was the object, were very grievous to Ilbrahim,
especially when any circumstance made him sensible that the
children, his equals in age, partook of the enmity of their
parents. His tender and social nature had already overflowed in
attachments to everything about him, and still there was a
residue of unappropriated love, which he yearned to bestow upon
the little ones who were taught to hate him. As the warm days of
spring came on, Ilbrahim was accustomed to remain for hours,
silent and inactive, within hearing of the children's voices at
their play; yet, with his usual delicacy of feeling, he avoided
their notice, and would flee and hide himself from the smallest
individual among them. Chance, however, at length seemed to open
a medium of communication between his heart and theirs; it was by
means of a boy about two years older than Ilbrahim, who was
injured by a fall from a tree in the vicinity of Pearson's
habitation. As the sufferer's own home was at some distance,
Dorothy willingly received him under her roof, and became his
tender and careful nurse.

Ilbrahim was the unconscious possessor of much skill in
physiognomy, and it would have deterred him, in other
circumstances, from attempting to make a friend of this boy. The
countenance of the latter immediately impressed a beholder
disagreeably, but it required some examination to discover that
the cause was a very slight distortion of the mouth, and the
irregular, broken line, and near approach of the eyebrows.
Analogous, perhaps, to these trifling deformities, was an almost
imperceptible twist of every joint, and the uneven prominence of
the breast; forming a body, regular in its general outline, but
faulty in almost all its details. The disposition of the boy was
sullen and reserved, and the village schoolmaster stigmatized him
as obtuse in intellect; although, at a later period of life, he
evinced ambition and very peculiar talents. But whatever might be
his personal or moral irregularities, Ilbrahim's heart seized
upon, and clung to him, from the moment that he was brought
wounded into the cottage; the child of persecution seemed to
compare his own fate with that of the sufferer, and to feel that
even different modes of misfortune had created a sort of
relationship between them. Food, rest, and the fresh air, for
which he languished, were neglected; he nestled continually by
the bedside of the little stranger, and, with a fond jealousy,
endeavored to be the medium of all the cares that were bestowed
upon him. As the boy became convalescent, Ilbrahim contrived
games suitable to his situation, or amused him by a faculty which
he had perhaps breathed in with the air of his barbaric
birthplace. It was that of reciting imaginary adventures, on the
spur of the moment, and apparently in inexhaustible succession.
His tales were of course monstrous, disjointed, and without aim;
but they were curious on account of a vein of human tenderness
which ran through them all, and was like a sweet, familiar face,
encountered in the midst of wild and unearthly scenery. The
auditor paid much attention to these romances, and sometimes
interrupted them by brief remarks upon the incidents, displaying
shrewdness above his years, mingled with a moral obliquity which
grated very harshly against Ilbrahim's instinctive rectitude.
Nothing, however, could arrest the progress of the latter's
affection, and there were many proofs that it met with a response
from the dark and stubborn nature on which it was lavished. The
boy's parents at length removed him, to complete his cure under
their own roof.

Ilbrahim did not visit his new friend after his departure; but he
made anxious and continual inquiries respecting him, and informed
himself of the day when he was to reappear among his playmates.
On a pleasant summer afternoon, the children of the neighborhood
had assembled in the little forest-crowned amphitheatre behind
the meeting-house, and the recovering invalid was there, leaning
on a staff. The glee of a score of untainted bosoms was heard in
light and airy voices, which danced among the trees like sunshine
become audible; the grown men of this weary world, as they
journeyed by the spot, marvelled why life, beginning in such
brightness, should proceed in gloom; and their hearts, or their
imaginations, answered them and said, that the bliss of childhood
gushes from its innocence. But it happened that an unexpected
addition was made to the heavenly little band. It was Ilbrahim,
who came towards the children with a look of sweet confidence on
his fair and spiritual face, as if, having manifested his love to
one of them, he had no longer to fear a repulse from their
society. A hush came over their mirth the moment they beheld him,
and they stood whispering to each other while he drew nigh; but,
all at once, the devil of their fathers entered into the
unbreeched fanatics, and sending up a fierce, shrill cry, they
rushed upon the poor Quaker child. In an instant, he was the
centre of a brood of baby-fiends, who lifted sticks against him,
pelted him with stones, and displayed an instinct of destruction
far more loathsome than the bloodthirstiness of manhood.

The invalid, in the meanwhile, stood apart from the tumult,
crying out with a loud voice, "Fear not, Ilbrahim, come hither
and take my hand;" and his unhappy friend endeavored to obey him.
After watching the victim's struggling approach with a calm smile
and unabashed eye, the foulhearted little villain lifted his
staff and struck Ilbrahim on the mouth, so forcibly that the
blood issued in a stream. The poor child's arms had been raised
to guard his head from the storm of blows; but now he dropped
them at once. His persecutors beat him down, trampled upon him,
dragged him by his long, fair locks, and Ilbrahim was on the
point of becoming as veritable a martyr as ever entered bleeding
into heaven. The uproar, however, attracted the notice of a few
neighbors, who put themselves to the trouble of rescuing the
little heretic, and of conveying him to Pearson's door.

Ilbrahim's bodily harm was severe, but long and careful nursing
accomplished his recovery; the injury done to his sensitive
spirit was more serious, though not so visible. Its signs were
principally of a negative character, and to be discovered only by
those who had previously known him. His gait was thenceforth
slow, even, and unvaried by the sudden bursts of sprightlier
motion, which had once corresponded to his overflowing gladness;
his countenance was heavier, and its former play of expression,
the dance of sunshine reflected from moving water, was destroyed
by the cloud over his existence; his notice was attracted in a
far less degree by passing events, and he appeared to find
greater difficulty in comprehending what was new to him than at a
happier period. A stranger, founding his judgment upon these
circumstances, would have said that the dulness of the child's
intellect widely contradicted the promise of his features, but
the secret was in the direction of Ilbrahim's thoughts, which
were brooding within him when they should naturally have been
wandering abroad. An attempt of Dorothy to revive his former
sportiveness was the single occasion on which his quiet demeanor
yielded to a violent display of grief; he burst into passionate
weeping, and ran and hid himself, for his heart had become so
miserably sore that even the hand of kindness tortured it like
fire. Sometimes, at night and probably in his dreams, he was
heard to cry "Mother! Mother!" as if her place, which a stranger
had supplied while Ilbrahim was happy, admitted of no substitute
in his extreme affliction. Perhaps, among the many life-weary
wretches then upon the earth, there was not one who combined
innocence and misery like this poor, broken-hearted infant, so
soon the victim of his own heavenly nature.

While this melancholy change had taken place in Ilbrahim, one of
an earlier origin and of different character had come to its
perfection in his adopted father. The incident with which this
tale commences found Pearson in a state of religious dulness, yet
mentally disquieted, and longing for a more fervid faith than he
possessed. The first effect of his kindness to Ilbrahim was to
produce a softened feeling, and incipient love for the child's
whole sect; but joined to this, and resulting perhaps from
self-suspicion, was a proud and ostentatious contempt of all
their tenets and practical extravagances. In the course of much
thought, however, for the subject struggled irresistibly into his
mind, the foolishness of the doctrine began to be less evident,
and the points which had particularly offended his reason assumed
another aspect, or vanished entirely away. The work within him
appeared to go on even while he slept, and that which had been a
doubt, when he lay down to rest, would often hold the place of a
truth, confirmed by some forgotten demonstration, when he
recalled his thoughts in the morning. But while he was thus
becoming assimilated to the enthusiasts, his contempt, in nowise
decreasing towards them, grew very fierce against himself; he
imagined, also, that every face of his acquaintance wore a sneer,
and that every word addressed to him was a gibe. Such was his
state of mind at the period of Ilbrahim's misfortune; and the
emotions consequent upon that event completed the change, of
which the child had been the original instrument.

In the mean time, neither the fierceness of the persecutors, nor
the infatuation of their victims, had decreased. The dungeons
were never empty; the streets of almost every village echoed
daily with the lash; the life of a woman, whose mild and
Christian spirit no cruelty could embitter, had been sacrificed;
and more innocent blood was yet to pollute the hands that were so
often raised in prayer. Early after the Restoration, the English
Quakers represented to Charles II that a "vein of blood was open
in his dominions;" but though the displeasure of the voluptuous
king was roused, his interference was not prompt. And now the
tale must stride forward over many months, leaving Pearson to
encounter ignominy and misfortune; his wife to a firm endurance
of a thousand sorrows; poor Ilbrahim to pine and droop like a
cankered rosebud; his mother to wander on a mistaken errand,
neglectful of the holiest trust which can be committed to a
woman.

. . . . . . . . .

A winter evening, a night of storm, had darkened over Pearson's
habitation, and there were no cheerful faces to drive the gloom
from his broad hearth. The fire, it is true, sent forth a glowing
heat and a ruddy light, and large logs, dripping with half-melted
snow, lay ready to be cast upon the embers. But the apartment was
saddened in its aspect by the absence of much of the homely
wealth which had once adorned it; for the exaction of repeated
fines, and his own neglect of temporal affairs, had greatly
impoverished the owner. And with the furniture of peace, the
implements of war had likewise disappeared; the sword was broken,
the helm and cuirass were cast away forever; the soldier had done
with battles, and might not lift so much as his naked hand to
guard his head. But the Holy Book remained, and the table on
which it rested was drawn before the fire, while two of the
persecuted sect sought comfort from its pages.

He who listened, while the other read, was the master of the
house, now emaciated in form, and altered as to the expression
and healthiness of his countenance; for his mind had dwelt too
long among visionary thoughts, and his body had been worn by
imprisonment and stripes. The hale and weather-beaten old man who
sat beside him had sustained less injury from a far longer course
of the same mode of life. In person he was tall and dignified,
and, which alone would have made him hateful to the Puritans, his
gray locks fell from beneath the broad-brimmed hat, and rested on
his shoulders. As the old man read the sacred page the snow
drifted against the windows, or eddied in at the crevices of the
door, while a blast kept laughing in the chimney, and the blaze
leaped fiercely up to seek it. And sometimes, when the wind
struck the hill at a certain angle, and swept down by the cottage
across the wintry plain, its voice was the most doleful that can
be conceived; it came as if the Past were speaking, as if the
Dead had contributed each a whisper, as if the Desolation of Ages
were breathed in that one lamenting sound.

The Quaker at length closed the book, retaining however his hand
between the pages which he had been reading, while he looked
steadfastly at Pearson. The attitude and features of the latter
might have indicated the endurance of bodily pain; he leaned his
forehead on his hands, his teeth were firmly closed, and his
frame was tremulous at intervals with a nervous agitation.

"Friend Tobias," inquired the old man, compassionately, "hast
thou found no comfort in these many blessed passages of
Scripture?"

"Thy voice has fallen on my ear like a sound afar off and
indistinct," replied Pearson without lifting his eyes. "Yea, and
when I have hearkened carefully the words seemed cold and
lifeless, and intended for another and a lesser grief than mine.
Remove the book," he added, in a tone of sullen bitterness. "I
have no part in its consolations, and they do but fret my sorrow
the more."

"Nay, feeble brother, be not as one who hath never known the
light," said the elder Quaker earnestly, but with mildness. "Art
thou he that wouldst be content to give all, and endure all, for
conscience' sake; desiring even peculiar trials, that thy faith
might be purified and thy heart weaned from worldly desires? And
wilt thou sink beneath an affliction which happens alike to them
that have their portion here below, and to them that lay up
treasure in heaven? Faint not, for thy burden is yet light."

"It is heavy! It is heavier than I can bear!" exclaimed Pearson,
with the impatience of a variable spirit. "From my youth upward I
have been a man marked out for wrath; and year by year, yea, day
after day, I have endured sorrows such as others know not in
their lifetime. And now I speak not of the love that has been
turned to hatred, the honor to ignominy, the ease and
plentifulness of all things to danger, want, and nakedness. All
this I could have borne, and counted myself blessed. But when my
heart was desolate with many losses I fixed it upon the child of
a stranger, and he became dearer to me than all my buried ones;
and now he too must die as if my love were poison. Verily, I am
an accursed man, and I will lay me down in the dust and lift up
my head no more."

"Thou sinnest, brother, but it is not for me to rebuke thee; for
I also have had my hours of darkness, wherein I have murmured
against the cross," said the old Quaker. He continued, perhaps in
the hope of distracting his companion's thoughts from his own
sorrows. "Even of late was the light obscured within me, when the
men of blood had banished me on pain of death, and the constables
led me onward from village to village towards the wilderness. A
strong and cruel hand was wielding the knotted cords; they sunk
deep into the flesh, and thou mightst have tracked every reel and
totter of my footsteps by the blood that followed. As we went
on--"

"Have I not borne all this; and have I murmured?" interrupted
Pearson impatiently.

"Nay, friend but hear me," continued the other. "As we journeyed
on, night darkened on our path, so that no man could see the rage
of the persecutors or the constancy of my endurance, though
Heaven forbid that I should glory therein. The lights began to
glimmer in the cottage windows, and I could discern the inmates
as they gathered in comfort and security every man with his wife
and children by their own evening hearth. At length we came to a
tract of fertile land; in the dim light, the forest was not
visible around it; and behold! there was a straw-thatched
dwelling which bore the very aspect of my home, far over the wild
ocean, far in our own England. Then came bitter thoughts upon me;
yea, remembrances that were like death to my soul. The happiness
of my early days was painted to me; the disquiet of my manhood,
the altered faith of my declining years. I remembered how I had
been moved to go forth a wanderer when my daughter, the youngest,
the dearest of my flock, lay on her dying bed, and--"

"Couldst thou obey the command at such a moment?" exclaimed
Pearson, shuddering.

"Yea, yea," replied the old man hurriedly. "I was kneeling by her
bedside when the voice spoke loud within me; but immediately I
rose, and took my staff, and gat me gone. Oh! that it were
permitted me to forget her woful look when I thus withdrew my
arm, and left her journeying through the dark valley alone! for
her soul was faint, and she had leaned upon my prayers. Now in
that night of horror I was assailed by the thought that I had
been an erring Christian and a cruel parent; yea, even my
daughter, with her pale, dying features, seemed to stand by me
and whisper, 'Father, you are deceived; go home and shelter your
gray head.' O Thou, to whom I have looked in my farthest
wanderings," continued the Quaker, raising his agitated eyes to
heaven, "inflict not upon the bloodiest of our persecutors the
unmitigated agony of my soul, when I believed that all I had done
and suffered for Thee was at the instigation of a mocking fiend!
But I yielded not; I knelt down and wrestled with the tempter,
while the scourge bit more fiercely into the flesh. My prayer was
heard, and I went on in peace and joy towards the wilderness."

The old man, though his fanaticism had generally all the calmness
of reason, was deeply moved while reciting this tale; and his
unwonted emotion seemed to rebuke and keep down that of his
companion. They sat in silence, with their faces to the fire,
imagining, perhaps, in its red embers new scenes of persecution
yet to be encountered. The snow still drifted hard against the
windows, and sometimes, as the blaze of the logs had gradually
sunk, came down the spacious chimney and hissed upon the hearth.
A cautious footstep might now and then be heard in a neighboring
apartment, and the sound invariably drew the eyes of both Quakers
to the door which led thither. When a fierce and riotous gust of
wind had led his thoughts, by a natural association, to homeless
travellers on such a night, Pearson resumed the conversation.

"I have well-nigh sunk under my own share of this trial,"
observed he, sighing heavily; "yet I would that it might be
doubled to me, if so the child's mother could be spared. Her
wounds have been deep and many, but this will be the sorest of
all."

"Fear not for Catharine," replied the old Quaker, "for I know
that valiant woman, and have seen how she can bear the cross. A
mother's heart, indeed, is strong in her, and may seem to contend
mightily with her faith; but soon she will stand up and give
thanks that her son has been thus early an accepted sacrifice.
The boy hath done his work, and she will feel that he is taken
hence in kindness both to him and her. Blessed, blessed are they
that with so little suffering can enter into peace!"

The fitful rush of the wind was now disturbed by a portentous
sound; it was a quick and heavy knocking at the outer door.
Pearson's wan countenance grew paler, for many a visit of
persecution had taught him what to dread; the old man, on the
other hand, stood up erect, and his glance was firm as that of
the tried soldier who awaits his enemy.

"The men of blood have come to seek me," he observed with
calmness. "They have heard how I was moved to return from
banishment; and now am I to be led to prison, and thence to
death. It is an end I have long looked for. I will open unto
them, lest they say, 'Lo, he feareth!' "

"Nay, I will present myself before them," said Pearson, with
recovered fortitude. "It may be that they seek me alone, and know
not that thou abidest with me."

"Let us go boldly, both one and the other," rejoined his
companion. "It is not fitting that thou or I should shrink."

They therefore proceeded through the entry to the door, which
they opened, bidding the applicant "Come in, in God's name!" A
furious blast of wind drove the storm into their faces, and
extinguished the lamp; they had barely time to discern a figure,
so white from head to foot with the drifted snow that it seemed
like Winter's self, come in human shape, to seek refuge from its
own desolation.

"Enter, friend, and do thy errand, be it what it may," said
Pearson. "It must needs be pressing, since thou comest on such a
bitter night."

"Peace be with this household," said the stranger, when they
stood on the floor of the inner apartment.

Pearson started, the elder Quaker stirred the slumbering embers
of the fire till they sent up a clear and lofty blaze; it was a
female voice that had spoken; it was a female form that shone
out, cold and wintry, in that comfortable light.

"Catharine, blessed woman!" exclaimed the old man, "art thou come
to this darkened land again? art thou come to bear a valiant
testimony as in former years? The scourge hath not prevailed
against thee, and from the dungeon hast thou come forth
triumphant; but strengthen, strengthen now thy heart, Catharine,
for Heaven will prove thee yet this once, ere thou go to thy
reward."

"Rejoice, friends!" she replied. "Thou who hast long been of our
people, and thou whom a little child hath led to us, rejoice! Lo!
I come, the messenger of glad tidings, for the day of persecution
is overpast. The heart of the king, even Charles, hath been moved
in gentleness towards us, and he hath sent forth his letters to
stay the hands of the men of blood. A ship's company of our
friends hath arrived at yonder town, and I also sailed joyfully
among them."

As Catharine spoke, her eyes were roaming about the room, in
search of him for whose sake security was dear to her. Pearson
made a silent appeal to the old man, nor did the latter shrink
from the painful task assigned him.

"Sister," he began, in a softened yet perfectly calm tone, "thou
tellest us of His love, manifested in temporal good; and now must
we speak to thee of that selfsame love, displayed in chastenings.
Hitherto, Catharine, thou hast been as one journeying in a
darksome and difficult path, and leading an infant by the hand;
fain wouldst thou have looked heavenward continually, but still
the cares of that little child have drawn thine eyes and thy
affections to the earth. Sister! go on rejoicing, for his
tottering footsteps shall impede thine own no more."

But the unhappy mother was not thus to be consoled; she shook
like a leaf, she turned white as the very snow that hung drifted
into her hair. The firm old man extended his hand and held her
up, keeping his eye upon hers, as if to repress any outbreak of
passion.

"I am a woman, I am but a woman; will He try me above my
strength?" said Catharine very quickly, and almost in a whisper.
"I have been wounded sore; I have suffered much; many things in
the body; many in the mind; crucified in myself, and in them that
were dearest to me. Surely," added she, with a long shudder, "He
hath spared me in this one thing." She broke forth with sudden
and irrepressible violence. "Tell me, man of cold heart, what has
God done to me? Hath He cast me down, never to rise again? Hath
He crushed my very heart in his hand? And thou, to whom I
committed my child, how hast thou fulfilled thy trust? Give me
back the boy, well, sound, alive, alive; or earth and Heaven
shall avenge me!"

The agonized shriek of Catharine was answered by the faint, the
very faint, voice of a child.

On this day it had become evident to Pearson, to his aged guest,
and to Dorothy, that Ilbrahim's brief and troubled pilgrimage
drew near its close. The two former would willingly have remained
by him, to make use of the prayers and pious discourses which
they deemed appropriate to the time, and which, if they be
impotent as to the departing traveller's reception in the world
whither he goes, may at least sustain him in bidding adieu to
earth. But though Ilbrahim uttered no complaint, he was disturbed
by the faces that looked upon him; so that Dorothy's entreaties,
and their own conviction that the child's feet might tread
heaven's pavement and not soil it, had induced the two Quakers to
remove. Ilbrahim then closed his eyes and grew calm, and, except
for now and then a kind and low word to his nurse, might have
been thought to slumber. As nightfall came on, however, and the
storm began to rise, something seemed to trouble the repose of
the boy's mind, and to render his sense of hearing active and
acute. If a passing wind lingered to shake the casement, he
strove to turn his head towards it; if the door jarred to and fro
upon its hinges, he looked long and anxiously thitherward; if the
heavy voice of the old man, as he read the Scriptures, rose but a
little higher, the child almost held his dying breath to listen;
if a snow-drift swept by the cottage, with a sound like the
trailing of a garment, Ilbrahim seemed to watch that some
visitant should enter.

But, after a little time, he relinquished whatever secret hope
had agitated him, and with one low, complaining whisper, turned
his cheek upon the pillow. He then addressed Dorothy with his
usual sweetness, and besought her to draw near him; she did so,
and Ilbrahim took her hand in both of his, grasping it with a
gentle pressure, as if to assure himself that he retained it. At
intervals, and without disturbing the repose of his countenance,
a very faint trembling passed over him from head to foot, as if a
mild but somewhat cool wind had breathed upon him, and made him
shiver. As the boy thus led her by the hand, in his quiet
progress over the borders of eternity, Dorothy almost imagined
that she could discern the near, though dim, delightfulness of
the home he was about to reach; she would not have enticed the
little wanderer back, though she bemoaned herself that she must
leave him and return. But just when Ilbrahim's feet were pressing
on the soil of Paradise he heard a voice behind him, and it
recalled him a few, few paces of the weary path which he had
travelled. As Dorothy looked upon his features, she perceived
that their placid expression was again disturbed; her own
thoughts had been so wrapped in him, that all sounds of the
storm, and of human speech, were lost to her; but when
Catharine's shriek pierced through the room, the boy strove to
raise himself.

"Friend, she is come! Open unto her!" cried he.

In a moment his mother was kneeling by the bedside; she drew
Ilbrahim to her bosom, and he nestled there, with no violence of
joy, but contentedly, as if he were hushing himself to sleep. He
looked into her face, and reading its agony, said, with feeble
earnestness, "Mourn not, dearest mother. I am happy now." And
with these words the gentle boy was dead.

. . . . . . . . .

The king's mandate to stay the New England persecutors was
effectual in preventing further martyrdoms; but the colonial
authorities, trusting in the remoteness of their situation, and
perhaps in the supposed instability of the royal government,
shortly renewed their severities in all other respects.
Catharine's fanaticism had become wilder by the sundering of all
human ties; and wherever a scourge was lifted there was she to
receive the blow, and whenever a dungeon was unbarred thither she
came, to cast herself upon the floor. But in process of time a
more Christian spirit --a spirit of forbearance, though not of
cordiality or approbation--began to pervade the land in regard to
the persecuted sect. And then, when the rigid old Pilgrims eyed
her rather in pity than in wrath; when the matrons fed her with
the fragments of their children's food, and offered her a lodging
on a hard and lowly bed; when no little crowd of schoolboys left
their sports to cast stones after the roving enthusiast; then did
Catharine return to Pearson's dwelling and made that her home.

As if Ilbrahim's sweetness yet lingered round his ashes; as if
his gentle spirit came down from heaven to teach his parent a
true religion, her fierce and vindictive nature was softened by
the same griefs which had once irritated it. When the course of
years had made the features of the unobtrusive mourner familiar
in the settlement, she became a subject of not deep, but general,
interest; a being on whom the otherwise superfluous sympathies of
all might be bestowed. Every one spoke of her with that degree of
pity which it is pleasant to experience; every one was ready to
do her the little kindnesses which are not costly, yet manifest
good will and when at last she died, a long train of her once
bitter persecutors followed her, with decent sadness and tears
that were not painful, to her place by Ilbrahim's green and
sunken grave.

Nie masz uprawnień do komentowania

JezykiObce.pl

Matura 2020 - językowy niezbędnik

Informacja

Komunikat dla użytkowników:

Od dnia 7.01.2019 zaprzestaliśmy codziennego wysyłania listy słówek.

Zaloguj się lub zarejestruj aby skorzystać ze wszystkich funkcji portalu.

Czytelnia - treści losowe

Loading ...