Puritan Twins - Lucy F. Perkins

Two Days

[Illustration] from Puritan Twins by Lucy F. Perkins

The grace finished (it was a very long one and the beans were nearly cold before he said amen), Goodman Pepperell broke open the lobsters and piled the trenchers with johnny-cake and beans, and the whole family fell to with a right good will. All but Nancy. She was still a bit upset and did not feel hungry.

"Thou hast not told me, Captain, what voyage thou art about to undertake next," said the Goodman, sucking a lobster-claw with relish.

The Captain loved to talk quite as well as he loved to eat, but his mouth was full at this moment, and he paused before replying. "I'm getting too old for long voyages, Josiah," he said at last with a sigh. "Kind o' losing my taste for adventure. Pirates is pretty plentiful yet, and for all I'm a sailor I'd like to die in my bed, so I have settled at Marblehead. They're partial to fishermen along this coast. The town gives 'em land for drying their fish and exempts 'em from military dooty. But I can't stay ashore a great while before my sea legs begin to hanker for the feel of the deck rolling under 'em, so I'm doing a coasting trade all up and down the length of Massachusetts Bay. I keep a parcel of lobster-pots going, some here and some Plymouth way, and sell them and fish, besides doing a carrying trade for all the towns along-shore. It's a tame kind o' life. There, now," he finished, "that's all there is to say about me, and I'll just take a turn at these beans and give ye a chance to tell about yourself, Josiah."

"'Tis but a short tale," answered the Goodman, "God hath prospered me. I have an hundred acres of good farm land along this river, and I have a cow, and a flock of sheep to keep us in wool for the Good wife to spin. I have set out apple trees, and there is wood for the cutting; the forest furnishes game and the sea is stored with food for our use; but the truth is there is more to do than can be compassed with one pair of hands. The neighbors help each other with clearing the land, log-rolling, building walls, and such as that, but if this country is to be developed we must do more than make a living. There are a thousand things calling to be done if there were but the men to do them."

The Captain skillfully balanced a mouthful of beans on his knife as he considered the problem. Finally he said, "Well, here's Dan'el, and, judging by the way he waded right into the tide after his sister, I calculate he'd be a smart boy to have round."

"He is," said the Goodman, and Daniel blushed to his eyes, for his father seldom praised him, "but he is not yet equal to a man's work, and moreover I want him to get some schooling. The Reverend John Harvard hath promised his library and quite a sum of money to found a college for the training of ministers right here in Cambridge. The hand of the Lord hath surely guided us to this place, where he may receive an education, and it may even be that Daniel will be a minister, for the Colony sorely needs such."

"There, now," said the Captain. "Farming ain't such plain sailing; is it? Have ye thought of getting an Indian slave to help ye?"

"Truly I have thought of that," said the Goodman, "but they are a treacherous lot and passing lazy. There was a parcel of Pequot women and girls brought up from beyond Plymouth way last year after the uprising. The settlers had killed off all the men and sold the boys in the Bermudas. I might have bought one of the women but I need a man, or at least a boy that will grow into one. The Pequots are about all gone now, but the Narragansetts are none too friendly. They helped fight the Pequots because they hate them worse than they hate the English, but they are only biding their time, and some day it's likely we shall have trouble with them. Nay, I could never trust an Indian slave. Roger Williams saith they are wolves with men's brains, and he speaks the truth."

"Well, then," said the Captain, "why don't ye get a black? They are more docile than Indians, and the woods about are not full of their friends."

"Aye," agreed the Goodman, "the plan is a good one and well thought out, but they are hard to come by. There are only a few, even in Boston."

"There will soon be more, I'm thinking," said the Captain. "A ship was built in Marblehead last year on purpose for the trade. Captain Pierce is a friend of mine, and he's due at Providence any time now with a cargo of blacks from Guinea. Ye could sail down the bay with me, and there's a trail across the neck of the Cape to Providence, where the Desire will come to port. I expect to spend the Sabbath here, but I lift anchor on Monday. Ye can tell Captain Pierce ye're a friend of mine, and 'twill do ye no harm."

[Illustration] from Puritan Twins by Lucy F. Perkins

"Oh, Father," breathed Dan, "may I go, too?"

The Captain chuckled. "Art struck with the sea fever, son?" he said, looking down into the boy's eager face. "Well, there's room aboard. I might take ye along if so be thy parents are willing and thou art minded to see a bit of the world."

Up to this time Goodwife Pepperell had said no word, but now she spoke. "Are there not dangers enough on land without courting the dangers of the sea?" she asked.

Her husband looked at her with gentle disapproval. "Hold thy peace," he said. "What hath a pioneer lad to do with fear? Moreover, if he goes I shall be with him."

Nancy leaned forward and gazed imploringly at the Captain. "Dost thou not need some one to cook on thy boat?" she gasped. "I know well how to make johnny-cake and I—" then, seeing her father's stern look and her mother's distress, she wilted like a flower on its stem and was silent. The Captain smiled at her.

"Ye're a fine cook, I make no doubt," he said genially, "but ye would n't go and leave Mother here all alone, now, I'll be bound!"

"Nay," said Nancy faintly, looking at her mother.

Then the Goodwife spoke. "It pains me," she said, "to think of children torn from their parents and sold into slavery, even though they be but Indians or blacks. I doubt not they have souls like ourselves."

"Read thy Bible, Susanna," answered her husband. "Cursed be Canaan. A servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren—thus say the Scriptures."

"Well, now," broke in the Captain, "if they have souls, they've either got to save 'em or lose 'em as I jedge it; and if they never have a chance to hear the Plan of Salvation, they're bound to be lost anyway. Bringin' 'em over here gives them their only chance to escape damnation, according to my notion."

"Hast thou ever brought over a cargo of slaves thyself?" asked the Goodwife.

"Nay," admitted the Captain, "but I sailed once on a slaver, and I own I liked not to see the poor critters when they were lured away. It seemed they could n't rightly sense that 'twas for their eternal welfare, and I never felt called to set their feet in the way of Salvation by that means myself. I reckon I'm not more than chicken-hearted, if ye come to that."

The meal was now over, the dusk had deepened as they lingered about the table, and Goodwife Pepperell rose to light a bayberry candle and set it on the chimney-piece.

"Sit ye down by the fire again, while Nancy and I wash the dishes," she said cordially.

"Thank ye kindly," said the Captain, "but I must budge along. It's near dark, and Timothy—that's my mate—will be wondering if I've been et up by a shark. It's going to be a clear night after the storm."

The children slept so soundly after the adventures of the day that their mother called them three times from the foot of the ladder in the early dawn of the following morning without getting any response. Then she mounted to the loft and shook Daniel gently. "Wake thee," she said. "'Tis long past cock-crow, and Saturday at that."

Daniel opened his eyes feebly and was off to sleep again at once. "Daniel," she said, shaking him harder, "thy father is minded to take thee to Plymouth."

Before the words were fairly out of her mouth Daniel had popped out of bed as if he had been shot from a gun. "Oh, Mother," he shouted, "am I really to go? Shall I go clear to Providence? Doth Captain Sanders know? When do we start?"

"Thy father arranged it with the Captain last night," answered his mother. "He will come for thee in the little boat on Monday morning and will row thee and thy father to the sloop, which will sail at high tide. While thy father makes the journey across the Cape thou wilt go on to Provincetown with the Captain, or mayhap, if visitors are now permitted in the Colony, my aunt, the Governor's lady, will keep thee with her until thy father returns. She would like well to see my son, I know, and I trust thou wilt be a good lad and mind thy manners. Come, Nancy, child, I need thy help!" Then she disappeared down the ladder to stir the hasty pudding, which was already bubbling in the pot.

When she was gone, Nancy flung herself upon the mattress and buried her face in the bed-clothes. "Oh, Daniel," she cried, smothering a sob, "what if the p-p-pirates should get thee?"

Daniel was at her side in an instant. "Give thyself no concern about pirates, sister," he said, patting her comfortingly. "I have thought how to deal with them! I shall stand by the rail with my cutlass in my hand, and when they seek to board her I will bring down my cutlass so,"—here he made a terrific sweep with his arm,—"and that will be the end of them."

"Oh," breathed Nancy, much impressed, "how brave thou art!"

"Well," said Daniel modestly, "there'd be the Captain and father to help, of course, and, I suppose, the mate too. There will be four of us men anyway."

"Nancy!—Daniel!"—it was their father's voice this time, and the two children jumped guiltily and began to dress as if the house were on fire and they had but two minutes to escape. In a surprisingly short time they were downstairs and attending to their morning tasks. Nancy, looking very solemn, fed the chickens, and Dan brought water from the spring, while their father milked the cow; and by six o'clock their breakfast of hasty pudding and milk had been eaten, prayers were over, and the whole family was ready for the real work of the day. There was a great deal of it to do, for nothing but "works of necessity and mercy" could be performed on the Sabbath, the Sabbath began at sundown Saturday afternoon, and the travellers were to make an early start on Monday morning. A fire was built in the brick oven beside the fireplace, and while it was heating the Goodwife made four pies and six loaves of brown-bread, and prepared a pot of pork and beans for baking.

[Illustration] from Puritan Twins by Lucy F. Perkins

When the coals had been raked out and the oven filled, she washed clothes for Daniel and his father, while Nancy hurried to finish a pair of stockings she was knitting for her brother. Daniel himself, meanwhile, had gone down to the bay to see if he could find the shovel and the basket. He came home in triumph about noon with both, and with quite a number of clams beside, which the Goodwife cooked for their dinner. When they were seated at the table, and the Goodman had asked the blessing, he leaned back in his chair and surveyed the ceiling of the cabin. From the rafters there hung long festoons of dried pumpkin and golden ears of corn. There were also sausages, hams, and sides of bacon.

"I doubt not you will fare well while we are gone," he said. "There is plenty of well-cured meat, and meal enough ground to last for some time. The planting is done and the corn well hoed; there is wood cut, and Gran'ther Wattles will call upon you if he knows I am away. I am leaving the fowling-piece for thee, wife. The musket I shall take with me."

"Why must Gran'ther Wattles come?" interrupted Nancy in alarm. "I am sure Mother and I do not need him."

"Children should be seen and not heard," said her father. "It is Gran'ther Wattles's duty to oversee the congregation at home as well as in the meeting-house."

Nancy looked at her trencher and said no more, but she thought there was already enough to bear without having Gran'ther Wattles added to her troubles. Daniel, meanwhile, had attacked his porringer of clams, and in his excitement over the journey was gobbling at a fearful rate. His mother looked at him despairingly.

"Daniel," she said, "thou art pitching food into thy mouth as if thou wert shoveling coals into the oven! Take thy elbows off the table and eat more moderately." Daniel glued his elbows to his side. "Sit up straight," she went on, "or thou wilt grow up as crooked as a ram's horn." Daniel immediately sat up as if he had swallowed the poker. "I wish thee to practice proper manners at home, lest my aunt should think thee a person of no gentility. Remember thou must not ask for anything at the table. Wait until it is offered thee, and then do not stuff it down as if thine eyes had not looked upon food for a fortnight!"

"But," protested poor Dan, who was beginning to feel that the journey might not be all his fancy had painted, "suppose they should n't offer it?"

"I do not fear starvation for thee," his mother answered briefly; "and oh, Daniel, I beg of thee to wash thy hands before going to the table! The Governor is a proper man and my aunt is very particular." She paused for breath, and to get more brown-bread for the table.

When she sat down again, Daniel said, "If you please, I think I'd rather go on to Provincetown with the Captain."

"That must be as we are guided at the time," said his father.

The busy day passed quickly, and before sunset a fine array of pies and brown loaves were cooling on the table, the chores were done, and a Sabbath quiet had settled down over the household, not to be broken until sunset of the following day.

When Daniel opened the cabin door the next morning, he was confronted by a wall of gray mist which shut the landscape entirely from view. He had hoped to catch a glimpse of the Lucy Ann, in order to assure himself that he had not merely dreamed the events of the day before, but nothing could he see, and he began dispirited preparations for church. They had no clock, and on account of the fog they could not tell the time by the sun, so the whole family started early to cross the long stretch of pasture land which lay between them and the meeting-house in the village. They reached it just as Gran'ther Wattles, looking very grave and important, came out on the church steps and beat a solemn tattoo upon a drum to call the people together. They came from different directions across the fields and through the one street of the village, looking anxious for fear they should be late, yet not daring to desecrate the Sabbath by any appearance of haste. Among the rest, red-faced and short of wind, who should appear but Captain Sanders? Sabbath decorum forbade any show of surprise; so Goodman Pepperell and his wife merely bowed gravely, and the Captain, looking fairly pop-eyed in his effort to keep properly solemn, nodded in return, and they passed into the meeting-house together.

The Captain sat down with the Goodman on the men's side of the room, while Daniel went to his place among the boys, leaving Nancy and his mother seated with the women on the opposite side. It is hard to believe that a boy could sit through a sermon two hours long with his friends all about him and such a secret buttoned up inside his jacket without an explosion, but Daniel did it. He did n't dare do otherwise, for Gran'ther Wattles ranged up and down the little aisle with his tithing-rod in hand on the lookout for evil-doers. Once, indeed, during the sermon there was a low rumbling snore, and Daniel was horrified to see Gran'ther Wattles lean over and gently tickle the Captain's nose with the squirrel-tail. The Captain woke with a start and sneezed so violently that the boy next Daniel all but tittered outright. Gran'ther Wattles immediately gave him a smart rap on the head with the knob end of his stick, so it is no wonder that after that Daniel sat with his eyes nearly crossed in his effort to keep them fixed on the minister, though his thoughts were far away ranging Massachusetts Bay with the Lucy Ann of Marblehead.

At last, however, the sermon ended, the final psalm was sung, and after the benediction the minister passed out of the church and the congregation dispersed to eat a bite of brown-bread in the church-yard before assembling again for another two-hour sermon.

The sun was now shining brightly, and, once outside the door, after the first sermon, the Captain wiped his brow as if exhausted, and a few moments later Daniel saw him quietly disappearing in the direction of the river. He was not of the Cambridge parish, so no discipline could be exercised upon him, but Gran'ther Wattles set him down at once as a dangerous character, and even Goodwife Pepperell shook her head gently when she noted his absence.

[Illustration] from Puritan Twins by Lucy F. Perkins

Somehow, although it was a breach of Sabbath decorum to tell it, the great news leaked out during the intermission, and Daniel was the center of interest to every boy in the congregation during the afternoon. When the second long sermon was over and the exhausted minister had trailed solemnly down the aisle, the equally exhausted people walked sedately to their houses, discussing the sermon as they went. All that day Daniel kept a tight clutch on his manners, but the moment the sun went down, he heaved a great sigh of relief and turned three somersaults and a handspring behind the cabin to limber himself up after the fearful strain.