Page:Twice-Told Tales (1851) vol 2.djvu/83

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
77
OLD ESTHER DUDLEY.

awakened from a dream, her bewildered eyes half recognised his face. Years ago, she had known him among the gentry of the province. But the ban of the King had fallen upon him! How, then, came the doomed victim here? Proscribed, excluded from mercy, the monarch's most dreaded and hated foe, this New England merchant had stood triumphantly against a kingdom's strength; and his foot now trode upon humbled Royalty, as he ascended the steps of the Province House, the people's chosen Governor of Massachusetts.

'Wretch, wretch that I am!' muttered the old woman, with such a heart-broken expression, that the tears gushed from the stranger's eyes. 'Have I bidden a traitor welcome? Come, Death! come quickly!'

'Alas, venerable lady!' said Governor Hancock, lending her his support with all the reverence that a courtier would have shown to a queen. 'Your life has been prolonged until the world has changed around you. You have treasured up all that time has rendered worthless—the principles, feelings, manners, modes of being and acting, which another generation has flung aside—and you are a symbol of the past. And I, and these around me—we represent a new race of men—living no longer in the past, scarcely in the present—but projecting our lives forward into the future. Ceasing to model ourselves on ancestral superstitions, it is our faith and principle to press onward, onward! Yet,' continued he, turning to his attendants, 'let us reverence, for the last time, the stately and gorgeous prejudices of the tottering Past!'

While the Republican Governor spoke, he had con-