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Sketch of Connecticut, Forty Years Since/Chapter XVI

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CHAPTER XVI.

" Dark, rugge i brows, and rigid forms enfold Warm, grateful hearts, to feeling never cold; Thus the rough husk, and rind impervious, hide The luscious Cocoa, with its milky tide."

SPRING, with her varying charms, was now every day dispensing some new gift to the earth. The tardiness of f her first advance was compensated by the rapidity with which she changed eveiy thing subject to her influence ; as a timid child, ripening into the loveliness of woman hood, glides gracefully through those paths, which her feet at first trembled to approach. The period was arriv ing, when the two most delightful seasons of the year stand, as it were, on each other s boundary, blend their unfinish d work, dip their pencils in each other s dies, and like the rival goddesses, contend before the sons of earth for the palm of beauty. Even the rude settlement of the children of the forest put on its beautiful garments. They, whom their more fortunate brethren scarcely admitted within the scale of humanity, were not shut out by pity ing nature from her smiles, or her exuberance. Through the rich green velvet of her fields, the pure fountains look ed up with chrystal eyes, in silent joy. Bolder streams murmured over rocky beds, occasionally falling in cas cades, like a restless spirit afflicted with the turmoils, and tossings of the world. Wild flowers expanded their petals,


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trees their blossoms, birds filled their retreats with harmo ny, or soaring high, poured louder tones of transport, until it seemed that every thicket, and every wave of air uttered the strain, " Thou makest the outgoings of the morning, and of the evening to rejoice."

The abode of old Zachary and Martha felt the influence of this enlivening season. Already their aromatic herbs yielded a pure essence to the

husy inhabitants of the hives, 

and their cow cropped with delight the juicy food of her little pasture. A rose-bush near their door displayed its swelling buds, and the woodbine protruded its young ten drils, to reach the window of the invalid. But within the walls, was Age which knew no spring, and Youth, fading- like a blasted flower ; night that could know no dawning, and a morn that must never ascend to noon. The day had closed over the inhabitants of that peaceful habitation. The old warriour, and his wife were seated in the room appropriated to their mysterious guest. Reclining in a chair, which the ingenuity of Zachary had so constructed as to answer the purposes of both seat and couch, and wrap, ped in a loose dress of light calico, she watched the rising of the full, round, silver moon, like one who loves its beams, yet feels that he must soon bid it a returnless fare well. The bright, brown locks of that beautiful being, twined in braids around a head of perfect symmetry, and falling in profuse curls over her brow, formed a strong contrast to the snow of her cheek, and seemed to deepen the hue of her soft, blue eye. But the snows of her cheek


FORTY YEARS SINCE. 229

were now tinted with that ominous flush, whose brief loveliness Death lends, as a signal of his approaching tri umph. Sometimes, it gave to her eye a ray of such un earthly brightness, that the tender-hearted Martha could not gaze on it without a tear. She had remarked with grief to her husband, that the form of the uncomplaining victim was becoming rapidly emaciated, and respiration feeble and laborious, and that all her culinary arts were exerted in vain to stimulate appetite. The invalid gazed ^ng at the moon, with her forehead resting on a hand of purest whiteness, which, partially shaded by the rich curls that hung over it, seemed to display the flexile fingers of childhood. Turning her eyes from the beautiful orb, she observed those of the aged couple bent upon her with in tense earnestness. A long pause ensued. Something, that refused utterance, seemed to agitate her. But they, mark ing the emotion which varied a countenance usually so serene and passionless, forebore to break the silence lest they should interrupt her musings, and dreaded to hear her ipeak, lest it should be of separation. At length, a voice tremulous, and musical as the tones of a broken harp, was heard to say

" Father ! you may recollect hearing me mention that

I was educated a child of the Church of England. I love

her sacred services, though I have long been divided

. from them. A clergyman of that order lives within a

few miles of us. I feel a desire to see him, and once


20


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more to partake of the holy Sacrament. Will you bear my request to him, Father ?"

" The feet of Zachary shall travel any where for the comfort of his daughter," said the old warriour, rising to receive a letter which she held towards him.

" 1 knew it would be necessary to give some explana tion of my birth and education, before I could expect the favour which rny heart desires. You see now, Father, why I requested you to procure a few sheets of paper from the town. I have written in few words, for my hand is weak. Perhaps I may yet intrust to the man of God all my history, if I shall be strengthened to record it. * Pausing, she added, " But it must not meet his eye, till mine is closed."

Martha rose, with that undefinable sensation which moves us to shrink from any subject by which our feelings are agonized, and throwing up the casement for a moment, through which the soft, humid air of Spring breathed* said

" Have you seen, Oriana, how your woodbine grows ? Soon it will be raising up its young blossoms to look ;/l you, through the window."

" It will remind you of me, kind Mother," she said, "" and may its fragrance be soothing to you, even as your tenderness has been to the lonely, and withering heart."

Again there was silence, and then the aged man, raising his head from his bosom where it had declined, spake i


FORTY YEARS SINCE. 231

a voice which, as he proceeded, grew more calm, and distinct.

" Daughter! I understand thee. It is vain that we strive to conceal from each other a truth, with which we are all acquainted. I am glad that thou hast spoken thy mind to us. Yet is my soul at this moment weak as that of an infant, though in battle no eye hath seen me turn to shun the death, which I dealt to others. My daughter ! Zachary could lie down in his grave, and not tremble. Yet his heart is soft, when he sees one so young, and beau tiful, falling like the green leaf before the blast. Zacha ry is old, but his mind is selfish. He had desired to look on thy brow, during the short space that he hath yet to measure. He hath prayed the Eternal, that his ears might continue to hear thy voice ; for it was sweet to them. His heart wished to have something to love, which should not be as himself, every day decaying like the tree strip ped of its branches, and mouldering at the root. But he must humble his heart. Thou haft toJd him that God giveth grace unto the humble. Thou hast read unto him, from thine holy book, till he has bowed in peni tence, and sought with tears in the silent midnight for salvation through Christ. What shall he, and Martha do, when thou art taken from them ? Who will have patience with their ignorance, as thou hast done - ; Who will kindly teach them the true way of life ? Ask 1 what we shall do, as if we had yet au hundred years to dwel)


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on earth ? We shall soon sleep in that grave, to which thou art hastening."

" Whither I go, ye know," answered the same sweet, solemn voice, " and the way ye know. Hope in Him whom ye have believed. Like me, ye must soon slum ber in the dust ; but His power shall raise ye up at the last day. The Eternal, in whose sight shades of complex ion, and distinctions of rank are as nothing. He who look- eth only upon the heart, bless you for your love to the outcast, and lead you to that abode, where all which is be nevolent, and pure shall be gathered, and sundered no more."

She then laid her hand on her Prayer-book, which with a small bible was always near her on the table, arid Mar* tha rose to light the lamp, which had hitherto been neg lected.

" It is in vain, Mother !" she said " with a lamb-like smile. "I am too much exhausted to say with you my evening prayer. Pray for yourselves, and for me, that we may meet where is no infirmity or pain, and where sorrow fleeteth away."

Then, as if regretting that the night should draw over them without their accustomed devotions, looking upward she repeated with deep pathos, a few verses from th fourt-ieiith of John.

    • Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in Gods

believe also in me. In my Father s house are many man sions," &c.


FORTY YEARS SINCE. 233

The old warriour rising to take his leave for the night, held his hands over her head, and pronounced in deep tones the blessing of his nation. This he retained probably from early associations, though he was now the disciple of a better faith.

" The Great Spirit, who dwelleth where the Sun hideth himself, and where the tempest is born, guide thee with strength. He who maketh the earth fruitful, and the sky bright, and the heart of man glad, smile on thee, and give thee rest."

Martha remained to render some attentions to the suffer er. She removed her gently from her reposing seat to the bed, gave her an infusion which was useful to repel in* (lamination, and quiet restlesness. But she dared not trust her voice beyond a whisper, lest it should yield wholly to her emotion. After her services were completed, she lingered, as if unwilling to leave the pillow of the sufferer.

" Mother !" said the broken voice, " kind, tender moth er, go to thy rest. Oriana hath now no pain. Sleep will descend upon her. She will not leave thee this night. But soon she must begin her journey to the land of souls. What then ? She hath hope in her death, to pass from dark ness to eternal sunshine. Weep not, mother ! but lift your heart to the Father of consolation. I believe that whither I go, thou shalt come also. I shall return no more ; but thou and thy beloved shall come unto me. There will be scarcely time to mourn, ere, like the glid ing of a shadow, the parents shall follow their child." 20*


234 SKETCH OF CONNECTICUT,

A celestial smile was upon her brow, which would have cheered the grief of the aged woman, but for the reflec- tion she must so soon behold it no more. So strongly did her affectionate heart cling to this cherished object, thai sorrow shuddered at the thought that the beautiful taber nacle must be dissolved, even while Faith shadowed forth the joy of the liberated spirit.

The first rays of the sun found Zachary on the way to the clergyman whom .Oriana had designated. He paused not on his weary journey. Travellers who passed him, had they thought it fitting to bestow so much attention on an Indian, might have perceived that tears occasionally rolled over the furrows of his cheek, or hung upon his eye lashes, which like a fringe of silver, resembled in colour the few hairs which were scattered upon his temples.

41 Zachary s heart is proud," he would say, in com muning with himself. " The good prophet, when the de sire of his eyes was removed with a stroke, wept not, neither made lamentation. It was so, for she read it to me. She, who will SOOD open her blessed bible no more. And Martha, she will grieve more than Zachary, for her heart is weaker. Be strong, old warriour, that thou may- est comfort the woman. Thou, whose heart did never shrink in battle, what aileth thee, that

it is now dissolved ? 

Thou art old, Zachary, and thy hairs are like snow ; wherefore shouldst thou mourn any more, for what the world taketh away ?" Gathering strength from these me ditations, his step became firm, and his head erect, as he


FORTY YEARS SINCE. S

reached the southern part of the town, where the clergy man resided. Presenting the letter, the reverend man perused it, and said with affectionate feeling

" My brother, I will come to-morrow to your house." The afternoon of the succeeding day, the clergyman was seen fastening his horse to the fence that enclosed the garden of Zachary, He approached with the slow step, and benevolent countenance, which were indicative of his character. Firmness in the truth, and mildness in the ex pression of it distinguished his conversation among men. Filial trust in his God taught him to consider all as breth ren, and no hand raised the bruised reed more ten derly than his. When a child, the amusements of that giddy period had no charms for him, in comparison with those studies which nourish intellect. Thirteen sum mers had not past over him ere he made his election in favour of that Church to which he faithfully devoted the remainder of his life. So uninfluenced was this determi nation, that his parents and friends, who belonged to a different sect, were ignorant of the arguments by which his belief was fortified until he adduced them as a reason of "the hope that was in him." After spending his youth in collegiate studies, he found that the sect to which he had devoted himself was so far from enjoying popu larity, that not a single person existed in this country, to administer to him the vows of ordination. He crossed the Atlantic, and received holy orders from the Bishop of London, in 1768. From that period he had been con-


236 SKETCH OF CONNECTICUT.

nected with the parish in which he now resided ; and his attachment to the flock, and to the faith which he had taught it, was among the warmest affections of his heart. During the reign of those strong passions which our revo lutionary struggle excited, the single circumstance of his adherence to the Church of England created him ene mies among the more violent partizans, both political and puritanical. His amiable virtues, and pious life were as dust in the balance which the hand of enmity poised. For three years the doors of his church were closed ; but. from house to house, he broke the bread of life to his little flock, exhorting them to submit to " principalities and powers." In this day of darkness, he was pressed to re ceive a lucrative clerical establishment in England; but he chose to adhere to the little community which he had planted, through " evil report and good report." Now the rage of contest had subsided, and he again led his be loved followers to the sanctuary to pay their stated ser vices to the God of peace and consolation. When, on the first Sunday after their exile, they convened in their con secrated temple, such was the saintly expression of his countenance, and such the effect of his remarkably melo dious voice, as he uttered " From the rising of the sun, even unto the going down of the same, rny name shall be great among the Gentiles, and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering," and such were the recollections, tender, melancholy, and soothing, which arose at .the appearance of their venerated pastor


FORTY YEARS SINCE. 137

again in his much loved pulpit, that a burst of tears min gled with their devotions, and sobs ascended with their praises.

Such was the man who, like a shepherd seeking his sheep in remote places, now entered the abode of Zach- ary and Martha. He received their respectful saluta tions with that smile for which he was distinguished a smile which seemed the irradiation of a spirit, whose light was not kindled beneath the stars. He appeared /struck with the exceeding beauty of the stranger ; and, comparing it with the rude apartment, and the o!ark faces of her aged attendants, he could scarcely forbear ex claiming, " verily we have this treasure in earthern ves sels, but the excellency of the power is of God, and not of man." After a conversation of considerable length with the invalid, during which he became fully satisfied of her religious education, correct belief, and happy spirit ual state, he prepared to administer to her that most holy rite which her soul desired. Exhausted by the efforts of discourse, and by the warmth of her gratitude for the ap proaching privilege, she laid herself on her couch, as a pale iilly surcharged with dew reclines its head upon the stalk. Zachary and Martha rose to depart.

  • These are Christians," Oriana remarked, " in heart

and in life. They have been baptized many years since, by Mr. Occom, their departed minister. I can bear wit ness that they know, and love the truth. May they not partake with us, to the edification of their souls ?"


.238 SKETCH OF CONNECTICUT,

The clergyman, regarding them steadfastly, but kindly, inquired

" Are ye in perfect charity with all men ?"

Bowing himself down, the old warriour replied solemn- ly-

" We are. Your religion has taught even us Indians, to forgive our enemies."

" Approach then," said the minister of Heaven, " ap proach, ye who do truly, and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead anew life, following the commandments of God."

They kneeled by the bed of the sufferer. Often did the tears roll in tides over the face of old Martha, and the strong frame of the warriour tremble with emotion, as that voice so deep-ton d, so sweet, so solemn poured, in its varying modulation, the sublime language of the most holy office of religion, through the breathless silence of their abode. But she, who, reduced to the weakness of infancy, might have been supposed to be the most agitat ed, was as calm and unmoved as the lake, on which shines nothing but the beam of heaven. Raised above every cause of earthiy excitement, she seemed to have a fore taste of the happy consummation that awaited her. And, when the clergyman, with uplifted "eyes, pronounced the Gloria in excelsis," a voice of such thrilling, exquisite melody warbled from the couch, " GJory to God in the highest, and n earth peace, good will toward men. "


FORTY YEARS SINCE. 239

that in the devotion of that moment one might have fanci ed that the harp of angels, was once more pouring the ad vent melody over the vallies of Bethlehem. The heart of the good man was touched, and a tear starting to his mild eye, attested the accordance of his soul with the sympathies of the scene. His voice faltered as he utter ed the benediction, to which the aged warriour, bowing his face to the earth, pronounced distinctly, Amen.

A pause of several minutes ensued after this holy ordi- jiance. Each seemed fearful of interrupting the medita tion of another ; and all felt as if a human voice would be almost profanation amidst the heavenly calmness which had descended upon them. Every Christian, who has participated with sincere, and elevated devotion in this sacred banquet, must have been sensible how empty, and even painful are the first approaches of worldly conversa tion to the sublimated spirit. Like Moses, admitted to the mysterious mountain, she dreads too suddenly to min gle with the multitude at its base ; happy if, like him, she may illumine the brow with celestial brightness, as a wit ness of her communion with the Eternal.

The clergyman at length broke the silence by inquiring, with his native benevolence, if there were not some article of comfort which might alleviate her sufferings, and which she would permit him to procure ; or if she would not wish to consult a physician on the nature of her dis ease.

" I desire nothing," she added, " but what the care of these kind beings provide for me. Their knowledge of


  • 48 SKETCH OF CONNECTICUT,

medicine is considerable, and they prepare with skill as- suasive and soothing remedies, drawn from the bosom oi that earth to which I am returning. With the nature of my disease I am acquainted. I saw all its variations in my mother, for whom the utmost exertions of profes sional skill availed nothing. 1 feel upon my heart a cold hand, and where it will lead me, I know. You, reverend Father, can give me all that my brief earthly pilgrimage requires. You can speak to me of the hope of Heaven, when my ear is closed to the sound of other voices ; and. when my eye grows dim in death, it will brighten to be hold, and bless you."

Pressing her hand, the servant of peace and consolation took his leave, promising frequently to visit her, and en treating her to rely upon his friendship. Zachary and Martha followed him. Even the skirts of his garment were dear to them, since he had imparted comfort to their beloved one. Shaking hands with each, as he mounted his horse, he said, " I see that she will not long tarry with you. She is ready to commune with angels, and hasten to join them. What a privilege have you enjoyed in her in structions ! Pray that ye may tread in her steps." They stood gazing at him, till his form faded in distance, and the warriour, whose retentive memory was stored with ma ny passages of scripture, gathered from the daily readings of Oriana, repeated as he returned to her ** How beau tiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger, that hringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, that saith unto Zion, thy God reignetb."