The Courtship of Miles Standish
IX. The Wedding-Day
Forth from the curtain of clouds, from the tent of purple and
Issued the sun, the great High-Priest, in his garments
Holiness unto the Lord, in letters of light, on his forehead,
Round the hem of his robe the golden bells and pomegranates.
Blessing the world he came, and the bars of vapor beneath him
Gleamed like a grate of brass, and the sea at his feet was a
This was the wedding morn of Priscilla the Puritan maiden.
Friends were assembled together; the Elder and Magistrate also
Graced the scene with their presence, and stood like the Law and
One with the sanction of earth and one with the blessing of
Simple and brief was the wedding, as that of Ruth and of Boaz.
Softly the youth and the maiden repeated the words of betrothal,
Taking each other for husband and wife in the Magistrate's
After the Puritan way, and the laudable custom of Holland.
Fervently then, and devoutly, the excellent Elder of Plymouth
Prayed for the hearth and the home, that were founded that day in
Speaking of life and of death, and imploring Divine benedictions.
Lo! when the service was ended, a form appeared on the
Clad in armor of steel, a sombre and sorrowful figure!
Why does the bridegroom start and stare at the strange
Why does the bride turn pale, and hide her face on his shoulder?
Is it a phantom of air,--a bodiless, spectral illusion?
Is it a ghost from the grave, that has come to forbid the
Long had it stood there unseen, a guest uninvited, unwelcomed;
Over its clouded eyes there had passed at times an expression
Softening the gloom and revealing the warm heart hidden beneath
As when across the sky the driving rack of the rain-cloud
Grows for a moment thin, and betrays the sun by its brightness.
Once it had lifted its hand, and moved its lips, but was silent,
As if an iron will had mastered the fleeting intention.
But when were ended the troth and the prayer and the last
Into the room it strode, and the people beheld with amazement
Bodily there in his armor Miles Standish, the Captain of
Grasping the bridegroom's hand, he said with emotion, "Forgive
I have been angry and hurt,--too long have I cherished the
I have been cruel and hard, but now, thank God! it is ended.
Mine is the same hot blood that leaped in the veins of Hugh
Sensitive, swift to resent, but as swift in atoning for error.
Never so much as now was Miles Standish the friend of John
Thereupon answered the bridegroom: "Let all be forgotten between
All save the dear, old friendship, and that shall grow older and
Then the Captain advanced, and, bowing, saluted Priscilla,
Gravely, and after the manner of old-fashioned gentry in England,
Something of camp and of court, of town and of country,
Wishing her joy of her wedding, and loudly lauding her husband.
Then he said with a smile: "I should have remembered the adage,--
If you would be well served, you must serve yourself; and
No man can gather cherries in Kent at the season of Christmas!"
Great was the people's amazement, and greater yet their
Thus to behold once more the sunburnt face of their Captain,
Whom they had mourned as dead; and they gathered and crowded
Eager to see him and hear him, forgetful of bride and of
Questioning, answering, laughing, and each interrupting the
Till the good Captain declared, being quite overpowered and
He had rather by far break into an Indian encampment,
Than come again to a wedding to which he had not been invited.
Meanwhile the bridegroom went forth and stood with the bride at
Breathing the perfumed air of that warm and beautiful morning.
Touched with autumnal tints, but lonely and sad in the sunshine,
Lay extended before them the land of toil and privation;
There were the graves of the dead, and the barren waste of the
There the familiar fields, the groves of pine, and the meadows;
But to their eyes transfigured, it seemed as the Garden of Eden,
Filled with the presence of God, whose voice was the sound of the
Soon was their vision disturbed by the noise and stir of
Friends coming forth from the house, and impatient of longer
Each with his plan for the day, and the work that was left
Then from a stall near at hand, amid exclamations of wonder,
Alden the thoughtful, the careful, so happy, so proud of
Brought out his snow-white bull, obeying the hand of its master,
Led by a cord that was tied to an iron ring in its nostrils,
Covered with crimson cloth, and a cushion placed for a saddle.
She should not walk, he said, through the dust and heat of the
Nay, she should ride like a queen, not plod along like a peasant.
Somewhat alarmed at first, but reassured by the others,
Placing her hand on the cushion, her foot in the hand of her
Gayly, with joyous laugh, Priscilla mounted her palfrey.
"Nothing is wanting now," he said with a smile, "but the distaff;
Then you would be in truth my queen, my beautiful Bertha!"
Onward the bridal procession now moved to their new habitation,
Happy husband and wife, and friends conversing together.
Pleasantly murmured the brook, as they crossed the ford in the
Pleased with the image that passed, like a dream of love through
Tremulous, floating in air, o'er the depths of the azure abysses.
Down through the golden leaves the sun was pouring his splendors,
Gleaming on purple grapes, that, from branches above them
Mingled their odorous breath with the balm of the pine and the
Wild and sweet as the clusters that grew in the valley of Eshcol.
Like a picture it seemed of the primitive, pastoral ages,
Fresh with the youth of the world, and recalling Rebecca and
Old and yet ever new, and simple and beautiful always,
Love immortal and young in the endless succession of lovers
So through the Plymouth woods passed onward the bridal