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Child, Lydia Maria Francis, 1802-1880 [1824], Hobomok (Cummings, Hilliard & Co., Boston) [word count] [eaf041].
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How daur ye try sic sportin,
As seek the foul thief ony place,
For him to spae your fortune?
Nae doubt but ye may get a sight!
Great cause ye hae to fear it;
For mony a ane has gotten a fright,
An' liv'd and died deleeret.

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I NEVER view the thriving villages of New England,
which speak so forcibly to the heart, of happiness
and prosperity, without feeling a glow of national
pride, as I say, “this is my own, my native
land.” A long train of associations are connected
with her picturesque rivers, as they repose in their
peaceful loveliness, the broad and sparkling mirror of
the heavens,—and with the cultivated environs of her
busy cities, which seem every where blushing into a
perfect Eden of fruit and flowers. The remembrance
of what we have been, comes rushing on the heart in
powerful and happy contrast. In most nations the
path of antiquity is shrouded in darkness, rendered
more visible by the wild, fantastic light of fable;
but with us, the vista of time is luminous to its remotest
point. Each succeeding year has left its footsteps
distinct upon the soil, and the cold dew of our chilling
dawn is still visible beneath the mid-day sun. Two
centuries only have elapsed, since our most beautiful

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villages reposed in the undisturbed grandeur of nature;—
when the scenes now rendered classic by literary
associations, or resounding with the din of commerce,
echoed nought but the song of the hunter, or
the fleet tread of the wild deer. God was here in his
holy temple, and the whole earth kept silence before
him! But the voice of prayer was soon to be heard in
the desert. The sun, which for ages beyond the memory
of man had gazed on the strange, fearful worship
of the Great Spirit of the wilderness, was soon to
shed its splendor upon the altars of the living God.
That light, which had arisen amid the darkness of
Europe, stretched its long, luminous track across the
Atlantic, till the summits of the western world became
tinged with its brightness. During many long,
long ages of gloom and corruption, it seemed as if the
pure flame of religion was every where quenched in
blood;—but the watchful vestal had kept the sacred
flame still burning deeply and fervently. Men, stern
and unyielding, brought it hither in their own bosom,
and amid desolation and poverty they kindled it on the
shrine of Jevovah. In this enlightened and liberal
age, it is perhaps too fashionable to look back upon
those early sufferers in the cause of the Reformation,
as a band of dark, discontented bigots. Without
doubt, there were many broad, deep shadows in their
characters, but there was likewise bold and powerful
light. The peculiarities of their situation occasioned
most of their faults, and atoned for them. They were
struck off from a learned, opulent, and powerful nation,
under circumstances which goaded and lacerated
them almost to ferocity;—and it is no wonder that
men who fled from oppression in their own country, to
all the hardships of a remote and dreary province,
should have exhibited a deep mixture of exclusive,
bitter, and morose passions. To us indeed, most of

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the points for which they so strenuously contended,
must appear exceedingly absurd and trifling; and we
cannot forbear a smile that vigorous and cultivated
minds should have looked upon the signing of the
cross with so much horror and detestation. But the
heart pays involuntary tribute to conscientious, persevering
fortitude, in what cause soever it may be displayed.
At this impartial period we view the sound
policy and unwearied zeal with which the Jesuits endeavored
to rebuild their decaying church, with almost
as much admiration as we do the noble spirit of
reaction which it produced. Whatever merit may be
attached to the cause of our forefathers, the mighty
effort which they made for its support is truly wonderful;
and whatever might have been their defects,
they certainly possessed excellencies, which peculiarly
fitted them for a van-guard in the proud and rapid
march of freedom. The bold outlines of their character
alone remain to us. The varying tints of domestic
detail are already concealed by the ivy which
clusters around the tablets of our recent history.
Some of these have lately been unfolded in an old,
worn-out manuscript, which accidentally came in my
way. It was written by one of my ancestors who fled
with the persecuted nonconformists from the Isle of
Wight, and about the middle of June, 1629, arrived at
Naumkeak on the eastern shore of Massachusetts.
Every one acquainted with our early history remembers
the wretched state in which they found the
scanty remnant of their brethren at that place. I
shall, therefore, pass over the young man's dreary account
of sickness and distress, and shall likewise take
the liberty of substituting my own expressions for his
antiquated and almost unintelligible style.

“After a long and wearisome voyage,” says he, “we
gladly welcomed the peninsula of Shawmut, which, as it

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lay stretched out in the distance, proclaimed the vicinity
of Naumkeak. But the winds seemed resolved to
show the full extent of their tantalizing power. All
the livelong day we watched the sails as they fluttered
loosely round the mast, and listened to the hoarse
creaking of the shrouds. Evening at length came on
in her softened beauty; and I shall never forget the
crowd of sensations which it brought upon my mind.
I was in a new world, whose almost unlimited extent
lay in the darkness of ignorance and desolation.
Earth, sea, and air, seemed in a profound slumber,—
and not even the dash of the oar broke in upon their
silence. A confusion of thoughts came over my mind,
till I was lost and bewildered in their immensity. The
scene around me owed nothing of its unadorned beauty
to the power of man. He had rarely been upon these
waves, and the records of his boasted art were not
found in these deserts. I viewed myself as a drop in
the vast ocean of existence, and shrunk from the contemplation
of human nothingness. Thoughts like
these flitted through my mind, till they were lost in
dreaming indistinctness. The glittering forehead of
the sun was just visible above the waves when I
awoke. The wind being fair, the sails were soon
spread, and our vessel passed through the waters with
a rapid and exhilarating motion. Various accounts
had reached us with regard to the New England
plantations. The friends of the London company had
represented it as a second Canaan; while Mr. Lyford,
and other discontented members of the Plymouth
church, spoke of it as bleak and sterile,—the scene
of tumultuous faction, and domineering zeal. During
our voyage I had endeavored to balance these contradictory
reports, and to prepare my mind for whatever
the result might be; but my philosophy nearly
forsook me when I saw our captain point to six

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miserable hovels, and proclaim that they constituted the
whole settlement of Naumkeak. The scene altogether
was far worse than my imagination had ever conceived.
Among those who came down to the shore to meet
us, there were but one or two who seemed like Englishmen.
The remainder, sickly and half starved, presented
a pitiful contrast to the vigorous and wondering
savages who stood among them. I dashed a tear
from my eye as the remembrance of England came
before me, and jumping upon the beach, I eagerly
sought out my old acquaintance, Mr. Conant. He
gave me a cordial welcome; but after the numerous
greetings had passed, as I slowly walked by his side,
I thought his once cheerful countenance had assumed
an unusual expression of harshness. He had indeed
met with much to depress his native buoyancy of
heart. In his younger days he had aspired to the
hand of a wealthy and noble lady. Young, volatile,
and beautiful, at an age when life seemed all cloudless
before her, she left the magnificent halls of her
father, and incurred his lasting displeasure by uniting
her fortunes with her humble lover. Years rolled on,
and misfortune and poverty became their lot. Frustrated
in his plans, thwarted by his rivals, misanthropy
and gloom sunk deep down into the soul of the disappointed
man. It was then the spirit of God moved
on the dark, troubled waters of his mind. The stream
of life gushed from the fountain within him; but it
received the tinge of the dark, turbid soil, through
which it passed; and its clear, silent course became
noisy amid the eddies of human pride. One by one
all the associations connected with the religion of his
fathers, were rent away, till kneeling became an
abomination, and the prayers of his church a loathing.
The arm of royal authority then held a firm
grasp on the consciences of men, and England was no

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place for him who spoke against the religion of his
king. So their children were called together, and the
gay young beauty who had sparkled awhile in the
court of king James, slept in a rude shelter on a
foreign soil. Two boys, the pride of their father's
heart, had fallen victims to sickness and famine; and
their youngest little blooming fairy had been lately
recalled from the home which her grandfather's pity
had offered, to watch the declining health of her
mother. But the love of woman endured through
many a scene of privation and hardship, even after
the character of its object was totally changed; and
the rigid Calvinist, in that lone place, surrounded by
his lovely family, seemed like some proud magnolia
of the south, scathed and bared of its leaves, adorned
with the golden flowers of the twining jessamine.

“Breakfast was on the board when I first entered,
and after the usual salutations had passed, I with
several of my companions, sat down to partake of it.
It consisted only of roasted pumpkin, a plentiful supply
of clams, and coarse cakes made of pounded
maize. But unpalatable as it proved, even to me, it
was cheerfully partaken by the noble inmates of that
miserable hut. As for Mary, her eye sparkled as
brightly, and the rich tones of her voice were as
merry, as they could have been when her little aerial
foot danced along the marble saloon of her grandfather.
My eye rested on her, with a painful mixture
of sadness and admiration, as in rapid succession
she inquired about the scenes of her youth. Even
the rough sailors, who were with me, softened their
rude tones of voice, and paid to gentleness and beauty
the involuntary tribute of respect. Whether the
father felt any uneasiness as to the effect of this silent
flattery on the young heart of his daughter, or whether
habitual asperity had triumphed over natural

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affection I know not; but he replied in an angry tone,
“Wherefore, Mary, do you ask about those, who bow
the knee to Baal, and utter the mummery of common
prayer? Methinks it is enough that the hawk has already
brought hither a sprig from their tree of corruption,
wherewithal to beguile your silly heart.”

A blush, which seemed to partake of something more
unpleasant than mere embarrassment, passed over the
face of the maiden as she answered, “It surely is not
strange that I should think often of places where I
have enjoyed so much, and should now be tempted to
ask questions concerning them, of those who have
knowledge thereof.”

“Aye, aye,” replied the stern old man, “encamped
as you are in Elim, beside palm-trees and fountains,
you are no doubt looking back for the flesh-pots of
Egypt. You'd be willing enough to leave the little
heritage which God has planted here, in order to
vamp up your frail carcase in French frippery. But
I would have you beware, young damsel. Wot ye
not that the idle follower of Morton, who was drowned
in yonder bay, was inwardly given to the vain
forms of the church of England?—and know ye not,
that was the reason his God left him, and Satan became
his convoy?”

His voice grew louder towards the close, and I saw
Mrs. Conant lay her hand upon his, with a beseeching
look. Her husband understood the meaning, for
he smiled half reluctantly, and rejoined in a subdued
tone, “You know it is enough to provoke any body
who has a conscience.” I was at the time surprised
at his sudden change of manner; but during the
whole of my intercourse with him afterwards, I noticed
that a spirit of tenderness toward his sick wife
had survived the wreck of all his kindest feelings. It
was indeed but oil upon the surface. The stream

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pursued its own course, and a moment after it would
boil and fret at every obstruction. Willing to change
the current of his thoughts, I asked whether he had

“No,” replied he; “but I believe neighbour Oldham
hath some; and I will straightway send to him.
But by the way, I have been thinking you'd bring us
a stock. To my mind, among all king James' blunders
with regard to his colonies, (and they were many,
God rest his soul,) he never committed a greater, than
that of discountenancing the culture of the `base weed
tobacco.' ”

“We have a little on board,” answered I, “but we
have especial orders to see that none be planted in
the colony, unless it be some small quantity for mere
necessity, and for physic to preserve health, and
that is to be partaken by ancient men, and none

My friend looked as if he disliked such tokens of
restraint. He even went so far as to whisper in my
ear, that the “colonies would never do well as long as
their prosperity could be hindered by their papistical
step-mother from the court of France; and that to be
uxorious was a very virtuous vice among common
folks, but a very vicious and impolitic virtue in a

There were several sailors present who were soon
to return to the mother country, and there was little
safety in speaking aloud of the king's blind and foolish
passion for his Romish queen. So I was fain to
speak of the good wishes of my sovereign, and to lament
their decrease of numbers, and their late dissatisfaction
with the Plymouth elders.

“I have little to say about our troubles,” replied
Mr. Conant; “but as for numbers, the besom of disease
and famine hath been among us, and we are now

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as an olive tree `with two or three berries in the top
of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost
fruitful branches thereof.' The Lord's will be done.
He hath begun his work, and he will finish it. But it
grieveth me to see the strange slips which are set upon
our pleasant plants; and when I think thereof, I marvel
not that they wither.”

“I have heard that Mr. Brown and his brother
have been among you some weeks,” said I,—“forasmuch
as they are staunch Episcopalians, you may
refer to them.”

“Whom should I mean,” rejoined he, “but the two
men who like Nabab and Abihu have offered strange
incense to the Lord, which he commanded them not?
Verily, in due time he will send forth his fire and destroy
them from the face of the earth.”

As I saw the tears start in Mary's eyes, I felt a
vague suspicion that the conversation was, in some
way or other, painful to her; and I perceived that the
entrance of Mr. Oldham with his tobacco was a relief
to her.

“Ah,” said the jocular old man, “it's a discrepant
way of doing business, to put a neighbour's paw into the
fire, instead of helping one's self. Here's Good-man
Conant would fain have a fair name on 'tother side
the water; but after all, he hath much likeness to
Rachel of old, only he keepeth the images in another's
tent. But come, let's fill a pipe and talk of byepast

All that I could relate concerning our godly brethren
in Europe, was amply repaid by Mr. Oldham's
humorous description of his own wanderings, mistakes,
and sufferings. I had heard that he would speak of
his own disgraces with the most shameless effrontery,
and laugh at them more loudly than any other man;
and I knew that many pious men had doubted the

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vitality of his religion, and had felt themselves darkened
by intercourse with him;—but although I was
shocked at the blasphemous lightness of his speech, I
could hardly refrain from countenancing his ludicrous
expressions and gestures by a smile.

“I can give you no idea of that guantlet at Plymouth,”
said he, “when I passed through a band as
long as the laws of the Levites, and every man gave
me a tug with the butt of his musket. But after all
you may think, it was a season of comfortable outpouring.
Two passages of Scripture came to my
mind, and I was gifted with great light thereupon.
David hath it, `By thee have I passed through a
troop;'—and Amos speaketh at a time when, `If a man
fled from a lion, a bear met him; and if he laid his
hand upon the wall, a serpent bit him.' Well, it was
much the same with me: but as I told you, it was a
time of great light, though it was nothing like the first
dawning. I'll tell you how that was. I was sitting
thus, with my mug of flip before me, and one hand
upon each knee, looking straight into the fire, when
suddenly I bethought that I was like that smoking
brand, with none to pluck it from the burning. So I
took a draught of the good stuff, and all at once a light
streamed around me, ten times brighter than the earl
of Warwick's big lamp.”

“Hush,” said Mr. Conant. “I cannot have you
profane the mysteries of godliness after this fashion.
You may mean well,—God grant that you say it not
in a spirit of devilish mirth, but forasmuch as you are
in my house, I would beg of you to forbear such discourse.”

I willingly omit the altercation which followed,
which is given at full length in the manuscript; and I
likewise pass over the detailed business of the day,
such as the unlading of vessels, the delivery of

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letters, &c. &c., and lastly the theological discussions of
the evening.

After much holy and edifying discourse, continues
the narration, the family had all retired to rest. But
notwithstanding the fatigues of the day, my conflicting
feelings would not suffer me to sleep. At length,
wearied with the effort, I arose from the bed of straw,
and cautiously lifting the wooden latch, I stepped into
the open air. As I stood gazing on the reflection of
the moon, which reposed in broken radiance on the
bay beyond, I tried to think soberly of the difficulties
to which I and my oppressed brethren were exposed,
and to decide how far I could conscientiously purchase
peace and prosperity by conforming to mummeries
which my soul detested. Human weakness
prompted me to return, and again, when I had most
decidedly concluded to stay in New England, the
childish witchery of Mary Conant would pass before
me, and I felt that the balance was weighed down by
earthly motives. I looked out upon the surrounding
scenery, and its purity and stillness were a reproach
upon my inward warfare. The little cleared spot
upon which I was placed, was every where surrounded
by dark forests, through which the distant water
was here and there gleaming, like the fitful flashes of
reason in a disordered mind; and the trees stood forth
in all the beauty of that month which the Indians
call the “moon of flowers.” By degrees the tranquil
beauty of the scene, and the mysterious effect of the
heavenly host performing their silent march in the
far-off wilderness of light, called up the spirit of devotion
within me;—and at that moment, forgetful of
forms, I knelt to pray that my heart might be kept
from the snares of the world.

A shadow was for one moment cast across the
bright moonlight; and a slender figure flitted by the

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corner of the house. All that I had heard of visitants
from other worlds fell coldly on my heart. For a
while, I was afraid to ascertain the cause of my fear;
but after the person had proceeded a few hesitating
steps, she paused and looked back, as if apprehensive
of danger. The rays of the full moon rested on her
face, and I at once perceived that it was Mary Conant.
Had my first fears been realized, I know not that I
should have felt more surprise. Among all my conjectures,
I could not possibly imagine for what purpose
she could be making an excursion at that lonely
hour of the night. I remembered the hint, which her
father had given, concerning the beguilement of her
silly heart, and I could not but suspect that this walk
was, in some way or other, connected with the young
Episcopalian. Whatever was her project, she seemed
half fearful of performing it; for she cast a keen,
searching glance behind, and a long, fearful look, at
the woods beneath, before she plunged into the thicket.
After a moment's consideration, I resolved to follow
her, and stepping from behind the tree which
had afforded me concealment, I cautiously proceeded
along the path which she had taken. She had stopped
near a small brook, and when I first discovered
her, she had stooped beside it, and taking a knife
from her pocket, she opened a vein in her little arm,
and dipping a feather in the blood, wrote something
on a piece of white cloth, which was spread before
her. She rose with a face pale as marble, and looking
round timidly, she muttered a few words too low
to meet my ear; then taking a stick and marking out a
large circle on the margin of the stream, she stept
into the magic ring, walked round three times with
measured tread, then carefully retraced her steps
backward, speaking all the while in a distinct but

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trembling voice. The following were the only words
I could hear,

Whoever's to claim a husband's power,
Come to me in the moonlight hour.
And again,—

Whoe'er my bridegroom is to be,
Step in the circle after me.

She looked round anxiously as she completed the
ceremony; and I almost echoed her involuntary
shriek of terror, when I saw a young Indian spring
forward into the centre.

“What for makes you afraid of Hobomok,” said
the savage, who seemed scarcely less surprised than

“Wherefore did you come hither,” replied the
maiden, after the tones of his voice had convinced her
that he was real flesh and blood.

“Hobomok much late has been out to watch the
deer tracks,” answered the Indian; “and he came
through the hollow, that he might make the Manitto
Asseinah* green as the oak tree.”

As he spoke this he threw a large bough upon the
heap of rocks to which he had pointed, and looking
up to the moon, he uttered something in the Indian
tongue, which seemed like a short incantation or
prayer. Just as he turned to follow Mary, who was
retreating from the woods, a third person made his appearance,
in whom I thought I recognized young
Brown, specified by Mr. Conant as the strange slip
on their pleasant plants. Mary eagerly caught his
arm, and seemed glad amid her terror and agitation,
to seek the shelter of his offered protection. A few

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friendly words of recognition passed between him and
the savage, and the young couple proceeded homewards.
A mixed feeling of diffidence and delicacy,
had induced me to remain concealed from Mary while
I watched over her safety; and the same feeling
prompted me to continue where I was until she and
her favoured lover were far out of sight and hearing.
Hobomok looked after them with a mournful expression
of countenance, as he said, “Wonder what for
be here alone when the moon gone far away toward
the Iroquois. What for sqaw no love like white
woman.” He stood silent for a short time, and then,
taking a large knife from his belt, he cut down two
young boughs from the adjoining trees, and threw
them, one after another, on the sacrifice heap of his
God, as he muttered, “Three times much winnit Abbamocho
* said; three times me do.”

It seemed but an instant after, that the sound of his
heavy tread was lost in the distance.

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Child, Lydia Maria Francis, 1802-1880 [1824], Hobomok (Cummings, Hilliard & Co., Boston) [word count] [eaf041].
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