Welcome to PhiloLogic  
   home |  the ARTFL project |  download |  documentation |  sample databases |   
Child, Lydia Maria Francis, 1802-1880 [1824], Hobomok (Cummings, Hilliard & Co., Boston) [word count] [eaf041].
To look up a word in a dictionary, select the word with your mouse and press 'd' on your keyboard.

Previous section

Next section


Nor think to village swains alone
Are these unearthly terrors known;
For not to rank nor sex confined
Is this vain ague of the mind.

Independent of universal public depression, a peculiar
and settled gloom pervaded Mr. Conant's dwelling;
and on every account it was a sad home for one
in the freshness of existence. True, Mr. Conant seldom
spoke with his former harshness, and even the
tones of his voice had become more gentle; still his
feelings were too rigid and exclusive to sympathize
with a young heart almost discouraged by surrounding
difficulties. One after an another, she had been
deprived of the cheering influence of Sally Oldham,
the firm support of Lady Arabella, and the mild, soothing
spirit of her mother; and no one was left to supply
their place. As for Mrs. Oldham, the whole circle
of her ideas might be comprised in one sentence,
viz. “People will marry whom they are

-- 142 --

[figure description] Page 142.[end figure description]

fore-ordained to marry, and die when they are appointed to die.”
The facetiousness of Mr. Oldham was sometimes amusing;
but his feelings were blunt, and his wit too often
partook of coarseness and vulgarity. There were
some in the settlement in whom Mary might have
found as much sympathy as she ever met from her
old associate, but she knew them not; and when the
heart is oppressed with many sorrows, it shrinks from
the task of initiating a stranger into all its mysteries
of thought and feeling. With none therefore, had
Mary any thing like communion. Even Hobomok
came unnoticed, and went away unheeded. Sometimes
she would think of asking her father's permission
to return to England; and then the prospect of
Brown's arrival the ensuing spring, would determine
her to await his motions. This hope enabled her to
discharge her daily duties with tolerable cheerfulness;
but twilight generally saw the melancholy maiden
seated by her mother's grave. At such seasons
her imagination would be busy with the light, silvery
clouds, as they hurried along the sky in every variety
of form and hue. In one place might be seen a group
rising side by side, like the sacred groves of the ancients;
here, a stupendous column stood alone, like
the magnificent pillar of some ruined edifice; and
there, a large, shadowy cloud rested upon the horizon,
like the aerial drapery of an angel's couch. It
was a mild evening at the commencement of October,
when, as she had seated herself as usual to pursue this
fanciful amusement, her attention was suddenly arrested
by the singular appearance of one of those capricious
forms. It was a vessel—so perfect and distinct
that the shrouds seemed creaking in the wind,
and the canvass fluttering to the breeze. It slowly
floated along the atmosphere, till it came over the place
whe she stood, when it gradually descended and melted

-- 143 --

[figure description] Page 143.[end figure description]

into air. Mary had no small share of the superstition of
the times, and shuddering at the fatal omen she hastily
ran to inform her father. The figure was again seen
in the west, and to Mr. Conant, it seemed even more
plain than it had to his daughter. Mr. Oldham and
two or three neighbours were now called in; and a
third time did the strange appearance rise, sink, and
disperse, even as at first.

“I marvel if some mishap be not about to befall the
shipping which is coming hither,” said Mr. Conant.
“Forerunners like this, seldom appear but to warn
us of some coming disaster.”

“That's true enough,” rejoined Mr. Oldham. “Don't
you remember the story that Capt. Thurston told us
about the Castor and Pollux lights on the mast
of the Jewel, the night before she run against the Ambrose?
A sad mishap that. They say the Jewel
would assuredly have been torn in pieces, had it not
been for the discreet counsel of Mr. Johnson. God
rest his soul; he was the wisest and best man in the
whole fleet; and no disparagement to them who are
left behind.”

“Them Castor and Pollux lights are bad things
when one of them is seen alone,” quoth another; “but
they are nothing to what I have seen and heard in
the line of forewarnings. The night before the godly
Mr. Higginson died, I heard the tolling of a bell by
the hour together, as plain as if I had been within
bow-shot of St. Paul's.”

“I'm thinking it could be no bell in this world that
echoed in this wilderness,” replied Mr. Oldham; “unless
the devil is sexton now-a-days, and has the ringing
of their English bells, which I trow is no very
unlikely thing, while Bishop Laud sitteth at the

-- 144 --

[figure description] Page 144.[end figure description]

“It's not well to use lightness of speech concerning
such things,” said his companion. “I knew a man in
England who laughed at the power which it hath
pleased the Lord to give unto Satan, and the self-same
night a blow was heard on the side of his house as
loud as a clap of thunder, and it was cracked to the
very foundation, though none of his neighbours heard
the report thereof.”

“England has come to a dreadful pass in these
days,” observed Mr. Conant. “I have known some
of their scholars who would fain judge of the doings
of their Maker by their own reason, and they say that
all such like things are the cunning devices of man's

“I should like to have such folks see a sight that I
can tell them of,” said a third. “On the night that
Mr. Johnson died, though he was at Shawmut, and of
course I couldn't know that his end drew near, I saw a
light on the foot of my bed, about two in the morning.
It burned a few minutes, and then went out.
My wife straightway said `You may depend upon it,
the pious Mr. Johnson hath departed,' and sure
enough, as nigh as I can discover, he died just at that

The relation of such wonders continued for a long
time, and perhaps would never have known an end,
had not the lateness of the hour reminded them it was
time to depart.

There is a great facility in appropriating any thing
uncommon to our own situation and circumstances.
Mary readily believed that the extraordinary phantom
was meant for herself only; and she immediately
conjectured it foreboded evil tidings from her lover.
The more she indulged these thoughts, the more their
power increased, till their unquiet influence entirely
deprived her of rest. At that credulous period, it is

-- 145 --

[figure description] Page 145.[end figure description]

not surprising that superstition exerted her full force
over a mind so prone to revel in the etherial visions
of imagination. And who, even in these enlightened
days, when reason sits almost sole arbiter of the human
mind, has not felt similar influences powerful and
strong within him? Who among the wisest and the
best, has not experienced states of feeling when the
light sigh of the summer breeze, or the gentle pattering
of midnight rain, or mayhap a passing shadow on
the moonlight floor, or the rustling of the trees, as they
bowed their foliage to the evening gale, has had power
to quicken the pulse, and restrain the motion of the
breath? But there are moments of weakness, which
pride would hardly deign to bring before the tribunal
of reason; and which, if brought there, would doubtless
be found to originate in causes merely physical.
Whatever is their source, they sometimes come suddenly
upon the mind, striking with magic force, “the
electric chain wherewith it's darkly bound;” and in
this instance, Mary's fearful augury was too soon realized.
The next week Hobomok came to Salem, bearing
a letter for Mr. Conant, and another for Governor
Endicott. The first contained information of the death
of Earl Rivers, written by his grandson; the other
mentioned that an East India ship had been lately
wrecked, with the loss of her whole crew and cargo;
and added that Charles Brown, formerly of Salem,
was among the passengers. No sooner had the news
passed the lips of the Governor, than it spread through
the whole settlement, like an electric shock through
an united circle. The circumstance of Mary's attachment
was well known, and the matrons and maidens
paid a passing tribute of grief, as they asked,

“How will the poor damsel bear this? The Lord
support her; for whatsoever be her errors in doctrine,

-- 146 --

[figure description] Page 146.[end figure description]

she hath a sweet-favored face, and a disposition like
an angel.”

“Hold your blasphemous tongues,” replied their
rigid listeners. “Because the children of Belial have
a comely form, a smooth skin, and noble blood, you
forsooth straightway liken them to angels of light.
Wot you not that all these things pass away as if
they had never been? As for the untimely end of
him who hath bred so much disturbance among us, 'tis
but the visitation of the Lord, for his sinful upholding
of the domineering prelates.”

While people were busy with similar observations,
an officious neighbour eagerly carried the unwelcome
news to Mary.

For a moment her heart reeled, and the blow threatened
to suspend her faculties. The next, there was a
ray of hope. She had become accustomed to false
alarms, and she trusted this would prove to be one.
Fallacious as she felt this hope, she could not, and
would not relinquish it. Whatever were her feelings,
they were but briefly exposed to the unfeeling curiosity
of her guest. Her father's supper was left half
prepared, her cloak hastily thrown on, and an instant
after, she entered Governor Endicott's.

“The Lord help you,” exclaimed Mrs. Endicott,
“how pale you look, and how you tremble. Do be
seated, and let me give you some cordial.”

“Has his Honor received a letter from England?”
inquired the anxious girl, without taking notice of her
kind offer.

“Bless your young heart,” replied Mrs. Endicott,
as she put the corner of her apron to her eyes, “I'm
expecting him home every minute. But do take a
drop of cordial. It grieves me to death to see you
look so.”

-- 147 --

[figure description] Page 147.[end figure description]

Her importunities were all useless, and the good woman
would have attempted words of comfort, had not
the misery of Mary's countenance made such an emphatic
appeal to her forbearance. Mary spoke not;
but fixed her wild and anxious gaze on the door, until
the Governor entered, when she suddenly rose and inquired.

“Have you received a letter from Plymouth to

She had always been a great favorite with the
chief magistrate, for, zealous as he was, he was not the
man to look on so fair and young a creature, and hate
her for her creed. Her question awakened his deepest
sympathy, and he cast a pitying glance upon her,
as he replied,

“It is all too true, Mary.”

There are things which the heart can never realize,
be they ever so long in prospect. Come when they
will, they come with crushing, agonizing power. The
mother may listen for weeks, to the hushed moan of
her dying infant; the bridegroom may watch the hectic
flush, daily settling more deeply on the cheek of
his young bride; but the chain is rivetted closer and
closer, and terrible must be the force which rends it

Mary answered not. She pressed her hand hard
upon her brow, and she who had been so gentle and
childlike that a rough word would draw tears from
her eyes, now neither wept nor sighed. She was
about to depart, but the Governor grasped her hand
affectionately as he said,

“Forgive me, my good girl, I know that your heart
is full; but I would fain remind you that we are only
sojourners in this world until we can find a better;
and that whatsoever befalleth us, is meant for our

-- 148 --

[figure description] Page 148.[end figure description]

eternal good. Cast therefore the burthen of your
sorrows at the feet of Jesus.”

Mary appreciated his kindness, but she could not
attend to him; and, struggling to release her hand,
she muttered an indistinct answer, and hastily quitted
the house, to hide her grief from his view. She rested
her head on a young tree which grew in the path,
and tried to pray; but, in that whirl of feeling, she
could not even think, and scarcely knowing what she
did, she proceeded homeward.

Her father had finished his supper, and though he
had found it unprepared, he uttered no complaint.
He well knew the occasion of this neglect; and his
own thoughts were not unmixed with bitterness. Conscience,
cool and unbiassed, inquired whether he had
not in some measure mistaken obstinacy and pride
for conscientious zeal; and in the humbleness of
the moment, he acknowledged that christians were
too apt to mistake the voice of selfishness for the voice
of God. His earliest enemies had been of the English
church, and he had seen his wife drooping and
dying amid the poverty which his religious opinions
had brought upon her, and yet he tried hard to be
convinced, and did at last verily believe, that earthly
motives had nothing to do with his hatred of Episcopacy.
He still retained all his abhorrence of Brown's
sentiments, but since the death of his wife, he had
thought, with a good deal of concealed pleasure, how
very graciously he would make a sacrifice to the
peace of her only child; and now that there was no
hope of making this atonement for his past harshness,
he felt more of disappointment than he would have
been willing to acknowledge. In this softened state
of feeling, one gentle expostulation would have driven
him to the bosom of his child, there to impart comfort,
and seek forgiveness. He did indeed speak

-- 149 --

[figure description] Page 149.[end figure description]

feelingly of the death of her grandfather, and told her of
the God who was alike the support of the young and
the aged. While he dwelt upon the excellence of religious
consolation, he called her “my dear child,”
and more than once his eyes filled with tears. Unfortunately,
Mary was too absent, too distressed, to
receive these tardy proofs of affection with the gratitude
which kindness was always wont to excite; so
after one or two efforts to mention the painful subject,
he did as he too often had done—stifled the voice
of nature, and hid all his better feelings beneath the
cold mask of austerity. Mary, tortured with thoughts
she could no longer endure in his presence, observed
that she was going to dame Willet's, and then left him
to his meditations.

Previous section

Next section

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