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Child, Lydia Maria Francis, 1802-1880 [1824], Hobomok (Cummings, Hilliard & Co., Boston) [word count] [eaf041].
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It was strange for him to show
Such outward signs of inward wo.

The next morning Mr. Conant arose, and, as usual,
went out to his labors. He came in at his accustomed
time, and found that no preparations had been
made for their scanty morning meal. He knocked
at Mary's door. No one answered. With dreadful
apprehension he looked into her apartment. The
lifeless object which he had expected, did not meet
his view; and he saw at a single glance, that the bed
had been unoccupied. A suspicion even more painful
than the first, then flashed upon him, that his child
had been driven to suicide. “Oh God,” thought he,
“have I likewise been called to offer my last remaining
child upon thine altar.” Then came the question,

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“Might I not have performed the work of the Lord
as well, and shown less rigour to that poor thoughtless
girl?” He felt that he had, in reality, known very
little of Mary, except through the medium of her
mother; and he now blamed himself that he had not
given her his confidence and sympathy, instead of
compelling her so cautiously to conceal her feelings.
The words of his dying wife seemed to resound in his
ears, as she said, “Be kind to Mary for my sake;”
and with this remembrance came the sting of self-reproach,
the keenest that can enter the human soul.
For a few moments the old man sat down, and rested
his head upon his hand, with more positive wretchedness
than he had ever before felt, crushed as his heart
had been in the battle of life. He stood for some
time hesitating between the consciousness that something
must be done, and a perplexity as to what course
to pursue. At length the idea that she might have
slept at Mr. Oldham's, or Dame Willet's, occurred to
his mind, and though he gave it little credence, it afforded
a moment's relief.

Mr. Conant had persevered in his resolution to continue
at Naumkeak, when but three of his discontented
companions remained to share his poverty, and
even those three threatened to desert him; when his
family, unable to endure such hardships, were obliged
to consent to a temporary separation; and when
his young, vigorous boys were bowed down to the
grave by labor and famine. In the midst of all these
difficulties, the MS. states that “he made a vow to
abide in Naumkeake as long as the Lorde pleased to
spare his life, if he coulde finde a clam on the seacoaste,
or an acorne on the trees.” This same inflexible
self-command had ever since made him the
“very soul of counsel,” in all times of danger; and it
now induced him to chasten his heart, that its agitated

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feelings might not be betrayed to the wondering gaze
of his neighbours. With his usual calm appearance
he entered Mr. Oldham's dwelling, and inquired
whether they had seen any thing of Mary the preceding

“Bless me, no,” answered Mrs. Oldham. “I may
safely say she has scarcely darkened my doors since
the day Sally was married. But is she missing, Goodman?”

Mr. Conant briefly answered that she had not slept
at home, and went out as he added,

“Peradventure she abode with Dame Willet.”

“Poor man,” said Mrs. Oldham. “I always knowed
it would be so, from the very minute I heard of
Brown's death. I said then she'd never live through
it. There never any good come of crossing folks in
love, to my knowledge. I'm sure I never would have
said a word, if Sally had taken it into her head to
marry a Pequod.”

“I'm sure I would, though,” rejoined her husband.
“A pretty piece of business it would be of a truth, to
have a parcel of tawny grandchildren at your heels,
squeaking powaw, and sheshikwee, and the devil knoweth
what all.”

“I hope you don't mean that folks have a free will
of their own in such matters,” said his wife.

“To be sure I do. 'Tan't much that I should have
done in the business, if I hadn't had my own way,” rejoined
he. “But now I have made out to get on my
boots, I'll go out and inquire concerning this matter.
Mary was as sweet a creature as ever man looked
upon; and if she be indeed missing, the boats must be
had out.”

“You're a sinful wicked man to talk, considering
you're a christian,” said his wife, as he departed.

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The application at dame Willet's was equally unsuccessful,
and the report that Mary Conant was
dead, spread like wildfire through the village. She
had been so humble, kind, and cheerful among them,
and had so seldom evinced any aversion to their sentiments,
that she was a universal favorite. The young
admired her as the loveliest being they had ever beheld;
and the old, even while they held up her errors
of doctrine as a warning to their children, could not
refrain from adding,

“Assuredly, in many things she hath borne herself
worthy of a woman professing godliness.”

For some minutes, the settlement was one scene of

“Have out the boats—have out the boats,” said

“Fire guns over the water,” said another.

These orders were complied with, and boats were
ordered out in several directions. As Mr. Oldham
was entering one of these, he espied a ring lying close
to the water's edge, and stepping back, he asked Mr.
Conant if he had ever seen it.

“The Lady Arabella gave it to my child,” answered
the disconsolate father; and without further pause
he passed through the crowd, who readily made way
for him. He entered his desolate home, fastened the
door of his little apartment, and threw himself down
beside the bed. Hours passed away before the bitterness
of affliction could be in any degree overcome;
but at length the tears flowed plentifully, and fervently
did he pray for support and assistance, to that
God who had never forsaken him in his hour of need.

In the meantime the search of his brethren had of
course proved useless, though the supposition that
Mary was drowned amounted almost to absolute certainty.
Now that the opinion was apparently so well

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proved, every one, as usual, had something to give as
additional evidence. Mrs. Endicott made exaggerated
reports of the wildness and paleness of her looks,
when she came to inquire concerning the letter. Another
remembered to have seen her go to her mother's
grave at sun-down, and remain there till after the
night closed in.

“For my part,” says Dame Willet, “I couldn't go
quietly to my bed till I went up and looked into Mr.
Conant's to see that Mary was at home with her
father; for she came down to my house in the evening,
and she took hold of my hand till I thought it
had been in a vice and she had a dreadful wild look
about her. Poor creature, I couldn't help foreboding
that all was not right, when she sighed so, and said
that she little thought my house was the last place
where she should ever see him; for you must know,”
continued she, “I gave the young folks a meeting
without Goodman Conant's knowing of the same.”

“And you should take shame and sorrow to yourself
for such an action,” replied Mr. Skelton. “I
grant the maiden had many charms, and much seeming
goodness in speech and behaviour, but so had that
idolatrous woman of the house of Stuart, whom it
pleased the Lord, in his righteousness, to bring to the
block. I tell you, woman, the Most High will visit
their iniquity upon the heads of all such as bow the
knee to Baal, and worship the golden calf of Episcopacy.
Wot ye not that Mr. Conant was led by the
fear of God in this matter?”

“Assuredly I think so,” answered the dame; “but
a body couldn't look upon the girl without loving her,
and I meant no harm, your Reverence.”

“I don't suppose you did, good woman; but it behoves
us to give little heed to natural affection, when
we are engaged in the work of the Lord Jesus.

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Forasmuch as it seems useless to waste more time and
powder in this melancholy search, I will even go up
and speak a word to Mr. Conant, in his troubles;
though I doubt not he bears them like a christian.”

When Mr. Skelton arrived on his errand of consolation,
he distinctly heard the voice of his friend as he

“If in this thing, O Lord, I have acted from my
own pride, rather than from zeal for thy glory, I beseech
thee, spare me not—but pour out the vials of
thy wrath upon my unworthy head, so that the sins
of my child may be forgiven.”

The voice ceased—and a few moments after Mr.
Skelton knocked for admission. No answer was returned,
until he said,

“I have come to see you, Mr. Conant, thinking it
might comfort you to unite in prayer during this season
of distress.”

“I have much reason to thank you,” replied Mr.
Conant; “but I trust your Reverence will not be offended
if I tell you that I would fain be left with
God and my own heart for a season.”

Before evening Mr. Conant had regained his wonted
manner. All his necessary avocations were performed,
and at night he went into Mr. Oldham's and
said with his customary calmness, “I will partake of
whatever you have for supper, if you are so inclined;”
and at nine o'clock he performed the family devotions,
in a voice so distinct and untroubled, that all
who heard him wondered at the strength wherewith
it pleased the Lord to support him. But quiet as all
seemed on that unruffled surface, there was a tempest
beneath, which threatened to uptear the very roots of
existence; and even when his lips were opened in
prayer at the footstool of divine grace, his thoughts
were deep in the cold wave. Whatever were his

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concealed feelings, before three days had elapsed, none
could judge by the most trifling external sign, that
the waters of affliction had passed over him. During
this time, he had invited Dame Willet and her son
Jacob to take up their abode at his house, and they
now constituted his whole family. On the third evening
after Mary's departure, the good woman and her
son were absent, and Mr. Conant seated alone by his
solitary fire, when Mr. Collier arrived at Mr. Oldham's,
bringing news of the lamentable fact. All
were eager to ascertain how, when, and where, it had
been discovered.

“It's a dismal story to tell her old father,” observed
Mr. Collier; “but my good woman hath seen her
with her own eyes, and heard her acknowledge that
she was married to Hobomok, so there can be no mistake
about it. Our knowledge of the matter came
after this fashion. Sally went in to see Hobomok's
mother, as is often her custom, inasmuch as she is old,
and frequently alone. The squaw had stept out when
she first went in; but seeing somebody in the bed,
Sally thought she had been sick, and so went up to
speak to her, when behold, she found it was Mary Conant.
She said she was so stupid that she did not
seem to know her, and she wouldn't speak a word;
only when she asked if what the old squaw said, was
true, she answered, Yes. My good woman came home
and went to bed sick about it, and she desired me
straightway to come up and deliver the tidings.”

Considerable altercation ensued, concerning who
should inform Mr. Conant. Mr. Oldham and his wife
were as eager to undertake the unwelcome task, as
their son-in-law was willing to decline it. Mr. Oldham
was just preparing to execute the mission, when
Mr. Skelton entered, and having heard the story, he

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put an end to all interfering claims, by saying that he
thought it was his duty to impart the same.

As Mr. Conant sat alone, ruminating on the many
sad events in his chequered life, a few reluctant tears
had forced their way, and lay cold and undisturbed
upon his furrowed cheek. Perhaps had he known
the near approach of his minister, they had never
been shed; as it was, they were hastily brushed away,
when he returned the pressure of his hand.

“I'm glad to see you have borne this heavy affliction
as becomes a follower of Christ Jesus,” said Mr.

“It doth but cause our enemies to blaspheme, when
christians, who of all men ought to glory in affliction,
are disposed to murmur at the weight thereof,” replied
Mr. Conant. “Whatsoever dispensation the
Lord may send in his anger, I hope he will always
give me strength to say, `My trust is in thee, and in
the shadow of thy wings will I take refuge.' Besides,
Mr. Skelton, how would it beseem me to talk of my
own sorrows, when the Lord hath so sorely smitten
us all?”

“Of a truth,” rejoined the clergyman, “he hath
removed many goodly pillars from the land. Much
could I wish that the godly Mr. Higginson were alive
this day; inasmuch as he had a soul-ravishing, a soulsaving,
and a soul-comforting speech. Alas, that he
left not his mantle behind him.”

“No doubt he was taken away from the evil to
come,” answered Mr. Conant. “But we have abundant
need of his pious reproofs among us, notwithstanding
you carry yourself much for the edification of
those unto whom you are called to minister. These
are trying times among us. Numbers are swept off
by sickness; and the blight and mildew in our corn
seemeth to forbode a famine; and as for the colony

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at Shawmut, I verily fear, their joyful beginning will
have but a dolorous end.”

“If every man bears his part of the public calamities
as well as you have borne the death of your
child, I have no doubt the Lord will smile upon our
undertakings; though for a season `He feedeth us
with the bread of tears, and giveth us tears to drink
in great measure,”' rejoined Mr. Skelton.

“Why, I trust, I have not in vain heard your godly
exhortations from the pulpit,” said Mr. Conant; “nor
yet the dying admonitions of Mr. Higginson, who told
us in all times of trouble to lean upon the Lord of
Hosts. Verily I will rest upon His promises, though
`mine own familiar friend, in whom my soul trusted,
who did eat of my bread, should lift up his heel
against me;' yea, though `lover and friend be put far
from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness.”'

“But what would you say,” asked Mr. Skelton, “if
Mary was yet alive?”

“What would I say?” exclaimed he, starting up
eagerly. Then with more composure he added,
“Verily, I would thank the Lord, in that the bitter
cup had passed from me. Have you heard any

“Mary is alive and well at Plymouth,” answered
Mr. Skelton.

“God be praised,” said Mr. Conant—and now indeed
the tears fell fast and unrestrained. He seized
Mr. Skelton's hand, and repeated again and again,
“The Lord be praised—The Lord be praised for all
his goodness.”

A stern, unbending sense of duty, a gloomy experience
of human nothingness, all his strange obliquities
of character had left him a father still. The clergyman
said nothing to interrupt this burst of feeling, until
Mr. Conant paused and inquired,

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“But why went she thither without my knowledge?”

“That is what will be the hardest for you to bear
like a christian,” rejoined Mr. Skelton; “and I would
not tell you thereof till you have strengthened your
mind for the worst.”

“I can bear any thing, if so be she is alive,” answered
the distressed father. “I beseech you, let me
hear the worst.”

“She is married to Hobomok,” replied Mr. Skelton.

The unexpected information fell like a deadly blow
on the heart of the old man; and those cheeks and
lips grew pale, which no man had ever before seen
blanched since his boyhood. He stood at the window
a moment, firmly compressing his lips, to keep
back some choking emotion; but finding the effort ineffectual,
he took up his hat and went forth to seek a
solitude where he might pour out his sorrows before
his Maker. An hour elapsed before he returned,
and could Mary have foreknown the agony of that
hour, she had never left the parental roof. When he
again entered his house, he found his friend still waiting
for his return. He took his offered hand, as he

“I am more calm now, Sir. God forgive me, if in
aught I have rebelled against his holy will; but assuredly
I find I could more readily have covered her
sweet face with the clods, than bear this; but the
Lord's will be done.”

“It behoves you to think what would have become
of her unconverted soul if she had died in such
a state,” replied the minister. “Goodman Collier
thinks she was bereaved of reason, when she did this
deed; and peradventure the Lord may yet raise her
up to be `a burning and a shining light.”'

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“For her soul's salvation, God grant she may not
be in her right mind,” answered Mr. Conant. “I
would fain have the poor stray lamb returned to the

“Had you no suspicions concerning Hobomok's
visits heretofore?” asked Mr. Skelton.

“I knew he was grateful to us for much we had
done for him at Plymouth,” rejoined Mr. Conant;
“but verily, had I been told it extended further, I
had never believed so unlikely a thing. I knew that
Mary loved to hear his long stories, abounding as they
were with metaphors, but then the thoughtless child
was always given to vain imaginations, which profit
not. Her good mother told me, the day before she
died, that Mary's heart would always hanker after
him who is now lost in the bowels of the ocean; and
I promised that I would give my assent to their marriage.
Peradventure this chastisement hath come
upon me, because I thought in my heart, to countenance
the doings of the unrighteous.”

“Well,” replied Mr. Skelton, “it is a mercy to receive
the reward of our sins, in some sort, during this
life; but you must not be tempted to forget Him in
whom you said you would put your trust, `though
darkness overshadowed you, and the waters compassed
you about.”'

Mr. Conant shook his head despairingly. “I had
made up my mind to her watery grave,” said he;
“but to have her lie in the bosom of a savage, and
mingle her prayers with a heathen, who knoweth not
God, is hard for a father's heart to endure.”

“Let us unite in prayer,” said Mr. Skelton. “Verily
at all seasons it is the best balm for a wounded

Mr. Conant was indeed soothed and strengthened
by the exercise. The next day saw him busy in his

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daily employments;—weeks and months past on, and
witnessed the same unvaried fortitude. But the heart
of the old man was bowed down within him. The
widow Willet said, she often heard him groan bitterly
in the night; and his neighbours frequently noticed
him leaning upon his axe or his hoe, by the hour together,
apparently lost in melancholy reflections.

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