Stories of the Pilgrims - M. B. Pumphrey

For Conscience' Sake

Up in the loft of a large barn, John Robinson was teaching his people. He held his Bible in his hand, but he could not see to read it, for only the pale moon lighted the loft. They knew many chapters of the Bible, however, and repeated one softly.

Suddenly they heard voices outside. "I saw two men go into this barn," said one soldier.

"And I saw a woman and two children," said another. "I believe they are meeting for worship. Let us find out. Come, men."

Up in the loft the people heard and trembled. The men tried to hide the women and children in safe places, then turned to face the soldiers.

Up the old stairs they came. "We have found you at last," they cried. "Come with us."

So the men were taken away to prison and their families returned to their lonely homes. After a few weeks the prisoners were set free; but still they would not attend the king's church.

Many times they were put in prison, and some of their homes were burned. They were very, very unhappy.

One day the men of the little church met to talk about their troubles and plan some way to help matters.

"It will never be safe to worship God in our own way here. Even now three of our friends are in prison, and the rest of us may be there by night," said one.

"I fear we must leave England," said their pastor, "yet I do not know where we could go to be free. We should be in just as great danger in many other countries."

"You know I spent several years in Holland, when I was a young man," said Elder Brewster. "There every one is free to worship as he likes, and so many people come from France, England, and Spain. The Dutch are glad to have honest people from any land make homes in their country."

Then he told them about the fine free schools in Holland, where they could send their children; and about the fishing fleets, the beautiful cities, and the great silk and woolen mills where they could all find work.

Holland was not very far from England, so it would not cost as much to go there as to some other places. After thinking about it for some time, it was decided that all who could would go to Holland in the autumn.

All summer they quietly planned how to leave England. They dared not speak of it openly for fear the king's men might hear and put them in prison again, for King James was not willing they should find homes in another country.

When autumn came, the crops had been gathered and sold. The men had sold their horses and cattle, their homes and nearly all of their furniture. Their clothing and a few other things were packed in boxes, and at last they were ready to start on their journey.

It made them very sad to leave England. They loved their country. They loved their green fields and pleasant village and the homes where they had once been so happy.

"We are Pilgrims now," they said, "and we will wander on until we find a home where we can be free and happy."