Stories of the Pilgrims - M. B. Pumphrey


The next night the stars looked down upon a strange sight. On the shore of the sea near a large city, a group of Pilgrims waited for the ship which was to carry them to Holland.

It grew very late. One by one the lights of the city went out, and all was dark and still. Even the little waves seemed to speak in whispers as they crept up to the shore.

[Illustration] from Stories of the Pilgrims by M. B. Pumphrey

"On a wooden box sat a mother with her baby
asleep in her arms"

On a wooden box sat a mother with her baby asleep in her arms. Two tired little children, with the warm sand for a bed and a blanket for a pillow, slept beside her. Some of the older children were too excited to sleep. They amused themselves by throwing pebbles into the water or playing in the sand.

Others of the company sat on boxes or on the sand, talking in low tones. They did not speak about the homes and friends they were leaving; that would make them too sad. They talked of the better times they would have in the new home.

One by one the children fell asleep, some on the warm sand, others pillowed in their mothers' arms.

As the night wore on the men paced anxiously up and down the shore. They peered out over the black water hoping to see the dark form of the vessel which was to take them to Holland.

At any time the soldiers might be upon them. Every minute they waited on the shore added to their peril.

Watchmen were placed at points along the shore to warn the Pilgrims of any approaching danger.

A terrible dread was sinking into their hearts. What if the ship should not come at all? What if the soldiers should suddenly swoop down upon them? But these thoughts they would not speak aloud. They tried to cheer each other with encouraging words.

From a distant clock tower the bells chimed three. The Pilgrims drew closer together and spoke in hushed voices.

"Are you quite sure this is the place where the captain of the ship promised to meet us?" asked William Bradford.

"This is the very spot, just where this little brook flows into the sea," answered Elder Brewster.

"It will soon be dawn," said John Robinson. "I fear daylight will find us still waiting here for the ship."

"That must not be," replied Elder Brewster, "for the soldiers would soon be upon us. If the ship does not come within an hour we must seek the homes of our friends. Hark! What is that? I thought I heard the splash of oars."

In silence they listened, straining their ears to catch the sound. Again they heard it, and their hearts leaped with hope and thankfulness.

A moment later a boat rowed by two men was seen approaching the shore. Quickly and quietly the boat was loaded and rowed back to the ship, which lay out in the deep water. Then it returned for another load, and another, until all the people and their goods had been carried to the ship.

"Now, Captain, let us set sail at once, and by daylight we shall be safe out of the king's reach," said Elder Brewster.

"Oh, do not be too sure of that," said a stern voice by his side. In a moment the Pilgrims found themselves surrounded by soldiers.

"What does this mean, Captain?" cried Elder Brewster. But the captain was nowhere to be seen. He was ashamed of his wicked deed, and dared not face the men whom he had betrayed into the hands of the soldiers.

It was of no use to resist the king's men, so when the first gray light of morning came, the Pilgrims again stood on the shore.

Last night the stars had twinkled merrily when they saw the Pilgrims about to escape King James. Now they saw them with their burdens on their backs, and their children in their arms, going toward the great, black prison. The little stars still twinkled faintly but seemed to say, "Be brave! The One who made us and made you is stronger than King James." Then one by one they closed their eyes, as if unwilling to see the prison doors close upon women and babies.

In a few days the doors of the prison opened again, and the women with their children passed out. I think they were not so very glad to be free, for their husbands were still in prison and they had no homes to which they might go. Some had friends there in the city who gladly welcomed them. Others returned to Scrooby, where they lived with friends and neighbors. It was several months before all the men were allowed to return to their families.

Because he had hired the ship and made most of the plans for leaving England, Elder Brewster was the last to leave the prison. He soon found Mistress Brewster and the children in the old house which had always been their home. Another man kept the inn now, but he and his wife were kind-hearted people and had gladly opened their house to these homeless ones.

"Jonathan seems two years older than he did last fall," said his father that night, after the children had gone to bed.

"Yes, Jonathan is quite a man for his thirteen years. He helps care for the horses and does many errands for the innkeeper. The girls, too, help about the house, that they may not be a burden to these kind people."

"To-morrow we will look for a little home of our own, where we can be comfortable until spring," said Elder Brewster.

"And what shall we do in the spring?" asked Mistress Brewster.

"Go to Holland!" answered her husband.