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Standish. He was so short of stature that a neighbor in a moment of anger called him “Captain Shrimp.” But, though undersized, he was robust, active, and daring, and he was an experienced soldier. When arrayed for a warlike enterprise he wore a cloth garment which was thickly interwoven with wire, a breastplate, and a helmet. His wife died soon after arriving at Plymouth, and the captain presently decided to court Priscilla Mullins. In accord with the custom of the times, he sent a messenger to ask Mr. Mullins's permission to visit his daughter. The messenger was a young man named John Alden who was living in the captain's house.
Alden went to Mr. Mullins with his request, and found that he had no objection to the captain's courting Priscilla provided she was willing. So Mr. Mullins sought the young lady and sent her in to confer with Alden. The messenger arose and courteously told his errand. When he finished, Miss Mullins, after a pause, fixed her eyes on him and said, “Prithee, John, why don't you speak for yourself ?”
He blushed and bowed and left the house, but soon came on another visit and spoke for himself so effectively that their wedding followed in a short time. The two have had many distinguished descendants, among whom are the poets Bryant and Longfellow.
The first duel in New England was fought in June, 1621, with sword and dagger, by two Plymouth servants. Both were wounded.
Two of the Pilgrims, with Squanto to guide them, went about forty miles to Swansea that summer to visit Massasoit. They presented him with a suit of clothes and some other articles. The few of his tribe who had escaped the plague were destitute and dirty.
In the autumn the colonists harvested their corn, laid in a store of fish, and shot waterfowl, turkeys, and deer.
One November morning the village sentry shouted, “Sail ho !” and the Fortune from England entered the bay. The settlers were ready with lumber, furs, and sassafras to the value of £500 to send back in her.
Shortly afterward the Narragansetts, a large and powerful tribe living in Rhode Island, sent a messenger to Plymouth “with a bundle of arrows tied about with a great snakeskin.” This was a threat and a challenge, and the Pilgrims responded by returning the snakeskin with bullets in it. That served to quench the ardor of the Narragansetts for war. They would not receive the snakeskin and the menacing bullets, but sent them back.
As time went on other settlers came across the ocean to Plymouth, and at the end of four years it was a town of thirty-two houses. The dwellings were ranged along two streets, one of which ascended the hill from the shore of the bay, and was crossed by the other at right angles on the hillside. Where the streets met was the Town Square, on which stood four small
The ends of the street were protected by
wooden gates which were fastened every night, and palisades enclosed the town.
The meeting-house was a large square flat-roofed blockhouse of thick sawn plank on what is now Burial Hill. It was also a fort, and six cannon were mounted on the roof. The people were called to service by the beating of a drum. During worship each man sat with his gun beside him, and a sentry was posted on the roof to keep a sharp lookout.
The dwellings were a single story high, or at most one story and an attic. Earth was banked up around the foundation for the sake of warmth. The chimneys were built on the outside. Some of the floors were simply of hard-trodden earth, and the rest were made of planks roughly hewn out with axes. Probably none
. of the houses had more than three or four rooms. Much of the tableware was wooden. Guns, powderhorns, bullet-pouches, and swords hung on the walls. The people now possessed many swine and poultry, a number of goats, and at least two dogs.
For food they depended in part on what they raised, and in part on the clams they got from the shore, the fish they caught in the sea, and the wild creatures they shot. When famine threatened in winter they dug groundnuts.
In 1623 they were in much distress of mind over a drought that began the third week of May. The weather was almost continuously hot, and when the middle of July arrived without rain the corn began to
wither. A day was set apart to pray for relief. It opened as clear and hot as usual, but toward evening
the sky began to be overcast, and soon “such sweet and gentle showers” fell as caused the Pilgrims to rejoice and bless God. That was the first New England Thanksgiving
Plymouth long ago ceased to be a wilderness village, or even a rustic town. It is now a place of about ten thousand people, but it still retains an attractive savor of the olden times. Considerable manufacturing is carried on there, and it is a favorite summer resort. Something like fifty thousand people visit it
. every year.
One of the most interesting spots in the place is
Burial Hill. Here are the earliest marked graves. The oldest is that of a merchant who died in 1681. There are a number of very curious epitaphs. The following one refers to a Plymouth boy who died before he reached the age of two years :
“HEAVEN KNOWS WHAT A MAN HE MIGHT HAVE MADE. BUT WE KNOW HE DIED A MOST RARE BOY.'
Another inscription is this : "HERE LIES INTERRED THE BODY OF MRS. SARAH SPOONER WHO DECEASED JANUARY YE 25TH A.D. 1767. SHE WAS WIDOW ΤΟ ΝΕΟ
The hand points to the next stone, which marks the grave of her husband.
Here are two lines from the epitaph of Tabitha Plashet, written by herself :
“ADIEU, VAIN WORLD, I'VE SEEN ENOUGH OF THEE; AND I AM CARELESS WHAT THOU SAY'ST OF ME.
She was a rather eccentric person who, after her husband's death in 1794, taught a private school for young children. She did her spinning in the schoolroom, as was the custom of the day. One of her punishments was to pass skeins of yarn under the arms of the little culprits and hang them on nails.