True Stories from History and Biography
by Nathaniel Hawthorne
TICKNOR, REED, AND FIELDS.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1850, by NATHANIEL
HAWTHORNE, in the Clerkâ€™s Office of the District Court of the District of
PRINTED BY BOLLES AND HOUGHTON.
THE WHOLE HISTORY OF GRANDFATHERâ€™S CHAIR
THE LADY ARBELLA
THE PINE-TREE SHILLINGS
THE INDIAN BIBLE
THE SUNKEN TREASURE
THE OLD-FASHIONED SCHOOL
THE REJECTED BLESSING
THE PROVINCIAL MUSTER
THE ACADIAN EXILES
THE HUTCHINSON MOB
THE BOSTON MASSACRE
THE TORYâ€™S FAREWELL
SIR ISAAC NEWTON
In writing this ponderous tome, the authorâ€™s desire has been to describe
the eminent characters and remarkable events of our annals, in such a form
and style, that the YOUNG might make acquaintance with them of their own
accord. For this purpose, while ostensibly relating the adventures of a
Chair, he has endeavored to keep a distinct and unbroken thread of
authentic history. The Chair is made to pass from one to another of those
personages, of whom he thought it most desirable for the young reader to
have vivid and familiar ideas, and whose lives and actions would best
enable him to give picturesque sketches of the times. On its sturdy oaken
legs, it trudges diligently from one scene to another, and seems always to
thrust itself in the way, with most benign complacency, whenever a
historical personage happens to be looking round for a seat.
There is certainly no method, by which the shadowy outlines of departed
men and women can he made to assume the hues of life more effectually,
than by connecting their images with the substantial and homely reality of
a fireside chair. It causes us to feel at once, that these characters of
history had a private and familiar existence, and were not wholly
contained within that cold array of outward action, which we are compelled
to receive as the adequate representation of their lives. If this
impression can be given, much is accomplished.
Setting aside Grandfather and his auditors, and excepting the adventures
of the Chair, which form the machinery of the work, nothing in the ensuing
pages can be termed fictitious. The author, it is true, has sometimes
assumed the license of filling up the outline of history with details, for
which he has none but imaginative authority, but which, he hopes, do not
violate nor give a false coloring to the truth. He believes that, in this
respect, his narrative will not be found to convey ideas and impressions,
of which the reader may hereafter find it necessary to purge his mind.
The authorâ€™s great doubt is, whether he has succeeded in writing a book
which will be readable by the class for whom he intends it. To make a
lively and entertaining narrative for children, with such unmalleable
material as is presented by the sombre, stern, and rigid characteristics
of the Puritans and their descendants, is quite as difficult an attempt,
as to manufacture delicate playthings out of the granite rocks on which
New England is founded.
THE WHOLE HISTORY OF GRANDFATHERâ€™S CHAIR
COMPLETE IN THREE PARTS.
Grandfather had been sitting in his old arm-chair, all that pleasant
afternoon, while the children were pursuing their various sports, far off
or near at hand. Sometimes you would have said, "Grandfather is asleep;"
but still, even when his eyes were closed, his thoughts were with the
young people, playing among the flowers and shrubbery of the garden.
He heard the voice of Laurence, who had taken possession of a heap of
decayed branches which the gardener had lopped from the fruit trees, and
was building a little hut for his cousin Clara and himself. He heard
Claraâ€™s gladsome voice, too, as she weeded and watered the flower-bed
which had been given her for her own. He could have counted every footstep
that Charley took, as he trundled his wheelbarrow along the gravel walk.
And though Grandfather was old and gray-haired, yet his heart leaped with
joy whenever little Alice came fluttering, like a butterfly, into the
room. She had made each of the children her playmate in turn, and now made
Grandfather her playmate too, and thought him the merriest of them all.
At last the children grew weary of their sports; because a summer
afternoon is like a long lifetime to the young. So they came into the room
together, and clustered round Grandfatherâ€™s great chair. Little Alice, who
was hardly five years old, took the privilege of the youngest, and climbed
his knee. It was a pleasant thing to behold that fair and golden-haired
child in the lap of the old man, and to think that, different as they
were, the hearts of both could be gladdened with the same joys.
"Grandfather," said little Alice, laying her head back upon his arm, "I am
very tired now. You must tell me a story to make me go to sleep."
"That is not what story-tellers like," answered Grandfather, smiling.
"They are better satisfied when they can keep their auditors awake."
"But here are Laurence, and Charley, and I," cried cousin Clara, who was
twice as old as little Alice. "We will all three keep wide awake. And
pray, Grandfather, tell us a story about this strange-looking old chair."
Now, the chair in which Grandfather sat was made of oak, which had grown
dark with age, but had been rubbed and polished till it shone as bright as
mahogany. It was very large and heavy, and had a back that rose high above
Grandfatherâ€™s white head. This back was curiously carved in open work, so
as to represent flowers and foliage and other devices; which the children
had often gazed at, but could never understand what they meant. On the
very tiptop of the chair, over the head of Grandfather himself, was a
likeness of a lionâ€™s head, which had such a savage grin that you would
almost expect to hear it growl and snarl.
The children had seen Grandfather sitting in this chair ever since they
could remember any thing. Perhaps the younger of them supposed that he and
the chair had come into the world together, and that both had always been
as old as they were now. At this time, however, it happened to be the
fashion for ladies to adorn their drawing-rooms with the oldest and oddest
chairs that could be found. It seemed to cousin Clara that if these ladies
could have seen Grandfatherâ€™s old chair, they would have thought it worth
all the rest together. She wondered if it were not even older than
Grandfather himself, and longed to know all about its history.
"Do, Grandfather, talk to us about this chair," she repeated.
"Well, child," said Grandfather, patting Claraâ€™s cheek, "I can tell you a
great many stories of my chair. Perhaps your cousin Laurence would like to
hear them too. They would teach him something about the history and
distinguished people of his country, which he has never read in any of his
Cousin Laurence was a boy of twelve, a bright scholar, in whom an early
thoughtfulness and sensibility began to show themselves. His young fancy
kindled at the idea of knowing all the adventures of this venerable chair.
He looked eagerly in Grandfatherâ€™s face; and even Charley, a bold, brisk,
restless little fellow of nine, sat himself down on the carpet, and
resolved to be quiet for at least ten minutes, should the story last so
Meantime, little Alice was already asleep; so Grandfather, being much
pleased with such an attentive audience, began to talk about matters that
had happened long ago.
But, before relating the adventures of the chair, Grandfather found it
necessary to speak of the circumstances that caused the first settlement
of New England. For it will soon be perceived that the story of this
remarkable chair cannot be told without telling a great deal of the
history of the country.
So, Grandfather talked about the Puritans, as those persons were called
who thought it sinful to practise the religious forms and ceremonies which
the Church of England had borrowed from the Roman Catholics. These
Puritans suffered so much persecution in England that, in 1607, many of
them went over to Holland, and lived ten or twelve years at Amsterdam and
Leyden. But they feared that, if they continued there much longer, they
should cease to be English, and should adopt all the manners and ideas and
feelings of the Dutch. For this and other reasons, in the year 1620, they
embarked on board of the ship Mayflower, and crossed the ocean to the
shores of Cape Cod. There they made a settlement, and called it Plymouth;
which, though now a part of Massachusetts, was for a long time a colony by
itself. And thus was formed the earliest settlement of the Puritans in
Meantime, those of the Puritans who remained in England continued to
suffer grievous persecution on account of their religious opinions. They
began to look around them for some spot where they might worship God, not
as the king and bishops thought fit, but according to the dictates of
their own consciences. When their brethren had gone from Holland to
America, they bethought themselves that they likewise might find refuge
from persecution there. Several gentlemen among them purchased a tract of
country on the coast of Massachusetts Bay, and obtained a charter from
King Charles, which authorized them to make laws for the settlers. In the
year 1628, they sent over a few people, with John Endicott at their head,
to commence a plantation at Salem. Peter Palfrey, Roger Conant, and one or
two more, had built houses there in 1626, and may be considered as the
first settlers of that ancient town. Many other Puritans prepared to
"And now we come to the chair, my dear children," said Grandfather. "This
chair is supposed to have been made of an oak tree which grew in the park
of the English earl of Lincoln, between two and three centuries ago. In
its younger days it used, probably, to stand in the hall of the earlâ€™s
castle. Do not you see the coat of arms of the family of Lincoln, carved
in the open work of the back? But when his daughter, the Lady Arbella, was
married to a certain Mr. Johnson, the earl gave her this valuable chair."
"Who was Mr. Johnson?" inquired Clara.
"He was a gentleman of great wealth, who agreed with the Puritans in their
religious opinions," answered Grandfather. "And as his belief was the same
as theirs, he resolved that he would live and die with them. Accordingly,
in the month of April, 1630, he left his pleasant abode and all his
comforts in England, and embarked with the Lady Arbella, on board of a
ship bound for America."
As Grandfather was frequently impeded by the questions and observations of
his young auditors, we deem it advisable to omit all such prattle as is
not essential to the story. We have taken some pains to find out exactly
what Grandfather said, and here offer to our readers, as nearly as
possible in his own words, the story of
THE LADY ARBELLA
The ship in which Mr. Johnson and his lady embarked, taking Grandfatherâ€™s
chair along with them, was called the Arbella, in honor of the lady
herself. A fleet of ten or twelve vessels, with many hundred passengers,
left England about the same time; for a multitude of people, who were
discontented with the kingâ€™s government and oppressed by the bishops, were
flocking over to the new world. One of the vessels in the fleet was that
same Mayflower which had carried the Puritan pilgrims to Plymouth. And
now, my children, I would have you fancy yourselves in the cabin of the
good ship Arbella; because if you could behold the passengers aboard that
vessel, you would feel what a blessing and honor it was for New England to
have such settlers. They were the best men and women of their day.
Among the passengers was John Winthrop, who had sold the estate of his
forefathers, and was going to prepare a new home for his wife and children
in the wilderness. He had the kingâ€™s charter in his keeping, and was
appointed the first Governor of Massachusetts. Imagine him a person of
grave and benevolent aspect, dressed in a black velvet suit, with a broad
ruff around his neck and a peaked beard upon his chin. There was likewise
a minister of the Gospel, whom the English bishops had forbidden to
preach, but who knew that he should have liberty both to preach and pray
in the forests of America. He wore a black cloak, called a Geneva cloak,
and had a black velvet cap, fitting close to his head, as was the fashion
of almost all the Puritan clergymen. In their company came Sir Richard
Saltonstall, who had been one of the five first projectors of the new
colony. He soon returned to his native country. But his descendants still
remain in New England; and the good old family name is as much respected
in our days as it was in those of Sir Richard.
Not only these, but several other men of wealth and pious ministers, were
in the cabin of the Arbella. One had banished himself for ever from the
old hall where his ancestors had lived for hundreds of years. Another had
left his quiet parsonage, in a country town of England. Others had come
from the universities of Oxford or Cambridge, where they had gained great
fame for their learning. And here they all were, tossing upon the
uncertain and dangerous sea, and bound for a home that was more dangerous
than even the sea itself. In the cabin, likewise, sat the Lady Arbella in
her chair, with a gentle and sweet expression on her face, but looking too
pale and feeble to endure the hardships of the wilderness.
Every morning and evening the Lady Arbella gave up her great chair to one
of the ministers, who took his place in it and read passages from the
Bible to his companions. And thus, with prayers and pious conversation,
and frequent singing of hymns, which the breezes caught from their lips
and scattered far over the desolate waves, they prosecuted their voyage,
and sailed into the harbor of Salem in the month of June.
At that period there were but six or eight dwellings in the town; and
these were miserable hovels, with roofs of straw and wooden chimneys. The
passengers in the fleet either built huts with bark and branches of trees,
or erected tents of cloth till they could provide themselves with better
shelter. Many of them went to form a settlement at Charlestown. It was
thought fit that the Lady Arbella should tarry in Salem for a time; she
was probably received as a guest into the family of John Endicott. He was
the chief person in the plantation, and had the only comfortable house
which the new comers had beheld since they left England. So now, children,
you must imagine Grandfatherâ€™s chair in the midst of a new scene.
Suppose it a hot summerâ€™s day, and the lattice-windows of a chamber in Mr.
Endicottâ€™s house thrown wide open. The Lady Arbella, looking paler than
she did on shipboard, is sitting in her chair, and thinking mournfully of
far-off England. She rises and goes to the window. There, amid patches of
garden ground and cornfield, she sees the few wretched hovels of the
settlers, with the still ruder wigwams and cloth tents of the passengers
who had arrived in the same fleet with herself. Far and near stretches the
dismal forest of pine trees, which throw their black shadows over the
whole land, and likewise over the heart of this poor lady.
All the inhabitants of the little village are busy. One is clearing a spot
on the verge of the forest for his homestead; another is hewing the trunk
of a fallen pine tree, in order to build himself a dwelling; a third is
hoeing in his field of Indian corn. Here comes a huntsman out of the
woods, dragging a bear which he has shot, and shouting to the neighbors to
lend him a hand. There goes a man to the sea-shore, with a spade and a
bucket, to dig a mess of clams, which were a principal article of food
with the first settlers. Scattered here and there are two or three dusky
figures, clad in mantles of fur, with ornaments of bone hanging from their
ears, and the feathers of wild birds in their coal black hair. They have
belts of shell-work slung across their shoulders, and are armed with bows
and arrows and flint-headed spears. These are an Indian Sagamore and his
attendants, who have come to gaze at the labors of the white men. And now
rises a cry, that a pack of wolves have seized a young calf in the
pasture; and every man snatches up his gun or pike, and runs in chase of
the marauding beasts.
Poor Lady Arbella watches all these sights, and feels that this new world
is fit only for rough and hardy people. None should be here but those who
can struggle with wild beasts and wild men, and can toil in the heat or
cold, and can keep their hearts firm against all difficulties and dangers.
But she is not one of these. Her gentle and timid spirit sinks within her;
and turning away from the window she sits down in the great chair, and
wonders thereabouts in the wilderness her friends will dig her grave.
Mr. Johnson had gone, with Governor Winthrop and most of the other
passengers, to Boston, where he intended to build a house for Lady Arbella
and himself. Boston was then covered with wild woods, and had fewer
inhabitants even than Salem. During her husbandâ€™s absence, poor Lady
Arbella felt herself growing ill, and was hardly able to stir from the
great chair. Whenever John Endicott noticed her despondency, he doubtless
addressed her with words of comfort. "Cheer up, my good lady!" he would
say. "In a little time, you will love this rude life of the wilderness as
I do." But Endicottâ€™s heart was as bold and resolute as iron, and he could
not understand why a womanâ€™s heart should not be of iron too.
Still, however, he spoke kindly to the lady, and then hastened forth to
till his corn-field and set out fruit trees, or to bargain with the
Indians for furs, or perchance to oversee the building of a fort. Also
being a magistrate, he had often to punish some idler or evil-doer, by
ordering him to be set in the stocks or scourged at the whipping-post.
Often, too, as was the custom of the times, he and Mr. Higginson, the
minister of Salem, held long religious talks together. Thus John Endicott
was a man of multifarious business, and had no time to look back
regretfully to his native land. He felt himself fit for the new world, and
for the work that he had to do, and set himself resolutely to accomplish
What a contrast, my dear children, between this bold, rough, active man,
and the gentle Lady Arbella, who was fading away, like a pale English
flower, in the shadow of the forest! And now the great chair was often
empty, because Lady Arbella grew too weak to arise from bed.
Meantime, her husband had pitched upon a spot for their new home. He
returned from Boston to Salem, travelling through the woods on foot, and
leaning on his pilgrimâ€™s staff. His heart yearned within him; for he was
eager to tell his wife of the new home which he had chosen. But when he
beheld her pale and hollow cheek, and found how her strength was wasted,
he must have known that her appointed home was in a better land. Happy for
him then,â€”happy both for him and her,â€”if they remembered that there was a
path to heaven, as well from this heathen wilderness as from the Christian
land whence they had come. And so, in one short month from her arrival,
the gentle Lady Arbella faded away and died. They dug a grave for her in
the new soil, where the roots of the pine trees impeded their spades; and
when her bones had rested there nearly two hundred years, and a city had
sprung up around them, a church of stone was built upon the spot.
Charley, almost at the commencement of the foregoing narrative, had
galloped away with a prodigious clatter, upon Grandfatherâ€™s stick, and was
not yet returned. So large a boy should have been ashamed to ride upon a
stick. But Laurence and Clara had listened attentively, and were affected
by this true story of the gentle lady, who had come so far to die so soon.
Grandfather had supposed that little Alice was asleep, but, towards the
close of the story, happening to look down upon her, he saw that her blue
eyes were wide open, and fixed earnestly upon his face. The tears had
gathered in them, like dew upon a delicate flower; but when Grandfather
ceased to speak, the sunshine of her smile broke forth again.
"O, the lady must have been so glad to get to heaven!" exclaimed little
"Grandfather, what became of Mr. Johnson?" asked Clara.
"His heart appears to have been quite broken," answered Grandfather; "for
he died at Boston within a month after the death of his wife. He was
buried in the very same tract of ground, where he had intended to build a
dwelling for Lady Arbella and himself. Where their house would have stood
there was his grave.
"I never heard any thing so melancholy!" said Clara.
"The people loved and respected Mr. Johnson so much," continued
Grandfather, "that it was the last request of many of them, when they
died, that they might be buried as near as possible to this good manâ€™s
grave. And so the field became the first burial-ground in Boston. When you
pass through Tremont street, along by Kingâ€™s Chapel, you see a
burial-ground, containing many old grave-stones and monuments. That was
Mr. Johnsonâ€™s field."
"How sad is the thought," observed Clara, "that one of the first things
which the settlers had to do, when they came to the new world, was to set
apart a burial-ground!"
"Perhaps," said Laurence, "if they had found no need of burial-grounds
here, they would have been glad, after a few years, to go back to
Grandfather looked at Laurence, to discover whether he knew how profound
and true a thing he had said.
Not long after Grandfather had told the story of his great chair, there
chanced to be a rainy day. Our friend Charley, after disturbing the
household with beat of drum and riotous shouts, races up and down the
staircase, overturning of chairs, and much other uproar, began to feel the
quiet and confinement within doors intolerable. But as the rain came down
in a flood, the little fellow was hopelessly a prisoner, and now stood
with sullen aspect at a window, wondering whether the sun itself were not
extinguished by so much moisture in the sky.
Charley had already exhausted the less eager activity of the other
children; and they had betaken themselves to occupations that did not
admit of his companionship. Laurence sat in a recess near the book-case,
reading, not for the first time, the Midsummer Nightâ€™s Dream. Clara was
making a rosary of beads for a little figure of a Sister of Charity, who
was to attend the Bunker Hill Fair, and lend her aid in erecting the
Monument. Little Alice sat on Grandfatherâ€™s foot-stool, with a
picture-book in her hand; and, for every picture, the child was telling
Grandfather a story. She did not read from the book, (for little Alice had
not much skill in reading,) but told the story out of her own heart and
Charley was too big a boy, of course, to care any thing about little
Aliceâ€™s stories, although Grandfather appeared to listen with a good deal
of interest. Often, in a young childâ€™s ideas and fancies, there is
something which it requires the thought of a lifetime to comprehend. But
Charley was of opinion, that if a story must be told, it had better be
told by Grandfather, than little Alice.
"Grandfather, I want to hear more about your chair," said he.
Now Grandfather remembered that Charley had galloped away upon a stick, in
the midst of the narrative of poor Lady Arbella, and I know not whether he