Nathaniel Hawthorne.

True stories from history and biography online

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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1851. by


ih the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

University Press:

Welch, Bigelow, and Compant,



In writing this ponderous tome, the author's desire has
been to describe the eminent characters and remarkable
events of our annals in such a form and style that the
YOUNG may 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 dis-
tinct and unbroken thread of authentic history. The
chair is made to pass from one to another of those per-
sonages of whom he thought it most desirable for the
voung 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 com-
placency, whenever an 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 be made to
assume the hues of life more effectually than by con-
necting 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 com-
pelled to receive as the adequate representation of
their lives. If this impression can be given, much is

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


The author's great doubt is, whether he has suc-
ceeded 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.








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, "Grand-
father 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

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 Clara's gladsome voice, too, as she weeded


10 grandfather's chair.

and watered tlie flower bed wliich had been given
her for her own. He could have counted every foot-
step that Charley took, as he trundled his wheelbar-
row along the gravel walk. And though Grand-
father 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 Grandfather's great chair. Lit-
tle Alice, who was hardly flve years old, took the
privilege of the yoimgest, 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 Hke," 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

grandfather's chair. H

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 Grandfather'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 tip-
top of the chair, over the head of Grandfather him-
self, was a likeness of a lion's head, wliich 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 dra^ving rooms with the oldest
and oddest chairs that could be found. It seemed to
cousin Clara that, if these ladies could have seen
Grandfather'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.

12 grandfather's chair.

" Do, Grandfather, talk to us about tliis chair,"
she repeated.

"Well, child," said Grandfather, patting Clara's
cheek, " I can tell you a great many stories of my
chair. Perhaps your cousin Laui*ence 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
school books."

Cousin Laurence was a boy of twelve, a bright
scholar, in whom an early thoughtfulness and sensi-
bility began to show themselves. His young fancy
kindled at the idea of knowing all the adventures of
this venerable chair. He looked eagerly in Grand-
father's face ; and even Charley, a bold, brisk, rest-
less little fellow of nine, sat himself down on the
carpet, and resolved to be quiet for at least ten min-
utes, should the story last so long.

Meantime, little Alice was already asleep ; so
Grandfather, being much pleased with such an at-
tentive audience, began to talk about matters that
happened long ago.


But before relating the adventures of the chair.
Grandfather found it necessary to speak of the cir-
cumstances 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 Eng-
land, that, in 1607, many of them went over to Hol-
land, and lived ten or twelve years at Amsterdam
and Ley den. 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 feel-
ings 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 Flymouth, which, though now a part of Massachu-
setts, was for a long time a colony by itself. And
thus was formed the earhest settlement of the
Puritans in America.

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 con-
sciences. When their brethren had gone from Hol-
land 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 ob-
tained 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 Endi-
cott 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 follow

" And now we come to the chair, my dear chil-
dren," said Grandfather. " This chair is supposed
to have been made of an oak tree wlach grew in the
park of the English Earl of Lincoln, between two

grandfather's chair. 15

and three centuries ago. In its younger days it
used, probably, to stand in the hall of the eaid's cas-
tle. 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 mar-
ried to a certain Mr. Johnson, the earl gave her tliis
valuable chair."

" Who was Mr. Johnson ? " inquired Clara.

*' He was a gentleman of great wealth, who agreed
with the Puritans in their religious opinions," an-
swered 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 of-
fer to our readers, as nearly as possible m his own
words, the story of


The ship in which Mr. Johnson and his lady era-
barked, taking Grandfather's chair along with them,

16 grandfather's chair.

was called the Arbella, in honor of the lady herself.
A fleet of ten or twelve vessels, with many hun-
dred passengers, left England about the same time ;
for a multitude of people, who were discontented with
the king'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 childi-en, I would have you fancy your-
selves in the cabin of the good sliip Arbella ; be-
cause, 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 king's charter in his
keeping, and was appointed the first governor of
Massachusetts. Imagine him a person of grave and
benevolent aspect, di-essed in a black velvet suit, with
a broad rufi" around his neck, and a peaked beard up-
on 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

grandfather's chair. 17

of almost all the Puritan clergymen. In their com-
pany 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 de-
scendants 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 Ar-
bella. One had banished himself forever 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 danger-
ous sea, and bound for a home that was more dan-
gerous than even the sea itself. In the cabin, like-
wise, 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

Every morning and evening the Lady Avbella
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, T\'ith prayers, and
pious conversation, and frequent singing of hymns,
which the breezes caught from their lips and scat-


tered 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 dwell-
ings 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 Grandfather's chair in the midst of a
new scene.

Suppose it a hot summer's day, and the lattice
windows of a chamber in Mr. Endicott's house
thi'own wide open. The Lady Ai'bella, 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 Avdgwams and cloth tents of the passengers
-SN ho had ai-rived 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 dwell-
ing ; a third is hoeing in . his field of Indian corn.
Here comes a huntsman out of the woods, drasrsrmsc
a bear which he has shot, and shouting to the neigh-
bors 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 bu'ds 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 at-
tendants, 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
hai'dy people. None should be here but those who

20 grandfather's chair.

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 where-
abouts in the wilderness her friends will dig her

]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 husband's absence, poor Lady Arbella felt her-
self 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 Endicott's heart
was as bold and resolute as iron, and he could not
understand why a woman's heart should not be of
ii'on too.

Still, however, he spoke kindly to the lady, and
then hastened forth to till his cornfield 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

grandfather's chair. 2i

or ev^ll doer, by ordering him to be set iii 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, hekl long rehgious talks together.
Thus John Endicott was a man of multifarious busi-
ness, 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 it.

What a contrast, my dear children, between this
bold, rough, active man, and the gentle Lady Ar-
bella, who was fading away, like a pale English
fiower, 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, travelHng through the woods on foot, and
leaning on his pilgrim'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 be-
held 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 — happy both for him and her — 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

22 grandfather's chair.

montli from her aiTival, the gentle Lady Arbella
£ided away and died. They dug a grave for her m
the new soil, where the roots of the pine trees im-
peded their spades ; and when her bones had rested
there nearly two hundi-ed 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 fore-
going narrative, had galloped away, with a prodigious
clatter, upon Grandfather's stick, and was not yet re-
turned. 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 Ahce
was asleep ; but towards the close of the story, hap-
pening 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 up-
on a dehcate 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 Alice.

" Grandfather, what became of Mr. Johnson ? "
asked Clara.

" His heart appears to have been quite broken,"
answered Grandfather ; " for he died at Boston with-

ghandfather's chair. 23


in a montli after the death of his wife. He
bm-ied in the very same tract of ground where he
had intended to build a dweUing for Lady Arbella
and himself. Where their house would have stood,
there was his grave."

"I never heard any thing so melancholy/' said

"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 man's
grave. ^ And so the field became the first burial
ground in Boston. When you pass through Tremont
Street, along by King's Chapel, you see a burial
ground, containing many old grave stones and monu-
ments. That was Mr. Johnson'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 England."

Grandfather looked at Laurence, to discover
whether he knew how profound and true a ihmg
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 di'um 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 extin-
guished by so much moisture in the sky.

Charley had already exhausted the less eager ac-
tivity 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
bookcase, reading, not for the first time, the Mid-
summer Night'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
aer aid in erecting the monument. Little Alice sat


on Grandfather's footstool^ witli a picture book in her
hand ; and, for every picture, the child was telling
Grandfather a story. She did not read from the
hook, (for little Alice had not much skill in read-
ing,) but told the story out of her own heart and

Charley was too big a boy, of course, to care any
thing about little Alice's stories, although Grand-
father appeared to listen with a good deal of interest.
Often, in a young child'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 nar-
rative of poor Lady Arbella, and I know not whether
he would have thought it worth while to tell another
story merely to gratify such an inattentive auditor as
Charley. But Laurence laid down his book and
seconded the request. Clara drew her chair nearer to
Grandfather ; and little Alice immediately closed her
picture book and looked up into his face. Grand-
father had not the heart to disappoint them.

He mentioned several persons who had a share in
the settlement of our country, and who would be


well worthy of remembrance, if we could find room
to tell about them all. Among the rest. Grand-

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Online LibraryNathaniel HawthorneTrue stories from history and biography → online text (page 1 of 19)