A PERPLEXING PROBLEM
WHEN they first came to Holland, everything seemed strange to the English children. The gay-colored houses with their floors of blue tile, their queer little fireplaces, and their steep roofs, were very different from the homes they had left in England.
They had never seen wooden shoes such as the Dutch children wore. The dikes to keep out the sea, the giant windmills, and the canals all seemed odd.
Strangest of all was the language. They thought they could never learn it.
But after they had lived in Holland a few years these things did not seem so strange. The little English children began to like the Dutch dress and ways. They liked the canal streets, the whirling windmills, and the Dutch cottages.
They liked the pretty, bright dresses and gold cap-buttons which the Dutch girls wore, and wished to dress like them. They sometimes coaxed their mothers to wear pretty lace caps and fine earrings such as their neighbors wore.
“It is not right for you to care so much about pretty clothes,” said their parents. “Plain caps and dresses are more suitable for Pilgrims.”
These children soon learned the language of Holland, and liked it almost as well as their native one. Indeed, some of them liked it better, and often spoke Dutch at home instead of English.
It was now eleven years since the Pilgrims had come to Holland. In this time many babies had been born in their new homes. When these little ones began to talk, their parents taught them to speak English, but when they were old enough to play out of doors, they heard Dutch all about them, and when they went to school they heard nothing but that language. Soon the little ones were speaking better Dutch than English.
This was a real sorrow to the Pilgrim fathers and mothers, who did not want their children to become Hollanders. They wished them to remember the English language and English ways. They feared that in a few years no one could tell their children from those of the Hollanders.
The Pilgrims often talked about their old homes in England. Many of them were not so well and strong since they worked in the mills. Worst of all, many of their children had to work there while they were still young. Their rosy cheeks were growing pale, and their backs bent.
The Pilgrims longed for little farms of their own where they and their sons could work in the open air as they had done in England, but they were too poor to buy farms in Holland.
“We hear much about the new land across the sea,” said John Robinson, their pastor. “A good many Englishmen have gone there and made comfortable homes for themselves. They say it is a great, beautiful country where there is land enough for all.”
“I am told the ground there is very rich, and the crops never fail for want of rain or sunshine,” said John Carver.
“If we were in America we could make homes such as we had in England. We could have our own church, and bring up our children to love and serve God,” said Elder Brewster.
“Can we go so far away?” they thought. Between America and Holland the sea is very wide.
The Pilgrims thought of the pleasant homes and the dear friends they would leave in Holland. They thought how long it would be before they could have as good schools as those in Leiden.
They thought of the long voyage, and of the hardships of life in the new land. There was not a city, nor a town, nor even a house in the place where they would go. There were no mills where they could buy timber for their cottages. They would have to cut down the trees to make their own lumber.
“The Indians live in the forests. They are said to be very savage and cruel,” said Master Allerton.
“We would treat them like brothers and perhaps they would be our friends,” answered the pastor.
Whenever the Pilgrims met they talked about going to America. They talked about the broad fields they would own, and the cozy homes they would build.
“Above all,” they said, “we shall be free. We will build our own church and worship God as we think right. Our children will be healthier, happier, and better than in this large city.”
And so the Pilgrims decided to go to America. But they could not all go at once. There would be no houses for them to live in at first, and many were too old, or too weak, to bear the hardships of starting the new home.
It was decided that if the greater number of the Pilgrims went to America, John Robinson would go with them. If fewer went, Elder Brewster would go with them and be their pastor. It was soon learned that most of them could not leave Leiden until later, so Elder Brewster and about eighty of his friends planned to go that summer.
Only those who were well and strong were to go in the first ship. Many families would have to be separated for a year or more.
Elder Brewster’s family was large, and he could not take them all at first. Love and his little brother were too young to be left. Mistress Brewster could not be contented an hour if the wide sea lay between her and her little boys.
Jonathan Brewster was a young man now, and was working in Leiden. Patience and Fear had grown to be large girls, and could spin and weave, sew and cook almost as well as Mistress Brewster herself.
So it was arranged that Jonathan would go on with his work in Leiden, with his sisters to keep house for him. They all hoped to be able to join the others in America in a year or two.
THE SWORD OF MILES STANDISH
AMONG those who went to John Robinson’s church was Captain Miles Standish. He was an Englishman, but he had lived many years in Holland, where he went to help the Dutch fight for their freedom.
Once while he was fighting in Holland, some soldiers went to the house of an old man who made swords and armor. They took some of the armor and were threatening to harm the old man and his daughter.
Captain Standish saw them, and shouted, “You cowards! To steal from a poor old man! Cowards! Give back everything you have taken.” And the rude soldiers obeyed.
Then to the trembling old man he said, “No harm shall come to you, so do not be afraid. Your life is safe, and your daughter, too, is free from danger. Go back to your shop in peace.”
The old man could not thank him then; his heart was too full. But that night Miles Standish heard a knock at his door. When he looked out, he saw the old sword maker standing in the darkness. He had something carefully wrapped in his cloak.
“Captain Standish,” he said, “you are a brave, brave soldier. You are more than that; you are a kind and noble man.” Then, holding out the gift he had brought, the man said, “Take this sword and take with it the heart-felt thanks of an old man whose life and whose daughter you have saved.”
Miles Standish could not refuse without giving pain, so he took the man’s gift. It was a fine old sword which had been made in the Far East hundreds of years before Miles Standish was born. On one side were engraved the sun, moon, and stars. On the other side were some words written in an old, old language.
The Captain thanked the man and said, “This sword shall always be my friend. It shall always be ready to help those who are in trouble.” He named the sword “Gideon,” and he sometimes spoke to it as though it were a friend.
But now the war was over, and though it had been ten years since Miles Standish had needed “Gideon,” it always hung at his side.
Captain Standish often talked with the Pilgrims about their plan of going to America. He thought about the natives who lived in the new land, and about the ships from other countries which might try to take their town.
“I will go with you to your new home,” he said. “There may be work for ‘Gideon’ and me.”