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This was enough to set the body politic going ; Mrs. Cock• loft began “my-dearing” it, as fast as tongue could move; the young ladies took each a stand at an elbow of his chair; Jeremy marshalled in the rear; the servants came tumbling in ; the mastiff put up an inquiring nose; and even grimalkin, after he had cleansed his whiskers and finished sneezing, discovered indubitable signs of sympathy.
After the most affectionate inquiries on all sides, it turned out that my cousin, in crossing the street, had got his silk stockings bespattered with mud by a coach, which, it seems, belonged to a dashing gentleman who had formerly supplied the family with hot rolls and muffins ! Mrs. Cockloft thereupon turned up her eyes, and the young ladies their noses; and it would have edified a whole congregation to hear the conversation which took place, concerning the insolence of upstarts, and the vulgarity of would-be gentlemen and ladies, who strive to emerge from low life by dashing about in carriages, to pay a visit two doors off; giving parties to people who laugh at them, and cutting all their old friends.
MARY DYRE, THE QUAKER MARTYR. Miss Sedgwick.
[The subject of this and the following exercise, exemplifies the style
of simple and touching narrative. The reading, throughout, is in a quiet and “subdued” tone, — the “movement” “slow," — the pauses well marked. Loud and rapid utterance would be great faults, in this instance. The general softened tone of the piece, gives place, in the occasional reflections, and particularly the concluding ones, to a more expressive manner, as regards energy and effect. Still, the predominating pathos of the narrative, casts its shade over these passages, and reduces their force.]
Mary DYRE belonged to the religious society of “ Friends;" and was among those who, in 1657, sought, in Massachusetts, an asylum from the oppression of the mother country. But the persecuted had become persecutors; and, instead of an asylum, these harmless people found a prison, and were destined, for their glory and our shame, – to suffer as martyrs in the cause of liberty of conscience.
Sewel, the historian of “the people called Quakers," speaking of Mary, says, “ She was of a comely and grave countenance, of a good family and estate, and the mother of several children;" but her husband, it seems, was of another persuasion.
Mary Dyre, with many others, sought, in Rhode Island, a refuge from the storm of persecution in Massachusetts Christian liberty, in its most generous sense, was the noble distinction of that province; and there Mary might have enjoyed her inoffensive faith, and all the temporal distinctions it permitted; for her husband filled one of the highest offices in the province. But she could not forget her suffering brethren in the Massachusetts colony. She meditated on their wrongs till she “ felt a call ” to return to Boston.
Two persons, distinguished for zeal and integrity, accompanied her; William Robinson, and Marmaduke Stevenson. Their intention and hope was, to obtain a repeal or mitigation of the laws against their sect. Their return was in the autumn of 1659. On their appearance in Boston, they were immediately seized, and committed to prison; and a few days subsequent, after a summary and informal examination before Governor Endicot, and the associate magistrates, they were sentenced to suffer the penalty of death, which had been already decreed to such as, after having been banished, should return.
Mary's pure and gentle spirit dwelt in eternal sunshine: its elements were at peace. When the fearful words were pronounced, “ Mary Dyre, you shall go to the prison whence you came, thence to the place of execution, and be hanged there until you are dead," she folded her hands, and replied, with a serene aspect, “ The will of the Lord be done."
Governor Endicot seems to have felt an irritation at her tranquillity, not more dignified than a child's, when he vents his wrath in blows on an insensible and incorporeal substance.
“ Take her away, marshal,” he said, harshly.
“I return joyfully to my prison,” she replied; and then turning to the marshal, she added, “ You may leave me, marshal: I will return alone.”
“I believe you, Mrs. Dyre,” replied the marshal; “ but I must do as I am commanded.”
The prisoners were condemned on the twentieth of October. The twenty-seventh was the day appointed for the cxecution of the sentence. With a self-command and equanimity of mind rare in such circumstances, Mary employed the
interval in writing an “ Appeal to the Rulers of Boston;” an appeal, not in her own behalf, not for pardon, nor life, but for a redress of the wrongs of her persecuted brethren. “I have no self-ends, the Lord knoweth,” she says; “ for if life were freely granted by you, it would not avail me, so long as I should daily see or hear of the sufferings of my people, my dear brethren, and the seed with whom my life is bound up. Let my counsel and request be accepted with you to repeal all such laws, that the truth and servants of the Lord may have free passage among you, and you be kept from shedding innocent blood, which I know there be many among you who would not do, if they knew it so to be.” — “In love and in the spirit of meekness, for I have no enmity to the persons of any, I again beseech you.”
On the evening of the twenty-sixth, William Dyre, Mary's eldest son, arrived in Boston, and was admitted to her prison. He came in the hope of persuading his mother to make such concessions in regard to her faith, as to conciliate her judges, and procure a reprieve. All night he remained with her. The particulars of this interview have not been preserved. But we know the temper of woman, the tenderness and depth of a mother's love. We may imagine the intense feelings of the son, on the eve of his mother's threatened execution, pleading for the boon of her life; we may imagine the conflict between the yearnings of the mother, and the resistance of the saint; and we may be sure that we cannot exaggerate its violence, nor its suffering. The saint was triumphant ; and on the following morning, Mary was led forth, between her two friends, to the place of execution. Death could not appal a mind so lofty and serene. Man could not disturb a peace so profound. Her companions evinced a like composure.
Mary was of a temper, like the intrepid Madame Roland, to nave inspired a faltering spirit by her example : far more difficult she must have found it, to behold the last quiverings and strugglings of mortality, in the persons of her friends. But even after this, she was steadfast, and ascended the scaffold with an unblenching step. Her dress was scrupulously adjusted about her feet, her face covered with a handkerchief, and the halter put around her neck.
The deep silence of this awful moment, was broken by a piercing cry. “Stop! she is reprieved !” was sent from mouth to mouth, till one glad shout announced the feeling of the gazing multitude. Was there one of all those gathered
to this fearful spectacle, whose heart did not leap with joy ? Yes — the sufferer and victim,- she, to whom the gates of death had been opened. “Her mind,” says her historian, “ was already in heaven; and when they loosed her feet, and bade her come down, she stood still, and said she was willing to suffer as her brethren had, unless the magistrates would annul their cruel law.”
Her declaration was disregarded : she was forced from the scaffold, and reconducted to prison. There she was received in the arms, of her son; and she learned from him that she owed her life, not to any soft relenting of her judge, but to his prolonged intercession.
SAME SUBJECT CONCLUDED.
On the morning after her reprieve, she despatched from her prison a letter to her judges, beginning in the following bold, and, if the circumstances are considered, sublime strain :
"Once more to the General Court assembled in Boston, speaks Mary Dyre, even as before. My life is not accepted, neither availeth me, in comparison of the truth, and the lives and liberty of the servants of the living God, for which, in meekness and love I sought you."
No answer was returned to Mary's letters, and no concessions made to her sect; but it was thought prudent to commute Mary's sentence into banishment, with penalty of death in case of her return; and she was accordingly sent, with a guard, to Rhode Island.
Would the tragedy had ended here! But the last and saddest scene was yet to be enacted. We who believe that woman's duty as well as happiness lies in the obscure, and safe, and not very limited sphere of domestic life, may regret that Mary did not forego the glory of the champion, and the martyr, for the meek honours of the wife and mother. Still we must venerate the courage and energy of her soul, when, as she said, “moved by the spirit of God so to do," she again returned to finish, - in her own words, — “ her sad and heavy experience, in the bloody town of Boston.”
She arrived there on the twenty-first of May, 1660, and appears to have remained unmolested, till the thirty-first, when she was summoned before the General Court, which had cognizance of all civil and criminal offences.
Mary Dyre's family was plunged into deep distress, by her again putting her life in jeopardy. As her husband's religious faith did not accord with her own, he could not of course perfectly sympathize with her zeal in behalf of her persecuted sect; but his letter, addressed to the Governor, bears ample testimony, that his conjugal affection had borne the hard test of religious disagreement.
It does not appear what answer, or that any answer was vouchsafed to this touching appeal. It is enough to know that it was unavailing, and that on the very next day after her condemnation, the first of June, Mary Dyre was led forth to execution.
The scaffold was erected on Boston Common. When she had mounted it, she was reproached with having said she had already been in paradise.
To this she replied, “ I have been in paradise many days."
She spoke truly. Her mind was the paradise of God, sanctified by His peace. The executioner did his office. He could kill the body, demolish the temple; but the pure and glorious spirit of the martyr passed unharmed, untouched, into the visible presence of its Creator.
The scene of this tragedy was Boston Common ;— that spot, so affluent in beauty, so graced by the peace, and teeming with the loveliness of nature, was desecrated by a scaffold ! —- stained with innocent blood! We would not dishonour this magnificent scene by connecting with it, in a single mind, one painful association. But let those send back one thought to the Quaker martyr, who delight to watch the morning light and the evening shadows stealing over it; to walk under the bountiful shadow of its elms; to see the herds of cattle * banqueting there; the birds daintily gleaning their food; the boys driving their hoops, flying their kites, and launching their mimic vessels on the mimic lake; whilst the little fainéants, perhaps the busiest in thought among them, are idly stretched on the grass, seemingly satisfied with the bare consciousness of existence. The Boston Common, as it is, preserved and embellished, but not spoiled by art, still retaining its natural and graceful undulations, shaded by trees of a century's growth, with its ample extent of uncovered
* A customary sight at the time when this piece was written.