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Passaconaway
by [?]

[1833.]

I know not, I ask not, what guilt’s in thy heart, But I feel
that I love thee, whatever thou art.
Moor.

THE township of Haverhill, on the Merrimac, contained, in the autumn of 1641, the second year of its settlement, but six dwelling-houses, situated near each other, on the site of the present village. They were hastily constructed of rude logs, small and inconvenient, but one remove from the habitations of the native dwellers of the wilderness. Around each a small opening had been made through the thick forest, down to the margin of the river, where, amidst the charred and frequent stumps and fragments of fallen trees, the first attempts at cultivation had been made. A few small patches of Indian corn, which had now nearly reached maturity, exhibited their thick ears and tasselled stalks, bleached by the frost and sunshine; and, here and there a spot of yellow stubble, still lingering among the rough incumbrances of the soil, told where a scanty crop of common English grain had been recently gathered. Traces of some of the earlier vegetables were perceptible, the melon, the pea, and the bean. The pumpkin lay ripening on its frosted vines, its sunny side already changed to a bright golden color; and the turnip spread out its green mat of leaves in defiance of the season. Everything around realized the vivid picture of Bryant’s Emigrant, who:

“Hewed the dark old woods away,
And gave the virgin fields to the day
And the pea and the bean beside the door
Bloomed where such flowers ne’er bloomed before;
And the maize stood up, and the bearded rye
Bent low in the breath of an unknown sky.”

Beyond, extended the great forest, vast, limitless, unexplored, whose venerable trees had hitherto bowed only to the presence of the storm, the beaver’s tooth, and the axe of Time, working in the melancholy silence of natural decay. Before the dwellings of the white adventurers, the broad Merrimac rolled quietly onward the piled-up foliage of its shores, rich with the hues of a New England autumn. The first sharp frosts, the avant couriers of approaching winter, had fallen, and the whole wilderness was in blossom. It was like some vivid picture of Claude Lorraine, crowded with his sunsets and rainbows, a natural kaleidoscope of a thousand colors. The oak upon the hillside stood robed in summer’s greenness, in strong contrast with the topaz- colored walnut. The hemlock brooded gloomily in the lowlands, forming, with its unbroken mass of shadow, a dark background for the light maple beside it, bright with its peculiar beauty. The solemn shadows of the pine rose high in the hazy atmosphere, checkered, here and there, with the pale yellow of the birch.

“Truly, Alice, this is one of God’s great marvels in the wilderness,” said John Ward, the minister, and the original projector of the settlement, to his young wife, as they stood in the door of their humble dwelling. “This would be a rare sight for our friends in old Haverhill. The wood all about us hath, to my sight, the hues of the rainbow, when, in the words of the wise man, it compasseth the heavens as with a circle, and the hands of the Most High have bended it. Very beautifully hath He indeed garnished the excellent works of His wisdom.”

“Yea, John,” answered Alice, in her soft womanly tone; “the Lord is, indeed, no respecter of persons. He hath given the wild savages a more goodly show than any in Old England. Yet, John, I am sometimes very sorrowful, when I think of our old home, of the little parlor where you and I used to sit of a Sunday evening. The Lord hath been very bountiful to this land, and it may be said of us, as it was said of Israel of old, ‘How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob! and thy tabernacles, O Israel!’ But the people sit in darkness, and the Gentiles know not the God of our fathers.”