The Courtship of Myles Standish (North American Folk Tale)

Folk Tales, North American Folk Tales8031

Myles Standish, compact, hard-headed little captain of the Puritan guard at Plymouth, never knew the meaning of fear until he went a-courting Priscilla Mullins–or was she a Molines, as some say? He had fought white men and red men and never reeked of danger in the doing it, but his courage sank to his boots whenever this demure maiden glanced at him, as he thought, with approval. Odd, too, for he had been married once, and Rose was not so long dead that he had forgotten the ways and likings of women; but he made no progress in his suit, and finally chose John Alden to urge it for him. John–who divides with Mary Chilton the honor of being first to land on Plymouth Rock–was a well-favored lad of twenty-two. Until he could build a house for himself he shared Standish”s cottage and looked up to that worthy as a guardian, but it was a hard task that was set for him now. He went to goodman Mullins with a slow step and sober countenance and asked leave to plead his protector”s cause. The father gave it, called his daughter in, and left them together; then, with noble faith to his mission, the young man begged the maiden”s hand for the captain, dwelling on his valor, strength, wisdom, his military greatness, his certainty of promotion, his noble lineage, and all good attributes he could endow him with.

Priscilla kept at her spinning while this harangue went on, but the drone of the wheel did not prevent her noting a sigh and a catch of the breath that interrupted the discourse now and then. She flushed as she replied, “Why does not Captain Standish come to me himself? If I am worth the winning I ought to be worth the wooing.”

But John Alden seemed not to notice the girl”s confusion until, in a pause in his eloquence, Priscilla bent her head a little, as if to mend a break in the flax, and said, “Prithee, John, why don”t you speak for yourself?”

Then a great light broke on the understanding of John Alden, and a great warmth welled up in his heart, and–they were married. Myles Standish–well, some say that he walked in the wedding procession, while one narrator holds that the sturdy Roundhead tramped away to the woods, where he sat for a day, hating himself, and that he never forgave his protege nor the maiden who took advantage of leap year. However that may be, the wedding was a happy one, and the Aldens of all America claim John and Priscilla for their ancestors.

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