Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

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He was awakened by the sound of a bell. "The church bell!" he cried, starting up. "And people going through the streets to meeting. How is this? The sun is in the east! My God! I have been asleep! The furnace is cold. The elixir!" He hastily blended the essences that he had made, though one or two ingredients were still lacking, and drank them off. "Faugh!" he exclaimed. "Still unfinished-perhaps spoiled. I must begin again." Taking his hat and coat he uttered a weary sigh and was about to open the door when his cheek blenched with pain, sight seemed to leave him, the cry for help that rose to his lips was stifled in a groan of anguish, a groping gesture brought a shelf of retorts and bottles to the floor, and he fell writhing among their fragments. The elixir of life, unfinished, was an elixir of death.


Under the name of Eliza Wharton for a brief time lived a woman whose name was said to be Elizabeth Whitman. Little is known of her, and it is thought that she had gone among strangers to conceal disgrace. She died without telling her story. In 1788 she arrived at the Bell Tavern, Danvers, in company with a man, who, after seeing her properly bestowed, drove away and never returned. A graceful, beautiful, well-bred woman, with face overcast by a tender melancholy, she kept indoors with her books, her sewing, and a guitar, avoiding the gossip of the idle. She said that her husband was absent on a journey, and a letter addressed to "Mrs. Eliza Wharton" was to be seen on her table when she received callers. Once a stranger paused at her door and read the name thereon. As he passed on the woman groaned, "I am undone!" One good woman, seeing her need of care and defiant of village prattling, took her to her home, and there, after giving birth to a dead child, she passed away. Among her effects were letters full of pathetic appeal, and some verses, closing thus:

     "O thou for whose dear sake I bear
     A doom so dreadful, so severe,
     May happy fates thy footsteps guide
     And o'er thy peaceful home preside.
     Nor let Eliza's early tomb
     Infect thee with its baleful gloom."

A stone was raised above her grave, by whom it is not known, and this inscription was engraved thereon: "This humble stone, in memory of Elizabeth Whitman, is inscribed by her weeping friends, to whom she endeared herself by uncommon tenderness and affection. Endowed with superior genius and acquirements, she was still more endeared by humility and benevolence. Let candor throw a veil over her frailties, for great was her charity for others. She sustained the last painful scene far from every friend, and exhibited an example of calm resignation. Her departure was on the 25th of July, 1788, in the thirty-seventh year of her age, and the tears of strangers watered her grave."


Bitter were the persecutions endured by Quakers at the hands of the Puritans. They were flogged if they were restless in church, and flogged if they did not go to it. Their ears were slit and they were set in the stocks if they preached, and if any tender-hearted person gave them bed, bite, or sup, he, too, was liable to punishment. They were charged with the awful offence of preaching false doctrine, and no matter how pure their lives might be, the stern Salemite would concede no good of them while their faith was different from his. They even suspected Cobbler Keezar of mischief when he declared that his magic lapstone which Agrippa had torn from the tower at Nettesheim—gave him a vision of the time when men would be as glad as nature, when the "snuffler of psalms" would sing for joy, when priests and Quakers would talk together kindly, when pillory and gallows should be gone. Poor Keezar! In ecstasy at that prospect he flung up his arms, and his lapstone rolled into the Merrimack. The tired mill-girls of Lowell still frequent the spot to seek some dim vision of future comfort.