The Story of Ezekiel Fuller, the Puritan Boy—December 22, 1620
AS you read the date at the head of this chapter, you will exclaim, "Forefathers' Day!" or "The landing of the Pilgrims!" And what has that to do with Ezekiel Fuller?
But I did not put that date at the head of the chapter for the Pilgrims, but for Ezekiel himself. It was his birthday.
On that same wintry day when upon Plymouth rock stepped John Carver, William Bradford, old Elder Brewster, valiant Miles Standish, and his young friend John Alden, William White with his wife beside him, and little Peregrine in his arms, and many another brave and true man and woman who helped to found New England,—on that same wintry day was born in Boston, Lincolnshire, England, a little son to Ezekiel and Prudence Fuller. There was much talk about a name for this baby. His father proposed "Faint-not," or "Serve-the-Lord;" but his mother objected to these names.
"If it be the Lord's will, the boy will serve Him, by whatever name he is called," she said; "and, to my mind, a father's name is good and suitable for a son. Let him be called Ezekiel, which, besides being your own name, is that of a prophet of the Lord, who served him through much tribulation, as we ourselves are like to do."
On the other hand the father replied, "Look at your cousin Thorsby; did he not name his boy Zeal-for-Truth, and has not the youth grown up worthy of the name he bears? In these troublous times we ought to bear our testimony even in our names."
But, after all, the mother's wish prevailed, and the boy was Ezekiel Fuller, like his father and grandfather before him. He was born, as I told you, on the very day when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, but the news of that landing did not reach England until the next year, when the Mayflower returned, bringing sad tidings of sickness and death among the little band, but not one word of discouragement or despondency, and not one man, woman, or child returning to England.
Among these Pilgrims was an uncle of our little boy, and as year after year went by, the Mayflower, the Ann, the Little James, or the Lion's Whelp undertook that long and perilous voyage across the Atlantic, and returned bringing letters from the colonists to their friends in England. So Ezekiel heard of the little town growing up in that far-away new world, and he felt sure that it would not be long before his father too would sail away from the troubles that beset him, to secure peace of mind and freedom amid the hardships of that wilderness.
For already, before he was ten years old, he has seen his father led away to jail and locked up for many weeks, because, instead of attending the church which the king had ordered for all men, he preferred to hold a quiet meeting in his own house or that of his neighbor, where they might worship God in their own way.
And when he had cried, and said to his mother, "How shall we get father back again; who will help him?" his mother had wiped away her own tears and answered, "It is for the cause of God that he suffers; do not be afraid; the Lord will take care of him and of us too."
And then she had called him and his little sister Patience
to her side, and taught them the grand old
And the child, young as he was, began to see that life was no playtime, but a very serious matter indeed.
To be thoroughly in earnest about everything
he did was one
of the first lessons Ezekiel learned. His father had told
him of his own school-days when a boy in London. He had been
one of the pupils at St. Paul's School, and had read day
after day the motto painted upon the school-room
A stern command alike for teacher and pupil.
There was the same earnest idea of work in his own school, and even his plays were not merry and gay, no dancing round May-poles, no Christmas festivities for him.
If you ask me, Why not? I can only answer that ever since King James had required all ministers to read from their pulpits an order making dancing, archery, bowling, and other games a regular occupation for Sunday afternoons, his father, and many another sober and godly man, had frowned upon all such pastimes, even upon week-days; and when their minister had refused to read the order from his pulpit, and been turned out of his church in consequence, even the boys, who would, we can imagine, like a merry play as well as any one, had valiantly taken sides with the persecuted, and willingly given up decking May-poles with garlands and dancing on the green.
It is true that when the winter snows had made sliding a temptation not to be resisted, he had made a sled from an old gate, with beef bones tied under the corners for runners, and had shouted, "Clear the way!" as merrily as the best of you, when he came down the long hill. But for the most part there was but little real play for this boy, and when he stood, with his little sister Patience, at their father's knee, by the evening firelight, and begged for a story; it was no fairy tale they heard, no romance of brave knights and fair ladies, but a stern, sad tale of the flight into Holland, or the patient sufferings of men who gave up houses and lands and money and friends, and all hope of comfort or ease, for a perilous journey, and a new home in the wilderness. And they counted their loss a gain, since it left them free to believe what they thought was the truth, and to do what they thought was right.
And sometimes he would read to them from
a curious and very
interesting book that had been lent to
A Journall of the English Plantation
What wonder, with such training, that the little boy in his plain doublet and hose, with close-cropped hair, and peaked hat shading his thoughtful face, should look more like a little old man than like a merry young lad.
But there were enough merry lads in England in those days; lads whose fathers took their sports of a Sunday afternoon, and did not trouble themselves about the right and the wrong of that, or any other thing which the king had already decided for them.
And these lads, in their gay dresses and ruffles and laces, passed the Puritan boy on his way to school, and laughed at his sober dress, and sometimes shouted after him, "Would you like a lodging in Boston jail, young Puritan?"
It was not an easy life that Ezekiel led.
One day the merry lads came down the street in a crowd, following a man in the Puritan dress, who bore upon his cheek a mark branded by a hot iron, and on either side of his head a cruel scar where his ears had been cut off.
And while the boy looked and wondered, he saw his father hasten out of the house, take the stranger by the hand, and, bidding him welcome, lead him into his own home.
Ezekiel followed, eager to know the meaning of this strange thing, and his father, calling him to his side, said, "Good Master Burton, this is my little son, who would fain see how those who serve the Lord can suffer in his cause."
The next day being Sunday, Master Burton was holding a meeting in a small back room of the house, and had just taken the little Geneva Bible from his pocket and begun to read, "He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved," when the door was broken open by a band of soldiers, and not only Master Burton, but also Master Fuller himself, was marched off to jail, there to await the next sitting of the court to answer to the charge of holding unlawful meetings.
And so weary weeks passed by before the boy saw his father's face again. And when he came home from the jail, worn and thin and pale from the long imprisonment, his mind was made up to seek liberty for himself and his household in the far-distant New England.
It was, indeed, a land full of savages, but no savages could treat him more cruelly than he had already been treated.
And a goodly company of his friends and neighbors, from Boston and other parts of Lincolnshire, as well as from London and Nottingham and Devonshire, had, in the great emigration of 1630, sailed away to found Dorchester and Cambridge and Charlestown and Boston.
'We will go to Boston," said Goodman Fuller, as he talked with his wife by the fireside, on the first night after his release from jail; while the children, sitting on their little wooden stools in the chimney corner, looked and listened, but did not dare to speak.
"To Boston, because it will be more home-like, not only by its name, but there we shall find old friends and neighbors who went out last year with Mr. Winthrop. And, if I have been rightly informed, good Mr. John Elliot has an intention of going thither himself next month in a ship called the Lyon, which is to sail from London."
And his wife put her hand in his, and said, "Truly, Ezekiel, I think that the Lord calls us to go, and I am ready."
It was now July, and the Lyon was to sail in August, so there was little time for preparation.
To the boy it was only a pleasure to help in the packing of the household furniture, and to go with his father to buy a cow and some goats to be taken to their new home.
Then came the journey to London, a slow progress by the carrier's cart, and the stowing of themselves and their goods on board the Lyon, which had scarcely room for her sixty passengers and their cattle and household stuff. All this was a delightful experience to Ezekiel, as it would be to any boy of his age, in these days as well as in those.
But, oh, what a voyage across the Atlantic! For ten long weeks did the Lyon struggle through storms and rough seas before the friendly shores of new Boston welcomed the wanderers from old Boston.
Ezekiel has seen porpoises and whales and great icebergs, and his father, standing beside him on the deck, says, "See the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep."
And when they had been many days tossed about by waves and winds, and at last awoke one morning, and, climbing to the deck, saw the beautiful rosy light of the dawn of a fair day, shining over the wide, smooth waters, the boy did not wonder that Mr. Elliot opened his Bible and read from the Psalms.
"He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves are still."
Ezekiel thought he had never quite understood those words before, though he had heard them many and many a time.
At last, after weary watching for land, a wild pigeon one day alights on the mast, and they know that his home cannot be far away.
As they enter Boston Harbor they meet a little vessel sailing out, and, hailing her, learn that she is The Blessing of the Bay, Governor Winthrop's little bark of thirty tons, built soon after he reached Boston, and bound now to New York to trade with the Dutch who have settled there.
In Boston they find both old friends and new, and as they are well-known Puritans, a piece of land is at once allotted to Goodman Fuller, whereon he may build him a house.
What a strange, new life this is for Ezekiel! For the first few weeks he wants nothing better than the chance to look about him; but he has little opportunity for idle gazing. A Puritan boy must never be idle, least of all a New England Puritan, so he is busy helping to build the house, to plant corn in the spring, and to make fences; so busy that he hardly has time to wonder at the Indians in deerskin garments, with bows and arrows, who bring in fish and beaver-skins to trade with the "knife men," as they call the English.
One day he goes with his father and some other settlers up the Charles River to Beaver Brook, to visit the traps that they have set for beaver; there he sees many great trees that have been gnawed down by the skilful animals; and in the traps two or three beavers, whose skins will find a good market in London.
He has not been many months a New England boy, before he is sent to school to Master Philemon Pormont, the Boston schoolmaster, who has been engaged by the magistrates to teach the boys reading, writing, and ciphering; and at school he becomes acquainted with some Indian lads, for when the magistrates engaged the schoolmaster, they made him promise to teach Indians without pay.
Among these Indians is one who bears the curious name, "Know-God," and he and Ezekiel become playmates and friends. The Indian lad teaches the English boy to dig clams and mussels, to tread eels out of the mud, and to snare squirrels and rabbits; and, in return, Ezekiel teaches him the English names of all common objects, so that the boy can soon make himself so well understood that he begins to be useful as an interpreter.
One day news comes that many Indians, a few miles back in the forest, are very sick with the small-pox, among them Sagamore James, the father of little "Know-God," and two weeks after, the boy is brought into Boston by some English hunters, a lonely orphan, all his family having died of the terrible disease.
Then Ezekiel begs his father to take the Indian lad into his home; and, as the elders have already recommended that such of the colonists as are able to do so shall rescue these poor Indian children from their wretched condition, Goodman Fuller, with the consent of the authorities, takes the boy, promising to teach him to work, and to bring him up in the fear of the Lord.
One of Ezekiel's greatest pleasures is to go down to the landing when a ship arrives from England, or even when one of the little vessels, of which the colony now owns several, sails out for whale-catching at Cape Cod, or for trading to Virginia or New York.
And so it happens that he is standing beside his father on the wharf when their old Boston minister, Mr. John Cotton, lands from the Griffin, with his wife and the little baby born on the voyage, and named "Sea-born."
I tell you this for the sake of showing you what odd names children sometimes had in those days.
But there are other odd things to be noticed, as well as names. There are stocks set up in the market-place, where you may often see offenders sitting with both hands and feet shut into holes in the wooden framework,—a curious punishment for many small misdeeds. Indeed it is said that the man who built the stocks was made to sit in them himself for charging too much for his work.
Then there is the windmill on a hill, where the Boston people get their corn ground. And there are the wolves' heads brought in every week or two, for each plantation has promised a reward of one penny for every cow or horse, and one farthing for every pig or goat, owned in the settlement, to the man who kills a wolf. No wonder that the wolves were soon reduced in numbers.
It is not long after this time, that the court orders that musket bullets may be used instead of farthings, so, if our boy had any spending money, or there was anything to buy with it, he might have a pocketful of bullets for change. But he has very little need of any money, since there is, as yet, not a single shop in Boston.
As Ezekiel grows older there is one thing that often
puzzles him. He sees every month some one punished, or
driven out of the town, for not agreeing with the Puritan
Church; and, remembering that it was on account of just such
persecution that his father had fled from England; and that,
indeed, almost all these New England settlers had, for that
same reason, left their homes in Old England, he wonders how
they can so understand the meaning of that rule which he has
heard from minister, parents, and teachers ever since he was
old enough to
"Do unto others as you would have others do to you."