Gateway to the Classics: American History Stories, Volume II by Mara L. Pratt
American History Stories, Volume II by  Mara L. Pratt

"The Punning Parson"

At the beginning of the war, the pastor of the Hollis Street Church, Boston, was Matthew Byles.

He was as staunch a Tory as many of his brothers were Whigs. No matter what rebukes or what threats were hurled at him, he would not be crushed. His fire of sarcasm was hot as ever; and his fund of humor never failed him.

At last he was removed from his pastorate, and a guard placed over him.

"Sir," said he, as the officer paced back and forth, "how nobly I am guarded."

Later the guard was removed, and then later still replaced.

"See now," said Matthew, "how carefully I am reguarded."

And again, when the guard was removed "for good and all," this impressible old man cried out,—

"Behold, I have been guarded, reguarded, and now I am disreguarded."

Once, while the sentinel was pacing up and down in front of his premises, the doctor persuaded him to go on an errand, and while he was absent, he shouldered the musket and kept guard over himself, much to the amusement of passers-by. He used to call the sentinel his observ-a-tory.

The early history of Boston is full of stories, of this odd, fun-loving parson. In early Boston poetry are found the following verses:

"Here's punning Byles provokes our smiles,

A man of stately parts,

He visits folks to crack his jokes,

Which never mend their hearts.

"With strutting gait and wig so great

He walks along the streets,

And throws out wit, or what's like it,

To every one he meets."

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