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0105_001E Part II. Nathaniel Hawthorne

VII. The Provincial Muster

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In this dilemma Governor Shirley fixed upon a wealthy merchant, named William Pepperell, who was pretty well known and liked among the people. As to military skill, he had no more of it than his neighbors. But, as the governor urged him very pressingly, Mr. Pepperell consented to shut up his ledger, gird on a sword, and assume the title of general.

Meantime, what a hubbub was raised by this scheme! Rub-a-dub-dub! rub-a-dub-dub! The rattle of drums, beaten out of all manner of time, was heard above every other sound.

Nothing now was so valuable as arms, of whatever style and fashion they might be. The bellows blew, and the hammer clanged continually upon the anvil, while the blacksmiths were repairing the broken weapons of other wars. Doubtless some of the soldiers lugged out those enormous, heavy muskets which used to be fired, with rests, in the time of the early Puritans. Great horse-pistols, too, were found, which would go off with a bang like a cannon. Old cannon, with touchholes almost as big as their muzzles, were looked upon as inestimable treasures. Pikes which, perhaps, had been handled by Miles Standish's soldiers, now made their appearance again. Many a young man ransacked the garret and brought forth his great-grandfather's sword, corroded with rust and stained with the blood of King Philip's War.

Never had there been such an arming as this, when a people, so long peaceful, rose to the war with the best weapons that they could lay their hands upon. And still the drums were heard--rub-a-dub-dub! rub-a-dub-dub!--in all the towns and villages; and louder and more numerous grew the trampling footsteps of the recruits that marched behind.

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And now the army began to gather into Boston. Tan, lanky, awkward fellows came in squads, and companies, and regiments, swaggering along, dressed in their brown homespun clothes and blue yarn stockings. They stooped as if they still had hold of the plough-handles, and marched without any time or tune. Hither they came, from the cornfields, from the clearing in the forest, from the blacksmith's forge, from the carpenter's workshop, and from the shoemaker's seat. They were an army of rough faces and sturdy frames. A trained officer of Europe would have laughed at them till his sides had ached. But there was a spirit in their bosoms which is more essential to soldiership than to wear red coats and march in stately ranks to the sound of regular music.

Still was heard the beat of the drum,- rub-a-dub-dub! And now a host of three or four thousand men had found their way to Boston. Little quiet was there then! Forth scampered the school-boys, shouting behind the drums. The whole town, the whole land, was on fire with war.

After the arrival of the troops, they were probably reviewed upon the Common. We may imagine Governor Shirley and General Pepperell riding slowly along the line, while the drummers beat strange old tunes, like psalm-tunes, and all the officers and soldiers put on their most warlike looks. It would have been a terrible sight for the Frenchmen, could they but have witnessed it!

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Grandfather's Chair
Nathaniel Hawthorne

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