Page by Page Books
Read Books Online, for Free
Part II. Nathaniel Hawthorne

V. The Rejected Blessing

Page 4 of 6

Table Of Contents: Grandfather's Chair

Previous Page

Next Page

Previous Chapter

Next Chapter

More Books

More by this Author

Indeed, there were melancholy sights enough in the streets of Boston to draw forth the tears of a compassionate man. Over the door of almost every dwelling a red flag was fluttering in the air. This was the signal that the small-pox had entered the house and attacked some member of the family; or perhaps the whole family, old and young, were struggling at once with the pestilence. Friends and relatives, when they met one another in the streets, would hurry onward without a grasp of the hand or scarcely a word of greeting, lest they should catch or communicate the contagion; and often a coffin was borne hastily along.

"Alas! alas!" said Cotton Mather to himself, "what shall be done for this poor, misguided people? Oh that Providence would open their eyes, and enable them to discern good from evil!"

So furious, however, were the people, that they threatened vengeance against any person who should dare to practise inoculation, though it were only in his own family. This was a hard case for Cotton Mather, who saw no other way to rescue his poor child Samuel from the disease. But he resolved to save him, even if his house should be burned over his head.

"I will not be turned aside," said he. "My townsmen shall see that I have faith in this thing, when I make the experiment on my beloved son, whose life is dearer to me than my own. And when I have saved Samuel, peradventure they will be persuaded to save themselves."

Accordingly Samuel was inoculated; and so was Mr. Walter, a son-in-law of Cotton Mather. Doctor Boyleston, likewise, inoculated many persons; and while hundreds died who had caught the contagion from the garments of the sick, almost all were preserved who followed the wise physician's advice.

Tired of reading? Add this page to your Bookmarks or Favorites and finish it later.

But the people were not yet convinced of their mistake. One night a destructive little instrument, called a hand-grenade, was thrown into Cotton Mather's window, and rolled under Grandfather's chair. It was supposed to be filled with gunpowder, the explosion of which would have blown the poor minister to atoms. But the best informed historians are of opinion that the grenade contained only brimstone and assafoetida, and was meant to plague Cotton Mather with a very evil perfume.

This is no strange thing in human experience. Men who attempt to do the world mere good than the world is able entirely to comprehend are almost invariably held in bad odor. But yet, if the wise and good man can wait awhile, either the present generation or posterity will do him justice. So it proved in the case which we have been speaking of. In after years, when inoculation was universally practised, and thousands were saved from death by it, the people remembered old Cotton Mather, then sleeping in his grave. They acknowledged that the very thing for which they had so reviled and persecuted him was the best and wisest thing he ever did.

"Grandfather, this is not an agreeable story," observed Clara.

"No, Clara," replied Grandfather. "But it is right that you should know what a dark shadow this disease threw over the times of our forefathers. And now, if you wish to learn more about Cotton Mather, you must read his biography, written by Mr. Peabody, of Springfield. You will find it very entertaining and instructive; but perhaps the writer is somewhat too harsh in his judgment of this singular man. He estimates him fairly, indeed, and understands him well; but he unriddles his character rather by acuteness than by sympathy. Now, his life should have been written by one who, knowing all his faults, would nevertheless love him."

Page 4 of 6 Previous Page   Next Page
Who's On Your Reading List?
Read Classic Books Online for Free at
Page by Page Books.TM
Grandfather's Chair
Nathaniel Hawthorne

Home | More Books | About Us | Copyright 2004