A snippet from ONE SMALL CANDLE as the Pilgrims leave Holland on the Speedwell for England on the first leg of their journey to America:
John Robinson came over and sat down on the blanket beside Will, linking his hands over his drawn up knees. ‘I would that I could come with you Will,’ he said.
‘We will miss you,’ Will told him. He paused for his heart was full of love for this fearless proclaimer of God’s Word, yet not knowing quite how to express it. ‘I will miss you.’ It was no more than the truth. ‘I want you to know, Brother, that you, and Brother Brewster, have been like fathers to me. I have learned so much from you both.’
John Robinson smiled that quiet smile of his, and said gently: ‘We’ve watched you grow up, Will, seen you at a tender age take a stand for the Truth. Don’t ever compromise the Truth. Stand upright for the Lord. Be strong, Will. The company rely on your good sense and your capableness. You are an elder and you know what you are about. Work together with Master Brewster, and Master Carver and Master Fuller. You have strength in you. Use it.’
Will was silent, feeling that he was unworthy of this great man’s accolade, yet deeply grateful for it at the same time.
John Robinson put his hand inside his jerkin and brought out some sheets of paper folded up together and sealed. ‘I have written a letter for all the brothers and sisters, and all those going along with you, which I hope will encourage you all.’
Will took the letter and John put his hand on his to stop him opening it. ‘No, it is for when you sail from Southampton. Give it into the hand of Brother Brewster when you meet him there.’
Obediently Will tucked it into his doublet. ‘Yes, I will.’
‘And write to me, Will. Tell me the details Brother Brewster will not think to tell me, for he is lazy when it comes to writing letters, I think. Look how few he has sent since he has been in England!’
‘I will write,’ Will promised.
John sighed, and the silence between them was awkward. ‘I would I were going with you,’ he repeated. ‘You have no idea how much this means to me, how much I long to go. You are doing the Lord’s work in this. Build a settlement, a colony, help others to come after you, to a place where a man may think and worship as he wishes. And one day, perhaps I can come to you, if the Lord wills it.’
‘I would you were coming now,’ Will told him.
John’s eyes took on a glow as he saw America in his imagination. ‘This will be our Promised Land, Will. We will build Jerusalem, a cause for rejoicing, in the wilderness. A land built on the free worship of God. You are young, Will. You will bear the burdens well. And God will go with you.’
As the dawn approached on Saturday 22 July 1620 they began to board the Speedwell. The warm night had turned to rain, soaking passengers and crew and well-wishers.
To Captain Reynolds’ intense annoyance, everyone went aboard, including those saying farewell. The ship’s decks were a tangle of people, men and women and children, getting caught up in the ropes, in the way of the sailors.
The moment had come. They wept in each others’ arms, and sobbed, and prayed together. Children wept at being parted from parents. Fear and Patience Brewster sobbed in their mother’s arms, for she was going and taking her two young sons with her and they were not. Bridget Fuller clung to her husband Sam as he tried to comfort her. Digorie Priest said goodbye to his wife Sarah and his sons who were staying, and Sarah Priest in her turn hugged her own brother Isaac Allerton and his wife Mary and their three young children for they were all going. Nothing, Mary Allerton had declared to her husband when he suggested she and the little ones should stay at home, would prevent her from taking her place at her husband’s side, and where she went, her children went, as a matter of course. William White, who was going with his very pregnant wife, Susanna, Sam Fuller’s sister, and their sole surviving son Resolved, aged just five, bid farewell to his cousins Roger White and Bridget Robinson. Mary Cushman was a passenger, ready to meet her husband in Southampton. Catherine Carver kissed her sisters Bridget Robinson and Jane Thickens and Frances Jessop, and her brothers Thomas and Roger White. She was also to meet her husband John Carver in Southampton. Edward Winslow and his wife Elizabeth who had become beloved by all the congregation, had no-one to say goodbye to, but the Blossoms, Thomas and Thomas junior who were going wept with Anne, wife and mother to be left behind.
John Robinson fell to his knees on the deck, and, as if it were a signal, the noise suddenly stopped, and with almost one motion everyone of the congregation fell to their knees with him. In prayer, with tears, John Robinson begged God for his love and help towards the travellers—the Pilgrims.
Now the time had come for Will and Dorothy to part from her parents and her sister, and their five-year old son Jonathan.
The parting was worse than Will had anticipated. An agony that would stay with him a lifetime. For all his youth Jonathan understood that his parents were leaving him, perhaps forever. He clung to Dorothy, sobbing and begging her not to go.
Dorothy sobbed as she held him tightly. ‘There, there, don’t cry my little man. We’ll soon see you again. I promise.’ But her efforts at soothing him were hampered by her own sobs.
‘Mother! Please don’t go! Don’t leave me here! Please. I want to go too.’
Will bent down and tried a sterner tactic. ‘Now John, no more of this crying. You must be a man and look after grandmother.’
But Jonathan clung all the harder and wailed pitifully.
Will took him from Dorothy, and held him in his own arms. This was his son, his own flesh and blood. Will loved him as a father must, and his resolve weakened. But he was not ignorant of the dangers that lay ahead. No, Jonathan was far too precious to risk on a venture that he knew was fraught with danger.
Deprived of Jonathan, Dorothy threw her arms around her mother and the two women wept, and then her father, as Will gave Jonathan into his grandmother’s arms. With promises to write and to the sound of Jonathan’s hysterics, Will gently pulled her away, allowing them to leave the ship.
Captain Reynolds’s voice could be heard above the tumult. They must make sail or lose the tide.
With all those ashore who were going ashore, Captain Reynolds gave his orders to the mate: ‘Make all sail!’
‘Lay aloft there, you laggards!’ cried the mate, and barefooted sailors ran up the rigging, loosing the sails. Others cast off and the ship began to move.
The passengers lined the gunwales as the wind filled the sails and the Speedwell moved away from the quay, slowly at first, then with growing speed, out into deep water. The passengers waved to their friends and families, calling out last-minute messages.
And there in the front of the bystanders, his blonde curls shining like ripe corn was Jonathan, Will’s last sight of him, standing between his grandparents, crying out for his mother, little hand outstretched to the ship.
Will watched him until they were out of sight, as tears streamed down his own face.
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