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Stories of the Pilgrims by  Margaret B. Pumphrey

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MEETING IN SECRET

[27]

F
OR a time all went well, but after a few months King James was told that the people of Scrooby were not going to Scrooby church. Everybody knew they were men and women who worshiped God, so they must have meetings somewhere.

One Sabbath morning two strangers came to Scrooby. As they walked through the street they noticed a number of people going into William Brewster's house.

"I believe they are going there to worship," said one of the men.

"I think so, too, but we will wait until we are sure," answered the other.

Far down the road they saw a carriage coming, so they stepped behind a wall. The carriage came slowly on and turned in at Brewster's gate. In it were John Robinson and his family. The men knew this man was a pastor from the way he was dressed, and so knew that they had found the place where the people were at worship.

A little later they went into the house and up the stairs. There in the chapel they found John Robinson preaching to his people.

The strangers handed him a message from the king and left the room.

[28] After Master Robinson had finished speaking, he read the message. Even the little children felt that this letter meant trouble for those who had come there to worship God.

"My friends," said their pastor, "King James has ordered us to go to his church and worship according to the laws of England, or not worship at all. He says if we do not obey him we shall be punished."

What could the good men and women do? They did not believe as the king did, and thought it was not right for them to go to his church. They would not do what they believed to be wrong.

For several minutes all were silent. Then William Bradford spoke.

"This house will be watched every Sabbath," he said. "This large, pleasant room has been our church home for a long time, but it will not be safe to meet here any more."

After talking for a while about the best thing to be done, the pastor prayed that God would help and protect them, and all went sadly home.

After some time King James heard that the people were not yet going to the village church, and again he sent his men to Scrooby.

"Watch William Brewster's house and take every man who goes there on Sunday," he said.

The next Sunday two soldiers watched that house. They watched the front door and the [29] back door, but not a person did they see. Had the people obeyed the king and gone to the old church? No, indeed! The soldiers were watching the wrong house. If they had been at the other end of the village they might have seen where the people went to worship that morning.

The next Sunday the worshipers met at Doctor Fuller's and the week after that at Master Allerton's. Each Sabbath they met in a different house, and each Sabbath the soldiers tried to find them. At last they met only at night, when it was harder for the soldiers to see where they went.

William Brewster was an elder in John Robinson's church. The pastor did not live in Scrooby, and sometimes he was not able to go to meeting. Then Elder Brewster led the service.

One very dark winter night they again met at Elder Brewster's house. The last persons to come were Master Chilton and his little daughter. Mary's face was pale, and her hands trembled as she tried to untie her hood.

"What is the matter, Mary?" asked Mistress Brewster, helping her to take off her wraps. "Are you so cold?"


[Illustration]

" 'What is the matter, Mary' asked
Mistress Brewster"

"I have had such a fright!" said the child. "There are two soldiers at your gate, Mistress Brewster. Father and I did not see them until we were almost at the bridge. We did not look toward the house but walked right by, as though [30] we were not coming here. When we were sure they were not following us, we went around and came in by the stable gate."

Elder Brewster looked out of the window. Yes, there were two men walking up and down in front of the house.

"Brewster's house is dark and still. There is no one there," said one. "They are obeying the king very well."

"No doubt they are all asleep, as we ought to be. I am stiff with cold," answered the other, [31] as they walked away. They would have been much surprised if they had seen the little group on their knees in the dark chapel upstairs.

When the meeting was over they did not all go home at once. The soldiers would notice so many people together and know they had been to some place to worship.

Still King James did not believe the people were obeying him. He thought if these soldiers could not find where the meetings were held, he would send some who could.


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