In the colony at Massachusetts Bay, Miles Standish is a gruff captain of pilgrim soldiers whose wife had died after the landing of the Mayflower the previous fall. He shares a cabin with John Alden, a young scholar. One night, Standish drops his copy of Caesar’s Commentaries and turns to Alden, who is writing a letter in which he praises Priscilla, one of the young women of the colony. Standish speaks of his lonely, weary life and of Priscilla, too, living alone; her parents had died during the winter.
Because he is no scholar but only a blunt soldier, Standish asks Alden to convey his proposal of marriage to Priscilla. Taken aback by the request, Alden stammers that it would be wiser for Standish to plead his own case. When the captain asks the favor in the name of friendship, the young man can no longer refuse.
In her cabin, Priscilla is singing the Hundredth Psalm and industriously spinning when Alden arrives at her door. Filled with woe at what he must do, he nevertheless steps resolutely inside. Seizing what seemed an opportune moment, he blurts out the captain’s proposal. Priscilla flatly refuses, for she believes that Standish himself should come if she is worth the wooing. She further confuses the young man by asking him why he does not speak for himself. Caught between his own love for Priscilla and his respect for Standish, Alden decides to go back to England when the Mayflower sails the next day.
Standish is enraged when he hears the outcome of Alden’s wooing, but the captain’s tirade is interrupted...
(The entire section is 645 words.)