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The Gray Champion


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

It befell Sir Edmund Andros to make himself the most hated of the
governors sent to represent the king in New England. A spirit of
independence, born of a free soil, was already moving in the people's
hearts, and the harsh edicts of this officer, as well as the oppressive
measures of his master, brought him into continual conflict with the
people. He it was who went to Hartford to demand the surrender of the
liberties of that colony. The lights were blown out and the patent of
those liberties was hurried away from under his nose and hidden from his
reach in a hollow of the Charter Oak.

In Boston, too, he could call no American his friend, and it was there
that he met one of the first checks to his arrogance. It was an April
evening in 1689, and there was an unusual stir in the streets. People
were talking in low tones, and one caught such phrases as, If the Prince
of Orange is successful, this Andros will lose his head. Our pastors
are to be burned alive in King Street. The pope has ordered Andros to
celebrate the eve of St. Bartholomew in Boston: we are to be killed.
Our old Governor Bradstreet is in town, and Andros fears him. While
talk was running in this excited strain the sound of a drum was heard
coming through Cornhill. Now was seen a file of soldiers with guns on
shoulder, matches twinkling in the falling twilight, and behind them, on
horseback, Andros and his councillors, including the priest of King's
Chapel, all wearing crucifixes at their throats, all flushed with wine,
all looking down with indifference at the people in their dark cloaks and
broadbrimmed hats, who looked back at them with suspicion and hate. The
soldiers trod the streets like men unused to giving way, and the crowd
fell back, pressed against the buildings. Groans and hisses were heard,
and a voice sent up this cry, Lord of Hosts, provide a champion for thy

Ere the echo of that call had ceased there came from the other end of the
street, stepping as in time to the drum, an aged man, in cloak and
steeple hat, with heavy sword at his thigh. His port was that of a king,
and his dignity was heightened by a snowy beard that fell to his waist.
Taking the middle of the way he marched on until he was but a few paces
from the advancing column. None knew him and he seemed to recognize none
among the crowd. As he drew himself to his height, it seemed in the dusk
as if he were of no mortal mould. His eye blazed, he thrust his staff
before him, and in a voice of invincible command cried, Halt!

Half because it was habit to obey the word, half because they were cowed
by the majestic presence, the guard stood still and the drum was
silenced. Andros spurred forward, but even he made a pause when he saw
the staff levelled at his breast. Forward! he blustered. Trample the
dotard into the street. How dare you stop the king's governor?

I have stayed the march of a king himself, was the answer. The king
you serve no longer sits on the throne of England. To-morrow you will be
a prisoner. Back, lest you reach the scaffold!

A moment of hesitation on Andros's part encouraged the people to press
closer, and many of them took no pains to hide the swords and pistols
that were girt upon them. The groans and hisses sounded louder. Down
with Andros! Death to tyrants! A curse on King James! came from among
the throng, and some of them stooped as if to tear up the pavings.
Doubtful, yet overawed, the governor wheeled about and gloomily marched
back through the streets where he had ridden so arrogantly. In truth, his
next night was spent in prison, for James had fled from England, and
William held the throne. All eyes being on the retreating company, the
champion of the people was not seen to depart, but when they turned to
praise and thank him he had vanished, and there were those who said that
he had melted into twilight.

The incident had passed into legend, and fourscore years had followed it,
when the soldiers of another king of England marched down State Street,
and fired on the people of Boston who were gathered below the old State
House. Again it was said that the form of a tall, white-bearded man in
antique garb was seen in that street, warning back the troops and
encouraging the people to resist them. On the little field of Lexington
in early dawn, and at the breastwork on Bunker Hill, where farmers worked
by lantern-light, this dark form was seen--the spirit of New England. And
it is told that whenever any foreign foe or domestic oppressor shall dare
the temper of the people, in the van of the resisting army shall be found
this champion.

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