The 'Headers In Life & Legend
by Russell W. Knight
George Harding and the Pastor
|George Harding was an amiable, breezy and fun-loving soul, a fisherman by trade, a wag and inveterate quipster by nature. He loved to kid his companions, to bait the gullible and whenever the occasion arose, to crack flippant and all too often irreverent jibes. Though much esteemed as a wit and a gagster by his peers, that judgment was not shared by the town's most straight-laced pastor. In his eyes, George Harding was an incorrigible, impious and graceless backslider. Moreover, George had never joined the church, never observed the Lord's Day--and horror of horrors, had never been christened!
By chance, the pastor and George happened to meet one day. And the minister, itching to reclaim an erring soul, struck first: was George aware that he was not a member of the church? And did he realize that because he had never been baptized, he remained outside the Christian fold, the pastor asked. Did he not know that the rite of baptism was one of the church's most important sacraments, the pastor explained, to aid mankind in resisting the weaknesses of the flesh and the follies and frailties of the shiftless?
George listened attentively, all the while nursing inwardly a scintillating response to the clergyman's pleas.
"Good Sir," George said, when the minister paused expectantly. " 'Tis true I have erred and 'tis true I have broken the rules of your church and taken the name of the Lord in vain. So if'in it'll help both of us, I'll not only repent my sins but let you baptize me."
"When?" the minister asked.
"Oh, sometime next week," George replied. "And if it'll make you any happier," he added, "you can christen my dog at the same time."
On March 26, 1649, His Honor, Governor John Endicott and four Associate Justices listened impassively to the now contrite Marbleheader. Sheepishly, George admitted that he had ridiculed the minister and had made one of the church's age-old solemn rites the butt of his roguish humor, that he was indeed guilty of irreverence and blasphemy.
The day following his trial, that distinguished tribunal pronounced judgment: George must join the church or receive a whipping!
Reluctantly, George Harding joined the church.
Four months later, however, the Essex County Quarterly Court ordered the County Sheriff to attach all the worldly goods possessed by George Harding of Marblehead for failing to attend church on the Lord's Day!
* * *
Their marriage was stormy from the day they spliced the knot; they argued, bickered and quarreled week-in and week- out. Each was ill-tempered, testy and quick to take offense.
On one occasion, the wife got so wrought-up and so beside herself that she literally exploded. In words dripping venom, she crowed: "Let me tell you this Joe Doakes, the day they bury you it'll be my pleasure to dance on your grave!"
When that day came, Joe Doakes was buried at sea!
* * *
Feuds are commonplace in most small, close-knit semi-isolated communities, and more than once they have been nursed, coaxed and fostered for untold generations. Needless to say, the participants are invariably stiff-necked, bull-headed, unbending and implacable. They never forget, nor ever forgive.
To such benighted people, feuds are meant to last till the end of time.
A few years back, a local lobsterman was accidentally washed overboard. Weighed down by his boots, oilskin apron and jacket, he was sinking beneath the waves for the proverbial third and last time when suddenly, he felt a hand grasp his wrist.
However, to his horror, the face of his rescuer was the face of the eldest member of his family's most ancient and hated foe. The lobsterman, finding himself sandwiched between the devil and the deep blue sea, yanked free his arm and mouthing an unprintable curse, shouted:
"Leave me be! Better to drown than be saved by the likes of you, you #X*#X# swillbelly!"