The Freeman’s Oath

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Robert Lockwood looked down at the table, empty save a few papers and a Bible. Only the light of a small fire kept the darkness at bay. The wailing of a nor'easter outside the shuttered windows echoed the emotions he could not express. Whether from reluctance or an overwhelming flood of emotions, he felt only numbness in the flickering room.

The New World had seemed a dream when he first arrived with his brother Edmund in 1630. Finally, a pure man of God could breathe without the fear of the whims of the king of England. The winters were cold; yet, he had found warmth in the Psalms of the meeting and in the eyes of his love.

"What troubles you, my heart?" Susannah entered the room. She had finished putting their two-year-old son, Jonathan, to bed. Robert looked up from the table into those same eyes he fell in love with upon his arrival in the New World.

"The oath tomorrow," he replied, "and whether I can make it in good conscience."

Susannah nodded. She knew of the sleepless nights as Robert waged war against his personal demons. She did what she could to console him. However, even though Robert was something of a radical member, his basic attitudes as to the place of a man and a woman were locked in the teachings of the Puritan faith. Since their marriage two years ago, Susannah had learned that Robert's moods left him desiring quiet reflection.

"I see," she said. "I am going to bed now." She walked over to Robert and kissed him chastely on the top of his head. Robert smiled and took her hand, briefly touching it to his lips and then his cheek, enjoying the chill of her fingers and the sure knowledge that he warmed them with his touch.

"I will be along shortly, Dear Love."

Susannah nodded and left the room, leaving Robert to his thoughts.

Turning to the table, he picked up the paper on which was written the oath he was to take in the morning. He would swear to protect the commonwealth and to refrain from any act of sedition or treason. The last line, "So help me God," stared at him like an accusing eye, daring him to utter those words with a false heart.

He set aside the oath and picked up the proclamation that had forever changed his world. The New World was now a French colony, and all were expected to submit. The immigrants of the Massachusetts Bay Colony were now French citizens. If he took the freeman's oath tomorrow, would he then be bound to the defense of the colony as an English colonist or French colonist?


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