A partial escape and an enforced separation
We pick up the story from last week during high drama near Immingham, as the Pilgrim families are separated in their attempts to escape from England for Holland.
While the women and children are stranded in boats near the shore, many of the men – their husbands and fathers – watched in horror as the ship appointed to take them away departs without them so that they escape from arriving troops. The men then had to endure a terrible voyage across the North Sea, according to William Bradford, who we assume was aboard:
“[They] endured a fearful storm at sea, being 14 days or more before they arrived at their port [Amsterdam], [for] 7 [days] they neither saw sun, moon, nor stars, & were driven near the coast of Norway; the mariners themselves often despairing of life; and once with shrieks & cries gave over all, as if the ship had been foundered in the sea, & they sinking without recovery.
But when man’s hope & help wholly failed, the Lord’s power & mercy appeared in their recovery; for the ship rose again, & gave the mariners courage again to manage her. … with … fervent prayers they cried unto the Lord in this great distress … when the water rained into their mouths & ears …
Upon which the ship did not only recover, but shortly after the violence of the storm began to abate, and the Lord filled their afflicted minds with such comforts as everyone cannot understand, and in the end brought them to their desired Haven, where the people came flocking admiring their deliverance, the storm having been so long & sore, in which much hurt had been done.”
So, while the men were arriving in Amsterdam, Bradford picks up the story back in England:
“But to return to the others where we left. The rest of the men yet were in greatest danger, [escaping] before the troop could surprise them; those [few] only staying to be [assistants to] the women.
But pitiful it was to see the heavy case of these poor women in this distress; what weeping & crying on every side, some for their husbands, that were carried away in the ship … others not knowing what should become of them, & their little ones; others again melted in tears, seeing their poor little ones hanging about them, crying for fear, and quaking with cold.
Being thus apprehended, they were hurried from one place to another, and from one justice to another, till in the end they knew not what to do with them; for to imprison so many women & innocent children for no other cause (many of them) but that they must go with their husbands, seemed to be unreasonable … and to send them home again was as difficult, for they alleged, as the truth was, they had no homes to go to, for they had either sold, or otherwise disposed of their houses & livings.
To be short, after they had been thus turmoiled a good while, and [sent] from one constable to another, they were glad to be rid of them in the end upon any terms; for all were wearied & tired with them. Though in the meantime they (poor souls) endured misery enough; and thus in the end necessity forced a way for them.”
We don’t know exactly how or where the women and their children left the country, but by August 1608, some three months later, the separation from their husbands ended as they too arrived in Holland.
Next week: Reunited – the Pilgrim families back together again in Amsterdam…