Roger Malvin's Burial

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Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804—1864) American novelist and short-story writer


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Story by Hawthorne, published in The Token (1832) and in Mosses from an Old Manse (1846).

Two wounded survivors of a foray against Indians, led by John Lovewell, make their escape through the Maine woods. Roger Malvin, an old man mortally injured, urges his young companion, Reuben Bourne, to desert him and seek safety. Reuben protests, but is finally persuaded and promises to send help. He makes his way home, but cannot bring himself to tell Dorcas Malvin of the circumstances in which he left her father. He claims to have buried him in the forest, is hailed as a hero, and soon marries Dorcas. Their life is not happy, for his conscience disturbs him, and when their son Cyrus is 15, they leave the settlement to seek a new home in the wilderness. One evening Reuben accidentally shoots his son while hunting, and is horrified to discover the boy's body at the same spot where he left Malvin, years before. Dorcas discovers her son's death, and falls unconscious. The upper branch of an oak, where Reuben hung a bloody handkerchief as a signal, has withered and now crumbles and drops, while Reuben prays, feeling that at last his crime is expiated and the curse lifted.

Subjects: Literature.

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