Hamilton Wright Mabie.

Famous stories every child should know: a selection of the best stories of ... online

. (page 22 of 22)
Online LibraryHamilton Wright MabieFamous stories every child should know: a selection of the best stories of ... → online text (page 22 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


longer than to inquire the way to Boston; and, let him be
where he may, he will tell you he cannot stay a moment,
for he must reach Boston that night."

We were now ascending a high hill in Walpole, and as we
had a fair view of the heavens, I was rather disposed to
jeer the driver for thinking of his surtout, as not a cloud
as big as a marble could be discerned. "Do you look,"
said he, "in the direction whence the man came, that is
the place to look; the storm never meets him, it follows him.'*
We presently approached another hill, and when at the
height, the driver pointed out in an eastern direction a little
black speck as big as a hat. "There," said he, "is the
seed storm; we may possibly reach Polley's before it reaches
us, but the wanderer and his child will go to Providence
through rain, thimder, and lightning." And now the
horses, as though taught by instinct, hastened with increased



Digitized



by Google



sgo Stories Every ChUd ShcM Knew

wpttA, The litde black cloud came on rolling over the
tumptke, and doubled and trebled itself in all directions.
The appearance of this doud attracted the notice of all
the passengers; for after it had spread itself to a great bulk,
it suddenly became more limited in drctunference, grew
more compact, dark, and consolidated. And now the suc-
cessive flashes of chain lightning caused the whole doud
to appear like a sort of irregular network, and displayed
a thousand fantastic images. The driver bespoke my
attention to a remarkable configuration in the doud; he
said every flash of lightning near its centre discovered to
him distinctly the form of a man sitting in an open carriage
drawn by a black horse. But in truth I saw no such thing.
The man's fancy was doubtless at fault. It is a very
common thing for the imagination to paint for the senses,
both in the visible and invisible world.

In the meantime the distant thund^ gave notice of a
shower at hand, and just as we reached Policy's tavern
the' rain poured down in torrents. It was soon over, the
cloud passing in the direction of the turnpike toward Provi-
dence. In a few moments after, a respectable-looking
man in a chaise stopped at the door. The man and child
in the chair having excited some little S3anpathy among
the passengers, the gentleman was asked if he had observed
them. He said he had met them; that the man seemed be-
wildered, and inquired the way to Boston ; that he was driving
at great speed, as thou^ he expected to outstrip the tempest;
that the moment he had passed him a thunderclap broke
distinctly over the man's head and seemed to envdop both
man and child, horse and carriage. ''I stopped," said the
gentleman, "supposing the li^tning had struck him, but
the horse only seemed to loom up and increase his speed,
and, as well as I could judge, he travelled just as fast as the



Digitized



by Google



Peter Rugg, the Missing Man 291

blunder cloud." While this man was speaking, a peddler
with a cart of tin merchandise came up, all dripping; and,
on being questioned, he said he had met that man and
carriage, within a fortnight, in four different States; that
at each time he had inquired the way to Boston; and that
a thunder shower like the present had each time deluged
him, his wagon and his wares, setting his tin pots, etc.,
afloat, so that he had determined to get marine insiurance
done for the future. But that which excited his surprise
most was the strange conduct of his horse, for that, long
before he could distinguish the man in the chair, his own
horse stood still in the road and flung back his ears. "In
short," said the peddler, "I wish never to see that man
and horse again; they do not look to me as if they belonged
to this world."

This is all that I could learn at that time; and the occur-
rence soon after would have become with me like one of
those things which had never happened, had I not, as I
stood recently on the doorstep of Bennett's Hotel in Hart-
ford, heard a man say, "There goes Peter Rugg and his
child! he looks wet and weary, and farther from Boston
than ever." I was satisfied it was the same man that I
had seen more than three years before; for whoever has once
seen Peter Rugg can never after be deceived as to his
identity. " Peter Rugg 1 " said I, " and who is Peter Rugg ? "
"That," said the stranger, "is more than anyone can tell
exactly. He is a famous traveller, held in li^t esteem by
all inn-holders, for he never stops to eat, drink, or sleep. I
wonder why the Grovemment does not employ him to carry
the mail." " Ay," said a bystander, " that is a thou^t bright
only on one side. How long would it take, in that case, to
send a letter to Boston ? For Peter has already, to my knowl-
edge, been more than twenty years travelling to that place.'*



Digitized



by Google



7QC Stories Every Child Shmdd Know

''Baty'' said I, "does the man never stop anywhere, does
be never converse with anyone ? I saw the same man more
than three years since, near Providence, and I heard a
strange story about him. Pray, sir, give me some account
of this man." "Sir," said the stranger, "those who know
the most respecting that man say the least. I have heard
it asserted that heaven sometimes sets a mark on a man.
either for judgment or trial. Under which Peter Rugg now
labours I cannot say; therefore I am rather inclined to pity
than to judge." " You speak like a hiunane man," said I,
"and if you have known him so long, I pray you will give
me some accotmt of him. Has his appearance much
altered in that time?" "Why, yes; he looks as though he
never ate, drank, or slept; and his child looks older than
himself; and he looks like time broke off from eternity and
anxious to gain a resting-place." "And how does his horse
look ? " said I. " As for his horse, he looks fatter and gayer,
and shows more animation and courage, than he did twenty
years ago. The last time Rugg spoke to me he inquired
how far it was to Boston. I told him just one hundred
miles. *Why,' said he, *how can you deceive me so? It
is cruel to deceive a traveller. I have lost my way. Pray
direct me the nearest way to Boston.' I repeated it was one
hundred miles. 'How can you say so?' said he. 'I was
told last evening it was but fifty, and I have travelled aU
night.' * But,' said I, * * you are now travelling from Boston.
You must turn back.* *Alas!' said he, 'it is all turn back!
Boston shifts with the wind, and plays all aroimd the com-
pass. One man tells me it is to the east, another to the
west; and the guide-posts, too, they all point the wrong
way.' 'But will you not stop and rest?' said I; 'you seem
wet and weary.' 'Yes,' said he, 'it has been foul weather
since I left home.' 'Stop, then, and refresh youi-self ' 'T



Digitized



by Google



Pder Rugg^ the Missing Man 293

must not stop, I must reach home to-night, if possible, though
I think you must be mistaken in the distance to Boston/
He then gave the reins to his horse, which he restrained with
difficulty, and disappeared in a moment. A few days
afterwards I met the man a little this side of Claremont,
winding around the hills in Unity, at the rate, I believe, of
twenty miles an hour."

"Is Peter Rugg his real name, or has he accidentally
gained that name?" "I know not, but presimie he will
not deny his name ; you can ask him, for see, he has turned his
horse and is passing this way." In a moment a dark-
coloured, high-spirited horse approached, and would have
passed without stopping, but I had resolved to speak to
Peter Rugg, or whoever the man might be. Accordingly,
I stepped into the street, and as the horse approached I made
a feint of stopping him. The man immediately reined in
his horse. " Sir," said I, " may I be so bold as to inquire
if you are not Mr. Rugg ? for I think I have seen you before."
*'My name is Peter Rugg," said he; "I have unfortunately
lost my way; I am wet and weary, and will take it kindly
of you to direct me to Boston. " " You live in Boston, do you,
and in what street?" "In Middle Street." "When did
you leave Boston?" "I cannot tell precisely; it seems a
considerable time." "But how did you and your child
become so wet? it has not rained here to-day." "It has
just rained a heavy shower up the river. But I shall not
reach Boston to-night if I tarry. Would you advise me to
take the old road, or the turnpike?" "Why, the old road
is one himdred and seventeen miles, and the tiunpike is
ninety-seven." "How can you say so? you impose on me;
it is wrong to trifle with a traveller; you know it is but forty
miles from Newbur3rport to Boston." "But this is not
Newbuiyport; this is Hartford." "Do not deceive me, sir.



Digitized



by Google



t94 SUmes Every ChUd Should Knew

Is not this town Ncwbuiyport, and the riycr that I have
been following the Merrimac ? " ** No, sir; this is Hartford,
and the river the Connecticut." He wrung his hands and
looked incredulous. "Have the rivers, too, changed their
courses as the cities have changed places? But see, the
clouds are gathering in the south, and we shall have a rainy
night. Ah, that fatal oath!" He would tarry no longer.
His impatient horse leaped off, his hind flanks rising like
wings — he seemed to devoiu: all before him and to scorn
all behind.

I had now, as I thought, discovered a clue to the history
of Peter Rugg, and I determined, the next time my business
called me to Boston, to make a further inquiry. Soon after
I was enabled to collect the following particulars from Mrs.
Croft, an aged lady in Middle Street, who has resided in
Boston during the last twenty years. Her narration is
this: The last summer a person, just at twilight, stopped
at the door of the late Mrs. Rugg. Mrs. Croft, on coming
to the door, perceived a stranger, with a child by his side, in
an old, weatherbeaten carriage, with a black horse. The
stranger asked for Mrs. Rugg, and was informed that Mrs.
Rugg had died, at a good old age, more than twentyvyears
before that time. The stranger replied, "How can you
deceive me so? do ask Mrs. Rugg to step to the door." "Sir,
I assure you Mrs. Rugg has not lived here these nineteen
years; no one lives here but m)rself, and my name is Bets^
Croft." The stranger paused, and looked up and down
the street and said, "Though the painting b rather faded,
this looks like my house." " Yes," said the child, " that is
the stone before the door that I used to sit on to eat my
bread and milk." " But," said the stranger, " it seems to be
on the wrong side of the street. Indeed, everything here
teems to be misplaced. The streets are all dianged, the



Digitized byCjOOQlC



Peter Rugg, the Missing Man 295

people are all changed, the town seems changed, and, what
is strangest of all, Catharine Rugg has deserted her husband
and chad." "Pray," said the stranger, "has John Foy
come home from sea? He went a long voyage; he is my
kinsman. If I could see him, he could give me some account
of Mrs. Rugg." "Sir," said Mrs. Croft, "I never heard
of John Foy. Where did he live?" "Just above here, in
Orange-Tree Lane." "There is no such place in this
neighboiurhood." "What do you teU me! Are the streets
gone ? Orange-Tree Lane is at the head of Hanover Street,
near Pemberton's HilL" "There is no such lane now."
" Madam! you cannot be serious. But you doubtless know
my brother, \^^iam Rugg. He lives in Royal Exchange
Lane, near King Street." " I know of no such lane; and I
I am sure there is no such street as King Street in this town."
"No such street as Eling Street? Why, woman! you mock
me. You may as well tell me there is no King George.
However, madam, you see I am wet and weary. I must
find a resting place. I will go to Hart's tavern, near the
market." "Which market, sir? for you seem perplexed;
we have several markets." "You know there is but one
market, near the town dock." " Oh, the old market. But
no such man as Hart has kept there these twenty years."

Here the stranger seemed disconcerted, and muttered
to himself quite audibly: "Strange mistake! How much
this looks like the town of Boston! It certainly has a great
resemblance to it; but I perceive my mistake now. Some
other Mrs. Rugg, some other Middle Street." Then said
he, "Madam, can you direct me to Boston?" "Why, this
is Boston, the city of Boston. I know of no other Boston."
" City of Boston it may be, but it is not the Boston where I
live. I recollect now, I came over a bridge instead of a
ferry. Pray what bridge is that I just came over?" "I1



Digitized



by Google



7q6 Skries Every ChM Should Know

is Charies River Bridge." "I perceive my mistake; there
is a ferry between Boston and Charlestown, there is no
bridge. Ah, I perceive my mistake. If I was in Boston,
my horse would carry me directly to my own door. But
my horse shows by his impatience that he is in a strange
place. Absiurd, that I should have mistaken this place for
the old town of Boston! It is a much finer city than the
town of Boston. It has been built long since Boston. I
fancy Boston must lie at a distance from this city, as the
good woman seems ignorant of it." At these words his
horse began to chafe, and strike the pavement with his fore
feet; the stranger seemed a little bewildered, and said "No
home to-night," and, giving the reins to his horse, passed
up the street, and I saw no more of him.

It was evident that the generation to which Peter Rugg
belonged had passed away.

This was all the account of Peter Rugg I could obtain
from Mrs. Croft; but she directed me to an elderly man,
Mr. James Felt, who lived near her, and who had kept a
record of the principal occurrences for the last fifty years.
At my request she sent for him; and, after I had related to
him the object of my inquiry, Mr. Felt told me he had
known Rugg in his youth; that his disappearance had
caused some surprise; but as it sometimes happens
that men run away, sometimes to be rid of others,
and sometimes to be rid of themselves; and as Rugg took
his child with him, and his own horse and chair; and as it
did not appear that any creditors made a stir, the occurrence
soon mingled itself in the stream of oblivion; and Rugg and
his child, horse and chair, were soon forgotten. "It is
true," said Mr. Felt, "sundry stories grew out of Rugg^s
affair, whether true or false I cannot tell; but stranger things
have happened in my day, without even a newspaper notice.*'



Digitized byCjOOQlC



Peter Rugg, the Missing Man agjf

**Sir," said I, "Peter Rugg is now living. I have lately
seen Peter Rugg and his child, horse and chair; therefore I
pray you to relate to me all you know or ev&c heard of him.'*
"Why, my friend," said James Felt, "that Peter Rugg is
now a living man I will not deny; but that you have seen
Peter Rugg and his child is impossible, if you mean a small
child, for Jenny Rugg, if living, must be at least — ^let me
see — ^Boston Massacre, 1770 — Jenny Rugg was about ten
years old. Why, sir, Jenny Rugg if living must be more
than sixty years of age. That Peter Rugg is living is highly
probable, as he was only ten years older than myself; and
I was only eighty last March, and I am as likely to live
twenty years longer as any man." Here I perceived that
Mr. Felt was in his dotage, and I despaired of gaining any
intelligence from him on which I could depend.

I took my leave of Mrs. Croft, and proceeded to my
lodgings at the Marlborough Hotel.

If Peter Rugg, thought I, has been travelling since the
Boston Massacre, there is no reason why he should not
travel to the end of time. If the present generation know
little of him, the next will know less, and Peter and his
child will have no hold on this world.

In the course of the evening I related my adventure in
Middle Street. "Hal" said one of the company, smiling,
"do you really think you have seen Peter Rugg? I have
heard my grandfather speak of him as though he seriously
believed his own story." " Sir," said I, " pray let us compare
your grandfather's story of Mr. Rugg with my own.'*
" Peter Rugg, sir, if my grandfather was worthy of credit,
once lived in Middle Street, in this city. He was a man
in comfortable ciromistances, had a wife and one daughter,
and was generally esteemed for his sober life and manners.
But unhappily his temper at times was altogether ungovem*



Digitized



by Google



d^B SioHes Every Child Should Know

able, and then his language was terrible. In these fits of
passion, if a door stood in his way he would never do less
than kick a pand through. He would sometimes throw
his heels over his head, and come down on his feet, uttering
oaths in a circle. And thus, in a rage, he was the first who
performed a somerset, and did what others have dnce
learned to do for merriment and monqr. Once Rugg was
seen to bite a tenpenny nafl in halves. In those da3rs eveiy-
bocfy, both men and bo3rs, wore wigs; and Peter, at these
moments of violent passion, would become so profane that
his wig would rise up from his head. Some said it was on
account of his terrible language; others accounted for it in
a more phflosophical way, and said it was caused by the
expansion of his scalp, as violent passion, we know, will
8weD the veins and expand the head. While these fits were
on him, Rugg had no respect for heaven or earth. Except
this infirmity, all agreed that Rugg was a good sort of a
man; for when his fits were ova:, nobody was so ready to
commend a placid temper as Peta:.

^ It was late in autumn, one morning, that Rugg, in his
own chair, with a fine large bay horse, took his daughter
and proceeded to Concord. On his return a violent storm
overtook him. At dark he stopped in Menotomy (now
West Cambridge), at the door of a Mr. Cutter, a friend of
his, who urged him to tany ovemi^t. On Rugg's declin-
ing to stop, Mr. Cutter urged him vehemently. *Why,
Mr. Rugg,' said Cutter, 'the storm is overwhelming you;
the night is exceeding dark; your little daughter will
perish; you are in an open chair, and the tempest is increas-
ing.' ^Ld the storm increase,^ said Rugg, with a fearful
oath, 'I wUt see home Uhnigkty in spite of the last tempest!
Of may I never see home.* At these words he gave his whip
to his hi^-spirited horse, and disappeared in a moment



Digitized byCjOOQlC



Peter Rugg, the Missing Man 299

But Peter Rugg did not reach home that night, nor the next;
nor, when he became a missing man, could he ever be traced
beyond Mr. Cutter's in Menotomy. For a long time after,
on every dark and stormy night, the wife of Peta: Rugg
would fancy she heard the crack of a whip, and the fleet
tread of a horse, and the rattling of a carriage, passing her
door. The neighbours, too, heard the same noises, and
some said they knew it was Rugg's horse; the tread on the
pavement was perfectly familiar to them. This occurred
so repeatedly that at length the neighbours watched with
lanterns, and saw the real Peter Rugg, with his own horse
and chair, and child sitting beside him, pass directly before
his own door, his head turning toward his house, and himself
making every effort to stop his horse, but in vain. The next
day the friends of Mrs. Rugg exerted themselves to find her
husband and child. They inquired at every public house
and stable in town; but it did not appear that Rugg made
any stay in Boston. ' No one, after Rugg had passed his
own door, could give any account of him; though it was
asserted by some that the clatter of Rugg's horse and
carriage ova: the pavements shook the houses on both sides
of the street. And this is credible, if, indeed, Rugg's horse
and carriage did pass on that ni^t. For at this day, in
many of the streets, a loaded truck or team in passing will
shake the houses like an earthquake. However, Rugg's
neighboius never afterward watched again; some of them
treated it all as a delusion, and thought no more of it.
Others, of a different opinion, shook their heads and said
nothing. Thus Rugg and his child, horse and chair, were
soon forgotten; and probably many in the neighbourhood
never heard a word on the subject.

"There was indeed a rumour that Rugg afterward was
seen in Connecticut^ between Suffield and Hartford, passing



Digitized



by Google



joo Stories Every ChOd Should Know

Aiou^ the country like a streak of chalk. This gave
occasion to Rugg^s friends to make further inquiry But
<he more they inquired, the more thqr were baffled. If
they heard of Rugg one day in Connecticut, the next day they
heard of him winding around the hills in New Hampshire!
and soon after, a man in a chair, with a small child, exactly
answering the description of Peter Rugg, would be seen in
Rhode Island, inquiring the way to Boston.

**But that which chiefly gave a colour of mystery to the
story of Peter Rugg was the afibir at Charlestown bridge.
The toU-gatherer asserted that sometimes, on the darkest
and most stormy nights, when no object could be discerned,
about the time Rugg was missing, a horse and wheel carriage,
with a noise equal to a troop, would at midnight, in utter
contempt of the rates of toll, pass over the bridge. This
occurred so frequently that the toll-gatherer resolved to
attempt a discovery. Soon after, at the usual time, appar-
ently the same horse and carriage approached the bridge
from Charlestown square. The toil-gatherer, prepared, took
his stand as near the middle of the bridge as he dared, with
a large three-legged stool in his hand. As the appearance
passed, he threw the stool at the horse, but heard nothing
except the noise of the stool skipping across the Imdge.
The toU-gatherer on the next day asserted that the stool
went directly throu^ the body of the horse, and he per-
sisted in that belief ever after. Whether Rugg, or whoever
the person was, ever passed the bridge again, the toU-
gatherer would never tell; and when questioned, seemed
anxious to waive the subject. And thus Peter Rugg and
his child,' horse and carriage, remain a mjrstery to this day."

This, sir, is all that I could learn of Peter Rugg
in Boston. • • ,



Digitized byCjOOQlC



Digitized byCjOOQlC



dkr GOBCTT Eke a ttok of daft. lUs pie
<m^:M to y ^^i> toewfc id —fce tether inqFigy ^
«te Mvr Cher aqored. die k« thej irae btffled. K
agT hard jrf Rig j<»dtTmCc tiwrr t it 1 11, the peit (fay tfaqr
Ed M kai vndb:^ arDcnd the hilb ia Nev Buq>shiR|
lafiier.aBfta xa a chair, with a andl ddU, encti^
the^aczxpdQQ o€ Feier Rqg^ woaU be seen in

j»^<:Lii"ig the waj to Bostna.
'^ Bet chii vhkh c^edr gaie a CDfcar ol iBTSleij to the

9torr cf Iter K^B was the aji^ir at Omieslofni bridge.
T^ «c«l-^rheRr ^^i**^ dat •^^ ■■ M M iii ^ oo the darkest
aai nasi sfeifBf csgJsB^ vhea no object cxxdd be disccnie^
abcQC the tane Rsgg was ■Bsio^ a hofse and wheel carriage,

in utter



3 tizedbv Google



Digitized byCjOOQlC



Digitized



by Google



Digitized



by Google



Digitized



by Google



Digitized byCjOOQlC



Digitized



by Google



Digitized



by Google



Digitized



by Google





1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 22

Online LibraryHamilton Wright MabieFamous stories every child should know: a selection of the best stories of ... → online text (page 22 of 22)