George Streynsham Master.

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petual equilibrium of his friends' regard for

The tourists were shown the still eloquent
scenes of these events. The room in the old
Neilson House, headquarters of the Ameri-
can generals, whither Lady Ackland was
^ken to nurse her fat and prostrate lord,
still remains. In the mansion where for sev-

d K^^^^^ Baroness Ricdesel was bombard-
^^ by the Americans, the artists were shown

the cellars where tlw fugitive lady lived so
long in terror ; the Continentals kept up an
industrious fire upon it, under the impression
that it was the castle of the British generals,
instead of the refuge of a gentle lady. In
those basements the fair dame played the
part of a veritable angel — a German angel.
With one hand she made soups for the
wounded who were brought in ; with the
other she covered tlie mouth of her scream-
ing Httle Frederika, the child who safely
grew up to be the Countess von Reden and
the friend of Humboldt. In this sad cav-
ern the recording stylus of history still
shows its legible penmanship ; the beam or
rafter stretches near the cannon-ball that
shattered it, above the floor on which the
anxious mother counted the hours of the
night, sitting on the ground with her chil-
dren in her lap; and a sovereign of 1776,
dug firom the earth, perhaps a bit of the
British gold that paid her Hessian husband,
is exhibited, with the usual tomahawks and
flint-locks of this sort of museum. Near by
is the Schuyler Mansion, fabled to have


been rebuilt in seventeen days by Burgoyne,
in reparation for his having fired the adjacent
residence of General Schuyler while retreat-
ing. The General's fine old Dutch castle
of 16 10 was within a stone's throw, and an

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abundance of the imported Holland bricks
are still dug up from the grounds. An aged
colonel, a pattern of old-school military eti-
quette, exhibited the beautiful centenarian
of bricks and mortar ; a confidential agent
of General Schuyler's son, he had first man-
aged the establishment and then purchased
it, using it now as a shelter for his honored
age. His charming daughter explained the
curiosities of the rooms, then laughed and
excavated some costumes and trinkets.
When tired, she sank into a settle a hundred
years old, threw a Queen Charlotte parasol

upon an Abercrombie chair, and said that
if she didn't rub up the andirons soon they
would look as old as the hills.

No finer flavor could, well be found than
the ton of some of the old town families,
who here made the acquaintance of the
canal-boat. Dating back to the Holland
burghers of Rotterdam and the Hague,
proud of the Vans and Tens in the family
names, secluded from the metropolis, but
sensitively conscious of Saratoga, the belles
of these nural seats had more of the style
of the delicious French country-house than
is easily found elsewhere in oiu* raw nation.
They were cultured, rustic, innocently
pleased, proud, and simple. They flocked
into the boat, in the wee hours that followed
a strawberry festival, and were vastly set
up at the thought of being out after mid-
night ; the vicinage of the traveling studio
was an occasion and a pretext for unprece-
dented larks. They were waited on by
beaux who for a fortnight had been waxing
their moustaches, and keeping the brims of
their silk hats in curl-papers for the Fourth
of July. The maidens trooped through the
barge, clothing themselves, as they went,
with the choicest morsels of the artistic shop.
There was a mandarin's crape robe, em
broidered with silk puppies, which was an
especial favorite; a young miss came out
with innocent courage in the spoils of a
Turco ; Mongolian pagoda hats and Franz
Hals rufls were all one to these ambitious
costumers, and nothing could be fairer than
the blonde kappelmeister who touched the


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66 1

piano (in a Rembrandt toque and Vandyke
collar) with notes of a Handel hymn, to
which the words of " Yankee Doodle " were
somehow found to fit to a marvel.

" I am content with the battle-field," the

had their mates but he. His friend an-
swered him, as a friend should ; •'* Cheer up,
cheer up, cheer up, Sam, don't let your
courage go down ; there's many a belle, that
I know well, is waiting for you in the town."


Griffin was pleased to declare, well on
towards morning. "Arnold distinguished
himself here, and if he had had the luck to
be shot by Frazer instead of shooting him,
would have been a saint."

" I can't much pity the literary man,"
assented the O'Donoghue, alluding to Bur-
goyne. ** His pen was mightier than his
sword. He was to extend the triumphs of
Quiberon and Quebec. It was only a little
while after Horace Walpole had declared
that he was forced to ask every morning
what victory there was, for fear of missing
one. Then Burgoyne went home, and took
to writing farces. I like these compensa-
tions of a literary life."

" I like Miss Vandeneckhout better than
Miss Tenkate-kateels," said the simple and
gallant Cadmium. " Her hair is tawnier."

Meanwhile, on the wharf, two belated
celebrants of the Fourth were vaguely heard
consoling each other in musical snatches.
One moaned that the fox and the hare, and
the beaver and the bear, and the bird in
the greenwood tree, and the pretty little
rabbits so frisky in their habits — they all

The delightful contrast to these village
ofgies lay in the calm glide along the canal
which would follow. There were many
small towns to meet, and at each the kind
inhabitants, long before advised of the com-
ing of the Tilers, presented themselves with
cunning gifts of flowers and finits. -Es-
thetic teas became possible. The ladies in
these places proved to possess an erudition
in bric-i-brac surpassing all belief As the
fair processions course^ through the boat,
— laying on their graceful shoulders, as they
went, such Venetian or Eastern ornaments
as caught their fancy — and as the musical
members contributed a modest orchestral
background or relief, it became a habit of
some of the club to reel off a string of eluci-
dations, as much in the style of the menag-
erie as possible. But it was very common
for these officious explainers to be cut off
by auditors better informed than themselves,
or for their audacious inventions to be de
tected ignominiously. For instance :

" This trophy, ladies, exhibits halberts,
yataghans, Algerian guns and pistols inlaid
with turquoise, and the famous Greek

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arquebus which shoots round the comer.
I picked it up, in fact, in the Comer palace
in Venice. This Httle implement resembling
a skeletonized hand, garnished with finger-
nails of lead, is the dreaded Russian

knout '*

"Oh, I know," the editor's wife would
exclaim (it was invariably an editor's wife
or a clergyman's wife who thus wreaked

herself on interruption) ; " the boyar's wife
always presents it to her husband just be-
fore marriage, like a kind of engagement
ring, and begs him not to spare her. And
if you happened to be an editor's wife,
Maria, as I am, you would be flogged with
it barefoot to Siberia every time your hus-
band clipped one of Mark Twain's jokes.
And serve you right, /think ! "

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** This figure, ladies, is either a Hindoo
idol or a Peruvian mummy, as is evident
from its having lost its head ; in our coun-
try it is the young man who loses his when

twenty feet across, Italian, and shows
Nebuchadnezzar feeding among the beasts.
There is a really interesting symbol con-
nected with tapestry, ladies. The workman


he worships the idol. You smile, young
ladies, so you know I am right. But the
particular Tiler who adores this image is on
deck, and I can't explain it properly. These
wooden saints are from England, and were
all knocked down by Cromwell in person,
as is proved by the mutilations. They were
knocked down to Polyphemus in Wardour
street The beauty of them is, that they
have all been worshiped, like the heathen
ones. The stuffed crocodile is in a mutilated
condition, the owner's Chinese laundryman
having devoured the most of it surrepti-
tiously, as medicine. The tiger skins are
tokens of our own prowess, the animals
having been fought with incredible gallantry
by a couple of us in Ann street."

No clown's jokes ever became the saw-
dust better than these follies fitted the tudi-
ence. It was '* Oh lawk, Amelia, you can't
see an inch of the sides, they're all broc'-
telle ; and the floor is like Cousin Martha's
matting, only with a diamond ; " and ** This
in the frame is beautiful. I know, it is a
water-color. And I can read the signature
on it, Boldini. It is exactly like Frank
Overton's wife paints on fans." But the
snapper-up of unconsidered explanations
was ever on the alert to fulfill her func-

" You have noticed the tapestries, ladies.
That which curtains off the kitchen is a
high- warp Presentation in the Temple, and
Flemish. The one on the other side is

constructs them entirely from the back, and
so he never sees "

At that the local editor's wife — ^it was at

that this happened — assumed an

expression of real horror, and her counte-
nance became livid.

" Oh, donU go into the tapestry- weaver and
the reverses of the present life ! Four times


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this very year, that is, I've heard Lucinda
Haviland's liusband say that in his pulpit.
Only the last time was at our midsummer
festival, and it seemed to make it worse."

But when the eloquence of the Tilers was
baffled thus by a contretemps^ they could
easily turn to their other accomplishments.
The Horsehair, in his ululations, and his
piano-playing accomplice, had a reserve of
classical morceaux that never failed to re-
duce the most voluble village belle to a
state of idiocy. These ladies, who were
always virtuosi^ would innocently accept
the invitation to listen to a little music.
With criticisms adapted to the more spe-
cially didactic form of melody usual in
small towns, they would begin to listen in
a frame of condescension and blandness;
but vague agonies would soon commence
to shoot over their features as they found
the scheme of the selection gradually elud-
ing them, and before the duet was over they
were ready to beg that their lives might be

It was still better sport to study the
evening audiences of town magnates —
''squires," manufacturers, physicians — when
the club were exchanging their ordinary
dialect-jokes and stories. A premature
party of these invited guests happened to
come one evening before dinner was quite
over, and when, the night coming on
cold, it had been proposed to wrap up in
the "costumes." So, too proud to doff
their borrowed splendors, the club received
their guests in the semblance of Veronese
portraits, Mierevelt Lollards, brigand cliiefs,
mixed .up with occasional Japanese Em-
presses in moustaches. The picture will
long remain glowing on the tile of memory

of how the magnates looked, plastered
round the parallelogram of the cabin, each
with a Flanders flagon on a plump knee,
and receiving with awed seriousness the
efforts made to entertain them, whether
those entertainments consisted of Bayadere
dances, or narratives of negro dialect, —
whether Catgut imitated the bagpipe with
his violin, or whether the Owl " mugged "
at them in his richest style as " Misthress

One of the visitors shaken upon their deck
by accident's dice-box was of a more inter-
esting and appealing character. Ever since
leaving New York, as they moved up the
gliding waters, good Mrs. Davenport, the
captain's wife, had been talking of her old
school-ma'am, Parson Miller's daughter, who
had fallen down the scutde-steps in one pf


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the old Millerite " ascensions " — " and-her-
back-had-to-be-sawed-in-two-gendemen and
tied, together, with, white, ribbons ! I " Her
friend would certainly visit the boat when
it neared the proper village. And in due
time the sufferer came. This lady
proved to be a charming and modest
recluse, of great age, wife of a Justice
of the Peace; and she was actually
the daughter of the famous first " Mil-
lerite." The portraitists of the Club
caught fire. What an accession to
their wardrobe of costumes would be
a genuine ascension robe, if it could
be procured ! And now, if ever, was
the chance. The ancient dame moved
with difficulty down the padded stairs,
guided by her friend. Then, to the
astonishment of every one, after a little
ordinary conversation, she noticed the
*cello leaning against the pile of music-
books. " I taught myself to play that
bass-viol when I was a maid," she ob-
served. And soon she was actually
tuning and managing the instrument,
playing and singing " Come to the
sunset tree," and other l^ics of a
long-gone time. The artists noticed
that she grasped the bow by the
middle, like the viol-players of Fra
Angelico. Her accomplishment was
naturally her main topic, but she did
not obtrude it, being, indeed, suffi-
ciently pressed to exhibit herself. "Fm
obleeged to you, young gendemen, for
your kind words, but I mustn't wear
out my welcome. I'll give you one
piece more. We was a large family,
brothers mostly, and we all sung part
songs, and all played a different instru-
ment, and father loved to hear us.
And this was a song father made to
greet a clergyman who had left us,
and lost 'most all his folks, and then
come back. And we sat in the kitchen
and sung this song to him, to the
tune of ^^Iknomook will never com-
plain.' And he cried plentiful." Then
she sung: "You're welcome, you're
welcome, dear brother, at home, but
where, teU us where, your Eliza is
gone ? She is low, she is low, in the dark,
silent tomb, and her language is now. You
must all meet me soon." It is difficult
for the reader to realize the quaint cliarm
of such an entertainment. The Tilers, ex- 1
cept two or three who were furtively sketch-
ing, forgot their professional smartness, for-
got to ask for the ascension robe, and the

musical contingent declared that there was
a glamour about the thing that was better
than music.

A Jesuitical Tiler was found to ask the
Judge's wife, with a manner of profound


respect, whether she herself was an adher-
ant of the paternal " Millerite " belief.
Her answer was exquisitely simple and
right. " I respected my father, but 1 didn't"
believe as far as he did. Young men, it's
not for us to know the times and the sea-
sons, not for us to know the times and the
seasons." With this bit of augury, softly

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crooned, the stooped figure crept to the steps
and effected its ascension, and you may be-
lieve that not a Tiler smiled.

This serious conference, which had been
heard attentively by the black assistants,


was provocative of an interesting theological
discussion next day among the acolytes of
the chapel. The chapel, so called, was a
dim comer of the saloon, draped with the
Nebuchadnezzar tapestry and adorned with
a large Spanish crucifix, which was flanked
on one side by a gilded St. Roch, in his
pilgrim garb ; on the other by a correspond-
ing St. Joseph. Madonnas of Gothic acer-
bity were rather abundant in this comer;
there were several pendent Italian lamps,
and there was a swinging thurible, usu-

ally hung before the Madonna, which it
was the duty of Deuteronomy to keep burn-
ing with incense, — a task which, it need not
be said, he neglected with fervent constancy.
A dark and private comer, his habitual
preference honored the chapel when he
wished to rehearse the slumber of the just ;
and here was the dialogue held, over the
insensible body of the lad, until he arose
and joined the conversation with an awak-
ener. The eaves-dropper who culled the
colloquy did not catch it all, but re-
ported it as something admirable and
imique. It seemed that the waiter, a world-
ling of the Long Branch order, was being
taken to task by the pious and conscien-
tious cook. The former was expressing the
most ghastly worldliness and time-service.

"What I knows, I knows. If one of
dese gentlemen gives me dis two-shillin'
piece, or maybe a dollah, I aint a-goin' to
give it to Zion."

" But you get your interest a hundred
fold," urged Daniel.

Upon this Deuteronomy straightened him-
self up. The scene was rather picturesque,
for the tapers and swinging lamps w;ere
lighted, and the incense, for a wonder ig-
nited, diffused its spicy fume in wide arcs.

" Now, you two men, jist listen to me,"
quoth Deuteronomy. " Hyar's the real
church sign, that can*t lie. Dis figure
woved into de carpet hyar is Daniel, and
he's a-pointin\ D'udder is Neb*chadneezar,
but he is out o' his head and we don*t have
to take no notice. Daniel is a-pointin',
and it was Daniel counted de times and sea-
sons, de good lady said. And now "

They were in the habit of listening to the
lad's monotonous drawl, which occasionally
concealed a i)urpose. This time it did, for
before his colleagues were aware he had
neatly and without objection possessed him-
self of the half-dollar which the two arguers
had produced between them, and, on pre-
tense of consulting the oracle, dropped the
whole into a rent just under the prophet's
hand, whence it fell into a crevice known to
Deuteronomy alone.

" When dat's retum to you, it will be
retum a hund'ed fol*," he said, and the
whites of his eyes fairly shone.

Through these conversations and incidents
the barge moved insensibly forward, the un-
conscious motion interfering with no labor,
yet gradually and magically shifting the ex-
temal vision. None of the party had ever
before experienced the charm of absolutely
insensible movement, and as the world

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lowly unrolled before their eyes, diorama-
ike, they pursued their professional avoca-
:ions, undisturbed by the slightest jar, yet
never in the same place for two moments.
The Owl cultivated the art of short-hand
slcetching, and exhausted the scenery as he
traversed it If the region was artistically
good and the Owl was invisible, the O'Don-
oghue would shout :

** Why isn't the Owl up here, pumping
Nature ? "

And, obedient to his mission, the Sketcher
would emerge, and desolate the whole coun-
try with his omniverous talent. The range
of incident was charming, half-aqueous,
half-pastoral. In one place they came to a
tile- works, — a veritable Tuileries, — and, as
tilers should, made themselves at home.
The kiln, the mill that ground the clay, the
heaps of tubes like crimson maccaroni, the
boy that minded the fire, all were food for
artistic reflection. And the proprietor, the
image of a French moustache retired from
the war on his " terres^^ reddened his broad

McCrea, whom the Indians scalped as she
was trying to join her British soldier-lover ;
the poor man, one of Burgoyne's troops,
died in deep melancholy, they say, caressing
the tress of long and abundant hair, which
he had recovered. At Fort Ann, where
the keeper of the " wood lock " had a
pretty little girl, the canal joined Wood
Creek, of which it afterward became a
mere development, imtil it emptied into
Lake Champlain. Here was a poetic
and artistic spread of country, low and
sedgy, with real, " practicable " will-of-the-
wisps dancing over the stagnant waters at
night, of which the real, living canal-drivers
are really and positively afraid, in 1879 and
probably in 1880. Enchanting " business **
for lookers-up of the picturesque ! And here
they saw the wrecked canal-boat, the Even-
ing Star^ ignominiously quenched in the twi-
light, with its heavenly protonym palpitating
in the vapor above it.

And so, past all the legendary chain of
old Anglo-French forts, — Fort Hardy, Foit


face with an additional " firing," as he bore
down upon the departing boat with an enor-
nious pail of pure country milk. At Fort
Edward, there was the grave-stone, chipped
to a ruin by tourists, of pretty tory Jenny

Miller, Fort Edward, Fort Ann, — the Club
debouched by the dull Wood Kill into the
mirroring waters of Lake Champlain. The
embouchure is at a quaint old place, a canal-
boatman's paradise, known to our fathers

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from the name of Skene, the tory half-pay
major who secured royal grants of thirty
thousand acres hereabouts for his loyalty — a
tide which, unfortunately for him, the Revo-
ludon reversed. This time-server of Bur-
goyne leaves a rather sulphurous odor about
the place; the carved and inscribed lintel
over his park gate is still preserved, and it is
well not to let his relics be destroyed, for as
a monumental and memorable miser he is
invaluable. Major Skene had a wife who
received an annuity from England " so long
as her body should be above ground." For
eight years after her death the incarnation of
avarice kept her remains in his cellar. Every
year he made affidavit, with his servants for
witnesses, that the conditions of the payment
were still valid, and drew the pittance. Peo-
ple still living have seen a poor relation of
the major's, Mary Skene Macferan, who lived
to a great age, and remembered that, for
seven successive years of her youth, she had
made the sordid oath.

The memory of Skene went partly out in
a fume when the revolution came, and his
confiscated lands were rebaptized from the
names of Colonel White and Major Hall ;
as Whitehall, the strange old place offered
the tourists its hospitality. A pretty little
cutter was placed at their disposal, and thus
they went floating over the lake, touched
on the shore of Vermont and drank its
crystal spring- water, and, coming back,
leaped out upon Putnam's .Rode, where the
farmer-soldier, when a young major in the
British service, . surprised the advancing
French by night, and picked off two hun-



dred and fifty men from his ambush with
his thirty rifles.

Sensible, however, that lakes were com-
monplaces, and that only canals were their
affair, they longed to be reinstituted in the
John C, EarUy the only vessel that had
ever seemed like home to any of them.
And so the glad time came to board her
again, and they took up their ravelled
stitches, knitting together the same series
of lovely rural towns, and greeting once
more the friends who had hailed their up-
ward passage. The Kill once again became
the Canal, the Canal became the Hudson,
and what was strange, it was all the same
water. Finally, in the aquatic lumber dis-
trict called Albany Side- Cut, they were tied
again to the majestic tow, and floated into
the mighty current with all the majesty of
experience and ancient habit.

The passage down the Hudson was pure
delight. It was a charming Sunday. The
landscape, the mountains, the river, the
barges, were all washed and dressed, and
behaved themselves as for Sunday-school.
Of the boats in the tow, more than one was
an old friend, and the captains came aboard
with hearty cheer, often walking the tow-
lines between the boats, like rope-dancers,
which is an accomplishment they have.
These old neighbors naturally brought their
friends to see the wonders of the sailing
studio ; so that the Tilers, as they lay at si-
esta on their tiger-skins, had again the sensa-
tion of their upward trijj — the shaking tread

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of innumerable quite bare, quite clean, and
very heavy feet — the feet of an army of brave
and friendly captains, moving in parade
through their boat, and reminding them
irresistibly of the silent tramp of animals
into the ark.

A fine Sunday afternoon on one of these
tows is a social singularity. The captains
are amicable and clean-shirted, dropping
their quarrels if they have any, and ex-
changing the navy-cut of peace and good
will. Their wives and girls become daz-

awning to shreds, but didn't turn a hair for
you. It was almost as poor a time as old

Online LibraryGeorge Streynsham MasterThe Century, Volume 19 → online text (page 112 of 160)