George Streynsham Master.

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equipments with knapsacks and compact
** multHm-in-parvo " bags, portending a jour-

were lamuiar, oui me nne gray costumes 01
the Worcester Bicycle Club, the white flan-
nel shirts and bright stockings of the Hart-
fords, and the blue polo caps, marked " E.
Bi. C," and the strange attire of the Newark,
Washington, and Salem men, were remarked
by the early-moving business men, on their
way to town. Carriage people reined up to
look, and teamsters to have a pleasant word ;
the street circulation of Roxbury had a
stoppage. The community went into com-
mittee of the wliole to consider a novel
state of facts and canvass the prospects;
ladies smiled from the windows and piazzas,
children thronged the walls, and the irre-
pressible small boy shied his cap at the
gleaming spokes and cried, " Mister, your
Uttle wheel's loose ! "

As is usual with things " informal," the
meet had a contriving head or two behind
it, and the fact began to be apparent when
a spirited horse with buggy attachment,

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and a similar antiquity with a light express
wagon and driver, surrendered to Praed,
who directed Apollo and our Artist to
the first, and invited the knapsacks and
other impedimenta to the second. Mean-
while Ned was handing about some manu-
script copies of something which an eager
reporter, who chanced along, explained
to his companion was " a programme."
The committee afore-
said had become a
crowd. It rained
questions and witty

"Pile machines!"
exclaimed Quil, — an
order equivalent to
" stack arms " in a
military company.
The effort was futile,
and revealed a need
^ of leadership. Praed
was requested to
assume command.
Calling his motley
hosts to one side, by
a thrice repeated
" attention " with a small bugle, he addressed
them with terse directness if not with elo-
quence. The organization was simple. Five
"''^s were appointed, namely, our Highland



Laddie to ride at the front with the captain,
Quil and Old Easy to ride at the rear,
and Ned and Squire Winsome for interme-
diate duty.

Just as the fortieth came wending his way
laggardly through the crowd, the captain's
bugle sounded "boots and saddles," and
the mount was effected. Fluttering hand-
kerchiefe of ladies receded fast, and fresh
scenes opened to view as the rubber-hoofed
steeds sped noiselessly along the winding
avenue, across and beyond the busy streets,
past fine new mansions and quaint old
houses. Here was the New England Hos-
pital set like a castle on a sunny slope;
here, the ancient homestead of William Cur-
tis, established in 1638. Tradition has it
that, with very few changes, this is the
house he then built ; and from that time to
this, continuously, he or some of his de-
scendants have dwelt here. William Curtb
was the progenitor of neariy all the numer-
ous families of that name no^ir in the United
States^ including the late distinguished jurist
and him who graces the jolliest easy-cbiir
in the domain of literature.

Arrived on the eastern strand of Ja-
maica Pond, a charming sheet of water be-
tween pretty hills, at signal of three
short notes the bicyclers dismount and dis-
cover the third evidence of forcordination

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for this informal run. They had been pre-
ceded by a genial and accomphshed knight
of the camera, whose gentlemanly address
had obtained leave of the residents, and
whose artistic eye had selected a fine little
lawn, bounded by
an elegant country
residence and the
street, a hedge and
a grove of young
trees, as the best field
for taking an impres-
sion of the pleasure-
bound charioteers.
His camera was set
in position near the
hedge, and at his
invitation the com-
pany filed in, piled
wheels, and grouped
itself for a rest
and a photograph.
Scarcely was the party at ease, howeven
when a buttoned and " billy "-bearing em-
bodiment of the majesty of the law entered
the enclosure, and growled :

** You're trespassing on private property
here ; get into the street ! "

" No, sir," blandly interposed Mr. Not-
man ; " I have obtained permission of the


arrest every one of ye ! " retorted the lone
policeman, now irate, and describing incal-
culable curves with his billy; "take them
things and leave I "

"Shall we duck him in the pond. Cap-
tain ? " asked Old Easy, drawing up his
athletic figure.

" Mr. Officer," said the Captain, " we have
a right here, and you are out of your juris-

" None of yer slack to me ! The folks in
the house don't own this property. 1*11
have this ground cleared or "

" I intend you no disrespect," answered
the Captain, advancing, " but if you do not
leave at once I shall report you to the Com-
missioners of Police. If you make the least
disturbance here I shall, as a justice of the
peace, make you my prisoner."

" The law is clear ; we'll back you,"
added the Squire, amid a general clapping of

" Clear these traps off, or I'll smash 'em
over the fence," exclaimed No. 626, retreat-
ing toward the camera.

" Touch that, and V\\ prosecute you for
malicious mischief! " ejaculated the Captain,
— and then added, with a sarcastic smile :
" Don't you think, my friend, that one set
of buttons is rather lonesome here, against
a body of forty able men ? "


" Put him out ! " exclaimed Cruikshank,

" Oh, take his picture ! " said the Irre-

" Now you git out o* here quick, or I'll

The faithful guardian of persons and
property, yielding perhaps both to the argu-
ment of numbers and to his own calmer
reason, walked away. Our Artist in the
meantime had sketched him with nice

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accuracy in expression and attitude. When
the halt was ended, and all returned to the
street for a mount. No. 626 was as genial
a ' •

of Massachusetts teamsters and drivers,
whose obliging fairness to bicyclers was fre-
quently remarked by the New York and
New Jersey riders ; or, again, of the little
church, where Theodore Parker preached
the first draft of his Discourse on Religion ;
or of the Weld Farm and its cider, or of
other themes suggested by the wayside
attractions of the route. Up hill and down
dale they , rode, through valley and over
ridge, at eight miles an hour; it was a
moderate pace, but there was mucii riding
ahead, and this was the pursuit of pleasure,
not of speed, — and how exhilarating it was !
The lead was down a winding hill toward
Brook Farm. Two long notes from the cap-
tain's whisde — ^** slow up " — repeated along
the line, was understood to mean " take the
hill with care," and was obeyed by all but
Froggie. His saddle had been set well up
to the head of his roadster, so that he was
nicely poised over tlie center of his wheel,
which, getting the better of brake and back-
pedaling, took on a speed of fifteen miles
an hour, till suddenly meeting a stone, it
stopped, — while Froggie yielded to the force
of circumstances, and took " a header," in
process of which he left his bicycle for a
moment with its little wheel reared aloft,
reached out his hands to Mother Earth,
and kissed her fiantically, while his high-


by two; and now the social chat was
of the quickly passed Bussey Fann an-
^ex of Harvard; now of the courtesy

remounted and rode on.

So large a body of men in costume with
implements of steel and hearts of loyal

courage had not invaded Brook ^ ' — e

the second Massachusetts rer

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iinteers was recruited here in 1861. " That
was the best crop I ever raised," said the
patriotic James Freeman Clarke, who, being
then owner, gave the use of this two hun-
dred and fifty acres to the state. One might
easily beheve his statement in the most
literal sense, for this would seem about as
poor a selection for a farm as could be
made in fifty miles around. Whatever else
the " Brook Farm Phalanx " were, — and
these thirty-eight later years have proved
them to have been a good deal besides, —
they were not shrewd farmers.

The Captain led his band over the brook
and to the left up a drive-way, and on by the
wheel-tracks of a grassy and gravelly cart-
road through the sacred acres. This way
leads a half mile or more back torn Baker
street to a cemetery, which now occupies
part of the former " farm " ; but a dismount
was made midway at the foot of a ridge of
primeval gravel heaped on a pudding-stone
ledge, and where from under the few shade
trees some old sites, the meadows and the
encircling hills were visible in rural repose
beneath a forenoon sun, Froggie and the
Doctor had halted at the entrance for a con-
sultation. Apollo and the breakfastless
Artist reined up their perspiring quadruped.
Old Easy was detailed to forage for milk
for the company and coffee and biscuit for
the Artist; and the result of his errand proved
the hospitality of the neighborhood and the
appreciation of the visitors.

And this was Brook Farm — scene of
the chief of socialistic experiments ! Here
met in brotherly and sisterly communion in-
spired and gifted men and women, — Emer-
son, Hawthorne, Channing, Ripley, Dana,
D wight, Curtis, Clarke, Hecker, Alcott,
Bradford, Burton, Pratt, Parker and Tho-
reau ; Mrs. Ripley, Miss Peabody, Margaret
Fuller, Miss Ostinelli, Miss Bruce, Mrs.
Diaz, Miss Russell, the Misses Dwight, and
many more, not to mention the distin-
guished visitors and the pupils who have
since become distinguisiied. Here, where
they hoped to realize a higher type of fellow-
ship — the only tangible monument of their
industry to be seen — is a tiny rustic cottage,
built in form of a Greek cross on the ground,
one story high, with four gables, three
porches, and a cupola, seated at the south-
western end of the ridge. It contains four
small rooms and a hall on the first floor,
fnd a like number in the roof Just below
it is the old well ; and a litde to the west-
ward is the place where the greenhouse and
garden were, now partly overgrown with


scrubby young pines. The little house is
now called " the Margaret Fuller cottage,"
and the tradition current in the neighbor-
hood is that that distinguished woman con-
tributed the money it cost and lived in it
during her brief stay at the farm. When the
" communitarians,'* as Hawthorne calls them
in his " BHthedale Romance," came here, in
1 84 1 , there were only a farm-house and a bam
on the place, near the road, and a short dis-
tance above the brook. That house came
to be known as " the Hive." They subse-
quently erected the cottage and greenhouse
referred to, and also a larger square two-
story house, with a kind of parapet around
the top for promenades, which was called

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; in

L a


" the Eyrie," and was the favorite building,
the cellar of which is still to be seen not far
from the cottage. On the eastern brow of
the ridge is the site of a still larger three-
story building, which they erected with
moitey borrowed on a mortgage of the real
estate. This was called the " Phalanstery,"
and when it was about completed, but before
any insurance was effected on it, it took fire
and was burned to the ground. This was a
staggering blow ; a dispersion followed ;
and in 1847, ^'^ Brook Farm Phalanx was
a beautiful and pensive memory. " Where
once we toiled with our whole, hopeful
hearts," wrote one in his note-book, " the
town paupers, aged, nerveless, and discon-
solate, creep sluggishly afield." The town
of West Roxbury did indeed take it for a
poor farm. The romantic " Eyrie " was
pulled do\ni and put up nearer the bam for
a stye, and four hundred hogs were housed
within its consecrated walls. The " Marga-
ret Fuller cottage" was filled with small-
pox victims, and became a pest-house. In
1849, the city of Roxbury purchased it for a
town-farm, and added a workshop, one end
of which is still standing as part of a large
annex to the present main building there;
and about 1854, every building on the place,
except the cottage and the part of the new
workshop, was destroyed by fire. Subse-
quent to the ownership of Dr. Clarke and its







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1848, and who took a kindly interest in the
" hobby-horsemen," and recounted to them
some of the traditions current about the
place. His enthusiasm over their elegant
aids to locomotion was quite puzzling until
he na

"O, no!" said the Masher; " but what
would vou call right down villainous,
now ? " '

" You can't talk about roads with those

^M, Oi^fi^^

ground, when he was a subject of George
the Fourth.

The village, a mile and a half^away, was
soon passed, and the route lay over worn
turnpike, the worst of all roads for a bicy-
cler, except unmitigated sand. Here some
of the less experienced toiled at a slower

" If the aldermen would only ride bicy-
cles, or change places with their horses 1 "
complained the Masher, struggling toward a
smoother band at the edge of the road.

" When they do, we shall have the streets
attended to/' answered Ned ; " but this is
not bad at all."

men who have toured it in New Hampshire,"
interjected Quil, the editor. " Now here's
Ned, and there's the Squire and the Cap-
tain, — either of them will ride in two inches
of dirt, or in a rut, or on a ribbon of grass,
or in the ditch, or on a stone wall or a
plowed field "

" Oh, that's like your yam of a depraved
wheelman on the Great Wall of China," said
Orange. " We should be proud of this road
in New Jersey."

"Or m Connecticut," said Mr. Nutmeg;
" we don't plane and sand-paper our roads,
as they do around Boston."

" Quil always wants a calendered surface

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A turn in the
smoother road
brought the lag-
gards in sight
of the advance
guard waiting on
Powder House
abrupt ledge rising
derable height, on
;t is a quaint little
ture used for storing
n in provincial and
lary times. While
was sketching it,
were taking in the
ew of the nieand er-
rs and the beautiful
llage of Dedham,
inal name,Content-
ht never to have
aged. Eastward,
street and the in-
ly saw the end of
hree-fourths of a
ingth, which was
539, to xiraw water

..w w Jharles into Mosher

Brook. It is the oldest canal

in the United States, and

OLD PowDKK HOUSE. fo^ms E conncction, called

to run on," ventured the Wobbler, as he pir- ' " Mill Creek," between the Charles and

ouetted from one ridge to another.

** Yes ; like Mother Ann, he founded a
community of shakers," broke in Ned, as he
passed them, ** and hell be left as far behind
as she is unless he hastens."

Neponset rivers, making an island of six
towns and three cities, around wliich the
Boston boatman has often dipped his oar.

As our battalion moved in graceful or-
der through the pleasant streets of Ded-


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ham, by its villas and churches and
Memorial Hall and business blocks, the
Captain and our Highland Laddie recalled
in contrast the scene of two hundred and
forty-four years before, when a few pioneers
from Roxbury and Wateftown entered this
same locality, then rich in woodlands and
wolves, and " sat down together."

A little way out still stands a most pict-
uresque old dwelling, with low lop-eaves,

" and here at their feet John Eliot learned the
polysyllabic accents of the Indian maids
and won the hearts of their brothers of the
forest wilds by reciting in their own tongue
the war-songs of David." He was aglow
with enthusiasm. The ride had restored
his boyhood. He hurled pebble stones
high into the air until they looked like bul-
lets in the effort to reach the top while,
watch in hand, he counted the seconds of


small windows and large chimney, showing
the wear and tear and moss of age, and
overhung with high, overreaching trees. This
" Fairbanks homestead '* is said to have
stood against the wild attacks of savages,
wolves, storms and ** modem conveniences"
since 1639. Our Artist beamed with de-
light as he and Apollo reined up before
the quaint rookery, and saw it skirted with
a fringe of gleaming bicycles leaned against
the rustic fence. The riders whirled away
south ward, however, and dismountingjwalked
away into a pasture in search of a group of
prehistoric chestnut trees. Rugged and
gnarly, with scraggy arms swung aloft and
a girth of thirty feet, each particular tree
seemed to mock at the centuries and to vie
with its fellows in longevity.

*^ Massasoit and Chickatabut and their
swarthy warriors have danced beneath their
branches," said Champagne, while his com-
rades lay on their backs looking upward
through the tree-tops into the blue sky;

their falling to estimate the height. It was
this effervescence of good nature that had
earned him his name — a sparkling, bubbling
good humor and quick suggestion, a read-
iness for any detour or feat or fun, that from
the moment he put his foot to pedal in the
morning of the meet made him a most
genial companion. " I love my wheel," he
said, " as the yachtsman loves his boat ; I
enjoy the recreation it brings as my boy
does his play afler school, and it puts care
and weariness further from me."

Returning to the old house over a fine
and level roadway, Ned and Muffin in-
dulged in a scrub race. It was injudicious in
face of a long run ; but when they liad hap-
pened abreast, one had advanced a little,
then the other, and so on, until without
design the question of speed had arisen and
must be settled. Muffin tightened his hold
on the handles, set his elbows wing and wing,
leaned well over his wheel, and put quick
feet to the cranks. The full muscles of calf

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and thigh waxed and waned, and like a
racking Canadian horse, with his head down
and forward, he rocked from side to side, as
his weight changed, until he seemed a non-
descript bundle of action on a runaway


wheel. Ned, on the other hand, erect and
apparently motionless above his saddle, with
a graceful and steady movement, sped on-
ward like a deer. How they flew ! The
wheels appeared but skeleton rims. The
others increased speed to keep well in sight,
now and then letting go the ebonies and
clapping their hands. Half a mile, three-
quarters, a mile, receded, and Ned put legs
'^ver handles and pressed on his brake, at

''the Fairbanks homestead" again, fairly
two lengths ahead of Muffin, who folded
his arms behind him and unconcernedly
wobbled by.

There had been a murmur of " rations "
among the slower riders, and now there
was a yearning inquiry to the same effect
toward the front ; but the finest of two
mile stretches lay dinnerward over smooth
undulating road to the east The tiny
valley of Mother Brook, two or three small
ponds, the rural village of Hyde Park, rose
one after another to view on the left; on
the right were country villas and green
fields, while before were the woodlands
around Readville, with the western and
highest of the Milton Hills rising in per-
spective beyond. A brisk spin, and then
three short notes of the whistle called to a
rest by the wayside in a grove of pines.
Wheels were soon piled or leaned against
the trees, and a general rest-as-you-please
was effected on the soft knolls and in the
breezy shadows. It was ten minutes before
one by the watches — ten minutes ahead of
time ; but the prompt wagon of the caterer
had already arrived. A long white cloth,
stretched over the pine matting on the ground,
was soon covered with the sundry good
things which it is the caterer's art to supply,
in profusion suited to the forty-odd fresh
appetites. While these things were being
diminished by the wanderers, grouped in
every possible position around, the horses
of Apollo and Jacob, the driver, were bait-
ing at one side, and our Artist between
courses penciled at a memorandum sketch.

The conversation baffled all reporting.
Wit, humor, anecdote, narrative, toasts in
coffee to Colonel Bounce, who had privately
paid for the picnic viands; to Apollo and
our Artist, who had favored the social as
well as the fine arts by accepting such
escort; to the Captain, who had contrived
and sprung upon his (largely) unsuspecting
command the pleasures of the day — all
contributed to the enjoyment of the occa-

Any other toasts which might have been
thirsting for response were prevented by
the sudden summoning of a coffee-can
court martial, which immediately sat on the
case of Quil, the editor. He had been de-
tailed, at his own -suggestion, to proceed to
Dedham, and meet Jacob and the caterer,
and conduct them to the pine grove. It
was alleged that he was afterward seen, far
from the line of such duty, in animated
conversation on a secluded piazza with a

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fair damsel, who was neither his sister nor of whom were known to the court to be
his cousin nor his aunt ; and that he arrived ' subject to hallucinations of the sentimental

at the grove just in time to reverse machine,
and salute his superior officer, as the com-
pany came up, with that innocent and en-

sort, and as the defendant did not '' denige
of ii," he was promptly acquitted.

At precisely 2:30 the order was given to

thusiastic assurance which so frequently , mount, and again the gallant battalion

adorns his otherwise well-formed face. But formed a line on the street, each man with

as the charge rested mainly on the testi- ' his right hand on his saddle; and, at the

mony of Old Easy and the Masher, both signal of '' Boots and Saddles," each in turn

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this ascent, those in advance, at a signal
from the Captain, dismounted and walked
besidjj their machines ; while several of those
in the rear, lured on by the delusion of the
ribs, continued to ride and struggle toward

clamation of wonder and dehght broke
from all. The brown top of Wachusett,
the dim and distant Kearsarge and Tom ;
the valleys of the Neponset and the
Charles, the Concord and the Blackstone ;


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the silver lakes of Massapoag, Quinsiga-
mond and Cochituate; the gilded dome
of Boston, the red-roofed villas of Nahant
and Swampscott, of Squantum and Nan-
tucket ; the shimmering bays and blue sea
beyond; the numerous spires and villages,
fertile fields and forest wild, — all these were
spread out under the clear sky in panoramic
view. To the south-east was " litde Blue

of the gilded dome?" said the Captain.
" It is the Roxbury stand-pipe, near the place
of our meet; then turn and look nearly
southward, beyond the spires, to Massapoag,
our destination to-night; and nearly east-
ward, to right of Minot's Ledge Light, is
Cohasset, where we dine to-morrow."

A speedy mount followed their descent from
the " hill," and then a brisk spin down grade


Hill " and the long range stretching toward

Mount Wollaston and the bay, wliile, nestled

in the valley below, lay peaceful Ponkapoag.

" See that white tower a little to the left

and over gentle hills, by the trim, tasteful
poet-home of Aldrich, by the well-kept farms
and cemeteries and country-seats of Canton,
on through the noisy, stirring village of

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South Canton. Lightly sped the wheels
into lovely Sharon. The evening air grew
cool and the shadows lengthened as the pil-
grims approached, in double file and close
ranks, the eastern border of Massapoag.
Here they followed the wend of the lake,
and took the last mile and a half in the fad-
ing rosiness of sunset and the silvern twi-
light that succeeded. Smiles and waving
handkerchiefs of ladies greeted them firom
the piazzas of the Massapoag House, as
the notes of a "quickstep" signaled the
approach, and the two bars of dismount fol-

Online LibraryGeorge Streynsham MasterThe Century, Volume 19 → online text (page 85 of 160)