Richard Markham.

Colonial Days : being stories and ballads for young patriots ; as recounted by five boys and five girls ; in Around the yule log, Aboard the Mavis, On the edge of winter online

. (page 11 of 30)
Online LibraryRichard MarkhamColonial Days : being stories and ballads for young patriots ; as recounted by five boys and five girls ; in Around the yule log, Aboard the Mavis, On the edge of winter → online text (page 11 of 30)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook



" The very names that some of them carried such, for
instance, as ' Thorfinn the Skullsplitter ' attested their prowess.

" It was a wild land they chose for their home when they
were driven from the Western Islands by Harold. Great volca
noes belch forth in its central portion, so that, for hundreds of
miles, there is not a sign of plant-life to be found. At times


the gloomy river Jokulsa comes seaward, its swollen waters cov
ered with ashes, while at night it looks like a river of blood, as
it reflects the stream of flame shooting high in air from some
crater's mouth. Only near the seaboard is the country habitable.
" But the Northmen cared little for its wildness, or for the


bleakness of its coast, and its frightful storms. Here Harold
Fairhair could not reach them ; and out of the landlocked fjords,
or arms of the sea, their long-ships could forth, carrying
destruction to the enemy. It was one of these men who dis
covered America.

" Eirek the Red had tired of Iceland. Learning of a new
country called Greenland, he had gone there with his family to
settle. In the long winter nights, as they sat about the fires,
listening to the wild experiences of any stranger that might have
claimed their hospitality, they heard with astonishment the tale
of one Bjarni. He declared that once, driven by wild storms,
he had discovered land far to the westward. The coast had
seemed bleak and unattractive to him ; and, the wind hauling, he
had left it astern, and sailed back to Greenland.

" Old Eirek and his son Leif were much stirred at this story.
They decided that they would buy Bjarni's ship, and themselves
hunt out this strange land. They loaded her with all needed
provisions, and with a crew of thirty-five men, were just about
to sail, when Eirek, on his way to embark, fell from his horse.
Regarding this as an ill omen, he decided to stay at home,
and Leif sailed without him.

" He found, after a few days, that Bjarni's tale was true ; for
there lay the land before him. It was the south-eastern ex
tremity of Newfoundland, recognizable to this day by their de
scription : ' a bare, rugged plain, covered with broad flat rocks.'
Two days more they sailed before a north-east wind ; then, coast
ing westward, they came, after a little, to a river. Pleased with
the country, they passed up the river, and decided to winter on


its banks. With all speed they built themselves huts : Leifsbuder
they called them. The river furnished them the finest salmon ;
and the country about so abounded in grapes, that they called it

" Here," said Mr. Longwood, taking down a chart from a
rack above his head, " this is the spot. It is now called the
Taunton River."

" Why, it .is not very far from where we now are," said Will.

" No," said Mr. Longwood ; " not more than twenty-five
miles, as the crow flies.

" The winter passed away quietly ; and in the spring Leif
loaded his vessel with timber, and his long boat with dried grapes,
and so went home again."

" Was Leif the only Northman who came ? " asked Ned.

" No, indeed. Thorvald, his brother, spent two or three years
in Vinland. He explored the coast all about this very region
where we now are ; but his love for adventure caused his death ;
for, on one of these voyages of investigation, attacked by a band
of Skraellings in canoes, he was slain by an arrow.

" Thorstein too, a wealthy and powerful man of distinguished
family, made a journey to the new world with three ships. He
planned to form a colony. His wife Gudrida went with him ;
and a son, Snorri, was no doubt the first Christian boy born in
America. For Leif and Thorvald and Thorstein had all been
converted to Christianity a few years before, and had forsaken
the worship of the wild gods of the North.

" But after three winters Thorstein made up his mind that
his colony was a failure ; and so, back he went to Greenland.


He took with him, as cargo, all the wood that he could carry,
and sold it in Norway at an enormous price. For a small piece
of what was probably bird's-eye maple, he received about eighty

" So you see, Master Jack," said Mr. Longwood, rising, " that
Columbus was not the first man that discovered America, though
your geography does say so."

The boys all rose from the table, and crowded around the
chart, to make out more plainly the places Mr. Longwood had
spoken of. After a little, Jack went up the ladder, to see what
had been going on while they were at dinner. A moment after,
the others followed him.

When they were in the open air, they stopped an instant to
look around. The deck seemed quite deserted. Only Capt.
Jackson was to be seen, standing at the wheel, now casting his
eyes aloft where the sails were bellied out by the fresh wind, and
now ahead, scanning the coast. All the rest of the crew were
below, forward, where, in the absence of any cargo, they had
hung up hammocks.

" Where is Jack ? " the boys said. " Jack ! Jack ! " but there
was no answer.

" Oh ! there he is," said Will, looking at the bowsprit, a little
way out on which, in a somewhat dangerous position, Jack sat
cross-legged. "Why didn't you answer us, you bad boy?"

" I am not Jack," said that youth.

"Thorfinn am I,
Skullsplitter hight.


Many a hero,
I, with my downstroke,
Hurried to Valhal.
Now, in my long-ship,
Roam I o'er ocean,
Ran defying "

At this, Thorfinn ceased abruptly, and clutched convulsively
at some ropes overhead, to recover the balance which he had lost.
He failed to reach them, however ; and, after some wild struggles,
down he went, splash into the water, into the embrace of the
goddess he had been defying.

" Man overboard ! " shouted Ned, bawling down the hatch to
the men below.

Will Morgan's coat and shoes were off in a twinkling, and
he was over the schooner's side after Jack ; but, quick as he was,
he was hardly in the water before Thomas John, who, hearing
Ned's shout, had run up from below.

Fortunate it was that Tom Longwood and the Morgans had
been brought up by the sea, and knew just what to do. At the
first shout, Capt. Jackson had put the helm hard down ; but,
before the vessel's head had fairly come around into the wind,
Tom and Charlie had lowered the boat, cast it off, and were
pulling lustily to where Will and Thomas John were holding up

" And a mighty good thing it is," said Capt. Jackson to him
self, " that I had that boat's tackling overhauled. I am afraid it
wouldn't have worked so well a week ago."

The boat quickly made its way to the unfortunate Thorfinn,


and the three dripping figures were soon aboard. Jack and Will
hurried to the cabin, to get rid of their wet clothes ; and Will
was soon out again ; but Mr. Longwood thought that Jack had
better turn into one of the berths for an hour or so, to make
sure of not taking cold.

So, after bringing him a glass of hot lemonade, they covered
him up with blankets, and left him, bidding him be a good little
boy, and get into no more mischief.


CARCELY had the sound of the
boys' retreating footsteps died away,
when Capt. Jackson's burly form
appeared. The captain, as we have
said before, was a man of few
words. He nodded to Jack, and,
seating himself at the table, proceeded
to do justice to the food before him.
Jack watched with silent astonishment
the rapidity with which the contents of the
dishes disappeared. Silence, however, was
not his strong point. So he raised himself upon his elbow, and
proceeded to open conversation.

" What is Montauk, anyway, captain ? " he asked.
" Montauk," said Capt. Jackson, pausing with his fork half
way to his mouth, "Why, Montauk is Montauk; the east end
of Long Island, you know."

"Yes," said Jack; "but what is it?"

"Well," said the captain, "it's a fine rolling country; pas
tures a sight of stock. There must be a good many thousand
cattle and sheep on it. There used to be a tribe of Indians,


but they are about gone. Hardly a dozen are left of them

"And do the Indians own it?"

"Oh, no!" said the captain. "It happened this way: Wyan-
dance was the sachem of the Montauks, and all the other tribes
on Long Island were subject to him. But at Block Island, and
on the main land, there was a tribe, the Narragansetts, that was
more powerful still. Ninigret was their sachem's name ; and he
made things so uncommonly hot for the Montauks, that they
hardly slept o' nights. Why, at one time, Wyandance's daughter
was gettin' married, when in walked the Narragansetts, without
so much as sayin' ' By your leave,' killed the groom and half
the company, and carried, the bride off to Block Island.

"Well, one of these war-parties of Ninigret's made them
selves so very much at home, that the Montauks concluded they
would go down to Easthampton, and see if the settlers there
would not protect them. So down they went : the white men
let them stay, and the Narragansetts dared not attack them
there. The result of it all was a big document, wherein, for the
love they bore their white brethren, they did grant and convey
all Montauk to those white brethren, only reservin' the right to
hunt and fish, and live on the land. The document says that it
was the Indians' own idee to make over all the property ; but I
take notice that it wasn't in Indian handwriting that the deed
was made."

" I wish I could get up," said Jack, as the captain started to


" Let me have a look at you," said that worthy. " I am


somethin' of a doctor. I once performed a surgical operation
on one of my men, took off a crushed finger."

"How did you do it?" asked Jack.

" Hammer and chisel," said the captain concisely. " So," he
went on, taking Jack's hand, " pulse steady, skin cool : why, you
are all right ! I'll speak to Mr. Longwood when I get on deck,
and have you up in no time."

The captain was as good as his word ; for, in a moment, Ned
Grant shouted down to him, "Jack! I say, Jack! get up!"

" Come down, and stay with me while I dress," called Jack.

" Can't be done," said Ned : " too much going on up here.
Hurry up ! "

Spurred by this, Jack hurried as never before ; and in five
minutes was running across the deck to join the others, button
ing the last button as he came.

He was just in time to see close beside them a boat such as
the fishermen on all the Long-Island shore use when they put
off through the surf to draw the seine. Two men were in it.
One was examining a lobster-pot, which he had just drawn to
the surface, and out of which he was pulling a reluctant victim ;
while the other was keeping the boat's head to the wind, for
the sea was rising before a light gale, and the spray every now
and then dashed over her bow, sprinkling them both thoroughly.

" It is wonderful how strong those boats are," said Will.
"They can live in almost any sea. Isn't that so?" he asked,
turning to one of the sailors who stood close by.

" I know a time when I was mighty glad to get out of one,"
said the man.


" When was it ? Tell us about it," said the boys, scenting a
story, and closing up about him.

" Well," said the man, " it was one May. I was at my house
think I was digging in the garden. Yes," he said medita
tively, stroking his chin ; " am sure I was digging in the garden.
I remember I was putting in Early-Rose potatoes. Most ex
traordinary thing, the yield I had with them potatoes. I never
yet saw their like."

" But the boat," 1 interrupted Charlie.

"Oh, yes!" said the man. " W r ell, along the road, coming
toward me, I saw that boy of Jared Wilsey's, shouting, ' Whale f
whale f ' I never knew a boy like that. His tongue is hung in
the middle, and clatters at both ends all day long. They say he
even talks in his sleep. And there's his father and mother, the
silentest people in the whole town."

" And did he see the whale first ? " asked Ned.

" Yes : he seen her spouting, close in shore. So* down a
lot of us ran ; and we manned four boats, and after a short chase
we killed her, about three mile out. But no sooner was she
dead, than the critter sank. So there was nothing for it but to
make her fast to an anchor, and wait for her to rise.

" The man on the lookout, two days after, saw, at sunrise,
that she had risen, and was drifting eastward, because the anchor-


rope was too short. The others were sure it was long enough ;
but I knew 'twa'n't ; " and the man shut his jaws with a snap, as
if there were no more to be said on the subject, and relapsed
into silence.

" Well ? " said Will.



" Eh ? Oh, yes ! Two boats went off, and they saw her fairly
anchored this time. Then they started for shore, on a double-
quick, for the fog shut in, and the surf got up ; and mighty
thankful they were when they were safely on land again.

" Next day it was blowing great guns from the sou'west, and
no boat could live. The whale dragged anchor, and went off


before the wind. We heard of her near Easthampton, and how
parties there were going to get her as soon as the sea went
down. That was more than we could stand. Some one called for
volunteers ; and a crew was made up. The surf was tremen
dous, and things looked squally enough. I more'n half expected
our boat would be staved before she got afloat. However, at


last we were off, with only a wetting. But outside we found
the sea so heavy, that we were afraid the boat would be swamped.
We were in a sorry plight, afraid to go ahead, and afraid to
go back. As good luck would have it, we seen, a mile or so
ahead, a schooner belonging to the Coast Wrecking Company.
We pulled for dear life, and got aboard, and at last worried our
boat up on to her deck. A thankful man was I, when I had
something thicker than inch plank under me."

" And what became of the whale ? " asked Tom.

" We borrowed the schooner, and went after her," said the
man ; " took her in tow, and started back. But the wind all at
once hauled to the east, and blew a gale. Snap went the tow-
rope, and off went the whale again. By this time we had all
the whale we wanted, for things looked ticklish for the schooner.
We didn't dare risk her on the coast any longer, so she scudded
before the gale ; and next day we turned up in New- York har
bor, barefooted, in our shirt-sleeves, ninety miles from home,
without a cent in our pockets. By good luck, we had friends
there : so we borrowed some money, and came back by railroad."

" And did you lose the whale, after all ? " asked Charlie.

" No : she went ashore, a ways west. We cut her up, and
cleared nine hundred dollars from her."

"What land is that?" asked Jack, as the man turned away.
" Is it an island ? "

" That," said Mr. Longwood, " is Gardiner's Island. When
Capt. Kidd was roving the seas, chasing and burning every ill-
fated ship that he met, he stopped at Gardiner's Island on his
way homeward to Boston, after a cruise in the Spanish Main,



where was the scene of his chief exploits. He summoned Gardi
ner, and in his presence buried a chest of treasure, telling him
that he should hold him personally responsible for its safe keep
ing. Then he ordered Mrs. Gardiner to roast him some sucking-
pig for dinner. She must have been an excellent cook ; for he


was so pleased with the dish, that he presented her with a quan
tity of cloth-of-gold, after which he sailed away to Boston. His
treasure did him little good though, for hardly had he reached
port before he was seized."


" What became of it ? " asked Will.

" Gov. Bellamont heard of his having buried it ; so he sent
commissioners from Massachusetts to recover the spoil. Gardi
ner delivered it up, and it was taken away ; but I imagine the
good man had many a chill at the thought that perhaps the old
freebooter might yet escape, and come back to claim his own,
and that he was a happy man when he heard, about two years
after, that Kidd had been hung in chains at Execution Dock, in

" I wonder he did not try to keep it for himself," said Ned.
" Was it very great ? "

" Yes : there were some thirteen bags," said Mr. Longwood.
" They contained gold and silver, coined, in bars, and in dust.
There were, beside, precious stones and jewels. It is not pleas
ant to think of the bloody deeds by which it was got together."

" Why, Jack," said Ned suddenly, looking at him, " how pale
you are about the gills ! I do believe you are going to be sea

" I am not," said Jack indignantly.

" There certainly is a great deal more motion than there was
an hour or two ago, and the wind is much fresher," said Mr.

" The schooner's empty," said Capt. Jackson, who had come
up just at that moment. " If she had a cargo aboard, she'd be
much steadier. I have an idea," he went on, " that a storm is
brewing. The barometer is falling fast, and I don't like the looks
of things altogether ; " and he cast his eyes in a weather-wise
fashion at the sky, and then at the horizon. " I shouldn't won
der if we had a nasty night."


" That's not a very pleasant prospect," said Mr. Longwood.
" I consider myself a fair sailor ; but I must confess that I like
to sleep in a bed that is moderately still."

" Well, there's nothing easier than to have a quiet night,"
said the captain. " We can run into Fort Pond Bay, and anchor.
There's no safer harbor on the coast, when the wind is east."

" Fort Pond Bay, then, let it be, by all means. Let us look
at the chart in the cabin, boys, and see just where it is," said
Mr. Longwood.

Then it was, when all heads were bent over the chart, that a
brilliant idea came to Jack. " Why ! House No. 2, where Mrs.
Longwood and the girls were to spend the night, was at Fort
Pond. The island looks very narrow there, on the chart. I don't
believe it can be more than a mile wide. What fun it would
be to walk across, and surprise them ! I am going to ask Thomas
John about it."

Thomas John pronounced the plan entirely feasible ; and so
it turned out, that when, in the gathering dusk, " The Mavis "
dropped her anchor in the quiet waters of the bay, our party
made haste to disembark ; and Capt. Jackson and his men, while
they were making all snug for the night, saw them disappear
across the moors in single file, Thomas John at their head as

Meantime, at House No. 2, toward which our friends were
striding, Mrs. Longwood and the girls had arrived, and had just
finished their supper. They were now all standing in the little
porch facing the sea. It seemed, in the dim twilight, as if the
ocean which was thundering so angrily on the sands, but a few



hundred feet away, might suddenly come rushing forward, and
sweep them ail to destruction.

As they looked to the east, they could catch the fitful gleam


of the spray that lined the foot of the cliffs where the waves
were lashed to fury. Far out at sea glimmered the solitary light
of a passing vessel ; but over the moorlands all about them,
there was nothing but the dull gray of coming night. The
nearest house was four miles away.

" What a dreadfully lonely place ! " said Gertrude. " I am
going into the house. I should soon see ghosts, or Indians, or
some more horrible things, if I stayed out."

" You are as bad as the farmer's lass," said Carrie, as they
all followed her. " Did you ever hear of her ?

When autumn nights grow sharp and chill,

And cold white mists the valleys fill,

The farmer's lass at the window-pane

Starts back in fright, yet peers again ;

For she sees, by the pale light the moon doth yield,

Red Indians crouching in the field.

' Injuns, father ! ' she cries, and flees

To a refuge safe on her father's knees.

The farmer's laugh rings loud and free ;

' Indians they are, in truth,' says he ;

' But wait till once comes the rising sun,

And we'll take them prisoners, every one ;

We'll beat them with clubs, and we'll grind their bones

To the finest flour, through the old millstones ;

And we'll eat them smoking hot,' laughs he ;

' For they're buckwheat Indians a that you see.' "

1 For the benefit of such of my readers as are not versed in farmers' ways, I will sav~
that the sheaves' of buckwheat left standing in the field are known as "Injuns."


As Carrie finished the last line, she turned toward the door,
and gave a little scream ; for there, apparently, stood an Indian.
He had about his shoulders an old, worn buffalo-robe loosely
thrown. His face was concealed by the robe, but through his
dishevelled hair they could see a couple of arrows sticking. From
this disreputable figure came a voice that said,

" You callee, he comee. Plentee hungry, this fellow. Hugh !
big Injun ! "

As for Gertrude, at these words she disappeared like a flash
through the door that led to the dining-room ; nor did she pause
in her flight till she reached the kitchen. There, finding a man
calmly sitting by the fire, smoking his pipe, I will not say that,
like the farmer-lass, she found a refuge safe on his knees, but
she certainly did seize him by the arm, and hold on very tightly.

Carrie, on the other hand, looked at the Indian for a moment,
and then, rushing forward, seized the buffalo-robe, and, dragging
it from his shoulders, exclaimed,

" Jack ! you wicked boy, to frighten your sister ! Where in
the world did you come from ? and where are the rest ? "

A shout of laughter from without answered Carrie's question ;
and the next moment all were shaking hands together in the
little sitting-room.


AFTER a little, when the
buffalo-robe, which Jack had
filched from a wagon at the
stable, had been returned to its
place, and a second supper had
been hurriedly prepared, the boys
and Mr. Longwood hastened to
the dining-room, to fall upon it.
The girls all followed, and sat
at the long table, by way of
helping them to the various

" Dear me ! " said Carrie,
after a little, during which there
had not been a sound, except
of knives and forks : " this is
dreadful. Not a word has one

of these boys spoken for five minutes, and Ned has
had four slices of bread already. I know, for I
passed him the plate. I feel as if I were in a
zoological garden, tossing buns to a bear. Do, seme
of you, tell us your adventures."



" Jack fell overboard," said Ned concisely.

" What a story ! " cried each of the girls. " It isn't true !
Did he fall overboard, Mr. Longwood ? "

" He certainly did," said that gentleman.

" O Jack ! " they said : " how frightened you must have been !
Wasn't it dreadful ? "

" It was an awful moment," said that young man, with his
mouth full of bread and butter. " But above the gurgling of
the waters in my ears, as I sank, I heard the deep voice of Capt.
Jackson shouting, ' Avast ! All hands holystone the deck, and
haul the keel aboard,' and then I knew that I was safe."

" Nevertheless," said Mr. Longwood, when the laugh had died
out, " Master Jack had a very narrow escape ; and I fear that,
had not Will Morgan and Thomas John come so promptly to his
help, Capt. Jackson's command to haul the keel aboard would
hardly have saved him."

Jack's eyes glistened as he looked toward Will ; and I am
quite certain that a very thankful heart beat under his jacket,
and that his nonsense was only put on to conceal his real

"It is hardly fair to make us talk now," said Charlie. " You
should tell us of your exploits. Begin, Rose. What has hap
pened ? Did you meet with any dragons, and did a gallant knight
deliver you ? "

" No," said Rose : " there were neither dragons nor knights ;
and we had a much nicer time than if there had been. We had
the crisp September air overhead, and the rustling of the early
fallen leaves as we passed through the woods, and every little



while we came to a view of the sea that was enough to take
one's breath away. And half of the time some of us were out
of the wagon, running on ahead, or gathering asters by the


" Oh, yes ! " broke in Lou ; " and we stopped at the prettiest
little house ; and Carrie went in to get us some water, and, after

Online LibraryRichard MarkhamColonial Days : being stories and ballads for young patriots ; as recounted by five boys and five girls ; in Around the yule log, Aboard the Mavis, On the edge of winter → online text (page 11 of 30)