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

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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 12 of 30)
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being gone about ten minutes, came out with a great pitcher of
milk. How good it tasted ! What in the world kept you so
long, Carrie ? I meant to ask at the time, but the sight of the
milk put it all out of my mind."


" The woman was singing a lullaby to her baby," said Carrie ;
" and I persuaded her to sing it again, while I took down the

When waves are wild,
And the winds are out,

And, 'mid the blinding spray,
The good ship, staggering, leaps on,

Where do the sailors stay?

High up aloft

On the swaying yards,

Like birds on an elm-tree bough,
Little they heed the tossing sea

Breaking about their prow.

When night comes on,
O'er the darkening sea,

Like birds in their wind-tossed nest,
Each in his swinging hammock lies,

Rocked by the winds to rest.

" The woman said that her husband was a sailor," went on
Carrie ; " and that he had been away more than a year on a
whaling-ship in the Arctic seas. She did not expect him back
for another year. And, oh, papa ! she had some old blue-and-
white cups and saucers on a little shelf, that you would have
liked to have. She said that her father brought them home from
China, many and many a year ago. I was so much interested
in talking to her, that I almost forgot that the others were wait
ing for me outside."



" I must look that place up," said Mr. Longwood, much

" Papa, you must know," said Tom, " is a great collector. If
he can only coax his way into the attic of some of these old
houses, he is perfectly happy. He is sure to come home with a


curious pair of fire-dogs, or perhaps an old Dutch chest-of-
drawers, or some old china. The people all about have come
to know him; and they think well, not to put too fine a
point on it, they think him a little weak in his mind. And
then, some fancy that they have only to show him something


old, for him to buy it. One woman actually tried to sell him an
old broken-down iron caster, because it was a hundred years old-,,
and another talked him into buying a corset-board."

" Ha, ha ! " laughed Mr. Longwood ; " but there were a dozen
old Nankeen cups and saucers in that house, and I wanted to
get into the old lady's good graces ; and so I bought the corset

" What is a corset-board, pray ? " asked Gertrude.

" In the old days," said Mrs. Longwood, " before steels were
used, corsets were laced up behind ; and, to keep them in shape,
a thin board of proper shape was inserted in front. The one
Mr. Longwood has is chased, and is really quite elaborate."

" I suppose you took dinner at Easthampton," said Charlie.

" Yes," answered Kate. " It was just after eleven when we
reached there. We found that we had quite two hours before
dinner ; so, after seeing John and Andrew set out for home, and
leaving all our wraps to be put into the stage that was to bring
us on, we strolled down to the beach. It was very exciting ;
for a school of menhaden were close in shore, and the fishermen
were bringing down their boat. We watched them go off, cast
the seine, and draw it."

" Did they have a good haul ? " asked Jack.

" Not very," said Kate ; " for the fish mostly escaped through
a hole in the net. The men said that a shark had been caught,
and had been strong enough to break his way through. They
spread the net out on the sand ; and the hole was there, sure

" Proceed with your narration," said Ned, as Kate paused.



" Well, after dinner we set out in a stage ; and our driver
was quite a character. He told us why there are no stones on
Long Island."

" Because it is a sandbank washed up by the ocean," inter
rupted Jack. " I knew as much as that."


" Not at all," said Carrie. " He said, that, before the first
settlers came, Long Island was full of great bowlders. Connecti
cut, however, had not a stone in it, and was a lovely country.


But it belonged to the Devil, and was, in fact, his own peculiar
garden. One Sunday, Satan thought he would visit his fair
domain, which he had not seen for some time. The first thing
that his eyes lighted on was a Puritan meeting-house. He drew
near, to see what it could be, and heard the loud voice of the
dominie praying. Now, prayer is the one thing that Satan cannot
stand. It always puts him to flight. So he clapped his hands
over his ears, and fled across to Long Island, where he sat him
down to think. But, the more he thought, the more angry he
grew ; and presently he worked himself up to such a pitch, that
he seized all the bowlders, and hurled them across the Sound to
Connecticut. And, if you don't believe the story," said Carrie,
" you can go to Connecticut, and see them."

" It was a long ride over the Napeague meadows," said
Kate ; " and we tried to get our driver to tell us some other
story, to shorten the way. For six miles and more, the sand
was so heavy that our horses could go no faster than a walk. I
never saw such a picture of desolation. Great wastes of drifting
sand were on one side, with here and there a peep at the sea
through the dunes, and, on the other, long stretches of marshes,,
with sea-birds rising from them."

" You forget the mosquitoes," said Rose : " there were mil
lions of them."

" I am not likely to forget them in a hurry," said Kate rue

"And did not your driver tell you any other story?" asked
Mr. Longwood.

"No," said Lou. "The best he could think of was how



Col. Somebody-or-other went shooting on the Montauk moors
last autumn, and bagged a hundred plover in a single day."

" That certainly was a sad falling-off, after so brilliant a be
ginning as the bowlder story," said Mr. Longwood. " There were
:some quite exciting scenes all about here in Revolutionary days.

After the battle of Long Island, when the defeated patriot troops
had made good their escape to the mainland, the whole island
fell under the British sway. And a great thing it was for the
British, too, that they did get possession of it ; for it was the
garden whence all the provisions for the army at New York
came. The Tories were only too glad to get high prices for their


cattle and produce at the New- York market ; and, if the unwill
ing patriots did not appear, a summary order from Sir Henry
Clinton, enforced by a detachment of soldiers, directing their
cattle to be brought in at once for sale, under penalty of imme
diate seizure, soon brought the helpless men to terms. Great
quantities of wood, too, were cut from the Montauk lands, and
carried off in sloops to New York, for barracks and for fire

" But the British did not have every thing their own way.
Of course, all who had been leaders among the Americans knew,
after that unfortunate battle, that matters would go hard with
them, if Sir Henry Clinton once got them in his clutches. So
they lost no time in escaping. They took their wives and their
children, and such of their household effects as they could get
together, and, hurrying them into whale-boats, crossed the Sound,
and found a refuge in Connecticut. And then began a guerilla
warfare. The farms of those who fled were often given to some
prominent Tory, as a reward. But few dared take possession
of them. He who did, presently received a notice to leave if
he would save his life. If he paid no heed to the warning, he
was visited, some dark and stormy night, by a party of armed
men. They had crossed the Sound in whale-boats, under the
leadership, perhaps, of the former owner of the lands ; and they
made small matter of burning the house over the ill-starred
loyalist's head.

" Many of those who did not take flight to Connecticut were
secretly in sympathy with the patriots. They gave them informa
tion as to the proper time for armed parties to make midnight


journeys in whale-boats across the Sound. They even bought
goods in the New- York markets, which were sent across to Con
necticut by these same whale-boats, thus bringing substantial aid
to the patriots.

" On the other hand, there were Tories on the mainland, who
much preferred good British gold pieces to the depreciated Con
tinental money, and who smuggled their cattle across to Long
Island, where some agent was sure to take them off their hands
at once. I remember a story of two men who tried to take a
fat steer across in this way. They tied him fast, so that he could
not struggle, and laid him in the bottom of a whale-boat, and
then, starting out as soon as darkness came, pulled manfully
away for Long Island.

" All went well till they got half-way across ; and then a rope
came unfast, so that the animal's hind-legs were loosened. The
beast struck out so vigorously, that the man in the stern had to
jump about with the greatest activity, to prevent his back and
legs from being broken. Encouraged by this partial success, the
animal made such play with his horns, that the man in the bow
lost no time in scrambling from his seat also. In this way they
passed the night in the middle of the Sound, one man in the
extreme bow, and one in the extreme stern, and between them
an active young steer, threatening to stave in the boat, and sink
them at any moment."

" I think I see them now," said Jack ecstatically. " ' So,
bossy ! so, bossy ! ' says one ; and then he steps forward, to catch
an end of the rope, when away go the heels, and back he scur
ries. What larks ! "


" What was the end of it all ? " asked Will.

" A patriot cruiser was in sight at daylight. The men had
no choice but to surrender ; and the unruly steer was speedily
taken on board, where the sailors highly praised his good taste
in refusing to be eaten by the enemies of his country."

" Those must have been wonderfully exciting times," said
Will. " What a chance for a few brave men, by some daring
deed, to gain a name ! "

' There was one such man," said Mr. Longwood, " who must
have had quite a reputation at the time, though he has long
since been forgotten. I noticed, on a shelf in the other room,
while we were waiting for supper, a book which, if it be the
one I think it, is made up of extracts from the newspapers at
the time of the Revolution. Will you get it for me, Carrie,
please ? It is called ' Revolutionary Incidents of Long Island.'
Yes," said Mr. Longwood, as he took the book ; " it is as I
thought. I will read you a few extracts which give you, as it
were, the skeleton of the man's story. You can fill out the
details from your imagination. Here is the first mention I find
of him. It is from a patriot paper :

"'E. Dayton, under Capt. John Clark, by order of Putnam, seized, Apl. '77,
a wagon & goods on Long Island, the property of Oba Wright, of Saybrook.'

" The next is from a New- York Tory paper :

"'Sunday night, loth inst. (May, '78), 2 whale-boats, 7 men in each, came
to Blue Point, & took thence 5 boats lying there with oysters. This party was
commanded by one Dayton, from Corum, & were all well armed. They brought
their boats from the N. side of the Island, and sent their prizes to N. London.


The head of the banditti who captured the five vessels thus loaded with lumber
-& produce, was Ebenezer Dayton, a noted pedler who lately lived at Corum."

" The next dates from New London, the port to which nearly
all prizes taken by the Americans were sent :

"'NEW LONDON, May 15. Sunday night last, 2 boats, under the command
of Capt. Dayton & Chester, with 14 men in both, went to L. I., and, carrying
one of the boats across a narrow part of the island at S. Hampton, they went
about sixty miles up the S. side of the island to Fire Island Inlet, & took pos
session of 5 sail of coasting vessels which lay there, laden with lumber, oysters,
household furniture, dry goods, provisions, &c. The prizes are all safe airived.
More might have been brought off, could they have manned them.'

" The records of the Maritime Court have preserved the names
of these unfortunate vessels. They were the ' Peggy,' ' Polly,'
* George/ ' Dalancey,' and ' Jacob ; ' and the proceeds of their
sale no doubt helped mightily to fill the empty pockets of Capt.
Dayton and his men."

" He would soon be rich, at that rate," said Charlie.

" He did not rest on his oars, at all events," said Mr. Long-
wood. " Here is a record only a week later :

"'NEW LONDON, May 22, '78. Tuesday night 8 whale-boats arrived here,
taken by Dayton, S. side of L. I.'

"'NEW LONDON, June 12, '78. Capt. E. Dayton, in an armed boat, carried
3 prizes into N. Haven, which he took- near Fire Island Inlet.'

" Our privateersman has now got on in the world," said Mr.
Longwood. " He commands an armed vessel, and not a mere
whale-boat. But he is about to come to grief. Hear this, from
a Tory paper in New York :




" ' Capt. Eben Dayton, in the sloop Ranger, of 45 men, 6 carriage guns, and
12 swivels, blunderbusses, muskets, hand grenadoes (to throw on the deck of


the vessel attacked as they run her aboard with whale-boats), was taken in South
Bay (Nov. 2Oth, '78), by Capt. Stout of a N. Y. Privateer, and brought to N. Y.,
Wed. last.'"

" What a pity," said Will, " that the records are not more
full ! One would like so much to know how he was taken
whether by surprise, or by overpowering numbers, after a brave

" I am going to imagine," said Jack, " that he stood by his.
guns till the last, and that he was picked up out of the water
after his ship went down. But it is all up with him now. He
will be put in one of the sugar-houses that were used as prisons
in New York, for captured rebels ; and no man can live long
there. Why, they had to lie on a bare floor at night, so close
together that they were just like sardines in a box. If one
ached from his cramped position, he called out, and the whole
line had to turn over at the same time. Good-by, Capt. Eben
Dayton. That's the last of you."

" Don't dispose of him in quite so summary a manner," said
Mr. Longwood. " Here is another newspaper extract :

"'Auc. 28, '79. Aug. 14, a party of about 20 rebels made their appearance
at Corum. The well-known Eben Dayton was at the head of this party.'

" So you see, Master Jack, that he certainly did not end his
days as you proposed, for here he is at liberty again. And that
is all I have been able to find about him.

" But, Rose," said Mr. Longwood, " I broke right in, with my
Revolutionary reminiscences, on your account of your ride here.
It was very thoughtless of me."



2 93

" Oh ! your story was a thousand times better," said Rose ;
" and beside, I had nothing- to say. Our driver, you remember,
could only tell about bagging plover."

" There was a lovely view backward," said Lou, " as we left
Napeague, and climbed the highlands. Below us, we saw the
salt meadows with the sea-birds flying over them, while on one
side lay the ocean, and on the other the Sound. We should
have stayed for hours, looking, if our driver had not hurried us,
so as to reach here before dark."


" And the moors were lovely," said Carrie. " I wanted to
run all the way. There was not a fence nor a stone ; only the
wild rolling moors, with thousands of cattle on them."

" And we came on a desolate little graveyard," said Gertrude,
<( on a hillside looking down on the ocean. Nearly every grave
was marked by a quantity of rough stones piled about it. They



told us that unknown mariners, lost on the coast, were buried
there. How sad it seemed for them to be lying in their last
long sleep in an unknown grave, apart alike from dead or living
friends, in these lonely solitudes ! "

" By the way," said Jack, after a minute, breaking in on the
sober silence that had followed Gertrude's words, "where are all
we fellows to sleep to-night ? This tiny house can never hold

" That is indeed a serious question," said Mr. Longwood, as
they rose from the table ; " and we must give it prompt atten


AN examination into the anatomy of the
house showed that Jack's assertion that they
could never all find sleeping-quarters in it
was true indeed. At first the situation ap
peared rather depressing, particularly as their
landlady could suggest nothing other than that the boys should
lie on the sitting-room floor. Matters looked brighter, however,
when Tom suggested,

" Why not try the barn ? "

The boys all received this plan with decided approval ; and
Thomas John gave it as his opinion, that a hay-mow was equal
to a spring-mattress any day ; and that decided the matter.

So, half an hour later, you might have seen them stumbling-
along the path through the pitchy blackness, which was only
made more black by the fitful glimmer of the lantern that
swung from Thomas John's hand. What a wild night it was
growing ! The clouds had come up in great masses, so that not
a star was visible. The wind was blowing furiously, threatening
every instant to put out their light ; and the whole air was dank
with spray from the sea, that was lashing itself to fury on the



" It is a nasty night at sea," said Will.

" Yes," said Thomas John ; "I am glad "

The cause of Thomas John's gladness, the boys could only
guess ; for at that moment he tripped over an unseen stone,
and, striving to recover his balance, pitched wildly forward, and
disappeared through the barn-door with lightning-like suddenness,

They followed, laughing, and looked about their new bed

" It is going to pour presently," said the practical Tom ; " and
the building is very old. The roof probably leaks. Therefore
we shall fare better if we pitch some hay down on the floor ;
for there is a mow above it which will shield us."

" I'll pitch it down," said Thomas John, " in a minute.
" But, if the rain does come, it will drive through the cracks on
this side of the barn, toward the storm, and wet us thoroughly.
Here are a hammer and some nails. Now, if we can only find
some old horse-blankets, you might nail them up while I pitch
down the hay."

The horse-blankets were found, and nailed up ; the floor was
piled deep with hay ; and in a few minutes the boys, thoroughly
tired with their long day's excitement, were so soundly asleep
that they never even stirred when the expected rain did come
clattering and stamping on the old roof above them, with a
tremendous uproar.

It must have been seven o'clock before any one stirred. The
horses in their stalls rose from their sleep, and, stretching their
heads over their mangers, took stolen mouthfuls from the boys'
beds, which they munched with great satisfaction. At length the


one near Thomas John, growing bolder, decided to find out for
himself why a man was lying there so quietly, when, according
*o all equine experience, he should have been moving about,
getting him his breakfast. So he stretched his moist nose as far
forward as he could, and smelled all over Thomas John's face,
ending up with a snort of astonishment directly in his ear.

It is unnecessary to say that this manoeuvre was perfectly
successful, and that Thomas John awoke.

His rising awoke the rest ; and together they shook the hay
seeds from their hair, and forced open the great doors on the
leeward side of the barn. The prospect was no whit pleasanter
than it had been the night before. The wind whistled and
shrieked louder than ever, and the rain came in such blinding
torrents that one could not see more than a hundred feet away.

"It is a pity that we did not bring our towels with us," said
Ned. " We could have a shower-bath by simply putting our
heads out of doors."

" There is a great tub standing under the spout from the
roof," said Will. " No one can see us here ; and I, for one,
vote for a bath. We can get our towels from the house ; and
we'll feel better for it all day."

Thomas John, who had been rummaging about the dark
corners of the barn, hereupon appeared, attired in a yellow tar
paulin suit which he had found hanging on a peg, and volun
teered to bring from the house any toilet-articles they wished.

" Find out when breakfast will be ready," called the boys
after him, " and how all our party are."

Thomas John speedily re-appeared, and the ablutions in the


big tub under the sheltered side of the barn began. The storm,
he told them, as they rubbed themselves down and dressed about
him, was tremendous. The wind was terrific. It had seized him
in an unguarded moment, and flattened him out so vigorously
against the side of the house, that, if a lull had not come, he
thought he should have been spread, like butter on bread, all
over the side of the building. " Like that sheepskin there," he
added, pointing to one nailed on the barn-door.

After breakfast, their situation came up for discussion.
' I think we had much better sit at the table all day," said
Jack disconsolately. " There are so many of us, that, if we get
up, the room will not hold us."

" Why not all go out to the barn again ? " said Mr. Long-
wood. " The great floor is dry, you say, and we can find room

So, wrapped in all manner 'of strange waterproof garments,
Mrs. Longwood and the girls were safely escorted out. They
found Thomas John and the cattle-keeper sitting on a box, both
whittling away for dear life. Jack, as usual, began the conversa
tion ; and, as usual, his question to the cattle-keeper was a
startling one.

" Do any corpses ever come ashore here ? " he asked.

" What a question, Jack ! " said Carrie. " Of course not !
Where could they come from ? "

" Shipwrecks at sea," said Jack. " Do they, Mr. Cattle-
keeper ? " *

" Fourteen came ashore right in front of the house, in a
single morning," said the man. " It was after the wreck of


1 The Circassian.' That was a dreadful time. Twenty-eight lives
were lost. The ship was wrecked at Bridgehampton, more than
twenty miles west, and the bodies were brought here by the

" Tell us about it," said the boys, while the girls drew into
the circle, though with rather disquieted faces.

" Oh ! I am no story-teller," said the cattle-keeper. " And,
beside, I know of it only by hearsay. Mr. Longwood knows
far more than I do, no doubt."

So Mr. Longwood was urged to tell the story, and began,

" ' The Circassian ' went ashore on the bar close to the life-
saving station at Bridgehampton."

" Was she a steamer ? " asked 'Ned.

" No ; though she had been originally. During the Rebellion
she was a blockade-runner. She was an unlucky ship, from the
first. She was captured by a man-of-war, at the outset of her
unlawful career. After being sold as a prize, she went ashore
twice ; but each time the wrecking companies brought her off.
At last she was bought by some Englishmen, who changed her
to a sailing-ship. It was her first voyage as a sailing-ship, and
when on her way to New York, that she went ashore."

" Was she a large ship ? " asked Will.

" Yes," said Mr. Longwood. " She was nearly three hundred
feet long, if I remember rightly. Her size was against her, in
one way ; for she drew twenty feet, and grounded four hundred
yards from shore, where no ball from a mortar could reach her."

" How do you mean, about a ball from a mortar ? " asked


" Every life-saving station is furnished with a small mortar,
or cannon," said Mr. Longwood. " When a ship goes ashore,
and the surf is so heavy that a boat cannot be launched, the
mortar, which is packed in a two-wheeled car, is dragged down
to the very edge of the surf. Then it is loaded with a conical
shot, to which a very light but very strong rope is fastened. It


is, perhaps, more like a cord than a rope. This cord is coiled
by the side of the cannon, and when all is ready the gun is fired.
The ball flies through the air over the ship, if all goes well, and
the line drops on the deck."

" But how does having a line to the ship help matters ? "
asked Kate.



" The men on the vessel haul in the line, to the end of which
the life-crew have made fast a
much heavier one, so that soon
there is quite a strong cable

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 12 of 30)