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 13 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 13 of 30)
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from the wreck to the shore.
A board, on which is painted
directions in several languages,
has been tied to the rope, and
hauled in with it ; and from this
the crew learn that they are to
carry their end of the cable
high up the mast, and make it
fast there. On the cable thus
stretched, runs, on a pulley, a
sort of seat, called the breeches
buoy, which is dragged back and
forth between ship and shore,
by guide-ropes ; and in this the
wrecked crew are brought safely
to land."

" They must get a precious
ducking, if the rope sags," said

" I dare say they often do,"
said Mr. Long-wood ; "but com-


ing ashore wet is better than
drowning on the bar."

" What a vast advance the use of the mortar is," said Mrs.



Longwood, " over the times when the only way to get a line to
a ship was by means of some brave fellow, who tied the rope
about him, and swam out to the vessel in distress, in most cases
at the risk, if not loss, of his life ! "

" No man living could get through the Long-Island surf in
the gales that I have seen," said Thomas John. " He would be
beaten to death by the waves, in no time. It was so the night
4 The Circassian ' struck."

" Were you there ? " they all cried.

" I was on the next station," said Thomas John ; " but we
were sent for, to help."

Mr. Longwood found, all at once, that he was deserted, and
that Thomas John was the centre of attraction.

"Tell us all about it," said Jack. "What kind of weather
was it ? "

" Bad as could be. Wind north-east, blowing a gale, and
the air so full of snow that we could not make her out well
enough to use the mortar, even if she had been within range.
And no boat made could have lived in the surf that was run
ning. There was nothing to be done but wait for daylight.

" When that came, the snow held up a little, and matters
looked better. The sea had been pounding her on the bar, and
had driven her shoreward quite a ways ; and the tide had gone
out, so that the beach was not under water, and we could bring
the mortar forward. We had good luck, for the third shot fell
plump on her deck ; and in a little while we had the buoy all
rigged, ready to run them ashore.

" But, when that was done, we found that the surf had gone




down enough to launch a boat ; and so, in six or seven trips,
we brought the whole forty men safely ashore."

" But I thought they were all drowned," said Gertrude, in

" That was later," said Thomas John ; " when the Coast
Wrecking Company were trying to get the ship off. It was


nearly three weeks after she went ashore, before she broke up.
All this time, the Wrecking Company were hard at work. A
gang of men were landing cargo, to lighten her. Then, they
had anchors sunk out to sea, and carried hawsers from them
aboard. By keeping a strain on these hawsers, they dragged her
out a few feet, every high tide. But what they wanted was a


regular gale. Then the seas would come in high enough to lift
her clear off the bar, and they could drag her out, and get away
under sail. So they worked for dear life, and hoped for a storm.
As she lay, every day made her chances worse ; for the sand
banked up about her, and she was in danger of breaking in two.
Being aground in the middle, with both ends in deep water, the
strain was tremendous ; and, being an iron ship, of course she
would break much quicker than a wooden one.

" The storm came ; but it was more than they bargained for.
It was just at the end of December. Before noon, on that day,
the gang of men who had been shifting cargo came ashore, and
the line to the beach was cast off."

" That would seem to have been a strange thing to do," said
Mr. Longwood.

" It cost them their lives," said Thomas John. " It was this
way : The Wrecking Company were determined to get the ship
off. They believed that she was strong enough to stand any
surf; and they had an idea, that, if the line were there, some of
the crew might get frightened, and make for shore, just at a
time when their leaving would block the whole thing. So they
cast off the line. But it was not a storm that came : it was a

The girls and boys all drew a little nearer.

" Late that day, the life-saving crew at Bridgehampton made
out that all was not right aboard. They could see her, half
buried in foam and spray, and she was rolling and pounding ;
but her hawsers had been slacked, and that meant that they had
given up trying to get her off. Something had gone wrong,



that was certain. We found out afterwards that she had broken


her back. Still no one ashore felt uneasy (for they knew how
strong she was) until about eight o'clock, when they made out
that one of her masts was gone. That showed that she was
breaking up ; and then the life-crew at Bridgehampton sent for
help to the other stations.

" I remember that I had just come off my beat, and was
turning in, thankful enough that my work for the night was
over, when we heard a horseman coming at full gallop, to call

" As soon as the mast went, the life-saving crew tried to
get a line aboard. But it was no use. You know how the
Long-Island beach looks, back of the sea a broad stretch
of sand, two or three hundred feet wide, and back of that the
sand-hills. Well, that night all the sand was covered, and the
waves came lashing up the sand-hills, sweeping over them,
and cutting sluiceways clean through them. It was fearful to
see. The mortar had to be fired from the top of the sand-hills ;
and, in the teeth of such a wind as was blowing, the ball did
not begin to reach the ship. Besides, the wet sand blew so that
it would bury the line before it could be coiled, and it was so
cold, that at times it froze stiff.

" The crew had long since taken to the rigging ; for every
sea made a clean breach over her.

" And then a most uncommon thing happened. The wind
had been blowing from the sou'-east, and all at once it chopped
around into the sou'-west, and blew a perfect whirlwind. It made
a sea, the like of which I never saw before, or after. Overhead,
the clouds were torn apart by the gale, and went sweeping


across the sky like mad ; and now and then the moon shone
between their ragged edges, so that we could see better. We
kept the mortar going all the time ; but, from the start, it was
no use.

" Close on to midnight the tide was low, so that the ship's
deck was no longer under water. We saw a light on it, and
made out that the men were changing to the mast nearest shore.
By three o'clock, the mast they had left was gone, the vessel
had broke clean in two, and the for'ard part had sunk in the
deep water outside the bar. A little after that, the one they
were on began to careen. We could hear them shout for help,
above the wind and surf. Slowly it settled, lower and lower, till
jt went under, and the cries ceased."

The girls all drew a long breath of horror.

" But did none of them escape ? " asked Rose.

" Four men got ashore," said Thomas John ; " and that was
the strangest part of the whole business. It was all owing to
the pluck of one of them. When the mast went down, we
scattered along the beach to the eastward, on the bare chance ;
but not a soul ever dreamed that any one could live in such a
sea. However, the ship's first mate had forecasted what he would
do if the ship broke up. He was as strong as a giant, the
finest-built man I ever met. While the others were running
around, kind o' terror-stricken, he and the second mate cut out
from under the seats of one of the ship's boats a piece of cork
buoy. It was cigar-shaped, and about five feet long. They
rigged it with ropes, through which an arm could be thrust, and
lugged it up into the rigging with them.


" When the mast went under, they grabbed it, and jumped
as far towards shore as they could. A sailor, struggling in the
water, got hold with them ; and one of the Wrecking Company's
men, who came up alongside, also managed to reach it. Then
the first mate ordered them to lock legs underneath. This held
them together, and turned them into a kind of craft, that he
took command of. When a big wave was coming, he'd give the
order, ' Hold hard ! ' and, when it had gone by, ' Ease up, and
breathe ! ' When they got in towards shore, he loosened his
legs, and sounded, telling them, ' After next wave, run ! ' A big
sea pitched them well up the beach, and they tried to run, as it
swept back ; but they were too far gone, and would have been
dragged out in the undertow, and killed, if the life-saving men
had not rushed in, and dragged them back."

" What a hero that man must have been ! " said two or three ;
and Mrs. Longwood asked, " Did they all live ? "

" Yes," said Thomas John. " They came ashore nearly a
mile to eastward of the wreck, though they thought they had
not been in the water more than three minutes. It was so cold,
that, before we could carry them to the station, they were cased
in ice. One man was very low, and for a day or so we did
not think he could live ; but the first mate was smoking his
pipe by the fire, a half-hour afterward."

" And they were all that were saved," said Mrs. Longwood ;
" and twenty-eight lost."

" Ten of the men were Indians, who were working for the
Wrecking Company. They were the pick of the Shinnecocks,
and their death was a great blow to the tribe. Some of the


lost, too, were hardly more than boys. They were a sort of
apprentices, in the same position in the merchant-service that
midshipmen are in the navy, I fancy. The captain was urged to
leave them ashore ; but he said their place was aboard."

" Poor boys ! " said Mrs. Longwood sadly. " I am thinking
of their mothers."

" There was a very strange shipwreck on the Jersey coast, a
few months after the loss of ' The Circassian,' " said Mr. Long-
wood. " It was a schooner, if I remember rightly, ' The Margaret
and Lucy.' The patrolman on the beach, about eight o'clock in
the evening, saw, down the coast before him, a bright light like
a torch. While he was looking, it went out. He hurried on as
fast as possible, through the driving rain, and saw, about three
hundred yards out from the shore, a red and a green fight, one
only a few feet above the other. He at once burned the red
light with which each patrol is furnished, to give notice to those
on board that they had been seen ; but not a sound was heard,
nor was there any signal in response. So he made all speed
back to his station, to report. A man was sent at once to the
spot, to watch, while the rest of the crew dragged the mortar-
car slowly through the sand.

" All at once the man on guard saw the lights disappear ;
the next moment came the sound of a crash from the sea ; and
that was all that was ever seen of ' The Margaret and Lucy,'
except the pieces of wreckage that lined the beach for miles,
the next morning."

" Why, what an extraordinary thing ! " said Will.

" The pieces that came ashore," said Mr. Longwood, " were


broken into bits, and thoroughly decayed. It was believed that
the ship was so rotten, that, when she struck the bar, her bot
tom rubbed off, and that she sank before the crew had a chance
to save themselves. The torch was thought to have been lighted
by them when she first struck, and its almost instant disappear
ance showed how quickly she sank. The red and green lights.
were those in the rigging. Seven lives were lost in this catas

" Dear me ! " said Gertrude : "we have had enough of horrors.
Do let us have something cheerful."

"I think so too," said Carrie. "What say you to a game?"

A game was decided on ; and girls and boys were soon scaling
ladders, and hiding in mows. And such good fun did they find
it, that, before they realized it, the morning had gone, and they
were called to dinner.

" There is one thing that always provokes me," said Carrie,
as they sat about the table ; " and that is, that, in these stories
that one hears of deeds of bravery, a man is always the hero.
Just as if women never did brave things ! Women do just as
many, I believe, only they don't talk of them. But, for a
change, I would like to hear one in which a woman was the

" My great-grandmother " began Jack.

But he got no farther than the word " great-grandmother ; "
for, at that, every one broke out laughing. Jack had often
boasted of a great-grandmother of his, and of some bold deed
which she had once done. But, though many a time urged to
tell the tale, something had always happened to prevent, and the



subject had come to be regarded as a great joke. Carrie had
even suggested that her name was Harris, and had openly stated
that she didn't " believe there was no sich a person."

Jack flushed at the laughter, and looked very indignant.

" What was it you were going to say, Jack ? " asked Mr.
Longwood kindly.

" I was only going to say, sir," he replied, with considerable
dignity, " that my great-grandmother was a woman."

At this, there was such another peal of merriment that Jack's
wrath was kindled afresh, and he declared that he would never tell
the story anyway. But, seeing that his feelings were really hurt,
they all set to work to appease him, with such good results that
presently he began.

" Some fellow has worked it into poetry," he said ; " so here
goes :


' Hark, hark ! I hear the sound of hoofs :

'Tis the British horse. Hide ! flee ! '
' Nay, Grand-dame, lay aside your fears :
The British horse, these sixty years,

Have been across the sea.
'Tis but some traveller of a night :
You're by your fireside warm and bright.'

' Ay, so I am. My thoughts were back

In those days of war and flight.
Once more my blood seemed chill with fear,
At those loud hoof-beats drawing near,

As on that dreadful night,


When, roused from sleep, I heard the shout,
" Come forth, you rebel, or be burned out ! "

' Who was the rebel ? Your grandsire, child ;

A major of rebels, he.
To see his wife, he'd stolen home,
Near British posts. They learned he'd come,

Through Tory treachery.
They stayed to see the burned house fall;
But woman's wit outmatched them all.

' Down to the door, half choked with smoke,
Where their captain stood, I went;

" You fight not women, sir," I said :

" To move my mother, ill in bed,
Give us, at least, consent."

On her feather-bed we bore her out,

Half dead with fright at that wild rout.

' Not a man there would lend a hand :

So the bed dragged on the ground.
Your grandsire, crouching, crept along,
Safe underneath, through the wild throng

That jeering stood around.
As the roof fell, they laughed, and said,
" One rebel more has joined the dead."

'Then, mounting steeds, they rode away,

And I laughed aloud in glee ;
For what cared I for roof-tree burned,
And household goods to ashes turned?

My rebel was safe for me.
But still the tramp of horses' feet
At night makes my heart cease to beat.' "


They lingered about the table for a long time, discussing
Jack's story, and talking of one thing and another. At length
Will, looking out of the window, exclaimed,

" Why, it's stopped raining ! and I think the wind has hauled.
I shouldn't wonder if it cleared."

A rush to the door followed ; and there they found that his
surmise was true ; for away in the west, on the horizon's edge,
was a streak of pale-blue sky, while the heavy clouds overhead
were beginning to break away and to hurry seaward.

With exclamations of satisfaction, the boys seized their hats,
and rushed out. Every thing was dripping wet ; but the girls
donned their wraps, and joined them, and all went together to
ward the beach, where the sea was rolling in with fearful fury.
There was a strange fascination in watching the waves, as, one
after another, they drew nearer, and finally snapped themselves
out, with a report like a cannon, and disappeared in a shower
of spray.

Toward evening they took a stroll across the moors, which
brought them home to supper with wet feet and rousing appe
tites. And, by the time the clock struck nine that night, every
boy and girl was fast asleep, and another day was over.


THE sun was
well out of his wa
tery bed before the
boys awoke the
next morning. In
the crisp Septem
ber air, blowing in
fresh gusts down from the New-England hills, every object stood
out clear and distinct. Jack, as he put his head out of the barn
door, even insisted that he could see the Connecticut shore ;
but, as there was quite a hill between him and that somewhat
distant land, I am inclined to think that he must have been

There was no great shower-bath pouring from the roof OD
this morning ; but the large tub was full, and, by the aid of a
pail, a fair substitute for yesterday's plunge was had. Then,
finding that it was still a good hour until breakfast, and that no
one of their party at the house was stirring, the boys decided to
work off their superfluous energy by a long walk down the

" Perhaps we may find a corpse or two," said Jack, skipping




for lightness of heart, "and around its waist a money-bag stuffed
with gold and jewels."

So, now walking, now running, and now stopping short, they
soon were out of sight.

Presently, as they were looking seaward, where a full-rigged
ship was flying along with all canvas spread, one of them chanced
to glance over his
shoulder. On the
road across the moors,
some distance away, he
saw a man on horse
back, moving along at
good speed. They all
watched him for a
moment, when Tom

" I'll wager any
thing that he has
come to bring a mes
sage to papa. I feel
it in my bones. Let's
go back."

Off they all start-


ed ; but Tom was so

much impressed by his fancy, that he strode on at a pace that

left the others out of sight, and brought him to the house


Sure enough, he found the man sitting on his horse, talking


to his father. Mr. Long-wood had apparently been called down
from his room unexpectedly, for his coat was loosely thrown on,
and his hair dishevelled.


" O Tom ! " he said, "I am glad to see you. Perhaps you
can suggest some way out of the difficulty. This man brings
me a telegram from my clerk in New York, saying that there


are some papers there requiring my immediate attention. I am
afraid that I must go back, and leave you."

" That would be awful," said Tom, " and spoil all our fun.
Let me see. I have it ! Telegraph him to meet you at New
London to-morrow. It would be a jolly sail across ; and we
could get back that same evening."

" I believe you've hit the very thing," said Mr. Longwood.
" I'll go in, and write the despatch."

While he was gone, Tom climbed the fence, and opened
conversation with the messenger.

" Where did you get the telegram ? " asked he.

" Your man fetched it to Easthampton yesterday. He laid
out to hire a horse there to bring him on. I thought I'd kind
o' interrogate him 'bout the road ; and found he'd never been
over it. So I told him, that, if the thing must go, I'd take it
myself; but I didn't propose to have one of my horses bogged
in the Napeague marshes. And 'twas lucky I did ; for no green
hand 'ud ever got through. Half the road was washed clean
away. I got to House No. i at dark, and come on first thing
this morning."

At this point the other boys hurried up, and Mr. Longwood
came out with the despatch.

"Now, then," he said, as the man rode away, after buttoning
it up in his coat, " I must make haste, and get ready for break
fast. Our landlady told me that she was just putting it . on the
table. Kate and Carrie are down by the beach. Will one of
you call them ? "

" I will," said Jack ; and he set off on a run toward where

3 2 4


the two could be seen standing on a little bluff overlooking the
sea. As he came close to them he stopped, and a look of mis
chief came over his face.

" Girls," he said, in a steady voice, " be calm ! Don't be
frightened. But get away from that bluff as quickly and quietly

as you can. This whole shore
is washing away at a fearful

Involuntarily Kate dropped
her arms from Carrie, and both
hurried backward. But they
had not gone a dozen feet,
before they stopped with some
what sheepish faces. Then
Carrie turned upon Jack, who
had thrown himself down on
the grass, and was rolling over
and over in an ecstasy of de

" You wicked boy ! " she
said. " You told a story ! "
" I did not," said Jack. " I read a book on Long Island, the
morning before I left New York ; and it said that it was esti
mated that two thousand tons of soil were washed away from
Montauk every day."

The sound of a bell from the house put a speedy end to
Carrie's indignation, and together they all hurried thither.

Breakfast and prayers over, there ensued a scene of bustle



It had been decided that all were to go aboard " The Mavis,"
and sail to the point. Should the sea be smooth, they might
perhaps go a little way out. They could, in any case, easily
make a landing at the light-house, and take dinner there.

Mr. Cattle-keeper, as Jack called him, had been interviewed
on the subject that morning, and had promised to take them all
down Fort Pond in his sail-boat, so that there would be only a
few hundred feet to walk to " The Mavis." And so, when they
reached the northern end of the pond, they found Capt. Jackson
standing on the shore to welcome them, while one of the sailors
was in the schooner's boat, waiting to put them aboard.

" Well," said the captain, as he shook hands all around,
" you don't seem to have been damaged by the storm. No top
masts gone, no sails split; every thing taut and ship-shape.
That's hearty. You did well to get ashore, boys," he went on.
" The cabin of ' The Mavis ' wasn't big enough for me yester
day ; and what we should have all done, shut up in her, I don't
know. Who goes aboard first ? Ladies, of course."

So saying, the captain helped Mrs. Longwood and two or
three of the girls into the small boat, and, taking his place in
the stern, was pulled out to " The Mavis," where they all got
on board, while the boat went back for the others. Then he
brought up an armful of rugs from some unseen locker, and
spread them on the deck, where Mrs. Longwood would be shel
tered from the wind.

Meanwhile the rest were come, the boat was hauled up, the
sails were raised, and " The Mavis " was once more under way.
How lightly she flew along, lying well over, and throwing back


in spray the waves that came rolling up under her bow ! There
was life and vigor in her every motion. " I feel as if I could
fly," said Gertrude. " I know now just how clouds feel ; " and
she broke out singing,


From afar, by wild, hot, west winds driven,

Have I come with flying feet ;
O'er mountain, forest, and broad farm-fields,

Scorched in the summer heat.
But now I see the breakers gleam,

And the white surf dashing free,
And I catch the sound of a sea-bird's scream :

Yo, ho ! for the open sea !

Once more I breathe the strong salt air,

While around the sea-gulls fly;
And the stormy petrel rocks below,

Where the tossing waves dash high.
And the great white ships, with all sails spread,

Leave, the land upon the lea;
And the wild winds, rollicking, cry aloud :

Yo, ho ! for the open sea !

By and by they began to see before them the end of the
island. The great white light-house towering high above the
cliffs had long been in sight, but now they could look out into
the ocean. A fleet of small craft lay there, pitching up and
down in the heavy swell that came in from the sea.

" What are all those boats doing ? " asked Rose.



" Fishing," said Capt. Jackson. " There is no place in the
world like this for fish. You have only to put in a line, and


pull up a fish. These boats, many of them, come from New Lon

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 13 of 30)