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 14 of 30)
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don, and stay out here for days."

" Do the fish bite here now on Sundays ? " asked Mr. Long-


" Didn't they always ? " asked the captain.

" I have a book at home," said Mr. Longwood, " called
* Magnalia Christi.' It was written by a very eminent, if not the
most eminent, minister of New England, in the old colonial days.
In it you will find a passage something like this :

1 "'On the 1 6th of October, in this present year 1697, there arrived at New
Haven a sloop of about fifty tuns, whereof Mr. William Trowbridge was master:
the vessel belonged unto New Haven, the persons on board were seven ; and sev
enteen long weeks had they now spent since they came from their port, which
was Fayal. By so unusually tedious a passage, a terrible famine unavoidably came
upon them ; & for the five last weeks of their voyage they were so destitute of all
food, that thro' faintness they would have chosen death rather than life. But they
were a praying & a pious company ; and when " these poor men cried unto the
Lord, he heard & saved them." God sent his dolphins to attend 'em; and of
these they caught still one every day, which was enough to serve 'em : only on
Saturdays they still catched a couple : and on the Lord's Days they could catch
none at all. With all possible skill & care they could not supply themselves with
the fish in any other number or order; and indeed with an holy blush at last they
left off trying to do any thing on the Lord's Days, when they were so well sup-
ply'd on the Saturdays.

" ' Thus the Lord kept feeding a company that put their trust in him, as he
did his Israel with his manna : and thus they continu'd until the dolphins came
to that change of water, where they us'd to leave the vessels. Then they so
strangely surrendered themselves, that the company took twenty-seven of 'em;
which not only suffic'd them until they came ashore, but also some of 'em were
brought ashore dry'd, as a monument of the divine benignity.' "

The effect of this story on Capt. Jackson was peculiar. He

1 As Mr. Longwood was not quite exact in the wording of this passage, we have asked
Tom Longwood to copy it out of the book, and give it here just as it was written.



turned toward the boys, put his tongue in his cheek, and winked
three distinct winks.

Mr. Long-wood looked up, and saw him.

" Then you don't believe it ? " he asked.

" I didn't say that," said the captain ; " but it sounds to me
a good deal like
a fish-story."

Just then a
voice was heard
shouting, " Skip
per, ahoy ! "

Close to their
stern was passing
a small fishing-
craft ; and stand
ing up in it, one
hand grasping
the tiller, was a
fellow, with a
hearty, open face.

" Ye seem to
have your family
aboard, skipper," he bawled, with a grin, as Capt. Jackson an
swered his hail. " Their keep must be a big drain on ye.
Now, if ye've a nice spry lad that ye'd like to 'prentice out,
chuck him over, and I'll pick him up. Must be spry and handy,
though, and know how to clean fish."



The girls and boys all laughed, and the old man seemed
highly delighted at the way his little joke had been taken.

" A pleasant v'yage to ye all," he said, and he took off his
hat to them.

By this time the heavy swell from the sea was beginning to
reach them, and " The Mavis " rose and fell on it in a way that
made Mrs. Longwood decide that they would land at once. " It
will be quite dinner-time when we are landed, and have climbed
the hill to the light-house," she said. " You boys can all go to
sea this afternoon, if you wish ; and the rest of us will drive
back over the moors. I took the precaution to order the stage
to meet us here."

So " The Mavis " was headed into the quieter waters, under
shelter of the point, and they made a landing by the aid of her
boat. In half an hour they had climbed the hill, and were at
the light-house.

Instinctively they all ran out to the edge of the point. A
hundred feet or more sheer below them, lay the sea. Great swells,
the remnants of yesterday's storm, came rolling in from the ocean,
pitching up and down the fleet of fishing-craft like so many toy-
boats. Ten miles away, Block Island rose out of the sea. On
one side of them was the boundless ocean, and, on the other,
Long Island Sound. Overhead swept the sea-gulls, with long,
steady beat of wings, uttering hoarse cries.

They all stood fascinated for a few moments. Jack was the
first to break the spell.

" I fancy I detect the odor of broiled bluefish," he said,
sniffing the air. " Dinner must be ready. Let's go in."


They made their way to the little parlor, and seated them
selves. The odor of broiled bluefish was much stronger. It
was evident to the least tutored nose that dinner could not be
far off.

Nevertheless it seemed to the hungry young folk to be a
long while in coming. Jack wandered restlessly about ; but Tom,
taking down a book from the chimney-shelf, began to read.

" Why, this is a jolly book ! " he said after a little, looking
up. "It is written by a man who was in the quartermaster's
department during the Revolution."

" ' My feyther fit into the Revolution,' ' remarked Jack * r
" ' that is, he druv a baggage- wagon. He was wounded ; that
is, he was kicked by a mule.' '

" This man drove a baggage-wagon too," laughed Tom. " It's
quite jolly. The part I have been reading tells how he went up
Lakes George and Champlain, on the ice, to Canada. Coming
back, he passed great numbers of sleighs carrying troops north
ward. On Lake George, he says the men stood up on the seats,
with arms locked. The wind was fresh from behind, and carried
them on at such a pace, that the horses had to go at a full
gallop, to keep the sleigh from running on their heels."

" Read us a little," asked Kate.

So Tom began :

"'Early in the year 1777, my father and I were again In
active employment. Large quantities of provisions had been
accumulating at Bennington for the use of our northern armies,
and the New-England people had been quite industrious in fur
nishing their quota of supplies. As there was always some con-


tention about getting a job, as it was called, my father took the
precaution to bring the loads contracted for, down to his own
farm, and then he carried them to the north afterwards, as he
had leisure. We went with them to Whitehall, then known as
Skenesborough. Thence we travelled down Lake George to Ti,
and there delivered our loads. On our second trip, we had
scarcely unloaded our sleighs, when Col. Hay, well known as an
active and efficient quartermaster-general, informed us that we
must stay, and commence dragging timber for the bridge which
was about to be constructed, by order of Congress, between Ti
and Mount Independence. As we had not yet fulfilled our con
tract in regard to forwarding the supplies, my father remonstrated,
and mentioned that, if he was not allowed to bring on the
remainder, as he had contracted, before the lake opened, it would
after that become impracticable. Col. Hay, however, said that it
was far more important for him to assist in the construction of
the works, than to transport the supplies. My father, on this
occasion, gave a specimen of his boldness and ingenuity, and it
illustrated the manner in which every thing was managed in
those days. An officer was despatched to take charge of our
party ; and my father then requested permission to cross over to
Mount Independence, to deposit his load. He gave me private
instructions to follow him, at all hazards. The officer jumped
into my sleigh, and stood up in it. My father led the way, and
drove down hill at full speed in another direction than the one
intended. I followed him as fast as possible, when the officer
cried out, " Where are you going to ? " I replied, " After my
father ; " and a fresh application of the whip made the horses



dash on in the most furious manner. The officer, in full dress,
and not relishing the strange manoeuvre, nor even understanding
it, thought proper to jump out of the sleigh, and, in doing so,
described a parabolic curve, or rather a long ellipse, which gave
him time to turn heels upward, and descended with velocity, head
foremost in the snow. I gave him one look over my shoulder,
as he was flying through the air, and then another, when I per
ceived him stuck upright in the snow, like a guide-board, one
foot pointing to Mount Independence, and the other to Ti. But
I was too happy at the thought of again rejoining my father, to
indulge in any other sentiments than those of exceeding joy.

" ' We very soon got under the brow of the hill, and on the
lake shore, where, to our surprise, we found many others of our
companions before us, parleying with a sentry, who guarded the
roads to the lake, and who required them to show a permit
before he could allow them to pass. It was a critical moment
for us, as we expected an alarm and pursuit. One John Mahony,
a neighbor of ours, had previously drawn out of his pocket an
old certificate, and, though unable to read himself, endeavored,
from memory, to mutter out the words of a permit. Nor was
the sentry any wiser, for he could not read ; and Mahony had
declared that it was a pass for nine sleighs, the exact number
that was already there, before we arrived. My father, with great
presence of mind, corrected him, and read the paper so it ap
peared a permit for eleven sleighs. The sentry took all for
granted, as he saw the paper before his eyes ; and we came off
together in high glee. We were then safe ; for, however within
the line of sentinels we were liable to detention, beyond them


we knew we were not to be overtaken, either by their fire, or
by pursuit on any of the worn-out horses of the garrison.

" ' Some others of our companions were not so fortunate.
Coming down the wrong road, with similar intentions of escaping
from impressment like that which my father had determined not
to submit to, they crossed the very same sentinel, though under
circumstances which showed confusion at seeing him ; still they
determined to force their way past him. He hailed them. They
pretended not to hear him. He hailed again. They were deaf.
He hailed again. They kept their horses at full speed. The
sentinel fired ; and, as they were exactly in the range of his fire,
the ball struck the nearest sleigh, passed between the legs of
the driver, between the horses in front, and struck the next
sleigh, where it lodged. They were out of reach before he could
fire again. When we arrived at Fort Anne, we had another similar
attempt at coercion to resist. A sentinel there also stopped us ;
and we were ordered to remain, and to load with hides, to be
carried down to Albany, for the purpose of being manufactured
into shoes for the army. As it was getting late in the season,
and we were anxious to finish our contract before it was impracti
cable, objections were made to going on to Albany at that time.
Mahony endeavored to force the guard ; but a scuffle took place,
and he was overpowered. An officer came up ; and, as he was
inclined to use compulsion, we hit upon the expedient of giving
one of our companions, an honest, good-natured militia officer,
the title of colonel, and, in a measure, placed ourselves under
his protection. The mention of his title had considerable effect,
upon the press-gang. By mutual agreement, a further arrange-


ment was to be made in relation to the business, at the fort,
which was on a piece of rising ground. The sentinel himself,
far from being boisterous, civilly pointed out the road, which went
across the creek and around a point of land, while he took a
short cut across the point, to be there as soon as we. The
colonel forgot his rank and his promise, and so did we. The
moment we were out of view, under the rise of ground, we left
the officer to imagine what he pleased. We drove off at full
speed, and were soon out of his reach. This post of Fort Anne
was, in fact, a mere block-house surrounded by palisades. It
was near the creek, which poured down the rocks into the basin
below, and in its passage turned the wheel of a saw-mill. We
escaped from the block-house and its occupants, and reached
our home without further molestation. We took up our last
load, and again set out for Ticonderoga, which we reached with
out incident. But, when we arrived there, some apology was
indispensable for our previous conduct. My father, albeit unused
to play the orator, acted as spokesman for the delinquents. As
I have a full recollection of the interview with Col. Hay, I will
give the particulars. Wiping his forehead with the back of his
hand, handkerchiefs being rather scarce in those days, and then
straightening his locks over his forehead, he gave a hem, and a
nod, and then observed briefly, and to the point, " Well, here
we are again, Col. Hay." " Yes, so I perceive," said the colonel ;
" and the public interests have suffered severely by your late
conduct. I must hold you responsible for the consequences."
My father instantly replied, " I have no objections to be held
responsible : my urgent business is now finished. My word is


kept, my contract is finished. You can take any course the law
will warrant" Col. Hay knew his man. He immediately ob
served, " Give me your word that the sleighs in your company
shall remain to assist us for a few days, and I am satisfied."
My father did not hesitate to give the required promise, as he
was always willing to aid the service, and he well knew the
necessity of completing the works of defence, then in a state of
preparation, to resist the approaching enemy.

" ' The rapid change of the weather soon rendered our sleighs
a while useless, and our return home necessary. My father was
again the organ of communication ; and Col. Hay agreed to dis
charge the whole party, if three pairs of horses could be pur
chased at fair prices for the service. My father readily undertook
to obtain them, and a general muster of all our cattle immedi
ately took place. The object was then explained ; and, as he had
from the first anticipated, all were willing to sell. The three
pairs were selected, with sleighs and harness. The highest price
paid was two hundred and seventy dollars. The money was
counted out to them from a store of Continental currency. The
purchase being thus effected, we came away, right glad to be
released from the laborious operation of dragging over hill and
dale the immense pieces of timber which were to become integral
parts of the defence of Ticonderoga.

" ' At length we set out for Skenesborough ; and there fresh
trouble awaited us. The commanding officer remembered the
trick we played him, but had not ventured to interrupt us on
our way north, loaded as we were with important supplies for
Ticonderoga. Now, however, a sergeant and file of men took



possession of our " pale caravan." We were compelled by the
law of the strongest to go to work drawing saw-logs for the
confounded little saw-mill I have before mentioned. Here we
tugged away, in no good humor, for several days, when my
father's generalship again brought us off with flying colors. The
escape from our new tormentors was brought about in the fol
lowing manner : A day was fixed on which to make the attempt.
On that day I was told by my father to take charge of the pair
of horses I had usually under my care, and lead them into the
woods, where, in a certain place, covered up with branches of
wood, I would find my sleigh ; and, that done, to follow, by a
given route, the party who were to take an early start. I did
so ; leading one horse, and riding the other. When I reached
the forest, I could not at first discover the place where our sleigh
was concealed. I looked, and looked in vain. Every moment I
feared the long absence of the company would lead to inquiry
and detection. They were all well gone ; and I was left alone,
to bear, perhaps, the weight of increased resentment. My father
gone too ! The idea was absolutely frightful. At this moment
my eyes caught a glimpse of the place of concealment. I moved
off at a brisk pace to the spot, and found the object of my
search. It was but a minute's work to adjust the harness. It
took but another to get my horses at full speed. I drove them
for eight miles as fast as they would go ; and a joyful meeting
it was when I overtook my friends. They had left me behind
for the purpose of making good their retreat, well knowing that,
if I had been detected, my youth would have saved me from
any difficulties, and have prevented my detention. My escape,


however, was foremost in my own mind, and I considered myself
almost a hero, in consequence of the adventure.' '

" Dinner is ready, sir," said a voice, as Tom read the last


AFTER dinner was over,
Mrs. Long-wood proposed
that they should all sit
quietly for a time, and get
thoroughly rested. But
this proposition the young
people treated with scorn.
They had done nothing"
to tire them, they de
clared ; and they did not
want to rest. So, leaving
Mr. and Mrs. Longwood
comfortably settled on the sunny porch of the light-keeper's
house, they all ran around to the tall white tower, and began
the ascent of the dark, spiral stairs. Presently they came troop
ing down again, as restless as ever.

" It must be getting quite late," said Tom, after a little ;
" and the eight miles over the moors, back to House No. 2, is
over a rough road. The twilight, too, falls early at this time of
the year. I think, mamma, I should feel easier if you set out
on your homeward drive quite soon."



" Thanks for your consideration, Tom," said Mrs. Longwood,
laughing. " I fancy, however, that I detect one thought for me,
and two for yourself. You would fain be back on your schooner,
I fear."

" I think, though, after all," said Lou, " that Tom's idea is a
good one. We could walk along the edge of the cliff, and the
stage could pick us up whenever we felt tired."

The girls all approved of this, and scampered down the
hill to the stable, to deposit their wraps in the stage. Then,
waving their handkerchiefs as a good-by to the boys, they
chased one another across the moors, stopping at last, breathless,
on the crest of one of the highest swells, to look back.

" Dear me ! " said Carrie, " I forgot all about mamma. We
ought to have waited for her."

" Let us go back," said Rose.

" There she comes out of the house now ! " said Gertrude,
panting for breath ; " and she is walking to the stables. Now
she is getting into the stage, and the man is bringing out the
horses. We'd better wait here."

Presently the stage came up to them, and Mrs. Longwood
got out. Then they strolled on together, while the lumbering
vehicle followed, with much creaking of harness and rattling of
joints, as it jolted over the rough way.

Their run had put them all out of breath, so that, for some
little time, they walked along sedately enough. But of a sud
den they came to a break in the cliffs, where an easy descent
might be made to the water's edge.

" Let's go down," said they all. " May we, Mrs. Longwood ? "



" It looks perfectly safe," said that lady. " I will have our
driver take one of those buffalo-robes off the seat of the wagon,
and spread it out for me in this hollow, where I shall be shel
tered from the wind. You may be gone as long as you please,
provided you call to me from time to time, to let me know that
all is going well."


So, down they went ; and it was more than a half-hour be
fore they re-appeared, clambering up the cliff's side, hot and

" What a heat you are all in ! " said Mrs. Longwood. " Sit
down here in this warm nook, and cool off gradually, and I will
read to you of the further adventures of the wagoner of whom
we heard at noon."


" Why, you have brought the book away with you ! " exclaimed
Carrie, in astonishment.

" Yes," said Mrs. Longwood : " I persuaded the light-keeper
to sell it to me.

" To make you understand clearly what I am going to read,
I will give you a little bit of history. During the Revolution,
when the English held New- York City, it was planned that a
British army should march from Canada down Lake Champlain,
and force its way through to Albany, where the New- York army
would effect a junction with it."

" I see," said Lou. " It was to be a sort of Sherman's march
to the sea, and would cut the Americans in two."

"Exactly," said Mrs. Longwood. "Well, the army assembled
in Canada, under Gen. Burgoyne. A large army it was, too x for
those days ; and the British, beside, had a great following of
Indian allies. Many was the council-fire that had been burned
the preceding winter ; and the savages, led by their great chief
Brant, were wild for the march to begin.

" So, in the spring, they advanced. The Americans fell back
from Ticonderoga, which they had fortified, and the British came
on toward Saratoga, where our wagoner lived. And now I will
let him speak for himself.

" ' It was in August, and we had just risen from dinner.
My father had remained in the neighborhood of the invaders'
army much longer than most of his friends ; and, relying upon
the advantages of early advice from our army, pursued his agri
cultural avocations with his usual diligence. It was then, when,
as I have before mentioned, we were just risen from the dinner-


table, when one of my uncle's negroes came running to the
house, with eyes dilated. We learned from him that an Indian


had been discovered in the orchard near the house, evidently
intending to shoot a person belonging to the family, who was


at work in the garden : the blacks, however, had given the
alarm, and the man escaped into the house, while, at the same
moment, six other savages rose from their place of concealment,
and ran into the woods. This was on our side of the river.
The savages that remained with Burgoyne were continually for
miles in advance of him, on his flanks, reconnoitring our move
ments, and beating up the settlements. Their cruelty was not
to be restrained. My father, on learning the fact of their ap
proach, went immediately over to his brother's house, which was
about one- fourth of a mile off, to ascertain what was to be done
for the safety of the families. He found him making every ex
ertion to move away, and the domestics busily engaged in getting
every thing ready. During my father's absence, my mother, who
was a resolute woman, was industriously placing the most valuable
of her clothing in a cask ; and at her instance I went out with
some of our servants to catch a pair of fleet horses, and harness
them as fast as possible to the wagon. To those who now sit
quietly by their own firesides, I leave it to be imagined with
what feelings we hastened to abandon our home, and fly for
safety, we knew not whither.

" ' I can never forget the distress of our family at this moment
of peril and alarm. The wagon was soon at the door ; and, as
my father came up, he directed us to carry a few loads down to
the river, and place them in a light bateau which belonged to
us, and was fastened to the shore, at the meadow's bank, near
the ferry. The first time I went down alone, and soon unloaded
the contents of the wagon. The distance I had to go was about
a quarter of a mile. The road ran down the meadow, and was



cut through the bank on the river-side, in order to make it easy
of ascent. Between the upland and lowland of our farm, there


was a board fence, and a few bars were usually placed across,
the road. The second time, having some heavier articles to
carry, I was accompanied by my father. As we approached the


fence, which he had left down, we saw the third bar across the
road, so as effectually to prevent our passing through. " What
does this mean ? " exclaimed he. I was breathless with agitation,
and stopped the horses. My father sprang out, making an ex
pressive motion with his hand, to keep back for a few moments.

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 14 of 30)