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 15 of 30)
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Warily and carefully turning his eye in every direction, he ap
proached the bar, and let it down. I drove on, he jumped in,
and we lost no time in hastening home. The circumstance gave
us great uneasiness. When we reached home he made minute
inquiries among his laborers and blacks, if any of them had
been down to the meadow. He found that none of them had
been away from the house. He then formed the conclusion that
some Indians had passed along that way, and supposing we had
crossed the river, and got beyond their reach (for we were hid
from their observation by being under the bank at the river
side), had gone away. The danger was so near as to induce
him to make more speed, and use greater precaution. A gun
was loaded, and placed in my hands ; and I patrolled about the
house with a feeling of some responsibility. I strained my eye
to detect the least appearance of motion, presented my piece at
every waving bush, but was not under the necessity of dischar
ging it. A friendly neighbor, who was also anxious to ascertain
the state of things, came up at this time, and assisted me in
keeping guard. My father, in the interim, placed the family in
the wagon. He also buried in the road some valuable domestic
utensils, which we recovered some years afterwards, in perfect
preservation. At last we bade adieu to our homestead, and
arrived safely at the river. At about five o'clock P.M., my father


crossed over with the family at the ferry, while I and one of
the blacks were put into a small canoe, and we proceeded down
the stream as fast as we could ply our paddles. We joined the
family at Vandenbergh's, eight miles down . the river, where we
obtained further information. We learned that a party of Indians
had been going from our neighborhood to the south-east, after
-surprising a farmer by the name of Lake. While working at
his trade as a carpenter, in an out-house near his dwelling, he
was surprised by the salutation from the savages, of " Sago"
With great presence of mind, he said " Sago" in reply to them.
He saw that resistance would be vain, and therefore continued
quietly at work. They looked at him a few moments, and then
went towards his house, but took nothing from it. On coming
out, they discovered an oven which gave signs of having just
been heated. They opened it, and, finding it full of bread, took
each of them a loaf. In a field adjacent, a sheep came straying
near them ; one of them instantly shot it, and in a few mo
ments it was cut into quarters, and carried off. Lake was a
resolute man, and observed, if he could only have had any chance
with them, he never would have suffered them all to escape
alive. At Vandenbergh's we found my father, who had arrived
there first, and was keeping an anxious lookout for us on the

" ' We found, on landing, a number of people, who, like our
selves, had been driven from their homes. We passed the night
amongst them. Some obtained accommodations within doors ;
some were happy to be under the cover of the cattle-sheds ;
while others stretched themselves in their wagons, and endeavored


to snatch a few moments of repose. Early in the morning the
sleepers were awakened, and no fresh rumors alarmed them to
any very hasty movements. Indeed, my father rather rashly re
solved to return home, accompanied by a few congenial spirits,
to get further information of the enemy, and, if possible, to
save some of his cattle and farming-stock. I say rashly, as Bur-
goyne was expected down with his army every hour. Soon after
he was gone, the whole body of the people moved off towards
Stillwater, a general panic now prevailing among them, which
seemed every hour to increase. My father, however, safely reached
his house, and succeeded in getting off part of his stock. He
immediately pushed for the Hoosick River, which he intended
to cross, and then pass over into New England. Corresponding
arrangements had been made on our part, when he left us, to
rejoin him there. Our procession of flying inhabitants wore a
strange and melancholy appearance. A long cavalcade of wagons,
filled with all kinds of furniture, not often selected by the owners
with reference to their use or value on occasions of alarm,
stretched along the road ; while others on horseback, and here
and there two mounted at once upon a steed panting under the
double load, were followed by a crowd of pedestrians. These
found great difficulty in keeping up with the rapid flight of their
mounted friends. Here and there would be seen some humane
person assisting the more unfortunate, by relieving them of the
packs and bundles with which they were encumbered ; but gen
erally a principle of selfishness prevented much interchange of
friendly offices. Every one for himself, was the constant cry.
After my father's departure, he committed to me the care of his


wagon and horses, and the safe-conduct of my mother and the
family. Unfortunately for me, when we left home I had selected
the most valuable and spirited horses ; and so restive did I now
find them, that they completely overcame my strength, and wearied
my patience. They were continually attempting to run past the
wagons ahead of me, and were every instant making an effort
to get off the road. My chafed and blistered hands could no
longer restrain them. I saw that, in a few moments more, I
should be unable to prevent the lamentable consequences. My
mother was then nursing a young infant, which she now held in
her arms, and felt an indescribable anxiety on that account. She
succeeded in making a person who came alongside of us sensi
ble of our distress, and hired him to drive the horses at the then
dear rate of a shilling a mile ; but he soon gave up, from ina
bility to control them, having far less skill than myself. In this
dilemma? with tears in her eyes, and despair in her looks, she
got out of the wagon, and, picking up a stout club in the road,
walked on for many miles at the head of the unruly animals,
and, with her infant on one arm, actually kept them back, and
restrained them from breaking the line, by striking them over
the heads with the stick she held in the other. And so great
was each individual's anxiety for himself, that not a person in
the throng offered to assist her. When we reached Stillwater, it
was evident that our retreat was well-timed, for the advance-
guard of Gen. Schuyler's army arrived almost as soon as we
did. They encamped there ; and the increasing confusion and
noise every moment added new difficulties to those we already
were doomed to encounter. We remained here all night, as it


was our intention next day to cross the river, and overtake my
father, who, by this time, we supposed several miles on his way
to Massachusetts. Some of his brothers also agreed to take the
same direction ; and early in the morning we crossed the river,
and travelled a whole day through a penetrating rain, and over
the worst of roads. We had gone about fifteen miles when
darkness overtook us, and we were far from any place of shelter.
We had no alternative but to remain there till morning ; and,
selecting the dryest place in the marsh, where we were fairly
stuck fast, some beds were taken out of the wagons, and laid
on the ground. On these my mother reposed, if the wakeful
and comfortless hours could be said to have been repose. We
were afraid to light any fire, for we knew the woods were filled
with Tories and Indians. To our hard fate, necessity therefore
compelled us to submit. Cold, wet, and dreary was the night :
yet it was not without its consolation ; for, before morning broke
upon our wretched bivouac, my father arrived, to our great
astonishment and pleasure. We started as soon as it was light
enough to travel, and that day reached San Coick, in the south
part of Cambridge, where we were received by some distant
connections with much hospitality.'-'

" How glad they must have been to see him ! " said Kate.
" The wagoner's mother must have been of the same stuff as
Jack's great-grandmother, I should imagine."

" Burgoyne did not carry out his great scheme of dividing
the Americans," said Mrs. Longwood. " Attacked on all sides,
he was obliged to retreat, and at last surrender. As soon as
his retreat began, our wagoner and his father made their way


back to their home. And this is the way he tells of their home
coming' :

" ' I mentioned that my father had arrived with the news of
the retreat. The intelligence was joyful to us. He ordered the
black to get three horses ready early in the morning, to take us
back to Saratoga. Our sleep, though not sound, was filled with
pleasant dreams. Early as the day dawned, all were on the
move but my mother, who remained behind. We met on the road
great numbers of wounded men belonging to both armies. A
great many were carried on litters, which were blankets fastened
to a frame of four poles. I never saw the effects of war until
now. The sight of these wretched people, pale and lifeless, with
countenances of an expression peculiar to gunshot-wounds, and
the sound of groaning voices as each motion of the litter re
newed the anguish of their wounds, filled me with horror, and
sickness of heart.

" ' We reached the American camp, and drove through it to
the bank of the river opposite my uncle's farm. We got out,
and walked along the bank, to see if there was any thing to
aid us in getting across. My father luckily recognized a Capt.
Knute of the bateau men, who kindly offered us the use of a
scow, and, indeed, saw us safely over the river. We drove that
night to our own home. But oh, how much changed ! It looked
like a military post, to which use it was actually converted. A
thousand Eastern militia were quartered around the premises.
We began to think we had not gained much by coming on at
this juncture. My father, however, entered the house in the
dark, and, being familiar with the passages and rooms, made his


way into the stove-room, which he naturally thought would be
most comfortable. Having brought a candle from the wagon
with him, he deliberately lighted it at the stove. The moment
it glimmered, a person jumped off his bed, and observed to my
father with as much twang as was agreeable, " You seem to be
considerable acquainted here." My father's reply was, " I used
to be." The stranger rejoined, " You are the owner, maybe ? "
My father answered, "No! I find some here before me."
"Oh, well!" continued the speaker, "you shall be accommodated."
At this instant the steady blaze of the candle showed the room
to be occupied by a number of persons, and there appeared no
probability of our receiving the promised accommodation. But
he spoke as one having authority, when he exclaimed, " Stir,
boys, stir ; clear the way : here is the owner come ! " They
yawned and grunted, and got out of the way with unexpected
good-nature. He also placed a guard over our wagon, to pro
tect it from invasion. My father, in order to return his civilities,
brought in some spirits to the officer, and a social glass was-
handed round. It was an unexpected happiness to the kind-
hearted Yankee. The draught was repeated until sleep came to
refresh us after our fatigues. Stretched on pallets of straw, we
laid ourselves down ; and, after strange vicissitudes of hope and
fear, we sunk to rest once more in our own house, every ill and
every 'fatigue forgotten.'

" Well, we had better be on our homeward way," said Mrs.
Longwood, as she closed the book, " or Tom's fears for our
safety may come true, after all. Shall we walk on a little, or
get into the stage ? "


" The road leaves the cliffs here for some miles," said their
driver. " I think you would do well to ride."

So in they all clambered, and the horses set out on a jog
trot. It was such a beautiful day, that, for very lightness of
heart, the girls broke out singing. Overhead the clouds in great
white masses were flying before the fresh wind. Away on the
horizon a full-rigged ship was making its way on, every stitch
of canvas spread. The sun made its sails gleam white and
sparkling, so that, as Carrie said, it looked like a captive cloud.

" You are not the first that has had that idea," said Mrs.
Longwood. " Did you ever hear this ?


Adown the sky the wild cloud-horses run,

Tossing their glistening manes in wanton play;
Their unshod feet no hoof-marks leave behind,

As through the blue sky fields they hold their way.

But, look ! down where the ocean meets the sky,

A captive cloud-horse wears his life away;
Chained to a huge sea-plough, and, hapless, doomed

To turn a never-ending furrow night and day.

See how he tugs and strains to burst his bonds,

And snorts defiance in his misery !
Poor wretch ! his spirit broken by his chains,

The first brief calm he'll die, and so be free."

Meanwhile the stage horses had not been idle. Mile after
mile of moorland they had left behind them ; and now, just as

3 6


the sun was sinking, they drew up in front of the little house
whence they had set out in the morning.

By this time the boys were well out at sea. They had made
haste to board " The Mavis," as soon as Mrs. Longwood and the


girls had started on their homeward way. They had sailed close
by the cliffs, where, the tide now being out, the surf was much
less than it had been. Then they had steered out into the open
ocean, and the land was now nearly fading from view.


And yet it must be confessed that they were a little disap
pointed. They had rather expected some adventure, or some
strange sensation ; and all had been as tame and matter-of-fact
as could be. And so they were standing around in a rather
discontented state of mind.

" Fish ! fish ! " cried Jack, who was looking over the side.
" See, there are thousands ! "

" About a million in that school," said Thomas John, survey
ing them critically.

And, indeed, when the boys looked carefully, they could see
that Thomas John's estimate was a moderate one. Several acres
of water were in a boiling state from the quick swish of the
fishes' tails. They lay as closely together, Ned said, as sardines
in a box.

" What are they ? " asked Jack.

" Mossbunkers," said Thomas John, " pogies, white-fish, men
haden, bony-fish, fat-backs, alewives, old-wife chebogs, hardheads,
greentails. There, you can take your choice of names. The
same fish is called all those different ways on different parts of
the coast."

" Are they good for any thing ? " asked Ned.

" Some folks say," answered Thomas John, " that they are
brought into the world to be eaten. They have no means of
defence, and so can't help themselves. When we make a haul
from shore, we often bring in several shark with them, and these
have each half a bushel of bunkers in their stomachs. Then
these bony whales that you see hereabouts often, I am told
that they can take down as many as would fill a hogshead, at a


gulp. Porpoises go for them too, and dog-fish. But the worst
enemy they have are blue-fish. Blue-fish are regular pirates,
sea-rovers, who kill for the fun of it. Why, they will go through
a school of menhaden, and leave a streak of blood behind them.
For every one they eat, they kill a hundred."

" When you haul from shore, what do you do with them ? "
asked Jack.

" Sell them for manure," said Thomas John. " We can't
catch enough to make it pay to make oil. There are no end
of steamers, though, in the fishing business, who carry all they
catch to the oil-factories."

"Have you any idea how many are taken in this way?"
asked Mr. Longwood.

" I have heard that it was calculated somewhere about seven
hundred millions a year," said Thomas John.

" Why, I should think they would begin to grow scarce,"
said Charlie.

" It seems A good many," said Thomas John ; " but the fish-
commissioner at Washington has made an estimate of how many
are eaten by other fishes. I s'pose it's guess-work, mainly ; but
still they get a good many statistics in Washington to go on.
It's three thousand millions of millions."

" If the fish can hold their own against such destruction as
that," said Mr. Longwood, " they are not likely to be lessened
much by the number taken by man."

" I suppose the steamers take them with seines," said Ned.

" Oh, yes ! " said Tom. " Haven't you ever seen them ? They
lie off the beach at home, sometimes, by dozens. I have often


made out all their operations with a glass. They have a greal
seine, which is kept half in one boat, and half in another,
These boats row away from one another, around the fish in
circle, throwing out the net as they go, until they meet. Ther


the ends are fastened together. The fish now cannot escap;
except at the bottom, and they have a way of stopping that
All along the bottom of the net are sewed rings, and througl


these a rope runs. The men haul for dear life on this rope
until the bottom is drawn tight together, and the fish are in a
bag. Then the steamer comes alongside, and they let down a
big iron caldron into the flopping mass ; and aboard they go,
a thousand at a time."

" Aren't they good to eat at all ? " asked Charlie.

" Well," said Thomas John, " I understand that they are put
up like sardines, and that there is quite a little business in
shipping them salted to the West Indies ; but, after all, it doesn't
amount to much. A good many, too, are sold as bait to the
fishing-fleet on the banks."

The school was soon passed, and forgotten in the excitement
of supper, which was served in " The Mavis's " little cabin.
Nothing of especial interest happened during the evening, except
that a large ship passed them, within easy hail. Her stern, as
she went by, showed five bright cabin-lights, and made their
own tiny quarters look even smaller than ever. Small as they
were, though, five tired and sleepy boys found them very com
fortable, as each stretched himself out in his bunk, and pulled
his blanket up over him. They were still out of sight of land,
but now were headed homeward ; and Capt. Jackson assured them,
that, when they awoke the next morning, they should find them
selves off Fort Pond Bay.


THE sun was only a
short distance above the
horizon the next morn
ing, when from the cabin
might have been seen
emerging two scantily-
robed figures. True to
his promise, Capt. Jack
son had brought " The
Mavis " around to her
former anchorage. She
now lay idly, like a de
serted ship, save for the
one man, who, huddled
up on the leeward side of the hatch, was seeking solace in a
short black pipe. Her boat lay alongside, bumping against her,
as the little waves lifted it up and down.

" I say," said Will, drawing about him a rug, and thereby
disclosing a bare and shivering leg, " this begins to look less
amusing than it did down below. The water must be awfully
cold. What do you say to giving it up ? "



" Nonsense ! " said the other scantily-clad figure, which was
Tom's, " it's always warmer than the air. Come on ! "

The man who was on duty, hearing their voices, came

" Don't you think the water is warm ? " asked Tom.

" Well, I expect it's some tepid," said the man.

"There," said Tom, "I told you so! Come on: I'll give
you a lead ; " and, dropping his rug, he leaned forward, and
took a header. In a moment more he was scrambling up into
the small boat.

" Don't miss it on any account," he called to Will. " It's
wonderful ! " But the moment that Will, too, took a header,
and disappeared, he scrambled up on to the deck with the greatest
speed. And it was well that he did so, for the next instant a
clinched fist came up from the waves, and was shaken vigor
ously at him, while its owner lost no time in scrambling on

" You wretch ! " cried Will, as he wildly rushed toward the
cabin, near which Tom was standing, grin on face, and towel
in hand. " Why didn't you tell me that it was like ice ? "

" I didn't want to spoil your fun," said Tom ; and he attempted
to elude Will's grasp. He succeeded ; but his feet slipped out
from beneath him, and he disappeared down the companion-way,
and arrived in the cabin in a sitting position, with a loud crash.

His noisy entrance awoke the boys and Mr. Longwood.

" I remember," said that gentleman, after he had heard of
Tom and Will's performance, " that once, when I was crossing
the ocean, I went to take my morning bath. The steward had


it all drawn for me ; and, expecting my usual delightful experi
ence, I plunged in. But it seemed as if ten thousand needles
were sticking into me, and I sprang out like a flash. As I
raised my eyes to the porthole, I saw, hardly a quarter of a
mile away, a gigantic iceberg. I usec\, after that, to look out
of the porthole first."

Breakfast seemed particularly good that morning. Possibly it
may have been that the cook was an adept in his art ; possibly
it may have been that the sea-air had given them great appe
tites. However that may be, they lingered so long over it, that,
before they had left the table, Thomas John announced that the
cattle-keeper's boat, with the ladies on board, was in sight, com
ing up the pond.

And before long the whole party were together again, and
" The Mavis," with all sails set, was flying along toward New

" Come, Jack," said Rose, after a time, when they had all
settled comfortably down on a mass of rugs that had been spread
on the deck, " you are a scholar ; tell us something of the
country to which we are going."

" The climate is temperate," said Jack, quoting glibly from an
imaginary geography ; " the products are hay, straw, oats, and
wooden nutmegs. The government is vested in a governor,
lieutenant-governor, senate, and house of representatives."

" You seem to be very well up in your facts, Master Jack,"
said Mr. Longwood : " tell us if there were ever two persons
governors of Connecticut at the same time."

" Let me think," said Jack meditatively, assuming a grave air.


" I don't recall the circumstance, nor can I recall having met
with the subject in my large and varied course of reading."

" Well," laughed Mr. Longwood, " I fear that your reading
must have been misdirected. In the good old times, as some
people call them, befor^ the Revolution, when Connecticut was
a slave-holding State, it was the custom for the negroes to elect
their governor, as well as their masters ; and, though he did not
have all the perquisites of the white governor, he was treated
with the greatest .respect by all his colored brethren. The proc
lamation that one of these negro governors put forth created
quite an excitement on one occasion. It was this :

HARTFORD, nth May, 1776.

I Governor Cuff of the Niegro's in the province of Connecticut, do Resign
my Govermentshipe, to John Anderson Niegor Man to Governor Skene.

And I hope that you will obeye him as you have Done me for this ten
year's past, when Colonel Willis' Niegor Dayed I was the next. But being weak
and unfit for that office do Resine the said Governmentshipe to John Anderson.

I : John Anderson having the Honour to be appointed Governor over you I
will do my utmost endevere to serve you in Every Respect, and I hope you will
obey me accordingly.


over the Niegors in Connecticut.
Witnesses present,








" Now, Gov. Skene, to whom John Anderson was ' Niegor


Man,' was a great Tory. He was in Hartford on his parole,
for it was in the early days of the Revolution ; and it was at
once suspected that he had concocted a plot by which all the
slaves should kill their masters. So he was summoned before
the officials, and great examinations were held."

" And did they find out any thing ? " asked Rose.

" If I remember rightly," said Mr. Longwood, " it was dis
covered that Gov. Cuff abdicated on Gov. Anderson's offering to
treat to the amount of twenty dollars. Gov. Anderson lamented
loudly that the treating had cost him twenty-five dollars, and
considered himself an injured man."

" Connecticut," said Jack, " was where Gen. Putnam came

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 15 of 30)