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 18 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 18 of 30)
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was equal to the emergency. He came close behind Carrie, and
said : "If the passengers revolt, and disobey the officers, they
are put under arrest. Will you hand me a peach ; or shall I
pipe all hands, to put you in irons ? " and he bent forward, so
that his mouth was close to her, and put the whistle to his lips.

" Goodness, Jack ! " she cried. " Don't blow that fearful thing
in my ears, and you shall have all the peaches you want. Here,
take them ! " and she handed him the dish.

The victor selected the best one, and, magnanimously saying
nothing about his triumph, strolled away, eating it.

The others sat about, chatting idly. Presently the sun went
down, and twilight began to come over the waters. The moon,
however, did her best to enliven the scene, so that the little
groups scattered about " The Mavis's " deck were plainly visible
to one another. By and by Capt. Jackson made his appearance
from somewhere below, and began to talk with Mr. and Mrs.

Carrie soon joined them. " Capt, Jackson," she exclaimed,



" you haven't told us a story ; and you must know ever so many.
Tell us one ; won't you ? "

Capt. Jackson looked like a man upon whom a long-expected
blow had fallen.


" I never in all my life saw a passel of boys and girls so
sharp-set after stories as you all," he exclaimed. " Why, you're
worse than blue-fish after menhaden. I knew it was comin',
though," he went on. " I knew you'd be after me for a story ;
and it seemed like as if all the little wits I had went clean out
of me at the idee. I kep' away from you the whole way over
this mornin', a-purpose. There was a story I remembered havin'


heard my mother tell, which was considerable amusin', how my
aunt Jerusha's baby cut her first teeth. I put a powerful amount
of strain on myself to overhaul that yarn, but somehow I
couldn't get the points to lie rightly in my mind ; and what to
do I couldn't tell, no ways. I didn't know but I should have to fall
back on the Flying Dutchman.

" And so, while you were all on the top of the hill at New
London, yarnin', I'll be bound, I went ashore in the town,
to walk about a bit, and give my mind a rest. I strolled on, for
a time, till I kind o' lost my bearin's ; so I stopped in a gro
cer's shop, to get the reckonin'. The young man behind the
counter was waitin' on a young woman ; so I cast my eyes about
a bit, and there, lyin' on a barr'l, was an old newspaper. The
fust thing I see, in the corner of it, was a bit of poetry. I
read down a ways, and then I knew that my goin' into that
store was providential ; for there was the story I was after, all
blocked out in print."

"About aunt Jerusha's baby?" asked Jack, who had joined
the group.

" No," said the captain ; " a much better story than that.
Just wait a bit.

" Well, when the young man had done up the young woman's
package, which took some time, he turned to me kind o' sharp,
and says he,

" ' What will you have, sir ?

" I rather calcalate that they two was a-conversin'," said the
captain with a chuckle, " and didn't think my comin' in was so
providential as I did. I was kind o' took aback by his question,
for I was readin' away for dear life ; but I looks up at once.


" ' I'll have a pound of gunpowder,' says I.

" ' We don't keep it,' says he, short like, and snappish.

" Well, then/ says I, ' give me a pound of saleratus. That
will answer the same purpose.'

" He looked at me as if he thought I was an ijot ; but he
went away back, and began to dig it out of a drawer, and I
just folded that paper up small, and put it in my pocket. When
he brought the saleratus, I paid for it, and come away, without
even so much as asking the question I went in for. When I
got to the next corner, I looked around, and there was that
young man standing in the doorway watchin' me.

" 'Twas the fust time that I ever stole, that I recollect,"
added the captain ; " and, till I got safe aboard again, I was
afraid to look over my shoulder, for fear of seein' a policeman
after me. But they haven't caught me yet ; and I calcalate that,
by this time, we're out of the jurisdiction of Connecticut, and
I'm tolerable safe."

" Pipe all hands to hear Capt. Jackson's story," said Hastings
the bo'sun, blowing vigorously pn his whistle.

The girls and boys all gathered around.

" I must have a lantern," said the captain, taking the news
paper out of his pocket, and unfolding it.

So Jack brought one.

: ' It's poetry," said he, looking around on their attentive faces.
"The paper says it's written by a gifted fellow-townsman. The
name of the piece is ' Scituate, 1812.' Scituate is the name of
a place; 1812 is a date." And without further preamble, he
began to read :


Away in the top of the tall white tower,

The light-keeper's daughter breathless stands ;

Forgotten the lamps with their half-trimmed wicks,

Forgotten the scissors that fall from her hands.

The fishing-boats below sail free,

But her gaze is fixed far out at sea,

As she shields her eyes from the sun's strong glare.

Then her voice rings shrilly down the stair :

' Run, boys, run ! and rouse the town !

Tis a British cruiser coming down ! '

Up on the cliffs that o'erhang the bay,

The fisher-folk run at the first alarm.

War is abroad ! To these peaceful folk

A British cruiser is rife with harm.

Nets and boats are their worldly good ;

For they wring from the sea a livelihood,

And gaunt hunger follows when these are gone.

Helpless they watch the ship bear down ;

Not a dozen muskets in the bay,

And Boston a score of miles away.

Steadily on with the rising tide,

The incoming ship draws near the land.

They can hear the splash as her anchor drops,

They can hear from her decks the gruff word of command

' Man the boats, and lower away.

Burn out these rats that infest the bay ! '

Their red coats gleam as the boats draw near,

But a redder gleam there shall soon appear,

As the cruel flames seize boats and town,

While the men above look helpless down.



Away on the point, from the light-house tower,

The light-keeper's daughter sees it all.

An angry flush on each red cheek burns,

And she springs to her feet with a sudden call :

' Sal ! take the drum. I'll take the fife.

We'll bear a hand in the coming strife.

Under the sand-hills we'll beat and play,

As we stride out of sight by the side of the bay.

They'll think us the troops from Boston down.

'Tis the only chance to save the town.'

Forward, march ! And out pealed the fife,
And steadily rolled the throbbing drum.
The red-coats across the bay stop short.
As the warlike notes o'er the waters come.
' Recruits are marching down the bay,
To cut us off ! To the boats ! Away !
In, men, and pull for your lives ! ' they cry.
'We are caught in a trap, and we must fly.
Pull for the ship. Make no delay.
Let us get out of this cursed bay ! '

Then from the cliffs those old muskets blazed,
And on many a red coat a redder spot burned;
But they never slacked oars in their headlong flight,
Or a single glance over their shoulder turned;
For on the wind came sharp and clear
The sounds that told of the foemen near.
Shrill and more shrilly the fifer blew,
And louder and louder the deep drum-beats grew;
So they fled in haste down the quiet bay,
Hoisted their anchor, and sailed away."


The reading of this ballad took some time ; for Capt. Jack
son had not given that attention to his early studies that he
ought to have done. Besides, as he read on, he became more
and more impressed with the idea that this poetry was very fine ;
and, whenever a line occurred that struck him as particularly
good, he stopped, and read it over again. At last, however, it
was finished.

" What became of the saleratus ? " asked Jack the irrelevant.

Capt. Jackson looked dazed. " I don't recall no mention of
saleratus in the poem," he said with dignity.

" I mean the saleratus you bought," said Jack.

" Oh ! " said the captain, relaxing. " I gave it to a poor
woman on the pier. She thanked me kindly, and said that her
husband was very fond of it in his bread."

" Don't you think you could remember about aunt Jerusha's
baby ? " asked Carrie. " Try again."

Capt. Jackson was very much elated by the success of his
ballad. He felt very much like talking on indefinitely. He
scratched his head with his hand, and meditated for a moment.

" The story, as my mother used to tell it," said he, " was a
full-rigged ship, with all sails set, and streamers flyin'. As I
remember it, it is nothin' but an old hull, with not a spar aloft.
Howsomendever :

" My aunt Jerusha was a spinster lady who married late in
life. Her husband was the squire of the place, a big, burly
fellow, who seemed to like a sight better to be out with his
cows and horses, with a dozen dogs around, than in the house
with his wife. And, to tell the truth, I don't much blame him ;


for she was as neat as Sunday mornin'. She'd a-liked to had
him take off his boots on the porch, every time he come into
the house, only he was a man of sperrit, and would have his
own way.

" Well, by and by, aunt Jerusha she had a girl-baby. She
and the squire was sot up, no end. The squire, fust time he
see the child, was considerable took aback. She was smaller
than he expected. He looked her over pretty careful, and said
her p'ints was good, though he'd liked it better if the roof of
her mouth had been black ; and that he thought, as far as he
could judge of so young a filly, she had good stayin' powers.

" Well, that couple was considerable foolish over that baby.
It was really amusin'. And so things went on for a spell, when
the squire had to go to Boston on one of his cattle-trades. He
always put up at Adams's Hotel, and Miss Jerusha she knew it.
The baby had been considerable fretful for quite a spell ; and,
the day after he went, she found that two teeth had come through.
And she alone was foolisher about those teeth than they both
had ever been at any time since that baby was born, and that's
sayin' a good deal too.

" Now, the telegraph had just been put into the town. The
squire he thought highly of it ; but Miss Jerusha she said it
was flyin' in the face of Providence, and never, no, never, would
she use such a sinful thing. But when those ' little toothins *
come, she was wild to have the squire know. And, the more
she thought, the less the' telegraph seemed like flyin' in the face
of Providence. So she up with an old memorandum-book that
lay on the table, and tore a page out, and on it she wrote :


" ' The baby has cut two teeth. Bring it a present.'

" Then she called Jake the hired man, and gave it to him,
and told him to go to the office, and ask the operator to get
that there piece of paper to the squire's hands at Adams's Hotel
in Boston, just as quick as he could. It was an old diary of
the squire's grandfather that she took the page out of to write
on ; but she said the squire'd know her writin', so it didn't make
no difference what was wrote on the other side. But it did
made a difference ; for the operator sent the wrong side of the
paper, and this was the message the squire got :

" ' This day the brindle and the red cow got fast in the bog. We did our
best, but could not extricate them.'

" Miss Jerusha she felt very chipper after her despatch went
off. To be sure, she was some took aback by what it cost,
the worth of six whole dozen eggs ; but, after all, that was of
no account. So there she sot, thinking what the squire would
bring, a silver rattle, no doubt, and kind o' huggin' her own
smartness, when up come a message from the squire :

" ' Get Jerry the blacksmith, and his gang and tackle, and yank them out
before they get in any faster. I'll be down in afternoon train.'

" Miss Jerusha she was a woman who had considerable tem
per, and they do say she sputtered considerable when she read
this. This was the squire's idee of a good joke, was it ? She
always knew his family were inferior to her'n in breedin', but she
did think he had better manners 'n that. And she was so riled
up that she just locked the door of her room when the time


come for the squire, and there she sot. The squire he come on
time ; and, as he walked up to his house, he passed by the

" ' Well, Jerry,' he says to the smith, who stood in the door ;
4 did you get 'em out ? '

" But Jerry didn't know what the squire was talkin' about,
and told him so.

" When the squire found that Jerry had had no message from
aunt Jerusha, he was quite excited, for he sot great store by his
cattle ; and he thought it was the fault of the telegraph, who
hadn't delivered his message. So he stirred about ; and, pretty
soon, Jerry and the two men had the tackle on their shoulders,
and were marchin' down the street as fast as they could g&,
the squire, red-faced and puffin', at their head.

" Miss Jerusha she saw 'em comin' ; but she only gave a sniff,
and tossed her head, and sot still, contemptuous like.

" Pretty soon she saw Jerry and his men go back down the
road ; for the squire had met Jake the hired man, and found
that the cattle had not been in the bog.

" Then she heard him come up the stairs and try the door ;
but she sot still.

" ' Jerusha ! ' says he.

" Not a word says she.

"Then 'he tried to bend down, to look through the keyhole;
but he was so stout that he couldn't.

" ' Jerusha ! ' says he again ; but not a word says she.

" ' I vum ! ' says he, scared like ; and aloud, ' She's off her
mind ; and that accounts for the telegram. Bill Jones told me,


before I married, that there was a streak of craze in her family,
and that I'd better keep my eye open.'

" ' This was mor'n Jerusha could stand. ' I ain't off my
mind ! ' she says ; ' and there ain't no such thing in my family.'

" Well, by and by the whole facts come out ; and the squire
he sot down on the stairs, and laughed till the tears rolled down
his cheeks, and you could have heard him a mile off. But Miss
Jerusha she was powerful mad at the telegraph man, and they
do say she didn't ever speak to him again."

Capt. Jackson was a wise man. He felt that he had reached
a point where he might retire from the role of story-teller, and
leave behind him quite a glowing reputation. So he rose up
from the deck where he had been sitting, and, in the midst of
the laugh that his story had raised, strode away. We should
have said, walked away, except that his gait, like that of all true
sailors, was a compound of roll and jerk, and indescribable by
any one word. The boys and girls all called to him to come
back ; but he paid no attention, and disappeared down the steps
that led to the cabin. Jack followed presently, and found him
standing in the midst of the room, looking helplessly around at
the berths that lined it.

" I ain't much used to women-folks' ways, myself," said the
captain slowly and solemnly. " Do you reckon they'll expect
pillers, all on 'em ? "

" I think not," said Jack promptly. " I understand that on
land it is the custom for ladies to sleep with their heads hanging
down over the side of the bed ; and I presume that at sea they
would follow the same habit." And the young rascal looked the


captain as steadily and calmly in the face, as if he had been
only saying that it was a quarter past nine o'clock.

Capt. Jackson was more dazed than ever. " Tell you what,"
he said, after a moment's meditation, " you're bo'sun, eh ? "

" Ay, ay, sir ! " said Jack.

' Then on deck with you, and ask Mr. Longwood to step
here a moment."

Jack disappeared at once. " The Admiral of the Squadron,"
said he, saluting Mr. Longwood as he approached, " presents his
compliments to the Commander of the Land-forces, and would
like to see him in his cabin."

The Commander of the Land-forces evidently was more versed
in " women-folks' ways " than the Admiral of the Squadron. He
pulled about blankets and rugs vigorously for a few moments,
and then announced that all was in readiness for the ladies.
Capt. Jackson, notwithstanding Jack's assurance as to the sleeping
habits of the fair sex, was still uneasy on the point of pillows ;
but as Mr. Longwood did not seem to consider them necessary,
and as it would have been impossible to have obtained them in
any case, he finally dismissed the subject from his mind.

" Well, then," he said, " I calcalate the best thing we can do
is to get them stowed below, with the hatches battened down ;
and then we sha'n't have no uneasiness about them until morn-

It having been intimated to the ladies that the captain thought
it about time for them to retire, they shortly afterward gathered
themselves together, and made their way below, where sleep soon
closed their tired eyes, and quieted their busy tongues.


The boys, being thus left to themselves, hung about for a
time ; but it was very dull, and the fresh wind had made them
drowsy, so they shortly voted that they, too, would turn in.

" I tell you what, men ! " said Jack, who, in virtue of his
self-assumed office, considered himself entitled to take a lofty
position ; " this going to bed must be done in ship-shape style.
No slinking out of your clothes like landlubbers. Pay attention
now to your bo'sun."

The place they were in was the waist of the schooner. In
ordinary times it would have been full of cargo. Now, as " The
Mavis " was on a pleasure-trip, and was empty, Thomas John
and the crew had hung up their hammocks here, in place of the
forecastle. In these hammocks the boys were to sleep. The
place was dimly lighted by one swaying lamp, that made the
darkness seem only more dark, and brought out the shadows
cast by the swinging hammocks as they moved back and forth
in answer to the vessel's motion. " The Mavis's " last voyage
had been from the West Indies, and there was a strong smell
of molasses and sugar ; but the boys did not seem to mind.

Each hammock had in it a thick rug ; and the boys were
about to select their resting-places for the night, when Jack thus
summarily called them to order :

" Now, then," he said, " look sharp. Fall into line there,
and mind your eye ; or I'll have your grog stopped ! "

This threat was so dreadful, that the four at once fell in, and
meekly awaited orders.

" Now," said the bo'sun, " one blast on the whistle means
unbutton ; two blasts close together, off with coats and vests ;.
three, off with shoes."


" Please, mister bo'sun," said Ned, " what are we to do with
them ? " .

" Roll 'em up, and use them for pillows," said the bo'sun.
" Now, then "

The blasts from the whistle came sharp and fast ; and, in the
twinkling of an eye, all stood unrobed.

" Now," said the bo'sun, " take your stand by your ham
mocks. One blast of whistle means, Haul down the main-
sheet "

" The main-sheet is up on deck," said Charlie.

" The main-sheet here is the rug you are to sleep under,"
said the bo'sun, with decision. " Two blasts mean, in with you.
Now, then ! "

One blast came, and each rug was hauled down ; two, and
each boy leaped into his hammock. There was a moment's
silence, and then a crash. The bo'sun had leaped too far,
overshot his mark, and come headlong to the floor. The others,
as they turned cautiously, to prevent following his example, saw
their bo'sun, lately so full of dignity, dancing around on one
foot, with his thumb in his mouth, while he gave utterance ta
these unofficer-like words :

" Oh, Jiminy, doesn't it hurt ! and I've lost my whistle."


THE untiring sun, when
again it looked down on
Fort Pond Bay, saw " The
Mavis " lying there as idly
as if it had not stirred from
the position in which it was
twenty-four hours before.
And there were as few
signs of life about it now
as then. But presently the
five boys emerged together
from their quarters.

" Well, I must say," said
one, " that sleeping in a vessel that has carried a cargo of sugar
is not my idea of a good time. I feel as if I had been dipped
head first into a cask of molasses. Let me draw a few breaths
of clear air."

" I say, bo'sun," said Ned, " how was it that, after putting
us to bed in so ship-shape a fashion, you let us get up and
dress like land-lubbers ? Where is the whistle ? "



" It rolled off somewhere when I fell," said Jack ; " and my
thumb hurt me so much that I didn't care, then, whether I found
it or not."

" Let's see your thumb," said Will. " Why ! " he went on, as
Jack, unrolling- his handkerchief, showed a swollen and discolored
hand ; " you never said you'd hurt yourself like that. You
should have told us. I thought it was only a thump on the
floor that was the trouble. This must have given a good deal
of pain. Why didn't you speak ? "

" It did keep me awake a good deal," said Jack ; " but I
didn't see how making a fuss would help matters."

" Well, you're a plucky little beggar, any way," said Tom ;
" but I think that hand ought to have some Pond's Extract on
at once. There's a bottle in my satchel. I'll get it."

So presently Jack's hand was bound up in a wet handker
chief, while another handkerchief was tied neatly over all ; and,
just as it was finished, the cook announced that he had some
coffee ready on his stove.

It had been decided the day before that the boys should get
up early, and walk across to House No. 2. Here they should
give notice that the rest of the party would arrive to a late
breakfast, and should despatch the sail-boat to bring them down.
Accordingly, when each had fortified himself with a cup of coffee
and a piece of hard-tack, Thomas John put them ashore, and
they set out.

First, however, they all climbed the little slope or bluff, and
looked about them. " If one had only the magic power of some
of the old wizards," said Thomas John, " what a wonderful place


this would be to exhibit it ! One moment there would be these
great desolate moors, with only the sea-birds flying over them.
A stamp of the wizard's foot, and the hundred thousand warriors
buried here would spring to life, each with bow and tomahawk
in hand. That would be a sight worth seeing."

" Are there so many buried here as that ? " asked the boys.

" Yes," said Thomas John. " Some say, many more than a
hundred thousand. This was the chosen ground for all the
Indian tribes of the east end of Long Island. The dead were
brought here from a distance, some in great state. One chief
was carried on the shoulders of his principal men, while the
whole tribe followed as mourners. That was Pogattacutt, sachem
of Manhansackahaqushuwamock."

" Say it again," said Jack.

" It is too much work," said Thomas John, laughing. " I
would rather give it its English name of Shelter Island."

It was a very languid party that sat about the table after
breakfast was over, and the dishes removed. " What shall we do
to-day ? " asked Ned.

" Do ! " echoed the girls. " Let's do nothing. We have
hardly had a quiet moment for four days. Our bones fairly ache.
Let's sit around, and take naps."

The boys laughed, and affected to think the girls very weak,
and easily tired out ; but, in point of fact, I fancy that they
themselves were not sorry to be idle. For, when the cattle-
keeper went into the barn at noon to give his horses a bite, he
found three of them stretched out on the floor, with their heads
on their arms, fast asleep.


By dinner-time, however, they had all pulled themselves to
gether ; and a suggestion from Mr. Longwood, that they should
get into the big wagon, and drive over the moors, was received
with decided interest. Will and Carrie, however, did not join in
the expressions of satisfaction at the plan.

" The fact is," said Will, " that Carrie and I had formed a
scheme for a little ride on our own account ; so that we shall
not be able to join you."

"Upon my word!" said Jack; "that's cool. What in the
world are you two up to, anyway ? It's some fun, I know.
What a shame, not to let us all in ! Tell us about it."

The others joined in demanding to know what their plan
was ; but Will and Carrie were silent. Not a bit of information
was to be had from them.

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 18 of 30)