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 21 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 21 of 30)
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way, and they had nothing to do but follow. The weather was
fair, and, says the old chronicler, ' like the swan that singeth
before death, they in " The Delight " made merry all that evening
with trumpet and drum and fife, also winding the cornet and haut
boys.' In the morning they found themselves suddenly among
shoals and breakers ; and before they could get about, they were
aground, and the ship fast breaking up under the fury of the
seas. ' The Golden Hind ' and ' The Squirrel,' warned in time,
barely managed to wear off until they were safe in deep water.
There they watched their unfortunate comrades, utterly unable to
help them as the breakers dashed their good ship to pieces, and
drowned them one after another.

" This was a staggering blow to the expedition. Their largest
ship, a hundred men, provisions, all gone at a blow. The men
in the two vessels that were left became discouraged, and refused



to proceed ; and so their prows were turned eastward, and, with
the wind ' large for England,' they set out for home. Sir
Humphrey went in the little ' Squirrel.' Loaded down with guns,
the tiny craft was in no ways suited for an ocean-passage. He
was urged to change to ' The Golden Hind,' but replied, ' I will
not forsake my little company with whom I have passed so many
storms and perils.'

" The two vessels were ordered to keep together, and each was
to hang out lights at night ; and so they kept their course until
about a third of the homeward passage was made, and then
they came upon very foul weather and terrible seas. The little
' Squirrel ' went out of sight between the great waves, and at.
one time they in ' The Golden Hind ' thought that she had
foundered ; but she recovered wonderfully, and Sir Humphrey,
who was sitting book in hand upon the deck, cried out to them,
as they came within hail, to be of good courage. ' We are as
near to heaven by sea as by land.' That night, about midnight,
the watch of ' The Golden Hind ' cried out suddenly that the
' Squirrel ' was cast away. In a single instant her lights dis
appeared : the waves had swallowed her. And so died a reso-


lute Christian gentleman."

All this talking and story-telling had not taken the short time
that it has for you to read it here. Darkness had fallen long
before. In the dim moonlight the giant hills of the highlands,
through which the boat was making her way, stood out, the
shadows lying dark and deep in the hollows, while the winding
river flowed on at their feet in inky blackness.

One after another the landings had been made ; and now,


when the young people began to get their wraps together, ready
for their own disembarking, it was suddenly discovered that Jack
was missing. When notes were compared, it was found that no
one had seen him for at least an hour. Carrie at once started
the idea that he had fallen overboard. " You know he fell over
from ' The Mavis ' last summer," she said ; " and he is such a
harum-scarum boy ! " She was so convinced of the truth of her
theory, that, if it had rested with her to decide, she would have
had the river dragged for his body without loss of time. It was,
I think, quite a disappointment to her when the missing young
man turned up in the midst of her eloquence, hands in pocket,
and whistling.

" Where have you been ? " they all cried.

" Up in the pilot-house," replied Jack loftily. " And I say,
the pilot told me a lot of stones about the hills and things, as
we passed them. There was one he called the Dunderberg. He
said it was a regular old storm-breeder, and the reason was that
it was the home of a goblin, who ruled the weather. In old
times the navigators used to see him. He was of Dutch build,
and wore a sugar-loaf hat and knickerbockers, and, with his
trumpet to his mouth, would order another blast of wind to pipe

up, or another peal of thunder to crash away. And then, when


the storm was at its height, they would see him tumbling head
over heels, surrounded by little imps, in the thick of the rack.

" One time a sloop was passing, and all at once a thunder-
gust burst right over the craft. The vessel pitched and strained
fearfully, as if she were going to the bottom. Up on the top of
the mast the men saw a white sugar-loaf hat, and they knew that


it belonged to the goblin of the Dunderberg ; but none of them
dared to climb the mast. And so the sloop went driving on in
a terrible way, the men expecting to see her sink every minute
(and so she would have, had they not fortunately a horse-shoe
nailed to the mast) , until they reached the upper end of the high
lands, where the goblin's dominion ended. There the hat sud
denly whirled up in the air, and, followed by all the clouds and
storm, started back in mad flight, and never rested until it
reached the Dunderberg."

" Did your pilot ever see him ? " asked Ned somewhat sarcas

" No ; but Skipper Ouselsticker of Fishkill did. His craft
was off the point in a tremendous squall ; and he saw the goblin,
seated astride of his bowsprit, running them ashore."

"What did he do?" asked Lou.

" He had Dominie van Giesen, or some other such name, on
board : and he mustered up courage to repeat the hymn of St.
Nicholas ; and the goblin couldn't stand that, so he turned a
somerset off the bowsprit, and disappeared. He went off like
a flash, and carried the dominie's wife's nightcap with him ; and
the next Sunday they found it hanging on the weathercock of
the steeple of his church, more than forty miles away. After
that, the navigators always lowered their peaks in passing the
mountain, and he let them alone ; but, if any one didn't, he had
' Hail Columbia ' to pay for it."

" Your pilot seems to have been a diligent reader of Wash
ington Irving, at all events," said Mr. Longwood. " Did he
point out Antony's Nose, and tell you how it came by its
name ? "


" Yes," said Jack. " When Peter Stuyvesant, the old Dutch
governor of New York, was once sailing up the river, it chanced
that his trumpeter, Antony van Corlear, happened to be looking
over the vessel's side, contemplating his countenance in the water
beneath him. Antony had a nose mighty in size, and fiery from


many a long pull at the flagon. Just at that instant the sun
rose ; and one of its beams, darting over the top of a hill, fell
full upon Antony's nose, whence it glanced off, hissing hot, into
the water, killing a sturgeon that was swimming near the surface.
And ever since the hill has been known as ' Antony's Nose.' "


" Well," interrupted Tom, " here we are close to our landing.
We had better go below, and get ready to go ashore."

So gathering up their wraps, they made their way down, and
shortly found themselves standing on the dock. Two large
wagons were waiting for them. Mr. and Mrs. Longwood, with
the girls and Jack, much to his disgust, got into one, which set
out briskly at once up the long hills ; while the four boys waited
to pick out the luggage, and follow in the other.


SLOWLY the wagons crept up the
hills, passing first through the village
streets, where the light from the win
dows of the houses gleamed through
the darkness ; then on up the long
way, where only now and then a
house broke the pale moonlit monot
ony of fence and field and wood.
The air was sharp and chill ; and the
girls drew their wraps closer around
them, while impatient Jack, heedless
of the steep incline, endeavored by
surreptitious chirps to make the horses go faster.

" But it is a long road that has no turning," is the old say
ing ; and so at last they all at once left the highway, and turn
ing through a gate into the fields, after a moment more drew up
at the farmhouse door.

" Whoa ! " called the driver ; and at the word the door opened,
and a trim woman appeared in it. Her whole figure stood out
in bold relief against the warm glow of light behind her ; for


the place was ablaze with a great open wood-fire that filled the
huge old fireplace with bellying flags of flame, and sent troops
of sparks up the big chimney, while the smell of the burning
hickory-logs filled the room with fragrance.

The young people lost no time in hurrying in, and, gathering
about the hearth, looked with interest around. It was a huge
room. Overhead one could almost touch the heavy oak beams,
blackened by time, that had never been hidden away under
plaster. The whole brick chimney-breast was covered with shelves,
on which stood many ponderous books, so large, that Gertrude
found herself wondering how they were ever gotten up there.
Around nearly the whole room, against the walls, ran book-shelves,
breast-high, filled with books. It was evident that Mr. Long-
wood's brother was more of a scholar than a farmer.

But the object to which the eyes of our friends were directed
with the greatest satisfaction was at one side of the room, a
table set with twelve plates, which shone out conspicuous under
the light of a great candelabra in the centre. Their eyes
returned to it constantly ; and at times they found themselves all
silent, and listening, each with a pleasant expression of face, to
a hissing and spluttering sound that came through the half-open
kitchen-door. " A voice within me cries ' Cupboard ! ' : ' said Tom.
" We feel with you," said they all sympathetically.

Presently the hissing and spluttering ceased, and the trim
woman began to hurry in and out with one smoking dish after
another in her hands. An odor of broiled chicken began to
struggle for the mastery with that of burning hickory, and in a
few mimites they were seated around the table.


They had all been helped, and there was that blissful conver
sational silence that comes with a roaring appetite, and the trim
woman was bustling about, passing the viands, when suddenly
these words rang out in a shrill, quavering voice,

" Who be you ? "

Involuntarily they all turned in the direction from which the
sound came. There in the kitchen doorway stood a strange
figure, a woman very old, spare and tall. On her head a
nightcap was tied tightly : around her shoulder was drawn a
blanket, which trailed behind her on the floor, exposing the bot
tom of a nightdress and a pair of bare feet below it.

Gertrude gave a little scream, and clutched Tom, who was
sitting next to her, firmly by the arm ; and the trim woman set
down a plate of bread which she was passing him, so hurriedly,
that it all upset into his lap, and exclaiming, " Sakes alive ! it's
mother waked up," hurried toward her.

" Who be you," demanded the quavering voice again, " a-
eatin' and carousin' when honest folk should be abed ? ' Woe
unto them that are mighty to drink ' "

But the further denunciations of this new Jeremiah were cut
short by the trim woman, who unceremoniously hustled her inta
the kitchen, and closed the door behind her.

" Gertrude," said Tom politely, " I think the worst of the
danger is now over. If you will release my arm from your
grasp, I will endeavor to relieve myself from this bread, which,
as the politician said of office, came to me entirely unexpectedly,
and through no effort of my own. Who is our strange visitor
anyway, papa ? "


" I suspect she is Mrs. Daniels's mother," said Mr. Longwood.
41 Daniels told me that his wife's mother had come to live with
them, and that she was so old that she was getting childish, but
that she had ' a powerful grip on the Scripters yet.' I think the
old lady answers to his description."

The rest of the meal went on without further interruption.
The trim woman re-appeared shortly, looking a little flustered,
but said nothing ; and after a time they all drew up in a circle
about the blaze. Conversation flagged. Presently Tom began to
nod, then looking up, suddenly exclaimed, " Four of you are half
asleep, and I can hardly keep my eyes open. Jack has been
oblivious for ten minutes. It must be the wind."

" Well," said Mr. Longwood, looking at the tall clock that
stood in the corner, " it is half-past nine."

" I vote we all turn in," said Ned.

So there was a lighting of candles, and a stumbling up the
wooden stairs ; and when the great backlog broke up, a half-
hour later, into a mass of glowing coals that came flying out on
to the broad hearth, there was no one to sweep them back, until
the trim woman came bustling in with the first light the next

Jack, as usual, was the first to be down stairs. His was an
investigating mind. With hands in pocket, and whistle in mouth,
he strolled about the room. Presently, not being at all bashful,
he made his way into the kitchen. The old grandmother was
rocking a boy of two or three years in a cradle. The youngster
was struggling to get out, and kicking lustily ; but the old woman
was strong, and held him firmly. " Lie still," she cried at inter-


vals, " or Clawjesmith will get you." But the youngster would
not lie still : he struggled and fought as hard as ever. " Land
o' Goshen ! " exclaimed the old woman, panting for breath, " that's
the powerfulest three-months-old child I ever heard on. I'm
nigh beat out. I wonder if it's the cramp. Cynthy ! " she called
to her daughter, who had been busy in the other room all this
while, " I calcalate the baby's got the cramp. Where's the anise-
seed ? "

At this the trigi woman appeared in the doorway, and, taking
in the situation, rushed forward, and released the boy, who
straightway stood upon his feet, and proceeded to use his mouth
to suck his thumb with, instead of to shout with.

" Land o' Goshen ! " said the old woman, as she made out the
size of the youngster, after a prolonged and earnest gaze through
her spectacles, " I reckoned 'twas the baby all the while. Where
is the baby?"

Now, the youngster just mentioned was the trim woman's only
child : in short, there was no baby, except in the old woman's
imagination. But in that there was a baby, and a very positive
one. It even had a name. Little Cynthy she called it, and half
her time was spent in attendance on that imaginary child. This
freak of her fancy had been a source of considerable annoyance
to her worthy son-in-law, until one day he hit upon the idea of
having a gigantic rag-baby made, with which she was perfectly
satisfied, and would be quiet for hours in tending it.

" Mr. Longwood," said Jack at the breakfast- table, " who or
what is Clawjesmith ? "

" Clawjesmith ! " said that gentleman, repeating the word after
him. " I have not the slightest idea. Where did you hear it ? "


" The old grandmother in the kitchen told the boy to lie still,
or Clawjesmith would get him."

" Why didn't you ask her who he was ? " said Carrie.

" I did," said Jack.

" What did she say ? " asked Rose.

" Nothing to the point," said Jack, flushing a little.

" Give us her exact words," said Carrie firmly, taking note of
the blush.

" Well," said Jack, " if you must have them, she said, ' Never

you mind, you sassy little boy : only look out he don't get


There was a general laugh at this, when suddenly Mr. Long-
wood exclaimed, " Why, of course ! I have it. She must mean
Claudius Smith."

"Who was he?"

*' A desperate wretch, the terror of all this neighborhood in
Revolutionary times. He was the leader of a gang who hid
away in the mountains. By night they would sally forth, and
commit all sorts of cruelties. Hanging men up until they were
nearly dead, to make them tell where they kept their money, and
sometimes quite forgetting to let them down at all, was one of
their favorite practices. Our aged friend has doubtless heard
many wild stories about the villain from her parents."

" What became of him ? " asked Charlie.

" He murdered one of the principal men of the place in cold
blood, and then a large reward was offered for him. Fearing
that its size might tempt his own men to give him up, he fled
to New York, and then to Smithtown on Long Island, where he


hoped to be hidden. But his whereabouts became known to one
or two patriots. A party crossed the Sound in whale-boats, and
seized him ; and the worthy settlers whom he had tormented had
the satisfaction of seeing him hung. He was a precious rascal.
His mother had once told him that he would die, like a trooper's
horse, with his shoes on ; and to prevent her prophecy coming
true, while he was standing in the cart, with the noose about
his neck, he kicked off his shoes, and died in his stockings."

" Dear me ! " said Carrie, " I suppose it's the old story again.
We shall hear, as we have done in all our expeditions, about
men's doings, good or bad, but never a word about women's

" Caroline," said Will, " dismiss your gloomy anticipations.
You shall hear of a woman's deed this moment."

'Twas in days of the Revolution,

Dark days were they and drear,
And by Carolina firesides

The women sat in fear;
For the men were away at the fighting,

And sad was the news that came,
That the battle was lost; and the death-list

Held many a loved one's name.


And the men of the routed army,

Their hearts within as stone,
Half believed that the Lord had forsook them,

And they must fight alone.



When as heart-sore they sat round the camp-fires,

" What ho ! Who'll volunteer
To carry a message to Sumter ? "

A voice rang loud and clear.



There was a sudden silence,
But not a man replied :

They knew too well of the peril
Of him who dared that ride.


For the country was filled with wild troopers,
With Cunningham's bloody pack,

And Tory wretches at every turn :
What wonder the men hung back !


Outspoke then Emily Geiger,

With a rich flush on her cheek,
" Give me the message to be sent :

I am the one you seek.
For I am a Southern woman;

And Td rather do and dare
Than sit by a lonely fireside,

My heart gnawed through with care."

They gave her the precious missive ;

And on her own good steed
She rode away, 'mid the cheers of the men,

Upon her daring deed.
And away through the lonely forests,

Steadily galloping on,
She saw the sun sink low in the sky,

And in the west go down.


" Halt ! or I fire ! " On a sudden

A rifle clicked close by.
" Let you pass ? Not we, till we know you are

No messenger nor spy."
" She's a Whig, from her face, I will wager,"

Swore the officer of the day.




"To the guard-house, and send for a woman
To search her without delay."


No time did she lose in bewailing:

As the bolt creaked in the lock,
She quickly drew the precious note

That was hidden in her frock,
And she read it through with hurried care,

Then ate it, piece by piece,
And calmly sat her down to wait

Till time should bring release.


They brought her out in a little,

And set her on her steed,
With many a rude apology,

For their discourteous deed.
On, on, once more through the forest black,

The good horse panting strains,
Till the sentry's challenge, "Who comes there?*'

Tells that the end he gains.

Ere an hour, in the camp of Sumter

There was hurrying to and fro.
" Saddle and mount, saddle and mount ! "

The bugles shrilly blow.
" Forward trot ! " and the long ranks wheel,

And into the darkness glide :
Long shall the British rue that march,

And Emily Geiger's ride.


WHAT a glorious morning it wa^
The boys, as they came hurrying out
of doors, and felt the cool breath of
the north wind on their faces, were
ready to throw their caps into the
air from mere animal spirits. Ned,
having opportunely bent over to fast
en his shoestring, presented such an
attractive back, that Tom could not



forbear a leap ; and before the girls, who followed more deco*
rously, Tiad arrived on the ground, the boys were half way down
the road to the gate, in a wild game of leap-frog.

" I suppose, anyway, that the boys will be no fun until they
get the ' bearings of things,' " said Carrie, watching their flight.
" Come, girls, let us see what is to be seen. Suppose we go out
to the barn."

They set out at once, but got no farther tha'n the barnyard
gate ; for there facing
them, placidly chewing
her cud, and gazing with
mild wonder in her eyes,
stood a cow. They came
to a halt instantly.

" She is certainly dan
gerous," said Lou. "See
how she looks at us, and
how viciously she switch
es her tail ! "

The cow, at this mo
ment scenting the apples
which they were eating,
and hoping for a morsel,
moved a step forward
with outstretched nose. The girls precipitately fled.

" Well," said Carrie, " we can get into the barn through the
other yard : there are only sheep there. They cannot harm us."

So they opened the gate into the sheep-yard, and passed in.



The boys joined them. Jack, who had witnessed their ignoble
retreat, was expressing his views on girls' weaknesses. They
were about half way across the yard.

" It was very foolish," he said. " The cow was perfectly
gentle. Nine hundred and ninety-nine cows out of a thousand
are. You might just as well expect to be attacked by a sheep."

Rash words ! An old buck, unnoticed by them, had viewed
their entrance with marked disapproval. At first he was satisfied
to express this by tosses of the head, and energetic stamps of
his foot : but his feelings had rapidly grown beyond his control ;
and, just as Jack pronounced the last words, he advanced upon
him, swiftly and unseen, from behind, and with one dexterous
blow of his head sent him sprawling to the ground.

The girls fled at this unexpected attack; while the boys were
laughing too hard to help Jack, who scrambled half way up just
in time to be sent down by another blow. He was quicker a
second time, and, gaining his feet and a stick at the same time,
soon put his enemy to flight.

"It is evident that we are not to reach the barn this morn
ing," said Rose. " Let's go back to the house : it must be
almost time to get ready for church."

" Church ! " ejaculated Jack with astonishment strongly mixed
with disapprobation.

" Of course, you young reprobate ! " said Will. " Who ever
heard of not going to church on Thanksgiving ? I hope we
shall walk. It's just the morning for a good tramp."

At the prospect of a walk Jack's spirits rose; and they all
went together toward the house, where they saw Mr. Longwood.


He was at the back of it, talking to Daniels ; and close at hand
was a kennel, where a most villanous-looking bull-dog was growl
ing viciously, as he moved about the short space his chain

" Yes, sir," they heard Daniels say : " he is ugly. You see, I
am away in the fields a good part of the time ; and now and then
a tramp comes along, and my wife she feels more easy with the
dog at hand."

" So I should imagine," said Mr. Longwood. " If I were a
tramp, I should feel like moving on. Don't let him loose while
we are here."

" Never fear," said the man. " He shall be kept close."

The girls, by this time, had made their appearance, ready for
church; and they all set out. If it had been Sunday, I suspect
they would have gone on decorously ; but, as it was, the fresh
air from the hills around them was too stimulating for a sober
walk. The boys vaulted over every pair of bars they came to ;
and Carrie and Rose, made reckless by the taunts of Ned and
Jack, ran along the tops of the stone fences with many a squeal
of terror and delight.

" That field over there," said Carrie, pointing to the one in
question, " is full of wild strawberries in their season. I was up
here last June, and stained every dress I had."

" Not to mention your face and hands," said Mrs. Longwood.

" And mamma sat on the fence," went on Carrie, " and ate
the berries I brought her, out of a cup made of walnut-leaves,
and between times wrote a little piece of poetry."


Down in the midst of the meadow-grass

Red-ripe strawberry hides away,
Fearful of hungry birds that pass,

Swift in flight all the summer day.

But, though these robbers have seen him not,
There is a foe with sharper eyes :

Little brown feet push the leaves aside ;

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 21 of 30)