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 27 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 27 of 30)
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That knew deliverance near."


" Glory to God ! " the heavenly choir

Break into rapturous song,
Ten thousand times ten thousand throats

The silver notes prolong.
" Glory to God on high, on earth

Be peace, good-will to men ! "
The mailed host with thunderous noise

Take up the loud refrain ;
The very walls of heaven shake

At the sound of the grand Amen.

" It is perfectly splendid," said Jack, when she finished. " I
wonder how many canal-boats there are in one of these big

Mrs. Longwood laughed. " I am afraid that my poetry
failed to change the current of Jack's thoughts, at least. Let us
sing a hymn or two."

Carrie began " Abide with me," and soon their clear fresh
voices joined in the harmony. They were all fond of singing,
and one after the other started some favorite air. Presently,
looking up, they discovered that the kitchen-door was half-way
open, and that the old grandmother was standing by it listening.
She was nodding and mumbling softly to herself; and when, after
a time, they stopped, she moved away.

" Didn't she look just like a witch ? " asked Lou. " One could
fancy that she was muttering evil spells as she stood there."


" Her looks might have brought her to the gallows, a couple
of hundred years ago, in New England," said Will.

" Did any one ever suffer death in this country for being a
witch ? " asked Rose.

" Yes, indeed," said Mrs. Longwood. " It is a very dark blot
on our country's history."

" Do tell us about it," said they all, drawing their chairs
closer. Even Jack, at the mention of the word " witch," forgot
about the number of boats in a tow, and leaned forward much

" In the town of Salem, near Boston, in the year 1692,"
began Mrs. Longwood, " in the family of Mr. Parris, one of the
ministers of the place, there were two young girls, his daugh
ter, about nine years old, and his niece Abigail Williams, about
eleven. These two girls had several friends somewhat older
than themselves ; and they were in the habit of having meetings
to practise palmistry, and such foolish amusements. Presently
the minister's daughter and niece began to have strange attacks,
somewhat like fits. It was probably, in the outset, nothing more
than what is now called hysteria, which all young girls who are
not very strong are liable to have. Instead of treating it as
such, Mr. Parris called in several of his brother clergymen, who
looked at the children in their fits, and prayed over them, but
had no more common-sense in the matter than he.

" The children in the mean while, finding themselves the
objects of so much public attention, began to have fits harder
than ever ; and their young companions, too, broke out with them.
People in those days believed in a very active, ever-present,


bodily Devil. They believed that there could be witches as truly
as in the days of Saul. And they thought that Satan could only
practise his evil arts on a human being through another human
being. So they set themselves to find out who these persons
were that Satan was thus using to torment the children. They
exhorted them to tell who it was that persecuted them. And
the children called out the names of three women who they
said did it. One of these was Tituba, the slave of Mr. Parris.
He tied her neck and heels, and beat her until she confessed
every thing he suggested to her. On her examination by the
court, she avowed that she had made a compact with Satan, and
signed his book, and that she rode to his meetings on a pole
through the air.

" It is a sickening story. The ' afflicted children,' as they
were called, denounced person after person. On their assertion
alone, the accused were arrested. When brought into court for
examination, the children would fall down in their fits, declaring
that the prisoners were pinching them, and sticking pins into
them, by their apparitions. The people were wild with excite
ment, believing it all. The magistrates were bigoted. Nineteen
innocent people were hung as witches."

" Were they poor people ? I mean, people without friends,"
asked Charlie.

" A few were," said Mrs. Longwood. " But many were of the
highest social position. One was a clergyman. Though a very
small man, he was enormously strong ; and this was thought to
be a proof of his being a witch, as no one unless helped from
an evil source could have done such deeds. One of his accusers


6 37

testified, beside, that he had a trumpet, the sound of which could
be heard through all the townships about. When he blew it,
all the witches mounted their brooms, and came flying through
the air to the meeting."


" What perfect nonsense ! " said Tom. " Did people actually
believe such stuff?"

" They did, indeed ; and it cost the minister his life. The
case off Giles and Martha Corey was a very hard one. Giles
Corey was a man of violent temper, who was always coming into
conflict with his neighbors, and was most unpopular. Late in life
he had repented of his ways ; but the habits of a life-time are
not easily laid aside. When the question of witchcraft first came

6 3 8


up, he was a firm believer in it. His wife, however, who was a
thoroughly good woman, was not. He was so provoked at her
differing from him, that he used very strong language about her


in public. It was soon known to the afflicted children that
Martha Corey thought them deluded, and they immediately cried
out upon her as a witch. Her past blameless life could not save


her : she was hung. Parris and two of his deacons visited her
in prison, and excommunicated her.

" Giles Corey's eyes were opened by the attack upon his
wife ; and soon he, too, was cried out on. He was a man of
iron nerve, though eighty-one years old. He formed his plans,
and held to them. He would not be tried as a witch ; and no
relative of his, who had been unfriendly to his wife, should ever
have a particle of his property. Two of his sons-in-law had
been. He executed a deed after he was arrested, giving abso
lutely all he possessed to his other two sons-in-law. This deed,
however, should he be tried for witchcraft, might be held to be
invalid. He resolved that he would not be tried. When he was
brought before the court, and asked whether he were guilty or
not guilty, he did not open his mouth. They could not try a
man who would not plead."

" And did he escape ? " interrupted Tom.

" No," said Mrs. Longwood. " An old English law was
trumped up, in which the man who refused to plead was to
suffer a certain punishment until he did. Corey was taken to
prison, and laid on his back : a weight of iron was placed on.
him, and he was almost without food or drink. The weights
were steadily increased, but the old man would not speak. He
was crushed to death."

" How perfectly awful ! " said the girls.

" It was a strange part of this business, that those who con
fessed being witches escaped death. It was those who persisted
in denying their connection with Satan who were hanged," said
Mrs. Longwood.


" And how did it all end ? " asked Ned.

" People began to come to their senses. There were already
a hundred and fifty in jail ; and the afflicted children seemed to
be as much afflicted as ever, and to be quite as ready to cry
out upon others who were as yet unsuspected. The court was
adjourned ; and in two or three months, when time had brought
clearer views, all were set at liberty."

" What became of the afflicted children ? " asked Rose.

" I do not know," said Mrs. Longwood. " But public indig
nation was very sharp against those who had taken a leading
part in the prosecutions. Mr. Parris, whom it was openly said
had used the children to denounce some of his enemies, was
driven from his church and town, and lived ever after in obscur
ity and poverty. Others made public and humble confession that
they had fallen into error. It was long before the wounds the
trouble made were healed.

" But here comes Mr. Longwood, and you can find out what
he thinks of your plan for going home."


MR. LONGWOOD'S entrance
was greeted by such a sudden
chorus of exclamations, that
he looked completely as
tounded. " What in the
world is it ? " he said. " Has
old Mrs. Daniels done any
thing ? or the bulldog ? "

" Let's leave it to Mrs.
Longwood to explain to him,'"
said Jack, with a sudden
accession of wisdom.

So there was a complete
silence until the plan was.
unfolded, when Mr. Long-
wood promptly agreed to it.
" If it should rain, though,
of course we should have to give it up," he added.

" We might wait until the next fair day," suggested Ned.
The next morning bright and early the boys were crowding,



half-dressed, about the window of their room that looked up
toward Newburgh Bay. They saw three tows southward bound.
From the height and distance at which they were, the tows


looked almost like huge rafts. But a moment's glance showed
the straining tug in advance, and, close upon its heels, the clumsy
rabble of canal-boats wabbling along, lashed four or five abreast,
and five or six rows deep.


" We must hurry up," said Jack, as, after scrambling 1 into his
clothes, he rushed down stairs, and into the kitchen, to see if
breakfast were not ready. "We must hurry up, or they will all
have gone by."

The trim woman had her hands in a bowl of dough. Evi
dently they were to have hot corn-bread for breakfast, for the
old grandmother was bringing a pan in which to bake it.

" Never fear," said Daniels, in answer to Jack's outburst.
" At this season of the year they come down close upon one
another's heels. You see, they hurry through the canals now
that it's just on the edge of winter, for fear that a sudden cold
snap may come, and freeze them in."

Notwithstanding this assurance, Jack was very uneasy in his
mind for some time. It was not until Tom, looking at the
clock, said, " Well, we couldn't catch the early train now if we
tried : so, no matter how we go to town, we cannot get to
school to-day," that he seemed to enjoy his breakfast. Then he
stretched forth his plate to be helped again, and attacked the
good things in earnest.

By half-past eight, breakfast was over ; their trunks were
packed, ready to go on the same train with the girls in the
afternoon ; and the boys themselves, with Mr. Longwood, well
wrapped up, were climbing into the big wagon.

" If we should upset," said Ned, " I should be perfectly help
less ; for I am so swathed in my winter coat, with this rug over
my knees, that I could not move."

" You will be glad of all your wraps, never fear," said Mr.
Longwood. " It will be cold enough on the water, and there


will be no comfortable cabin where one can sit and look out
through the window. It is to be a deck-passage."

" I hope we brought provisions enough," said Tom. " I think
that by dinner-time I shall be able to do my share at the.

Before long they found themselves at the pier, where they
had disembarked from the boat on the night of their coming.
There was a grayish hue spreading over the sky, and the wind
as it came down the river was cold enough. It felt, as Daniels
had said, as if they were on the edge of winter. There seemed
to be very little going on about the dock. One or two people
came to their doors to see our party leave the wagon ; but the
morning boat had gone some time before, and the place had
settled down to wait until its return in the evening should bring
again a ripple of excitement.

Directed by Daniels, they hurried along the shore to a house
a little way distant, whose owner kept boats to let. A fine tow
was only a short distance away, and no time was to be lost.

" Father is out in one of the sailboats there/' said a tidy
girl who answered their knock. " He is going to bring her in,
and haul her out for the winter. I'll call him," and she ran
down to the water's edge, and quickly brought him ashore.

Mr. Longwood stated their wishes. Could he put them
aboard the little fleet of canal-boats close at hand there ?

He regarded them apparently as out of their heads. Of
course he could put them aboard ; but, massy sakes ! they
wouldn't get to York, he didn't know when. He had much bet
ter take them across the river to the railway : there was " some



chance then of seem' their folks to home before they'd all grown
old and died."

But, as Mr. Longwood persisted, he hauled a big rowboat
up to his landing ; and, all being stowed away in her, he took
his oars, and pulled vigorously out into the current, casting a
glance now and then over his shoulder, to see that he was
laying his course rightly.

Presently the great lumbering tubs of boats were alongside.
On one of them stood a man all hair and beard. The boatman,
with a few strokes, brought their craft near and, throwing his
painter toward him, said briefly,

" Catch hold there."

The hairy man seized it, and made his end fast ; and then,
looking down upon them, said, with equal brevity,

" What's up ? "

" This here party wants to take passage with ye to York,"
said the boatman.

" Nary lunatic-asylum about here broke loose, is there ? "
asked the hairy man.

Mr. Longwood made haste to say that they had not gone
mad, and that they were quite ready to pay for their passage ;
and so they speedily came to terms, the hairy man agreeing to
put them ashore 'at any town they wished, in a small boat, which
he said could be borrowed from the tug that was hauling them.
So their boatman helped them to scramble up on the deck of
their new craft, and, having handed up the basket of provisions
after them, was cast off, and soon well on his homeward way.
Those of the readers of this story who have been on canal-


boats, and know all about them, may skip a page or two : the
rest may stay with the boys, as they cast their eyes, big with
curiosity, about them. Curiosity seemed to be the order of the
day. On nearly every boat in the fleet they saw a man sitting
on his cabin-roof, staring with open eyes at them. From every
cabin-stairs emerged a more or less dishevelled woman's head, to
join the general looking-on.

But the boys were not to be daunted by any such observa
tion. " I say," said Jack in a friendly tone to the hairy man, by
way of opening conversation, " I say, what's forward there where
it looks like the roof of a cabin ? "

" Mules," said the man.

" Really ? " asked Jack. " No joking?"

It was not necessary for the man to make any reply. One
of the mules took it upon himself to do that. Out of the top
of his small stable came a tremendous bray, that died away in
echo after echo against the side of Storm- King Mountain. The
boys put their hands over their ears until there was silence.

" He must be of no end of use in a fog," said Ned. " He'd
take the place of the steam-whistle. Just give his tail a twist
to open the valve, and out would come the noise."

" Nobody don't twist that mule's tail, not with impunity," said
the hairy man gloomily. " One man tried it."

" What happened to him ? " asked the boys.

" It was near the place where he was raised," said the man ;
" and we buried him in the family lot."

" How in the world do you get them in there ? " asked
Charlie, as they all walked forward.


" This strip of the roof comes off," said the man, lifting one
end up as he spoke, so that they could look down on the mules
in their stalls below. " They scramble in and out just like dogs.
Those two berths back there, just behind them, are where the
men sleep."

" It must be lively work for them to get to bed when your
mule who kicks feels like a little exercise," said Tom. " They
must have to dodge the kicks."

" How long do you work the mules at a time ? " asked

" Six hours," said the man. " You see, we have four men
and four mules beside the captain." (Jack gave Will a nudge at
this slight slip.) " They work six hours at a time, relieving one
another. When we come down to Troy, we leave two of the
mules in the stables there." The hairy man stopped short, and
looked a little ashamed at having been so talkative. Then he
strolled slowly toward the stern of the boat, and disappeared
down the stairs into his cabin.

The boys watched his disappearance with considerable sur
prise. " Could we have said any thing to offend him ? " said

" No : I fancy it is only his way," said Mr. Longwood. " He'll
;be back presently, no doubt. Meantime I think I will spread out
a rug, and establish myself here with a book. The stable-roof
will make an excellent protection from the wind. The weather
is rather cold."

So, suiting his action to his words, Mr. Longwood sat down
on the deck ; and, except that every moment or two he raised


his eyes to see that none of his boys had fallen over, or other
wise come to grief, he took no part in any of their doings for
the next hour or two.

They, however, were not idle. The hairy man had re-appeared,
and they plied him vigorously with questions.

What had he aboard ? they demanded.

" Wheat."

Where did he get it ?

" Buffalo."

How long did it take to come from Buffalo ?

"Ten days."

But he was not to be tempted into conversation ; and the
boys' hope of getting a story out of him was soon seen to be
without foundation. After a little they managed to get aboard
the boat alongside. The captain of this was much more com
municative ; and, though he was not to be coaxed into telling
a story, he told them how he had been a canal-man for twenty
years. He took them, too, down into his tiny cabin where his
wife and two children were, and showed them the kitchen just
big enough to take in a stove, and how it could be shut up
tight by means of sliding-doors. The cabin was tiny enough,
but every thing was as clean and neat as could be.

All the hour or two that the boys spent in idly running about
and talking, had not been spent in idleness by the tug that
was dragging them. One after another the hills of the High
lands had been slowly passed. West Point, with the gray build
ings of its military academy, was far behind. And now a sudden
hunger seized every one. They hurried back pell-mell to where


Mr. Longwood was still sitting deep in his book, and surrounded
him as a band of starving wolves do a defenceless sheep whom
they have come upon in some unprotected place.

He understood from their faces what they would have sug
gested, without their speaking a word.

" Bring the basket, Tom," he said.

Tom made haste to bring it, and spread the contents on some
napkins which he laid upon the deck.

" Jiminy ! " said Jack, as the last article came out, " they
haven't put in a thing to drink. What shall we do ? "

" Possibly our captain's wife could make us some coffee," said
Mr. Longwood. " Go and see, Tom. At all events, she can no-
doubt give us some water."

Tom came back shortly, and announced that the coffee was
under way ; and before long the hairy man brought it in a big"
pitcher with three cups, all that he could muster.

The coffee smelled deliciously, and the lunch looked excel
lently. In half an hour there was not so much as a drop or a
crumb left. Then the boys stretched themselves out on the rugs r
and begged Mr. Longwood to tell them a story.

" It so happens," said that gentleman, " that we are passing
historic scenes at this moment. Here on the west side of the
liver were the old Forts Clinton and Montgomery, where there
was fighting during the Revolution."

" Do tell us about it," they all exclaimed.

" You have all heard of how, during the Revolution, Burgoyne
tried to march down from Canada, by way of the lakes, to Albany^
while Sir Henry Clinton was to move up the Hudson, and meet


him there. It was a well-conceived plan ; and it lacked only one
thing, and that was success. Burgoyne was captured at Saratoga.
Sir Henry Clinton never reached Albany. He made the attempt,
however ; and, if he had made it sooner, possibly the whole face
of matters might have been changed.

" He waited for some Hessian re-enforcements which were on
their way to him from over sea. They, however, had sailed
in Dutch vessels, which were not much better sailers than the
noble craft on which we now are, and so did not arrive until
October, a good month or more later than they were expected.

" As soon as they did come, he set out up the river with
some five thousand men.

" The Americans had stretched an enormous iron chain from
the tip of Anthony's Nose across to the opposite shore, and
there had built two forts, Montgomery and Clinton, to dispute
the passage of the river with the British ships. These obstacles
had to be overcome, of course, before the English could make
their little visit to Albany. It is a curious fact, that each of the
American forts was commanded by a Clinton, and that the com
mander of the British was also a Clinton."

" Were they any relation ? " asked one of the boys.

" Not that I ever heard of," said Mr. Longwood.

" Well, the British, as I said, set out from New York, and
proceeded up the river. In the two forts together there were
but six hundred men ; and it was important to conceal his inten
tion of attacking them, lest they should be thoroughly garrisoned.
So Sir Henry landed a couple of thousand men at Tarrytown,
and then marched them northward toward Peekskill. By this



means he deceived Gen. Putnam, who was in command, and
who thought his intention was to destroy the supplies that were
stored there. So that all the militia of the districts about has
tened to Peekskill, and the forts were not strengthened.


." Then, taking advantage of a fog, Sir Henry Clinton passed
tw.D thousand men across the river, and landed them on the
west shore, with instructions to make their way north and attack
the forts."

" It must have been tough work forcing their way over those
hills, and through the forests," said Will. " How far was it ? "

" About twelve miles, I should fancy," said Mr. Longwood


" And there was no road at all. A Tory piloted them by a
path he knew over the Dunderberg, but they had to go in
single file. When they had passed it, they divided into two
parties, and each attacked a fort.

" Gov. Clinton, the American in command, had suspected all
along that the enemy were intending to attack the forts, and
had his scouts posted on the Dunderberg. A little after noon
they descried the advancing force, fired upon them, and retreated.
A field-piece was at once sent out, but the enemy came on so
fast that the gun had to be spiked and left. Then the Amer
icans fell back on another gun, with which they did good work
on the advancing Hessians ; but unfortunately it burst. By
four o'clock the enemy had reached both forts, and an assault
was made without loss of time."

" Of course they won," said Jack. " They were three to our
one, and regulars against militia. It was not a fair show at all."

" Nevertheless," said Mr. Longwood, " they had to fight hard
for it. But, as you say, the Americans were at a great dis
advantage. To add to it, a British frigate or two had come up
the river, and opened fire upon them from the water-side.

" They continued to resist obstinately until dusk, when the
British conquered. The clouds had come up thickly, and dark
ness came on apace ; and the Americans, having no mind to see
the inside of a British prison in New York, lost no time in
escaping to the forests that surrounded them on every side.
There was some desultory fighting, but it soon ceased; and the
hardy militia found no difficulty in making their way to safety.
Both American generals escaped, one badly wounded ; and over



two hundred of their men reported for duty at their headquar
ters, some twelve miles or more distant, the next day. There



were but six hundred, you must remember, in the two forts to
gether at the beginning of the fight."

6 5 8


" And what became of the boom from Anthony's Nose ? "

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 27 of 30)