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 5 of 30)
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uncommon enough to afford matter for a letter from us.

On the twentieth of last February there came a Snow, which being added unto
what had covered the ground a few days before, made a thicker mantle for our


Mother than what was usual : And ye storm with it was, for the following day, so
violent as to make all communication between ye Neighbors everywhere to cease.
People for some hours could not pass from one side of a street unto another.
But on ye Twenty-fourth day of ye Month, comes Pelion upon Ossa : Another
Snow came on which almost buried ye Memory of ye former, with a Storm so
famous that Heaven laid an Interdict on ye Religious Assemblies throughout ye
Country, on this Lord's day, ye like whereunto had never been seen before. The
Indians near an hundred years old, affirm that their Fathers never told them of
any thing that equalled it. Vast numbers of Cattel were destroyed in this Calamity.
Whereof some there were, of ye Stranger sort, were found standing dead on their
legs as if they had been alive, many weeks after when ye Snow melted away.
And others had their eyes glazed over with Ice at such a rate, that being not far
from ye Sea, their mistake of their way drowned them there. One gentleman on
whose farms were now lost above uoo sheep, writes me word that there were two
Sheep very singularly circumstanced. For no less than eight & twenty days after
the Storm the People pulling out the Ruins of above an 100 sheep out of a Snow
Bank, which lay sixteen foot high drifted over them, there was two found alive
which had been there all this time, and kept themselves alive by eating the wool
of their dead companions. When they were taken out they shed their own
Fleeces, but soon gott into good Case again.

Sheep were not ye only creatures that lived unaccountably for whole weeks
without their usual sustenance. A man had a couple of young Hoggs which he
gave over for dead. But on the twenty-seventh day after their Burial they made
their way out of a Snow Bank at the bottom of which they had found a little
Tansy to feed upon. Hens were found alive after seven days. Turkeys were
found alive after five and twenty, buried in ye Snow, and at a distance from ye
ground, and altogether destitute of any thing to feed them.

The Wild Creatures of ye Woods, ye outgoings of ye Evening, made their
Descent as well as they could in this time of scarcity for them toward ye Sea-side.
A vast multitude of Deer, for ye same cause taking ye same course, & ye Deep
Snow Spoiling them of their only defence which is to run, they became such a
prey to these Devourers, that it is thought not one in twenty escaped.

It is incredible how much damage is done ye Orchards For the Sno\f


freezing to a Crust, as high as the boughs of ye trees, anon Split ym to pieces.
The Cattel also walking on ye crusted Snow a dozen foot from ye ground so fed
upon ye trees as very much to damnify them. The odd Accidents befalling many
poor people whose cottages were totally covered with ye Snow & not ye very tops
of their chimneys to be seen would afford a story. But I forbear them subscrib
ing myself

Syr, Yours with an affection

that knows no Winter


"There, Jack, you see what would happen to you," said Ned
Grant, " if you had your wish to have the house buried in snow.
You would have to live by eating our clothes, like the sheep."

After breakfast, Tom proposed that the boys should put on
their top-boots, and run over to the life-saving station. Mrs.
Longwood, however, thought it better that Jack should stay at
home, as he caught cold so easily.

" We won't any of us go," said Will Morgan. " It would be
too bad to leave Jack."

" Nonsense ! " said Jack. " Go ahead. I'll get on somehow.
Only don't be gone all the morning."

So the boys started, Jack watching them till they were lost
in the snow. Then he strolled about the room, and finally set
out for the kitchen to see if there were any thing there to
amuse him. Mr. Longwood, meanwhile, was deep in a book ;
Mrs. Longwood was writing a letter ; and the girls had gathered
around the fire, and were sitting idly.

" For my part," said Carrie, " I am not sorry that we have
to be quiet to-day. We have been going so hard, that I feel
like sitting still."



"So do I," said the rest.

Crash ! clang ! clatter ! thump ! thump ! bump ! came from
the hall. Such a noise it was, that all sat still and stared at one
another for a minute. Then Mr. and Mrs. Longwood sprang
up, and ran out. Jack was found sitting in a sort of dazed way
at the foot of the stairs, while a great metal tea-tray lay on the
polished floor some distance from him.

" What is the matter ? " cried Mrs. Longwood.

" I had a fall," said Jack.

" There seems to be no harm done ; at all events, no bones
are broken," said Mr. Longwood, who had been feeling and pull
ing Jack all over. " Here, I will carry him to the sofa ; and then
he can tell us all about it."


" Oh ! I can walk well enough," said Jack ; and he scrambled
up to his feet.

" How did it happen ? " asked the girls.

" Well," said Jack, " you see, it was kind of lonesome with
only girls about : so I thought I had better be occupied in
some way. I had heard one of the fellows in school say that
his mother told him, that, when she was a girl, she used to coast
down the stairs on a tea-tray. There was a great big tray out
in the kitchen ; and I borrowed it of Mary Ann, and got on it
at the top of the stairs, and started. It was jolly at first : but
something must have happened ; for the tray came out between
the banister-rails about half-way down, and I came the rest of
the way without it."

"It is a mercy you did not break your neck," said Mrs.
Longwood. But Mr. Longwood lay back in his chair, and
shouted with laughter.

" Here, Jack," said he, when he had recovered his breath,
" put on your coat and boots, and I'll take you over to the
boys on my back. I don't believe that you will run half the
risk that you do at home."

When they reached the life-saving station, they found Tom
and the rest sitting about the fire, trying to coax one of the two
men who were there to tell them some adventure that he had
had a hand in. Mr. Longwood deposited Jack, and, asking the
boys to take good care of him, went back to the house to his

As soon as the door was closed behind him, the boys began
to urge the man again.


" But I have never had any adventure," said he.

" Oh, yes, you have ! " said Ned Grant.

" But I haven't," said the man.

" You don't go about this in the right way," said Jack.
" You fellows be jury, and I'll be judge, and he shall be the
prisoner. Gentlemen of the jury," he went on in a solemn
tone, cocking himself cross-legged on the top of a table, " look
upon the prisoner. Prisoner, look upon the jury. What is
your name ? "

" George Washington," said the man with a grin.

" George Washington," said Jack, holding out a mess-fork,
<( take this in your right hand. Do you well and truly promise
to answer all the questions that may be asked you, according to
the best of your knowledge and ability ? "

The man nodded, and grinned again.

" Where were you born ? " asked Jack.

" In the State of Maine."

" It strikes me," said Ned Grant, " that it is a new kind of
court where the judge asks all the questions."

" Counsellor Grant," said Jack severely, " the Court awards
you worthy of contempt. You are hereby fined twenty-five
cents ; the amount to be expended in gum-drops for the benefit
of those present."

"Oh! I am a counsellor, am I?" laughed Ned. "A moment
ago I was one of the jury."

" Silence in the court ! " said the judge. " When did you
leave the State of Maine ? "

" When I was twenty-five years old," said the man.



" What did you do in those twenty-five years ? "
" The first few I hollered a good deal, I expect," said the

" What then ? "
" Then I went to school."
" What did you do after that ? "
" Oh ! nothing particular till I was twenty-one."
" When you were twenty-one, prisoner, what did you do ? "
" I went off for the winter, lumbering in the backwoods."
" Ah ! " said Jack, turning to the jury, " we are getting to
facts. Believe me, gentlemen, that, before we get through with
this witness, we shall lay bare the whole truth about this
abominable business."

" Oh ! " said Ned, " he's a witness, is he ? I thought he
was a prisoner."

" Silence ! " said Jack. " Prisoner, you will now detail to us,
without varying the slightest from the truth, the circumstances
of that winter which you spent lumbering. Gentlemen of the
jury, should there be any point on which you desire light, you
are at liberty to ask questions."

" Well," said the man, " I hired out to go lumbering, as I
said. There was a large gang of us. We reached the ground
long before the snows began to fall, and set to work. The
first thing to be done is to choose the place for the camp, and
build the shanties for the men to live in. Of course they must
be near a brook or spring."

" What kind of shanties are they, George Washington ? "
asked Charlie.



No :

huts," said the man, " such as you see in pictures."
do you lie on the floor ? "

we make bunks around the walls. They are pretty

hard beds ; but, when
a man has swung an
axe all day long, he
goes to sleep at night
without thinking
whether his bed is
hard or soft. After
the houses are all
ready, we begin work.
Of course, no hauling
can be done till the
snow comes ; but we
commence felling at
once, and sawing the
logs into lengths, and
skidding them up, as
we call it, into great
piles, so that they can
be loaded on to sleds

" Before long the
snow comes. It is
not so much fun then
to stand up to one's knees in a bank, and drag a saw back and
forth through some prostrate tree : but it has to be done ; and,
after a little, one gets used to it all."



" What do you do in the evenings ? " asked Tom.

" What do you have to eat ? " asked Will.

" Which question am I to answer first, judge ? " said the
man, turning to Jack.

" Neither, George Washington," said Jack with dignity.
" Tell us first all about hauling the logs.'"


" Well, the sleds, with horses or oxen, take off the skidded
logs first. When they have drawn those, they come to where
the men are cutting, and take them right off the ground as
they lie."

" I should think it would need ever so many men to handle


such huge fellows," said Ned. " I have seen them at saw-mills
more than four feet through."

" They use the teams to help load," said George Washington.
" First the sled is brought near a log. Then two long skids
are laid, with one end of each on the sled, so that the timber
can be rolled up on them. A long chain is passed under it.
One end is made fast to the sled, and a team is hitched to the
other ; and, when the team starts, the log rolls right up into its
place. This is the way : do you see ? " And the man, with
some sticks and a piece of string, showed them just how it was

" Well, now," said Jack, " what do they do with them when
they are loaded ? "

" The camps are always as near some stream as they can be
placed," said the man. " If you have ever been in Maine, you
will know that it is a pretty mountainous country. The streams
run in the gorges between the hills. In the autumn they are
often only little brooks that one can jump over ; but when in
April the warm rain comes, or some hot days, the snow that
lies six or eight feet deep on a level melts all at once, and
pours down the mountain-sides. The little brooks become
raging torrents twenty feet deep, and carry every thing away
before them. The lumberman has made ready beforehand, know
ing just about when the freshet is due. The sleds carry their
loads to the edges of these deep gorges all winter long. There
is a moment's pause while the measurements are taken and
entered in a book. Then the driver takes his bill-hook in his
hand, and gives a strong wrench. The log tumbles clumsily off


the sled, slips slowly forward, and then, with a rush like thunder,
tears down the hillside like an avalanche to join his fellows
below. When that part of the gorge is full we move on, and
fill it up farther down stream."

" Now, then, what do you do in the evenings ? " said Tom.

" Well, mostly nothing ; for there is nothing to be done.
Some of the men play cards ; and others sit around the fire, and
smoke, and tell yarns. But they soon get talked out. If there
is an old newspaper, or any thing of that sort, it gets read
to pieces. Why, I went through a whole volume of Patent-
Office reports, including the ' whereases ' and ' now therefores/
that winter. But work in the open air makes one glad to sit
still ; and by eight o'clock we had all had our pipe, turned in,
and were fast asleep."

" What did you have to eat ? "

" Pork and flapjacks, tea and coffee, about made up the bill
of fare."

" Did you cook in turn ? " asked Will.

" No : our gang was so large, that we had a regular cook.
He used to get some plain talking to, I can tell you, if the
coffee wasn't right. But he was a pretty good hand at his
trade ; for one of the men fell ill, and he made no end of tasty
messes for him.

" When it gets along toward spring, the men begin to
wonder what kind of a run of logs there will be. If the snows
have been light, or if the thaw comes too gradually, and the
autumn before has been dry, so that the ground takes up
much of the moisture, there will be hardly any rise in the


stream, and the logs will have to lie over till another season.
On the other hand, if the freshet is too great, all the level land
on each side of the stream is overflowed ; and, when the water
begins to go down, the logs are often stranded so far from the
current, that it costs more to get them than they are worth.

" With the freshet comes the hardest work of all. Axes
and saws are no longer of any use. Each man takes his bill
hook in hand, and follows down the course of the stream. It
is a wild sight. The raging torrent is black with logs, which it
swirls and tears about as if they were straws. Here some great
fellow caught by an eddy rears straight up on end. In one-
wild rushing mass they tear along.

" All at once the experienced logman's eye sees that there is
trouble ahead. Before him he hears, at some bend or narrow
part of the river, a crushing of timber, He sees, as he hurries.




forward, the logs piling themselves up in mad confusion high
above the water's surface. The stream beside him begins to
rise rapidly. It is a jam. Two of the foremost timbers, in
passing, have got wedged together in the shape of the letter V.
The point is up stream, and each end is braced against the
bank. The whole run is stopped. Prompt action is neces-


sary. The logman rushes out on the piled-up mass. His
shoes are armed with sharp iron spikes to prevent his slipping.
He sees in a moment which log it is that is the key to the
position. He takes firm hold of his bill-hook, and wrenches at
the offender until the wedged end slips out. At the top of his
speed he makes for the shore, reaching it just as the now


loosened mass, urged on by the water backed up behind, once
more plunges wildly forward down stream.

" By and by, when the streams have all run into some great
river on their way to the sea, the logs are mingled together
with those that have come down from some other mountain
tributary and belong to other owners. In order to sort them
out, a boom is stretched across at some convenient spot, where
they are all halted. Here those bearing the same mark are
made up into great rafts, and, taking their crews on board, pass
onward like some clumsy vessel. Slowly carried along by the
current, and kept in mid-course by long poles wielded by the
mariners, they come at last to their destination, and are made
fast at the side of some' mill. When I reached that point in
my experience I was paid off, and went home."

" Gentlemen of the jury," said Jack, " you have heard the
evidence, and the prisoner's statement in his own behalf. What
say you ? Is he guilty, or not guilty ? "

" I hope your honor will remember my youth at the time the
offence was committed," said the man. " If you'll let me off,
I'll never go lumbering again."

" All right, then," said Jack : " we'll let you off this time."

" I -suppose," said Ned, " that there has been a great
difference in saw-mills since you wer>t lumbering. I saw one
out West a year ago. There were no end of saws, through all
of which a log passed at one time. When the hind end was
going into the mill as a log, the front end was coming out a
dozen good boards."

" No," said the man. " We had nothing like that."



The boys looked about the life-saving station for some time,
examining the appliances for saving wrecked mariners. The
man showed them the mortar, from which a bomb, with rope
attached, was thrown over a ship in distress. They climbed
into the life-boat, and into the life-car, in which they imagined
themselves being drawn through the surf. Then they went up
stairs and looked at the men's quarters. They proposed to go
to the lookout on the roof ; but George Washington, as they
still called him, said that they could see nothing on account of
the snow, and the wind was so high that he feared they might
be blown away. The storm was a wild one. The surf, only
three hundred feet distant, was tearing and dashing up over the
sand-hills as if it longed to get at them, and sweep them away.

" Well," said Tom after a while, " it must be getting near
dinner-time. We had better go back to the house. I wonder
what we can do this afternoon. I wish there were some way of
getting to the village."

" There is a man coming down from there about three
o'clock with a load of wood for us. If you don't mind
standing up, he will take you. I'll send him over to the

" But how shall we get back ? "

" Oh! I reckon he'll bring you," said the man. "Anyway,
if you give him fifty cents, he'll drive you about all the after

" All right, then," said Tom. " Send him up, please."

After dinner, as the sled did not appear, and the snow held
up a little, the boys decided to build a great snow man. The



girls put on their wraps, and came out ; but hardly was the first
ball rolled up, when the belated vehicle arrived. Off set the

five youngsters : and what
ever they found to interest
them I do not know ; but
they did not get home till
just before tea.

When that meal was well
over, they gathered in the
parlor, as usual. Then Ned
Grant produced a great pack
age of gum-drops, as he had
been ordered to do when
found guilty of contempt of
court ; and they all sat
munching, and saying not
a word. At last Tom turned
to Charlie Morgan, and said

" Strike up music."
" How can I tell a story ?"
said Charlie. " You will eat
up all those gum-drops be
fore I get half through, and
I won't have any."
At this there was a general laugh ; and a handful being
delivered over to him, and safely put into his pocket out of the
reach of Jack's mischievous fingers, all settled themselves to



the year 1580," began
Charlie Morgan, " there
was born at Willoughby,
in Lancashire, England, a
boy named John Smith."

" Smith, Smith," inter
rupted Jack Hastings
meditatively. " The name
sounds familiar. Where
can I have heard it ? "

" When he was thir
teen years old," went on
Charlie, without paying
any attention to Jack's remark, " his father and mother died, and
he came under the care of guardians. It had long been his
great desire to go to sea ; and so he hailed with joy an
apprenticeship to a great merchant of London, upon one of
whose vessels he hoped soon to set sail. But, his longing not
being gratified, he took French leave of his master, who, for
eight years, did not set eyes upon him again. He made his way



across to France, and for a long time knocked about, seeing
strange lands, the Low Countries, Italy, and Egypt, and all
the time gaining knowledge, and growing in strength and all
manly acquirements.

" At length, in Hungary, where the Turks and Christians were
always at deadly feud, he rendered such distinguished service
that he was made captain of a troop of two hundred and fifty
horse, and was thenceforth known as Capt. John Smith.

" With the Turks he fought furiously, and his name soon
became a well-known word in their camp. The city of Alba Re-
galis the Pagans had conquered from thfe Christians, and for sixty
years had held against many an assault. They believed it to be
impregnable. Once again a Christian army surrounded it. A
night attack was determined on. Capt. Smith invented a sort of
infernal machine. First he took a number of round-bellied pots,
and filled them with gunpowder. Over all he spread a layer of
pitch, and this he stuck full of bullets ; then more pitch ; and
over this cloth soaked in oil was tightly bound. These grenades
were lighted, and hurled from slings. ' At midnight it was a
fearful sight to see the short flaming course of their flight in
the aire ; but, presently after their fall, the lamentable noise of
the miserable slaughtered Turks was most wonderful to heare.'
The enemy was thrown into great confusion ; the city was set on
fire ; and, a terrific onslaught being made by the besiegers, the
banner of the crescent gave place to that of the cross upon its

" Not long after, the Christians laid siege to another town ;
and here, to relieve the tedium of the camp, a Turk sent a chal-


lenge into their lines, directed to any captain of a company who
durst combat with him for his head. Smith was chosen to meet
him. A truce was declared, and the lists were formed. On all
sides were fair ladies and knights. Each combatant, with lance
in rest, awaited the word for the onset. They met in mid-course ;
and Smith's spear was so well aimed that it pierced his enemy's
helmet, and hurled him lifeless to the ground.

" The death of the Turk so enraged a friend named Grualgo,
that he sent a personal challenge to our hero. Again the lists
were opened, and the trumpets sounded the charge. The knights
met : their lances were shivered. In the hand-to-hand contest
that followed, Smith again came off victorious, and the Turk bit
the dust.

" It was very important that the attention of the enemy should
be drawn away from certain movements in the besiegers' camp.
To effect this, it was arranged that Smith, in his turn, should
send a challenge into the enemy's ranks. A doughty Pagan,
Bonny Mulgro by name, made haste to accept it. A third time
the lists were opened. The contest was a furious one ; and it
was only by a skilful use of his dagger, after his battle-axe had
been beaten from his hand, that the Englishman managed to
snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat.

" For these deeds a coat of arms was given him, on which
stood out, in bold relief, three Turks' heads.

" But fortune, that had so far stood his friend, now deserted
him. In a pitched battle he was left among the dead and wounded
on the field, and was there found by the wretches who came to
pillage. Perceiving by his armor that he was a person of posi-


tion, they saved him for ransom. Healed of his wounds, he, with
many others, was sent to Axopolis, where, in the market-place,
they were sold for slaves, like so many beasts. He was bought
by a bashaw, who sent him as a present to his lady-love in Con
stantinople ; whither, with other prisoners chained together by the
necks in parties of twenty, he was marched without delay.

" He was fortunate in finding a kind mistress. She became
greatly interested in him ; and, fearing that her mother might
again sell him, she had him despatched to her brother, the Bashaw
of Nalbrits, in the country of the Crym Tartars, directing that
he should be treated with especial kindness.

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 5 of 30)