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 7 of 30)
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here goes : " and out he jumped. The crackling flames were
soon roaring up the chimney, and the pitchers were set down in
front of it to thaw out ; and gradually the boys, one after another,
crawled out of bed, and sat before the blaze to dress.

" I say, fellows ! " cried Ned, all at once glancing out of the
window. " Come quick ! Why, here's a great shp right in shore,.


and she's had a hard time of it too. Her sails are all blown
away. She must be going aground."

" No," said Will, after watching her a moment or two : " the
wind is off shore, and she has sail enough to make headway against
any current setting towards land. But I don't envy the sailors.

Think of being out at such a time ! The sea dashes over the
decks every minute or two, and must freeze instantly ; and the
rigging is stiff with ice. But we shall be stiff ourselves if we
stand here, and, besides, be late to breakfast."

" I wonder," said Ned Grant when they were all about the


table, " what writing it could have been that kept Will up so late
last night. It looks suspicious."

" I know," said Jack: " it was poetry. It fell out of his coat
when he put it on this morning. He picked it up very quickly;
but I saw it. Don't blush," he said, turning to Will patronizingly :
" I've written poetry myself."

" O Will ! " said the girls : " do let us hear it ! "
Will, thus besought, tried to beg off. Finally, finding that
there was no use, he produced the paper from his pocket.
" When we were all over at the life-saving station yesterday," he
said, " one of the men told me that his father, an old sea-captain,
told him of the wreck of a British man-of-war that took place
when he was a boy. So, when we were in the village, I hap
pened to meet the old gentleman, and he told me all about it.
I tried to put it in rhyme as follows : "


'Tis nigh upon seventy years ago

Since " The Sylph " came ashore :

'Twas the war of eighteen hundred and twelve,

And she was a British sloop-of-war.

Lord ! I can see it all again,

The gale, and the spray, and the wild surfs roar,

And the wave-lashed corpses of drownded men ;

Though I was but a lad of ten

When " The Sylph " came ashore.

And the old sea-captain's silver hair

Fluttered and tossed in the summer air,

As he leaned at ease o'er his garden-gate,

And told me the tale of " The Sylph's " hard fate.


Did we know the craft? Ay, we knew her well,

From Montauk Point to Fire-Island Light.

Many a time from her decks had a shell

Screamed through the air in the quiet night,

Waking the siknt village street

With its roar and the tramp of flying feet;

Many a night had a ruddy glare

Lighted the landscape far and near,

As some old homestead and barns were burned,

And the labor of years into ashes turned.

And so, when one cold December morn,

Ere the moon's pale light had faded out,

A hurrying sound of feet was heard,

And on the chill night air rang forth the shout,

"'The Sylph's' ashore on Southampton beach!"

We wasted no time in idle speech ;

But each man sped to the beach away

To meet the foe that was now at bay.

This was the sight that met our eyes
In that cold dawning dim and gray,
A white-capped mass of swirling foam,
Filling the air with its icy spray :
Out of its midst there rose a mast
Black with the bodies of men lashed fast;
And each wild wave, as it came ashore,
With its icy fingers some poor wretch tore
From his frail hold, and with wrathful hand
Beat out his life on the shallow sand.

What could we do in a strait like that?
What ship could live in so mad a sea?



Women wailed as they watched it all;
Strong men looked on helplessly.
Crash ! all at once the mast went down,
Hurling them sheer in the surf to drown.
One mad struggle, then all was still;
Only the wild wind whistling shrill.
Out of a hundred and twenty men,
Only six walked the earth again.

We buried the dead that came ashore :
You may see their graves at the inlet still.
But the wreck turned out a prize indeed,
And we picked her bones with a right good will.



From her guns and timbers of cedar-wood
We built us a meeting-house strong and good.


And I've often heard the parson tell
That he heard these words in her swinging bell,'
"To the pruning-hook ye shall beat the sword;
For the wrath of men shall praise the Lord."


"Very good, very good," said Jack when he had finished;
" as a whole, very good. Ma}* I trouble you to read the first
part again ? "

Will read it.

" It's a little remarkable, isn't it," said Jack, looking around,
" that there should have been such a difference in the weather
on the two sides of the pond yesterday ? Here it wa^ snowing
and blowing, and over there the old sea-captain's silver hail \vas
tossing in the summer air."

" That's poetical license/' said Will.

" If you had consulted me," said Jack, " I should have recom
mended a change. You might have put it this way :

And the old sea-captain shivered with cold,
And told me the tale which I have just told."

" But," said Will, " the lines that you object to come in the
very beginning, before he has told the story."

" Oh ! well," said Jack, " then you might have said,

And the old sea-captain's silver hair
Stood up on end in the frosty air."

" It is hereby requested," said Will, laughing, " that Jack tell
us the story about his great-grandmother in rhyme."

" Let's go and skate, fellows," said Jack all at once : " the
ice looks beautifully."

" Do you happen to know that the thermometer stands at
zero, or lower ? " said Carrie.

" We are going to have a talk from Mr. Longwood about
fishes, after breakfast is over," said Gertrude. " There are some

1 62


beautiful pictures of them in a book in the library, and he is
going to tell us something as to their habits. If you boys will
promise to be very quiet, you may come too."

" Thank you," said Jack. " It would be very pleasant. Per
haps we will come in a little later. Fishes seem somehow to
belong more to summer than to winter. But we'll try to come
in, after skating a while." And the young scapegrace rushed out
of the door. The other boys followed, as they said, to see where

Jack had gone ; but as
the girls saw them all,
a little later, putting on
their skates at the
pond's edge, they made
up their minds that
waiting for them would
be but a loss of time.
The book of plates was
lying on the table in
the library, and the girls
were all bending over
it when Mr. Longwood
came into the room.
" (f)h ! " cried out Carrie as a leaf was turned, " what is that
strange fellow with a line and bait ? "

" That," said Mr. Longwood, "is a frog-angler. He has a
small body, and an enormously big head ; and, from the shape of
the mouth, you will see that he has a very open countenance
when he smiles. Owing to his shape, he cannot swim very fast;




so that, had he to depend on speed for his breakfast, he would
often go hungry. Nature has therefore provided another way
for him to get his meals. Do you see the rod and line that
stand out of his head ? That is tipped at the end, where it
grows larger, with a bright-colored piece of membrane that answers
for a bait. The rod, too, has a joint in it, so that it can be
moved about in every direction Our fisherman, when he gets
hungry, stirs up the
mud so as to hide
himself from sight in
the dirty water, and
then sets his line. Be
fore long, some foolish
little fish espies the
tempting bait, and goes
up to smell of it.
Snap go the great
jaws, and little fish is
gone. It is said that
the frog-angler some
times grows to be ten
feet long.

"This fellow," he
went on as Gertrude
turned over a page, "is a lump-sucker. From his appearance
he might be called ' Old Barnacles ; ' for he is as rough as a ship's
bottom. On the lower part of his body there is an arrangement
called a sucker, by which he can make himself fast to any object.



In this way he can protect himself against the violence of the
waves, which would otherwise beat his clumsy person about with
out mercy. So tightly can he hold with his sucker, that if yo t '
put one in a tub of water, and he attaches himself to the bottom,
you may use his tail as a handle, and with this lift tub, water
and all, into the air. The eggs of this fish are deposited in
shallows. When they hatch, the little suckers ail make fast to
their papa, and he swims off with them into deep water."

" Are they good to eat ? " asked Rose.

" Seals are very fond of them," said Mr. Longwood ; " but
they are rather too oily to please human beings. People who
live in cold countries, and see only the gray and silver fish that
are common with us, have no idea of the beautiful colors that
they wear in tropic seas. In the West Indies, for instance, I
have seen fish of three colors, striped around like a zebra ; and
each color was as brilliant as can well be imagined, yellow, red,
and blue. Tropical waters are often so clear, that one can lean
over the boat's side, and make out the whole sea-bottom, with
its moving panorama of marine life, far below. You don't have
to wait till the fish pulls the line to know whether you have a
bite or not ; for you can look down, and watch his every action.

" One morning I got up very early to pay a visit to the
fish-market. The islands swarm with negroes : and their jabber
is something astonishing ; for they all talk at once, and never
stop. I pushed my way through the market-place, filled with
women sitting on the ground, with little piles of lemons or oranges
for sale about them, and presently came to the spot for which
I had set out. Fish cannot be killed, as with us ; for, owing to


the heat of the climate, they keep but a few hours : so they are
put in tubs as soon as they are caught. I found myself sur
rounded by these large tubs of water, in all of which were fish
darting about as briskly as if they had never known any other

"I stood on one side a little while to see how business was
done. Presently down came a negro-woman. She looked into
the various tubs, and at last selected two victims. A lively hag
gle as to price now be
gan. This being over,
she said, ' Keel dose.'
The man slipped a net
under the two poor
wretches, and, whisk
ing them out of the
water, put them on
a little tray which she
had. She stuck the
tray on her head, ne
groes carry every thing
on their heads, from a


banana to a barrel of

flour, and walked off; the poor fish making their last dying flaps

above her unregarded.

"This next specimen is a sea-horse. He takes his name from
his slight resemblance to that animal. He whips his tail about
some plant, and waits quietly. Woe to the heedless little polly-
wog that wanders near him ! That sharp nose is after him in a


moment, and mamma pollywog waits in vain for her beloved
truant to come back to her again.

" Here," said Mr. Longwood, "is an animal that is known as
a sea-cucumber. On its head grows, as you notice, a flower-like
cluster. The sea-cucumber varies from six inches to two feet in
length, and lies with its body under the sand, its head alone
projecting. It is a very strange beast. If it is frightened or

attacked it will throw
out all its teeth, its
stomach, and the rest
of its insides, and
become nothing but
a thin empty bag.
Gradually all these
displaced parts begin
to grow again ; and,
after some months,
there is the complete
sea-cucumber as fresh
and lively as ever. In
SEA-CUCUMBER. famine it adopts a pe

culiar plan. It gradually breaks off parts of its body, and throws
them away, until nothing but the head is left. Should food come
in time, a new body grows on the old head."
" Are they good to eat ? " asked Kate.

" Oh, yes ! " said Mr. Longwood. " The Chinese are very
fond of them ; .and hundreds of tons of trepang, as they call it,
are caught every year. The Feejee Islands are a great fishing-


grdund for them. The inhabitants of the islands are cannibals,
and would prefer to eat the sailors rather than catch trepang for
them ; so that a sharp watch has to be kept. There are Ameri
can ships engaged in the business. The first thing to be done
on arriving on the ground is to open communication with the
islanders ; for they are to do the catching. A prominent chief or
two are taken on the ship as hostages, and then the work

" The Feejees in great numbers dive by the hour each time
through the clear water, picking out their victims, and always
coming up with them in their hands. They used to be paid for
this work a whale's tooth for every hogshead they caught ; but
of late years they prefer hatchets and such things. The crew of
the ship, meanwhile, have built great bins on shore ; and into
these the trepang are thrown. After lying a day they are split
open, and dried over slow fires ; then packed away for their
voyage to China, where they are esteemed a great delicacy,
and used for soups."

" I shouldn't think that it would be altogether comfortable,
working among cannibals," said Lou.

" No," said Mr. Longwood : " the sailors have to be on their
guard all the time. The wretched islanders sometimes wait till a
strong wind is blowing to the shore. Then in the night they
swim out, and, diving, manage to break the ship's cable. Before
the sails can be raised, the ship is in the breakers ; and the
Feejees roast and eat the crews."

Just at this moment there came a loud shout of laughter
from the lake. The girls rushed to their windows to see the


cause. The boys, standing by the pier, were holding on to one
another, and shouting with laughter ; while an old man on the
ice beside them was chuckling, and grinning from ear to ear.
Half-way up the lawn came Thistle at full speed, his tail be
tween his legs, and his little gray body making such time, that
he looked, indeed, like a puff of thistle-down blown by the wind.
Garm stood still on the ice, looking at his flight with astonish

" Those horrid boys ! " cried Carrie : " they have been teasing
my dog." And she rushed to the door, and stood ready to take
up Thistle when he arrived.

But he could not stop for any endearments. He shot by
her, and, making for the sofa, darted under it, refusing to come
out in spite of all his mistress's attentions. While Carrie was on
her knees, trying to coax him, Will Morgan appeared at the

" O Will ! " she cried, " what have you been doing to

" Nothing at all," said Will, laughing. " You see, the dog
has been awfully cross all the morning. While we were putting
on our skates, an old fellow who has a wooden leg came stump
ing along, and began to talk with us. Thistle did not like his
looks ; though the man took a great fancy to him, and tried
to make friends. Every time he spoke, Thistle snapped and
snarled ; and all at once he rushed at him, and seized him by
the leg. But he took hold of the wooden leg. As soon as he
felt it in his teeth, he stopped short, and, giving one look at
the man, put down his tail, and fled."


The girls all laughed ; and Thistle, who hated being laughed
at, gave a growl of rage and mortification from under the sofa.

" What I came up for," said Will, " was to say that it is
growing warmer every minute, and does not seem cold at all.
The ice is splendid."

At this the atlas of fishes was put away at once, and the
girls hurried to get on their wraps. They found such good fun,
that, as soon as dinner was over, they were out again. Ned dis
covered that capital coasting could be had from the top of the
sand-hills by the sea, down on to the lake ; and they went into
this with such vigor, that when evening came they were all tired
enough, and glad to sit quietly before the blazing fire and listen
to Gertrude and Tom.


" AT the be
ginning- of the
seventeenth cen
tury," began Ger
trude, " England
and Holland were
doing a brisk
trade with India.
But the long
voyag e around
the southern ex
tremity of Africa
was made at a
very great e x-
pense, and many
were the attempts
to find some
shorter route. The world was not then so well known as it is
now, and some people thought that there must be a way around
the north of either Europe or America. Many expeditions were

made to those icy seas to find this unknown passage.



" One of these set out in the year 1609 from Amsterdam.
The ship was ' The Half- Moon.' The crew were Dutch ; but the
commander was an Englishman, Henry Hudson, a bold and in
trepid mariner. He was to search for the passage to ' China
behind Norway.' But, when he had got far to the north, noth
ing lay before him but great fields of ice ; and he could go no
farther. He did not give up his quest, however. Turning
about, he sailed to the south-west, and, striking the American
coast, sailed along it, looking for some arm of the sea on which
he could sail through the continent, and thus reach Asia through

" At last he thought he had found what he was looking for.
One warm August morning he came to anchor at a spot where
the ocean ran in landward, making a great bay. A few days
later he pushed on, and found himself in an inner bay. Before
him lay a mighty river, its western border lined by rocky pal;-
sades; while on its other side, abreast of him, lay a large island.
That island was "

" New York," interrupted Jack Hastings. " I know all about


' Flow fair beside the Palisades, flow, Hudson, fair and free,
By proud Manhattan's shore of ships and green Hoboken's tree :
So fair yon haven clasped its isles, in such a sunset's gleam,
When Hendrik and his sea-worn tars first sounded up the stream,
And climbed this rocky palisade, and, resting on its brow,
Passed round the can, and gazed a while on shore and wave below.
And Hendrik drank with hearty cheer, and loudly then cried he,
"Tis a good land to fall in with, men, and a pleasant land to see.'"

" These last are the very words that Hudson used," said


Jack, stopping to take breath ; " and there is lots more. I
learned it one day last winter when I was at home with a cold."

" Well, Hudson thought," went on Gertrude, " that surely
here was the way to the South Sea ; for such a vast body of
water could not be a river : so he hoisted sail again, and pressed
onward. But after a few days' voyage he found that the water

was getting shal
low, and that it
was not safe to
continue. So he
turned about, and
sailed back again.
The Indians came
off in canoes, and
were very friend
ly. He gave them
an entertainment
which seemed to
them so magnifi
cent, that the tra
dition of it lasted
among the tribes
nearly two hun
dred years. One old chief, I am sorry to say, took such a fancy
to his strong water, that he got drunk. His fellows had never
seen any one in such case, and they were greatly troubled. They
brought various magic beads to break the spell which the strangers
had cast over him. But when, the next morning, the old reprobate



came to himself, and said that he had had a good time, and would
like to try it again, their admiration knew no bounds. They traded
their ' pompions ' with great joy ; and no doubt Hudson and his
men had pumpkin-pie to their hearts' content.

" On his return voyage, Hudson put into the English harbor
of Dartmouth. Here he and his ship were seized by the au
thorities. It was not that the English did not wish the Dutch
to profit by the discovery he had made, they thought that a
matter of no importance, but they did not want so bold a
mariner as Hudson to be in the Dutch service ; for perhaps
he might discover the short cut to India, and then their rivals
would gain an advantage over them. So, after a little, they let
'The Half-Moon' go on to her port; but Hudson was bidden
not to go to Holland. And in this way the Dutch lost his

" Did he never go back to New York ? "

" No," said Gertrude : " he came to his death two or three
years after, and a fearful death it was. He set out on another
voyage to discover the way to India through the Arctic Ocean.
He found his way into the great bay named after him, Hudson's
Bay ; and there he passed the winter. The sufferings of all were
terrible. Their food gave out, and they kept alive on wild-fowl
and moss. When spring came, loosening their icy fetters, they
made their way to the open sea. But mutiny broke out. Hud
son and his son and seven others were put in an open boat,
cast adrift, and left to perish in this icy waste. Death, no
doubt, soon came to terminate their sufferings. And so ended
the life of a brave man and a hardy manner. One of the crew, t&



his great honor be it
told, he was the car
penter, Philip Staffe,
of his own accord
clambered into the
boat beside his com
mander, preferring to
die with him than to
live in dishonor."

" I hope the mu
tineers all came to
grief," said Ned.

" They had a pretty
hard time of it," said
Gertrude. " Five died :
the rest had to live
on candle-grease, and
were almost dying,
when a fishing-smack
sighted them, and
brought them into

"Well, the Dutch
did not make any
great use of their dis
covery of the Hudson
River. They found
the trade with the



Indians in skins very profitable : so they established a trading-
fort where New York now stands. They bought the whole
island from the Indians for twenty- four dollars' worth of beads
and other trinkets.

" Gradually, though slowly, a little settlement grew up about
this trading-fort, and they named it New Amsterdam. Other
settlements were made at different places on the river, and in
the year 1633 the governor over the colony was Wouter Van
Twiller. Gov. Van Twiller was a curious specimen. He was a
famous hand at the tankard ; but in other qualities he was some
what deficient.

" It was the great aim of the Dutch to keep the trade of the
river all to themselves, and thus far no one of any other nation
kad ventured to enter it. What was Van Twiller's dismay, then,
one day, to see an English vessel quietly enter the bay, and
announce its intention of going up the river to trade with the
Indians ! The governor was speechless with astonishment and
indignation. He ordered the gunner to spread the flag of the
Prince of Orange, and to salute it with three pieces of ordnance ;
but, to his surprise, the English, instead of going away abashed
at this, raised the flag of England, saluted it, and set out up
the river to trade.

" The governor saw their sails fade out of sight with incredu
lous surprise. But only one course suggested itself to him.
Ordering out a barrel of wine, he seized his glass, and, filling it,
shouted, ' All who love the Prince of Orange and me, emulate
me in this, and assist me in repelling the violence of this Eng
lishman ! '


" De Vries, a sea-captain of great renown, suggested to him,
however, another course of action. By his advice, a body of
men were sent up the, river. The Englishman, who had put up
a tent and begun to trade, was driven on to his ship, and
brought back to New York, where, after paying sundry fines, he
was bidden to leave with all speed, and never return.

" But this great victory so filled the redoubtable Van Twiller's
head with pride at his own greatness, that when De Vries, a
little later on, was about to sail in his own vessel, he peremp
torily ordered him to stop, and turned the guns of the fort upon
the ship. Whereupon, says that veteran, ' I ran to the point of
land where Van Twiller stood with the secretary and one or two
of the council, and told them that it seemed to me the country
was full of fools. If they must fire at something, they ought to
have fired at the Englishman.' After this plain speaking they
made him no further trouble.

" Van Twiller was not stupid only. Grave suspicions as to
his honesty began to arise ; and he was presently ignominiously
removed, and a new man appointed in his stead.

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 7 of 30)