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 8 of 30)
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" New Amsterdam had now begun to grow a little. The
quaint houses were built after the fashion of those in Holland,
with sharp gables. Many were only one story high, and they
were scattered about here and there with paths winding in and
out among them. This is the reason that so many of the
streets down town are so crooked. They have never been
straightened since the Dutch days. There is an old contract still
in existence for a house which was to be thirty feet long, eigh
teen feet wide, and eight feet high. It was to cost one hundred



and forty dollars.
It was further
stipulated that it
was to contain a

"What in the
world is a slaap-
banck ? " asked

"A bedstead,"
said Gertrude.
" It was built
against the wall,
and had doors in
front like a cup
board, so that in
the daytime it
could be shut up
out of sight.
The sleepy
Dutchman, who
decided to go
to bed, knocked
the ashes out of
his pipe, opened
the doors, and
climbed in. Un
der him was a feather-bed, and over him he spread another ;



and soon he was far away from New Amsterdam, in the land of

" Well, the town continued to grow. Dutch, English, French,
all lived in harmony together. A new governor came, and an
old one went, till Peter Stuyvesant was appointed to that office.
He planted on his farm, in the Bowery, a pear-tree that stood
for more than two hundred years, till the Bouerie farm was
covered with blocks of houses."

" It's lucky little George Wash
ington didn't visit New York with
his hatchet," said Jack : " he would
have had that pear-tree down in no-

" Don't interrupt, Jack, " said
Gertrude. " Well, one day Stuy
vesant was told that some English
men-of-war were off the coast, in
tending to capture the place. Before
he could do any thing to strengthen
it, the mouths of sixty cannons were
pointed at the town. He had but
twenty guns ; but he made up his
He was at his station in the fort,
stumping about on his wooden leg, and the gunners had their
matches burning, when a deputation from the town demanded
that he surrender. Half of the townsfolk were English, and
welcomed the invaders. There was not the slightest hope, they
said, of holding the town. They had not even powder enough


mind to fight till the last.



to fight for more than a few hours. The old man read their
demand with a face
pale with mortifica
tion. ' I had rather
be carried to my
grave,' he said.
The white flag was
raised, and New
Amsterdam became
New York."

" But what right
had the English to
take it? "asked Ned.

" None at all,"
answered Gertrude.
" They were then
at peace with the
Dutch States ; and
the whole thing was
managed so that
their intention
should not be
known in time for
them to take any

measures to p r e-


"And did Holland submit quietly?"

" By no mftans. War was declared against England. The



Dutch fleets were so successful, that they destroyed the English
navy ; and the people of London trembled to hear their enemy's
guns only a few miles away, where, at Chatham, they were burn
ing the English ships and naval stores. When the treaty of
peace was signed, England was allowed to keep New York ; but
yielded, in place of it, three colonies that were considered vastly
more important.

" And that is the way," said Gertrude, " that New York be
came English."

After they had talked over what Gertrude had told them for
a little, they all turned to Tom to hear what he had to say.

" When the news of the passage of the Stamp Act reached
New York," he began, " a number of patriots met together,
formed an association, and called themselves the Sons of Liberty.
How they treated the stamped paper, and how they wet down
the tea that came over, Ned told us a night or two ago. Not
a penny's worth of either ever got into circulation.

" After a time came the news that the Stamp Act was re
pealed. The Sons of Liberty were overjoyed at finding the king^
so prompt to listen to their complaints ; and, in an excess of
patriotism, they cast a statue of him in lead, and set it up in
the Bowling Green. It was very fine. The king was on horse
back, life-size : on his head was a crown, while one hand held in
a prancing steed. But the statue did not stay there many years.
What became of it you will learn a little later.

" It was hardly settled on its base when the loyal feelings
that raised it received a shock. News came that Parliament,
enraged at the disturbances about the stamped paper, had passed


a law called the Mutiny Act, stationing British troops in the prin
cipal cities of America ; and that a regiment was on the ocean,
on its way to them. The Sons of Liberty were aroused and
indignant. They declared that the troops should not land ; but
they could not prevent it. As a relief to their feelings, they
erected on the Common a great liberty-pole. The soldiers pres
ently cut it down ; but the people set up another : and in this
way there began to be bad blood between them.

" About this time Gen. Gage was fortifying Boston Neck.
He wanted lumber for his barracks, and men to build them.
But the sturdy Bostonians would furnish neither. So he sent to
New York for help. The Sons of Liberty heard that a sloop
was about to sail well loaded. They declared that it should not
leave port. Isaac Sears, who, from the influence that he had,
was known as King Sears, urged the people to arm. For this
he was arrested for treason.

" The very afternoon of his arrest, a horseman entered New
York, breathless with haste, and jaded with hard riding. He
bore the news of the battle of Lexington. The people were
wild with excitement and anger. Led by Marinus Willett, they
rescued Sears from the authorities, and, marching to the arsenal
in a body, seized six hundred stands of arms. The next day
every ship in the harbor was visited by a committee, who used
arguments of such weight, that not a vessel went to the help of

"The British regiment was at once ordered to Boston. The
men left their barracks, and marched to the wharf to embark.
Marinus Willett noticed that they were taking with them several


carts loaded with extra arms. Rousing his fellows, he set out in
pursuit, and, seizing the bridles of the horses, captured all these

"Why didn't the soldiers interfere?" asked Jack.

" They were just about to leave the city, and probably the
officers thought that the arms were not worth the fight that
would be sure to follow. You must remember that the Sons of
Liberty had captured six hundred muskets a few days before,
and so could speedily arm themselves. At all events, the British
lost the guns ; and a little later they did good service in a regi
ment in the Continental army, which Willett commanded. Wil-
lett won a great reputation as a fighter, particularly from the
Indians, whom the British roused to attack the settlers. Among
them he went under the name of ' The Devil.'

"During the winter of 1775-6 Washington sent Gen. Lee
with a body of men to occupy New York. There were no Brit
ish troops in the city ; but a man-of-war, ' The Asia,' lay in the
harbor. The Tories besought Lee not to enter the city, for fear
that 'The Asia' would bombard it. But he paid small attention
to any such suggestions. ' If the ships of war are quiet,' he
said, ' I shall be quiet. If they make my presence a pretext for
firing on the town, the first house set in flames by their guns
shall be the funeral pile of some of their best friends.'

" The spring following, after the British were driven out of
Boston, Washington hurried to New York, and began to fortify
the city, and put into shape her straggling army. Lord Howe,
the British commander, soon after arrived in the harbor, having
under him thirty thousand men. These he landed on Staten



Island, and both sides took a long breath before the struggle
that was before them. In this lull there came from Congress
the Declaration of Independence. The troops were drawn up on.
the Common, where the City Hall now stands, in a hollow square,
to hear it.

" Standing in their midst was Washington, and by his side
an aide, who read it aloud in a clear voice. The listening Sons
of Liberty thronging about heard it with joy. Rushing to the
Bowling Green, they tore down the statue of the king, and
hacked it in pieces. Lead was scarce, and bullets were needed.
Out of it were made cartridges ; and these are the names of the
brave women who did the work : Mrs. Marvin made 6,058 ;
Laura Marvin, 8,370; Ruth Marvin, 11,592; Mary Marvin, 10,790.
The British, as some one at the time said, had melted majesty
fired at them.

" Presently the Englishmen crossed to Long Island, and the
Americans met them in a bloody battle where Brooklyn now
stands. It was a sad day for our fathers, and many a sturdy
patriot fell. For years the farmers would plough up skulls still
showing the holes that the British bullets had made. The
Americans were defeated, and driven back to the river. The
English followed, hemming them in. and sure that they could
not elude them. But in the night came up a greaJ fog ; and,
under cover of it, the nine thousand Americans crossed the
river in small boats to New York, and escaped. When th^ fog
lifted, the chagrined conquerors saw their foe just across the
river, marching up from the ferry in safety.

"It is said that a woman living near sent her slave in the



middle of the night to the British to tell them what the Ameri
cans were doing.
He, however, fell
in with a Hessian
sentinel who could
not understand
him ; and, when at
last the message
was known, it was
too late.

" It was now
seen that New York
could not be held ;
and Washington
retreated from the
city, leaving only
four thousand men
under Gen. Put
nam. These would
have all been cap
tured, but for a
woman's clever
ness. This was how
it happened : Put
nam was stationed
near the Battery,
when the British suddenly crossed from Brooklyn to where now is
the foot of Thirty-fourth Street. They were in great force ; and


they marched at once across the fields towards the centre of the
island, thus closing the two roads of exit from the city. One of
these ran along the East River, and the other along the centre
of the island. As Gen. Howe, at the head of his troops, reached
the crest of the hill, they came to the fine old mansion of Robert
Murray. Murray himself was a Tory ; but his wife and daughters
were stanch patriots. From the second-story windows of their
house they had seen the dust arising from a half-known lane
between them and the Hudson, and now and then a flash of
bayonets marked where Putnam's troops were hurrying northward
to escape. Should the British see them, they were lost.

" Mrs. Murray, with her daughters beside her, stood at her
gate as the English drew near.

" ' William,' she said to Lord Howe in her quiet Quaker
way, ' will thee alight, and refresh thyself at our house ? '

" ' I thank you, Mrs. Murray,' said the Englishman ; ' but I
must first catch that rascally Yankee Putnam.'

" ' Didst thou not hear,' said Mrs. Murray, ' that Putnam had
gone ? It is late to try to catch him. Thee had better come in
and dine.'

" Howe yielded to her entreaties, and, with his chief officers,
dismounted. Mrs. Murray and her daughters never so exerted
themselves before. It was two hours before the officers left, and
by that time Putnam was safe."

" How proud she must have been ! " said Rose.

" Her stratagem was known at once among the Americans,"
said Tom; "and the soldiers all said that Mrs. Murray had saved
Putnam's division.



" The British met with continued success after this. They
took several thousand prisoners, and these they treated with
great brutality. They were crowded into churches and sugar-
houses, and old hulks anchored in the bay. It makes one's

blood boil to think
how they were
starved and killed
just through pure
wickedness on the
part of their captors.
You can fancy the
treatment they re
ceived, from the fact
that in three weeks
more than seventeen
hundred died."

" Those were in
deed dark days for
the patriots," said Mr.
Longwood. " Defeat
came after defeat.
The British seized all

New- York Island, and
overran New Jersey.


Among their troops were many Hessians, German mercenaries who
had been hired by the English king. Their foraging parties scoured
the country, stealing alike from friend and foe, and making the
farmers drag with their teams the food which had been stolen from




under their very eyes. Happy was the man who got away from
camp without having his horses seized. I have heard my great-
grandmother say," he went on, " that when her husband, who was
an officer in the army, ventured home for a visit, she always put
his horse in the house ; and many and many was the time when
she seized her baby under her arm, and hid in a deep swamp
close at hand, while the foragers pillaged the house."

" She must have
been almost as brave
as my great-grand
mother," said Jack ad

" It was not till
Christmas Day," Mr.
Longwood went on,
" that a change came.
Did you ever hear this
old ballad?" he said,
going to the shelves,
and taking down a
book. It was written at the time, though it is not known by
whom, and well describes what took place. The victory of which
it tells put great courage into all the patriots, and the cause of
liberty grew stronger at once.

" Here it is:




ON Christmas Day in seventy-six,

Our ragged troops, with bayonets fixed,

For Trenton marched away.
The Delaware see, the boats below,
The light obscured by hail and snow,

But no signs of dismay.

Our object was the Hessian band,
That dared invade fair Freedom's land,

And quarter in that place.
Great Washington he led us on,
Whose streaming flag, in storm or sun,

Had never known disgrace.

In silent march we passed the night,
Each soldier panting for the fight,

Though quite benumbed with frost.
Greene, on the left, at six began :
The right was led by Sullivan,

Who ne'er a moment lost.

Their pickets stormed, the alarm was spread,
That rebels risen from the dead

Were marching into town.
Some scampered here, some scampered there;
And some for action did prepare,

But soon their arms laid down.



Twelve hundred servile miscreants,
With all their colors, guns, and tents,

Were trophies of the day.
The frolic o'er, the bright canteen
In centre, front, and rear was seen,

Driving fatigue away.

Now, brothers of the patriot bands,
Let's sing deliverance from the hands

Of arbitrary sway ;
And, as our life is but a span,
Let's touch the tankard while we can

In memory of that day.' ''


SUNDAY morning dawned
bright and fair. Out of
doors the sun flashed and
blazed on the smooth sur
face of the lake ; and the
breath of Tom and Rose,
as they stood for a moment
on the piazza, went up in
little clouds of frozen vapor,
that made Jack, who was
watching them, say that they
were like two steaming tea

" What a jolly season
winter is ! " said Tom.
" There is no time of the
year like it."

"Oh! do you think so?"
said Rose. " Spring is the
season for me, when the first buds begin to swell, and the

dandelions come." And she broke out singing,


Through the gray April clouds

A burst of sunshine came,
Lighting the shoots of timid grass

With a sheet of golden flame ;
And every struggling bud fresh courage took;
A softer ripple laughed the little brook.

The clouds have shut again :

No more the clear blue sky ;
But, scattered through the tender grass,

The sunbeams tangled lie.

No sunbeams these that cease when clouds incline :
T^hey are they are the golden dandelion !

Our whole party went to church in the morning in a body.
As they were much too numerous to sit together, they divided
up into little parties of twos and threes. Jack found his old
friend George Washington, who took him into his own pew ;
and so much at home did he feel, that, before the minister
had fairly got under way with his sermon, he had gone to sleep,
with his head on George Washington's arm. All their new
acquaintances of the past week were about them, from the man
who took them into town on the wood-sled to the driver who
had piloted them in their expedition to the Shinnecocks. This
latter man Jack discovered all at once in the choir. He had his
mouth wide open, and was rolling out, in a voice that seemed
to come from way down in his boots,

" Broad is the road that leads to death ; "

but, at sight of Jack's big eyes looking at him, he broke out
into a grin not at all in keeping with the gloomy words he
was singing.


After the last hymn had been sung, and the service was
over, the boys gathered around George Washington.

" The judge seemed a trifle sleepy this morning," said he,
smiling at Jack.

" We have been going so hard all the week," said Will,
" that I don't wonder at it. I felt sleepy myself."

" I noticed you were coasting on the sand-hills," said George
Washington. "Did you ever see a tobogan?"

"One of those Canada things?" asked Will. "I have seen
pictures of them."

" Well," said George Washington, " Thomas John Wilsey,
over by North Sea, has made one. He read somewhere about
it, and saw a picture, and went to work to copy it. I saw him
this morning, and he said he had just finished it."

"I wonder if he'd let us try it," said Tom.

" Oh, yes ! I know he would," said George Washington.
" And the hills over by his house are high ; so that you could
have prime fun."

"Oh, jolly!" said all the boys together. "Let's ask Mr.
Longwood if we can't have the big sleigh, and go to-morrow
afternoon. What larks it would be ! "

Mr. Longwood gave assent at once ; and Jack, fearful that
something might happen to change his mind, ran after the
driver, who was walking down the village street with a young
woman, to tell him to be sure to have the four horses and the
sleigh at the house at two o'clock the next day, without fail.

The rest of Sunday was passed very quietly. In the middle
of the afternoon, the boys, with Mr. Longwood, went off for an


hour's walk ; while the girls went to the beach, and watched the
surf thundering on the sand. Soon after supper, Charlie Morgan
announced, with a yawn, that he thought he would go to his
" slaap-banck." " To-morrow, you know, is our last day here,"
he said ; "so that we must be all fresh for the morning."

The rest of the young folk seemed to find his example
contagious; and, at a much earlier hour than usual, the parlor
was left alone, with no one but the sleepily blinking fire to keep
it company.

The next day was, in point of weather, all that could be
desired. Punctually at two, just as dinner was being finished,
the sleigh arrived. Girls, boys, and dogs hurried into it with a
rush, and off they went. What a delight it was to sit still, and
be whirled along ! From breakfast till dinner they had skated
almost without stopping, so that sitting still was quite a luxury.
The sleighing was perfect, and it appeared as if all the world
were out to enjoy it. Every now and then a swift flying cutter
met them ; and at the village post-office, where they halted for
the mail, it seemed, now that the loud jingle of their own bells
had stopped, as if the whole air was full of the melody of
distant chimes.

As they went on toward North Sea, the face of the country
changed. They found themselves among hills, with oak-woods
all about them ; while every now and then a snug farm-house
came into view, and went quickly out of sight behind.

They met fewer people, for it was a rather lonely road ; though
at one place they had to draw to one side to let pass two stalwart
horses with a heavy load of wood. Their driver walked beside


them, and he had a whip that he cracked like a pistol. At last,
after an hour or so, their own driver announced to Jack that the
house to which they were going was at the foot of a high hill
just before them ; and a moment later they drove in through an
open gate, and reined up just under an overhanging shed.

" I'll just make fast the horses, and blanket them," said he as
they scrambled out, " and then I'll hunt up Thomas John and the
tobogan." So, the fastening and blanketing being soon accom
plished, he advanced to the side-door of the house. A trim-
looking woman with gray hair opened it.

"Thomas John at home?" asked the driver.

" No, Thomas John's gone away east," said the woman.

"I brought over a party to see his tobogan," said the driver;
" and I thought perhaps he'd let them try it."

"La sakes ! " said the woman, "you're welcome to take the
critter: it's out in the barn. I don't take no stock in it myself;
and I reckon Thomas John don't so much as he did, sence this

"Why, how's that?" said the driver.

" Well," said the woman, " I see him going off toward the
hill with the critter this morning ; and I didn't like the looks of
it nohow, and I told him so : but young men know much more
than their mothers nowadays, and he only laughed. Well, about
half an hour later, Thomas John he put his head into the
kitchen-door, and says he, ' Mother, I want a piece of raw pork.'

" ' La sakes ! ' says I. ' Thomas John, I can't take my hands
-out of this batch of bread. What do you want raw pork for?'

" ' I kind o' bruised my head,' says he.



"'With that I looked up; and, sure enough, there was a big
lump over his eye : so I bound it up in pork, and it came down
some. But the last thing I says to him when he went off this
afternoon, 'Thomas John,' says I, 'be sure you don't turn the
north side of your face to any one you meet, or they'll think
you've been drinking.' "

" Well," said Mr. Longwood, who had drawn near and heard
the conversation, " that doesn't look as if it would be very safe
for boys and girls ; does it ? "

"Oh! I'll try it first," said the driver cheerfully, "and then
we can see if there is any danger."

So off they all tramped to the barn, and then, trailing the
tobogan after them, to the top of the hill. Two of the girls sat
on it, and the boys gallantly offered to drag them all : but it was
pretty hard work ; and they were not sorry when they changed
their minds, and said they would rather walk.

When they had all reached the hill-top, the driver pulled the
tobogan around into position, and took his seat. " Pshaw ! " he
said, " it's nothing but plain sailing. I never did think Thomas
John any great shakes anyway." And, giving himself a push with
his hands, off he went.

Did any of you young people ever see a tobogan ? If you
have not, you will get a good idea of it from the picture. It is
simply a long board turned up at the end, and braced with cross-
pieces. The rider sits on it, guiding it by moving his body or
by his hands. If you have ever tried one, you will not be at all
surprised to learn, that, before the driver had gone two hundred
feet, the tobogan, instead of going on straight as when he started,



began to swerve more and
more to one side. Its rider's
movements grew wilder and
wilder as he tried to get its
head about again. But it was
of no use : the frantic tobogan
went more and more sideways.
How it would have ended, I
cannot say : but all at once
the driver threw himself off
into the snow ; and, the rope
catching on his leg, a sudden,
effectual stoppage was made.
As for the boys, who were
looking on, they were wild
with delight. They shouted

and laughed about the man,
while he unbuttoned his coat,
and tried vainly to get out
about a quart of snow which
had been forced inside of his
collar ; and they were in a
state of hilarious glee when he
announced that it was melting,
and trickling down his back.



" Well," he said after a little,
during which time he had

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 8 of 30)