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 9 of 30)
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squirmed about in his clothes
as he felt the icy stream down
his spine, " here goes for it
again. Perhaps Thomas John
was not such a fool as I took
him for."

This time he set out much
more carefully. Away he flew,
straight as an arrow. "Hurrah!"
shouted Jack : " he's got the
hang of it now. Next time
I'm going down behind him."

But the words were hardly out
of his mouth when they saw a
strange sight. Half way down
the hill was a slight ridge, or
thank-you-ma'am as the country-
people call it. Over this the
tobogan shot ; but, as it did so,
its rider flew into the air, the
long tail of his cap streaming
above him. He came down very
quickly, but not soon enough
to catch the tobogan, which


leaped onward from under him, leaving him at full length on his
back on the snow, while it made the rest of the journey to the
foot of the hill alone.

The boys ran after it, and slowly brought it back, while the
disappointed toboganist made his way after them.

" I think it's pretty evident, girls," said Carrie, " that we shall
not do much coasting on that sled this afternoon. I, for one,
have no fancy for having icy waterfalls down my back, nor for
shooting into the air like a rocket. Nor do I want to go back
to New York with a piece of raw pork on the north side of my
face. So I move we go down and pay a visit to Thomas John's
mother, I'm half frozen standing here, and there we can sit
by the fire."

" All right," said the other girls. " Let's have a race."

" She's a powerful hand at making doughnuts, is Thomas
John's mother," said the driver. " If you manage right, perhaps
she'll give you some."

" We'll try to manage right, then," said Carrie. " When will
you all be back ? "

"Well," said the driver, "I don't like to give in beat by an
old board. If you are not in a great hurry," turning to Mr.
Longwood, " I'd like to have another try at the old thing."

"Oh! by all means," said Mr. Longwood. "We'll be back by
and by, girls. We won't go home without you : don't be afraid."

" Please don't start the tobogan till we get down the hill and
over the fence ; will you ? " said Carrie.

" Why, I've not been coasting in the direction you are going
at all," said the driver.


"Nevermind," said Carrie: "it may turn around the hill, and
chase us, for all I know."

"All right," laughed the man: "I'll wait."

So the girls set out. Thomas John's mother seemed delight
ed to see them. She gave them chairs by the fire, and asked
them all sorts of questions about their relations, and what their
fathers "followed for a living," and "whether any of them had
been summer stoppers ; " and told them no end of things about
Thomas John, who was evidently perfect in her eyes. And, to
crown it all, she brought in a great pitcher of milk and a heaping
plate of those doughnuts that they had heard about ; and the
girls did not care how long the boys stayed away.

Meanwhile, on the hill-top, the tobogan was once more in
position, and the driver was about to take his seat.

" Perhaps you'd like to try it yourself, sir," he said to Mr.

" No, thank you," said that gentleman. " I'll watch you."

" I think I know what my mistake was," said the driver. " I
ought to have held on over that hummock. We'll see how it
works that way."

This time he did hold on, and the hummock was passed
beautifully. As he went flying on, he loosed one hand for a
moment to wave it triumphantly, and then seized tight hold
once more. But what happened afterward showed what a mis
take it is to be a man of one idea. He was so intent on
holding on, that he forgot to steer. On he flew with head

Close to the road, at the very foot of the hill, stood the



schoolhouse. There had been
no school for a week or so ; and
the snows had blown and drifted
around the building, so that at
the back there was a smooth
plain from the fields to the very
top of the roof. Toward this the
tobogan flew.

" Hollo ! " shouted Jack.
"Stop!" But at that distance
no one could have heard him.

" He'll go over the building,

and pitch headlong into the
street ! " cried Will. " He'll break
.his neck ! There he goes ! "

But just at that minute,
when the tobogan had reached
the top of the roof, its rider
looked up, and saw his danger.
With a sudden movement he
caught the chimney with both
arms, and held it with a grip
like iron. It was close work:
but the runaway steed came to
a halt ; and, when he relaxed his
hold, it slid slowly back down


the roof where it had come up, and stopped. Unfortunately, it
did not slide far enough ; and, when he stepped off, the driver
disappeared into a drift, in which he sank up to his shoulders.
A few vigorous plunges, however, brought him out.

" I'll tell you what," he said to the boys, who ran to meet
him, " that's prime ! I've got the idea of the thing now. Next
time I'll try the hill farther to the left. It is much smoother
there ; and, if all goes right next time, I can take two of you
down with me each time."

" Don't let's climb the hill again, fellows," said Tom. " Let's
wait here, and see him come down."

So they clambered up on the fence, and waited. Up the
hill went the driver with a long stride. He had forgotten about
the snow down his back, and the bounce into the air, and was
beginning to think Thomas John a fool again. He went some
distance from where he had started before, and took his seat.

" Do you think it quite wise to go down there?" said Mr.
Longwood. " You may bring up among some of those trees."

" Oh ! I know how to manage her now," said the driver.
" I'll steer clear of them without any trouble."

Vain words ! Down came the tobogan ! It acted as if alive
and filled with the spirit of wickedness. Straight on it flew
toward one particular tree near the foot of the hill, swerving
neither to the right nor left. Its rider tried to steer it; but it
would not be steered. The boys, who were looking on, saw
one minute a swiftly flying tobogan, and the next a man wildly
embracing a tree ; while the tobogan, split into two long strips,
lay close at hand.



They all rushed forward ; but, before they reached the spot,
the driver had picked himself up, and stood holding his head in
his hands, looking ruefully down at the wreck.

"There's an end of that concern anyway," he said at length.

" Why, the side of your face
is all bruised," said Mr. Long-
wood. " And it has begun to
swell. You had better hold
some snow to it as we go along,
and when we get to the house
we can tie it up. Here, boys :
bring on the tobogan."

So they made their way, a
rather depressed party, back
to the house, the remains of
Thomas John's experiment trail
ing behind them. When they
had put it in the barn, they
went on to join the girls.

"Well, I declare!" said
Thomas John's mother, " if
there ba'in't another wounded
man ! That 'ere critter will be
the death of Thomas John yet
I expect, he's so presumptions."

"Not as it is now," said the driver; "for I busted it."
" Well, now, you don't say so ! " said Thomas John's mother.
''That's a real blessing. It makes me feel wonderful friendly to


ye. Seems kind of as if you'd resked your life to save Thomas
John's, don't it? Come in, come in, and I'll tie your head up
for you."

Much as he disliked the operation, there was no help for it ;
for one eye was fast closing up. With a huge slice of raw pork
firmly tied on with a big white cloth, he climbed up after a
little on to his seat, and the whole party got in for the home
ward ride. Mr. Longwood took the reins in hand ; and once
more away they went, waving their hats to Thomas John's
mother, who stood in the yard to see them off. The sun was
just setting as they left ; and before long the stars came out, one
by one. As they drove up to their own door, the clock was
just striking six ; and five minutes later they were around the


" HURRAH ! " said Tom as they rose from the table. " Now
for Jack's great-grandmother ! "

"Would you mind if I told my story first?" asked Rose.
" Then I shall have it off of my mind."

" No : go on, by all means," said Jack. " I'll just lie down
on the sofa, and collect my thoughts."

So Rose began. " The story I am going to tell you," said
she, " is of a boy in the Revolution, who lived in Portsmouth.
It is written by himself. At Portsmouth, he says,

" Ships were building, prizes taken from the enemy unloading,
privateers fitting out, standards waved on the forts and batteries.
The exercising of soldiers, the roar of cannon, the sound of mar
tial music, and the call for volunteers, so infatuated me, that I
was filled with anxiety to become an actor in the scenes of war.
My eldest brother, Thomas, had recently returned from a cruise
on board 'The General Mifflin/ of Boston, Capt. McNeal. This
ship had captured thirteen prizes ; some of which, however, being
of little value, were burnt ; some were sold in France ; others
reached Boston, and their cargoes were divided among the crew
of that ship. On my brother's return I became more eager to

try my fortune at sea. My father, though a high Whig, dis-


approved the practice of privateering. Merchant-vessels at this
period, which ran safe, made great gains : seamen's wages were,
consequently, very high. Through my father's influence, Thomas
was induced to enter the merchants' service. Though not yet
fourteen years of age, like other boys I imagined myself almost
a man. I had intimated to my sister, that, if my father would
not consent that I should go to sea, I would run away, and go
on board a privateer. My mind became so infatuated with the
subject, that I talked of it in my sleep, and was overheard by
my mother. She communicated what she had heard to my father.
My parents were apprehensive that I might wander off, and go
on board some vessel without their consent. At this period it
was not an uncommon thing for lads to come out of the country,
step on board a privateer, make a cruise, and return home, their
friends remaining in entire ignorance of their fate until they
heard it from themselves. Others would pack up their clothes,
take a cheese and a loaf of bread, and steer off for the army.
There was a disposition in commanders of privateers and recruit
ing-officers to encourage this spirit of enterprise in young men
and boys. Though these rash young adventurers did not count
the cost, or think of looking at the dark side of the picture, yet
this spirit, amidst the despondency of many, enabled our country
to maintain a successful struggle, and finally achieve her inde

" The Continental ship of war ' Ranger,' of eighteen guns, com
manded by Thomas Simpson, Esq., was at this time shipping a
crew in Portsmouth. This ship had been ordered to join ' The
Boston ' and ' Providence ' frigates, and ' The Queen of France/



of twenty guns, upon an expedition directed by Congress. My
father, having consented that I should go to sea, preferred the
service of Congress to privateering. He was acquainted with
Capt. Simpson. I visited the rendezvous of ' The Ranger,' and
shipped as one of her crew. There were probably thirty boys
on. board this ship. As most of our principal officers belonged


to the town, parents preferred this ship as a station for their
sons who were about to enter the naval service. Hence most
of these boys were from Portsmouth. As privateering was the
order of the day, vessels of every description were employed in
the business. Men were not wanting who would hazard them-


selves in vessels of twenty tons or less, manned by ten or fifteen
hands. *

" The boys were employed in waiting on the officers ; but, in
time of action, a boy was quartered to each gun to carry car
tridges. I was waiter to Mr. Charles Roberts, the boatswain, and
was quartered at the third gun from the bow. Being ready for
sea, we sailed to Boston, joined ' The Providence ' frigate, com
manded by Commodore Whipple, ' The Boston ' frigate, and ' The
Queen of France.' I believe that this small squadron composed
nearly the entire navy of the United States. We proceeded to
sea some time in June, 1779. A considerable part of the crew of
' The Ranger ' being raw hands, and the sea rough, especially in
the Gulf Stream, many were exceedingly sick, and myself among
the rest. We afforded a subject of constant ridicule to the old
sailors. Our officers improved every favorable opportunity for
working the ship and exercising the guns. We cruised several
weeks, made the Western Islands, and at length fell in with the
homeward-bound Jamaica fleet on the Banks of Newfoundland. It
was our practice to keep a man at the mast-head constantly by
day on the lookout. The moment a sail was discovered, a signal
was given to our consorts; and all possible exertion was made to
come up with the stranger, or discover what she was. About
seven o'clock one morning, the man at the fore-topmast head
cried out, ' A sail ! a sail on the lee-bow ! another there, and there ! '
Our young officers ran up the shrouds, and with their glasses
soon ascertained that more than fifty sail could be seen from the
mast-head. It should here be observed, that, during the months
of summer, it is extremely foggy on the Banks of Newfoundland,


Sometimes a ship cannot be seen at the distance of one hundred
yands ; and then in a few moments you may have a clear sky and
bright sun for half an hour, and you are then enveloped in the
fog again. The Jamaica fleet, which consisted of about one
hundred and fifty sail, some of which were armed, was convoyed
by one or two line-of-battle ships, several frigates, and sloops of
war. Our little squadron was in the rear of the fleet, and we
had reason to fear that some of the heaviest armed ships were
there also. If I am not mistaken, 'The Boston' frigate was not in
company with us at this time. My reader may easily imagine
that our minds were agitated with alternate hopes and fears. No
time was to be lost. Our commodore soon brought to one of
our ships, manned, and sent her off. Being to windward, he edged
away, and spoke to our captain. We were at this time in pur
suit of a large ship. The commodore hauled his wind again ;
and in the course of an hour we came up with the ship, which
proved to be ' The Holderness,' a three-decker, mounting twenty-
two guns. She struck after giving her several broadsides. Al
though she had more guns, and those of heavier mettle, than
ourselves, her crew was not sufficiently large to manage her
guns, and at the same time work the ship. She was loaded
with cotton, coffee, sugar, rum, and allspice. While we were
employed in manning her out, our commodore captured another,
and gave her up to us to man also. When this was accom
plished, it was nearly night : we were, however, unwilling to
abandon the opportunity of enriching ourselves ; therefore kept
along under easy sail. Some time in the night we found our
selves surrounded with ships, and supposed we were discovered.



We could distinctly hear their bells, on which they frequently
struck a few strokes, that their ships might not approach too
near each other during- the night. We were close on board one
of their largest armed ships, and, from the multitude of lights
which had appeared, supposed that they had called to quarters.
It being necessary to avoid their convoy, we fell to leeward, and
in an hour lost sight of them all. The next day the sky was
overcast, and at times we had a thick fog. In the afternoon the


sun shone for a short time, and enabled us to see a numerous fleet
a few miles to windward, in such compact order, that we thought
it not best to approach them. We were, however, in hopes that
we might pick up some single ship. We knew nothing of our
consorts, but were entirely alone. Towards night we took and
manned out a brig. On the third morning we gained sight of
three ships, to which we gave chase, and called all hands to


quarters. When they discovered us in chase, they huddled to
gether, intending, as we supposed, to fight us. They, however,
soon made sail, and ran from us. After a short lapse of time we
overhauled and took one of them, which we soon found to be a
dull sailer. Another, while we were manning our prize, attempted
to escape ; but we found that we gained upon her. While in
chase, a circumstance occurred which excited some alarm. Two
large ships hove in sight to windward, running directly for us
under a press of sail. One of them shaped her course for the
prize we had just manned. We were unwilling to give up our
chase, as we had ascertained from our prize that the two other
ships were laden with sugar, rum, cotton, &c., and that they
were unarmed. We soon came up with the hindmost, brought
her to, and ordered her to keep under our stern while we
might pursue the other, as our situation was too critical to allow
us to heave to and get out our boat.

" The stranger in chase of us was under English colors. We,
however, soon ascertained by her signal that she was ' The Provi
dence ' frigate, on board of which was our commodore. This
joyful intelligence relieved us from all fear of the enemy, and
we soon came up with our chase. In the mean time the prize
which we had taken (but not boarded) sought to get under the
protection of 'The Providence,' mistaking that frigate for one of
the English convoy, as he still kept their colors flying. Our
prize, therefore, as she thought, eluded us, and, hailing our com
modore, informed him ' that a Yankee cruiser had taken one of
the fleet.' ' Very well, very well,' replied the commodore : ' I'll
be alongside of him directly.' He then hauled down his English



colors, hoisted the American, and ordered the ship to haul down
her flag, and come under his stern. This order was immediately
obeyed. We now ascertained that the strange ship which was
in chase of our first prize was another of our consorts, 'The


Queen of France.' Having manned our prizes, and secured our
prisoners, we all shaped our course for Boston, where we arrived
some time in the last of July, or beginning of August, 1779.
"In all we had taken ten prizes, two of which were re-taken.


4 The Ranger ' made but a short stop at Boston ; for, as most of
our officers and crew belonged to Portsmouth and its vicinity,
our vessel could be most conveniently refitted there. On return- <
ing home, I had the satisfaction to find the family well. My
eldest brother had recently returned from a successful voyage in
a merchantman. The cargoes of our prizes being divided among
our crews, my share was about one ton of sugar, from thirty to
forty gallons of fourth-proof Jamaica rum, about twenty pounds
of cotton, and about the same quantity of ginger, logwood, and
allspice, about seven hundred dollars in paper money, equal to
one hundred dollars in specie. My readers must be left to imagine
the feelings of my parents when they could number four sons
and seven daughters around their table in health and prosperity.
' In the day of prosperity be joyful ; but in the day of adversity
consider : God also hath set the one over against the other, to
the end that man should find nothing after him' (Eccles. vii. 14)."
"Now, then," cried Ned as soon as Lou had finished, " now,
then, for our great-grandmother! Turn on the lights; ring up
the curtain ; prepare for something startling.

' For, oh ! it is an 'orrible tale :
I'm sure 'twill make your cheeks turn pale.'

" The lecturer will now advance to the rostrum."

All eyes were turned to the dusky corner of the room, where

Jack lay stretched upon the sofa ; but not a motion did he


" I do believe he has gone to sleep," said Ned, going toward

him. "Yes, he is fast asleep. Jack!" he bawled, "wake up!"


Not a movement from Jack.

" Shake him," said Charlie.

Ned seized him by the shoulder, and gave him a good

" Lemme be," said Jack in a very sleepy tone.

"Oh! poor boy," said Mrs. Longwood. "He is all tired out.
Do let him sleep. It is a shame to wake him."

" What ! " exclaimed Ned and Charlie at the same time,
"and lose that wonderful story! That will never do. He must
be waked."

So both boys seized him firmly, and shook and shouted,
while all the rest looked on laughing. After several minutes of
vigorous pulling and bawling, Jack was so far roused that he
sat up, and rubbed his eyes.

"What is the matter?" he asked.

"Tell us about your great-grandmother," said Carrie.

" I never had a great-grandmother," said Jack in a very
thick voice ; and he fell back on the sofa, and in a minute was
sound asleep again.

" I fear that it is hopeless to try to rouse him," said Mr.
Longwood. " Perhaps Gertrude can tell us what her great-
grandmother did that has so excited Jack's admiration."

" I haven't the slightest idea," said Gertrude. " I asked him
two or three times ; but he always said I ought to be ashamed
not to know of the glorious deeds of my ancestors. I don't see
how it could have had any thing to do with American history,
in any case ; for one of our grandmothers was French, and the
other English."


" Don't you think we might pour some cold water on his
head, and wake him that way ? " asked Ned.

" For shame, Ned ! " said Kate. " You had better carry him
away, and put him to bed."

The boys all seized upon Jack at this suggestion, and bore
him unresisting up stairs, where they proceeded to take off
his clothes, and make him ready for bed. Not a word did he
say, and not a motion did he make. The skating and coasting
had tired him out completely, and he was as sound asleep as a
boy could be. They put him into bed, and pulled up the sheet
and tucked it up, and were just about to put out the light and
leave him, when Master Jack began to speak.

"Hush!" said Will: "he's talking in his sleep!"

It was a long sentence which Jack was uttering. But, though
the boys listened intently, his voice was so thick, that they could
not make out any of it but the last few words ; and these were
plain enough. They were, " Just wait till you hear about my

When they were all down about the fire again, Will said, " It
is too bad that we are to lose a story! Mr. Longwood, can you
not tell us one ? "

All joined in urging ; and so Mr. Longwood began :

" You all know, of course, that at the first discovery of this
country, while the English settled along the Atlantic seaboard,
the French, entering the St. Lawrence, took possession of
Canada. They did not follow the same plan as their neighbors
to the southward ; for, instead of cultivating the soil, they looked
rather to a trade in furs with the Indians. Instead of founding


towns, and clearing away forests, they built forts, in each of
which a small garrison lived. Hither came the Indians to trade
their furs for blankets, guns, powder, and the bright trifles that
took their fancy; and from these posts set out the hardy fur-
traders to make long journeys into the primeval forest. In their
light canoes they passed up the rivers of the north hundreds of
miles, sleeping at night by lonely camp-fires, strong, sturdy
men, despising toil and exposure. The French took much more
kindly to the Indians than did the English. Many of these
voyageurs took to themselves native wives, and settled down to
a life in the forest, surrounded by dusky half-breed children.

" The Indian was never a very noble specimen, and the white
man's whiskey did not raise him any higher. When he loafed
day after day about an English village, he was called an idle
vagabond, and roughly bidden to be gone. If he purloined
some article that took his fancy, he was summarily put in jail.
When he went to the French fort, all was different. He might
hang about for weeks, and no one found fault. The French
commanders in time of war even donned the paint and feathers,
and danced the war-dance around the scalping-post with the
Indian braves, shouting, shrieking, and brandishing their toma
hawks, like the rest.

" Years rolled on. While mile after mile ol forest had fallen
before the Englishman's axe, and fresh towns had sprung up here

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 9 of 30)