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Myths and Legends of Our Own Land
The story of Rip Van Winkle, told by Irving, dramatized by Boucicault, acted by Jefferson, pictured by Darley, set to music by Bristow, is the best known of American legends. Rip was a real personage, and the Van Winkles are a considerable family at this day. An idle, good-natured, happy-go-lucky fellow, he lived, presumably, in the village of Catskill, and began his long sleep in 1769. His wife was a shrew, and to escape her abuse Rip often took his dog and gun and roamed away to the Catskills, nine miles westward, where he lounged or hunted, as the humor seized him. It was on a September evening, during a jaunt on South Mountain, that he met a stubby, silent man, of goodly girth, his round head topped with a steeple hat, the skirts of his belted coat and flaps of his petticoat trousers meeting at the tops of heavy boots, and the face—ugh!—green and ghastly, with unmoving eyes that glimmered in the twilight like phosphorus. The dwarf carried a keg, and on receiving an intimation, in a sign, that he would like Rip to relieve him of it, that cheerful vagabond shouldered it and marched on up the mountain.
At nightfall they emerged on a little plateau where a score of men in the garb of long ago, with faces like that of Rip's guide, and equally still and speechless, were playing bowls with great solemnity, the balls sometimes rolling over the plateau's edge and rumbling down the rocks with a boom like thunder. A cloaked and snowy-bearded figure, watching aloof, turned like the others, and gazed uncomfortably at the visitor who now came blundering in among them. Rip was at first for making off, but the sinister glare in the circle of eyes took the run out of his legs, and he was not displeased when they signed to him to tap the keg and join in a draught of the ripest schnapps that ever he had tasted,—and he knew the flavor of every brand in Catskill. While these strange men grew no more genial with passing of the flagons, Rip was pervaded by a satisfying glow; then, overcome by sleepiness and resting his head on a stone, he stretched his tired legs out and fell to dreaming.
Morning. Sunlight and leaf shadow were dappled over the earth when he awoke, and rising stiffly from his bed, with compunctions in his bones, he reached for his gun. The already venerable implement was so far gone with rot and rust that it fell to pieces in his hand, and looking down at the fragments of it, he saw that his clothes were dropping from his body in rags and mould, while a white beard flowed over his breast. Puzzled and alarmed, shaking his head ruefully as he recalled the carouse of the silent, he hobbled down the mountain as fast as he might for the grip of the rheumatism on his knees and elbows, and entered his native village. What! Was this Catskill? Was this the place that he left yesterday? Had all these houses sprung up overnight, and these streets been pushed across the meadows in a day? The people, too: where were his friends? The children who had romped with him, the rotund topers whom he had left cooling their hot noses in pewter pots at the tavern door, the dogs that used to bark a welcome, recognizing in him a kindred spirit of vagrancy: where were they?
And his wife, whose athletic arm and agile tongue had half disposed him to linger in the mountains how happened it that she was not awaiting him at the gate? But gate there was none in the familiar place: an unfenced yard of weeds and ruined foundation wall were there. Rip's home was gone. The idlers jeered at his bent, lean form, his snarl of beard and hair, his disreputable dress, his look of grieved astonishment. He stopped, instinctively, at the tavern, for he knew that place in spite of its new sign: an officer in blue regimentals and a cocked hat replacing the crimson George III. of his recollection, and labelled "General Washington." There was a quick gathering of ne'er-do-weels, of tavern-haunters and gaping 'prentices, about him, and though their faces were strange and their manners rude, he made bold to ask if they knew such and such of his friends.
"Nick Vedder? He's dead and gone these eighteen years." "Brom Dutcher? He joined the army and was killed at Stony Point." "Van Brummel? He, too, went to the war, and is in Congress now."
"And Rip Van Winkle?"
"Yes, he's here. That's him yonder."
And to Rip's utter confusion he saw before him a counterpart of himself, as young, lazy, ragged, and easy-natured as he remembered himself to be, yesterday—or, was it yesterday?
"That's young Rip," continued his informer. "His father was Rip Van Winkle, too, but he went to the mountains twenty years ago and never came back. He probably fell over a cliff, or was carried off by Indians, or eaten by bears."
Twenty years ago! Truly, it was so. Rip had slept for twenty years without awaking. He had left a peaceful colonial village; he returned to a bustling republican town. How he eventually found, among the oldest inhabitants, some who admitted that they knew him; how he found a comfortable home with his married daughter and the son who took after him so kindly; how he recovered from the effect of the tidings that his wife had died of apoplexy, in a quarrel; how he resumed his seat at the tavern tap and smoked long pipes and told long yarns for the rest of his days, were matters of record up to the beginning of this century.
And a strange story Rip had to tell, for he had served as cup-bearer to the dead crew of the Half Moon. He had quaffed a cup of Hollands with no other than Henry Hudson himself. Some say that Hudson's spirit has made its home amid these hills, that it may look into the lovely valley that he discovered; but others hold that every twenty years he and his men assemble for a revel in the mountains that so charmed them when first seen swelling against the western heavens, and the liquor they drink on this night has the bane of throwing any mortal who lips it into a slumber whence nothing can arouse him until the day dawns when the crew shall meet again. As you climb the east front of the mountains by the old carriage road, you pass, half-way up the height, the stone that Rip Van Winkle slept on, and may see that it is slightly hollowed by his form. The ghostly revellers are due in the Catskills in 1909, and let all tourists who are among the mountains in September of that year beware of accepting liquor from strangers.
Behind the New Grand Hotel, in the Catskills, is an amphitheatre of mountain that is held to be the place of which the Mohicans spoke when they told of people there who worked in metals, and had bushy beards and eyes like pigs. From the smoke of their forges, in autumn, came the haze of Indian summer; and when the moon was full, it was their custom to assemble on the edge of a precipice above the hollow and dance and caper until the night was nigh worn away. They brewed a liquor that had the effect of shortening the bodies and swelling the heads of all who drank it, and when Hudson and his crew visited the mountains, the pygmies held a carouse in his honor and invited him to drink their liquor. The crew went away, shrunken and distorted by the magic distillation, and thus it was that Rip Van Winkle found them on the eve of his famous sleep.
When the Dutch gave the name of Katzbergs to the mountains west of the Hudson, by reason of the wild-cats and panthers that ranged there, they obliterated the beautiful Indian Ontiora, "mountains of the sky." In one tradition of the red men these hills were bones of a monster that fed on human beings until the Great Spirit turned it into stone as it was floundering toward the ocean to bathe. The two lakes near the summit were its eyes. These peaks were the home of an Indian witch, who adjusted the weather for the Hudson Valley with the certainty of a signal service bureau. It was she who let out the day and night in blessed alternation, holding back the one when the other was at large, for fear of conflict. Old moons she cut into stars as soon as she had hung new ones in the sky, and she was often seen perched on Round Top and North Mountain, spinning clouds and flinging them to the winds. Woe betide the valley residents if they showed irreverence, for then the clouds were black and heavy, and through them she poured floods of rain and launched the lightnings, causing disastrous freshets in the streams and blasting the wigwams of the mockers. In a frolic humor she would take the form of a bear or deer and lead the Indian hunters anything but a merry dance, exposing them to tire and peril, and vanishing or assuming some terrible shape when they had overtaken her. Sometimes she would lead them to the cloves and would leap into the air with a mocking "Ho, ho!" just as they stopped with a shudder at the brink of an abyss. Garden Rock was a spot where she was often found, and at its foot a lake once spread. This was held in such awe that an Indian would never wittingly pursue his quarry there; but once a hunter lost his way and emerged from the forest at the edge of the pond. Seeing a number of gourds in crotches of the trees he took one, but fearing the spirit he turned to leave so quickly that he stumbled and it fell. As it broke, a spring welled from it in such volume that the unhappy man was gulfed in its waters, swept to the edge of Kaaterskill clove and dashed on the rocks two hundred and sixty feet below. Nor did the water ever cease to run, and in these times the stream born of the witch's revenge is known as Catskill Creek.
On the rock platform where the Catskill Mountain House now stands, commanding one of the fairest views in the world, old chief Shandaken set his wigwam,—for it is a mistake to suppose that barbarians are indifferent to beauty,—and there his daughter, Lotowana, was sought in marriage by his braves. She, however, kept faith to an early vow exchanged with a young chief of the Mohawks. A suitor who was particularly troublesome was Norsereddin, proud, morose, dark-featured, a stranger to the red man, a descendant, so he claimed, from Egyptian kings, and who lived by himself on Kaaterskill Creek, appearing among white settlements but rarely.
On one of his visits to Catskill, a tavern-lounging Dutchman wagered him a thousand golden crowns that he could not win Lotowana, and, stung by avarice as well as inflamed by passion, Norsereddin laid new siege to her heart. Still the girl refused to listen, and Shandaken counselled him to be content with the smiles of others, thereby so angering the Egyptian that he assailed the chief and was driven from the camp with blows; but on the day of Lotowana's wedding with the Mohawk he returned, and in a honeyed speech asked leave to give a jewel to the bride to show that he had stifled jealousy and ill will. The girl took the handsome box he gave her and drew the cover, when a spring flew forward, driving into her hand the poisoned tooth of a snake that had been affixed to it. The venom was strong, and in a few minutes Lotowana lay dead at her husband's feet.
Though the Egyptian had disappeared into the forest directly on the acceptance of his treacherous gift, twenty braves set off in pursuit, and overtaking him on the Kalkberg, they dragged him back to the rock where father and husband were bewailing the maid's untimely fate. A pile of fagots was heaped within a few feet of the precipice edge, and tying their captive on them, they applied the torch, dancing about with cries of exultation as the shrieks of the wretch echoed from the cliffs. The dead girl was buried by the mourning tribe, while the ashes of Norsereddin were left to be blown abroad. On the day of his revenge Shandaken left his ancient dwelling-place, and his camp-fires never glimmered afterward on the front of Ontiora.
Ralph Sutherland, who, early in the last century, occupied a stone house a mile from Leeds, in the Catskills, was a man of morose and violent disposition, whose servant, a Scotch girl, was virtually a slave, inasmuch as she was bound to work for him without pay until she had refunded to him her passage-money to this country. Becoming weary of bondage and of the tempers of her master, the girl ran away. The man set off in a raging chase, and she had not gone far before Sutherland overtook her, tied her by the wrists to his horse's tail, and began the homeward journey. Afterward, he swore that the girl stumbled against the horse's legs, so frightening the animal that it rushed off madly, pitching him out of the saddle and dashing the servant to death on rocks and trees; yet, knowing how ugly-tempered he could be, his neighbors were better inclined to believe that he had driven the horse into a gallop, intending to drag the girl for a short distance, as a punishment, and to rein up before he had done serious mischief. On this supposition he was arrested, tried, and sentenced to die on the scaffold.
The tricks of circumstantial evidence, together with pleas advanced by influential relatives of the prisoner, induced the court to delay sentence until the culprit should be ninety-nine years old, but it was ordered that, while released on his own recognizance, in the interim, he should keep a hangman's noose about his neck and show himself before the judges in Catskill once every year, to prove that he wore his badge of infamy and kept his crime in mind. This sentence he obeyed, and there were people living recently who claimed to remember him as he went about with a silken cord knotted at his throat. He was always alone, he seldom spoke, his rough, imperious manner had departed. Only when children asked him what the rope was for were his lips seen to quiver, and then he would hurry away. After dark his house was avoided, for gossips said that a shrieking woman passed it nightly, tied at the tail of a giant horse with fiery eyes and smoking nostrils; that a skeleton in a winding sheet had been found there; that a curious thing, somewhat like a woman, had been known to sit on his garden wall, with lights shining from her finger-tips, uttering unearthly laughter; and that domestic animals reproached the man by groaning and howling beneath his windows.
These beliefs he knew, yet he neither grieved, nor scorned, nor answered when he was told of them. Years sped on. Every year deepened his reserve and loneliness, and some began to whisper that he would take his own way out of the world, though others answered that men who were born to be hanged would never be drowned; but a new republic was created; new laws were made; new judges sat to minister them; so, on Ralph Sutherland's ninety-ninth birthday anniversary, there were none who would accuse him or execute sentence. He lived yet another year, dying in 1801. But was it from habit, or was it in self-punishment and remorse, that he never took off the cord? for, when he drew his last breath, though it was in his own house, his throat was still encircled by the hangman's rope.
Intermarriages between white people and red ones in this country were not uncommon in the days when our ancestors led as rude a life as the natives, and several places in the Catskills commemorate this fact. Mount Utsayantha, for example, is named for an Indian woman whose life, with that of her baby and her white husband, was lost there. For the white men early found friends among these mountains. As far back as 1663 they spared Catherine Dubois and her three children, after some rash spirits had abducted them and carried them to a place on the upper Walkill, to do them to death; for the captives raised a Huguenot hymn and the hearts of their captors were softened.
In Esopus Valley lived Winnisook, whose height was seven feet, and who was known among the white settlers as "the big Indian." He loved a white girl of the neighborhood, one Gertrude Molyneux, and had asked for her hand; but while she was willing, the objections of her family were too strong to be overcome, and she was teased into marriage with Joseph Bundy, of her own race, instead. She liked the Indian all the better after that, however, because Bundy proved to be a bad fellow, and believing that she could be happier among barbarians than among a people that approved such marriages, she eloped with Winnisook. For a long time all trace of the runaway couple was lost, but one day the man having gone down to the plain to steal cattle, it was alleged, was discovered by some farmers who knew him, and who gave hot chase, coming up with him at the place now called Big Indian.
Foremost in the chase was Bundy. As he came near to the enemy of his peace he exclaimed, "I think the best way to civilize that yellow serpent is to let daylight into his heart," and, drawing his rifle to his shoulder, he fired. Mortally wounded, yet instinctively seeking refuge, the giant staggered into the hollow of a pine-tree, where the farmers lost sight of him. There, however, he was found by Gertrude, bolt upright, yet dead. The unwedded widow brought her dusky children to the place and spent the remainder of her days near his grave. Until a few years ago the tree was still pointed out, but a railroad company has now covered it with an embankment.
Baas [Boss] Volckert Jan Pietersen Van Amsterdam kept a bake-shop in Albany, and lives in history as the man who invented New Year cakes and made gingerbread babies in the likeness of his own fat offspring. Good churchman though he was, the bane of his life was a fear of being bewitched, and perhaps it was to keep out evil spirits, who might make one last effort to gain the mastery over him, ere he turned the customary leaf with the incoming year, that he had primed himself with an extra glass of spirits on the last night of 1654. His sales had been brisk, and as he sat in his little shop, meditating comfortably on the gains he would make when his harmless rivals—the knikkerbakkers (bakers of marbles)—sent for their usual supply of olie-koeks and mince-pies on the morrow, he was startled by a sharp rap, and an ugly old woman entered. "Give me a dozen New Year's cookies!" she cried, in a shrill voice.
"Vell, den, you needn' sbeak so loud. I aind teaf, den."
"A dozen!" she screamed. "Give me a dozen. Here are only twelve."
"Vell, den, dwalf is a dozen."
"One more! I want a dozen."
"Vell, den, if you vant anodder, go to de duyvil and ged it."
Did the hag take him at his word? She left the shop, and from that time it seemed as if poor Volckert was bewitched, indeed, for his cakes were stolen; his bread was so light that it went up the chimney, when it was not so heavy that it fell through the oven; invisible hands plucked bricks from that same oven and pelted him until he was blue; his wife became deaf, his children went unkempt, and his trade went elsewhere. Thrice the old woman reappeared, and each time was sent anew to the devil; but at last, in despair, the baker called on Saint Nicolaus to come and advise him. His call was answered with startling quickness, for, almost while he was making it, the venerable patron of Dutch feasts stood before him. The good soul advised the trembling man to be more generous in his dealings with his fellows, and after a lecture on charity he vanished, when, lo! the old woman was there in his place.
She repeated her demand for one more cake, and Volckert Jan Pietersen, etc., gave it, whereupon she exclaimed, "The spell is broken, and from this time a dozen is thirteen!" Taking from the counter a gingerbread effigy of Saint Nicolaus, she made the astonished Dutchman lay his hand upon it and swear to give more liberal measure in the future. So, until thirteen new States arose from the ruins of the colonies,—when the shrewd Yankees restored the original measure,—thirteen made a baker's dozen.
Most storied of our New World rivers is the Hudson. Historic scenes have been enacted on its shores, and Indian, Dutchman, Briton, and American have invested it with romance. It had its source, in the red man's fancy, in a spring of eternal youth; giants and spirits dwelt in its woods and hills, and before the river-Shatemuc, king of streams, the red men called it—had broken through the highlands, those mountains were a pent for spirits who had rebelled against the Manitou. After the waters had forced a passage to the sea these evil ones sought shelter in the glens and valleys that open to right and left along its course, but in time of tempest, when they hear Manitou riding down the ravine on wings of storm, dashing thunderbolts against the cliffs, it is the fear that he will recapture them and force them into lightless caverns to expiate their revolt, that sends them huddling among the rocks and makes the hills resound with roars and howls.
At the Devil's Dance-Chamber, a slight plateau on the west bank, between Newburg and Crom Elbow, the red men performed semi-religious rites as a preface to their hunting and fishing trips or ventures on the war-path. They built a fire, painted themselves, and in that frenzy into which savages are so readily lashed, and that is so like to the action of mobs in trousers, they tumbled, leaped, danced, yelled, sang, grimaced, and gesticulated until the Manitou disclosed himself, either as a harmless animal or a beast of prey. If he came in the former shape the augury was favorable, but if he showed himself as a bear or panther, it was a warning of evil that they seldom dared to disregard.
The crew of Hudson's ship, the Half Moon, having chanced on one of these orgies, were so impressed by the fantastic spectacle that they gave the name Duyvels Dans-Kamer to the spot. Years afterwards, when Stuyvesant ascended the river, his doughty retainers were horrified, on landing below the Dans-Kamer, to discover hundreds of painted figures frisking there in the fire-light. A few surmised that they were but a new generation of savages holding a powwow, but most of the sailors fancied that the assemblage was demoniac, and that the figures were spirits of bad Indians repeating a scalp-dance and revelling in the mysterious fire-water that they had brought down from the river source in jars and skins. The spot was at least once profaned with blood, for a young Dutchman and his wife, of Albany, were captured here by an angry Indian, and although the young man succeeded in stabbing his captor to death, he was burned alive on the rock by the friends of the Indian whose wrath he had provoked. The wife, after being kept in captivity for a time, was ransomed.
The wood-tick's drum convokes the elves at the noon of night on Cro' Nest top, and, clambering out of their flower-cup beds and hammocks of cobweb, they fly to the meeting, not to freak about the grass or banquet at the mushroom table, but to hear sentence passed on the fay who, forgetting his vestal vow, has loved an earthly maid. From his throne under a canopy of tulip petals, borne on pillars of shell, the king commands silence, and with severe eye but softened voice he tells the culprit that while he has scorned the royal decree he has saved himself from the extreme penalty, of imprisonment in walnut shells and cobweb dungeons, by loving a maid who is gentle and pure. So it shall be enough if he will go down to the Hudson and seize a drop from the bow of mist that a sturgeon leaves when he makes his leap; and after, to kindle his darkened flame-wood lamp at a meteor spark. The fairy bows, and without a word slowly descends the rocky steep, for his wing is soiled and has lost its power; but once at the river, he tugs amain at a mussel shell till he has it afloat; then, leaping in, he paddles out with a strong grass blade till he comes to the spot where the sturgeon swims, though the watersprites plague him and toss his boat, and the fish and the leeches bunt and drag; but, suddenly, the sturgeon shoots from the water, and ere the arch of mist that he tracks through the air has vanished, the sprite has caught a drop of the spray in a tiny blossom, and in this he washes clean his wings.
The water-goblins torment him no longer. They push his boat to the shore, where, alighting, he kisses his hand, then, even as a bubble, he flies back to the mountain top, dons his acorn helmet, his corselet of bee-hide, his shield of lady-bug shell, and grasping his lance, tipped with wasp sting, he bestrides his fire-fly steed and off he goes like a flash. The world spreads out and then grows small, but he flies straight on. The ice-ghosts leer from the topmost clouds, and the mists surge round, but he shakes his lance and pipes his call, and at last he comes to the Milky Way, where the sky-sylphs lead him to their queen, who lies couched in a palace ceiled with stars, its dome held up by northern lights and the curtains made of the morning's flush. Her mantle is twilight purple, tied with threads of gold from the eastern dawn, and her face is as fair as the silver moon.
She begs the fay to stay with her and taste forever the joys of heaven, but the knightly elf keeps down the beating of his heart, for he remembers a face on earth that is fairer than hers, and he begs to go. With a sigh she fits him a car of cloud, with the fire-fly steed chained on behind, and he hurries away to the northern sky whence the meteor comes, with roar and whirl, and as it passes it bursts to flame. He lights his lamp at a glowing spark, then wheels away to the fairy-land. His king and his brothers hail him stoutly, with song and shout, and feast and dance, and the revel is kept till the eastern sky has a ruddy streak. Then the cock crows shrill and the fays are gone.
The name of this town has forty-two spellings in old records, and with singular pertinacity in ill-doing, the inhabitants have fastened on it the longest and clumsiest of all. It comes from the Mohegan words Apo-keep-sink, meaning a safe, pleasant harbor. Harbor it might be for canoes, but for nothing bigger, for it was only the little cove that was so called between Call Rock and Adder Cliff,—the former indicating where settlers awaiting passage hailed the masters of vessels from its top, and the latter taking its name from the snakes that abounded there.
Hither came a band of Delawares with Pequot captives, among them a young chief to whom had been offered not only life but leadership if he would renounce his tribe, receive the mark of the turtle on his breast, and become a Delaware. On his refusal, he was bound to a tree, and was about to undergo the torture, when a girl among the listeners sprang to his side. She, too, was a Pequot, but the turtle totem was on her bosom, and when she begged his life, because they had been betrothed, the captors paused to talk of it. She had chosen well the time to interfere, for a band of Hurons was approaching, and even as the talk went on their yell was heard in the wood. Instant measures for defence were taken, and in the fight that followed both chief and maiden were forgotten; but though she cut the cords that bound him, they were separated in the confusion, he disappearing, she falling captive to the Hurons, who, sated with blood, retired from the field. In the fantastic disguise of a wizard the young Pequot entered their camp soon after, and on being asked to try his enchantments for the cure of a young woman, he entered her tent, showing no surprise at finding her to be the maiden of his choice, who was suffering from nothing worse than nerves, due to the excitement of the battle. Left alone with his patient, he disclosed his identity, and planned a way of escape that proved effective on that very night, for, though pursued by the angry Hurons, the couple reached "safe harbor," thence making a way to their own country in the east, where they were married.
Dunderberg, "Thunder Mountain," at the southern gate of the Hudson Highlands, is a wooded eminence, chiefly populated by a crew of imps of stout circumference, whose leader, the Heer, is a bulbous goblin clad in the dress worn by Dutch colonists two centuries ago, and carrying a speaking-trumpet, through which he bawls his orders for the blowing of winds and the touching off of lightnings. These orders are given in Low Dutch, and are put into execution by the imps aforesaid, who troop into the air and tumble about in the mist, sometimes smiting the flag or topsail of a ship to ribbons, or laying the vessel over before the wind until she is in peril of going on beam ends. At one time a sloop passing the Dunderberg had nearly foundered, when the crew discovered the sugar-loaf hat of the Heer at the mast-head. None dared to climb for it, and it was not until she had driven past Pollopel's Island—the limit of the Heer's jurisdiction—that she righted. As she did so the little hat spun into the air like a top, creating a vortex that drew up the storm-clouds, and the sloop kept her way prosperously for the rest of the voyage. The captain had nailed a horse-shoe to the mast. The "Hat Rogue" of the Devil's Bridge in Switzerland must be a relative of this gamesome sprite, for his mischief is usually of a harmless sort; but, to be on the safe side, the Dutchmen who plied along the river lowered their peaks in homage to the keeper of the mountain, and for years this was a common practice. Mariners who paid this courtesy to the Heer of the Donder Berg were never molested by his imps, though skipper Ouselsticker, of Fishkill,—for all he had a parson on board,—was once beset by a heavy squall, and the goblin came out of the mist and sat astraddle of his bowsprit, seeming to guide his schooner straight toward the rocks. The dominie chanted the song of Saint Nicolaus, and the goblin, unable to endure either its spiritual potency or the worthy parson's singing, shot upward like a ball and rode off on the gale, carrying with him the nightcap of the parson's wife, which he hung on the weathercock of Esopus steeple, forty miles away.
The Hudson Highlands are suggestively named Bear Mountain, Sugar Loaf, Cro' Nest, Storm King, called by the Dutch Boterberg, or Butter Hill, from its likeness to a pat of butter; Beacon Hill, where the fires blazed to tell the country that the Revolutionary war was over; Dunderberg, Mount Taurus, so called because a wild bull that had terrorized the Highlands was chased out of his haunts on this height, and was killed by falling from a cliff on an eminence to the northward, known, in consequence, as Breakneck Hill. These, with Anthony's Nose, are the principal points of interest in the lovely and impressive panorama that unfolds before the view as the boats fly onward.
Concerning the last-named elevation, the aquiline promontory that abuts on the Hudson opposite Dunderberg, it takes title from no resemblance to the human feature, but is so named because Anthony Van Corlaer, the trumpeter, who afterwards left a reason for calling the upper boundary of Manhattan Island Spuyten Duyvil Creek, killed the first sturgeon ever eaten at the foot of this mountain. It happened in this wise: By assiduous devotion to keg and flagon Anthony had begotten a nose that was the wonder and admiration of all who knew it, for its size was prodigious; in color it rivalled the carbuncle, and it shone like polished copper. As Anthony was lounging over the quarter of Peter Stuyvesant's galley one summer morning this nose caught a ray from the sun and reflected it hissing into the water, where it killed a sturgeon that was rising beside the vessel. The fish was pulled aboard, eaten, and declared good, though the singed place savored of brimstone, and in commemoration of the event Stuyvesant dubbed the mountain that rose above his vessel Anthony's Nose.
Moodua is an evolution, through Murdy's and Moodna, from Murderer's Creek, its present inexpressive name having been given to it by N. P. Willis. One Murdock lived on its shore with his wife, two sons, and a daughter; and often in the evening Naoman, a warrior of a neighboring tribe, came to the cabin, caressed the children, and shared the woodman's hospitality. One day the little girl found in the forest an arrow wrapped in snake-skin and tipped with crow's feather; then the boy found a hatchet hanging by a hair from a bough above the door; then a glare of evil eyes was caught for an instant in a thicket. Naoman, when he came, was reserved and stern, finding voice only to warn the family to fly that night; so, when all was still, the threatened family made its way softly, but quickly, to the Hudson shore, and embarked for Fisher's Kill, across the river.
The wind lagged and their boat drew heavily, and when, from the shade of Pollopel's Island, a canoe swept out, propelled by twelve men, the hearts of the people in the boat sank in despair. The wife was about to leap over, but Murdock drew her back; then, loading and firing as fast as possible, he laid six of his pursuers low; but the canoe was savagely urged forward, and in another minute every member of the family was a helpless captive. When the skiff had been dragged back, the prisoners were marched through the wood to an open spot where the principal members of the tribe sat in council.
sachem arose, twisted
his hands in the woman's golden hair, bared his knife, and cried,
"Tell us what Indian warned you and betrayed his tribe, or you
shall see husband and children bleed before your eyes." The
woman answered never a word, but after a little Naoman arose and
said, "'Twas I;" then drew his blanket about him and knelt
for execution. An axe cleft his skull. Drunk with the sight of blood,
the Indians rushed upon the captives and slew them, one by one. The
prisoners neither shrank nor cried for mercy, but met their end with
hymns upon their lips, and, seeing that they could so meet death, one
member of the band let fall his arm and straight became a Christian.
The cabin was burned, the bodies flung into the stream, and the stain
of blood was seen for many a year in Murderer's Creek.
About a mile back from the Hudson, at Coxsackie, stood the cabin of Nick Wolsey, who, in the last century, was known to the river settlements as a hunter and trapper of correct aim, shrewdness, endurance, and taciturn habit. For many years he lived in this cabin alone, except for the company of his dog; but while visiting a camp of Indians in the wilderness he was struck with the engaging manner of one of the girls of the tribe; he repeated the visit; he found cause to go to the camp frequently; he made presents to the father of the maid, and at length won her consent to be his wife. The simple marriage ceremony of the tribe was performed, and Wolsey led Minamee to his home; but the wedding was interrupted in an almost tragic manner, for a surly fellow who had loved the girl, yet who never had found courage to declare himself, was wrought to such a jealous fury at the discovery of Wolsey's good fortune that he sprang at him with a knife, and would have despatched him on the spot had not the white man's faithful hound leaped at his throat and borne him to the ground.
Wolsey disarmed the fellow and kicked and cuffed him to the edge of the wood, while the whole company shouted with laughter at this ignominious punishment, and approved it. A year or more passed. Wolsey and his Indian wife were happy in their free and simple life; happy, too, in their little babe. Wolsey was seldom absent from his cabin for any considerable length of time, and usually returned to it before the night set in. One evening he noticed that the grass and twigs were bent near his house by some passing foot that, with the keen eye of the woodman, he saw was not his wife's.
"Some hunter," he said, "saw the house when he passed here, and as, belike, he never saw one before, he stopped to look in." For the trail led to his window, and diverged thence to the forest again. A few days later, as he was returning, he came on the footprints that were freshly made, and a shadow crossed his face. On nearing the door he stumbled on the body of his dog, lying rigid on the ground. "How did this happen, Minamee?" he cried, as he flung open the door. The wife answered, in a low voice, "O Hush! you'll wake the child."
Nick Wolsey entered the cabin and stood as one turned to marble. Minamee, his wife, sat on the gold hearth, her face and hands cut and blackened, her dress torn, her eyes glassy, a meaningless smile on her lips. In her arms she pressed the body of her infant, its dress soaked with blood, and the head of the little creature lay on the floor beside her. She crooned softly over the cold clay as if hushing it to sleep, and when Wolsey at length found words, she only whispered, "Hush! you will wake him." The night went heavily on; day dawned, and the crooning became lower and lower; still, through all that day the bereft woman rocked to and fro upon the floor, and the agonized husband hung about her, trying in vain to give comfort, to bind her wounds, to get some explanation of the mystery that confronted him. The second night set in, and it was evident that it would be the last for Minamee. Her strength failed until she allowed herself to be placed on a couch of skins, while the body of her child was gently lifted from her arms. Then, for a few brief minutes, her reason was restored, and she found words to tell her husband how the Indian whose murderous attack he had thwarted at the wedding had come to the cabin, shot the dog that had rushed out to defend the place, beat the woman back from the door, tore the baby from its bed, slashed its head off with a knife, and, flinging the little body into her lap, departed with the words, "This is my revenge. I am satisfied." Before the sun was in the east again Minamee was with her baby.
Wolsey sat for hours in the ruin of his happiness, his breathing alone proving that he was alive, and when at last he arose and went out of the house, there were neither tears nor outcry; he saddled his horse and rode off to the westward. At nightfall he came to the Indian village where he had won his wife, and relating to the assembled tribe what had happened, he demanded that the murderer be given up to him. His demand was readily granted, whereupon the white man advanced on the cowering wretch, who had confidently expected the protection of his people, and with the quick fling and jerk of a raw-hide rope bound his arms to his side. Then casting a noose about his neck and tying the end of it to his saddle-bow, he set off for the Hudson. All that night he rode, the Indian walking and running at the horse's heels, and next day he reached his cabin. Tying his prisoner to a tree, the trapper cut a quantity of young willows, from which he fashioned a large cradle-like receptacle; in this he placed the culprit, face upward, and tied so stoutly that he could not move a finger; then going into his house, he emerged with the body of Minamee, and laid it, face downward, on the wretch, who could not repress a groan of horror as the awful burden sank on his breast. Wolsey bound together the living and the dead, and with a swing of his powerful arms he flung them on his horse's back, securing them there with so many turns of rope that nothing could displace them. Now he began to lash his horse until the poor beast trembled with anger and pain, when, flinging off the halter, he gave it a final lash, and the animal plunged, foaming and snorting, into the wilderness. When it had vanished and the hoof-beats were no longer heard, Nick Wolsey took his rifle on his arm and left his home forever. And tradition says that the horse never stopped in its mad career, but that on still nights it can be heard sweeping through the woods along the Hudson and along the Mohawk like a whirlwind, and that as the sound goes by a smothered voice breaks out in cursing, in appeal, then in harsh and dreadful laughter.
It is Saturday night; the swell of the Hudson lazily heaves against the shores of Tappan Zee, the cliff above Tarrytown where the white lady cries on winter nights is pale in starlight, and crickets chirp in the boskage. It is so still that the lap of oars can be heard coming across the water at least a mile away. Some small boat, evidently, but of heavy build, for it takes a vigorous hand to propel it, and now there is a grinding of oars on thole-pins. Strange that it is not yet seen, for the sound is near. Look! Is that a shadow crossing that wrinkle of starlight in the water? The oars have stopped, and there is no wind to make that sound of a sigh.
Ho, Rambout Van Dam! Is it you? Are you still expiating your oath to pull from Kakiat to Spuyten Duyvil before the dawn of Sabbath, if it takes you a month of Sundays? Better for you had you passed the night with your roistering friends at Kakiat, or started homeward earlier, for Sabbath-breaking is no sin now, and you, poor ghost, will find little sympathy for your plight. Grant that your month of Sundays, or your cycle of months of Sundays, be soon up, for it is sad to be reminded that we may be punished for offences many years forgotten. When the sun is high to-morrow a score of barges will vex the sea of Tappan, each crowded with men and maids from New Amsterdam, jigging to profane music and refreshing themselves with such liquors as you, Rambout, never even smelled—be thankful for that much. If your shade sits blinking at them from the wooded buttresses of the Palisades, you must repine, indeed, at the hardness of your fate.
In the flower-gemmed cemetery of Tarrytown, where gentle Irving sleeps, a Hessian soldier was interred after sustaining misfortune in the loss of his head in one of the Revolutionary battles. For a long time after he was buried it was the habit of this gentleman to crawl from his grave at unseemly hours and gallop about the country, sending shivers through the frames of many worthy people, who shrank under their blankets when they heard the rush of hoofs along the unlighted roads.
In later times there lived in Tarrytown—so named because of the tarrying habits of Dutch gossips on market days, though some hard-minded people insist that Tarwe-town means Wheat-towna gaunt schoolmaster, one Ichabod Crane, who cherished sweet sentiments for Katrina Van Tassell, the buxom daughter of a farmer, also a famous maker of pies and doughnuts. Ichabod had been calling late one evening, and, his way home being long, Katrina's father lent him a horse to make the journey; but even with this advantage the youth set out with misgivings, for he had to pass the graveyard.
As it was near the hour when the Hessian was to ride, he whistled feebly to keep his courage up, but when he came to the dreaded spot the whistle died in a gasp, for he heard the tread of a horse. On looking around, his hair bristled and his heart came up like a plug in his throat to hinder his breathing, for he saw a headless horseman coming over the ridge behind him, blackly defined against the starry sky. Setting spurs to his nag with a hope of being first to reach Sleepy Hollow bridge, which the spectre never passed, the unhappy man made the best possible time in that direction, for his follower was surely overtaking him. Another minute and the bridge would be reached; but, to Ichabod's horror, the Hessian dashed alongside and, rising in his stirrups, flung his head full at the fugitive's back. With a squeal of fright the schoolmaster rolled into a mass of weeds by the wayside, and for some minutes he remained there, knowing and remembering nothing.
Next morning farmer Van Tassell's horse was found grazing in a field near Sleepy Hollow, and a man who lived some miles southward reported that he had seen Mr. Crane striding as rapidly along the road to New York as his lean legs could take him, and wearing a pale and serious face as he kept his march. There were yellow stains on the back of his coat, and the man who restored the horse found a smashed pumpkin in the broken bushes beside the road. Ichabod never returned to Tarrytown, and when Brom Bones, a stout young ploughman and taphaunter, married Katrina, people made bold to say that he knew more about the galloping Hessian than any one else, though they believed that he never had reason to be jealous of Ichabod Crane.
It was noised about New Amsterdam, two hundred years ago, that a round and bulky ship flying Dutch colors from her lofty quarter was careering up the harbor in the teeth of a north wind, through the swift waters of an ebbing tide, and making for the Hudson. A signal from the Battery to heave to and account for herself being disregarded, a cannon was trained upon her, and a ball went whistling through her cloudy and imponderable mass, for timbers she had none. Some of the sailor-folk talked of mirages that rose into the air of northern coasts and seas, but the wise ones put their fingers beside their noses and called to memory the Flying Dutchman, that wanderer of the seas whose captain, having sworn that he would round Cape Horn in spite of heaven and hell, has been beating to and fro along the bleak Fuegian coast and elsewhere for centuries, being allowed to land but once in seven years, when he can break the curse if he finds a girl who will love him. Perhaps Captain Vanderdecken found this maiden of his hopes in some Dutch settlement on the Hudson, or perhaps he expiated his rashness by prayer and penitence; howbeit, he never came down again, unless he slipped away to sea in snow or fog so dense that watchers and boatmen saw nothing of his passing. A few old settlers declared the vessel to be the Half Moon, and there were some who testified to seeing that identical ship with Hudson and his spectre crew on board making for the Catskills to hold carouse.
This fleeting vision has been confounded with the storm ship that lurks about the foot of the Palisades and Point-no-Point, cruising through Tappan Zee at night when a gale is coming up. The Hudson is four miles wide at Tappan, and squalls have space enough to gather force; hence, when old skippers saw the misty form of a ship steal out from the shadows of the western hills, then fly like a gull from shore to shore, catching the moonlight on her topsails, but showing no lanterns, they made to windward and dropped anchor, unless their craft were stanch and their pilot's brains unvexed with liquor. On summer nights, when falls that curious silence which is ominous of tempest, the storm ship is not only seen spinning across the mirror surface of the river, but the voices of the crew are heard as they chant at the braces and halyards in words devoid of meaning to the listeners.
The tide-water creek that forms the upper boundary of Manhattan Island is known to dwellers in tenements round about as "Spittin' Divvle." The proper name of it is Spuyten Duyvil, and this, in turn, is the compression of a celebrated boast by Anthony Van Corlaer. This redoubtable gentleman, famous for fat, long wind, and long whiskers, was trumpeter for the garrison at New Amsterdam, which his countrymen had just bought for twenty-four dollars, and he sounded the brass so sturdily that in the fight between the Dutch and Indians at the Dey Street peach orchard his blasts struck more terror into the red men's hearts than did the matchlocks of his comrades. William the Testy vowed that Anthony and his trumpet were garrison enough for all Manhattan Island, for he argued that no regiment of Yankees would approach near enough to be struck with lasting deafness, as must have happened if they came when Anthony was awake.
Peter Stuyvesant-Peter the Headstrong—showed his appreciation of Anthony's worth by making him his esquire, and when he got news of an English expedition on its way to seize his unoffending colony, he at once ordered Anthony to rouse the villages along the Hudson with a trumpet call to war. The esquire took a hurried leave of six or eight ladies, each of whom delighted to believe that his affections were lavished on her alone, and bravely started northward, his trumpet hanging on one side, a stone bottle, much heavier, depending from the other. It was a stormy evening when he arrived at the upper end of the island, and there was no ferryman in sight, so, after fuming up and down the shore, he swallowed a mighty draught of Dutch courage,—for he was as accomplished a performer on the horn as on the trumpet,—and swore with ornate and voluminous oaths that he would swim the stream "in spite of the devil" [En spuyt den Duyvil].
He plunged in, and had gone half-way across when the Evil One, not to be spited, appeared as a huge moss-bunker, vomiting boiling water and lashing a fiery tail. This dreadful fish seized Anthony by the leg; but the trumpeter was game, for, raising his instrument to his lips, he exhaled his last breath through it in a defiant blast that rang through the woods for miles and made the devil himself let go for a moment. Then he was dragged below, his nose shining through the water more and more faintly, until, at last, all sight of him was lost. The failure of his mission resulted in the downfall of the Dutch in America, for, soon after, the English won a bloodless victory, and St. George's cross flaunted from the ramparts where Anthony had so often saluted the setting sun. But it was years, even then, before he was hushed, for in stormy weather it was claimed that the shrill of his trumpet could be heard near the creek that he had named, sounding above the deeper roar of the blast.
A curious tale of the Rosicrucians runs to the effect that more than two centuries ago a band of German colonists entered the Ramapo valley and put up houses of stone, like those they had left in the Hartz Mountains, and when the Indians saw how they made knives and other wonderful things out of metal, which they extracted from the rocks by fire, they believed them to be manitous and went away, not wishing to resist their possession of the land. There was treasure here, for High Tor, or Torn Mountain, had been the home of Amasis, youngest of the magi who had followed the star of Bethlehem. He had found his way, through Asia and Alaska, to this country, had taken to wife a native woman, by whom he had a child, and here on the summit he had built a temple. Having refused the sun worship, when the Indians demanded that he should take their faith, he was set upon, and would have been killed had not an earthquake torn the ground at his feet, opening a new channel for the Hudson and precipitating into it every one but the magus and his daughter. To him had been revealed in magic vision the secrets of wealth in the rocks.
The leader in the German colony, one Hugo, was a man of noble origin, who had a wife and two children: a boy, named after himself; a girl,—Mary. Though it had been the custom in the other country to let out the forge fires once in seven years, Hugo opposed that practice in the forge he had built as needless. But his men murmured and talked of the salamander that once in seven years attains its growth in unquenched flame and goes forth doing mischief. On the day when that period was ended the master entered his works and saw the men gazing into the furnace at a pale form that seemed made from flame, that was nodding and turning in the fire, occasionally darting its tongue at them or allowing its tail to fall out and lie along the stone floor. As he came to the door he, too, was transfixed, and the fire seemed burning his vitals, until he felt water sprinkled on his face, and saw that his wife, whom he had left at home too ill to move, stood behind him and was casting holy water into the furnace, speaking an incantation as she did so. At that moment a storm arose, and a rain fell that put out the fire; but as the last glow faded the lady fell dead.
When her children were to be consecrated, seven years later, those who stood outside of the church during the ceremony saw a vivid flash, and the nurse turned from the boy in her fright. She took her hands from her eyes. The child was gone. Twice seven years had passed and the daughter remained unspotted by the world, for, on the night when her father had led her to the top of High Torn Mountain and shown her what Amasis had seen,—the earth spirits in their caves heaping jewels and offering to give them if Hugo would speak the word that binds the free to the earth forces and bars his future for a thousand years,—it was her prayer that brought him to his senses and made the scene below grow dim, though the baleful light of the salamander clinging to the rocks at the bottom of the cave sent a glow into the sky.
Many nights after that the glow was seen on the height and Hugo was missing from his home, but for lack of a pure soul to stand as interpreter he failed to read the words that burned in the triangle on the salamander's back, and returned in rage and jealousy. A knightly man had of late appeared in the settlement, and between him and Mary a tender feeling had arisen, that, however, was unexpressed until, after saving her from the attack of a panther, he had allowed her to fall into his arms. She would willingly then have declared her love for him, but he placed her gently and regretfully from him and said, "When you slept I came to you and put a crown of gems on your head: that was because I was in the power of the earth spirit. Then I had power only over the element of fire, that either consumes or hardens to stone; but now water and life are mine. Behold! Wear these, for thou art worthy." And touching the tears that had fallen from her eyes, they turned into lilies in his hands, and he put them on her brow.
"Shall we meet again?" asked the girl.
"I do not know," said he. "I tread the darkness of the universe alone, and I peril my redemption by yielding to this love of earth. Thou art redeemed already, but I must make my way back to God through obedience tested in trial. Know that I am one of those that left heaven for love of man. We were of that subtle element which is flame, burning and glowing with love,—and when thy mother came to me with the power of purity to cast me out of the furnace, I lost my shape of fire and took that of a human being,—a child. I have been with thee often, and was rushing to annihilation, because I could not withstand the ordeal of the senses. Had I yielded, or found thee other than thou art, I should have become again an earth spirit. I have been led away by wish for power, such as I have in my grasp, and forgot the mission to the suffering. I became a wanderer over the earth until I reached this land, the land that you call new. Here was to be my last trial and here I am to pass the gate of fire."
As he spoke voices arose from the settlement.
"They are coming," said he. The stout form of Hugo was in advance. With a fierce oath he sprang on the young man. "He has ruined my household," he cried. "Fling him into the furnace!" The young man stood waiting, but his brow was serene. He was seized, and in a few moments had disappeared through the mouth of the burning pit. But Mary, looking up, saw a shape in robes of silvery light, and it drifted upward until it vanished in the darkness. The look of horror on her face died away, and a peace came to it that endured until the end.
Between the island of Manhattoes and the Catskills the Hudson shores were plagued with spooks, and even as late as the nineteenth century Hans Anderson, a man who tilled a farm back of Peekskill, was worried into his grave by the leaden-face likeness of a British spy whom he had hanged on General Putnam's orders. "Old Put" doubtless enjoyed immunity from this vexatious creature, because he was born with few nerves. A region especially afflicted was the confluence of the Croton and the Hudson, for the Kitchawan burying-ground was here, and the red people being disturbed by the tramping of white men over their graves, "the walking sachems of Teller's Point" were nightly to be met on their errands of protest.
These Indians had built a palisade on Croton Point, and here they made their last stand against their enemies from the north. Throughout the fight old chief Croton stood on the wall with arrows showering around him, and directed the resistance with the utmost calm. Not until every one of his men was dead and the fort was going up in flame about him did he confess defeat. Then standing amid the charring timbers, he used his last breath in calling down the curse of the Great Spirit against the foe. As the victorious enemy rushed into the enclosure to secure the scalps of the dead he fell lifeless into the fire, and their jubilant yell was lost upon his ears. Yet, he could not rest nor bear to leave his ancient home, even after death, and often his form, in musing attitude, was seen moving through the woods. When a manor was built on the ruins of his fort, he appeared to the master of it, to urge him into the Continental army, and having seen this behest obeyed and laid a solemn injointure to keep the freedom of the land forever, he vanished, and never appeared again.
After the English had secured the city of New Amsterdam and had begun to extend their settlements along the Hudson, the Indians congregated in large numbers about Lake Mahopac, and rejected all overtures for the purchase of that region. In their resolution they were sustained by their young chief Omoyao, who refused to abandon on on any terms the country where his fathers had solong hunted, fished, and built their lodges. A half-breed, one Joliper, a member of this tribe, was secretly in the pay of the English, but the allurements and insinuations that he put forth on their behalf were as futile as the breathing of wind in the leaves. At last the white men grew angry. Have the land they would, by evil course if good ways were refused, and commissioning Joliper to act for them in a decisive manner, they guaranteed to supply him with forces if his negotiations fell through. This man never thought it needful to negotiate. He knew the temper of his tribe and he was too jealous of his chief to go to him for favors, because he loved Maya, the chosen one of Omoyao.
At the door of Maya's tent he entreated her to go with him to the white settlements, and on her refusal he broke into angry threats, declaring, in the self-forgetfulness of passion, that he would kill her lover and lead the English against the tribe. Unknown to both Omoyao had overheard this interview, and he immediately sent runners to tell all warriors of his people to meet him at once on the island in the lake. Though the runners were cautioned to keep their errand secret, it is probable that Joliper suspected that the alarm had gone forth, and he resolved to strike at once; so he summoned his renegades, stole into camp next evening and made toward Maya's wigwam, intending to take her to a place of safety. Seeing the chief at the door, he shot an arrow at him, but the shaft went wide and slew the girl's father. Realizing, upon this assault, that he was outwitted and that his people were outnumbered, the chief called to Maya to meet him at the island, and plunged into the brush, after seeing that she had taken flight in an opposite direction. The vengeful Joliper was close behind him with his renegades, and the chief was captured; then, that he might not communicate with his people or delay the operations against them, it was resolved to put him to death.
He was tied to a tree, the surrounding wood was set on fire, and he was abandoned to his fate, his enemies leaving him to destruction in their haste to reach the place of the council and slay or capture all who were there. Hardly were they out of hearing ere the plash of a paddle sounded through the roar of flame and Maya sprang upon the bank, cut her lover's bonds, and with him made toward the island, which they reached by a protected way before the assailants had arrived. They told the story of Joliper's cruelty and treason, and when his boats were seen coming in to shore they had eyes and hands only for Joliper. He was the first to land. Hardly had he touched the strand before he was surrounded by a frenzied crowd and had fallen bleeding from a hundred gashes.
The Indians were overpowered after a brief and bloody resistance. They took safety in flight. Omoyao and Maya, climbing upon the rock above their "council chamber," found that while most of their people had escaped their own retreat was cut off, and that it would be impossible to reach any of the canoes. They preferred death to torture and captivity, so, hand in hand, they leaped together down the cliff, and the English claimed the land next day.
The cataract of Niagara (properly pronounced Nee-ah-gah-rah), or Oniahgarah, is as fatal as it is fascinating, beautiful, sublime, and the casualties occurring there justify the tradition that "the Thundering Water asks two victims every year." It was reputed, before white men looked for the first time on these falls—and what thumping yarns they told about them!—that two lives were lost here annually, and this average has been kept up by men and women who fall into the flood through accident, recklessness or despair, while bloody battles have been fought on the shores, and vessels have been hurled over the brink, to be dashed to splinters on the rocks.
The sound of the cataract was declared to be the voice of a mighty spirit that dwelt in the waters, and in former centuries the Indians offered to it a yearly sacrifice. This sacrifice was a maiden of the tribe, who was sent over in a white canoe, decorated with fruit and flowers, and the girls contended for this honor, for the brides of Manitou were objects of a special grace in the happy hunting-grounds. The last recorded sacrifice was in 1679, when Lelawala, the daughter of chief Eagle Eye, was chosen, in spite of the urgings and protests of the chevalier La Salle, who had been trying to restrain the people from their idolatries by an exposition of the Christian dogma. To his protests he received the unexpected answer, "Your words witness against you. Christ, you say, set us an example. We will follow it. Why should one death be great, while our sacrifice is horrible?" So the tribe gathered at the bank to watch the sailing of the white canoe. The chief watched the embarkation with the stoicism usual to the Indian when he is observed by others, but when the little bark swung out into the current his affection mastered him, and he leaped into his own canoe and tried to overtake his daughter. In a moment both were beyond the power of rescue. After their death they were changed into spirits of pure strength and goodness, and live in a crystal heaven so far beneath the fall that its roaring is a music to them: she, the maid of the mist; he, the ruler of the cataract. Another version of the legend makes a lover and his mistress the chief actors. Some years later a patriarch of the tribe and all his sons went over the fall when the white men had seized their lands, preferring death to flight or war.
In about the year 200 the Stone Giants waded across the river below the falls on their northward march. These beings were descended from an ancient family, and being separated from their stock in the year 150 by the breaking of a vine bridge across the Mississippi, they left that region. Indian Pass, in the Adirondacks, bore the names of Otneyarheh, Stony Giants; Ganosgwah, Giants Clothed in Stone; and Dayohjegago, Place Where the Storm Clouds Fight the Great Serpent. Giants and serpents were held to be harmful inventions of the Evil Spirit, and the Lightning god, catching up clouds as he stood on the crags, broke them open, tore their lightnings out and hurled them against the monsters. These cannibals had almost exterminated the Iroquois, for they were of immense size and had made themselves almost invincible by rolling daily in the sand until their flesh was like stone. The Holder of the Heavens, viewing their evil actions from on high, came down disguised as one of their number—he used often to meditate on Manitou Rock, at the Whirlpool—and leading them to a valley near Onondaga, on pretence of guiding them to a fairer country, he stood on a hill above them and hurled rocks upon their heads until all, save one, who fled into the north, were dead. Yet, in the fulness of time, new children of the Stone Giants (mail-clad Europeans?) entered the region again and were destroyed by the Great Spirit,—oddly enough where the famous fraud known as the Cardiff giant was alleged to have been found. The Onondagas believed this statue to be one of their ancient foes.
The valley of Zoar, in western New York, is so surrounded by hills that its discoverers—a religious people, who gave it a name from Scripture said, "This is Zoar; it is impregnable. From her we will never go." And truly, for lack of roads, they found it so hard to get out, having got in, that they did not leave it. Among the early settlers here were people of a family named Wright, whose house became a sort of inn for the infrequent traveller, inasmuch as they were not troubled with piety, and had no scruples against the selling of drink and the playing of cards at late hours. A peddler passed through the valley on his way to Buffalo and stopped at the Wright house for a lodging, but before he went to bed he incautiously showed a number of golden trinkets from his pack and drew a considerable quantity of money out of his pocket when he paid the fee for his lodging. Hardly had he fallen asleep before his greedy hosts were in the room, searching for his money. Their lack of caution caused him to awake, and as he found them rifling his pockets and his pack he sprang up and showed fight.
A blow sent him to the bottom of the stairs, where his attempt to escape was intercepted, and the family closed around him and bound his arms and legs. They showed him the money they had taken and asked where he had concealed the rest. He vowed that it was all he had. They insisted that he had more, and seizing a knife from the table the elder Wright slashed off one of his toes "to make him confess." No result came from this, and six toes were cut off,—three from each foot; then, in disgust, the unhappy peddler was knocked on the head and flung through a trap-door into a shallow cellar. Presently he arose and tried to draw himself out, but with hatchet and knife they chopped away his fingers and he fell back. Even the women shared in this work, and leaned forward to gaze into the cellar to see if he might yet be dead. While listening, they heard the man invoke the curse of heaven on them: he asked that they should wear the mark of crime even to the fourth generation, by coming into the world deformed and mutilated as he was then. And it was so. The next child born in that house had round, hoof-like feet, with only two toes, and hands that tapered from the wrist into a single long finger. And in time there were twenty people so deformed in the valley: The "crab-clawed Zoarites" they were called.
The feeling recently created by an attempt to fasten the stupid names of Fairport or of North Elmira on the village in central New York that, off and on for fifty years, had been called Horseheads, caused an inquiry as to how that singular name chanced to be adopted for a settlement. In 1779, when General Sullivan was retiring toward the base of his supplies after a destructive campaign against the Indians in Genesee County, he stopped near this place and rested his troops. The country was then rude, unbroken, and still beset with enemies, however, and when the march was resumed it was thought best to gain time over a part of the way by descending the Chemung River on rafts.
As there were no appliances for building large floats, and the depth of the water was not known, the general ordered a destruction of all impedimenta that could be got rid of, and commanded that the poor and superfluous horses should be killed. His order was obeyed. As soon as the troops had gone, the wolves, that were then abundant, came forth and devoured the carcasses of the steeds, so that the clean-picked bones were strewn widely over the camp-ground. When the Indians ventured back into this region, some of them piled the skulls of the horses into heaps, and these curious monuments were found by white settlers who came into the valley some years later, and who named their village Horseheads, in commemoration of these relics. The Indians were especially loth to leave this region, for their tradition was that it had been the land of the Senecas from immemorial time, the tribe being descended from a couple that had a home on a hill near Horseheads.
The Indians loved our lakes. They had eyes for their beauty, and to them they were abodes of gracious spirits. They used to say of Oneida Lake, that when the Great Spirit formed the world "his smile rested on its waters and Frenchman's Island rose to greet it; he laughed and Lotus Island came up to listen." So they built lodges on their shores and skimmed their waters in canoes. Much of their history relates to them, and this is a tale of the Senecas that was revived a few years ago by the discovery of a deer-skin near Lakes Waneta and Keuka, New York, on which some facts of the history were rudely drawn, for all Indians are artists.
Waneta, daughter of a chief, had plighted her troth to Kayuta, a hunter of a neighboring tribe with which her people were at war. Their tryst was held at twilight on the farther shore of the lake from her village, and it was her gayety and happiness, after these meetings had taken place, that roused the suspicion and jealousy of Weutha, who had marked her for his bride against the time when he should have won her father's consent by some act of bravery. Shadowing the girl as she stole into the forest one evening, he saw her enter her canoe and row to a densely wooded spot; he heard a call like the note of a quail, then an answer; then Kayuta emerged on the shore, lifted the maiden from her little bark, and the twain sat down beside the water to listen to the lap of its waves and watch the stars come out.
Hurrying back to camp, the spy reported that an enemy was near them, and although Waneta had regained her wigwam by another route before the company of warriors had reached the lake, Kayuta was seen, pursued, and only escaped with difficulty. Next evening, not knowing what had happened after her homeward departure on the previous night—for the braves deemed it best to keep the knowledge of their military operations from the women—the girl crept away to the lake again and rowed to the accustomed place, but while waiting for the quail call a twig dropped on the water beside her. With a quick instinct that civilization has spoiled she realized this to be a warning, and remaining perfectly still, she allowed her boat to drift toward shore, presently discovering that her lover was standing waist-deep in the water. In a whisper he told her that they were watched, and bade her row to a dead pine that towered at the foot of the lake, where he would soon meet her. At that instant an arrow grazed his side and flew quivering into the canoe.
Pushing the boat on its course and telling her to hasten, Kayuta sprang ashore, sounded the warwhoop, and as Weutha rose into sight he clove his skull with a tomahawk. Two other braves now leaped forward, but, after a struggle, Kayuta left them dead or senseless, too. He would have stayed to tear their scalps off had he not heard his name uttered in a shriek of agony from the end of the lake, and, tired and bleeding though he was, he bounded along its margin like a deer, for the voice that he heard was Waneta's. He reached the blasted pine, gave one look, and sank to the earth. Presently other Indians came, who had heard the noise of fighting, and burst upon him with yells and brandished weapons, but something in his look restrained them from a close advance. His eyes were fixed on a string of beads that lay on the bottom of the lake, just off shore, and when the meaning of it came to them, the savages thought no more of killing, but moaned their grief; for Waneta, in stepping from her canoe to wade ashore, had been caught and swallowed by a quagmire. All night and all next day Kayuta sat there like a man of stone. Then, just as the hour fell when he was used to meet his love, his heart broke, and he joined her in the spiritland.
A little maid of three years was missing from her home on the Genesee. She had gone to gather water-lilies and did not return. Her mother, almost crazed with grief, searched for days, weeks, months, before she could resign herself to the thought that her little one—Kayutah, the Drop Star, the Indians called her—had indeed been drowned. Years went by. The woman's home was secure against pillage, for it was no longer the one house of a white family in that region, and the Indians had retired farther and farther into the wilderness. One day a hunter came to the woman and said, "I have seen old Skenandoh,—the last of his tribe, thank God! who bade me say this to you: that the ice is broken, and he knows of a hill of snow where a red berry grows that shall be yours if you will claim it." When the meaning of this message came upon her the woman fainted, but on recovering speech she despatched her nephew to the hut of the aged chief and passed that night in prayer.
The young man set off at sunset, and by hard riding, over dim trails, with only stars for light, he came in the gray of dawn to an upright timber, colored red and hung with scalps, that had been cut from white men's heads at the massacre of Wyoming. The place they still call Painted Post. Without drawing rein he sped along the hills that hem Lake Seneca, then, striking deeper into the wilds, he reached a smaller lake, and almost fell from his saddle before a rude tent near the shore. A new grave had been dug close by, and he shuddered to think that perhaps he had come too late, but a wrinkled Indian stepped forth at that moment and waited his word.
"I come," cried the youth,—"to see the berry that springs from snow."
"You come in time," answered Skenandoh. "No, 'tis not in that grave. It is my own child that is buried there. She was as a sister to the one you seek, and she bade me restore the Drop Star to her mother,—the squaw that we know as the New Moon's Light."
Stepping into the wigwam, he emerged again, clasping the wrist of a girl of eighteen, whose robe he tore asunder at the throat, showing the white breast, and on it a red birth-mark; then, leading her to the young man, he said,—"And now I must go to the setting sun." He slung a pouch about him, loaded, not with arms and food, but stones, stepped into his canoe, and paddled out upon the water, singing as he went a melancholy chant—his deathsong. On gaining the middle of the lake he swung his tomahawk and clove the bottom of the frail boat, so that it filled in a moment and the chief sank from sight. The young man took his cousin to her overjoyed mother, helped to win her back to the ways of civilized life, and eventually married her. She took her Christian name again, but left to the lake on whose banks she had lived so long her Indian name of Drop Star—Kayutah.
It was at Palmyra, New York, that the principles of Mormonism were first enunciated by Joseph Smith, who claimed to have found the golden plates of the Book of Mormon in a hill-side in neighboring Manchester,—the "Hill of Cumorah,"—to which he was led by angels. The plates were written in characters similar to the masonic cabala, and he translated them by divine aid, giving to the world the result of his discovery. The Hebrew prophet Mormon was the alleged author of the record, and his son Moroni buried it. The basis of Mormonism was, however, an unpublished novel, called "The Manuscript Found," that was read to Sidney Rigdon (afterwards a Mormon elder) by its author, a clergyman, and that formulated a creed for a hypothetical church. Smith had a slight local celebrity, for he and his father were operators with the divining-rod, and when he appropriated this creed a harmless and beneficent one, for polygamy was a later "inspiration" of Brigham Young—and began to preach it, in 1844, it gained many converts. His arrogation of the presidency of the "Church of Latter Day Saints" and other rash performances won for him the enmity of the Gentiles, who imprisoned and killed him at Carthage, Missouri, leaving Brigham Young to lead the people across the deserts to Salt Lake, where they prospered through thrift and industry.
It was claimed that in the van of this army, on the march to Utah, was often seen a venerable man with silver beard, who never spoke, but who would point the way whenever the pilgrims were faint or discouraged. When they reached the spot where the temple was afterwards built, he struck his staff into the earth and vanished.
At Hydesville, near Palmyra, spiritualism, as it is commonly called, came into being on March 31, 1849, when certain of the departed announced themselves by thumping on doors and tables in the house of the Fox family, the survivors of which confessed the fraud nearly forty years after. It is of interest to note that the ground whence these new religions sprang was peopled by the Onondagas, the sacerdotal class of the Algonquin tribe, who have preserved the ancient religious rites of that great family until this day.
Bramley's Mountain, near the present village of Bloomfield, New York, on the edge of the Catskill group, was the home of a young couple that had married with rejoicing and had taken up the duties and pleasures of housekeeping with enthusiasm. To be sure, in those days housekeeping was not a thing to be much afraid of, and the servant question had not come up for discussion. The housewives did the work themselves, and the husband had no valets. The domicile of this particular pair was merely a tent of skins stretched around a frame of poles, and their furniture consisted principally of furs strewn over the earth floor; but they loved each other truly. The girl was thankful to be taken from her home to live, because, up to the time of her marriage, she had been persecuted by a morose and ill-looking fellow of her tribe, who laid siege to her affection with such vehemence that the more he pleaded the greater was her dislike; and now she hoped that she had seen the last of him. But that was not to be. He lurked about the wigwam of the pair, torturing himself with the sight of their felicity, and awaiting his chance to prove his hate. This chance came when the husband had gone to Lake Delaware to fish, for he rowed after and gave battle in the middle of the pond. Taken by surprise, and being insufficiently armed, the husband was killed and his body flung into the water. Then, casting an affectionate leer at the wife who had watched this act of treachery and malice with speechless horror from the mountain-side, he drove his canoe ashore and set off in pursuit of her. She retreated so slowly as to allow him to keep her in sight, and when she entered a cave he pressed forward eagerly, believing that now her escape was impossible; but she had purposely trapped him there, for she had already explored a tortuous passage that led to the upper air, and by this she had left the cavern in safety while he was groping and calling in the dark. Returning to the entrance, she loosened, by a jar, a ledge that overhung it, so that the door was almost blocked; then, gathering light wood from the dry trees around her, she made a fire and hurled the burning sticks into the prison where the wretch was howling, until he was dead in smoke and flame. When his yells and curses had been silenced she told a friend what she had done, then going back to the lake, she sang her death-song and cast herself into the water, hoping thus to rejoin her husband.
They have some pretty big mosquitoes in New Jersey and on Long Island, but, if report of their ancestry is true, they have degenerated in size and voracity; for the grandfather of all mosquitoes used to live in the neighborhood of Fort Onondaga, New York, and sallying out whenever he was hungry, would eat an Indian or two and pick his teeth with their ribs. The red men had no arms that could prevail against it, but at last the Holder of the Heavens, hearing their cry for aid, came down and attacked the insect. Finding that it had met its match, the mosquito flew away so rapidly that its assailant could hardly keep it in sight. It flew around the great lake, then turned eastward again. It sought help vainly of the witches that brooded in the sink-holes, or Green Lakes (near Janesville, New York), and had reached the salt lake of Onondaga when its pursuer came up and killed it, the creature piling the sand into hills in its dying struggles.
As its blood poured upon the earth it became small mosquitoes, that gathered about the Holder of the Heavens and stung him so sorely that he half repented the service that he had done to men. The Tuscaroras say that this was one of two monsters that stood on opposite banks of the Seneca River and slew all men that passed. Hiawatha killed the other one. On their reservation is a stone, marked by the form of the Sky Holder, that shows where he rested during the chase, while his tracks were until lately seen south of Syracuse, alternating with footprints of the mosquito, which were shaped like those of a bird, and twenty inches long. At Brighton, New York, where these marks appeared, they were reverentially renewed by the Indians for many years.
In a cellar in Green Street, Schenectady, there appeared, some years ago, the silhouette of a human form, painted on the floor in mould. It was swept and scrubbed away, but presently it was there again, and month by month, after each removal, it returned: a mass of fluffy mould, always in the shape of a recumbent man. When it was found that the house stood on the site of the old Dutch burial ground, the gossips fitted this and that together and concluded that the mould was planted by a spirit whose mortal part was put to rest a century and more ago, on the spot covered by the house, and that the spirit took this way of apprising people that they were trespassing on its grave. Others held that foul play had been done, and that a corpse, hastily and shallowly buried, was yielding itself back to the damp cellar in vegetable form, before its resolution into simpler elements. But a darker meaning was that it was the outline of a vampire that vainly strove to leave its grave, and could not because a virtuous spell had been worked about the place.
A vampire is a dead man who walks about seeking for those whose blood he can suck, for only by supplying new life to its cold limbs can he keep the privilege of moving about the earth. He fights his way from his coffin, and those who meet his gray and stiffened shape, with fishy eyes and blackened mouth, lurking by open windows, biding his time to steal in and drink up a human life, fly from him in terror and disgust. In northern Rhode Island those who die of consumption are believed to be victims of vampires who work by charm, draining the blood by slow draughts as they lie in their graves. To lay this monster he must be taken up and burned; at least, his heart must be; and he must be disinterred in the daytime when he is asleep and unaware. If he died with blood in his heart he has this power of nightly resurrection. As late as 1892 the ceremony of heart-burning was performed at Exeter, Rhode Island, to save the family of a dead woman that was threatened with the same disease that removed her, namely, consumption. But the Schenectady vampire has yielded up all his substance, and the green picture is no more.
At Carthage, New York, where the Black River bends gracefully about a point, there was a stanch old house, built in the colonial fashion and designed for the occupancy of some family of hospitality and wealth, but the family died out or moved away, and for some years it remained deserted. During the war of 1812 the village gossips were excited by the appearance of carpenters, painters and upholsterers, and it was evident that the place was to be restored to its manorial dignities; but their curiosity was deepened instead of satisfied when, after the house had been put in order and high walls built around it, the occupants presented themselves as four young women in the garb of nuns. Were they daughters of the family? Were they English sympathizers in disguise, seeking asylum in the days of trouble? Had they registered a vow of celibacy until their lovers should return from the war? Were they on a secret and diplomatic errand? None ever knew, at least in Carthage. The nuns lived in great privacy, but in a luxury before unequalled in that part of the country. They kept a gardener, they received from New York wines and delicacies that others could not afford, and when they took the air, still veiled, it was behind a splendid pair of bays.
One afternoon, just after the close of the war, a couple of young American officers went to the convent, and, contrary to all precedent, were admitted. They remained within all that day, and no one saw them leave, but a sound of wheels passed through the street that evening. Next day there were no signs of life about the place, nor the day following, nor the next. The savage dog was quiet and the garden walks had gone unswept. Some neighbors climbed over the wall and reported that the place had been deserted. Why and by whom no one ever knew, but a cloud remained upon its title until a recent day, for it was thought that at some time the nuns might return.
A skull is built into the wall above the door of the court-house at Goshen, New York. It was taken from a coffin unearthed in 1842, when the foundation of the building was laid. People said there was no doubt about it, only Claudius Smith could have worn that skull, and he deserved to be publicly pilloried in that manner. Before the Revolutionary war Smith was a farmer in Monroe, New York, and being prosperous enough to feel the king's taxes no burden, to say nothing of his jealousy of the advantage that an independent government would be to the hopes of his poorer neighbors, he declared for the king. After the declaration of independence had been published, his sympathies were illustrated in an unpleasantly practical manner by gathering a troop of other Tories about him, and, emboldened by the absence of most of the men of his vicinage in the colonial army, he began to harass the country as grievously in foray as the red-coats were doing in open field.
He pillaged houses and barns, then burned them; he insulted women, he drove away cattle and horses, he killed several persons who had undertaken to defend their property. His "campaigns" were managed with such secrecy that nobody knew when or whence to look for him. His murder of Major Nathaniel Strong, of Blooming Grove, roused indignation to such a point that a united effort was made to catch him, a money reward for success acting as a stimulus to the vigilance of the hunters, and at last he was captured on Long Island. He was sent back to Goshen, tried, convicted, and on January 22, 1779, was hanged, with five of his band. The bodies of the culprits were buried in the jail-yard, on the spot where the court-house stands, and old residents identified Smith's skeleton, when it was accidentally exhumed, by its uncommon size. A farmer from an adjacent town made off with a thigh bone, and a mason clapped mortar into the empty skull and cemented it into the wall, where it long remained.
Among the settlers in the Adirondacks, forty or fifty years ago, was Henry Clymer, from Brooklyn, who went up to Little Black Creek and tried to make a farm out of the gnarly, stumpy land; but being a green hand at that sort of thing, he soon gave it up and put up the place near Northwood, that is locally referred to as the haunted mill. When the first slab was cut, a big party was on hand to cheer and eat pie in honor of the Clymers, for Mr. Clymer, who was a dark, hearty, handsome fellow, and his bright young wife had been liberal in their hospitality. The couple had made some talk, they were so loving before folks—too loving to last; and, besides, it was evident that Mrs. Clymer was used to a better station in life than her husband. It was while the crowd was laughing and chattering at the picnic-table of new boards from the mill that Mrs. Clymer stole away to her modest little house, and a neighbor who had followed her was an accidental witness to a singular episode. Mrs. Clymer was kneeling beside her bed, crying over the picture of a child, when Clymer entered unexpectedly and attempted to take the picture from her.
She faced him defiantly. "You kept that because it looked like him, I reckon," he said. "You might run back to him. You know what he'd call you and where you'd stand with your aristocracy."
The woman pointed to the door, and the man left without another word, and so did the listener. Next morning the body of Mrs. Clymer was found hanging to a beam in the mill. At the inquest the husband owned that he had "had a few words" with her on the previous day, and thought that she must have suddenly become insane. The jury took this view. News of the suicide was printed in some of the city papers, and soon after that the gossips had another sensation, for a fair-haired man, also from Brooklyn, arrived at the place and asked where the woman was buried. When he found the grave he sat beside it for some time, his head resting on his hand; then he inquired for Clymer, but Clymer, deadly pale, had gone into the woods as soon as he heard that a stranger had arrived. The new-comer went to Trenton, where he ordered a gravestone bearing the single word "Estella" to be placed where the woman's body had been interred. Clymer quickly sold out and disappeared. The mill never prospered, and has long been in a ruinous condition. People of the neighborhood think that the ghost of Mrs. Clymer—was that her name?—still troubles it, and they pass the place with quickened steps.
On Lower Ausable Pond is a large, ruddy rock showing a huge profile, with another, resembling a pappoose, below it. When the Tahawi ruled this region their sachem lived here at "the Dark Cup," as they called this lake, a man renowned for virtue and remarkable, in his age, for gentleness. When his children had died and his manly grandson, who was the old man's hope, had followed them to the land of the cloud mountains, Adota's heart withered within him, and standing beneath this rock, he addressed his people, recounting what he had done for them, how he had swept their enemies from the Lakes of the Clustered Stars (the Lower Saranac) and Silver Sky (Upper Saranac) to the Lake of Wandah, gaining a land where they might hunt and fish in peace. The little one, the Star, had been ravished away to crown the brow of the thunder god, who, even now, was advancing across the peaks, bending the woods and lighting the valleys with his jagged torches.
Life was nothing to him longer; he resigned it.
As he spoke these words he fell back, and the breath passed out of him. Then came the thunder god, and with an appalling burst of fire sent the people cowering. The roar that followed seemed to shake the earth, but the medicine-man of the tribe stood still, listening to the speech of the god in the clouds. "Tribe of the Tahawi," he translated, "Adota treads the star-path to the happy hunting-grounds, and the sun is shining on his heart. He will never walk among you again, but the god loves both him and you, and he will set his face on the mountains. Look!" And, raising their eyes, they beheld the likeness of Adota and of his beloved child, the Star, graven by lightning-stroke on the cliff. There they buried the body of Adota and held their solemn festivals until the white men drove them out of the country.
In the middle of the last century a large body of Saranac Indians occupied the forests of the Upper Saranac through which ran the Indian carrying-place, called by them the Eagle Nest Trail. Whenever they raided the Tahawi on the slopes of Mount Tahawus (Sky-splitter), there was a pleasing rivalry between two young athletes, called the Wolf and the Eagle, as to which would carry off the more scalps, and the tribe was divided in admiration of them. There was one who did not share this liking: an old sachem, one of the wizards who had escaped when the Great Spirit locked these workers of evil in the hollow trees that stood beside the trail. In their struggles to escape the less fortunate ones thrust their arms through the closing bark, and they are seen there, as withered trunks and branches, to this day. Oquarah had not been softened by this exhibition of danger nor the qualification of mercy that allowed him still to exist. Rather he was more bitter when he saw, as he fancied, that the tribe thought more of the daring and powerful warriors than it did of the bent and malignant-minded counsellor.
It was in the moon of green leaves that the two young men set off to hunt the moose, and on the next day the Wolf returned alone. He explained that in the hunt they had been separated; he had called for hours for his friend, and had searched so long that he concluded he must have returned ahead of him. But he was not at the camp. Up rose the sachem with visage dark. "I hear a forked tongue," he cried. "The Wolf was jealous of the Eagle and his teeth have cut into his heart."
"The Wolf cannot lie," answered the young man.
"Where is the Eagle?" angrily shouted the sachem, clutching his hatchet.
"The Wolf has said," replied the other.
The old sachem advanced upon him, but as he raised his axe to strike, the wife of the Wolf threw herself before her husband, and the steel sank into her brain. The sachem fell an instant later with the Wolf's knife in his heart, and instantly the camp was in turmoil. Before the day had passed it had been broken up, and the people were divided into factions, for it was no longer possible to hold it together in peace. The Wolf, with half of the people, went down the Sounding River to new hunting-grounds, and the earth that separated the families was reddened whenever one side met the other.
Years had passed when, one morning, the upper tribe saw a canoe advancing across the Lake of the Silver Sky. An old man stepped from it: he was the Eagle. After the Wolf had left him he had fallen into a cleft in a rock, and had lain helpless until found by hunters who were on their way to Canada. He had joined the British against the French, had married a northern squaw, but had returned to die among the people of his early love. Deep was his sorrow that his friend should have been accused of doing him an injury, and that the once happy tribe should have been divided by that allegation. The warriors and sachems of both branches were summoned to a council, and in his presence they swore a peace, so that in the fulness of time he was able to die content. That peace was always kept.
It was during the years when the Saranacs were divided that Howling Wind, one of the young men of Indian Carry, saw and fell in love with a girl of the family on Tupper Lake. He quickly found a way to tell his liking, and the couple met often in the woods and on the shore. He made bold to row her around the quieter bays, and one moonlight evening he took her to Devil's Rock, or Devil's Pulpit, where he told her the story of the place. This was to the effect that the fiend had paddled, on timbers, by means of his tail, to that rock, and had assembled fish and game about him in large numbers by telling them that he was going to preach to them, instead of which moral procedure he pounced upon and ate all that were within his grasp.
As so often happened in Indian history, the return of these lovers was seen by a disappointed rival, who had hurried back to camp and secured the aid of half a dozen men to arrest the favored one as soon as he should land. The capture was made after a struggle, and Howling Wind was dragged to the chief's tent for sentence. That sentence was death, and with a refinement of cruelty that was rare even among the Indians, the girl was ordered to execute it. She begged and wept to no avail. An axe was put into her hands, and she was ordered to despatch the prisoner. She took the weapon; her face grew stern and the tears dried on her cheeks; her lover, bound to a tree, gazed at her in amazement; his rival watched, almost in glee. Slowly the girl crossed the open space to her lover. She raised the tomahawk and at a blow severed the thongs that held him, then, like a flash, she leaped upon his rival, who had sprung forward to interfere, and clove his skull with a single stroke. The lovers fled as only those can fly who run for life. Happily for them, they met a party from the Carry coming to rescue Howling Wind from the danger to which his courtship had exposed him, and it was even said that this party entered the village and by presenting knives and arrows at the breast of the chief obtained his now superfluous consent to the union of the fugitives. The pair reached the Carry in safety and lived a long and happy life together.
Brightest flower that grows beside the brooks is the scarlet blossom of the Indian plume: the blood of Lenawee. Hundreds of years ago she lived happily among her brother and sister Saranacs beside Stony Creek, the Stream of the Snake, and was soon to marry the comely youth who, for the speed of his foot, was called the Arrow. But one summer the Quick Death came on the people, and as the viewless devil stalked through the village young and old fell before him. The Arrow was the first to die. In vain the Prophet smoked the Great Calumet: its smoke ascending took no shape that he could read. In vain was the white dog killed to take aloft the people's sins. But at last the Great Spirit himself came down to the mountain called the Storm Darer, splendid in lightning, awful in his thunder voice and robe of cloud. "My wrath is against you for your sins," he cried, "and naught but human blood will appease it."
In the morning the Prophet told his message, and all sat silent for a time. Then Lenawee entered the circle. "Lenawee is a blighted flower," she sobbed. "Let her blood flow for her people." And catching a knife from the Prophet's belt, she ran with it to the stream on which she and the Arrow had so often floated in their canoe. In another moment her blood had bedewed the earth. "Lay me with the Arrow," she murmured, and, smiling in their sad faces, breathed her last. The demon of the quick death shrank from the spot, and the Great Spirit smiled once more on the tribe that could produce such heroism. Lenawee's body was placed beside her lover's, and next morning, where her blood had spilt, the ground was pure, and on it grew in slender spires a new flower,—the Indian plume: the transformed blood of sacrifice. The people loved that flower in all years after. They decked their hair and dresses with it and made a feast in its honor. When parents taught their children the beauty of unselfishness they used as its emblem a stalk of Indian plume.
Back from his war against the Tahawi comes the Sun, chief of the Lower Saranacs,—back to the Lake of the Clustered Stars, afterward called, by dullards, Tupper's Lake. Tall and invincible he comes among his people, boasting of his victories, Indian fashion, and stirring the scalps that hang at his breast. "The Eagle screams," he cries. "He greets the chief, the Blazing Sun. Wayotah has made the Tahawi tremble. They fly from him. Hooh, hooh! He is the chief." Standing apart with wistful glance stands Oseetah, the Bird. She loves the strong young chief, but she knows that another has his promise, and she dares not hope; yet the chief loves her, and when the feasting is over he follows her footprints to the shore, where he sees her canoe turning the point of an island. He silently pursues and comes upon her as she sits waving and moaning. He tries to embrace her, but she draws apart. He asks her to sing to him; she bids him begone.
He takes a more imperious tone and orders her to listen to her chief. She moves away. He darts toward her. Turning on him a face of sorrow, she runs to the edge of a steep rock and waves him back. He hastens after. Then she springs and disappears in the deep water. The Sun plunges after her and swims with mad strength here and there. He calls. There is no answer. Slowly he returns to the village and tells the people what has happened. The Bird's parents are stricken and the Sun moans in his sleep. At noon a hunter comes in with strange tidings: flowers are growing on the water! The people go to their canoes and row to the Island of Elms. There, in a cove, the still water is enamelled with flowers, some as white as snow, filling the air with perfume, others strong and yellow, like the lake at sunset.
"Explain to us," they cry, turning to the old Medicine of his tribe, "for this was not so yesterday."
"It is our daughter," he answered. "These flowers are the form she takes. The white is her purity, the yellow her love. You shall see that her heart will close when the sun sets, and will reopen at his coming." And the young chief went apart and bowed his head.
The shores of Lakes George and Champlain were ravaged by war. Up and down those lovely waters swept the barges of French and English, and the green hills rang to the shrill of bugles, the boom of cannon, and the yell of savages. Fiction and history have been weft across the woods and the memory of deeds still echoes among the heights. It was at Glen's Falls, in the cave on the rock in the middle of the river, that the brave Uncas held the watch with Hawkeye. Bloody Defile and Bloody Pond, between there and Lake George, take their names from the "Bloody morning scout" sent out by Sir William Johnson on a September day in 1755 to check Dieskau until Fort William Henry could be completed. In the action that ensued, Colonel Williams, founder of Williams College, and Captain Grant, of the Connecticut line, great-grandfather of the President who bore that name, were killed. The victims, dead and wounded alike, having been flung into Bloody Pond, it was thick and red for days, and tradition said that in after years it resumed its hue of crimson at sunset and held it until dawn. The captured, who were delivered to the Indians, had little to hope, for their white allies could not stay their savagery. Blind Rock was so called because the Indians brought a white man there, and tearing his eyes out, flung them into embers at the foot of the stone. Captives were habitually tortured, blazing splinters of pine being thrust into their flesh, their nails torn out, and their bodies slashed with knives before they went to the stake. An English prisoner was allowed to run the gauntlet here. They had already begun to strike at him as he sped between the lines, when he seized a pappoose, flung it on a fire, and, in the instant of confusion that followed, snatched an axe, cut the bonds of a comrade who had been doomed to die, and both escaped.
But the best-known history of this region is that of Rogers's Rock, or Rogers's Slide, a lofty precipice at the lower end of Lake George. Major Rogers did not toboggan down this rock in leather trousers, but his escape was no less remarkable than if he had. On March 13, 1758, while reconnoitring near Ticonderoga with two hundred rangers, he was surprised by a force of French and Indians. But seventeen of his men escaped death or capture, and he was pursued nearly to the brink of this cliff. During a brief delay among the red men, arising from the loss of his trail, he had time to throw his pack down the slide, reverse his snow-shoes, and go back over his own track to the head of a ravine before they emerged from the woods, and, seeing that his shoe-marks led to the rock, while none pointed back, they concluded that he had flung himself off and committed suicide to avoid capture. Great was their disappointment when they saw the major on the frozen surface of the lake beneath going at a lively rate toward Fort William Henry. He had gained the ice by way of the cleft in the rocks, but the savages, believing that he had leaped over the precipice, attributed his preservation to the Great Spirit and forbore to fire on him. Unconsciously, he had chosen the best possible place to disappear from, for the Indians held it in superstitious regard, believing that spirits haunted the wood and hurled bad souls down the cliff, drowning them in the lake, instead of allowing them to go to the happy hunting grounds. The major reached his quarters in safety, and lived to take up arms against the land of his birth when the colonies revolted, seventeen years later.
When Occuna, a young Seneca, fell in love with a girl whose cabin was near the present town of Cohoes, he behaved very much as Americans of a later date have done. He picked wild flowers for her; he played on the bone pipe and sang sentimental songs in the twilight; he roamed the hills with her, gathering the loose quartz crystals that the Indians believed to be the tears of stricken deer, save on Diamond Rock, in Lansingburgh, where they are the tears of Moneta, a bereaved mother and wife; and in fine weather they went boating on the Mohawk above the rapids. They liked to drift idly on the current, because it gave them time to gaze into each other's eyes, and to build air castles that they would live in in the future. They were suddenly called to a realization of danger one evening, for the stream had been subtly drawing them on and on until it had them in its power. The stroke of the paddle failed and the air castles fell in dismal ruin. Sitting erect they began their death-song in this wise:
Occuna: "Daughter of a mighty warrior, the Manitou calls me hence. I hear the roaring of his voice; I see the lightning of his glance along the river; he walks in clouds and spray upon the waters."
The Maiden: "Thou art thyself a warrior, O Occuna. Hath not thine axe been often bathed in blood? Hath the deer ever escaped thine arrow or the beaver avoided thy chase? Thou wilt not fear to go into the presence of Manitou."
Occuna: "Manitou, indeed, respects the strong. When I chose thee from the women of our tribe I promised that we should live and die together. The Thunderer calls us now. Welcome, O ghost of Oriska, chief of the invincible Senecas! A warrior and the daughter of a warrior come to join you in the feast of the blessed!"
The boat leaped over the falls, and Occuna, striking on the rocks below, was killed at once; but, as by a miracle, the girl fell clear of them and was whirled on the seething current to shoal water, where she made her escape. For his strength and his virtues the dead man was canonized. His tribe raised him above the regions of the moon, whence he looked down on the scenes of his youth with pleasure, and in times of war gave pleasant dreams and promises to his friends, while he confused the enemy with evil omens. Whenever his tribe passed the falls they halted and with brief ceremonials commemorated the death of Occuna.
In Copake, New York, among the Berkshire Hills, less than a century ago, lived Francis Woolcott, a dark, tall man, with protruding teeth, whose sinister laugh used to give his neighbors a creep along their spines. He had no obvious trade or calling, but the farmers feared him so that he had no trouble in making levies: pork, flour, meal, cider, he could have what he chose for the asking, for had he not halted horses at the plow so that neither blows nor commands could move them for two hours? Had he not set farmer Raught's pigs to walking on their hind legs and trying to talk? When he shouted "Hup! hup! hup!" to farmer Williams's children, had they not leaped to the moulding of the parlor wainscot,—a yard above the floor and only an inch wide,—and walked around it, afterward skipping like birds from chair-back to chair-back, while the furniture stood as if nailed to the floor? And was he not the chief of thirteen night-riders, whose faces no man had seen, nor wanted to see, and whom he sent about the country on errands of mischief every night when the moon was growing old? As to moons, had he not found a mystic message from our satellite on Mount Riga, graven on a meteor?
Horses' tails were tied, hogs foamed at the mouth and walked like men, cows gave blood for milk. These night-riders met Woolcott in a grove of ash and chestnut trees, each furnished with a stolen bundle of oat straw, and these bundles Woolcott changed to black horses when the night had grown dark enough not to let the way of the change be seen. These horses could not cross streams of water, and on the stroke of midnight they fell to pieces and were oaten sheaves once more, but during their time of action they rushed through woods, bearing their riders safely, and tore like hurricanes across the fields, leaping bushes, fences, even trees, without effort. Never could traces be found of them the next day. At last the devil came to claim his own. Woolcott, who was ninety years old, lay sick and helpless in his cabin. Clergymen refused to see him, but two or three of his neighbors stifled their fears and went to the wizard's house to soothe his dying moments. With the night came storm, and with its outbreak the old man's face took on such a strange and horrible look that the watchers fell back in alarm. There was a burst of purple flame at the window, a frightful peal, a smell of sulphur, and Woolcott was dead. When the watchers went out the roads were dry, and none in the village had heard wind, rain, or thunder. It was the coming of the fiend.
In about the middle of this century a withered woman of ninety was buried from a now deserted house in White Plains, New York, Polly Carter the name of her, but "Crazy Polly" was what the neighbors called her, for she was eccentric and not fond of company. Among the belongings of her house was a tall clock, such as relic hunters prize, that ticked solemnly in a landing on the stairs.
For a time, during the Revolution, the house stood within the British lines, and as her father was a colonel in Washington's army she was left almost alone in it. The British officers respected her sex, but they had an unpleasant way of running in unannounced and demanding entertainment, in the king's name, which she felt forced to grant. One rainy afternoon the door was flung open, then locked on the inside, and she found herself in the arms of a stalwart, handsome lieutenant, who wore the blue. It was her cousin and fiance. Their glad talk had not been going long when there came a rousing summons at the door. Three English officers were awaiting admittance.
Perhaps they had seen Lawrence Carter go into the house, and if caught he would be killed as a spy. He must be hidden, but in some place where they would not think of looking. The clock! That was the place. With a laugh and a kiss the young man submitted to be shut in this narrow quarter, and throwing his coat and hat behind some furniture the girl admitted the officers, who were wet and surly and demanded dinner. They tramped about the best room in their muddy boots, talking loudly, and in order to break the effect of the chill weather they passed the brandy bottle freely. Polly served them with a dinner as quickly as possible, for she wanted to get them out of the house, but they were in no mood to go, and the bottle passed so often that before the dinner was over they were noisy and tipsy and were using language that drove Polly from the room.
At last, to her relief, she heard them preparing to leave the house, but as they were about to go the senior officer, looking up at the landing, now dim in the paling light, said to one of the others, "See what time it is." The officer addressed, who happened to be the drunkest of the party, staggered up the stair and exclaimed, "The d—-d thing's stopped." Then, as if he thought it a good joke, he added, "It'll never go again." Drawing his sabre he gave the clock a careless cut and ran the blade through the panel of the door; after this the three passed out. When their voices had died in distant brawling, Polly ran to release her lover. Something thick and dark was creeping from beneath the clock-case. With trembling fingers she pulled open the door, and Lawrence, her lover, fell heavily forward into her arms, dead. The officer was right: the clock never went again.
It was at the Jay house, in Westchester, New York, that Enoch Crosby met Washington and offered his services to the patriot army. Crosby was a cobbler, and not a very thriving one, but after the outbreak of hostilities he took a peddler's outfit on his back and, as a non-combatant, of Tory sympathies, he obtained admission through the British lines. After his first visit to head quarters it is certain that he always carried Sir Henry Clinton's passport in the middle of his pack, and so sure were his neighbors that he was in the service of the British that they captured him and took him to General Washington, but while his case was up for debate he managed to slip his handcuffs, which were not secure, and made off. Clinton, on the other hand, was puzzled by the unaccountable foresight of the Americans, for every blow that he prepared to strike was met, and he lost time and chance and temper. As if the suspicion of both armies and the hatred of his neighbors were not enough to contend against, Crosby now became an object of interest to the Skinners and Cowboys, who were convinced that he was making money, somehow, and resolved to have it.
The Skinners were camp-followers of the American troops and the Cowboys a band of Tories and renegade British. Both factions were employed, ostensibly, in foraging for their respective armies, but, in reality, for themselves, and the farmers and citizens occupying the neutral belt north of Manhattan Island had reason to curse them both impartially. While these fellows were daring thieves, they occasionally got the worst of it, even in the encounters with the farmers, as on the Neperan, near Tarrytown, where the Cowboys chased a woman to death, but were afterward cut to pieces by the enraged neighbors. Hers is but one of the many ghosts that haunt the neutral ground, and the croaking of the birds of ill luck that nest at Raven rock is blended with the cries of her dim figure. Still, graceless as these fellows were, they affected a loyalty to their respective sides, and were usually willing to fight each other when they met, especially for the plunder that was to be got by fighting.
In October, 1780, Claudius Smith, "king of the Cowboys," and three scalawag sons came to the conclusion that it was time for Crosby's money to revert to the crown, and they set off toward his little house one evening, sure of finding him in, for his father was seriously ill. The Smiths arrived there to find that the Skinners had preceded them on the same errand, and they recognized through the windows, in the leader of the band, a noted brigand on whose head a price was laid. He was searching every crack and cranny of the room, while Crosby, stripped to shirt and trousers, stood before the empty fireplace and begged for that night to be left alone with his dying father.
"To hell with the old man!" roared the Skinner. "Give up your gold, or we'll put you to the torture," and he significantly whirled the end of a rope that he carried about his waist. At that moment the faint voice of the old man was heard calling from another room.
"Take all that I have and let me go!" cried Crosby, and turning up a brick in the fire-place he disclosed a handful of gold, his life savings. The leader still tried to oppose his exit, but Crosby flung him to the floor and rushed away to his father, while the brigand, deeming it well to delay rising, dug his fingers into the hollow and began to extract the sovereigns. At that instant four muskets were discharged from without: there was a crash of glass, a yell of pain, and four of the Skinners rolled bleeding on the floor; two others ran into the darkness and escaped; their leader, trying to follow, was met at the threshold by the Smiths, who clutched the gold out of his hand and pinioned his elbows in a twinkling.
"I thought ye'd like to know who's got ye," said old Smith, peering into the face of the astonished and crestfallen robber, "for I've told ye many a time to keep out of my way, and now ye've got to swing for getting into it."
Within five minutes of the time that he had got his clutch on Crosby's money the bandit was choking to death at the end of his own rope, hung from the limb of an apple-tree, and, having secured the gold, the Cowboys went their way into the darkness. Crosby soon made his appearance in the ranks of the Continentals, and, though they looked askant at him for a time, they soon discovered the truth and hailed him as a hero, for the information he had carried to Washington from Clinton's camp had often saved them from disaster. He had survived attack in his own house through the falling out of rogues, and he survived the work and hazard of war through luck and a sturdy frame. Congress afterwards gave him a sum of money larger than had been taken from him, for his chief had commended him in these lines: "Circumstances of political importance, which involved the lives and fortunes of many, have hitherto kept secret what this paper now reveals. Enoch Crosby has for years been a faithful and unrequited servant of his country. Though man does not, God may reward him for his conduct. GEORGE WASHINGTON."
Associated with Crosby in his work of getting information from the enemy was a man named Gainos, who kept an inn on the neutral ground, that was often raided. Being assailed by Cowboys once, Gainos, with his tenant and stable-boys, fired at the bandits together, just as the latter had forced his front door, then stepping quickly forward he slashed off the head of the leader with a cutlass. The retreating crew dumped the body into a well on the premises, and there it sits on the crumbling curb o' nights looking disconsolately for its head.
It may also be mentioned that the Skinners had a chance to revenge themselves on the Cowboys for their defeat at the Crosby house. They fell upon the latter at the tent-shaped cave in Yonkers,—it is called Washington's Cave, because the general napped there on bivouac,—and not only routed them, but secured so much of their treasure that they were able to be honest for several years after.
to mark the
resting-places of great men and to indicate the scenes of their deeds
has led to misunderstanding and confusion among those who discover a
regard for history and tradition in this practical age. Robert
Fulton, who made steam navigation possible, lies in an unmarked tomb
in the yard of Trinity Church—the richest church in America.
stone erected to show where Andre was hanged was destroyed by a cheap
patriot, who thought it represented a compliment to the spy. The spot
where Alexander Hamilton was shot in the duel by Aaron Burr is known
to few and will soon be forgotten. It was not until a century of
obloquy had been heaped on the memory of Thomas Paine that his once
enemies were brought to know him as a statesman of integrity, a
philanthropist, and philosopher. His deistic religion, proclaimed in
"The Age of Reason," is unfortunately no whit more
independent than is preached in dozens of pulpits to-day. He died
ripe in honors, despite his want of creed, and his mortal part was
buried in New Rochelle, New York, under a large walnut-tree in a
hay-field. Some years later his friends removed the body to a new
grave in higher ground, and placed over it a monument that the
opponents of his principles quickly hacked to pieces. Around the
original grave there still remains a part of the old inclosure, and
it was proposed to erect a suitable memorial—the Hudson and
Hills the spot, but the owner of the tract would neither give nor
sell an inch of his land for the purpose of doing honor to the man.
Some doubt has already been expressed as to whether the grave is
beneath the monument or in the inclosure; and it is also asserted
that Paine's ghost appears at intervals, hovering in the air between
the two burial-places, or flitting back and forth from one to the
other, lamenting the forgetfulness of men and wailing, "Where is
my grave? I have lost my grave!"
Gouverneur Morris, American minister to the court of Louis XVI, was considerably enriched, at the close of the reign of terror, by plate, jewels, furniture, paintings, coaches, and so on, left in his charge by members of the French nobility, that they might not be confiscated in the sack of the city by the sans culottes; for so many of the aristocracy were killed and so many went into exile or disguised their names, that it was impossible to find heirs or owners for these effects. Some of the people who found France a good country to be out of came to America, where adventurers had found prosperity and refugees found peace so many times before. Marshal Ney and Bernadotte are alleged to have served in the American army during the Revolution, and at Hogansburg, New York, the Reverend Eleazer Williams, an Episcopal missionary, who lies buried in the church-yard there, was declared to be the missing son of Louis XVI. The question, "Have we a Bourbon among us?" was frequently canvassed; but he avoided publicity and went quietly on with his pastoral work.
All property left in Mr. Morris's hands that had not been claimed was removed to his mansion at Port Morris, when he returned from his ministry, and he gained in the esteem and envy of his neighbors when the extent of these riches was seen. Once, at the wine, he touched glasses with his wife, and said that if she bore a male child that son should be heir to his wealth. Two relatives who sat at the table exchanged looks at this and cast a glance of no gentle regard on his lady. A year went by. The son was born, but Gouverneur Morris was dead.
It is the first night of the year 1817, the servants are asleep, and the widow sits late before the fire, her baby in her arms, listening betimes to the wind in the chimney, the beat of hail on the shutters, the brawling of the Bronx and the clash of moving ice upon it; yet thinking of her husband and the sinister look his promise had brought to the faces of his cousins, when a tramp of horses is heard without, and anon a summons at the door. The panels are beaten by loaded riding-whips, and a man's voice cries, "Anne Morris, fetch us our cousin's will, or we'll break into the house and take it." The woman clutches the infant to her breast, but makes no answer. Again the clatter of the whips; but now a mist is gathering in the room, and a strange enchantment comes over her, for are not the lions breathing on the coat of arms above the door, and are not the portraits stirring in their frames?
They are, indeed. There is a rustle of robes and clink of steel and one old warrior leaps down, his armor sounding as he alights, and striking thrice his sword and shield together he calls on Gouverneur Morris to come forth. Somebody moves in the room where Morris died; there is a measured footfall in the corridor, with the clank of a scabbard keeping time; the door is opened, and on the blast that enters the widow hears a cry, then a double gallop, passing swiftly into distance. As she gazes, her husband appears, apparelled as in life, and with a smile he takes a candelabrum from the mantel and, beckoning her to follow, moves from room to room. Then, for the first time, the widow knows to what wealth her baby has been born, for the ghost discloses secret drawers in escritoires where money, title deeds, and gems are hidden, turns pictures and wainscots on unsuspected hinges, revealing shelves heaped with fabrics, plate, and lace; then, returning to the fireside, he stoops as if to kiss his wife and boy, but a bell strikes the first hour of morning and he vanishes into his portrait on the wall.