TALES OF PURITAN LAND
The seizure by England of the country that soon afterward was rechristened Nova Scotia was one of the cruellest events in history. The land was occupied by a good and happy people who had much faith and few laws, plenty to eat and drink, no tax collectors nor magistrates, in brief, a people who were entitled to call themselves Acadians, for they made their land an Arcady. Upon them swooped the British ships, took them unarmed and unoffending, crowded them aboard their transports,—often separating husband and wife, parents and children,—scattered them far and wide, beyond hope of return, and set up the cross of St. George on the ruins of prosperity and peace. On the shore of the Basin of Minas can still be traced the foundations of many homes that were perforce deserted at that time, and among them are the ruins of Grand Pre.
Here lived Evangeline Bellefontaine and Gabriel Lajeunesse, who were betrothed with the usual rejoicings just before the coming of the English. They had expected, when their people were arrested, to be sent away together; but most of the men were kept under guard, and Gabriel was at sea, bound neither he nor she knew whither, when Evangeline found herself in her father's house alone, for grief and excitement had been more than her aged parent could bear, and he was buried at the shore just before the women of the place were crowded on board of a transport. As the ship set off her sorrowing passengers looked behind them to see their homes going up in flame and smoke, and Acadia knew them no more. The English had planned well to keep these people from coming together for conspiracy or revenge: they scattered them over all America, from Newfoundland to the southern savannas.
Evangeline was not taken far away, only to New England; but without Gabriel all lands were drear, and she set off in the search for him, working here and there, sometimes looking timidly at the headstones on new graves, then travelling on. Once she heard that he was a coureur des bois on the prairies, again that he was a voyageur in the Louisiana lowlands; but those of his people who kept near her inclined to jest at her faith and urged her to marry Leblanc, the notary's son, who truly loved her. To these she only replied, "I cannot."
Down the Ohio and Mississippi she went—on a raft—with a little band of those who were seeking the French settlements, where the language, religion, and simplicity of life recalled Acadia. They found it on the banks of the Teche, and they reached the house of the herdsman Gabriel on the day that he had departed for the north to seek Evangeline. She and the good priest who had been her stay in a year of sorrow turned back in pursuit, and for weary months, over prairie and through forest, skirting mountain and morass, going freely among savages, they followed vain clues, and at last arrived in Philadelphia. Broken in spirit then, but not less sweet of nature for the suffering that she had known, she who had been named for the angels became a minister of mercy, and in the black robe of a nun went about with comforts to the sick and poor. A pestilence was sweeping through the city, and those who had no friends nor attendants were taken to the almshouse, whither, as her way was, Evangeline went on a soft Sabbath morning to calm the fevered and brighten the hearts of the dying.
Some of the patients of the day before had gone and new were in their places. Suddenly she turned white and sank on her knees at a bedside, with a cry of "Gabriel, my beloved!" breathed into the ears of a prematurely aged man who lay gasping in death before her. He came out of his stupor, slowly, and tried to speak her name. She drew his head to her bosom, kissed him, and for one moment they were happy. Then the light went out of his eyes and the warmth from his heart. She pressed his eyelids down and bowed her head, for her way was plainer now, and she thanked God that it was so.
The original proprietor of Deer Isle, off the coast of Maine—at least, the one who was in possession one hundred and thirty years ago—had the liquid name of Swunksus. His name was not the only liquid thing in the neighborhood, however, for, wherever Swunksus was, fire-water was not far. Shortly before the Revolution a renegade from Boston, one Conary, moved up to the island and helped himself to as much of it as he chose, but the longer he lived there the more he wanted. Swunksus was willing enough to divide his domain with the white intruder, but Conary was not satisfied with half. He did not need it all; he just wanted it. Moreover, he grew quarrelsome and was continually nagging poor Swunksus, until at last he forced the Indian to accept a challenge, not to immediate combat, but to fight to the death should they meet thereafter.
The red man retired to his half of the island and hid among the bushes near his home to await the white man, but in this little fastness he discovered a jug of whiskey that either fate or Conary had placed there. Before an hour was over he was "as full and mellow as a harvest moon," and it was then that his enemy appeared. There was no trouble in finding Swunksus, for he was snoring like a fog horn, and walking boldly up to him, Conary blew his head off with a load of slugs. Then he took possession of the place and lived happily ever after. Swunksus takes his deposition easily, for, although he has more than once paraded along the beaches, his ghost spends most of the time in slumber, and terrific snores have been heard proceeding from the woods in daylight.
On an island above the falls of the Androscoggin, at Lewiston, Maine, lived a white recluse at the beginning of the eighteenth century. The natives, having had good reason to mistrust all palefaces, could think no good of the man who lived thus among but not with them. Often they gathered at the bank and looked across at his solitary candle twinkling among the leaves, and wondered what manner of evil he could be planning against them. Wherever there are many conspirators one will be a gabbler or a traitor; so, when the natives had resolved on his murder, he, somehow, learned of their intent and set himself to thwart it. So great was their fear of this lonely man, and of the malignant powers he might conjure to his aid, that nearly fifty Indians joined the expedition, to give each other courage.
Their plan was to go a little distance up the river and come down with the current, thus avoiding the dip of paddles that he might hear in a direct crossing. When it was quite dark they set off, and keeping headway on their canoes aimed them toward the light that glimmered above the water. But the cunning hermit had no fire in his cabin that night. It was burning on a point below his shelter, and from his hiding-place among the rocks he saw their fleet, as dim and silent as shadows, go by him on the way to the misguiding beacon.
Presently a cry arose. The savages had passed the point of safe sailing; their boats had become unmanageable. Forgetting their errand, their only hope now was to save themselves, but in vain they tried to reach the shore: the current was whirling them to their doom. Cries and death-songs mingled with the deepening roar of the waters, the light barks reached the cataract and leaped into the air. Then the night was still again, save for the booming of the flood. Not one of the Indians who had set out on this errand of death survived the hermit's stratagem.
At times the fisher-folk of Maine are startled to see the form of a ship, with gaunt timbers showing through the planks, like lean limbs through rents in a pauper's garb, float shoreward in the sunset. She is a ship of ancient build, with tall masts and sails of majestic spread, all torn; but what is her name, her port, her flag, what harbor she is trying to make, no man can tell, for on her deck no sailor has ever been seen to run up colors or heard to answer a hail. Be it in calm or storm, in-come or ebb of tide, the ship holds her way until she almost touches shore.
There is no creak of spars or whine of cordage, no spray at the bow, no ripple at the stern—no voice, and no figure to utter one. As she nears the rocks she pauses, then, as if impelled by a contrary current, floats rudder foremost off to sea, and vanishes in twilight. Harpswell is her favorite cruising-ground, and her appearance there sets many heads to shaking, for while it is not inevitable that ill luck follows her visits, it has been seen that burial-boats have sometimes had occasion to cross the harbor soon after them, and that they were obliged by wind or tide or current to follow her course on leaving the wharf.
The quiet town of Orrington, in Maine, was founded by Jesse Atwood, of Wellfleet, Cape Cod, in 1778, and has become known, since then, as a place where skilful farmers and brave sailors could always be found. It also kept Maine supplied for years with oldest inhabitants. It is said that the name was an accident of illiteracy, and that it is the only place in the world that owes its title to bad spelling. The settlers who followed Atwood there were numerous enough to form a township after ten years, and the name they decided on for their commonwealth was Orangetown, so called for a village in Maryland where some of the people had associations, but the clerk of the town meeting was not a college graduate and his spelling of Orange was Orring, and of town, ton. His draft of the resolutions went before the legislature, and the people directly afterward found themselves living in Orrington.
Pond Cove, Maine, is haunted by a light that on a certain evening, every summer, rises a mile out at sea, drifts to a spot on shore, then whirls with a buzz and a glare to an old house, where it vanishes. Its first appearance was simultaneous with the departure of Jack Welch, a fisherman. He was seen one evening at work on his boat, but in the morning he was gone, nor has he since shown himself in the flesh.
On the tenth anniversary of this event three fishermen were hurrying up the bay, hoping to reach home before dark, for they dreaded that uncanny light, but a fog came in and it was late before they reached the wharf. As they were tying their boat a channel seemed to open through the mist, and along that path from the deep came a ball of pallid flame with the rush of a meteor. There was one of the men who cowered at the bottom of the boat with ashen face and shaking limbs, and did not watch the light, even though it shot above his head, played through the rigging, and after a wide sweep went shoreward and settled on his house. Next day one of his comrades called for him, but Tom Wright was gone, gone, his wife said, before the day broke. Like Jack Welch's disappearance, this departure was unexplained, and in time he was given up for dead.
Twenty years had passed, when Wright's presumptive widow was startled by the receipt of a letter in a weak, trembling hand, signed with her husband's name. It was written on his death-bed, in a distant place, and held a confession. Before their marriage, Jack Welch had been a suitor for her hand, and had been the favored of the two. To remove his rival and prosper in his place, Wright stole upon the other at his work, killed him, took his body to sea, and threw it overboard. Since that time the dead man had pursued him, and he was glad that the end of his days was come. But, though Tom Wright is no more, his victim's light comes yearly from the sea, above the spot where his body sank, floats to the scene of the murder on the shore, then flits to the house where the assassin lived and for years simulated the content that comes of wedded life.
Hapless daughter of a renegade is Ruth Bonython. Her father is as unfair to his friends as to his enemies, but to neither of them so merciless as to Ruth. Although he knows that she loves Master Scammon—in spite of his desertion and would rather die than wed another, he has promised her to Mogg Megone, the chief who rules the Indians at the Saco mouth. He, blundering savage, fancies that he sees to the bottom of her grief, and one day, while urging his suit, he opens his blanket and shows the scalp of Scammon, to prove that he has avenged her. She looks in horror, but when he flings the bloody trophy at her feet she baptizes it with a forgiving tear. What villainy may this lead to? Ah, none for him, for Bonython now steps in and plies him with flattery and drink, gaining from the chief, at last, his signature—the bow totem—to a transfer of the land for which he is willing to sell his daughter. Ruth, maddened at her father's meanness and the Indian's brutality, rushes on the imbruted savage, grasps from his belt the knife that has slain her lover, cleaves his heart in twain, and flies into the wood, leaving Bonython stupid with amazement.
Father Rasles, in his chapel at Norridgewock, is affecting his Indian converts against the Puritans, who settled to the southward of him fifty years before. To him comes a woman with torn garments and frightened face. Her dead mother stood before her last night, she says, and looked at her reprovingly, for she had killed Mogg Megone. The priest starts back in wrath, for Mogg was a hopeful agent of the faith, and bids her go, for she can ask no pardon. Brooding within his chapel, then, he is startled by the sound of shot and hum of arrows. Harmon and Moulton are advancing with their men and crying, "Down with the beast of Rome! Death to the Babylonish dog!" Ruth, knowing not what this new misfortune may mean, runs from the church and disappears.
Some days later, old Baron Castine, going to Norridgewock to bury and revenge the dead, finds a woman seated on the earth and gazing over a field strewn with ashes and with human bones. He touches her. She is cold. There has been no life for days. It is Ruth.
In 1690 a stately house stood in Kittery, Maine, a strongly guarded place with moat and drawbridge (which was raised at night) and a moated grange adjacent where were cattle, sheep, and horses. Here, in lonely dignity, lived Lady Ursula, daughter of the lord of Grondale Abbey, across the water, whose distant grandeurs were in some sort reflected in this manor of the wilderness. Silver, mahogany, paintings, tapestries, waxed floors, and carven chests of linen represented wealth; prayers were said by a chaplain every morning and evening in the chapel, and, though the main hall would accommodate five hundred people, the lady usually sat at meat there with her thirty servants, her part of the table being raised two feet above theirs.
It was her happiness to believe that Captain Fowler, now absent in conflict with the French, would return and wed her according to his promise, but one day came a tattered messenger with bitter news of the captain's death. She made no talk of her grief, and, while her face was pale and step no longer light, she continued in the work that custom exacted from women of that time: help for the sick, alms for the poor, teaching for the ignorant, religion for the savage. Great was her joy, then, when a ship came from England bringing a letter from Captain Fowler himself, refuting the rumor of defeat and telling of his coming. Now the hall took on new life, reflecting the pleasure of its mistress; color came back to her cheek and sparkle to her eye, and she could only control her impatience by more active work and more aggressive charities. The day was near at hand for the arrival of her lover, when Ursula and her servants were set upon by Indians, while away from the protection of the manor, and slain. They were buried where they fell, and Captain Fowler found none to whom his love or sorrow could be told.
In 1770 the Reverend Joseph Moody died at York, Maine, where he had long held the pastorate of a church, and where in his later years his face was never seen by friend or relative. At home, when any one was by, on the street, and in the pulpit his visage was concealed by a double fold of crape that was knotted above his forehead and fell to his chin, the lower edge of it being shaken by his breath. When first he presented himself to his congregation with features masked in black, great was the wonder and long the talk about it. Was he demented? His sermons were too logical for that. Had he been crossed in love? He could smile, though the smile was sad. Had he been scarred by accident or illness? If so, no physician knew of it.
After a time it was given out that his eyes were weakened by reading and writing at night, and the wonder ceased, though the veiled parson was less in demand for weddings, christenings, and social gatherings, and more besought for funerals than he had been. If asked to take off his crape he only replied, "We all wear veils of one kind or another, and the heaviest and darkest are those that hang about our hearts. This is but a material veil. Let it stay until the hour strikes when all faces shall be seen and all souls reveal their secrets."
Little by little the clergyman felt himself enforced to withdraw from the public gaze. There were rough people who were impertinent and timid people who turned out of their road to avoid him, so that he found his out-door walks and meditations almost confined to the night, unless he chose the grave-yard for its seclusion or strolled on the beach and listened to the wallowing and grunting of the Black Boars—the rocks off shore that had laughed on the night when the York witch went up the chimney in a gale. But his life was long and kind and useful, and when at last the veiled head lay on the pillow it was never to rise from consciously, a fellow-clergyman came to soothe his dying moments and commend his soul to mercy.
To him, one evening, Father Moody said, "Brother, my hour is come and the veil of eternal darkness is falling over my eyes. Men have asked me why I wear this piece of crape about my face, as if it were not for them a reminder and a symbol, and I have borne the reason so long within me that only now have I resolved to tell it. Do you recall the finding of young Clark beside the river, years ago? He had been shot through the head. The man who killed him did so by accident, for he was a bosom friend; yet he could never bring himself to confess the fact, for he dreaded the blame of his townsmen, the anguish of the dead man's parents, the hate of his betrothed. It was believed that the killing was a murder, and that some roving Indian had done it. After years of conscience-darkened life, in which the face of his dead friend often arose accusingly before him, the unhappy wretch vowed that he would never again look his fellows openly in the face: he would pay a penalty and conceal his shame. Then it was that I put a veil between myself and the world."
Joseph Moody passed away and, as he wished, the veil still hid his face in the coffin, but the clergyman who had raised it for a moment to compose his features, found there a serenity and a beauty that were majestic.
Some Indians believe that the Thunder Bird is the agent of storm; that the flashes of his eyes cause lightning and the flapping of his cloud-vast wings make thunder. Not so the Passamaquoddies, for they hold that Katahdin's spirit children are Thunders, and in this way an Indian found them: He had been seeking game along the Penobscot and for weeks had not met one of his fellow creatures. On a winter day he came on the print of a pair of snow-shoes; next morning the tracks appeared in another part of the forest, and so for many days he found them.
After a time it occurred to him to see where these tracks went to, and he followed them until they merged with others in a travelled road, ending at a precipice on the side of Katahdin (Great Mountain).
While lost in wonder that so many tracks should lead nowhere, he was roused by a footfall, and a maiden stepped from the precipice to the ledge beside him. Though he said nothing, being in awe of her stateliness and beauty, she replied in kind words to every unspoken thought and bade him go with her. He approached the rock with fear, but at a touch from the woman it became as mist, and they entered it together.
Presently they were in a great cave in the heart of Katahdin, where sat the spirit of the mountain, who welcomed them and asked the girl if her brothers had come. "I hear them coming," she replied. A blinding flash, a roar of thunder, and there stepped into the cave two men of giant size and gravely beautiful faces, hardened at the cheeks and brows to stone. "These," said the girl to the hunter, "are my brothers, the Thunder and the Lightning. My father sends them forth whenever there is wrong to redress, that those who love us may not be smitten. When you hear Thunder, know that they are shooting at our enemies."
At the end of that day the hunter returned to his home, and behold, he had been gone seven years. Another legend says that the stone-faced sons of the mountain adopted him, and that for seven years he was a roaming Thunder, but at the end of that time while a storm was raging he was allowed to fall, unharmed, into his own village.
Two brothers, having hunted at the head of the Penobscot until their snow-shoes and moccasins gave out, looked at each other ruefully and cried, "Would that there was a woman to help us!" The younger brother went to the lodge that evening earlier than the elder, in order to prepare the supper, and great was his surprise on entering the wigwam to find the floor swept, a fire built, a pot boiling, and their clothing mended. Returning to the wood he watched the place from a covert until he saw a graceful girl enter the lodge and take up the tasks of housekeeping.
When he entered she was confused, but he treated her with respect, and allowed her to have her own way so far as possible, so that they became warm friends, sporting together like children when the work of the day was over. But one evening she said, "Your brother is coming. I fear him. Farewell." And she slipped into the wood. When the young man told his elder brother what had happened there—the elder having been detained for a few days in the pursuit of a deer—he declared that he would wish the woman to come back, and presently, without any summons, she returned, bringing a toboggan-load of garments and arms. The luck of the hunters improved, and they remained happily together until spring, when it was time to return with their furs.
They set off down the Penobscot in their canoe and rowed merrily along, but as they neared the home village the girl became uneasy, and presently "threw out her soul"—became clairvoyant—and said, "Let me land here. I find that your father would not like me, so do not speak to him about me." But the elder brother told of her when they reached home, whereon the father exclaimed, "I had feared this. That woman is a sister of the goblins. She wishes to destroy men."
At this the elder brother was afraid, lest she should cast a spell on him, and rowing up the river for a distance he came upon her as she was bathing and shot at her. The arrow seemed to strike, for there was a flutter of feathers and the woman flew away as a partridge. But the younger did not forget the good she had done and sought her in the wood, where for many days they played together as of old.
"I do not blame your father: it is an affair of old, this hate he bears me," she said. "He will choose a wife for you soon, but do not marry her, else all will come to an end for you." The man could not wed the witch, and he might not disobey his father, in spite of this adjuration; so when the old man said to him, "I have a wife for you, my son," he answered, "It is well."
They brought the bride to the village, and for four days the wedding-dance was held, with a feast that lasted four days more. Then said the young man, "Now comes the end," and lying down on a bear-skin he sighed a few times and his spirit ascended to the Ghosts' road—the milky way. The father shook his head, for he knew that this was the witch's work, and, liking the place no longer, he went away and the tribe was scattered.
An Indian girl gathering berries on the side of Mount Katahdin looked up at its peak, rosy in the afternoon light, and sighed, "I wish that I had a husband. If Katahdin were a man he might marry me." Her companions laughed at this quaint conceit, and, filled with confusion at being overheard, she climbed higher up the slope and was lost to sight. For three years her tribe lost sight of her; then she came back with a child in her arms a beautiful boy with brows of stone. The boy had wonderful power: he had only to point at a moose or a duck or a bear, and it fell dead, so that the tribe never wanted food. For he was the son of the Indian girl and the spirit of the mountain, who had commanded her not to reveal the boy's paternity. Through years she held silence on this point, holding in contempt, like other Indians, the prying inquiries of gossips and the teasing of young people, and knowing that Katahdin had designed the child for the founder of a mighty race, with the sinews of the very mountains in its frame, that should fill and rule the earth. Yet, one day, in anger at some slight, the mother spoke: "Fools! Wasps who sting the fingers that pick you from the water! Why do you torment me about what you might all see? Look at the boy's face—his brows: in them do you not see Katahdin? Now you have brought the curse upon yourselves, for you shall hunt your own venison from this time forth." Leading the child by the hand she turned toward the mountain and went out from their sight. And since then the Indians who could not hold their tongues, and who might otherwise have been great, have dwindled to a little people.
Eastern traditions concerning Hiawatha differ in many respects from those of the West. In the East he is known as Glooskap, god of the Passamaquoddies, and his marks are left in many places in the maritime provinces and Maine. It was he who gave names to things, created men, filled them with life, and moved their wonder with storms. He lived on the rocky height of Blomidon, at the entrance to Minas Basin, Nova Scotia, and the agates to be found along its foot are jewels that he made for his grandmother's necklace, when he restored her youth. He threw up a ridge between Fort Cumberland and Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, that he might cross, dry shod, the lake made by the beavers when they dammed the strait at Blomidon, but he afterward killed the beavers, and breaking down their dam he let the lake flow into the sea, and went southward on a hunting tour. At Mount Desert he killed a moose, whose bones he flung to the ground at Bar Harbor, where they are still to be seen, turned to stone, while across the bay he threw the entrails, and they, too, are visible as rocks, dented with his arrow-points. Mount Kineo was anciently a cow moose of colossal size that he slew and turned into a height of land, and the Indians trace the outline of the creature in the uplift to this day. Little Kineo was a calf moose that he slew at the same time, and Kettle Mountain is his camp-caldron that he flung to the ground in the ardor of the chase.
One day in October, 1827, Rev. Charles Sharply rode into Alfred, Maine, and held service in the meeting-house. After the sermon he announced that he was going to Waterborough to preach, and that on his circuit he had collected two hundred and seventy dollars to help build a church in that village. Would not his hearers add to that sum? They would and did, and that evening the parson rode away with over three hundred dollars in his saddlebags. He never appeared in Waterborough. Some of the country people gave tongue to their fear that the possession of the money had made him forget his sacred calling and that he had fled the State.
On the morning after his disappearance, however, Deacon Dickerman appeared in Alfred riding on a horse that was declared to be the minister's, until the tavern hostler affirmed that the minister's horse had a white star on forehead and breast, whereas this horse was all black. The deacon said that he found the horse grazing in his yard at daybreak, and that he would give it to whoever could prove it to be his property. Nobody appeared to demand it, and people soon forgot that it was not his. He extended his business at about that time and prospered; he became a rich man for a little place; though, as his wealth increased, he became morose and averse to company.
One day a rumor went around that a belated traveller had seen a misty thing under "the owl tree" at a turn of a road where owls were hooting, and that it took on a strange likeness to the missing clergyman. Dickerman paled when he heard this story, but he shook his head and muttered of the folly of listening to boy nonsense. Ten years had gone by-during that time the boys had avoided the owl tree after dark—when a clergyman of the neighborhood was hastily summoned to see Mr. Dickerman, who was said to be suffering from overwork. He found the deacon in his house alone, pacing the floor, his dress disordered, his cheek hectic.
"I have not long to live," said he, "nor would I live longer if I could. I am haunted day and night, and there is no peace, no rest for me on earth. They say that Sharply's spirit has appeared at the owl tree. Well, his body lies there. They accused me of taking his horse. It is true. A little black dye on his head and breast was all that was needed to deceive them. Pray for me, for I fear my soul is lost. I killed Sharply." The clergyman recoiled. "I killed him," the wretched man went on, "for the money that he had. The devil prospered me with it. In my will I leave two thousand dollars to his widow and five thousand dollars to the church he was collecting for. Will there be mercy for me there? I dare not think it. Go and pray for me." The clergyman hastened away, but was hardly outside the door when the report of a pistol brought him back. Dickerman lay dead on the floor. Sharply's body was exhumed from the shade of the owl tree, and the spot was never haunted after.
There is no doubt that farmer Lovel had read ancient history or he would not have been so ready in the emergency that befell him one time in the last century. He had settled among the New Hampshire hills near the site that is now occupied by the village of Washington and had a real good time there with bears and Indians. It was when he was splitting rails on Lovel Mountain—they named it for him afterward—that he found himself surrounded by six Indians, who told him that he was their prisoner. He agreed that they had the advantage over him and said that he would go quietly along if they would allow him to finish the big chestnut log that he was at work on. As he was a powerful fellow and was armed with an axe worth any two of their tomahawks, and as he would be pretty sure to have the life of at least one of them if they tried to drive him faster than he wanted to go, they consented. He said that he would be ready all the sooner if they would help him to pull the big log apart, and they agreed to help him. Driving a wedge into the long split he asked them to take hold, and when they had done this he knocked out the wedge with a single blow and the twelve hands were caught tight in the closing wood. Struggle as the savages might, they could not get free, and after calmly enjoying the situation for a few minutes he walked slowly from one to the other and split open the heads of all six. Then he went to work again splitting up more chestnuts.
The isles of Shoals, a little archipelago of wind and wave-swept rocks that may be seen on clear days from the New Hampshire coast, have been the scene of some mishaps and some crimes. On Boone Island, where the Nottingham galley went down one hundred and fifty years ago, the survivors turned cannibals to escape starvation, while Haley's Island is peopled by shipwrecked Spanish ghosts that hail vessels and beg for passage back to their country. The pirate Teach, or Blackbeard, used to put in at these islands to hide his treasure, and one of his lieutenants spent some time on White Island with a beautiful girl whom he had abducted from her home in Scotland and who, in spite of his rough life, had learned to love him. It was while walking with her on this rock, forgetful of his trade and the crimes he had been stained with, that one of his men ran up to report a sail that was standing toward the islands. The pirate ship was quickly prepared for action, but before embarking, mindful of possible flight or captivity, the lieutenant made his mistress swear that she would guard the buried treasure if it should be till doomsday.
The ship he was hurrying to meet came smoothly on until the pirate craft was well in range, when ports flew open along the stranger's sides, guns were run out, and a heavy broadside splintered through the planks of the robber galley. It was a man-of-war, not a merchantman, that had run Blackbeard down. The war-ship closed and grappled with the corsair, but while the sailors were standing at the chains ready to leap aboard and complete the subjugation of the outlaws a mass of flame burst from the pirate ship, both vessels were hurled in fragments through the air, and a roar went for miles along the sea. Blackbeard's lieutenant had fired the magazine rather than submit to capture, and had blown the two ships into a common ruin. A few of both crews floated to the islands on planks, sore from burns and bruises, but none survived the cold and hunger of the winter. The pirate's mistress was among the first to die; still, true to her promise, she keeps her watch, and at night is dimly seen on a rocky point gazing toward the east, her tall figure enveloped in a cloak, her golden hair unbound upon her shoulders, her pale face still as marble.
This beautiful alp in the White Mountains commemorates in its name a prophet of the Pequawket tribe who, prior to undertaking a journey, had confided his son to a friendly settler, Cornelius Campbell, of Tamworth. The boy found some poison in the house that had been prepared for foxes, and, thinking it to be some delicacy, he drank of it and died. When Chocorua returned he could not be persuaded that his son had fallen victim to his own ignorance, but ascribed his death to the white man's treachery, and one day, when Campbell entered his cabin from the fields, he found there the corpses of his wife and children scalped and mangled.
He was not a man to lament at such a time: hate was stronger than sorrow. A fresh trail led from his door. Seizing his rifle he set forth in pursuit of the murderer. A mark in the dust, a bent grass blade, a torn leaf-these were guides enough, and following on through bush and swamp and wood they led him to this mountain, and up the slope he scrambled breathlessly. At the summit, statue-like, Chocorua stood. He saw the avenger coming, and knew himself unarmed, but he made no attempt to escape his doom. Drawing himself erect and stretching forth his hands he invoked anathema on his enemies in these words: "A curse upon you, white men! May the Great Spirit curse you when he speaks in the clouds, and his words are fire! Chocorua had a son and you killed him while the sky looked bright. Lightning blast your crops! Winds and fire destroy your dwellings! The Evil One breathe death upon your cattle! Your graves lie in the war-path of the Indian! Panthers howl and wolves fatten over your bones! Chocorua goes to the Great Spirit. His curse stays with the white man."
The report of Campbell's rifle echoed from the ledges and Chocorua leaped into the air, plunging to the rocks below. His mangled remains were afterward found and buried near the Tamworth path. The curse had its effect, for pestilence and storm devastated the surrounding country and the smaller settlements were abandoned. Campbell became a morose hermit, and was found dead in his bed two years afterward.
The personality of Passaconaway, the powerful chief and prophet, is involved in doubt, but there can be no misprision of his wisdom. By some historians he has been made one with St. Aspenquid, the earliest of native missionaries among the Indians, who, after his conversion by French Jesuits, travelled from Maine to the Pacific, preaching to sixty-six tribes, healing the sick and working miracles, returning to die at the age of ninety-four. He was buried on the top of Agamenticus, Maine, where his manes were pacified with offerings of three thousand slain animals, and where his tombstone stood for a century after, bearing the legend, "Present, useful; absent, wanted; living, desired; dying, lamented."
By others Passaconaway is regarded as a different person. The Child of the Bear—to English his name—was the chief of the Merrimacs and a convert of the apostle Eliot. Natives and colonists alike admired him for his eloquence, his bravery, and his virtue. Before his conversion he was a reputed wizard who sought by magic arts to repel the invasion of his woods and mountains by the white men, invoking the spirits of nature against them from the topmost peak of the Agiochooks, and his native followers declared that in pursuance of this intent he made water burn, rocks move, trees dance, and transformed himself into a mass of flame.
Such was his power over the forces of the earth that he could burn a tree in winter and from its ashes bring green leaves; he made dead wood blossom and a farmer's flail to bud, while a snake's skin he could cause to run. At the age of one hundred and twenty he retired from his tribe and lived in a lonely wigwam among the Pennacooks. One winter night the howling of wolves was heard, and a pack came dashing through the village harnessed by threes to a sledge of hickory saplings that bore a tall throne spread with furs. The wolves paused at Passaconaway's door. The old chief came forth, climbed upon the sledge, and was borne away with a triumphal apostrophe that sounded above the yelping and snarling of his train. Across Winnepesaukee's frozen surface they sped like the wind, and the belated hunter shrank aside as he saw the giant towering against the northern lights and heard his death-song echo from the cliffs. Through pathless woods, across ravines, the wolves sped on, with never slackened speed, into the mazes of the Agiochooks to that highest peak we now call Washington. Up its steep wilderness of snow the ride went furiously; the summit was neared, the sledge burst into flame, still there was no pause; the height was gained, the wolves went howling into darkness, but the car, wrapped in sheaves of fire, shot like a meteor toward the sky and was lost amid the stars of the winter night. So passed the Indian king to heaven.
Water-Goblins from the streams about Katahdin had left their birthplace and journeyed away to the Agiochooks, making their presence known to the Indians of that region by thefts and loss of life. When the manitou, Glooskap, learned that these goblins were eating human flesh and committing other outrages, he took on their own form, turning half his body into stone, and went in search of them. The wigwam had been pitched near the Home of the Water Fairies,—a name absurdly changed by the people of North Conway to Diana's Bath,—and on entering he was invited to take meat. The tail of a whale was cooked and offered to him, but after he had taken it upon his knees one of the goblins exclaimed, "That is too good for a beggar like you," and snatched it away. Glooskap had merely to wish the return of the dainty when it flew back into his platter. Then he took the whale's jaw, and snapped it like a reed; he filled his pipe and burned the tobacco to ashes in one inhalation; when his hosts closed the wigwam and smoked vigorously, intending to foul the air and stupefy him, he enjoyed it, while they grew sick; so they whispered to each other, "This is a mighty magician, and we must try his powers in another way."
A game of ball was proposed, and, adjourning to a sandy level at the bend of the Saco, they began to play, but Glooskap found that the ball was a hideous skull that rolled and snapped at him and would have torn his flesh had it not been immortal and immovable from his bones. He crushed it at a blow, and breaking off the bough of a tree he turned it by a word into a skull ten times larger than the other that flew after the wicked people as a wildcat leaps upon a rabbit. Then the god stamped on the sands and all the springs were opened in the mountains, so that the Saco came rising through the valley with a roar that made the nations tremble. The goblins were caught in the flood and swept into the sea, where Glooskap changed them into fish.
From times of old these noble hills have been the scenes of supernatural visitations and mysterious occurrences. The tallest peak of the Agiochooks—as they were, in Indian naming—was the seat of God himself, and the encroachment there of the white man was little liked. Near Fabyan's was once a mound, since levelled by pick and spade, that was known as the Giant's Grave. Ethan Allen Crawford, a skilful hunter, daring explorer, and man of herculean frame, lived, died, and is buried here, and near the ancient hillock he built one of the first public houses in the mountains. It was burned. Another, and yet another hostelry was builded on the site, but they likewise were destroyed by fire. Then the enterprise was abandoned, for it was remembered that an Indian once mounted this grave, waved a torch from its top, and cried in a loud voice, "No pale-face shall take root on this spot. This has the Great Spirit whispered in my ear."
Governor Wentworth, while on a lonely tour through his province, found this cabin of Crawford's and passed a night there, tendering many compliments to the austere graces of the lady of the house and drinking himself into the favor of the husband, who proclaimed him the prince of good fellows. On leaving, the guest exacted of Crawford a visit to Wolfeborough, where he was to inquire for "Old Wentworth." This visit was undertaken soon after, and the sturdy frontiersman was dismayed at finding himself in the house of the royal governor; but his reception was hearty enough to put him at his ease, and when he returned to the mountains he carried in his pocket a deed of a thousand acres of forest about his little farm. The family that he founded became wealthy and increased, by many an acre, the measure of that royal grant.
Not far below this spot, in the wildest part of the Notch, shut in by walls of rock thousands of feet high, is the old Willey House, and this, too, was the scene of a tragedy, for in 1826 a storm loosened the soil on Mount Willey and an enormous landslide occurred. The people in the house rushed forth on hearing the approach of the slide and met death almost at their door. Had they remained within they would have been unharmed, for the avalanche was divided by a wedge of rock behind the house, and the little inn was saved. Seven people are known to have been killed, and it was rumored that there was another victim in a young man whose name was unknown and who was walking through the mountains to enjoy their beauty. The messenger who bore the tidings of the destruction of the family was barred from reaching North Conway by the flood in the Saco, so he stood at the brink of the foaming river and rang a peal on a trumpet. This blast echoing around the hills in the middle of the night roused several men from their beds to know its meaning. The dog belonging to the inn is said to have given first notice to people below the Notch that something was wrong, but his moaning and barking were misunderstood, and after running back and forth, as if to summon help, he disappeared. At the hour of the accident James Willey, of Conway, had a dream in which he saw his dead brother standing by him. He related the story of the catastrophe to the sleeping man and said that when "the world's last knell" sounded they were going for safety to the foot of the steep mountain, for the Saco had risen twenty-four feet in seven hours and threatened to ingulf them in front.
Another spot of interest in the Notch is Nancy's Brook. It was at the point where this stream comes foaming from Mount Nancy into the great ravine that the girl whose name is given to it was found frozen to death in a shroud of snow in the fall of 1788. She had set out alone from Jefferson in search of a young farmer who was to have married her, and walked thirty miles through trackless snow between sunset and dawn. Then her strength gave out and she sank beside the road never to rise again. Her recreant lover went mad with remorse when he learned the manner of her death and did not long survive her, and men who have traversed the savage passes of the Notch on chill nights in October have fancied that they heard, above the clash of the stream and whispering of the woods, long, shuddering groans mingled with despairing cries and gibbering laughter.
The birth of Peabody River came about from a cataclysm of less violent nature than some of the avalanches that have so scarred the mountains. In White's "History of New England," Mr. Peabody, for whom the stream is named, is reported as having taken shelter in an Indian cabin on the heights where the river has its source. During the night a loud roaring waked the occupants of the hut and they sprang forth, barely in time to save their lives; for, hardly had they gained the open ground before a cavern burst open in the hill and a flood of water gushed out, sweeping away the shelter and cutting a broad swath through the forest.
Although the Pilot Mountains are supposed to have taken their name from the fact that they served as landmarks to hunters who were seeking the Connecticut River from the Lancaster district, an old story is still told of one Willard, who was lost amid the defiles of this range, and nearly perished with hunger. While lying exhausted on the mountainside his dog would leave him every now and then and return after a couple of hours. Though Willard was half dead, he determined to use his last strength in following the animal, and as a result was led by a short cut to his own camp, where provisions were plenty, and where the intelligent creature had been going for food. The dog was christened Pilot, in honor of this service, and the whole range is thought by many to be named in his honor.
Waternomee Falls, on Hurricane Creek, at Warren, are bordered with rich moss where fairies used to dance and sing in the moonlight. These sprites were the reputed children of Indians that had been stolen from their wigwams and given to eat of fairy bread, that dwarfed and changed them in a moment. Barring their kidnapping practices the elves were an innocent and joyous people, and they sought more distant hiding-places in the wilderness when the stern churchmen and cruel rangers penetrated their sylvan precincts.
An old barrack story has it that Lieutenant Chamberlain, who fought under Lovewell, was pursued along the base of Melvin Peak by Indians and was almost in their grasp when he reached Ossipee Falls. It seemed as if there were no alternative between death by the tomahawk and death by a fall to the rocks below, for the chasm here is eighteen feet wide; but without stopping to reckon chances he put his strength into a running jump, and to the amazement of those in pursuit and perhaps to his own surprise he cleared the gap and escaped into the woods. The foremost of the Indians attempted the leap, but plunged to his death in the ravine.
The Eagle Range was said to be the abode, two hundred years ago, of a man of strange and venerable appearance, whom the Indians regarded with superstitious awe and never tried to molest. He slept in a cave on the south slope and ranged the forest in search of game, muttering and gesturing to himself. He is thought to be identified with Thomas Crager, whose wife had been hanged in Salem as a witch, and whose only child had been stolen by Indians. After a long, vain search for the little one he gave way to a bitter moroseness, and avoided the habitations of civilized man and savages alike. It is a satisfaction to know that before he died he found his daughter, though she was the squaw of an Indian hunter and was living with his tribe on the shore of the St. Lawrence.
There are many traditions connected with Mount Adams that have faded out of memory. Old people remember that in their childhood there was talk of the discovery of a magic stone; of an Indian's skeleton that appeared in a speaking storm; of a fortune-teller that set off on a midnight quest, far up among the crags and eyries. In October, 1765, a detachment of nine of Rogers's Rangers began the return from a Canadian foray, bearing with them plate, candlesticks, and a silver statue that they had rifled from the Church of St. Francis. An Indian who had undertaken to guide the party through the Notch proved faithless, and led them among labyrinthine gorges to the head of Israel's River, where he disappeared, after poisoning one of the troopers with a rattlesnake's fang. Losing all reckoning, the Rangers tramped hither and thither among the snowy hills and sank down, one by one, to die in the wilderness, a sole survivor reaching a settlement after many days, with his knapsack filled with human flesh.
In 1816 the candlesticks were recovered near Lake Memphremagog, but the statue has never been laid hold upon. The spirits of the famished men were wont, for many winters, to cry in the woods, and once a hunter, camped on the side of Mount Adams, was awakened at midnight by the notes of an organ. The mists were rolling off, and he found that he had gone to sleep near a mighty church of stone that shone in soft light. The doors were flung back, showing a tribe of Indians kneeling within. Candles sparkled on the altar, shooting their rays through clouds of incense, and the rocks shook with thunder-gusts of music. Suddenly church, lights, worshippers vanished, and from the mists came forth a line of uncouth forms, marching in silence. As they started to descend the mountain a silver image, floating in the air, spread a pair of gleaming pinions and took flight, disappearing in the chaos of battlemented rocks above.
High on the eastern face of Mount Monroe shone the Great Carbuncle, its flash scintillating for miles by day, its dusky crimson glowing among the ledges at night. The red men said that it hung in the air, and that the soul of an Indian—killed, that he might guard the spot—made approach perilous to men of all complexions and purposes. As late as Ethan Crawford's time one search band took a "good man" to lay the watcher, when they strove to scale the height, but they returned "sorely bruised, treasureless, and not even saw that wonderful sight." The value of the stone tempted many, but those who sought it had to toil through a dense forest, and on arriving at the mountain found its glories eclipsed by intervening abutments, nor could they get near it. Rocks covered with crystals, at first thought to be diamonds, were readily despoiled of their treasure, but the Great Carbuncle burned on, two thousand feet above them, at the head of the awful chasm of Oakes Gulf, and baffled seekers likened it to the glare of an evil eye.
There was one who had grown old in searching for this gem, often scrambling over the range in wind and snow and cloud, and at last he reached a precipitous spot he had never attained before. Great was his joy, for the Carbuncle was within his reach, blazing into his eyes in the noon sunlight as if it held, crystallized in its depths, the brightness of all the wine that had ever gladdened the tired hearts of men. There were rivals in the search, and on reaching the plateau they looked up and saw him kneeling on a narrow ledge with arms extended as in rapture. They called to him. He answered not. He was dead—dead of joy and triumph. While they looked a portion of the crag above him fell away and rolled from rock to rock, marking its course with flashes of bloody fire, until it reached the Lake of the Clouds, and the waters of that tarn drowned its glory. Yet those waters are not always black, and sometimes the hooked crest of Mount Monroe is outlined against the night sky in a ruddy glow.
The abhorrence to paying taxes and duties—or any other levy from which an immediate and personal good is not promised—is too deeply rooted in human nature to be affected by statutes, and whenever it is possible to buy commodities that have escaped the observation of the revenue officers many are tempted to do so for the mere pleasure of defying the law. In the early part of this century the northern farmers and their wives were, in a way, providing themselves with laces, silver-ware, brandy, and other protected and dreadful articles, on which it was evident that somebody had forgotten to pay duty. The customs authorities on the American side of the border were long puzzled by the irruption of these forbidden things, but suspicion ultimately fell on a fellow of gigantic size, named Skinner.
It was believed that this outlaw carried on the crime of free trade after sunset, hiding his merchandise by day on the islands of Lake Memphremagog. This delightful sheet of water lies half in Canada and half in Vermont—agreeably to the purpose of such as he. Province Island is still believed to contain buried treasure, but the rock that contains Skinner's Cave was the smuggler's usual haunt, and when pursued he rowed to this spot and effected a disappearance, because he entered the cave on the northwest side, where it was masked by shrubbery. One night the officers landed on this island after he had gone into hiding, and after diligent search discovered his boat drawn up in a covert. They pushed it into the lake, where the winds sent it adrift, and, his communication with the shore thus cut off, the outlaw perished miserably of hunger. His skeleton was found in the cavern some years later.
In the lower part of the township of Cavendish, Vermont, the Black River seeks a lower level through a gorge in the foot-hills of the Green Mountains. The scenery here is romantic and impressive, for the river makes its way along the ravine in a series of falls and rapids that are overhung by trees and ledges, while the geologist finds something worth looking at in the caves and pot-holes that indicate an older level of the river. At a turn in the ravine rises the sheer precipice of Lover's Leap. It is a vertical descent of about eighty feet, the water swirling at its foot in a black and angry maelstrom. It is a spot whence lovers might easily step into eternity, were they so disposed, and the name fits delightfully into the wild and somber scene; but ask any good villager thereabout to relate the legend of the place and he will tell you this:
About forty years ago a couple of young farmers went to the Leap—which then had no name—to pry out some blocks of the schistose rock for a foundation wall. They found a good exposure of the rock beneath the turf and began to quarry it. In the earnestness of the work one of the men forgot that he was standing on the verge of a precipice, and through a slip of his crowbar he lost his balance and went reeling into the gulf. His horrified companion crept to the edge, expecting to see his mangled corpse tossing in the whirlpool, but, to his amazement, the unfortunate was crawling up the face of a huge table of stone that had fallen from the opposite wall and lay canted against it.
"Hello!" shouted the man overhead. "Are you hurt much?"
The victim of the accident slowly got upon his feet, felt cautiously of his legs and ribs, and began to search through his pockets, his face betraying an anxiety that grew deeper and deeper as the search went on. In due time the answer came back, deliberate, sad, and nasal, but distinct above the roar of the torrent: "Waal, I ain't hurt much, but I'll be durned if I haven't lost my jack-knife!"
he was pulled out of
the gorge without it.
The extraordinary delusion recorded as Salem witchcraft was but a reflection of a kindred insanity in the Old World that was not extirpated until its victims had been counted by thousands. That human beings should be accused of leaguing themselves with Satan to plague their fellows and overthrow the powers of righteousness is remarkable, but that they should admit their guilt is incomprehensible, albeit the history of every popular delusion shows that weak minds are so affected as to lose control of themselves and that a whimsey can be as epidemic as small-pox.
Such was the case in 1692 when the witchcraft madness, which might have been stayed by a seasonable spanking, broke out in Danvers, Massachusetts, the first victim being a wild Irishwoman, named Glover, and speedily involved the neighboring community of Salem. The mischiefs done by witches were usually trifling, and it never occurred to their prosecutors that there was an inconsistency between their pretended powers and their feeble deeds, or that it was strange that those who might live in regal luxury should be so wretchedly poor. Aches and pains, blight of crops, disease of cattle, were charged to them; children complained of being pricked with thorns and pins (the pins are still preserved in Salem), and if hysterical girls spoke the name of any feeble old woman, while in flighty talk, they virtually sentenced her to die. The word of a child of eleven years sufficed to hang, burn, or drown a witch.
Giles Corey, a blameless man of eighty, was condemned to the mediaeval peine forte et dure, his body being crushed beneath a load of rocks and timbers. He refused to plead in court, and when the beams were laid upon him he only cried, "More weight!" The shade of the unhappy victim haunted the scene of his execution for years, and always came to warn the people of calamities. A child of five and a dog were also hanged after formal condemnation. Gallows Hill, near Salem, witnessed many sad tragedies, and the old elm that stood on Boston Common until 1876 was said to have served as a gallows for witches and Quakers. The accuser of one day was the prisoner of the next, and not even the clergy were safe.
A few escapes were made, like that of a blue-eyed maid of Wenham, whose lover aided her to break the wooden jail and carried her safely beyond the Merrimac, finding a home for her among the Quakers; and that of Miss Wheeler, of Salem, who had fallen under suspicion, and whose brothers hurried her into a boat, rowed around Cape Ann, and safely bestowed her in "the witch house" at Pigeon Cove. Many, however, fled to other towns rather than run the risk of accusation, which commonly meant death.
When the wife of Philip English was arrested he, too, asked to share her fate, and both were, through friendly intercession, removed to Boston, where they were allowed to have their liberty by day on condition that they would go to jail every night. Just before they were to be taken back to Salem for trial they went to church and heard the Rev. Joshua Moody preach from the text, "If they persecute you in one city, flee unto another." The good clergyman not only preached goodness, but practised it, and that night the door of their prison was opened. Furnished with an introduction from Governor Phipps to Governor Fletcher, of New York, they made their way to that settlement, and remained there in safe and courteous keeping until the people of Salem had regained their senses, when they returned. Mrs. English died, soon after, from the effects of cruelty and anxiety, and although Mr. Moody was generally commended for his substitution of sense and justice for law, there were bigots who persecuted him so constantly that he removed to Plymouth.
According to the belief of the time a witch or wizard compacted with Satan for the gift of supernatural power, and in return was to give up his soul to the evil one after his life was over. The deed was signed in blood of the witch and horrible ceremonies confirmed the compact. Satan then gave his ally a familiar in the form of a dog, ape, cat, or other animal, usually small and black, and sometimes an undisguised imp. To suckle these "familiars" with the blood of a witch was forbidden in English law, which ranked it as a felony; but they were thus nourished in secret, and by their aid the witch might raise storms, blight crops, abort births, lame cattle, topple over houses, and cause pains, convulsions, and illness. If she desired to hurt a person she made a clay or waxen image in his likeness, and the harms and indignities wreaked on the puppet would be suffered by the one bewitched, a knife or needle thrust in the waxen body being felt acutely by the living one, no matter how far distant he might be. By placing this image in running water, hot sunshine, or near a fire, the living flesh would waste as this melted or dissolved, and the person thus wrought upon would die. This belief is still current among negroes affected by the voodoo superstitions of the South. The witch, too, had the power of riding winds, usually with a broomstick for a conveyance, after she had smeared the broom or herself with magic ointment, and the flocking of the unhallowed to their sabbaths in snaky bogs or on lonely mountain tops has been described minutely by those who claim to have seen the sight. Sometimes they cackled and gibbered through the night before the houses of the clergy, and it was only at Christmas that their power failed them. The meetings were devoted to wild and obscene orgies, and the intercourse of fiends and witches begot a progeny of toads and snakes.
Naturally the Indians were accused, for they recognized the existence of both good and evil spirits, their medicine-men cured by incantations in the belief that devils were thus driven out of their patients, and in the early history of the country the red man was credited by white settlers with powers hardly inferior to those of the oriental and European magicians of the middle ages. Cotton Mather detected a relation between Satan and the Indians, and he declares that certain of the Algonquins were trained from boyhood as powahs, powwows, or wizards, acquiring powers of second sight and communion with gods and spirits through abstinence from food and sleep and the observance of rites. Their severe discipline made them victims of nervous excitement and the responsibilities of conjuration had on their minds an effect similar to that produced by gases from the rift in Delphos on the Apollonian oracles, their manifestations of insanity or frenzy passing for deific or infernal possession. When John Gibb, a Scotchman, who had gone mad through religious excitement, was shipped to this country by his tired fellow-countrymen, the Indians hailed him as a more powerful wizard than any of their number, and he died in 1720, admired and feared by them because of the familiarity with spirits out of Hobbomocko (hell) that his ravings and antics were supposed to indicate. Two Indian servants of the Reverend Mr. Purvis, of Salem, having tried by a spell to discover a witch, were executed as witches themselves. The savages, who took Salem witchcraft at its worth, were astonished at its deadly effect, and the English may have lost some influence over the natives in consequence of this madness. "The Great Spirit sends no witches to the French," they said. Barrow Hill, near Amesbury, was said to be the meeting-place for Indian powwows and witches, and at late hours of the night the light of fires gleamed from its top, while shadowy forms glanced athwart it. Old men say that the lights are still there in winter, though modern doubters declare that they were the aurora borealis.
But the belief in witches did not die even when the Salem people came to their senses. In the Merrimac valley the devil found converts for many years after: Goody Mose, of Rocks village, who tumbled down-stairs when a big beetle was killed at an evening party, some miles away, after it had been bumping into the faces of the company; Goody Whitcher, of Ameshury, whose loom kept banging day and night after she was dead; Goody Sloper, of West Newbury, who went home lame directly that a man had struck his axe into the beam of a house that she had bewitched, but who recovered her strength and established an improved reputation when, in 1794, she swam out to a capsized boat and rescued two of the people who were in peril; Goodman Nichols, of Rocks village, who "spelled" a neighbor's son, compelling him to run up one end of the house, along the ridge, and down the other end, "troubling the family extremely by his strange proceedings;" Susie Martin, also of Rocks, who was hanged in spite of her devotions in jail, though the rope danced so that it could not be tied, but a crow overhead called for a withe and the law was executed with that; and Goody Morse, of Market and High Streets, Newburyport, whose baskets and pots danced through her house continually and who was seen "flying about the sun as if she had been cut in twain, or as if the devil did hide the lower part of her." The hill below Easton, Pennsylvania, called Hexenkopf (Witch's head), was described by German settlers as a place of nightly gathering for weird women, who whirled about its top in "linked dances" and sang in deep tones mingled with awful laughter. After one of these women, in Williams township, had been punished for enchanting a twenty-dollar horse, their sabbaths were held more quietly. Mom Rinkle, whose "rock" is pointed out beside the Wissahickon, in Philadelphia, "drank dew from acorn-cups and had the evil eye." Juan Perea, of San Mateo, New Mexico, would fly with his chums to meetings in the mountains in the shape of a fire-ball. During these sallies he left his own eyes at home and wore those of some brute animal. It was because his dog ate his eyes when he had carelessly put them on a table that he had always afterward to wear those of a cat. Within the present century an old woman who lived in a hut on the Palisades of the Hudson was held to be responsible for local storms and accidents. As late as 1889 two Zuni Indians were hanged on the wall of an old Spanish church near their pueblo in Arizona on a charge of having blown away the rainclouds in a time of drouth. It was held that there was something uncanny in the event that gave the name of Gallows Hill to an eminence near Falls Village, Connecticut, for a strange black man was found hanging, dead, to a tree near its top one morning.
Moll Pitcher, a successful sorcerer and fortune-teller of old Lynn, has figured in obsolete poems, plays, and romances. She lived in a cottage at the foot of High Rock, where she was consulted, not merely by people of respectability, but by those who had knavish schemes to prosecute and who wanted to learn in advance the outcome of their designs. Many a ship was deserted at the hour of sailing because she boded evil of the voyage. She was of medium height, big-headed, tangle-haired, long-nosed, and had a searching black eye. The sticks that she carried were cut from a hazel that hung athwart a brook where an unwedded mother had drowned her child. A girl who went to her for news of her lover lost her reason when the witch, moved by a malignant impulse, described his death in a fiercely dramatic manner. One day the missing ship came bowling into port, and the shock of joy that the girl experienced when the sailor clasped her in his arms restored her erring senses. When Moll Pitcher died she was attended by the little daughter of the woman she had so afflicted.
John, or Edward, Dimond, grandfather of Moll Pitcher, was a benevolent wizard. When vessels were trying to enter the port of Marblehead in a heavy gale or at night, their crews were startled to hear a trumpet voice pealing from the skies, plainly audible above the howling and hissing of any tempest, telling them how to lay their course so as to reach smooth water. This was the voice of Dimond, speaking from his station, miles away in the village cemetery. He always repaired to this place in troublous weather and shouted orders to the ships that were made visible to him by mystic power as he strode to and fro among the graves. When thieves came to him for advice he charmed them and made them take back their plunder or caused them to tramp helplessly about the streets bearing heavy burdens.
"Old Mammy Redd, of Marblehead,
Sweet milk could turn to mould in churn."
Being a witch, and a notorious one, she could likewise curdle the milk as it came from the cow, and afterward transform it into blue wool. She had the evil eye, and, if she willed, her glance or touch could blight like palsy. It only needed that she should wish a bloody cleaver to be found in a cradle to cause the little occupant to die, while the whole town ascribed to her the annoyances of daily housework and business. Her unpleasant celebrity led to her death at the hands of her fellow-citizens who had been "worrited" by no end of queer happenings: ships had appeared just before they were wrecked and had vanished while people looked at them; men were seen walking on the water after they had been comfortably buried; the wind was heard to name the sailors doomed never to return; footsteps and voices were heard in the streets before the great were to die; one man was chased by a corpse in its coffin; another was pursued by the devil in a carriage drawn by four white horses; a young woman who had just received a present of some fine fish from her lover was amazed to see him melt into the air, and was heart-broken when she learned next morning that he had died at sea. So far away as Amesbury the devil's power was shown by the appearance of a man who walked the roads carrying his head under his arm, and by the freak of a windmill that the miller always used to shut up at sundown but that started by itself at midnight. Evidently it was high time to be rid of Mammy Redd.
Margaret Wesson, "old Meg," lived in Gloucester until she came to her death by a shot fired at the siege of Louisburg, five hundred miles away, in 1745. Two soldiers of Gloucester, while before the walls of the French town, were annoyed by a crow, that flew over and around them, cawing harshly and disregarding stones and shot, until it occurred to them that the bird could be no other than old Meg in another form, and, as silver bullets are an esteemed antidote for the evils of witchcraft, they cut two silver buttons from their uniforms and fired them at the crow. At the first shot its leg was broken; at the second, it fell dead. On returning to Gloucester they learned that old Meg had fallen and broken her leg at the moment when the crow was fired on, and that she died quickly after. An examination of her body was made, and the identical buttons were extracted from her flesh that had been shot into the crow at Louisburg.
As a citizen of New Haven was riding home—this was at the time of the goings on at Salem—he saw shapes of women near his horse's head, whispering earnestly together and keeping time with the trot of his animal without effort of their own. "In the name of God, tell me who you are," cried the traveller, and at the name of God they vanished. Next day the man's orchard was shaken by viewless hands and the fruit thrown down. Hogs ran about the neighborhood on their hind legs; children cried that somebody was sticking pins into them; one man would roll across the floor as if pushed, and he had to be watched lest he should go into the fire; when housewives made their bread they found it as full of hair as food in a city boarding-house; when they made soft soap it ran from the kettle and over the floor like lava; stones fell down chimneys and smashed crockery. One of the farmers cut off an ear from a pig that was walking on its hind legs, and an eccentric old body of the neighborhood appeared presently with one of her ears in a muffle, thus satisfying that community that she had caused the troubles. When a woman was making potash it began to leap about, and a rifle was fired into the pot, causing a sudden calm. In the morning the witch was found dead on her floor. Yet killing only made her worse, for she moved to a deserted house near her own, and there kept a mad revel every night; fiddles were heard, lights flashed, stones were thrown, and yells gave people at a distance a series of cold shivers; but the populace tried the effect of tearing down the house, and quiet was brought to the town.
In the early days of this century a skinny old woman known as Aunt Woodward lived by herself in a log cabin at Minot Corner, Maine, enjoying the awe of the people in that secluded burg. They moved around but little at night, on her account, and one poor girl was in mortal fear lest by mysterious arts she should be changed, between two days, into a white horse. One citizen kept her away from his house by nailing a horseshoe to his door, while another took the force out of her spells by keeping a branch of "round wood" at his threshold. At night she haunted a big, square house where the ghost of a murdered infant was often heard to cry, and by day she laid charms on her neighbors' provisions and utensils, and turned their cream to buttermilk. "Uncle" Blaisdell hurried into the settlement to tell the farmers that Aunt Woodward had climbed into his sled in the middle of the road, and that his four yoke of oxen could not stir it an inch, but that after she had leaped down one yoke of cattle drew the load of wood without an effort. Yet she died in her bed.
Strange things had been reported in Gloucester. On the eve of King Philip's War the march of men was heard in its streets and an Indian bow and scalp were seen on the face of the moon, while the boom of cannon and roll of drums were heard at Malden and the windows of Plymouth rattled to the passage of unseen horsemen. But the strangest thing was the arrival on Cape Ann of a force of French and Indians that never could be caught, killed, or crippled, though two regiments were hurried into Gloucester and battled with them for a fortnight. Thus, the rumor went around that these were not an enemy of flesh and blood, but devils who hoped to work a moral perversion of the colony. From 1692, when they appeared, until Salem witchcraft was at an end, Cape Ann was under military and spiritual guard against "the spectre leaguers."
Another version of the episode, based on sworn evidence, has it that Ebenezer Babson, returning late on a summer night, saw two men run from his door and vanish in a field. His family denied that visitors had called, so he gave chase, for he believed the men to have a mischievous intention. As he left the threshold they sprang from behind a log, one saying to the other, "The master of the house is now come, else we might have taken the house," and again they disappeared in a swamp. Babson woke the guard, and on entering the quarters of the garrison the sound of many feet was heard without, but when the doors were flung open only the two men were visible and they were retreating. Next evening the yeoman was chased by these elusive gentry, who were believed to be scouts of the enemy, for they wore white breeches and waistcoats and carried bright guns.
For several nights they appeared, and on the 4th of July half a dozen of them were seen so plainly that the soldiers made a sally, Babson bringing three of "ye unaccountable troublers" to the ground with a single shot, and getting a response in kind, for a bullet hissed by his ear and buried itself in a tree. When the company approached the place where lay the victims of that remarkable shot, behold, they arose and scampered away as blithely as if naught had happened to them. One of the trio was cornered and shot anew, but when they would pick him up he melted into air. There was fierce jabbering in an unknown tongue, through all the swamp, and by the time the garrison had returned the fellows were skulking in the shrubbery again. Richard Dolliver afterward came on eleven of them engaged in incantations and scattered them with a gunshot, but they would not down. They lurked about the cape until terror fell on all the people, remaining for "the best part of a month together," so it was deemed that "Satan had set ambushments against the good people of Gloucester, with demons in the shape of armed Indians and Frenchmen."
Stones were thrown, barns were beaten with clubs, the marching of unseen hosts was heard after dark, the mockers grew so bold that they ventured close to the redoubtable Babson, gazed scornfully down the barrel of his gun, and laid a charm on the weapon, so that, no matter how often he snapped it at them, it flashed in the pan. Neighboring garrisons were summoned, but all battling with goblins was fruitless. One night a dark and hostile throng emerged from the wood and moved toward the blockhouse, where twenty musketeers were keeping guard. "If you be ghosts or devils I will foil you," cried the captain, and tearing a silver button from his doublet he rammed it into his gun and fired on the advancing host. Even as the smoke of his musket was blown on the wind, so did the beleaguering army vanish, the silver bullet proving that they were not of human kind. The night was wearing on when a cry went out that the devils were coming again. Arms were laid aside this time, and the watchers sank to their knees in prayer. Directly that the name of God was uttered the marching ceased and heaven rang with the howls of the angry fiends. Never again were leaguers seen in Gloucester.
Satan appears to have troubled the early settlers in America almost as grievously as he did the German students. He came in many shapes to many people, and sometimes he met his match. Did he not try to stop old Peter Stuyvesant from rowing through Hell Gate one moonlight night, and did not that tough old soldier put something at his shoulder that Satan thought must be his wooden leg? But it wasn't a leg: it was a gun, loaded with a silver bullet that had been charged home with prayer. Peter fired and the missile whistled off to Ward's Island, where three boys found it afterward and swapped it for double handfuls of doughnuts and bulls' eyes. Incidentally it passed between the devil's ribs and the fiend exploded with a yell and a smell, the latter of sulphur, to Peter's blended satisfaction and alarm. And did not the same spirit of evil plague the old women of Massachusetts Bay and craze the French and Spaniards in the South? At Hog Rock, west of Milford, Connecticut, he broke up a pleasant diversion:
"Once four young men upon ye rock
Sate down at chuffle board to play
When ye Deuill appearde in shape of a hogg
And frightend ym so they scampered away
And left Old Nick to finish ye play."
One of the first buildings to be put up in Ipswich, Massachusetts, was a church built on a ledge above the river, and in that church Satan tried to conceal himself for purposes of mischief. For this act he was hurled from the steeple-top by some unseen instrument of righteousness with such force that his hoofmark was stamped into a solid stone near by. This did not deter him from mounting to the ridge-pole and assuming a defiant air, with folded arms, when Whitefield began to preach, but when that clergyman's tremendous voice was loosed below him he bounced into the air in terror and disappeared.
The Shakers report that in the waning of the eighteenth century they chased the evil one through the coverts of Mount Sinai, Massachusetts, and just before dawn of a summer morning they caught and killed and buried him. Shakers are spiritualists, and they believe their numbers to have been augmented by distinguished dead, among whom they already number Washington, Lafayette, Napoleon, Tamerlane, and Pocahontas. The two first named of these posthumous communists are still seen by members of the faith who pass Satan's grave at night, for they sit astride of white horses and watch the burial spot, lest the enemy of man arise and begin anew his career of trouble. Some members of the brotherhood say that this legend typifies a burial of evil tendencies in the hearts of those who hunted the fiend, but it has passed down among others as a circumstance. The Shakers have many mystic records, transmitted verbally to the present disciples of "Mother Ann," but seldom told to scoffers "in the world," as those are called who live without their pure and peaceful communes. Among these records is that of the appearance of John the Baptist in the meeting-house at Mount Lebanon, New York, one Sunday, clothed in light and leading the sacred dance of the worshippers, by which they signify the shaking out of all carnal things from the heart.
The idea of long wandering as a penalty, symbolized in "The Wandering Jew," "The Flying Dutchman," and the character of Kundry, in "Parsifal," has application in the legend of Peter Rugg. This strange man, who lived in Middle Street, Boston, with his wife and daughter, was esteemed, as a person of probity and good manners except in his swearing fits, for he was subject to outbursts of passion, when he would kick his way through doors instead of opening them, bite tenpenny nails in two, and curse his wig off In the autumn of 1770 he visited Concord, with his little girl, and on the way home was overtaken by a violent storm. He took shelter with a friend at Menotomy, who urged him to stay all night, for the rain was falling heavier every moment; but Rugg would not be stayed, and seeing that there was no hope of a dry journey back to town he roared a fearful oath and cried, "Let the storm increase. I will see home to-night in spite of it, or may I never see home!" With that he tossed the child into the open chaise, leaped in after her, lashed his horse, and was off.
Several nights afterward, while Rugg's neighbors were out with lanterns trying to discover the cause of a heavy jarring that had begun to disturb them in bad weather, the excitable gentleman, who had not been seen since his Concord visit, came whirling along the pavement in his carriage, his daughter beside him, his black horse plunging on in spite of his efforts to stop him. The lanterns that for a moment twinkled in Peter's face showed him as a wet and weary man, with eyes turned up longingly at the windows where his wife awaited him; then he was gone, and the ground trembled as with an earthquake, while the rain fell more heavily.
Mrs. Rugg died within a twelvemonth, and Peter never reached home, but from all parts of New England came stories of a man and child driving rapidly along the highways, never stopping except to inquire the way to Boston. Half of the time the man would be headed in a direction opposite to the one he seemed to want to follow, and when set right would cry that he was being deceived, and was sometimes heard to mutter, "No home to-night." In Hartford, Providence, Newburyport, and among the New Hampshire hills the anxious face of the man became known, and he was referred to as "the stormbreeder," for so surely as he passed there would be rain, wind, lightning, thunder, and darkness within the hour.
Some years ago a man in a Connecticut town stopped this hurrying traveller, who said, in reply to a question, "I have lost the road to Boston. My name is Peter Rugg." Then Rugg's disappearance half a century before was cited by those who had long memories, and people began to look askant at Peter and gave him generous road room when they met him. The toll-taker on Charlestown bridge declared that he had been annoyed and alarmed by a prodigious tramping of hoofs and rattling of wheels that seemed to pass toward Boston before his very face, yet he could see nothing. He took courage one night to plant himself in the middle of the bridge with a three-legged stool, and when the sound approached he dimly saw a large black horse driven by a weary looking man with a child beside him. The stool was flung at the horse's head, but passed through the animal as through smoke and skipped across the floor of the bridge. Thus much the toll-collector said, but when asked if Rugg had appeared again he made no reply.
Winnepurkit, sagamore of the coast settlements between Nahant and Cape Ann, had married Weetamoo, daughter of Passaconaway, king of the Pennacooks, and had taken her to his home. Their honeymoon was happy, but old ties are strong, and after a little time the bride felt a longing to see her people again. When she made known this wish the husband not only consented to her visit, but gave her a guard of his most trusty hunters who saw her safe in her father's lodge (near the site of Concord, New Hampshire), and returned directly. Presently came a messenger from Passaconaway, informing his son-in-law that Weetamoo had finished her visit and wished again to be with her husband, to whom he looked for an escort to guide her through the wilderness. Winnepurkit felt that his dignity as a chief was slighted by this last request, and he replied that as he had supplied her with a guard for the outward journey it was her father's place to send her back, "for it stood not with Winnepurkit's reputation either to make himself or his men so servile as to fetch her again."
Passaconaway returned a sharp answer that irritated Winnepurkit still more, and he was told by the young sagamore that he might send his daughter or keep her, for she would never be sent for. In this unhappy strife for precedent, which has been repeated on later occasions by princes and society persons, the young wife seemed to be fated as an unwilling sacrifice; but summoning spirit to leave her father's wigwam she launched a canoe on the Merrimack, hoping to make her way along that watery highway to her husband's domain. It was winter, and the stream was full of floating ice; at the best of times it was not easy to keep a frail vessel of bark in the current away from the rapids, and a wandering hunter reported that a canoe had come down the river guided by a woman, that it had swung against the Amoskeag rocks, where Manchester stands now, and a few moments later was in a quieter reach of water, broken and empty. No more was seen of Weetamoo.
Three miles out from the Nahant shore, Massachusetts, rises Egg Rock, a dome of granite topped by a light-house. In the last century the forget-me-nots that grew in a little marsh at its summit were much esteemed, for it was reported that if a girl should receive one of these little flowers from her lover the two would be faithful to each other through all their married life. It was before a temporary separation that a certain young couple strolled together on the Nahant cliffs. The man was to sail for Italy next day, to urge parental consent to their union. As he looked dreamily into the sea the legend of the forget-me-not came into his mind, and in a playful tone he offered to gather a bunch as a memento. Unthinkingly the girl consented. He ran down the cliff to his boat, pushed out, and headed toward the rock, but a fisherman shouted that a gale was rising and the tide was coming in; indeed, the horizon was whitening and the rote was growing plain.
Alice had heard the cry of warning and would have called him back, but she was forsaken by the power of speech, and watched, with pale face and straining eyes, the boat beating smartly across the surges. It was seen to reach Egg Rock, and after a lapse came dancing toward the shore again; but the tide, was now swirling in rapidly, the waves were running high, and the wind freshened as the sun sank. At times the boat was out of sight in the hollowed water, and as it neared Nahant it became unmanageable. Apparently it had filled with water and the tiller-rope had broken. Nothing could be done by the spectators who had gathered on the rocks, except to shout directions that were futile, even if they could be heard. At last the boat was lifted by a breaker and hurled against a mass of granite at the very feet of the man's mistress. When the body was recovered next day, a bunch of forget-me-not was clasped in the rigid hand.
The "old powder-house," as the round stone tower is called that stands on a gravel ridge in Somerville, Massachusetts, is so named because at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War it was used temporarily as a magazine; but long before that it was a wind-mill. Here in the old days two lovers held their tryst: a sturdy and honest young farmer of the neighborhood and the daughter of a man whose wealth puffed him with purse-pride. It was the plebeian state of the farmer that made him look at him with an unfavorable countenance, and when it was whispered to him that the young people were meeting each other almost every evening at the mill, he resolved to surprise them there and humiliate, if he did not punish them. From the shadow of the door they saw his approach, and, yielding to the girl's imploring, the lover secreted himself while she climbed to the loft. The flutter of her dress caught the old man's eye and he hastened, panting, into the mill. For some moments he groped about, for his eyes had not grown used to the darkness of the place, and hearing his muttered oaths, the girl crept backward from the stair.
She was beginning to hope that she had not been seen, when her foot caught in a loose board and she stumbled, but in her fall she threw out her hand to save herself and found a rope within her grasp. Directly that her weight had been applied to it there was a whir and a clank. The cord had set the great fans in motion. At the same moment a fall was heard, then a cry, passing from anger into anguish. She rushed down the stair, the lover appeared from his hiding-place at the same moment, and together they dragged the old man to his feet. At the moment when the wind had started the sails he had been standing on one of the mill-stones and the sudden jerk had thrown him down. His arm caught between the grinding surfaces and had been crushed to pulp. He was carried home and tenderly nursed, but he did not live long; yet before he died he was made to see the folly of his course, and he consented to the marriage that it had cost him so dear to try to prevent. Before she could summon heart to fix the wedding-day the girl passed many months of grief and repentance, and for the rest of her life she avoided the old mill. There was good reason for doing so, people said, for on windy nights the spirit of the old man used to haunt the place, using such profanity that it became visible in the form of blue lights, dancing and exploding about the building.
Nothing is left of Province House, the old home of the royal governors, in Boston, but the gilded Indian that served as its weathercock and aimed his arrow at the winds from the cupola. The house itself was swept away long ago in the so-called march of improvement. In one of its rooms hung a picture so dark that when Lieutenant-Governor Hutchinson went to live there hardly anybody could say what it represented. There were hints that it was a portrait of the devil, painted at a witch-meeting near Salem, and that on the eve of disasters in the province a dreadful face had glared from the canvas. Shirley had seen it on the night of the fall of Ticonderoga, and servants had gone shuddering from the room, certain that they had caught the glance of a malignant eye.
It was known to the governors, however, that the portrait, if not that of the arch fiend, was that of one who in the popular mind was none the less a devil: Edward Randolph, the traitor, who had repealed the first provincial charter and deprived the colonists of their liberties. Under the curse of the people he grew pale and pinched and ugly, his face at last becoming so hateful that men were unwilling to look at it. Then it was that he sat for his portrait. Threescore or odd years afterward, Hutchinson sat in the hall wondering vaguely if coming events would consign him to the obloquy that had fallen on his predecessor, for at his bidding a fleet had come into the harbor with three regiments of red coats on board, despatched from Halifax to overawe the city. The coming of the selectmen to protest against quartering these troops on the people and the substitution of martial for civic law, interrupted his reverie, and a warm debate arose. At last the governor seized his pen impatiently, and cried, "The king is my master and England is my home. Upheld by them, I defy the rabble."
He was about to sign the order for bringing in the troops when a curtain that had hung before the picture was drawn aside. Hutchinson stared at the canvas in amazement, then muttered, "It is Randolph's spirit! It wears the look of hell." The picture was seen to be that of a man in antique garb, with a despairing, hunted, yet evil expression in the face, and seemed to stare at Hutchinson.
"It is a warning," said one of the company.
Hutchinson recovered himself with an effort and turned away. "It is a trick," he cried; and bending over the paper he fixed his name, as if in desperate haste. Then he trembled, turned white, and wiped a sweat from his brow. The selectmen departed in silence but in anger, and those who saw Hutchinson on the streets next day affirmed that the portrait had stepped out of its canvas and stood at his side through the night. Afterward, as he lay on his death-bed, he cried that the blood of the Boston massacre was filling his throat, and as his soul passed from him his face, in its agony and rage, was the face of Edward Randolph.
Lady Eleanore Rochcliffe, being orphaned, was admitted to the family of her distant relative, Governor Shute, of Massachusetts Bay, and came to America to take her home with him. She arrived at the gates of Province House, in Boston, in the governor's splendid coach, with outriders and guards, and as the governor went to receive her, a pale young man, with tangled hair, sprang from the crowd and fell in the dust at her feet, offering himself as a footstool for her to tread upon. Her proud face lighted with a smile of scorn, and she put out her hand to stay the governor, who was in the act of striking the fellow with his cane.
"Do not strike him," she said. "When men seek to be trampled, it is a favor they deserve."
For a moment she bore her weight on the prostrate form, "emblem of aristocracy trampling on human sympathies and the kindred of nature," and as she stood there the bell on South Church began to toll for a funeral that was passing at the moment. The crowd started; some looked annoyed; Lady Eleanore remained calm and walked in stately fashion up the passage on the arm of His Excellency. "Who was that insolent fellow?" was asked of Dr. Clarke, the governor's physician.
"Gervase Helwyse," replied the doctor; "a youth of no fortune, but of good mind until he met this lady in London, when he fell in love with her, and her pride and scorn have crazed him."
A few nights after a ball was given in honor of the governor's ward, and Province House was filled with the elect of the city. Commanding in figure, beautiful in face, richly dressed and jewelled, the Lady Eleanore was the admired of the whole assembly, and the women were especially curious to see her mantle, for a rumor went out that it had been made by a dying girl, and had the magic power of giving new beauty to the wearer every time it was put on. While the guests were taking refreshment, a young man stole into the room with a silver goblet, and this he offered on his knee to Lady Eleanore. As she looked down she recognized the face of Helwyse.
"Drink of this sacramental wine," he said, eagerly, "and pass it among the guests."
"Perhaps it is poisoned," whispered a man, and in another moment the liquor was overturned, and Helwyse was roughly dragged away.
"Pray, gentlemen, do not hurt my poor admirer," said the lady, in a tone of languor and condescension that was unusual to her. Breaking from his captives, Helwyse ran back and begged her to cast her mantle into the fire. She replied by throwing a fold of it above her head and smiling as she said, "Farewell. Remember me as you see me now."
Helwyse shook his head sadly and submitted to be led away. The weariness in Eleanore's manner increased; a flush was burning on her cheek; her laugh had grown infrequent. Dr. Clarke whispered something in the governor's ear that made that gentleman start and look alarmed. It was announced that an unforeseen circumstance made it necessary to close the festival at once, and the company went home. A few days after the city was thrown into a panic by an outbreak of small-pox, a disease that in those times could not be prevented nor often cured, and that gathered its victims by thousands. Graves were dug in rows, and every night the earth was piled hastily on fresh corpses. Before all infected houses hung a red flag of warning, and Province House was the first to show it, for the plague had come to town in Lady Eleanore's mantle. The people cursed her pride and pointed to the flags as her triumphal banners. The pestilence was at its height when Gervase Helwyse appeared in Province House. There were none to stay him now, and he climbed the stairs, peering from room to room, until he entered a darkened chamber, where something stirred feebly under a silken coverlet and a faint voice begged for water. Helwyse tore apart the curtains and exclaimed, "Fie! What does such a thing as you in Lady Eleanore's apartment?"
The figure on the bed tried to hide its hideous face. "Do not look on me," it cried. "I am cursed for my pride that I wrapped about me as a mantle. You are avenged. I am Eleanore Rochcliffe."
The lunatic stared for a moment, then the house echoed with his laughter. The deadly mantle lay on a chair. He snatched it up, and waving also the red flag of the pestilence ran into the street. In a short time an effigy wrapped in the mantle was borne to Province House and set on fire by a mob. From that hour the pest abated and soon disappeared, though graves and scars made a bitter memory of it for many a year. Unhappiest of all was the disfigured creature who wandered amid the shadows of Province House, never showing her face, unloved, avoided, lonely.
During the siege of Boston Sir William Howe undertook to show his contempt for the raw fellows who were disrespectfully tossing cannon-balls at him from the batteries in Cambridge and South Boston, by giving a masquerade. It was a brilliant affair, the belles and blades of the loyalist set being present, some in the garb of their ancestors, for the past is ever more picturesque than the present, and a few roisterers caricaturing the American generals in ragged clothes, false noses, and absurd wigs. At the height of the merriment a sound of a dirge echoing through the streets caused the dance to stop. The funeral music paused before the doors of Province House, where the dance was going on, and they were flung open. Muffled drums marked time for a company that began to file down the great stair from the floor above the ball-room: dark men in steeple-hats and pointed beards, with Bibles, swords, and scrolls, who looked sternly at the guests and descended to the street.
Colonel Joliffe, a Whig, whose age and infirmity had prevented him from joining Washington, and whose courtesy and intelligence had made him respected by his foes, acted as chorus: "These I take to be the Puritan governors of Massachusetts: Endicott, Winthrop, Vane, Dudley, Haynes, Bellingham, Leverett, Bradstreet." Then came a rude soldier, mailed, begirt with arms: the tyrant Andros; a brown-faced man with a sailor's gait: Sir William Phipps; a courtier wigged and jewelled: Earl Bellomont; the crafty, well-mannered Dudley; the twinkling, red-nosed Shute; the ponderous Burnet; the gouty Belcher; Shirley, Pownall, Bernard, Hutchinson; then a soldier, whose cocked hat he held before his face. "'Tis the shape of Gage!" cried an officer, turning pale. The lights were dull and an uncomfortable silence had fallen on the company. Last, came a tall man muffled in a military cloak, and as he paused on the landing the guests looked from him to their host in amazement, for it was the figure of Howe himself. The governor's patience was at an end, for this was a part of the masquerade that had not been looked for. He fiercely cried to Joliffe, "There is a plot in this. Your head has stood too long on a traitor's shoulders."
"Make haste to cut it off, then," was the reply, "for the power of Sir William Howe and of the king, his master, is at an end. These shadows are mourners at his funeral. Look! The last of the governors."
Howe rushed with drawn sword on the figure of himself, when it turned and looked at him. The blade clanged to the floor and Howe fell back with a gasp of horror, for the face was his own. Hand nor voice was raised to stay the double-goer as it mournfully passed on. At the threshold it stamped its foot and shook its fists in air; then the door closed. Mingled with the strains of the funeral march, as it died along the empty streets, came the tolling of the bell on South Church steeple, striking the hour of midnight. The festivities were at an end and, oppressed by a nameless fear, the spectators of this strange pageant made ready for departure; but before they left the booming of cannon at the southward announced that Washington had advanced. The glories of Province House were over. When the last of the royal governors left it he paused on the threshold, beat his foot on the stone, and flung up his hands in an attitude of grief and rage.
Boston had surrendered. Washington was advancing from the heights where he had trained his guns on the British works, and Sir William Howe lingered at the door of Province House,—last of the royal governors who would stand there,—and cursed and waved his hands and beat his heel on the step, as if he were crushing rebellion by that act. The sound brought an old woman to his side. "Esther Dudley!" he exclaimed. "Why are you not gone?"
"I shall never leave. As housekeeper for the governors and pensioner of the king, this has been my home; the only home I know. Go back, but send more troops. I will keep the house till you return."
"Grant that I may return," he cried. "Since you will stay, take this bag of guineas and keep this key until a governor shall demand it."
Then, with fierce and moody brow, the governor went forth, and the faded eyes of Esther Dudley saw him nevermore. When the soldiers of the republic cast about for quarters in Boston town, they spared the official mansion to this old woman. Her bridling toryism and assumption of old state amused them and did no harm; indeed, her loyalty was half admired; beside, nobody took the pride in the place that she did, or would keep it in better order. That she sometimes had a half-dozen of unrepentant codgers in to dinner, and that they were suspected of drinking healths to George III. in crusted port, was a fact to blink. Rumor had it that not all her guests were flesh and blood, but that she had an antique mirror across which ancient occupants of the house would pass in shadowy procession at her command, and that she was wont to have the Shirleys, Olivers, Hutchinsons, and Dudleys out of their graves to hold receptions there; so a touch of dread may have mingled in the feeling that kept the populace aloof.
Living thus by herself, refusing to hear of rebel victories, construing the bonfires, drumming, hurrahs, and bell-ringing to signify fresh triumphs for England, she drifted farther and farther out of her time and existed in the shadows of the past. She lighted the windows for the king's birthday, and often from the cupola watched for a British fleet, heeding not the people below, who, as they saw her withered face, repeated the prophecy, with a laugh "When the golden Indian on Province House shall shoot his arrow and the cock on South Church spire shall crow, look for a royal governor again." So, when it was bandied about the streets that the governor was coming, she took it in no wise strange, but dressed herself in silk and hoops, with store of ancient jewels, and made ready to receive him. In truth, there was a function, for already a man of stately mien, and richly dressed, was advancing through the court, with a staff of men in wigs and laced coats behind him, and a company of troops at a little distance. Esther Dudley flung the door wide and dropping on her knees held forth the key with the cry, "Thank heaven for this hour! God save the king!"
The governor put off his hat and helped the woman to her feet. "A strange prayer," said he; "yet we will echo it to this effect: For the good of the realm that still owns him to be its ruler, God save King George."
Esther Dudley stared wildly. That face she remembered now,—the proscribed rebel, John Hancock; governor, not by royal grant, but by the people's will.
"Have I welcomed a traitor? Then let me die."
"Alas! Mistress Dudley, the world has changed for you in these later years. America has no king." He offered her his arm, and she clung to it for a moment, then, sinking down, the great key, that she so long had treasured, clanked to the floor.
"I have been faithful unto death," she gasped. "God save the king!"
The people uncovered, for she was dead.
"At her tomb," said Hancock, "we will bid farewell forever to the past. A new day has come for us. In its broad light we will press onward."
Jacob Hurd, stern witch-harrier of Ipswich, can abide nothing out of the ordinary course of things, whether it be flight on a broomstick or the wrong adding of figures; so his son gives him trouble, for he is an imaginative boy, who walks alone, talking to the birds, making rhymes, picking flowers, and dreaming. That he will never be a farmer, mechanic, or tradesman is as good as certain, and one day when the child runs in with a story of a golden horse, with tail and mane of silver, on which he has ridden over land and sea, climbing mountains and swimming rivers, he turns pale with fright lest the boy be bewitched; then, as the awfulness of the invention becomes manifest, he cries, "Thou knowest thou art lying," and strikes the little fellow.
The boy staggers into his mother's arms, and that night falls into a fever, in which he raves of his horse and the places he will see, while Jacob sits by his side, too sore in heart for words, and he never leaves the cot for food or sleep till the fever is burned out. Just before he closes his eyes the child looks about him and says that he hears the horse pawing in the road, and, either for dust or cloud or sun gleam, it seems for an instant as if the horse were there. The boy gives a cry of joy, then sinks upon his pillow, lifeless.
Some time after this Jacob sets off one morning, while the stars are out, to see three witches hanged, but at evening his horse comes flying up the road, splashed with blood and foam, and the neighbors know from that of Jacob's death, for he is lying by the wayside with an Indian arrow in his heart and an axemark on his head. The wife runs to the door, and, though she shakes with fear at its approach, she sees that in the sunset glow the horse's sides have a shine like gold, and its mane and tail are silver white. Now the animal is before the house, but the woman does not faint or cry at the blood splash on the saddle, for—is it the dust-cloud that takes that shape?—she sees on its back a boy with a shining face, who throws a kiss at her,—her Paul. He, little poet, lives in spirit, and has found happiness.
Such was the Indian name of the site of Westboro, Massachusetts, and the neighboring pond was Hochomocko. The camp of the red men near the shore was full of bustle one day, for their belle, Iano, was to marry the young chief, Sassacus. The feast was spread and all were ready to partake of it, when it was found that the bride was missing. One girl had seen her steal into the wood with a roguish smile on her lip, and knew that she intended to play hide-and-seek with Sassacus before she should be proclaimed a wife, but the day wore on and she did not come. Among those who were late in reaching camp was Wequoash, who brought a panther in that he had slain on Boston Hill, and he bragged about his skill, as usual. There had been a time when he was a rival of the chief for the hand of Iano, and he showed surprise and concern at her continued absence. The search went on for two days, and, at the end of that time, the girl's body was taken from the lake.
At the funeral none groaned so piteously as Wequoash. Yet Sassacus felt his loss so keenly that he fell into a sickness next day, and none was found so constant in his ministrations as Wequoash; but all to no avail, for within a week Sassacus, too, was dead. As the strongest and bravest remaining in the tribe, Wequoash became heir to his honors by election.
A year later he sat moodily by the lakeside, when a flame burst up from the water, and a canoe floated toward him that a mysterious agency impelled him to enter. The boat sped toward the flame, that, at his approach, assumed Iano's form. He heard the water gurgle as he passed over the spot where the shape had glimmered, but there was no other sound or check. Next year this thing occurred again, and then the spirit spoke: "Only once more."
Yet a third time his fate took him to the spot, and as the hour came on he called his people to him: "This," said he, "is my death-day. I have done evil, and the time comes none too soon. Sassacus was your chief. I envied him his happiness, and gave him poison when I nursed him. Worse than that, I saw Iano in her canoe on her wedding-day. She had refused my hand. I entered my canoe and chased her over the water, in pretended sport, but in the middle of the lake I upset her birch and she was drowned. See! she comes!"
For, as he spoke, the light danced up again, and the boat came, self-impelled, to the strand. Wequoash entered it, and with head bent down was hurried away. Those on the shore saw the flame condense to a woman's shape, and a voice issued from it: "It is my hour!" A blinding bolt of lightning fell, and at the appalling roar of thunder all hid their faces. When they looked up, boat and flame had vanished. Whenever, afterward, an Indian rowed across the place where the murderer had sunk, he dropped a stone, and the monument that grew in that way can be seen on the pond floor to this day.
The tories of Berkshire, Massachusetts, were men who had been endeared to the king by holding office under warrant from that sacred personage. They have been gently dealt with by historians, but that is "overstrained magnanimity which concentrates its charities and praises for defeated champions of the wrong, and reserves its censures for triumphant defenders of the right." While the following incidents have been so well avouched that they deserve to stand as history, their picturesqueness justifies renewed acquaintance.
Among the loyalists was Gideon Smith, of Stockbridge, who had helped British prisoners to escape, and had otherwise made himself so obnoxious that he was forced for a time to withdraw and pass a season of penitence and meditation in a cavern near Lenox, that is called the Tories' Glen. Here he lay for weeks, none but his wife knowing where he was, but at his request she walked out every day with her children, leading them past his cave, where he fed on their faces with hungry eyes. They prattled on, never dreaming that their father was but a few feet from them. Smith survived the war and lived to be on good terms with his old foes.
In Lenox lived a Tory, one of those respectable buffers to whom wealth and family had given immunity in the early years of the war, but who sorely tried the temper of his neighbors by damning everything American from Washington downward. At last they could endure his abuse no longer; his example had affected other Anglomaniacs, and a committee waited on him to tell him that he could either swear allegiance to the colonies or be hanged. He said he would be hanged if he would swear, or words to that effect, and hanged he was, on a ready-made gallows in the street. He was let down shortly, "brought around" with rum, and the oath was offered again. He refused it. This had not been looked for. It had been taken for granted that he would abjure his fealty to the king at the first tightening of the cord. A conference was held, and it was declared that retreat would be undignified and unsafe, so the Tory was swung up again, this time with a yank that seemed to "mean business." He hung for some time, and when lowered gave no sign of life. There was some show of alarm at this, for nobody wanted to kill the old fellow, and every effort was made to restore consciousness. At last the lungs heaved, the purple faded from his cheek, his eyes opened, and he gasped, "I'll swear." With a shout of joy the company hurried him to the tavern, seated him before the fire, and put a glass of punch in his hand. He drank the punch to Washington's health, and after a time was heard to remark to himself, "It's a hard way to make Whigs, but it'll do it."
Nathan Jackson, of Tyringham, was another Yankee who had seen fit to take arms against his countrymen, and when captured he was charged with treason and remanded for trial. The jail, in Great Barrington, was so little used in those days of sturdy virtue that it had become a mere shed, fit to hold nobody, and Jackson, after being locked into it, might have walked out whenever he felt disposed; but escape, he thought, would have been a confession of the wrongness of Tory principles, or of a fear to stand trial. He found life so monotonous, however, that he asked the sheriff to let him go out to work during the day, promising to sleep in his cell, and such was his reputation for honesty that his request was granted without a demur, the prisoner returning every night to be locked up. When the time approached for the court to meet in Springfield heavy harvesting had begun, and, as there was no other case from Berkshire County to present, the sheriff grumbled at the bother of taking his prisoner across fifty miles of rough country, but Jackson said that he would make it all right by going alone. The sheriff was glad to be released from this duty, so off went the Tory to give himself up and be tried for his life. On the way he was overtaken by Mr. Edwards, of the Executive Council, then about to meet in Boston, and without telling his own name or office, he learned the extraordinary errand of this lonely pedestrian. Jackson was tried, admitted the charges against him, and was sentenced to death. While he awaited execution of the law upon him, the council in Boston received petitions for clemency, and Mr. Edwards asked if there was none in favor of Nathan Jackson. There was none. Mr. Edwards related the circumstance of his meeting with the condemned man, and a murmur of surprise and admiration went around the room. A despatch was sent to Springfield. When it reached there the prison door was flung open and Jackson walked forth free.
Two thousand Cape Cod fishermen had gone to join the colonial army, and in their absence the British ships had run in shore to land crews on mischievous errands. No man, woman, or child on the Cape but hated the troops and sailors of King George, and would do anything to work them harm. When the Somerset was wrecked off Truro, in 1778, the crew were helped ashore, 'tis true, but they were straightway marched to prison, and it was thought that no other frigate would venture near the shifting dunes where she had laid her skeleton, as many a good ship had done before and has done since. It was November, and ugly weather was shutting in, when a three-decker, that had been tacking off shore and that flew the red flag, was seen to yaw wildly while reefing sail and drift toward land with a broken tiller. No warning signal was raised on the bluffs; not a hand was stirred to rescue. Those who saw the accident watched with sullen satisfaction the on-coming of the vessel, nor did they cease to look for disaster when the ship anchored and stowed sail.
Ezekiel and Josiah Breeze, father and son, stood at the door of their cottage and watched her peril until three lights twinkling faintly through the gray of driving snow were all that showed where the enemy lay, straining at her cables and tossing on a wrathful sea. They stood long in silence, but at last the boy exclaimed, "I'm going to the ship."
"If you stir from here, you're no son of mine," said Ezekiel.
"But she's in danger, dad."
"As she oughter be. By mornin' she'll be strewed along the shore and not a spar to mark where she's a-swingin' now."
"And the men?"
"It's a jedgment, boy."
The lad remembered how the sailors of the Ajax had come ashore to burn the homes of peaceful fishermen and farmers; how women had been insulted; how his friends and mates had been cut down at Long Island with British lead and steel; how, when he ran to warn away a red-faced fellow that was robbing his garden, the man had struck him on the shoulder with a cutlass. He had sworn then to be revenged. But to let a host go down to death and never lift a helping hand—was that a fair revenge? "I've got to go, dad," he burst forth. "Tomorrow morning there'll be five hundred faces turned up on the beach, covered with ice and staring at the sky, and five hundred mothers in England will wonder when they're goin' to see those faces again. If ever they looked at me the sight of 'em would never go out of my eyes. I'd be harnted by 'em, awake and asleep. And to-morrow is Thanksgiving. I've got to go, dad, and I will." So speaking, he rushed away and was swallowed in the gloom.
The man stared after him; then, with a revulsion of feeling, he cried, "You're right, 'Siah. I'll go with you." But had he called in tones of thunder he would not have been heard in the roar of the wind and crash of the surf. As he reached the shore he saw faintly on the phosphorescent foam a something that climbed a hill of water; it was lost over its crest and reappeared on the wave beyond; it showed for a moment on the third wave, then it vanished in the night. "Josiah!" It was a long, querulous cry. No answer. In half an hour a thing rode by the watcher on the sands and fell with a crash beside him—a boat bottom up: his son's.
Next day broke clear, with new snow on the ground. In his house at Provincetown, Captain Breeze was astir betimes, for his son Ezekiel, his grandson Josiah, and all other relatives who were not at the front with Washington were coming for the family reunion. Plump turkeys were ready for the roasting, great loaves of bread and cake stood beside the oven, redoubtable pies of pumpkin and apple filled the air with maddening odors. The people gathered and chattered around his cheery fire of the damage that the storm had done, when Ezekiel stumbled in, his brown face haggard, his lips working, and a tremor in his hands. He said, "Josiah!" in a thick voice, then leaned his arms against the chimney and pressed his face upon them. Among fishermen whose lives are in daily peril the understanding of misfortune is quick, and the old man put his hand on the shoulder of his son and bent his head. The day of joy was become a day of gloom. As the news went out, the house began to fill with sympathizing friends, and there was talking in low voices through the rooms, when a cry of surprise was heard outside. A ship, cased in tons of ice, was forging up the harbor, her decks swarming with blue jackets, some of whom were beating off the frozen masses from lower spars and rigging. She followed the channel so steadily, it was plain to be seen that a wise hand was at her helm; her anchor ran out and she swung on the tide. "The Ajax, as I'm a sinner!" exclaimed a sailor on shore. A boat put off from her, and people angrily collected at the wharf, with talk of getting out their guns, when a boyish figure arose in the stern, and was greeted with a shout of surprise and welcome.
The boat touched the beach, Josiah Breeze leaped out of it, and in another minute his father had him in a bear's embrace, making no attempt to stop the tears that welled out of his eyes. An officer had followed Josiah on shore, and going to the group he said, "That boy is one to be proud of. He put out in a sea that few men could face, to save an enemy's ship and pilot it into the harbor. I could do no less than bring him back." There was praise and laughter and clasping of hands, and when the Thanksgiving dinner was placed, smoking, on the board, the commander of H. M. S. Ajax was among the jolliest of the guests at Captain Breeze's table.
The people of Merrymount—unsanctified in the eyes of their Puritan neighbors, for were they not Episcopals, who had pancakes at Shrovetide and wassail at Christmas?—were dancing about their May-pole one summer evening, for they tried to make it May throughout the year. Some were masked like animals, and all were tricked with flowers and ribbons. Within their circle, sharing in song and jest, were the lord and lady of the revels, and an English clergyman waiting to join the pair in wedlock. Life, they sang, should be all jollity: away with care and duty; leave wisdom to the weak and old, and sanctity for fools. Watching the sport from a neighboring wood stood a band of frowning Puritans, and as the sun set they stalked forth and broke through the circle. All was dismay. The bells, the laughter, the song were silent, and some who had tasted Puritan wrath before shrewdly smelled the stocks. A Puritan of iron face—it was Endicott, who had cut the cross from the flag of England—warning aside the "priest of Baal," proceeded to hack the pole down with his sword. A few swinging blows, and down it sank, with its ribbons and flowers.
"So shall fall the pride of vain people; so shall come to grief the preachers of false religion," quoth he. "Truss those fellows to the trees and give them half a dozen of blows apiece as token that we brook no ungodly conduct and hostility to our liberties. And you, king and queen of the May, have you no better things to think about than fiddling and dancing? How if I punish you both?"
"Had I the power I'd punish you for saying it," answered the swain; "but, as I have not, I am compelled to ask that the girl go unharmed."
"Will you have it so, or will you share your lover's punishment?" asked Endicott.
"I will take all upon myself," said the woman.
The face of the governor softened. "Let the young fellow's hair be cut, in pumpkin-shell fashion," he commanded; "then bring them to me but gently."
He was obeyed, and as the couple came before him, hand in hand, he took a chain of roses from the fallen pole and cast it about their necks. And so they were married. Love had softened rigor and all were better for the assertion of a common humanity. But the May-pole of Merrymount was never set up again. There were no more games and plays and dances, nor singing of worldly music. The town went to ruin, the merrymakers were scattered, and the gray sobriety of religion and toil fell on Pilgrim land again.
When Charles River was lined with groves and marshes there lived in a cabin, near Brighton, Massachusetts, an ill-fed rascal named Tom Walker. There was but one in the commonwealth who was more penurious, and that was his wife. They squabbled over the spending of a penny and each grudged food to the other. One day as Tom walked through the pine wood near his place, by habit watching the ground—for even there a farthing might be discovered—he prodded his stick into a skull, cloven deep by an Indian tomahawk. He kicked it, to shake the dirt off, when a gruff voice spake: "What are you doing in my grounds?" A swarthy fellow, with the face of a charcoal burner, sat on a stump, and Tom wondered that he had not seen him as he approached.
He replied, "Your grounds! They belong to Deacon Peabody."
"Deacon Peabody be damned!" cried the black fellow; "as I think he will be, anyhow, if he does not look after his own sins a little sharper and a little less curiously after his neighbors'. Look, if you want to see how he is faring," and, pointing to a tree, he called Tom to notice that the deacon's name was written on the bark and that it was rotten at the core. To his surprise, Tom found that nearly every tree had the name of some prominent man cut upon it.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"I go by different names in different places," replied the dark one. "In some countries I am the black miner; in some the wild huntsman; here I am the black woodman. I am the patron of slave dealers and master of Salem witches."
"I think you are the devil," blurted Tom.
"At your service," replied his majesty.
Now, Tom, having lived long with Mrs. Walker, had no fear of the devil, and he stopped to have a talk with him. The devil remarked, in a careless tone, that Captain Kidd had buried his treasure in that wood, under his majesty's charge, and that whoever wished could find and keep it by making the usual concession. This Tom declined. He told his wife about it, however, and she was angry with him for not having closed the bargain at once, declaring that if he had not courage enough to add this treasure to their possessions she would not hesitate to do it. Tom showed no disposition to check her. If she got the money he would try to get a share of it, and if the devil took away his helpmate—well, there were things that he had made his mind to endure, when he had to. True enough, the woman started for the wood before sundown, with her spoons in her apron. When Tom discovered that the spoons were gone he, too, set off, for he wanted those back, anyway; but he did not overtake his wife. An apron was found in a tree containing a dried liver and a withered heart, and near that place the earth had been trampled and strewn with handfuls of coarse hair that reminded Tom of the man that he had met in the woods. "Egad!" he muttered, "Old Nick must have had a tough time with her." Half in gratitude and half in curiosity, Tom waited to speak to the dark man, and was next day rewarded by seeing that personage come through the wood with an axe, whistling carelessly. Tom at once approached him on the subject of the buried treasure—not the vanished wife, for her he no longer regarded as a treasure.
After some haggling the devil proposed that Tom should start a loan office in Boston and use Kidd's money in exacting usury. This suited Tom, who promised to screw four per cent. a month out of the unfortunates who might ask his aid, and he was seen to start for town with a bag which his neighbors thought to hold his crop of starveling turnips, but which was really a king's ransom in gold and jewels—the earnings of Captain Kidd in long years of honest piracy. It was in Governor Belcher's time, and cash was scarce. Merchants and professional men as well as the thriftless went to Tom for money, and, as he always had it, his business grew until he seemed to have a mortgage on half the men in Boston who were rich enough to be in debt. He even went so far as to move into a new house, to ride in his own carriage, and to eat enough to keep body and soul together, for he did not want to give up his soul to the one who would claim it just yet.
The most singular proof of his thrift—showing that he wanted to save soul and money both—was shown in his joining the church and becoming a prayerful Christian. He kept a Bible in his pocket and another on his desk, resolved to be prepared if a certain gentleman should call. He buried his old horse feet uppermost, for he was taught that on resurrection day the world would be turned upside down, and he was resolved, if his enemy appeared, to give him a run for it. While employed one afternoon in the congenial task of foreclosing a mortgage his creditor begged for another day to raise the money. Tom was irritable on account of the hot weather and talked to him as a good man of the church ought not to do.
"You have made so much money out of me," wailed the victim of Tom's philanthropies.
"Now, the devil take me if I have made a farthing!" exclaimed Tom.
At that instant there were three knocks at the door, and, stepping out to see who was there, the money lender found himself in presence of his fate. His little Bible was in a coat on a nail, and the bigger one was on his desk. He was without defence. The evil one caught him up like a child, had him on the back of his snorting steed in no time, and giving the beast a cut he flew like the wind in the teeth of a rising storm toward the marshes of Brighton. As he reached there a lightning flash descended into the wood and set it on fire. At the same moment Tom's house was discovered to be in flames. When his effects were examined nothing was found in his strong boxes but cinders and shavings.
It befell Sir Edmund Andros to make himself the most hated of the governors sent to represent the king in New England. A spirit of independence, born of a free soil, was already moving in the people's hearts, and the harsh edicts of this officer, as well as the oppressive measures of his master, brought him into continual conflict with the people. He it was who went to Hartford to demand the surrender of the liberties of that colony. The lights were blown out and the patent of those liberties was hurried away from under his nose and hidden from his reach in a hollow of the Charter Oak.
In Boston, too, he could call no American his friend, and it was there that he met one of the first checks to his arrogance. It was an April evening in 1689, and there was an unusual stir in the streets. People were talking in low tones, and one caught such phrases as, "If the Prince of Orange is successful, this Andros will lose his head." "Our pastors are to be burned alive in King Street." "The pope has ordered Andros to celebrate the eve of St. Bartholomew in Boston: we are to be killed." "Our old Governor Bradstreet is in town, and Andros fears him." While talk was running in this excited strain the sound of a drum was heard coming through Cornhill. Now was seen a file of soldiers with guns on shoulder, matches twinkling in the falling twilight, and behind them, on horseback, Andros and his councillors, including the priest of King's Chapel, all wearing crucifixes at their throats, all flushed with wine, all looking down with indifference at the people in their dark cloaks and broadbrimmed hats, who looked back at them with suspicion and hate. The soldiers trod the streets like men unused to giving way, and the crowd fell back, pressed against the buildings. Groans and hisses were heard, and a voice sent up this cry, "Lord of Hosts, provide a champion for thy people!"
Ere the echo of that call had ceased there came from the other end of the street, stepping as in time to the drum, an aged man, in cloak and steeple hat, with heavy sword at his thigh. His port was that of a king, and his dignity was heightened by a snowy beard that fell to his waist. Taking the middle of the way he marched on until he was but a few paces from the advancing column. None knew him and he seemed to recognize none among the crowd. As he drew himself to his height, it seemed in the dusk as if he were of no mortal mould. His eye blazed, he thrust his staff before him, and in a voice of invincible command cried, "Halt!"
Half because it was habit to obey the word, half because they were cowed by the majestic presence, the guard stood still and the drum was silenced. Andros spurred forward, but even he made a pause when he saw the staff levelled at his breast. "Forward!" he blustered. "Trample the dotard into the street. How dare you stop the king's governor?"
"I have stayed the march of a king himself," was the answer. "The king you serve no longer sits on the throne of England. To-morrow you will be a prisoner. Back, lest you reach the scaffold!"
A moment of hesitation on Andros's part encouraged the people to press closer, and many of them took no pains to hide the swords and pistols that were girt upon them. The groans and hisses sounded louder. "Down with Andros! Death to tyrants! A curse on King James!" came from among the throng, and some of them stooped as if to tear up the pavings. Doubtful, yet overawed, the governor wheeled about and gloomily marched back through the streets where he had ridden so arrogantly. In truth, his next night was spent in prison, for James had fled from England, and William held the throne. All eyes being on the retreating company, the champion of the people was not seen to depart, but when they turned to praise and thank him he had vanished, and there were those who said that he had melted into twilight.
The incident had passed into legend, and fourscore years had followed it, when the soldiers of another king of England marched down State Street, and fired on the people of Boston who were gathered below the old State House. Again it was said that the form of a tall, white-bearded man in antique garb was seen in that street, warning back the troops and encouraging the people to resist them. On the little field of Lexington in early dawn, and at the breastwork on Bunker Hill, where farmers worked by lantern-light, this dark form was seen—the spirit of New England. And it is told that whenever any foreign foe or domestic oppressor shall dare the temper of the people, in the van of the resisting army shall be found this champion.
Early in this century a man named Ainsley appeared at Holyoke, Massachusetts, and set up a forge in a wood at the edge of the village, with a two-room cottage to live in. A Yankee peddler once put up at his place for shelter from a storm, and as the rain increased with every hour he begged to remain in the house over night, promising to pay for his accommodation in the morning. The blacksmith, who seemed a mild, considerate man, said that he was willing, but that, as the rooms were small, it would be well to refer the matter to his wife. As the peddler entered the house the wife—a weary-looking woman with white hair—seated herself at once in a thickly-cushioned arm-chair, and, as if loath to leave it, told the peddler that if he would put up with simple fare and a narrow berth he was welcome. After a candle had been lighted the three sat together for some time, talking of crops and trade, when there came a rush of hoofs without and a hard-looking man, who had dismounted at the door, entered without knocking. The blacksmith turned pale and the wife's face expressed sore anxiety.
"What brings you here?" asked the smith.
"I must pass the night here," answered the man.
"But, stranger, I can't accommodate you. We have but one spare room, and that has been taken by the man who is sitting there."
"Then give me a bit to eat."
"Get the stranger something," said the woman to her husband, without rising.
"Are you lame, that you don't get it yourself?"
The woman paused; then said, "Husband, you are tired. Sit here and I will wait on the stranger."
The blacksmith took the seat, when the stranger again blustered, "It would be courtesy to offer me that chair, tired as I am. Perhaps you don't know that I am an officer of the law?"
When supper was ready they took their places, the woman drawing up the arm-chair for her own use, but, as the custom was, they all knelt to say grace, and while their faces were buried in their hands the candle was blown out. The stranger jumped up and began walking around the room. When a light could be found he had gone and the cushion had disappeared from the chair. "Oh! After all these years!" wailed the woman, and falling on her knees she sobbed like a child, while her husband in vain tried to comfort her. The peddler, who had already gone to bed, but who had seen a part of this puzzling drama through the open door, knew not what to do, but, feeling some concern for the safety of his own possessions, he drew his pack into bed with him, and, being tired, fell asleep with the sobs of the woman sounding in his ears.
When he awoke it was broad day and the earth was fresh and bright from its bath. After dressing he passed into the other room, finding the table still set, the chair before it without its cushion, the fire out, and nobody in or about the house. The smithy was deserted, and to his call there was no response but the chattering of jays in the trees; so, shouldering his pack, he resumed his journey. He opened his pack at a farm-house to repair a clock, when he discovered that his watches were gone, and immediately lodged complaint with the sheriff, but nothing was ever seen again of Ainsley, his wife, or the rough stranger. Who was the thief? What was in the cushion? And what brought the stranger to the house?
The pleasant valley of Dalton, in the Berkshire Hills, had been under the rule of Miacomo for forty years when a Mohawk dignitary of fifty scalps and fifty winters came a-wooing his daughter Wahconah. On a June day in 1637, as the girl sat beside the cascade that bears her name, twining flowers in her hair and watching leaves float down the stream, she became conscious of a pair of eyes bent on her from a neighboring coppice, and arose in some alarm. Finding himself discovered, the owner of the eyes, a handsome young fellow, stepped forward with a quieting air of friendliness, and exclaimed, "Hail, Bright Star!"
"Hail, brother," answered Wahconah.
"I am Nessacus," said the man, "one of King Philip's soldiers. Nessacus is tired with his flight from the Long Knives (the English), and his people faint. Will Bright Star's people shut their lodges against him and his friends?"
The maiden answered, "My father is absent, in council with the Mohawks, but his wigwams are always open. Follow."
Nessacus gave a signal, and forth from the wood came a sad-eyed, battle-worn troop that mustered about him. Under the girl's lead they went down to the valley and were hospitably housed. Five days later Miacomo returned, with him the elderly Mohawk lover, and a priest, Tashmu, of repute a cringing schemer, with whom hunters and soldiers could have nothing in common, and whom they would gladly have put out of the way had they not been deterred by superstitious fears. The strangers were welcomed, though Tashmu looked at them gloomily, and there were games in their honor, Nessacus usually proving the winner, to Wahconah's joy, for she and the young warrior had fallen in love at first sight, and it was not long before he asked her father for her hand. Miacomo favored the suit, but the priest advised him, for politic reasons, to give the girl to the old Mohawk, and thereby cement a tribal friendship that in those days of English aggression might be needful. The Mohawk had three wives already, but he was determined to add Wahconah to his collection, and he did his best, with threats and flattery, to enforce his suit. Nessacus offered to decide the matter in a duel with his rival, and the challenge was accepted, but the wily Tashmu discovered in voices of wind and thunder, flight of birds and shape of clouds, such omens that the scared Indians unanimously forbade a resort to arms. "Let the Great Spirit speak," cried Tashmu, and all yielded their consent.
Invoking a ban on any who should follow, Tashmu proclaimed that he would pass that night in Wizard's Glen, where, by invocations, he would learn the divine will. At sunset he stalked forth, but he had not gone far ere the Mohawk joined him, and the twain proceeded to Wahconah Falls. There was no time for magical hocus-pocus that night, for both of them toiled sorely in deepening a portion of the stream bed, so that the current ran more swiftly and freely on that side, and in the morning Tashmu announced in what way the Great Spirit would show his choice. Assembling the tribe on the river-bank, below a rock that midway split the current, a canoe, with symbols painted on it, was set afloat near the falls. If it passed the dividing rock on the side where Nessacus waited, he should have Wahconah. If it swerved to the opposite shore, where the Mohawk and his counsellor stood, the Great Spirit had chosen the old chief for her husband. Of course, the Mohawk stood on the deeper side. On came the little boat, keeping the centre of the stream. It struck the rock, and all looked eagerly, though Tashmu and the Mohawk could hardly suppress an exultant smile. A little wave struck the canoe: it pivoted against the rock and drifted to the feet of Nessacus. A look of blank amazement came over the faces of the defeated wooer and his friend, while a shout of gladness went up, that the Great Spirit had decided so well. The young couple were wed with rejoicings; the Mohawk trudged homeward, and, to the general satisfaction, Tashmu disappeared with him. Later, when Tashmu was identified as the one who had guided Major Talcott's soldiers to the valley, the priest was caught and slain by Miacomo's men.
knock, knock! The
bell has just gone twelve, and there is the clang again upon the iron
door of the tomb. The few people of Lanesboro who are paying the
penance of misdeeds or late suppers, by lying awake at that dread
hour, gather their blankets around their shoulders and mutter a word
of prayer for deliverance against unwholesome visitors of the night.
Why is the old Berkshire town so troubled? Who is it that lies buried
in that tomb, with its ornament of Masonic symbols? Why was the heavy
iron knocker placed on the door? The question is asked, but no one
will answer it, nor will any say who the woman is that so often
visits the cemetery at the stroke of midnight and sounds the call
into the chamber of the dead. Starlight, moonlight, or
makes no difference to the woman. There she goes, in her black cloak,
seen dim in the night, except where there are snow and moon together,
and there she waits, her hand on the knocker, for the bell to strike
to set up her clangor. Some say that she is crazy, and it is her
freak to do this thing. Is she calling on the corpses to rise and
have a dance among the graves? or has she been asked to call the
occupant of that house at a given hour? Perhaps, weary of life, she
is asking for admittance to the rest and silence of the tomb. She has
long been beneath the sod, this troubler of dreams. Who knows her
Beside quiet Onota, in the Berkshire Hills, dwelt a band of Indians, and while they lived here a white deer often came to drink. So rare was the appearance of an animal like this that its visits were held as good omens, and no hunter of the tribe ever tried to slay it. A prophet of the race had said, "So long as the white doe drinks at Onota, famine shall not blight the Indian's harvest, nor pestilence come nigh his lodge, nor foeman lay waste his country." And this prophecy held true. That summer when the deer came with a fawn as white and graceful as herself, it was a year of great abundance. On the outbreak of the French and Indian War a young officer named Montalbert was despatched to the Berkshire country to persuade the Housatonic Indians to declare hostility to the English, and it was as a guest in the village of Onota that he heard of the white deer. Sundry adventurers had made valuable friendships by returning to the French capital with riches and curiosities from the New World. Even Indians had been abducted as gifts for royalty, and this young ambassador resolved that when he returned to his own country the skin of the white deer should be one of the trophies that would win him a smile from Louis.
He offered a price for it—a price that would have bought all their possessions and miles of the country roundabout, but their deer was sacred, and their refusal to sacrifice it was couched in such indignant terms that he wisely said no more about it in the general hearing. There was in the village a drunken fellow, named Wondo, who had come to that pass when he would almost have sold his soul for liquor, and him the officer led away and plied with rum until he promised to bring the white doe to him. The pretty beast was so familiar with men that she suffered Wondo to catch her and lead her to Montalbert. Making sure that none was near, the officer plunged his sword into her side and the innocent creature fell. The snowy skin, now splashed with red, was quickly stripped off, concealed among the effects in Montalbert's outfit, and he set out for Canada; but he had not been many days on his road before Wondo, in an access of misery and repentance, confessed to his share of the crime that had been done and was slain on the moment.
With the death of the deer came an end to good fortune. Wars, blights, emigration followed, and in a few years not a wigwam was left standing beside Onota.
There is a pendant to this legend, incident to the survival of the deer's white fawn. An English hunter, visiting the lake with dog and gun, was surprised to see on its southern bank a white doe. The animal bent to drink and at the same moment the hunter put his gun to his shoulder. Suddenly a howl was heard, so loud, so long, that the woods echoed it, and the deer, taking alarm, fled like the wind. The howl came from the dog, and, as that animal usually showed sagacity in the presence of game, the hunter was seized with a fear that its form was occupied, for the time, by a hag who lived alone in the "north woods," and who was reputed to have appeared in many shapes—for this was not so long after witch times that their influence was forgotten.
Drawing his ramrod, the man gave his dog such a beating that the poor creature had something worth howling for, because it might be the witch that he was thrashing. Then running to the shanty of the suspected woman he flung open her door and demanded to see her back, for, if she had really changed her shape, every blow that he had given to the dog would have been scored on her skin. When he had made his meaning clear, the crone laid hold on the implement that served her for horse at night, and with the wooden end of it rained blows on him so rapidly that, if the dog had had half the meanness in his nature that some people have, the spectacle would have warmed his heart, for it was a prompt and severe revenge for his sufferings. And to the last the hunter could not decide whether the beating that he received was prompted by indignation or vengeance.
Four miles from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, among the Berkshire Hills, is a wild valley, noted for its echoes, that for a century and more has been called Wizard's Glen. Here the Indian priests performed their incantations, and on the red-stained Devil's Altar, it was said, they offered human sacrifice to Hobomocko and his demons of the wood. In Berkshire's early days a hunter, John Chamberlain, of Dalton, who had killed a deer and was carrying it home on his shoulders, was overtaken on the hills by a storm and took shelter from it in a cavernous recess in Wizard's Glen. In spite of his fatigue he was unable to sleep, and while lying on the earth with open eyes he was amazed to see the wood bend apart before him, disclosing a long aisle that was mysteriously lighted and that contained hundreds of capering forms. As his eyes grew accustomed to the faint light he made out tails and cloven feet on the dancing figures; and one tall form with wings, around whose head a wreath of lightning glittered, and who received the deference of the rest, he surmised to be the devil himself. It was such a night and such a place as Satan and his imps commonly chose for high festivals.
As he lay watching them through the sheeted rain a tall and painted Indian leaped on Devil's Altar, fresh scalps dangling round his body in festoons, and his eyes blazing with fierce command. In a brief incantation he summoned the shadow hordes around him. They came, with torches that burned blue, and went around and around the rock singing a harsh chant, until, at a sign, an Indian girl was dragged in and flung on the block of sacrifice. The figures rushed toward her with extended arms and weapons, and the terrified girl gave one cry that rang in the hunter's ears all his life after. The wizard raised his axe: the devils and vampires gathered to drink the blood and clutch the escaping soul, when in a lightning flash the girl's despairing glance fell on the face of Chamberlain. That look touched his manhood, and drawing forth his Bible he held it toward the rabble while he cried aloud the name of God. There was a crash of thunder. The light faded, the demons vanished, the storm swept past, and peace settled on the hills.
Balanced Rock, or Rolling Rock, near Pittsfield, Massachusetts, is a mass of limestone that was deposited where it stands by the great continental glacier during the ice age, and it weighs four hundred and eighty tons (estimated) in spite of its centuries of weathering. Here one of the Atotarhos, kings of the Six Nations, had his camp. He was a fierce man, who ate and drank from bowls made of the skulls of enemies, and who, when he received messages and petitions, wreathed himself from head to foot with poison snakes. The son of this ferocious being inherited none of his war-like tendencies; indeed, the lad was almost feminine in appearance, and on succeeding to power he applied himself to the cultivation of peaceful arts. Later historians have uttered a suspicion that he was a natural son of Count Frontenac, but that does not suit with this legend.
The young Atotarho stood near Balanced Rock watching a number of big boys play duff. In this game one stone is placed upon another and the players, standing as far from it as they fancy they can throw, attempt to knock it out of place with other stones. The silence of Atotarho and his slender, girlish look called forth rude remarks from the boys, who did not know him, and who dared him to test his skill. The young chief came forward, and as he did so the jeers and laughter changed to cries of astonishment and fear, for at each step he grew in size until he towered above them, a giant. Then they knew him, and fell down in dread, but he took no revenge. Catching up great bowlders he tossed them around as easily as if they had been beechnuts, and at last, lifting the balanced rock, he placed it lightly where it stands to-day, gave them a caution against ill manners and hasty judgments, and resumed his slender form. For many years after, the old men of the tribe repeated this story and its lesson from the top of Atotarho's duff.
This is the Mohegan name of the pretty lake in the Berkshires now called Pontoosuc. Shonkeek was a boy, Moonkeek a girl, and they were cousins who grew up as children commonly do, whether in house or wigwam: they roamed the woods and hills together, filled their baskets with flowers and berries, and fell in love. But the marriage of cousins was forbidden in the Mohegan polity, and when they reached an age in which they found companionship most delightful their rambles were interdicted and they were even told to avoid each other. This had the usual effect, and they met on islands in the lake at frequent intervals, to the torment of one Nockawando, who wished to wed the girl himself, and who reported her conduct to her parents.
The lovers agreed, after this, to fly to an Eastern tribe into which they would ask to be adopted, but they were pledged, if aught interfered with their escape, to meet beneath the lake. Nockawando interfered. On the next night, as the unsuspecting Shonkeek was paddling over to the island where the maid awaited him, the jealous rival, rowing softly in his wake, sent an arrow into his back, and Shonkeek, without a cry, pitched headlong into the water. Yet, to the eyes of Nockawando, he appeared to keep his seat and urge his canoe forward. The girl saw the boat approach: it sped, now, like an eagle's flight. One look, as it passed the rock; one glance at the murderer, crouching in his birchen vessel, and with her lover's name on her lips she leaped into her own canoe and pushed out from shore. Nockawando heard her raise the death-song and rowed forward as rapidly as he could, but near the middle of the lake his arm fell palsied.
The song had ended and the night had become strangely, horribly still. Not a chirp of cricket, not a lap of wave, not a rustle of leaf. Motionless the girl awaited, for his boat was still moving by the impetus of his last stroke of the paddle. The evening star was shining low on the horizon, and as her figure loomed in the darkness the star shone through at the point where her eye had looked forth. It was no human creature that sat there. Then came the dead man's boat. The two shadows rowed noiselessly together, and as they disappeared in the mist that was now settling on the landscape, an unearthly laugh rang over the lake; then all was still. When Nockawando reached the camp that night he was a raving maniac. The Indians never found the bodies of the pair, but they believed that while water remains in Pontoosuc its surface will be vexed by these journeys of the dead.
In 1720 there lived in a turreted house at North and Essex Streets, in Salem, a silent, dark-visaged man,—a reputed chemist. He gathered simples in the fields, and parcels and bottles came and went between him and learned doctors in Boston; but report went around that it was not drugs alone that he worked with, nor medicines for passing ailments that he distilled. The watchman, drowsily pacing the streets in the small hours, saw his shadow move athwart the furnace glare in his tower, and other shadows seemed at the moment to flit about it—shadows that could be thrown by no tangible form, yet that had a grotesque likeness to the human kind. A clink of hammers and a hiss of steam were sometimes heard, and his neighbors devoutly hoped that if he secured the secret of the philosopher's stone or the universal solvent, it would be honestly come by.
But it was neither gold nor the perilous strong water that he wanted. It was life: the elixir that would dispel the chill and decrepitude of age, that would bring back the youthful sparkle to the eye and set the pulses bounding. He explored the surrounding wilderness day after day; the juices of its trees and plants he compounded, night after night, long without avail. Not until after a thousand failures did he conceive that he had secured the ingredients but they were many, they were perishable, they must be distilled within five days, for fermentation and decay would set in if he delayed longer. Gathering the herbs and piling his floor with fuel, he began his work, alone; the furnace glowed, the retorts bubbled, and through their long throats trickled drops—golden, ruddy, brown, and crystal—that would be combined into that precious draught.
And none too soon, for under the strain of anxiety he seemed to be aging fast. He took no sleep, except while sitting upright in his chair, for, should he yield entirely to nature's appeal, his fire would die and his work be spoiled. With heavy eyes and aching head he watched his furnace and listened to the constant drip, drip of the precious liquor. It was the fourth day. He had knelt to stir his fire to more active burning. Its brightness made him blink, its warmth was grateful, and he reclined before it, with elbow on the floor and head resting on his hand. How cheerily the logs hummed and crackled, yet how drowsily—how slow the hours were—how dull the watch! Lower, lower sank the head, and heavier grew the eyes. At last he lay full length on the floor, and the long sleep of exhaustion had begun.
He was awakened by the sound of a bell. "The church bell!" he cried, starting up. "And people going through the streets to meeting. How is this? The sun is in the east! My God! I have been asleep! The furnace is cold. The elixir!" He hastily blended the essences that he had made, though one or two ingredients were still lacking, and drank them off. "Faugh!" he exclaimed. "Still unfinished-perhaps spoiled. I must begin again." Taking his hat and coat he uttered a weary sigh and was about to open the door when his cheek blenched with pain, sight seemed to leave him, the cry for help that rose to his lips was stifled in a groan of anguish, a groping gesture brought a shelf of retorts and bottles to the floor, and he fell writhing among their fragments. The elixir of life, unfinished, was an elixir of death.
Under the name of Eliza Wharton for a brief time lived a woman whose name was said to be Elizabeth Whitman. Little is known of her, and it is thought that she had gone among strangers to conceal disgrace. She died without telling her story. In 1788 she arrived at the Bell Tavern, Danvers, in company with a man, who, after seeing her properly bestowed, drove away and never returned. A graceful, beautiful, well-bred woman, with face overcast by a tender melancholy, she kept indoors with her books, her sewing, and a guitar, avoiding the gossip of the idle. She said that her husband was absent on a journey, and a letter addressed to "Mrs. Eliza Wharton" was to be seen on her table when she received callers. Once a stranger paused at her door and read the name thereon. As he passed on the woman groaned, "I am undone!" One good woman, seeing her need of care and defiant of village prattling, took her to her home, and there, after giving birth to a dead child, she passed away. Among her effects were letters full of pathetic appeal, and some verses, closing thus:
"O thou for whose dear sake I bear
A doom so dreadful, so severe,
May happy fates thy footsteps guide
And o'er thy peaceful home preside.
Nor let Eliza's early tomb
Infect thee with its baleful gloom."
A stone was raised above her grave, by whom it is not known, and this inscription was engraved thereon: "This humble stone, in memory of Elizabeth Whitman, is inscribed by her weeping friends, to whom she endeared herself by uncommon tenderness and affection. Endowed with superior genius and acquirements, she was still more endeared by humility and benevolence. Let candor throw a veil over her frailties, for great was her charity for others. She sustained the last painful scene far from every friend, and exhibited an example of calm resignation. Her departure was on the 25th of July, 1788, in the thirty-seventh year of her age, and the tears of strangers watered her grave."
Bitter were the persecutions endured by Quakers at the hands of the Puritans. They were flogged if they were restless in church, and flogged if they did not go to it. Their ears were slit and they were set in the stocks if they preached, and if any tender-hearted person gave them bed, bite, or sup, he, too, was liable to punishment. They were charged with the awful offence of preaching false doctrine, and no matter how pure their lives might be, the stern Salemite would concede no good of them while their faith was different from his. They even suspected Cobbler Keezar of mischief when he declared that his magic lapstone which Agrippa had torn from the tower at Nettesheim—gave him a vision of the time when men would be as glad as nature, when the "snuffler of psalms" would sing for joy, when priests and Quakers would talk together kindly, when pillory and gallows should be gone. Poor Keezar! In ecstasy at that prospect he flung up his arms, and his lapstone rolled into the Merrimack. The tired mill-girls of Lowell still frequent the spot to seek some dim vision of future comfort.
In contrast to the tales of habitual tyranny toward the Quakers is the tradition of the Southwicks. Lawrence and Cassandra, of that name, were banished from Salem, in spite of their blameless lives, for they had embraced Quakerism. They died within three days of each other on Shelter Island, but their son and daughter, Daniel and Provided, returned to their birthplace, and were incessantly fined for not going to church. At last, having lost their property through seizures made to satisfy their fines, the General Court of Boston issued an order for their sale, as slaves, to any Englishman of Virginia or Barbadoes. Edward Butter was assigned to sell and take them to their master. The day arrived and Salem market-place was crowded with a throng of the curious. Provided Southwick mounted the block and Butter began to call for bids. While expatiating on the aptness of the girl for field or house-service, the master of the Barbadoes ship on which Butter had engaged passage for himself and his two charges looked into her innocent face, and roared, in noble dudgeon, "If my ship were filled with silver, by God, I'd sink her in harbor rather than take away this child!" The multitude experienced a quick change of feeling and applauded the sentiment. As the judges and officers trudged away with gloomy faces, Provided Southwick descended from the auction-block, and brother and sister went forth into the town free and unharmed.
Myles Standish, compact, hard-headed little captain of the Puritan guard at Plymouth, never knew the meaning of fear until he went a-courting Priscilla Mullins—or was she a Molines, as some say? He had fought white men and red men and never reeked of danger in the doing it, but his courage sank to his boots whenever this demure maiden glanced at him, as he thought, with approval. Odd, too, for he had been married once, and Rose was not so long dead that he had forgotten the ways and likings of women; but he made no progress in his suit, and finally chose John Alden to urge it for him. John—who divides with Mary Chilton the honor of being first to land on Plymouth Rock—was a well-favored lad of twenty-two. Until he could build a house for himself he shared Standish's cottage and looked up to that worthy as a guardian, but it was a hard task that was set for him now. He went to goodman Mullins with a slow step and sober countenance and asked leave to plead his protector's cause. The father gave it, called his daughter in, and left them together; then, with noble faith to his mission, the young man begged the maiden's hand for the captain, dwelling on his valor, strength, wisdom, his military greatness, his certainty of promotion, his noble lineage, and all good attributes he could endow him with.
Priscilla kept at her spinning while this harangue went on, but the drone of the wheel did not prevent her noting a sigh and a catch of the breath that interrupted the discourse now and then. She flushed as she replied, "Why does not Captain Standish come to me himself? If I am worth the winning I ought to be worth the wooing."
But John Alden seemed not to notice the girl's confusion until, in a pause in his eloquence, Priscilla bent her head a little, as if to mend a break in the flax, and said, "Prithee, John, why don't you speak for yourself?"
Then a great light broke on the understanding of John Alden, and a great warmth welled up in his heart, and—they were married. Myles Standish—well, some say that he walked in the wedding procession, while one narrator holds that the sturdy Roundhead tramped away to the woods, where he sat for a day, hating himself, and that he never forgave his protege nor the maiden who took advantage of leap year. However that may be, the wedding was a happy one, and the Aldens of all America claim John and Priscilla for their ancestors.
Mother Crewe was of evil repute in Plymouth in the last century. It was said that she had taken pay for luring a girl into her old farm-house, where a man lay dead of small-pox, with intent to harm her beauty; she was accused of blighting land and driving ships ashore with spells; in brief, she was called a witch, and people, even those who affected to ignore the craft of wizardry, were content to keep away from her. When the Revolution ended, Southward Howland demanded Dame Crewe's house and acre, claiming under law of entail, though primogeniture had been little enforced in America, where there was room and to spare for all. But Howland was stubborn and the woman's house had good situation, so one day he rode to her door and summoned her with a tap of his whip.
"What do you here on my land?" said he.
"I live on land that is my own. I cleared it, built my house here, and no other has claim to it."
"Then I lay claim. The place is mine. I shall tear your cabin down on Friday."
"On Friday they'll dig your grave on Burying Hill. I see the shadow closing round you. You draw it in with every breath. Quick! Home and make your peace!" The hag's withered face was touched with spots of red and her eyes glared in their sunken sockets.
"Bandy no witch words with me, woman. On Friday I will return." And he swung himself into his saddle. As he did so a black cat leaped on Mother Crewe's shoulder and stood there, squalling. The woman listened to its cries as if they were words. Her look of hate deepened. Raising her hand, she cried, "Your day is near its end. Repent!"
"Bah! You have heard what I have said. If on Friday you are not elsewhere, I'll tear the timbers down and bury you in the ruins."
"Enough!" cried the woman, her form straightening, her voice grown shrill. "My curse is on you here and hereafter. Die! Then go down to hell!"
As she said this the cat leaped from her shoulder to the flank of the horse, spitting and clawing, and the frightened steed set off at a furious pace. As he disappeared in the scrub oaks his master was seen vainly trying to stop him. The evening closed in with fog and chill, and before the light waned a man faring homeward came upon the corpse of Southward Howland stretched along the ground.
On a headland near Plymouth lived "Aunt Rachel," a reputed seer, who made a scant livelihood by forecasting the future for such seagoing people as had crossed her palm. The crew of a certain brig came to see her on the day before sailing, and she reproached one of the lads for keeping bad company. "Avast, there, granny," interrupted another, who took the chiding to himself. "None of your slack, or I'll put a stopper on your gab." The old woman sprang erect. Levelling her skinny finger at the man, she screamed, "Moon cursers! You have set false beacons and wrecked ships for plunder. It was your fathers and mothers who decoyed a brig to these sands and left me childless and a widow. He who rides the pale horse be your guide, and you be of the number who follow him!"
That night old Rachel's house was burned, and she barely escaped with her life, but when it was time for the brig to sail she took her place among the townfolk who were to see it off. The owner of the brig tried to console her for the loss of the house. "I need it no longer," she answered, "for the narrow house will soon be mine, and you wretches cannot burn that. But you! Who will console you for the loss of your brig?"
"My brig is stanch. She has already passed the worst shoal in the bay."
"But she carries a curse. She cannot swim long."
As each successive rock and bar was passed the old woman leaned forward, her hand shaking, her gray locks flying, her eyes starting, her lips mumbling maledictions, "like an evil spirit, chiding forth the storms as ministers of vengeance." The last shoal was passed, the merchant sighed with relief at seeing the vessel now safely on her course, when the woman uttered a harsh cry, and raised her hand as if to command silence until something happened that she evidently expected. For this the onlookers had not long to wait: the brig halted and trembled—her sails shook in the wind, her crew were seen trying to free the cutter—then she careened and sank until only her mast-heads stood out of the water. Most of the company ran for boats and lines, and few saw Rachel pitch forward on the earth-dead, with a fierce smile of exultation on her face. The rescuers came back with all the crew, save one—the man who had challenged the old woman and revengefully burned her cabin. Rachel's body was buried where her house had stood, and the rock—before unknown—where the brig had broken long bore the name of Rachel's Curse.
The black, pyramidal beacon, called Nix's Mate, is well known to yachtsmen, sailors, and excursionists in Boston harbor. It rises above a shoal,—all that is left of a fair, green island which long ago disappeared in the sea. In 1636 it had an extent of twelve acres, and on its highest point was a gallows where pirates were hanged in chains. One night cries were heard on board of a ship that lay at anchor a little way off shore, and when the watch put off, to see what might be amiss, the captain, named Nix, was found murdered in his bed. There was no direct evidence in the case, and no motive could be assigned for the deed, unless it was the expectancy of promotion on the part of the mate, in case of his commander's death.
It was found, however, that this possibility gave significance to certain acts and sayings of that officer during the voyage, and on circumstantial evidence so slight as this he was convicted and sentenced to death. As he was led to execution he swore that he was not guilty, as he had done before, and from the scaffold he cried aloud, "God, show that I am innocent. Let this island sink and prove to these people that I have never stained my hands with human blood." Soon after the execution of his sentence it was noticed that the surf was going higher on the shore, that certain rocks were no longer uncovered at low tide, and in time the island wasted away. The colonists looked with awe on this manifestation and confessed that God had shown their wrong.
For years after Bellamy's pirate ship was wrecked at Wellfleet, by false pilotage on the part of one of his captives, a strange-looking man used to travel up and down the cape, who was believed to be one of the few survivors of that night of storm, and of the hanging that others underwent after getting ashore. The pirates had money when the ship struck; it was found in the pockets of a hundred drowned who were cast on the beach, as well as among the sands of the cape, for coin was gathered there long after. They supposed the stranger had his share, or more, and that he secreted a quantity of specie near his cabin. After his death gold was found under his clothing in a girdle. He was often received at the houses of the fishermen, both because the people were hospitable and because they feared harm if they refused to feed or shelter him; but if his company grew wearisome he was exorcised by reading aloud a portion of the Bible. When he heard the holy words he invariably departed.
And it was said that fiends came to him at night, for in his room, whether he appeared to sleep or wake, there were groans and blasphemy, uncanny words and sounds that stirred the hair of listeners on their scalps. The unhappy creature cried to be delivered from his tormenters and begged to be spared from seeing a rehearsal of the murders he had committed. For some time he was missed from his haunts, and it was thought that he had secured a ship and set to sea again; but a traveller on the sands, while passing his cabin in the small hours, had heard a more than usual commotion, and could distinguish the voice of the wild man raised in frantic appeal to somebody, or something; still, knowing that it was his habit to cry out so, and having misgivings about approaching the house, the traveller only hurried past. A few neighbors went to the lonely cabin and looked through the windows, which, as well as the doors, were locked on the inside. The wild man lay still and white on the floor, with the furniture upset and pieces of gold clutched in his fingers and scattered about him. There were marks of claws about his neck.
Among the venerable relics of Newbury few are better known and more prized than the old elm. It is a stout tree, with a girth of twenty-four and a half feet, and is said to have been standing since 1713. In that year it was planted by Richard Jacques, then a youthful rustic, who had a sweetheart, as all rustics have, and adored her as rustics and other men should do. On one of his visits he stayed uncommonly late. It was nearly ten o'clock when he set off for home. The town had been abed an hour or more; the night was murky and oppressively still, and corpse-candles were dancing in the graveyard. Witch times had not been so far agone that he felt comfortable, and, lest some sprite, bogie, troll, or goblin should waylay him, he tore an elm branch from a tree that grew before his sweetheart's house, and flourished it as he walked. He reached home without experiencing any of the troubles that a superstitious fancy had conjured. As he was about to cast the branch away a comforting vision of his loved one came into his mind, and he determined to plant the branch at his own door, that in the hours of their separation he might be reminded of her who dwelt beneath the parent tree. He did so. It rooted and grew, and when the youth and maid had long been married, their children and grandchildren sported beneath its branches.
The peace of Newbury is deemed to be permanently secured by the prophecy of Samuel Sewall, the young man who married the buxom daughter of Mint-Master John Hull, and received, as wedding portion, her weight in fresh-coined pine-tree shillings. He afterward became notorious as one of the witchcraft judges. The prophecy has not been countervailed, nor is it likely to be, whether the conditions are kept or not. It runs in this wise:
"As long as Plum island shall faithfully keep the commanded Post, Notwithstanding the hectoring words and hard blows of the proud and boisterous ocean; As long as any Salmon or Sturgeon shall swim in the streams of Merrimack, or any Perch or Pickeril in Crane Pond; As long as the Sea Fowl shall know the time of their coming, and not neglect seasonably to visit the places of their acquaintance; As long as any Cattel shall be fed with Grass growing in the meadows which doe humbly bow themselves before Turkie Hill; As long as any Sheep shall walk upon Old town Hills, and shall from thence look pleasantly down upon the River Parker and the fruitful Marishes lying beneath; As long as any free and harmless Doves shall find a White Oak or other Tree within the township to perch or feed, or build a careless Nest upon, and shall voluntarily present themselves to perform the office of Gleaners after Barley Harvest; As long as Nature shall not grow old and dote, but shall constantly remember to give the rows of Indian Corn their education by Pairs; So long shall Christians be born there and being first made meet, shall from thence be translated to be made partakers of the Saints of Light."
During the latter part of the seventeenth century a Spanish ship, richly laden, was beset off Marblehead by English pirates, who killed every person on board, at the time of the capture, except a beautiful English lady, a passenger on the ship, who was brought ashore at night and brutally murdered at a ledge of rocks near Oakum Bay. As the fishermen who lived near were absent in their boats, the women and children, who were startled from their sleep by her piercing shrieks, dared not attempt a rescue. Taking her a little way from shore in their boat, the pirates flung her into the sea, and as she came to the surface and clutched the gunwale they hewed at her hands with cutlasses. She was heard to cry, "Lord, save me! Mercy! O, Lord Jesus, save me!" Next day the people found her mangled body on the rocks, and, with bitter imprecations at the worse than beasts that had done this wrong, they prepared it for burial. It was interred where it was found, but, although it was committed to the earth with Christian forms, for one hundred and fifty years the victim's cries and appeals were repeated, on each anniversary of the crime, with such distinctness as to affright all who heard them—and most of the citizens of Marblehead claimed to be of that number.
When, in 1742, Sir Henry Frankland, collector of the port of Boston, went to Marblehead to inquire into the smuggling that was pretty boldly carried on, he put up at the Fountain Inn. As he entered that hostelry a barefooted girl, of sixteen, who was scrubbing the floor, looked at him. The young man was handsome, well dressed, gallant in bearing, while Agnes Surriage, maid of all work, was of good figure, beautiful face, and modest demeanor. Sir Henry tossed out a coin, bidding her to buy shoes with it, and passed to his room. But the image of Agnes rose constantly before him. He sought her company, found her of ready intelligence for one unschooled, and shortly after this visit he obtained the consent of her parents—humble folk—to take this wild flower to the city and cultivate it.
He gave her such an education as the time and place afforded, dressed her well, and behaved with kindness toward her, while she repaid this care with the frank bestowal of her heart. The result was not foreseen—not intended—but they became as man and wife without having wedded. Colonial society was scandalized, yet the baronet loved the girl sincerely and could not be persuaded to part from her. Having occasion to visit England he took Agnes with him and introduced her as Lady Frankland, but the nature of their alliance had been made known to his relatives and they refused to receive her. The thought of a permanent union with the girl had not yet presented itself to the young man. An aristocrat could not marry a commoner. A nobleman might destroy the honor of a girl for amusement, but it was beneath his dignity to make reparation for the act.
Sir Henry was called to Portugal in 1755, and Agnes went with him. They arrived inopportunely in one respect, though the sequel showed a blessing in the accident; for while they were sojourning in Lisbon the earthquake occurred that laid the city in ruins and killed sixty thousand people. Sir Henry was in his carriage at the time and was buried beneath a falling wall, but Agnes, who had hurried from her lodging at the first alarm, sped through the rocking streets in search of her lover. She found him at last, and, instead of crying or fainting, she set to work to drag away the stones and timbers that were piled upon him. Had she been a delicate creature, her lover's equal in birth, such as Frankland was used to dance with at the state balls, she could not have done this, but her days of service at the inn had given her a strength that received fresh accessions from hope and love. In an hour she had liberated him, and, carrying him to a place of safety, she cherished the spark of life until health returned. The nobleman had received sufficient proof of Agnes's love and courage. He realized, at last, the superiority of worth to birth. He gave his name, as he had already given his heart, to her, and their married life was happy.
Flood, Fluid, or Floyd Ireson (in some chronicles his name is Benjamin) was making for Marblehead in a furious gale, in the autumn of 1808, in the schooner Betsy. Off Cape Cod he fell in with the schooner Active, of Beverly, in distress, for she had been disabled in the heavy sea and was on her beam ends, at the mercy of the tempest. The master of the Active hailed Ireson and asked to be taken off, for his vessel could not last much longer, but the Betsy, after a parley, laid her course again homeward, leaving the exhausted and despairing crew of the sinking vessel to shift as best they might. The Betsy had not been many hours in port before it was known that men were in peril in the bay, and two crews of volunteers set off instantly to the rescue. But it was too late. The Active was at the bottom of the sea. The captain and three of his men were saved, however, and their grave accusation against the Betsy's skipper was common talk in Marblehead ere many days.
On a moonlight night Flood Ireson was roused by knocking at his door. On opening it he was seized by a band of his townsmen, silently hustled to a deserted spot, stripped, bound, and coated with tar and feathers. At break of day he was pitched into an old dory and dragged along the roads until the bottom of the boat dropped out, when he was mounted in a cart and the procession continued until Salem was reached. The selectmen of that town turned back the company, and for a part of the way home the cart was drawn by a jeering crowd of fishwives. Ireson was released only when nature had been taxed to the limit of endurance. As his bonds were cut he said, quietly, "I thank you for my ride, gentlemen, but you will live to regret it."
Some of the cooler heads among his fellows have believed the skipper innocent and throw the blame for the abandonment of the sinking vessel on Ireson's mutinous crew. There are others, the universal deniers, who believe that the whole thing is fiction. Those people refuse to believe in their own grandfathers. Ireson became moody and reckless after this adventure. He did not seem to think it worth the attempt to clear himself. At times he seemed trying, by his aggressive acts and bitter speeches, to tempt some hot-tempered townsman to kill him. He died after a severe freezing, having been blown to sea—as some think by his own will—in a smack.
The name of Heartbreak Hill pertains, in the earliest records of Ipswich, to an eminence in the middle of that town on which there was a large Indian settlement, called Agawam, before the white men settled there and drove the inhabitants out. Ere the English colony had been firmly planted a sailor straying ashore came among the simple natives of Agawam, and finding their ways full of novelty he lived with them for a time. When he found means to return to England he took with him the love of a maiden of the tribe, but the girl herself he left behind, comforting her on his departure with an assurance that before many moons he would return. Months went by and extended into years, and every day the girl climbed Heartbreak Hill to look seaward for some token of her lover. At last a ship was seen trying to make harbor, with a furious gale running her close to shore, where breakers were lashing the rocks and sand. The girl kept her station until the vessel, becoming unmanageable, was hurled against the shore and smashed into a thousand pieces. As its timbers went tossing away on the frothing billows a white, despairing face was lifted to hers for an instant; then it sank and was seen nevermore—her lover's face. The "dusky Ariadne" wasted fast from that day, and she lies buried beside the ledge that was her watch-tower.
END OF VOLUME I