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IN maritime towns, at a season of the year when there is no inducement for them to wander into the fields, boys who have nothing else to do, on play-days, are very apt to lounge, more or less, on the wharves and in the Market Place. When quite a youngster, I witnessed a scene on the spot last named, the incidents of which are as vivid in my memory as at the moment when they occurred, more than half a century ago. Though the commerce of our town had very materially declined from its former condition of wonderful activity and enterprise, it was still kept up with considerable semblance of its former spirit, and, besides our native vessels, a foreign ship occasionally sailed up our beautiful river. A few miles beyond the stream, in the neighboring State, dwelt a population chiefly agricultural, a portion of which, pursuing the avocation of small farmers and fishermen, alternately, for they were directly on the borders of the sea and somewhat isolated in their position, besides, were certainly a little wild in character and habits; though I am told that great improvement among them, in these respects, has taken place of later years. We called them “Algerines,” from which epithet, more opprobrious than probably just, our estimate of their pretensions to civilization may be inferred. It was the practice of these people to bring their fish in whale-boats to our market, which was the nearest to their homes, and to dispose of this fruit of their often perilous labors either for money, or for such commodities as they required. I was standing, one afternoon, near a group of foreign sailors, believed to be Spaniards, with the natural curiosity of a boy, and rough-looking specimens of humanity they certainly were. It seemed that they had fallen into dispute with the crew, some three or four men, of an Algerine boat, and though the language on one side and the other was altogether unintelligible to the parties, the tones were uncommonly high. Doubtless, the Spaniards were resenting some insult offered by the Algerines, — prompted by that sort of jealousy and dislike with which the lower classes of English blood have been in the habit of regarding those of other nationalities. The quarrel seemed especially at its height between one of the Spanish crew and a young man of remarkable stature in coarse seaman’s dress, with a great bush of long yellow locks hanging over the collar of his jacket, whose name it appeared was Souter. The Spanish champion had drawn an ugly looking knife, from which unfamiliar weapon, flourished so near his person, the Algerine instinctively flinched. At this critical moment, the patriarch of the Yankee crew, a tall, gaunt old man, with grizzled hair, stepped into the arena, and, seizing the foreigner by the collar, cried out, — “Now I’ll bet Tom Souter” (pronounced Saouter) “could take this ‘ere fellow right here by the collar and shake every g— right aout of him,” — using a more vulgar phrase, and suiting the action to the word so vigorously that the reeling and astounded Spaniard was glad enough to relinquish the field and to slink away crestfallen with his companions.

As a further illustration of the ways of our neighbors, I will give one more anecdote of an affair which occurred years afterwards. Not far from the hamlet of our friends, the Algerines, but within the borders of Massachusetts, was another settlement, on the outskirts of a thriving village, the male inhabitants of which also followed the calling of small farmers and fishermen, some of them diversifying these pursuits by the occupation of shoemaking, at the ungenial season of the year. They were industrious, and far less rude than their compatriots, to whom reference has just been made. At this point lived three young men, hard by each other, and brothers, of the name, I will say, of Lowe. One day a tall and respectable looking old gentleman called upon the writer of this history, announcing himself as Colonel Lowe, and the father of the three young men in question. He had formerly commanded, it seems, a regiment of militia, and had a sort of semi-military bearing. He was now in great agitation and distress, occasioned by some trouble in which his sons were involved, through forcible resistance to the civil authorities of the Commonwealth, and he required the professional services of the writer for their defence. He justly regarded it as a case likely to lead to very serious consequences, and particularly dreaded for the young men the disgraceful punishment of the State Prison. It was a case to elicit every degree of sympathy for the worthy Colonel, and to prompt every effort for his relief. The facts, as they appeared at the trial before the Court of Common Pleas, were quite picturesque. A constable had appeared with an execution against one of the young Lowes, in the matter of a claim which he disputed as unjust; but without giving the peace-officer opportunity to discharge his duty, he was driven from the ground by the trio, in mortal terror of his life. The execution of the process was then undertaken by a somewhat fantastic country deputy sheriff; who was ordered off as he attempted to approach the parties in defence, and between them and the officer there was a good deal of raillery, which had an important bearing upon the final result of the trial. At length, the elder brother Lowe drew a line with a stick across the road and defied the officer to pass it, which he declined to do, but at once made good his retreat, smothering his indignation at such a rebuff, until he could give it vent in more safety than the existing circumstances warranted. Such reckless conduct was not to be endured, and no doubt the deputy was laughed at by his neighbors for his failure to carry his purpose into effect. The majesty of the Commonwealth had been insulted in his official person, and he determined to summon a posse comitatus, to vindicate the power and dignity of the law. Stories in the country, especially those involving any extraordinary incidents, sometimes fly faster than in town, and accordingly these young rebels forewarned, no doubt, of the peril in prospect, prepared themselves, as well as they could, to resist the more formidable invasion presently to be expected. Before daylight, one morning, the mustered force of some twenty men, variously armed, led by the valiant sheriff’s officer, cautiously drew near the premises, in the hope of catching the culprits asleep. The brothers were too quick for their visitors, however, and evidently having been on the watch had retreated to a barn, securely fastening the door, and awaited the approach of the enemy. They had with them certain weapons, which were exhibited in the court, consisting of ancient rusty halberds and spontoons, probably borne in turn by their gallant father, in his several gradations of military service. As they were summoned to surrender, a musket was discharged out of a window of the barn, over the heads of the assailants, occasioning considerable confusion in their line. Assuming courage, at length, axes and crowbars were brought into requisition, and the door was forced. As the attacking party entered, however, the Lowes let down the stairs leading to the story above a heavy broad cart-wheel, and as it bounded clattering towards the floor below, the assailants fled out of doors in a panic, and taking advantage of their disorder, the Lowes, disregarding the vast disproportion of numbers, rushed upon them, and a regular mêleé began. It is thought, that the smaller party would have been victorious, but for an ugly blow on the head of the youngest brother, which felled and disabled him; whereupon his associates escaped unmolested and he was taken helpless into the house, where he remained until the time of the trial. Of course, the jury found him guilty, for the facts of the case were patent; but it was taken up, by exceptions to the ruling of the Judge, into the Supreme Court, in which, though it would be irreverent to intimate that the justices entered at all into the humor of such a Donnybrook Fair sort of scrimmage, yet, after argument, and it is presumed in consideration of some provocation on the part of the sheriff’s deputy, especially the needlessly warlike and really ridiculous aspect he impressed on the affair, leading the young men to look upon it rather as an invitation to play their part, than as a serious purpose to violate the law, the sentence imposed was only a few months’ imprisonment in the common jail. The prosecution was never enforced against the brothers, and never was more lively gratitude displayed, than at the escape of the convicted culprit from sentence to the ignominious seclusion of the State Prison.

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