The Only Woman in the Town
by Sarah J. Prichard
The Only Woman in the Town
And Other Tales of the American Revolution
SARAH J. PRICHARD
Author of the History of Waterbury, 1674-1783
MELICENT PORTER CHAPTER
Daughters of the American Revolution
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1898
By the MELICENT PORTER CHAPTER
Daughters of the American Revolution,
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington
THE ONLY WOMAN
IN THE TOWN.
A WINDHAM LAMB
IN BOSTON TOWN.
HOW ONE BOY
OUT OF BOSTON IN
AND HIS AMERICAN
THE BIRTHDAY OF
THE OVERTHROW OF
THE STATUE OF
SLEET AND SNOW.
THE QUAKER DOLL
WHO SLEPT IN
HOW TWO LITTLE
A DAY AND A
NIGHT IN THE OLD
[Illustration: THE OLD PORTER HOUSE. In it were sheltered and cared
for many soldiers in the War of the Revolution]
The celebration of the Centennial Anniversary of the United States
at the city of Philadelphia in 1876, and the exhibit there made of that
nation's wonderful growth and progress, gave a new and remarkable
impulse to the germs of patriotism in American life. The following
tales of the American Revolutionwith the exception of the lastwere
written twenty-two years ago, and are the outcome of an interest then
awakened. They all appeared in magazines and other publications of that
period, from which they have been gathered into this volume, in the
hope that thereby patriotism may grow stronger in the children of
THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE TOWN.
One hundred years and one ago, in Boston, at ten of the clock one
April night, a church steeple had been climbed and a lantern hung out.
At ten, the same night, in mid-river of the Charles, oarsmen two,
with passenger silent and grim, had seen the signal light out-swung,
and rowed with speed for the Charlestown shore.
At eleven, the moon was risen, and the grim passenger, Paul Revere,
had ridden up the Neck, encountered a foe, who opposed his ride into
the country, and, after a brief delay, had gone on, leaving a British
officer lying in a clay pit.
At midnight, a hundred ears had heard the flying horseman cry, Up
and arm. The Regulars are coming out!
You know the story well. You have heard how the wild alarm ran from
voice to voice and echoed beneath every roof, until the men of
Lexington and Concord were stirred and aroused with patriotic fear for
the safety of the public stores that had been committed to their
You know how, long ere the chill April day began to dawn, they had
drawn, by horse power and by hand power, the cherished stores into safe
hiding-places in the depth of friendly forest-coverts.
There is one thing about that day that you have not heard and
I will tell you now. It is, how one little woman staid in the town of
Concord, whence all the women save her had fled.
All the houses that were standing then, are very old-fashioned now,
but there was one dwelling-place on Concord Common that was
old-fashioned even then! It was the abode of Martha Moulton and Uncle
John. Just who Uncle John was, is not known to the writer, but he
was probably Martha Moulton's uncle. The uncle, it appears by record,
was eighty-five years old; while the niece was only three-score
Once and again that morning, a friendly hand had pulled the
latch-string at Martha Moulton's kitchen entrance and offered to convey
herself and treasures away, but, to either proffer, she had said: No,
I must stay until Uncle John gets the cricks out of his back, if all
the British soldiers in the land march into town.
At last, came Joe Devins, a lad of fifteen yearsJoe's two
astonished eyes peered for a moment into Martha Moulton's kitchen, and
then eyes and owner dashed into the room, to learn what the sight he
there saw could mean.
Whew! Mother Moulton, what are you doing?
I'm getting Uncle John his breakfast to be sure, Joe, she
answered. Have you seen so many sights this morning that you
don't know breakfast, when you see it? Have a care there, for hot fat
will burn, as she deftly poured the contents of a pan, fresh from
the fire, into a dish.
Hungry Joe had been astir since the first drum had beat to arms at
two of the clock. He gave one glance at the boiling cream and the
slices of crisp pork swimming in it, as he gasped forth the words,
Getting breakfast in Concord this morning! Mother Moulton, you must be crazy.
So they tell me, she said, serenely. There comes Uncle John! she
added, as the clatter of a staff on the stone steps of the stairway
outrang, for an instant, the cries of hurrying and confusion that
filled the air of the street.
Don't you know, Mother Moulton, Joe went on to say, that every
single woman and child have been carried off, where the Britishers
won't find 'em?
I don't believe the king's troops have stirred out of Boston, she
replied, going to the door leading to the stone staircase, to open it
for Uncle John.
Don't believe it? and Joe looked, as he echoed the words, as
though only a boy could feel sufficient disgust at such a want of
common sense, in full view of the fact, that Reuben Brown had just
brought the news that eight men had been killed by the king's Red Coats
in Lexington, which fact he made haste to impart.
I won't believe a word of it, she said, stoutly, until I see the
Ah! Hear that! cried Joe, tossing back his hair and swinging his
arms triumphantly at an airy foe. You won't have to wait long. That
signal is for the minute men. They are going to march out to meet
the Red Coats. Wish I was a minute man, this minute.
Meanwhile, poor Uncle John was getting down the steps of the
stairway, with many a grimace and groan. As he touched the floor, Joe,
his face beaming with excitement and enthusiasm, sprang to place a
chair for him at the table, saying, Good morning, at the same moment.
May be, groaned Uncle John, youngsters like you may think
it is a good morning, but I don't. Such a din and clatter as the
fools have kept up all night long. If I had the power (and now the
poor old man fairly groaned with rage), I'd make 'em quiet long enough
to let an old man get a wink of sleep, when the rheumatism lets go.
I'm real sorry for you, said Joe, but you don't know the news.
The king's troops, from camp, in Boston, are marching right down here,
to carry off all our arms that they can find.
Are they? was the sarcastic rejoinder. It's the best news I've
heard in a long while. Wish they had my arms, this minute. They
wouldn't carry them a step further than they could help, I know. Run
and tell them that mine are ready, Joe.
But, Uncle John, wait until after breakfast, you'll want to use
them once more, said Martha Moulton, trying to help him into a chair
that Joe had placed on the white sanded floor.
Meanwhile, Joe Devins had ears for all the sounds that penetrated
the kitchen from out of doors, and he had eyes for the slices of
well-browned pork and the golden-hued Johnny-cake lying before the
glowing coals on the broad hearth.
As the little woman bent to take up the breakfast, Joe, intent on
doing some kindness for her in the way of saving treasures, asked,
Sha'n't I help you, Mother Moulton?
I reckon I am not so old that I can't lift a mite of corn-bread,
she replied with chilling severity.
Oh, I didn't mean to lift that thing, he made haste to
explain, but to carry off things and hide 'em away, as everybody else
has been doing half the night. I know a first-rate place up in the
woods. Used to be a honey tree, you know, and it's just as hollow as
anything. Silver spoons and things would be just as safe in it but
Joe's words were interrupted by unusual tumult on the street and he ran
off to learn the news, intending to return and get the breakfast that
had been offered to him.
Presently he rushed back to the house with cheeks aflame and eyes
ablaze with excitement. They're coming! he cried. They're in sight
down by the rocks. They see 'em marching, the men on the hill do!
You don't mean that it's really true that the soldiers are coming
here, right into our town! cried Martha Moulton, rising in
haste and bringing together, with rapid flourishes to right and to
left, every fragment of silver on it. Divining her intent, Uncle John
strove to hold fast his individual spoon, but she twitched it without
ceremony out from his rheumatic old fingers, and ran next to the parlor
cupboard, wherein lay her movable treasures.
What in the world shall I do with them? she cried, returning with
her apron well filled, and borne down by the weight thereof.
Give 'em to me, cried Joe. Here's a basket. Drop 'em in, and I'll
run like a brush-fire through the town and across the old bridge, and
hide 'em as safe as a weasel's nap.
Joe's fingers were creamy; his mouth was half filled with
Johnny-cake, and his pocket on the right bulged to its utmost capacity
with the same, as he held forth the basket; but the little woman was
afraid to trust him, as she had been afraid to trust her neighbors.
No! No! she replied, to his repeated offers. I know what I'll do.
You, Joe Devins, stay right where you are until I come back, and, don't
you even look out of the window.
Dear, dear me! she cried, flushed and anxious when she was out of
sight of Uncle John and Joe. I wish I'd given 'em to Colonel
Barrett when he was here before daylight, only, I was afraid I
should never get sight of them again.
She drew off one of her stockings, filled it, tied the opening at
the top with a stringplunged stocking and all into a pail full of
water and proceeded to pour the contents into the well.
Just as the dark circle had closed over the blue stocking, Joe
Devins' face peered down the depths by her side, and his voice sounded
out the words: O Mother Moulton, the British will search the wells the
very first thing. Of course, they expect to find things in
Why didn't you tell me before, Joe? but now it is too late.
I would, if I had known what you was going to do; they'd been a
sight safer in the honey tree.
Yes, and what a fool I've beenflung my watch into the well
with the spoons!
Well, well! Don't stand there, looking! as she hovered over the
high curb, with her hand on the bucket. Everybody will know, if you
Martha! Martha! shrieked Uncle John's quavering voice from the
Bless my heart! she exclaimed, hurrying back over the stones.
What's the matter with your heart? questioned Joe.
Nothing. I was thinking of Uncle John's money, she answered.
Has he got money? cried Joe. I thought he was poor, and you took
care of him because you were so good!
Not one word that Joe uttered did the little woman hear. She was
already by Uncle John's side and asking him for the key to his strong
Uncle John's rheumatism was terribly exasperating. No, I won't give
it to you! he cried, and nobody shall have it as long as I am above
Then the soldiers will carry it off, she said.
Let 'em! was his reply, grasping his staff firmly with both hands
and gleaming defiance out of his wide, pale eyes. You won't get
the key, even if they do.
At this instant, a voice at the doorway shouted the words, Hide,
hide away somewhere, Mother Moulton, for the Red Coats are in sight
She heard the warning, and giving one glance at Uncle John, which
look was answered by another No, you won't have it, she grasped Joe
Devins by the collar of his jacket and thrust him before her up the
staircase so quickly that the boy had no chance to speak, until she
released her hold, on the second floor, at the entrance to Uncle John's
The idea of being taken a prisoner in such a manner, and by a woman,
too, was too much for the lad's endurance. Let me go! he cried, the
instant he could recover his breath. I won't hide away in your garret,
like a woman, I won't. I want to see the militia and the minute men
fight the troops, I do.
Help me first, Joe. Here, quick now! Let's get this box out and up
garret. We'll hide it under the corn and it'll be safe, she coaxed.
The box was under Uncle John's bed.
What's in the old thing anyhow? questioned Joe, pulling with all
his strength at it.
The box, or chest, was painted red, and was bound about by massive
I've never seen the inside of it, said Mother Moulton. It holds
the poor old soul's sole treasure, and I do want to save it for
him if I can.
They had drawn it with much hard endeavor as far as the garret
stairs, but their united strength failed to lift it. Heave it, now!
cried Joe, and lo! it was up two steps. So they turned it over and over
with many a thudding thump;every one of which thumps Uncle John heard
and believed to be strokes upon the box itself to burst it
asunderuntil it was fairly shelved on the garret floor.
In the very midst of the overturnings, a voice from below had been
heard crying out, Let my box alone! Don't you break it open! If you
do, I'llI'll but, whatever the poor man meant to threaten
as a penalty, he could not think of anything half severe enough to say,
so left it uncertain as to the punishment that might be looked for.
Poor old soul! ejaculated the little woman, her soft white curls
in disorder and the pink color rising from her cheeks to her fair
forehead, as she bent to help Joe drag the box beneath the rafter's
Now, Joe, she said, we'll heap nubbins over it, and if the
soldiers want corn they'll take good ears and never think of touching
poor nubbins. So they fell to work throwing corn over the red chest,
until it was completely concealed from view.
Then Joe sprang to the high-up-window ledge in the point of the roof
and took one glance out. Oh, I see them, the Red Coats! 'Strue's I
live, there go our militia up the hill. I thought they was going
to stand and defend. Shame on 'em, I say! Jumping down and crying back
to Mother Moulton, I'm going to stand by the minute men, he went
down, three steps at a leap, and nearly overturned Uncle John on the
stairs, who, with many groans, was trying to get to the defense of his
What did you help her for, you scamp? he demanded of Joe,
flourishing his staff unpleasantly near the lad's head.
'Cause she asked me to, and couldn't do it alone, returned Joe,
dodging the stick and disappearing from the scene at the very moment
Martha Moulton encountered Uncle John.
Your strong box is safe under nubbins in the garret, unless the
house burns down, and now that you are up here, you had better stay,
she added soothingly, as she hastened by him to reach the kitchen
Once there, she paused a second or two to take resolution regarding
her next act. She knew full well that there was not one second to
spare, and yet she stood looking, apparently, into the glowing embers
on the hearth. She was flushed and excited, both by the unwonted toil
and the coming events. Cobwebs from the rafters had fallen on her hair
and homespun dress, and would readily have betrayed her late occupation
to any discerning soldier of the king.
A smile broke suddenly over her fair face, displacing for a brief
second every trace of care. It's my old weapon, and I must use it,
she said, making a stately courtesy to an imaginary guest, and
straightway disappeared within an adjoining room. With buttoned door
and dropped curtains the little woman made haste to array herself in
her finest raiment. In five minutes she reappeared in the kitchen, a
picture pleasant to look at. In all New England, there could not be a
more beautiful little old lady than Martha Moulton was that day. Her
hair was guiltless now of cobwebs, but haloed her face with fluffy
little curls of silvery whiteness, above which, like a crown, was a
little cap of dotted muslin, pure as snow. Her erect figure, not a
particle of the hard-working-day in it now, carried well the folds of a
sheeny, black silk gown, over which she had tied an apron as spotless
as the cap.
As she fastened back her gown and hurried away the signs of the
breakfast she had not eaten, the clear pink tints seemed to come out
with added beauty of coloring in her cheeks, while her hair seemed
fairer and whiter than at any moment in her three-score and eleven
Once more, Joe Devins looked in. As he caught a glimpse of the
picture she made, he paused to cry out: All dressed up to meet the
robbers! My, how fine you do look! I wouldn't. I'd go and hide behind
the nubbins. They'll be here in less than five minutes now, he cried,
and I'm going over the North Bridge to see what's going on there.
O Joe, stay, won't you? she urged, but the lad was gone, and she
was left alone to meet the foe, comforting herself with the thought,
They'll treat me with more respect if I look respectable, and
if I must die, I'll die good-looking in my best clothes,
She threw a few sticks of hickory-wood on the embers and then drew
out the little round stand, on which the family Bible was always lying.
Recollecting that the British soldiers probably belonged to the Church
of England, she hurried away to fetch Uncle John's prayer book.
They'll have respect to me, if they find me reading that, I know,
she thought. Having drawn the round stand within sight of the well, and
where she could also command a view of the staircase, she sat and
waited for coming events.
Uncle John was keeping watch of the advancing troops from an upper
window. Martha, he called, you'd better come up. They're close by,
now. To tell the truth, Uncle John himself was a little afraid; that
is to say, he hadn't quite courage enough to go down and, perhaps,
encounter his own rheumatism and the king's soldiers on the same
stairway, and yet, he felt that he must defend Martha as well as he
The rap of a musket, quick and ringing, on the front door, startled
the little woman from her apparent devotions. She did not move at the
call of anything so profane. It was the custom of the time to have the
front door divided into two parts, the lower half and the upper half.
The former was closed and made fast, the upper could be swung open at
The soldier getting no reply, and doubtless thinking that the house
was deserted, leaped over the chained lower half of the door.
At the clang of his bayonet against the brass trimmings, Martha
Moulton groaned in spirit, for, if there was any one thing that she
deemed essential to her comfort in this life, it was to keep spotless,
speckless and in every way unharmed, the great knocker on her front
Good, sound English metal, too, she thought, that an English
soldier ought to know how to respect.
As she heard the tramp of coming feet she only bent the closer over
the Book of Prayer that lay open on her knee. Not one word did she read
or see; she was inwardly trembling and outwardly watching the well and
the staircase. But now, above all other sounds, broke the noise of
Uncle John's staff thrashing the upper step of the staircase, and the
shrill, tremulous cry of the old man, defiant, doing his utmost for the
defense of his castle.
The fingers that lay beneath the book tingled with desire to box the
old man's ears, for the policy he was pursuing would be fatal to the
treasure in garret and in well; but she was forced to silence and
As the king's troops, Major Pitcairn at their head, reached the open
door and saw the old lady, they paused. What could they do but look,
for a moment, at the unexpected sight that met their view: a placid old
lady in black silk and dotted muslin, with all the sweet solemnity of
morning devotion hovering about the tidy apartment and seeming to
centre at the round stand by which she sat,this pretty woman, with
pink and white face surmounted with fleecy little curls and crinkles
and wisps of floating whiteness, who looked up to meet their gaze with
such innocent, prayer-suffused eyes.
Good morning, Mother, said Major Pitcairn, raising his hat.
Good morning, gentlemen and soldiers, returned Martha Moulton.
You will pardon my not meeting you at the door, when you see that I
was occupied in rendering service to the Lord of all. She reverently
closed the book, laid it on the table, and arose, with a stately
bearing, to demand their wishes.
We're hungry, good woman, spoke the commander, and your hearth is
the only hospitable one we've seen since we left Boston. With your good
leave I'll take a bit of this, and he stooped to lift up the
Johnny-cake that had been all this while on the hearth.
I wish I had something better to offer you, she said, making haste
to fetch plates and knives from the corner-cupboard, and all the while
she was keeping eye-guard over the well. I'm afraid the Concorders
haven't left much for you to-day, she added, with a soft sigh of
regret, as though she really felt sorry that such brave men and good
soldiers had fallen on hard times in the ancient town. At the moment
she had brought forth bread and baked beans, and was putting them on
the table, a voice rang into the room, causing every eye to turn toward
Uncle John. He had gotten down the stairs without uttering one audible
groan, and was standing, one step above the floor of the room,
brandishing and whirling his staff about in a manner to cause even
rheumatism to flee the place, while at the top of his voice he cried
Martha Moulton, how dare you feed
thesethesemonstersin human form?
Don't mind him, gentlemen, please don't, she made haste to
say; he's old, very old; eighty-five, his last birthday, anda
little hoity-toity at times, pointing deftly with her finger in the
region of the reasoning powers in her own shapely head.
Summoning Major Pitcairn by an offer of a dish of beans, she
contrived to say, under cover of it:
You see, sir, I couldn't go away and leave him; he is almost
distracted with rheumatism, and this excitement to-day will kill him,
Advancing toward the staircase with bold and soldierly front, Major
Pitcairn said to Uncle John:
Stand aside, old man, and we'll hold you harmless.
I don't believe you will, you red-trimmed trooper, you, was the
reply; and, with a dexterous swing of the wooden staff, he mowed off
and down three military hats.
Before any one had time to speak, Martha Moulton, adroitly stooping,
as though to recover Major Pitcairn's hat, which had rolled to her
feet, swung the stairway-door into its place with a resounding bang,
and followed up that achievement with a swift turn of two large wooden
buttons, one high up, and the other low down, on the door.
There! she said, he is safe out of mischief for a while, and your
heads are safe as well. Pardon a poor old man, who does not know what
he is about.
He seems to know remarkably well, exclaimed an officer.
Meanwhile, behind the strong door, Uncle John's wrath knew no
bounds. In his frantic endeavors to burst the fastenings of the wooden
buttons, rheumatic cramps seized him and carried the day, leaving him
out of the battle.
Meanwhile, a company of soldiers clustered about the door. The
king's horses were fed within five feet of the great brass knocker,
while, within the house, the beautiful little old woman, in her
Sunday-best-raiment, tried to do the dismal honors of the day to the
foes of her country. Watching her, one would have thought she was
entertaining heroes returned from the achievement of valiant deeds,
whereas, in her own heart, she knew full well that she was giving a
little, to save much.
Nothing could exceed the seeming alacrity with which she fetched
water from the well for the officers: and, when Major Pitcairn
gallantly ordered his men to do the service, the little soul was in
alarm; she was so afraid that somehow, in some way or another, the
blue stocking would get hitched on to the bucket. She knew that she
must to its rescue, and so she bravely acknowledged herself to have
taken a vow (when, she did not say), to draw all the water that was
taken from that well.
A remnant of witchcraft! remarked a soldier within hearing.
Do I look like a witch? she demanded.
If you do, replied Major Pitcairn, I admire New England witches,
and never would condemn one to be hung, or burned, orsmothered.
Martha Moulton never wore so brilliant a color on her aged cheeks as
at that moment. She felt bitter shame at the ruse she had attempted,
but silver spoons were precious, and, to escape the smile that went
around at Major Pitcairn's words, she was only too glad to go again to
the well and dip slowly the high, over-hanging sweep into the cool,
clear, dark depth below.
During this time the cold, frosty morning spent itself into the
brilliant, shining noon.
You know what happened at Concord on that 19th of April in the year
1775. You have been told the storyhow the men of Acton met and
resisted the king's troops at the old North Bridge; how brave Captain
Davis and minute-man Hosmer fell; how the sound of their falling struck
down to the very heart of mother earth, and caused her to send forth
her brave sons to cry Liberty, or Death!
And the rest of the story; the sixty or more barrels of flour that
the king's troops found and struck the heads from, leaving the flour in
condition to be gathered again at nightfall, the arms and powder that
they destroyed, the houses they burned; all these, are they not
recorded in every child's history in the land?
While these things were going on, for a brief while, at mid-day,
Martha Moulton found her home deserted. She had not forgotten poor,
suffering, irate Uncle John in the regions above, and so, the very
minute she had the chance, she made a strong cup of catnip tea (the
real tea, you know, was brewing in Boston harbor).
She turned the buttons, and, with a bit of trembling at her heart,
such as she had not felt all day, she ventured up the stairs, bearing
the steaming peace-offering before her.
Uncle John was writhing under the sharp thorns and twinges of his
old enemy, and in no frame of mind to receive any overtures in the
shape of catnip tea; nevertheless, he was watching, as well as he was
able, the motions of the enemy. As she drew near, he cried out:
Look out this window, and see! Much good all your scheming
will do you!
She obeyed his command to look, and the sight she then saw caused
her to let fall the cup of catnip tea and rush down the stairs,
wringing her hands as she went, and crying out:
Oh, dear! what shall I do? The house will burn and the box up
garret. Everything's lost!
Major Pitcairn, at that moment, was on the green in front of her
door, giving orders.
Forgetting the dignified part she intended to play; forgetting
everything but the supreme danger that was hovering in mid-air over her
homethe old house wherein she had been born, and the only home she
had ever knownshe rushed out upon the green, amid the troops and
surrounded by cavalry, and made her way to Major Pitcairn.
The court-house is on fire! she cried, laying her hand upon the
He turned and looked at her. Major Pitcairn had recently learned
that the task he had been set to do in the provincial towns that day
was not an easy one; that, when hard pressed and trodden down, the
despised rustics, in homespun dress, could sting even English soldiers;
and thus it happened that, when he felt the touch of Mother Moulton's
plump little old fingers on his military sleeve, he was not in the
pleasant humor that he had been when the same hand had ministered to
his hunger in the early morning.
Well, what of it? Let it burn! We won't hurt you, if
you go in the house and stay there!
She turned and glanced up at the court-house. Already flames were
issuing from it. Go in the house and let it burn, indeed!
thought she. He knows me, don't he? Oh, sir! for the love of
Heaven won't you stop it? she said, entreatingly.
Run in the house, good mother. That is a wise woman, he advised.
Down in her heart, and as the very outcome of lip and brain she
wanted to say, You needn't 'mother' me, you murderous rascals! but,
remembering everything that was at stake, she crushed her wrath and
buttoned it in as closely as she had Uncle John behind the door in the
morning, and again, with swift gentleness, laid her hand on his arm.
He turned and looked at her. Vexed at her persistence, and extremely
annoyed at intelligence that had just reached him from the North
Bridge, he said, imperiously, Get away! or you'll be trodden down by
I can't go! she cried, clasping his arm, and fairly
clinging to it in her frenzy of excitement. Oh, stop the fire, quick,
quick! or my house will burn!
I have no time to put out your fires, he said, carelessly, shaking
loose from her hold and turning to meet a messenger with news.
Poor little woman! What could she do? The wind was rising, and the
fire grew. Flame was creeping out in a little blue curl in a new place,
under the rafter's edge, and nobody cared. That was what
increased the pressing misery of it all. It was so unlike a common
country alarm, where everybody rushed up and down the streets, crying
Fire! fire! f-i-r-e! and went hurrying to and fro for pails of water
to help put it out.
Until that moment the little woman did not know how utterly deserted
In very despair, she ran to her house, seized two pails, filled them
with greater haste than she had ever drawn water before, and,
regardless of Uncle John's imprecations, carried them forth, one in
either hand, the water dripping carelessly down the side breadths of
her fair silk gown, her silvery curls tossed and tumbled in white
confusion, her pleasant face aflame with eagerness, and her clear eyes
suffused with tears.
Thus equipped with facts and feeling, she once more appeared to
Have you a mother in old England? she cried. If so, for her sake,
stop this fire.
Her words touched his heart.
And if I do? he answered.
Then your johnny-cake on my hearth won't burn up, she said,
with a quick little smile, adjusting her cap.
Major Pitcairn laughed, and two soldiers, at his command, seized the
pails and made haste to the court-house, followed by many more.
For awhile the fire seemed victorious, but, by brave effort, it was
finally overcome, and the court-house saved.
At a distance Joe Devins had noticed the smoke hovering like a
little cloud, then sailing away still more like a cloud over the town;
and he had made haste to the scene, arriving in time to venture on the
roof, and do good service there.
After the fire was extinguished, he thought of Martha Moulton, and
he could not help feeling a bit guilty at the consciousness that he had
gone off and left her alone.
Going to the house he found her entertaining the king's troopers
with the best food her humble store afforded.
She was so charmed with herself, and so utterly well pleased with
the success of her pleading, that the little woman's nerves fairly
quivered with jubilation; and best of all, the blue stocking was still
safe in the well, for had she not watched with her own eyes every time
the bucket was dipped to fetch up water for the fire, having, somehow,
got rid of the vow she had taken regarding the drawing of the water.
As she saw the lad looking, with surprised countenance, into the
room where the feast was going on, a fear crept up her own face and
darted out from her eyes. It was, lest Joe Devins should spoil it all
by ill-timed words.
She made haste to meet him, basket in hand.
Here, Joe, she said, fetch me some small wood, there's a good
As she gave him the basket she was just in time to stop the
rejoinder that was issuing from his lips.
In time to intercept his return she was at the wood-pile.
Joe, she said, half-abashed before the truth that shone in the
boy's eyesJoe, she repeated, you know Major Pitcairn ordered the
fire put out, to please me, because I begged him so, and, in
return, what can I do but give them something to eat? Come and
I won't, responded he. Their hands are red with blood. They've
killed two men at the bridge.
Who's killed? she asked, trembling, but Joe would not tell her. He
demanded to know what had been done with Uncle John.
He's quiet enough, up-stairs, she replied, with a sudden spasm of
feeling that she had neglected Uncle John shamefully; still,
with the day, and the fire and everything, how could she help it? but,
really, it did seem strange that he made no noise, with a hundred armed
men coming and going through the house.
At least, that was what Joe thought, and, having deposited the
basket of wood on the threshold of the kitchen door, he departed around
the corner of the house. Presently he had climbed a pear tree, dropped
from one of its overhanging branches on the lean-to, raised a sash and
crept into the window.
Slipping off his shoes, heavy with spring mud, he proceeded to
search for Uncle John. He was not in his own room; he was not in the
guest-chamber; he was not in any one of the rooms.
On the floor, by the window in the hall, looking out upon the green,
he found the broken cup and saucer that Martha Moulton had let fall.
Having made a second round, in which he investigated every closet and
penetrated into the spaces under beds, Joe thought of the garret.
Tramp, tramp went the heavy feet on the sanded floors below,
drowning every possible sound from above; nevertheless, as the lad
opened the door leading into the garret, he whispered cautiously:
Uncle John! Uncle John!
All was silent above. Joe went up, and was startled by a groan. He
had to stand a few seconds, to let the darkness grow into light, ere he
could see; and, when he could discern outlines in the dimness, there
was given to him the picture of Uncle John, lying helpless amid and
upon the nubbins that had been piled over his strong box.
Why, Uncle John, are you dead? asked Joe, climbing over to his
Is the house afire? was the response.
House afire? No! The confounded Red Coats up and put it out.
I thought they was going to let me burn to death up here! groaned
Can I help you up? and Joe proffered two strong hands, rather
black with toil and smoke.
No, no! You can't help me. If the house isn't afire, I'll stand it
till the fellows are gone, and then, Joe, you fetch the doctor as quick
as you can.
You can't get a doctor for love nor money this night, Uncle
John. There's too much work to be done in Lexington and Concord
to-night for wounded and dying men; and there'll be more of 'em too
afore a single Red Coat sees Boston again. They'll be hunted down every
step of the way. They've killed Captain Davis, from Acton.
You don't say so!
Yes, they have, and
I say, Joe Devins, go down and dodo something. There's my
niece a-feeding the murderers! I'll disown her. She shan't have a
penny of my pounds, she shan't!
Both Joe and Uncle John were compelled to remain in inaction, while
below, the weary little woman acted the kind hostess to His Majesty's
But now the feast was spent, and the soldiers were summoned to begin
their painful march. Assembled on the green, all was ready, when Major
Pitcairn, remembering the little woman who had ministered to his wants,
returned to the house to say farewell.
'Twas but a step to her door, and but a moment since he had left it,
but he found her crying; crying with joy, in the very chair where he
had found her at prayers in the morning.
I would like to say good-by, he said; you've been very kind to me
With a quick dash or two of the dotted white apron (spotless no
longer) to her eye, she arose. Major Pitcairn extended his hand, but
she folded her own closely together, and said:
I wish you a pleasant journey back to Boston, sir.
Will you not shake hands with me before I go?
I can feed the enemy of my country, but shake hands with him,
For the first time that day the little woman's love of country
seemed to rise triumphant within her, and drown every impulse to
selfishness; or, was it the nearness to safety that she felt? Human
conduct is the result of so many motives that it is sometimes
impossible to name the compound, although on that occasion Martha
Moulton labelled it Patriotism.
And yet I put out the fire for you, he said.
For your mother's sake, in old England, it was, you remember, sir.
I remember, said Major Pitcairn, with a sigh, as he turned away.
And for her sake I will shake hands with you, said Martha
So he turned back, and, across the threshold, in presence of the
waiting troops, the commander of the expedition to Concord and the only
woman in the town shook hands at parting.
Martha Moulton saw Major Pitcairn mount his horse; heard the order
given for the march to beginthe march of which you all have heard.
You know what a sorry time the Red Coats had of it in getting back to
Boston; how they were fought at every inch of the way, and waylaid from
behind every convenient tree-trunk, and shot at from tree-tops, and
aimed at from upper windows, and besieged from behind stone walls, and,
in short, made so miserable and harassed and overworn, that at last
their depleted ranks, with the tongues of the men parched and hanging,
were fain to lie down by the road-side and take what came next, even
though it might be death. And then the dead they left behind
Ah! there's nothing wholesome to mind or body about war, until long,
long after it is over and the earth has had time to hide the blood, and
send forth its sweet blooms of Liberty.
The men of that day are long dead. The same soil holds regulars and
minute-men. England, which over-ruled, and the provinces, that put out
brave hands to seize their rights, are good friends to-day, and have
shaken hands over many a threshold of hearty thought and kind deed
since that time.
The tree of Liberty grows yet, stately and fair, for the men of the
Revolution planted it well, and surely, God himself hath given
it increase. So we gather to-day, in this our story, a forget-me-not
more, from the old town of Concord.
When the troops had marched away, the weary little woman laid aside
her silken gown, resumed her homespun dress, and immediately began to
think of getting Uncle John down-stairs again into his easy chair; but
it required more aid than she could give, to lift the fallen man. At
last, Joe Devins summoned returning neighbors, who came to the rescue,
and the poor nubbins were left to the rats once more.
Joe climbed down the well and rescued the blue stocking, with its
treasures unharmed, even to the precious watch, which watch was Martha
Moulton's chief treasure, and one of the very few in the town.
Martha Moulton was the heroine of the day. The house was besieged by
admiring men and women that night and for two or three days thereafter;
but when, years later, she being older, and poorer, even to want,
petitioned the General Court for a reward for the service she rendered
in persuading Major Pitcairn to save the court-house from burning,
there was granted to her only fifteen dollars, a poor little grant, it
is true, but just enough to carry her story down the years,
whereas, but for that, it might never have been wafted up and down the
land, on the wings of this story.
A WINDHAM LAMB IN BOSTON TOWN.
It was one hundred and one years ago in this very month of June,
that nine men of the old town of Windhamwhich lies near the northeast
corner of Connecticutmet at the meeting-house door. There was no
service that day; the doors were shut, and the bell in the steeple gave
The town of Windham had appointed the nine men a committee to ask
the inhabitants to give from their flocks of sheep as many as they
could for the hungry men and women of Boston. Each man of the committee
was told at the meeting-house door the district in which he was to
On his stout grey pony sat Ebenezer Devotion. As soon as he heard
the eastern portion of the town assigned to him, he gave the signal to
his horse, and in five minutes was out of sight over the high hill. In
ten minutes he was near the famous Frog pond. As he was passing it by,
a voice from the marsh along its bank cried out:
Where now, so fast, this fine morning, Mr. Devotion?
The same to you, Goodwife Elderkin. I know your voice, though I
can't see your face.
Presently a hand parted the thicket and a woman's face appeared.
I'm getting flag-root. It gives a twang to root beer that nothing
else will, and the flag hereabout is the twangiest I know of. Stop at
the house as you go along and get some beer, won't you? Mary Ann's to
Thank you, said Mr. Devotion, with a stiff bow. It's a little
early for beer this morning. I'll stop as I come this way again. How
are your sheep and lambs this year?
First rate. Never better.
Have you any to part with?
Who wants to buy? and Goodwife Elderkin came out from the thicket
to the road-side, eager for gain.
We don't sell sheep in Windham this year, said Mr. Devotion.
Why, what's the matter with the man? thought Mrs. Elderkin, for
Ebenezer Devotion liked to drive a good bargain as well as any one of
his neighbors. Before she had time to give expression to her surprise,
he said with a sharp inclination of his head toward the sun, We've
neighbors over yonder, good and true, who wouldn't sell sheep if we
were shut in by ships of war, and hungry, too.
What! any news from Boston town?
It's twenty-four days, to-day, since the port was shut up.
Goodwife Elderkin laughed. Ebenezer Devotion looked grim enough to
smother every bit of laughter in New England.
'Pears as if king and Parliament really believed that tea was cast
away by the men of Boston, now don't it? 'stead of every man, woman and
child in the country havin' a hand in it, said Mrs. Elderkin.
About the sheep! replied Mr. Devotion, jerking up his horse's head
from the sweet, pure grass, greening all the road-side.
Let your pony feed while he can, she replied. What about the
How many will you give?
How many are you going to give yourself?
Twice as many as you will.
Do you mean it?
Then I'll give every sheep I own.
And how many is that?
A couple of dozen or so.
Better keep some of them for another time.
Mrs. Elderkin laughed again. I'll say half a dozen then, if a dozen
is all you want to give yourself.
Ebenezer Devotion drew from his wallet a slip of paper and headed
his list of names with Six sheep, from Goodwife Elderkin.
Thank you in the name of God Almighty and the country, he said,
solemnly, as he jerked his pony's head from the grass and rode on.
Mrs. Elderkin watched him as he wound along the pond-side and was
lost to sight; then she, chuckling forth the words, I knew well enough
my sheep were safe, went back to the marsh after flag-root.
When every neighbor feels it a duty to carry intelligence from the
last speaker he has met to the next hearer he may meet, news flies
fast, so Goodwife Elderkin was prepared for the accost of Mr. Devotion.
She did not linger long in the swamp, but, washing her hands free from
mud in the water of the pond, walked swiftly home. By the time she
reached her house, the gray pony and his rider were two miles away on
the road to Canterbury. The cry of hunger and possible starvation in
the town of Boston was spreading from village to village and from house
Do you know how Boston is situated? It would be an island but for
the narrow neck of land on the south side. On the east, west and north
are the waters of Massachusetts Bay and Charles River. Just north from
it, and divided only by the same river, is another almost island, with
its neck stretched toward the north; and this latter place is
Charlestown and contains Bunker's Hill. Not far from the two towns, in
the bay, are many islands. Noddle's Island, Hog, Snake, Deer, Apple,
Bird and Spectacle Islands are of the number. On these islands were
many sheep and cattle, likewise hay and wood, all of which the
inhabitants of Boston needed for daily use, but by the Boston port
bill, which went into operation on the first day of June, no person was
permitted to land anything at either Boston or Charlestown; and so the
neck of Charlestown reached out to the north for food and help, and the
neck of Boston pleaded with the south for sustenance, and it was in
answer to this cry that our nine men of Windham went sheep-gathering.
The work went on for four days, and at the end of that time 257
sheep had been freely given. The owners drove them, on the evening of
the 27th day of the month, to the appointed place, and, very early in
the morning of the 28th, many of the inhabitants were come together to
see the flock start on its long march. Two men and two boys went with
the gift. Good wife Elderkin was early on the highway. She wanted to
make certain just how many sheep bore the mark of Ebenezer Devotion's
ownership; but the driven sheep went past too quickly for her, and she
never had the satisfaction of finding out how many he gave. Following
the flock up the hill, she saw in the distance a sight that made her
heart beat fast. On the stone wall, under a great tree, sat Mary
Robbins, a little girl. She was dressed in a pink calico frock, and she
was holding in her arms a snow-white lamb, around whose neck she had
tied a strip of the calico of which her own gown was fashioned.
Now if I ever saw the beat of that! cried Good wife Elderkin,
walking almost at a run up the hill, and so coming to the place where
the child sat, before the sheep got there.
Mary Robbins! she cried, breathless from her haste. What have you
got that lamb for?
Mary blushed under her little sun-bonnet, hugged the lamb, and said
not a word. At the moment up came the flock, panting and warm. Down
sprang Mary Robbins from the wall, the lamb in her arms. Johnny
Manning, aged fifteen years, was one of the two lads in care of the
sheep. To him Mary ran, saying:
Johnny, Johnny, won't you take my lamb, too?
Why, for some poor little girl in the town where there isn't
anything to eat, urged Mary, her sun-bonnet falling unheeded into the
dust, as she held up her offering to the cause of liberty.
Why, it can't walk to Boston, said the boy, running back to
recover a stray sheep.
You can carry it in your arms, she urged.
Give it to me, then.
She gave it, saying:
Be good to it, Johnny, and give him some milk to drink to-night. It
don't eat much grass, yet.
And so Johnny Manning marched away, over and down and out of sight,
with Mary's lamb in his arms. As for Mary herself, little woman that
she was, having made her sacrifice, she would have dropped on the
grass, after picking up her sun-bonnet, and had a good cry over her
loss, had it not been for Goodwife Elderkin standing there in the road,
waiting for her.
With a sharp look at the child, the woman left the highway to go to
her own house, and Mary went home, hoping that no one would ask her
about the lamb.
The flock of sheep marched until the noontide, when a halt was
ordered. After that they went onward over hill and river, with rest at
night and at noon, until the town of Roxbury was reached. At this place
the sheep were left to be taken to Boston, when opportunity could be
With Mary's lamb in his arms, Johnny Manning accompanied the
messenger who went up Boston Neck to carry a letter to the Selectmen
of the Town. That letter has been preserved and is carefully kept
among the treasured documents of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
It is too long to be given here, but, after begging Boston to suffer
and be strong, remembering what had been done for the country by its
founders, it closes in these words: We know you suffer, and feel for
you. As a testimony of our commiseration of your misfortunes, we have
procured a small flock of sheep, which at this season are not so good
as we could wish, but are the best we had. This small present,
gentlemen, we beg you would accept and apply to the relief of those
honest, industrious poor, who are most oppressed by the late oppressive
Then, after a promise of future help in case of need, the letter is
signed by Samuel Grey, Ebenezer Devotion, and seven other names, ending
with that of Hezekiah Manning.
[Illustration: Give me the lamb, and I'll feed three hungry little
girls every day as long as Boston is shut up.]
A British officer, seeing the lamb in Johnny's arms, offered to buy
it, bribing him with a bit of gold; but Johnny said there wasn't any
gold in the land that he would exchange it for, and so the lamb
reached Boston in safety before the sheep got there. As Johnny walked
along the streets he was busy looking out for some poor little girl to
give it to, according to Mary's request.
I must wait, he thought, until I find some one who is almost
On the Common side he met a little girl who cried Oh! see! see! A
lamb! A live lamb in Boston Town!
The child's eyes rested on the little white creature, which accosted
her with a plaintive bleat. Johnny Manning's eyes were riveted on the
little girl. What he thought, he never said. Do you want it? he
O yes! yes! Where did you get it?
I've brought it from Roxbury in my arms. Mary Robbins gave it, in
Windham, for some poor little girl who was hungry in Boston. Are you
No, said the child, hesitatingly.
Are you poor?
My father isa sudden thought stopped the words she was about to
speak. Give me the lamb, she said, and I'll feed three hungry little
girls every day as long as Boston is shut up. I will! I will! and
Mary's lamb shall live until I'm a hungry little girl myself, and I
will keep it until I am starved clear almost to death.
Johnny put Mary's little lamb on the walk. See if it will follow
you, he said.
Come lamb! lamb! come with Catharine, and it went bleating after
her along the Common side.
It's used to a girl, ejaculated the boy, and it hasn't been a bit
happy with me. Give it grass and milk, he called after Catharine, who
turned and bowed her head.
A pretty story I shall have to tell Mary Robbins, thought Johnny.
Here I have given her lamb to be kept and coddled, and it's likely
never eaten at allbut I know that little girl will keep her word. She
looks itand she said she would feed three little girls as long as
Boston is shut up, and that is more than the lamb could do. I must
recollect the very words, to tell Mary.
When the Boston Gazette of July 4th, 1774, reached the
village of Windham, its inhabitants were surprised at the following
announcement, more particularly as not one of them knew where the
last sheep came from:
Last week, were driven to the neighboring town of Roxbury two
hundred and fifty-eight sheep, a generous contribution of our
sympathizing brethren of the town of Windham, in the colony of
Connecticut; to be distributed for the employment or relief of
those who may be sufferers by means of the act of Parliament,
called the Boston Port Bill.
Johnny Manning, when he returned to Windham, privately explained the
matter to Mary Robbins, by telling her that when the sheep were
numbered at Roxbury he counted in her lamb.
HOW ONE BOY HELPED THE BRITISH TROOPS
OUT OF BOSTON IN 1776.
It was Commander-in-chief Washington's birthday, and it was Jeremy
General Washington was forty-four years old that birthday, a hundred
years ago. Jeremy Jagger was fourteen, and early in the morning of the
22d of February, 1776, the General and the lad were looking upon the
same bit of country, but from different positions. General George
Washington was reviewing his precious little army for the thousandth
time; the lad Jeremy was looking from a hill upon the camp at
Cambridge, and from thence across the River Charles over into Boston,
which city had, for many months, been held by the British soldiers.
At last Jeremy exclaimed: I say, it's too chestnut-bur bad; it is.
Did you step on one? questioned a tall, hard-handed, earnest-faced
man, who at the instant had come up to the stone-wall on which Jeremy
stood, surveying the camp and its surroundings.
No, I didn't, retorted the lad; but I wish Boston was paved
all over with chestnut-burs, and that every pesky British officer in it
had to walk barefoot from end to end fourteen times a day, I do; and
the fourteenth time I'd order two or three Colony generals to take a
turn with 'em. General Gates for one.
Come along, Jeremy, called his companion, who had strode across
the wall and gone on, regardless of the boy's words.
When Jeremy had ended his expressed wishes, he gathered up his
hatchet, dinner-basket, and coil of stout cord, and plunged through the
snow after his leader.
When he had overtaken him, the impulsive lad's heart burst out at
the lips with the words: We could take Boston now, just
as easy as anythingwithout wasting a jot of powder either. Skip
across the ice, don't you see, and be right in there before daylight. A
big army lying still for months and months, and just doing nothing but
wait for folks in Boston to starve out! I say it's shameful;
now, too, when the ice has come that General Washington has been
waiting all winter for.
You won't help your country one bit by scolding about it, Jeremy.
You'd better save your strength for cutting willow-rods to-day.
I'd cut like a hurricane if the rods were only going to whip the
enemy with. But just for sixpence a daypshaw! I say, it don't pay.
Look here, lad, can you keep a secret?
Trust me for that, returned Jeremy. Turning suddenly upon his
questioner, he faced him to listen to a supposed bit of information.
Then why on earth are you talking to me in that manner,
boy? questioned the man.
Why you know all about it, just as well as I do; and a
fellow must speak out in the woods or somewhere. Why, I
get so mad and hot sometimes that it seems as if every thought in me
would burn right out on my face, when I think about my poor mother over
there, pointing backward to the three-hilled city.
The two were standing at the moment midway of a corn-field. The
February wind was lifting and rustling and shaking rudely the withered
corn-stalks, with their dried leaves. To the northward lay the
Cambridge camp, across the Charles River. To the south and east, just
over Muddy River and Stony Brook, lay the right wing of the American
Army, with here a fort and there a redoubt stretching at intervals all
the distance between the camp at Cambridge and Dorchester Neck, on the
southeast side of Boston. Behind them, to the westward, lay Cedar
Swamp, while not more than half a mile to the front there was a
four-gun battery and Brookline Fort, on the Charles, near by.
While Jeremy Jagger was pouring forth his words with vociferous
violence, the man by his side glanced eagerly about the wide field;
but, satisfying himself that no one was within hearing, he said,
resting his hatchet on the lad's shoulder while speaking: See here, my
boy. The brave man never boasts of his bravery nor the trustworthy man
of his trustworthiness. How you learned what you know of the plans of
General Washington I do not care to ask; but to-day and all days keep
quiet and show yourself worthy of being trusted.
I'll try as hard as I can, promised Jeremy.
No one can have tried his best without accomplishing something that
it was grand to do, though not always just what he was trying to
do, responded the man, glancing kindly down upon the fresh, eager lad,
tramping through the snow, at his side. Don't forget. 'Silence is
golden,' in war always. Not a word, mind, when you get home, about the
work of to-day.
They were come now to a spot where the marsh seemed to be filled
with sounds of wood-cutting. As they plunged into Cedar Swamp, the
sounds grew nearer and multiplied. It was like the rapid firing of
Running through the swamp there was a trout-brook, that bore along
its borders a dense growth of water-willows.
And now they advanced within sight of at least two hundred men and
boys, every one of whom worked away as though his life depended on
cutting a certain amount of willow-boughs in a given time.
What does it all mean? questioned Jeremy.
It means, replied his companion, work for your country to-day
with all your might and main.
But, pray tell me, persisted Jeremy, what under the sun the
things are for, anyway. They're good for nothing for fire-wood, green.
Mr. Wooster turned and looked at the lad and said: A good soldier
asks no questions and marches, without knowing whither. He also cuts,
without knowing for what. Now, to work! and, at the instant they
mingled with the workmen.
In less than a minute Jeremy's dinner-basket was swinging on a
willow-bough, his coat was hanging protectingly over it (you must
remember that it contained Jeremy Jagger's birthday cake), and the
lad's own arms were working away to the musical sounds of a hatchet
beating on a vast amount of whistle-stuff, until mid-day and hunger
arrived in company.
At the signal for noon Jeremy Jagger began his birthday feast. He
perched himself on a stout willow-branch, hanging the basket on a
conveniently growing peg at his right hand, and, by frequent
examination of the store within, was able to solace two or three lads,
less fortunate than himself, who were taking the mid-day rest,
refreshed by plain bread and cheese, seated on a branch, lower down on
the same tree.
It isn't every day that a fellow eats his birthday dinner in
the woods, he exclaimed, by way of apology for the dainties he tossed
down to them in the shape of sugar-cake and spice pie. Aunt Hannah
was pretty liberal with me this morning. I wonder if she knew anything,
for she said: 'I'd find plenty of squirrels to help eat it.' Where do
you live, anyway? he questioned, after he had fed them.
We live in Brookline, answered the elder.
Well, do you know what under the sun we are cutting such bundles of
fagots for to-day? he slyly questioned, being beyond the hearing of
the ears of his friend, and so safe from censure.
I asked father this morning, spoke up the younger lad (of not more
than nine years), and he told me he guessed General Washington was
going to take Boston on the ice, and every soldier was going to take a
bundle of fagots along, so as to keep from sinking if the ice broke
This bit of military news was received with shouts of laughter, that
echoed from tree to tree along the brook, and then the noon-day rest
was over. The wind began to blow in cooler and faster from the sea, and
busy hands were obliged to work fast to keep from stiffening under the
power of the growing frost.
When the new moon hung low in the west and the sun was gone, the
brookside, the cart-path, even the swamp fell back into its accustomed
silence, for the workers, in groups of eight or ten, had from minute to
minute gone homeward, leaving huge piles of fagots near the log bridge.
Jeremy went early to bed that night. His right arm was weary and his
left arm ached; nevertheless, he went straightway to dreaming that both
arms were dragging his beloved mother forth from Boston.
At midnight his companion of the morning came and stood under his
chamber window, and tapped lightly with a bean-pole against the glass
to awaken him.
Jeremy heard the sound, but in his dream thought it was a gun fired
from one of the ships in the harbor at his mother, and himself, and
Jeremy, get up! said somebody, touching his shoulder.
Come, mother! ejaculated Jeremy, clutching at the air and uttering
the words under tremendous pressure.
Come yourself, lad, said somebody, shaking him a little roughly;
whereupon Jeremy awoke. Get up, Jeremy Jagger. Hitch the oxen to the
cart. Put on the hay-rigging. Stay, I must help you to do that; but
Jeremy rubbed his eyes, wondered what had become of his mother, and
how Mr. Wooster found his way into the house in the night, and lastly,
what was to be done. Furthermore, he dressed with speed, and awakened
the oxen by vigorous touches and moving words.
Get up! get up! he importuned, and work for your country, and may
be you won't be killed and eaten for your country when you are old.
The large, patient eyes of the oxen slowly opened into the night, and
after awhile the vigorous strokes and voiceful get ups of their
master had due effect.
Mr. Wooster helped to adjust the hay-rigging, and then the
large-wheeled cart rolled grindingly over the frozen ground of the
highway, until it turned into the path leading into the swamp, over
which the snow lay in unbroken surface. Jeremy Jagger's was but the
pioneer cart that night. A half-dozen rolled and tumbled and reeled
over the uneven surface behind him, to the log bridge. It was cold and
still. As the topmost fagot was tossed on the pile in his cart he drew
off a mitten, thrust his benumbed fingers between his parted lips, and
when he removed them said: I hope General Washington has had a better
birthday than mine.
I know one thing, my lad.
Jeremy turned quickly, for he did not recognize the voice. Even then
he could not discern the face; but he knew instantly that it was no
common person who had spoken. Nevertheless, with that sturdy,
good-as-anybody air that made the men of April 19th and June 17th fight
so gloriously, he demanded:
What do you know?
That General Washington would gladly change places with you
to-night, if you are the honest lad you seem to be.
Go and see him in his comfortable bed over there in Cambridge, was
Jeremy's response, uttered in the same breath with the word to his oxen
to move on. They moved on. The fagots reeled and swayed, the cart
rumbled over the logs of the bridge, and boy, oxen and cart were soon
lost to sight and hearing in the cedar thickets of the swamp.
Through the next two hours they toiled on, Jeremy on foot, and often
ready to lie down with the healthy sleep that would not leave its hold
on his weary brain.
It was day-dawn when the fagots had been duly delivered at the
appointed place and Jeremy reached home.
He had been cautiously bidden to see that the cart was not left
outside with its tell-tale rigging. He obeyed the injunction, shut the
oxen in, gave them double allowance of hay, and was startled by Aunt
Hannah's cheery call of: Jerry, my boy, come to breakfast.
Breakfast ready? said Jeremy.
Why, yes. I was up early this morning, and thought of you. And
that was the only allusion Aunt Hannah made to his night's work. He
longed to tell her and chat about it all at the table; but, remembering
his promise in the swamp, he said not a word.
Six nights out of seven Jeremy and his oxen worked all night and
slept nearly all day.
The brook in Cedar Swamp was robbed of its willows, and many another
bit of land and watercourse suffered in a like manner.
Then came the order to make the fagots into fascines. Two thousand
soldiers were got to work to effect this. Jeremy Jagger began to
understand what was going on behind the lines at Roxbury. He was the
happiest lad in existence during the ensuing days. He forgot to eat,
even, when the fascines were in making. Perceiving the manner in which
they were formed he volunteered to help, and soon found he could drive
the cross supports into the ground, lay the saplings upon them, and
even aid in twisting the green withes about them, as well as any
soldier of them all.
Bales of screwed hay began to appear in great numbers within the
lines, and empty barrels by the hundreds sprang up from somewhere.
And all this time, guess as every man might and didthe coming
event was known only to the commander-in-chief and to the six generals
forming the council of war.
Monday night, before sundown, Jeremy Jagger received an order. It
With oxen and cart (hay-rigging on), be at the Roxbury lines by
moon-rise to-night. Take a pocketful of gingerbread along.
With manly pride the boy set forth. He longed to put the note in his
aunt's hand ere he went; but she (long ago it seemed, though only a few
days had passed) seemed to take no note of his frequent absences. He
had scarcely gone a rod ere the cannon-balls began their march into
Boston from all the fortifications of the Americans; and in return from
Boston, flying north and south and west, came shot and shells.
Undaunted and excited by the mere possibility of being hit, Jeremy
went onward. When he arrived in Roxbury he found everybody and
everything astir. His cart was seized, filled with bundles of screwed
hay, and, ere he knew it, he was in line with two hundred and
ninety-nine other carts, marching forward to fortify Dorchester
Heights. Before him went twelve hundred troops, under the command of
General Thomas; before the troops trundled an unknown number of carts,
filled with intrenching tools; before the tools were eight hundred men.
Not a word was spoken. In silence and with utmost care they trod the
way. At eight of the clock the covering party of eight hundred reached
the Height and dividedone-half going toward the point nearest Boston,
the other to the point nearest Castle William, on Castle Island, held
by the British.
Then the working party began their labor with enthusiasm unbounded,
wondering what the British general would think when he should behold
their work in the morning. They toiled in silence by the light of the
moon and the home music of 144 shot and 13 shell going into Boston, and
unnumbered shot and shell coming out of Boston. Gridley, whose quick
night work at Breed's Hill on the sixteenth of June had startled the
world, headed the intrenching party as engineer.
Poor Jeremy was not allowed to go farther than Dorchester Neck with
his first load. The bundles of hay were tumbled out and laid in line,
to protect the supplying party, in case the work going on on the hill
beyond should be found out.
The next time, to his extreme delight, he found that fascines were
to go in his cart. When he reached Dorchester Height quick work was
made of unloading his freight, and, without a word spoken, he was
ordered back with a move of the hand.
Four times the lad and the oxen went up Dorchester Hill that night.
The fourth time, as no order was given to return, Jeremy thought he
might as well stay and see the battle that would begin with the dawn.
He left the oxen behind an embankment with a big bundle of hay to
the front of them; and after five minutes devoted to gingerbread he
went to work. Morning would come long before they were ready to have it
unveil the growing forts to the eyes of Admiral Shuldham, with his
ships of war lying in the harbor; or to the sentinels at Castle
William, on Castle Island, to the right of them; or to General Howe,
with his vigilant thousands of Englishmen safe and snug in Boston, to
the north of them.
Jeremy was rolling barrels to the brow of the hill they were
fortifying, and tumbling into them with haste shovelful after shovelful
of good solid earth, that they might hit hard when rolled down on the
foe that should dare to mount the height, when a cautious voice at his
side uttered the one word Look! accompanied with a motion of the hand
toward Dorchester Neck.
In the moonlight, past the bales of hay, two thousand Americans were
filing in silent haste to the relief of the men who had toiled all
night to build forts they meant to defend on the morrow.
It was four o'clock in the morning when they came. Jeremy was tired
and sleepy too. His eyelids would drop over his eyes, shutting out
everything he so longed to keep in sight.
You've worked like a hero, said a kind voice to the lad. It will
be hot work here by sunriseno place for boys, when the battle
I can fight, stoutly persisted Jeremy, nodding as he spoke; and,
had anybody thought of the lad at all after that, he might have been
found in the ox-cart, carelessly strewn over with hay, taking a nap.
Meanwhile on came the morning. A friendly fog hung lovingly around
the new hills on the old hills, that the Yankees had built in a night.
Admiral Shuldham was called in haste from his bed by frightened men,
who wondered what had happened on Dorchester Height. Castle William
stood aghast with astonishment. Messengers went up the bay to tell the
army the news.
General Howe marched out to take a look through the fog at the old
familiar hills he had known so long, and didn't like the looks of the
new hats they wore. He wondered how in the world the thing had been
done without discovery; but there it was, larger a good deal than life,
seen through the fog, and he knew also why it was that the cannon had
been playing on Boston through the hours of three or four nights. He
was angry, astonished, perplexed. He had a little talk with Admiral
Shuldham; and they agreed to do something. Yes, they would walk
up and demand back the hills looking over into Boston. Transports came
hurrying to pier and wharf, and soldiers went bravely down and gave
themselves to the work of a short sea voyage.
Meanwhile Jeremy Jagger's nap was broken by a number of trenching
tools thrown carelessly over his back, as he lay asleep in his cart.
Halloo there! he shouted, striving to rise from the not very
comfortable blanket that dropped in twain to the left and the right, as
he shook off the tools and returned from the land of sleep to
Dorchester Heights and the 5th of March. He was just in time to hear a
voice like a clarion cry out: Remember it is the 5th of March, and
avenge the death of your brethren.
It was the very voice that had said in the swamp in the night that
General Washington would gladly change places with Jeremy Jagger. It
was the voice of General Washington animating the troops for the coming
Meanwhile a new and unexpected force arrived on the field of action.
It came in from seaa great and mighty wind, that tossed and tumbled
the transports to and fro on the waves and would not let them land
anywhere save at the place they came from. So they went peacefully back
to Boston, and the Liberty Men over on the hills went on all day and
all night, in the rain and the wind, building up, strengthening,
fortifying, in fact getting ready, as Jeremy told his aunt, when he
reached home on the morning of the sixth of March, for a visit from
King George and all his army.
The next day General Howe doubted and did little. The next and the
next went on and then on the morning of the 17th of March something new
had happened. There was one little hill, so near to Boston that it was
almost in it; and lo! in the night it had been visited by the
Americans, and a Liberty Cap perched above its head.
General Howe said: We must get away from here in haste.
Take us with you, said a thousand Royalists of the town; and he
took them, bag and baggage, to wander up and down the earth.
Over on Bunker Breed's Hill wooden sentinels did duty when the
British soldiers left and for full two hours after; and then two brave
Yankees guessed the men were wooden, and marched in to take possession
just nine months from the day they bade it good-by, because they had no
powder with which to tune their guns.
Over on Cambridge Common marched, impatient as ever, General Putnam,
with his four thousand followers, ready to cross the River Charles and
walk once more the city streets of the good old town. On all the hills
were gathered men, women and children to see the British troops depart.
Jeremy Jagger was up before the dawn on that sweetest of Sunday
mornings in March, and he reached the Roxbury lines just as General
Ward was ready to put his arms about Boston's Neck. The lad took his
place with the five hundred men and walked by Ensign Richards' side, as
he proudly bore the standard up to the gates, which Ebenezer Learned
unbarred and opened. Once within the lines, Jeremy, unmindful of the
crow's feet strewn over the way, made haste through lane and street to
his old home on Beacon Hill. Could that be his mother looking out at
him through the window-pane? he thought, as he drew near.
She saw him. She knew him. But what could it mean that she did not
open the door to let him in; that she waved him away? It could not be
that she, his own mother, had turned Tory, that her face was grown so
red and angry at the sight of her son.
Jeremy banged away at the door. There was no answer.
At last he heard the lifting of a sash, a head, muffled carefully,
appeared from the highest window in the house, and a voice (the lad
knew whose it was) said: Go, Jeremy! Go away out of Boston as fast as
you can. I'll come to you as soon as it is safe.
Why, mother, what's the matter? cried the boy.
Small pox! I've had it. Everybody has it. Go!
Good-by, cried Jeremy, running out of Boston as fast as any
British soldier of them all and a good deal more frightened. He burst
into Aunt Hannah's house with the news that he had been to Boston, that
the soldiers were all gone, that he had seen his mother, that she had
the small-pox and sent him off in a hurry.
Tut! tut! she cried. It's wicked to tell lies, Jeremy Jagger.
I'm not telling lies. Every word is true. Please give me something
But Aunt Hannah did not wait to give the lad food, nor even to speak
the prayer of thanksgiving that went like incense from her heart. She
went into the barn-yard and threw corn on the barn-floor, to which the
hens and turkeys made haste. Closing the door, she summoned Jeremy to
kill the largest and best of them.
That Sunday afternoon the brick oven glowed with fervent heat, the
white, fat offerings went in, and the golden-brown turkeys and chickens
came out; and as each, in turn, was pronounced done, Aunt Hannah
repeated the words: Hungry! hungry! hungry! Hungry all winter!
The big clothes-basket was full of lint for wounds that now never
should be made. Gladly she tossed out the fluffy mass, and packed
within it every dainty the house contained.
It was nearly sunset when Aunt Hannah and Jeremy started forth, with
the basket between them, to Mr. Wooster's house, hoping that he would
carry it in his wagon up to Boston. He was not at home.
Get out the cart, said Aunt Hannah to Jeremy, when they learned no
help was to be obtained. She sat by the roadside watching the basket
until the cart arrived.
I'm going with you, she said, after the basket was in; she climbed
to the seat beside the lad, and off they started for Boston.
It was dark when they reached the lines, and no passes granted, the
officers said, to go in that night.
But I've food for the hungry, said Aunt Hannah, in her sweetest
voice, from the darkness of the cart, and folks are hungry in the
night as well as in the day.
She deftly threw aside the cover from the basket and took out a
chicken, which she held forth to the man, saying: Take it. It's good.
He hesitated a moment, then seized it eagerly.
I know you, spoke up Jeremy, at this juncture. You went up the
Neck with us this morning. I saw you.
Then you are the boy who got first into Boston this morning, are
I believe I did, sir.
The oxen went on.
Now, Jeremy, down with you and wait here for me. You haven't had
small-pox, said Aunt Hannah.
But the oxen won't mind you, said Jeremy.
Aunt Hannah was troubled. She never had driven oxen.
At the moment who should appear but Mr. Wooster. He gladly offered
to take the basket and deliver it at Mrs. Jagger's door.
Don't go in, mind! Mother's had small-pox, called Jeremy, as he
I'm tired, gasped Aunt Hannah, who had done baking enough for a
small army that day, as she sat down to rest on the broad seat of the
cart, and the two started for home. The soldier at the gate scarcely
heeded them as they went out, for roasted chicken tasted so good.
I'm so glad the British are out of Boston, said Aunt Hannah, as
she touched home soil again and went wearily up the walk to the little
And so am I, said Jeremy to the oxen, as he turned them in for the
night; only if I'd had my way, they wouldn't have gone without one
good fair fight. You've done your duty, anyhow, he added, soothingly,
with a parting stroke to the honest laborer who went in last, and you
deserve well of your country, too, for like Gen. Washington, you have
served without hope of reward. The thing I like best about the man is
that he don't work for money. I don't want my sixpence a day for
cutting willows; andI won'ttake it. And he didn't take it,
consoling himself with the reflection that he would be like Gen.
Washington in one thing, anyhow.
PUSSY DEAN'S BEACON FIRE.
March 17, 1776.
A hundred years ago the winds of March were blowing.
To-day the same winds rush by the stone memorials and sweep across
the low mounds that securely cover the men and the women that then were
alive to chill blast and stirring event. Even the lads who gathered at
sound of drum and fife on village green, wishing, as they saw the
troopers march, that they were men, and the little girls who hung about
father's neck because he was going off to war, who watched the
post-riders on their course, wishing that they knew the news he
carried, are no longer with us.
For nearly two years Boston had been the lost town of the people. It
had been taken from the children by an unkind father and given to
strangers. You have been told how British ships came and closed her
harbor, so that food and raiment could not enter. You know how grandly
the younger sister towns behaved toward stately, hungry Boston; how
they marched up the narrow neck of land that holds back the town from
the sea, each and every one bearing gifts to the beloved town, until
there came the sad and fatal day wherein British military lines turned
back the tide of offerings and closed the gate of entrance.
Then it was that friends began to gather across the rivers that
wound their waters around Boston. Presently an army grew up and
stationed itself with leaders and banners and forts.
Summer came. The army waited through all the long warm days. The
summer went; the leaves fell; the chill winds and the cold sea-fogs
wound into and out of the poor little tents and struck the brave men
who, having no tents, tried to be strong and endure.
Every child knows, or ought to know, the story of that winter; how
day by day, all over New England, men were striving to gather firearms
and powder wherewith to take back from the foe poor Boston. But, alas,
there was not powder enough in all the land to do it.
The long, wearying winter had done its worst for the prisoned
inhabitants within the town; and, truly, it had tried and pinched the
waiting friends who stood at the gates.
At last, in March, in the night, the brave helpers climbed the
hills, built on them smaller hills, and by the light of the morning
were able to look over into the townat which the patriots were glad
and the British commander frightened.
A little after nine of the clock on Sunday morning, the 17th of
March, 1776, three Narragansett ponies stood before General
Washington's headquarters at Cambridge.
Go with all possible speed to Governor Trumbull, said Washington,
delivering despatches to a well-known and trusted messenger, who
instantly mounted one of the ponies in waitingSweeping Wind by
nameand rode away, with many a sharp and inquiring glance back at
city and river and camp.
It was four of the clock in the afternoon, and the messenger had not
paused since he set forth, longer than to give Sweeping Wind water to
drink, when, on the highway in the distance, he saw a red cloak
fluttering and flying before him.
It was Pussy Dean who wore the cloak. She was fifteen, fair and
lovely, brave and patriotic as any soldier in the land.
At first she was angry at the law by which she was denied a new
cloak that winter, made of English fabric, but when wrapped in the
coveted broadcloth of scarlet belonging to her mother she was more than
On this Sunday Pussy had been at the meeting-house on the hill, two
miles from home, at both morning and afternoon service, and afterward
had lingered a little to gather up bits of news from camp and town to
take home to her mother, and so it had happened that she was quite
alone on the highway.
Pussy chanced to look back to the summit of the hill down which she
had walked, and she saw the express coming.
Now, she thought, if I could only stop him! I wonder if I can't.
I'll try, and then, swinging her silken bag, I shall have news to
carry home, the very latest, too.
As she swung the bag she suddenly remembered that she had something
within it to offer the rider.
Of course I can, she went on saying to herself. Post-riders are
always hungry, and it's lucky for him that I didn't have to eat my
dinner myself, to-day. Now, if I only had a basketful of clover heads
or roses for that pony, I'd find out all about Boston while it was
The only roses within sight were blooming on Pussy Dean's two cheeks
as Sweeping Wind came clattering his shoes against the frozen ground.
He would have gone straight on had a scarlet cloak not been planted,
like a fluttering standard, full in his pathway.
The rider gave the pony the slightest possible check, since he felt
sure that no red-coated soldier lurked behind the red cloak.
Take something to eat, won't you? accosted Pussy, rather glowing
in feature and agitated in voice by her own daring.
Meanwhile the rider had given Sweeping Wind a second intimation to
stand, which he obeyed, and sniffed at Pussy's cloak and cheeks and
silken bag as she held it forth to the rider, saying naively, I went
to meeting and was invited to luncheon, and so didn't eat mine. She
spoke swiftly, as though she knew she must not detain him.
He answered with a smile and a Thank you, took the bag, and
rewarded her by saying, The British are getting out of Boston, bag and
And where are you going? demanded Pussy, determined not to go home
with but half the story if she could help it.
To Governor Trumbull with the good news and a demand for two
thousand men to save New York, he cried back, having gone on. His
words were entangled with a mouthful of gingerbread or mince-pie to
such an extent that it was a full minute before Pussy understood their
import, and then she could only say over and over to herself, as she
hastened on, Father will be here, father will come home, and we'll
have the good old times back again.
But notwithstanding her hope and a country's wish, the good old
times were not at hand.
Pussy reached home and told the story. Baby went down plump into the
wooden cradle at the first note of it, and set up a tune of rejoicing
in his own fashion which no one regarded. Brother Benjamin, aged
thirteen, whistled furiously, regardless of the honors of the day.
Sammy, who was ten, clapped his hands and knocked his heels together,
first in joy, and then began to fear lest the war should be over before
he grew big enough to be in it.
Mother, said Pussy, a few minutes later, let Benny come with me
to tell Mr. Gale about it; may he?
Pussy laid aside her Sunday bonnet, tied a straw hat over her ears
with a silk kerchief to keep out the wind, and in three minutes got
Benny into the highway.
See here, Ben, I'm going to light a fire on Baldhead to tell all
the folks together about it, and I want you to help me; quick, before
it gets dark.
You can't gather fagots, responded Ben.
Yes, she could, and would, and did, while Benny went to the house
nearest to Baldhead to ask for some fire in a kettle.
The two worked with such vigor and will that the first gathering of
darkness saw the light of the beacon-flame burst forth, and the great
March wind blew it into fiercest glow. Every eye that saw the fire
there knew that it had been kindled with a purpose, and many feet from
house and hamlet set forth to learn the cause.
While Pussy and Ben were yet adding fagots to the fire, they heard a
voice crying out: The young rascals shall be punished soundly for
this, and ere Pussy had time to explain or expostulate, a strong man
had Ben in his grasp.
Stop that, sir! cried the girl, rushing to the rescue with a
burning fagot that she had seized from the fire, and shaking it full in
the assailant's face.
By the light of it, the man saw Pussy and she saw him; and then both
began to laugh, while Ben rubbed his ears and wondered whether they
were both on his head.
It means, spoke the girl, waving the still flaming brand toward
the east, that the British left Boston this morning, and that
General(just here a dozen men were at the fire. Pussy raised her
voice and continued)Washington wants you all, every one of you, to
march straight to Governor Trumbull, and he'll tell you what to do
If that's the case, said the responsible man of the
constantly-increasing group after questioning Pussy, we'd better
summon the militia by the ringing of the bell, and off they went in
the direction of the village, while Pussy and Ben went home.
The next day saw fifty men, well armed, and provisioned for three
days, on the road to Lebanon. They marched into town and into the now
famous war-office of Governor Trumbull, to his pleased surprise.
Who sent you? asked the governor, for it was not yet six hours
since the demand on the nearest town had been made.
Who sent us? echoed the lieutenant, looking confused and at a loss
to explain, and finally answering truthfully, he said: It was a young
girl, your excellency. She lit a beacon fire on a hill and gave the
command that we report to you.
A laugh ran around the sides of the old war-office. The messenger
who had ridden from Cambridge sat upon the counter pressing his spurs
into the wood and heard it all.
And who commissioned the girl as a recruiting officer? questioned
I'm afraid, said the messenger, I am the guilty party. I met a
young patriot in scarlet cloak who asked my news, and, I told her.
Where is the girl's father? demanded Governor Trumbull.
He is with the army, at Cambridge, was the response.
And his name?
A scratch or two of the quill pen was heard on the open paper. It
was folded, sealed, and handed to the ready horseman, with the words:
Reuben Dean; he is mentioned for promotion.
The words, as they were spoken by Governor Trumbull, were caught up
and gathered into a mighty cheer, for every man of their number knew
that Reuben Dean was worthy of promotion, even had his daughter not
gained it for him by her services as recruiting officer.
DAVID BUSHNELL AND HIS AMERICAN
THE FIRST SUBMARINE BOAT INVENTED.
David! cried a voice stern and commanding, from a house-door one
morning, as the young man who owned the name was taking a short cut
across lots in the direction of Pautapoug.
Sir! cried the youth in response to the call, and pausing as
nearly as he could, and at the same time keep his feet from sinking
into the marshy soil.
Where are you going? was the response.
To Pautapoug, to see Uriah Hayden, sir.
You'd better hire out at ship-building with him. Your college
learning's of no earthly use in these days, said the father of David
Bushnell, returning from the door, and sinking slowly down into his
Then spoke up a sweet-voiced woman from the kitchen fire-side, where
she had that moment been hanging an iron pot on the crane:
Have a little patience, father (Mrs. Bushnell always called her
husband, father), David is only looking about to see what to do. It's
hardly four weeks since he was graduated.
True enough; but where can you find an idle man in all Saybrook
town? and you know as well as I do that it makes men despise
college-learning to see folks idle. I'd rather, for my part, David
did go to work on the ship Uriah Hayden is building. I wish I knew
what he's gone over there for to-day.
A funny smile crept into the curves of Mrs. Bushnell's lips, but her
husband did not notice it.
Mr. Bushnell moved uneasily in his chair, as he sat leaning forward,
both hands clasped about a hickory stick, and his chin resting on the
knob at its top. Presently he said:
Anna, I fear David is getting into bad habits. He used to talk a
good deal. Now he sits with his eyes on the floor, and his forehead in
wrinkles, and I'm sure I've heard him moving about more than one
night lately, after all honest folks were in bed.
Father, you must remember that you've been very sick, and fever
gives one queer notions sometimes. I shouldn't wonder one bit if you
dreamed you heard something, when 'twas only the rats behind the
Rats don't step like a grown man in his stocking-feet, nor make the
rafters creak, either.
Madam Bushnell appeared to be investigating the contents of the pot
hanging on the crane, and perhaps the heat of the blazing wood was
sufficient to account for the burning of her cheeks. She cooled them a
moment later by going down cellar after cider, a mug of which she
offered to her husband, proposing the while that he should have his
chair out of doors, and sit under the sycamore tree by the river-bank.
When he assented, and she had seen him safely in the chair, she made
haste to David's bed-room.
Since Mr. Bushnell's illness began, no one had ascended to the
chamber except herself and her son.
On two shelves hanging against the wall were the books that he had
brought home with him from Yale College, just four weeks ago.
A table was drawn near to the one window in the room. On it were
bits of wood, with iron scraps, fragments of glass and copper. In fact,
the same thing to-day would suggest boat-building to the mother of any
lad finding them among her boy's playthings. To this mother they
suggested nothing beyond the fact that David was engaged in something
which he wished to keep a profound secret.
He had not told her so. It had not been necessary. She had divined
it and kept silence, having all a mother's confidence in, and hope of,
her son's success in life.
As she surveyed the place, she thought:
There is nothing here, even if he (meaning her husband) should take
it into his head to come up and look about.
Meanwhile young David had crossed the Pochaug River, and was half
the way to Pautapoug.
All this happened more than a thousand moons ago, when all the land
was aroused and astir, and David Bushnell was not in the least
surprised to meet, at the ship-yard of Uriah Hayden, Jonathan Trumbull,
Governor of Connecticut.
This man was everywhere, seeing to everything, in that year.
Whatever his country needed, or Commander-in-chief Washington ordered
from the camp at Cambridge, was forthcoming.
A ship had been demanded of Connecticut, and so Governor Trumbull
had come down from Lebanon to look with his own eyes at the huge ribs
of oak, thereafter to sail the seas as The Oliver Cromwell.
The self-same oaken ribs had intense interest for young David
Bushnell. Uriah Hayden had promised to sell to him all the pieces of
ship-timber that should be left, and while the governor and the builder
planned, he went about gathering together fragments.
Better take enough to build a boat that will carry a seine. 'T
won't cost you a mite more, and might serve you a good turn to have a
sizable craft in a heavy sea some day, said Mr. Hayden.
Now David Bushnell had been wishing that he had some good and
sufficient reason to give Mr. Hayden for wanting the stuff at all, and
here he had given it to him.
That's true, spoke up David, but how am I to get all this over to
Don't get it over at all, until it's ready to row down the
Connecticut, and around the Sound. You're welcome to build your boat at
the yard, and, now and then, there will be odd minutes that the men can
help you on with it.
David thanked Mr. Hayden, grew cheerful of heart over the prospect
of owning a boat of his own, and went merrily back to the village of
Two weeks later David's boat was ready for sea. It was launched into
the Connecticut from the ways on which the Oliver Cromwell grew, was
named Lady Fenwick, and, when water-tight, was rowed down the river,
past Saybrook and Tomb Hill, and so into the Long Island Sound.
When its owner and navigator went by Tomb Hill, he removed his hat,
and bowed reverently. He thought with respect and admiration of the
occupant of the sandstone tomb on its height, the Lady Fenwick who had
slept there one hundred and thirty years.
With blistered palms and burning fingers David Bushnell pushed his
boat with pride up the Pochaug River, and tied it to a stake at the
bridge just beyond the sycamore tree, near his father's door.
I'll fetch father and mother out to see it, he thought, when the
moon gets up a little higher.
With boyish pride he looked down at the work of his hands from the
river-bank, and went in to get his supper.
David! called Mr. Bushnell, having heard his steps in the
Here I am, father, returned the young man, appearing within the
room, and speaking in a cheerful tone.
Don't you think you have wasted about time enough?
The voice was high-wrought and nervous in the extreme. He, poor man,
had been that afternoon thinking the matter over in a convalescent's
weak manner of looking upon the act of another man.
David Bushnell, smiling still, and taking out a large silver watch
from his waistcoat pocket, and looking at it, replied:
I haven't wasted one moment, father. The tide was against me, but
I've rowed around from Pautapoug ship-yard to the sycamore tree out
here since two o'clock.
You row a boat! cried Mr. Bushnell, with lofty disdain.
Why, father, you have not a very good opinion of your son, have
you? questioned the son. Come, though, and see what he has been
doing. Come, mother, as Mrs. Bushnell entered, bearing David's supper
in her hands.
She put it down. Mr. Bushnell pulled himself upright with a groan or
two, and suffered David to assist him by the support of his arm as they
Why, you tremble as though you had the palsy, said the father.
It's nothing. I'm not used to pulling so long at the oar, said the
When they came to the bank, the full moon shone athwart the little
boat rocking on the stream.
What's that? exclaimed both parents.
That is the Lady Fenwick. I've been building the boat myself. You
advised me, father, to go to ship-building one morningdo you
remember? I took your advice, and began at the bottom of the ladder.
You built that boat with your own hands, you say?
With my own hands, sir.
In two weeks' time?
And rowed it all the way down the river, and up the Pochaug?
Good boy! You may go in and have your supper, said Mr. Bushnell,
patting him on the back, just as he had done when he returned from
college with his first award.
As for Madam Bushnell, she smiled down upon Lady Fenwick and did her
great reverence in her heart, while she said to the boat-builder:
David, dear, wait a few minutes, and I'll give you something nice
and warm for your supper. Your father, Ezra and I had ours long ago.
That night Mr. Bushnell did not lie awake to listen for the stealthy
stepping in the upper room. He slept all the sounder, because he had at
last seen one stroke of honest work, as he called it, as the result of
his endeavors to help David on in life.
As for David himself, he went to sleep, saying in his heart: It is
a good stepping-stone at least; which conclusion grew into form in
sleep, and shaped itself into a mighty monster, that bored itself under
mountains, and, after taking a nap, roused and shook itself so mightily
that the mountain flew into fragments high in air.
If you go, to-day, into the Connecticut River from Long Island
Sound, you will see on its left bank the old town of Saybrook, on its
right the slightly younger town of Lyme, and you will have passed by,
without having been very much interested in it, an island lying just
within the shelter of either bank.
In the summer of 1774 a band of fishermen put up a reel upon the
island, on which to wind their seine. Over the reel they built a roof
to protect it from the rains. With the exception of the reel, there was
no building upon the island. A large portion of the land was submerged
at the highest tides, and in the spring freshets, and was covered with
a generous growth of salt grass, in which a small army might readily
The little fishing band was now sadly broken and lessened by one of
the Washingtonian demands upon Brother Jonathan. For reasons that he
did not choose to give, David Bushnell joined this band of fishermen in
the summer of 1775. Gradually he made himself, by purchase, the owner
of the larger part of the reel and seine. In a few weeks' time he had
induced his brother Ezra to become as much of a fisherman as he himself
As the days went by, the brothers fairly haunted this island. They
gave it a name for their own use, and, early in the day-dawn of many a
morning, they pulled the Lady Fenwick wearily up the Pochaug, to snatch
a few winks of sleep at home, before the sun should fairly rise and
call them to their daily tasks, for David assumed to help Ezra on the
farm, even as Ezra helped him on the island.
The two brothers owned the reel and the seine before the end of the
month of August in 1775. As soon as they became the sole owners, they
procured lumber and enclosed the reel, and very seldom took down the
seine from its great round perch; they used it just often enough to
allay any suspicion as to their real object in becoming owners of the
About that time a story grew into general belief that the tomb of
Lady Fenwick was haunted. Boatmen, passing in the stillness of the
solemn night hours, asserted that they heard strange noises issuing
from the hill, just where the lady slept in her lonely burial-place.
The sounds seemed to emerge from the earth, and timid men passed up the
river with every inch of sail set to catch the breeze, lest the solemn
thud should sound, that a hundred persons were willing to testify had
been heard by each and every one of them, at some hour of the night,
coming from the tomb.
One evening in late September, the two brothers started forth as
usual, nominally to go fishing. As they stepped down the bank, Mr.
Bushnell followed them.
Boys, said he, it's an uncommon fine night on the water. I
believe I'll take a seat in your boat, with your permission. I used to
like fishing myself when I was young and spry.
And leave mother alone! objected David.
She's been out with me many a night on the Sound. She's brave, and
won't mind a good south-west wind, such as I dare say breaks in on the
shore this minute. Go and call her.
And so the family started forth to go fishing.
This was a night the two brothers had been looking forward to during
weeks of earnest labor, and nowwell, it could not be helped, and
there was not a moment in which to hold counsel.
Mr. Bushnell had planned this surprise early in the day, but had not
told his wife until evening. Then he announced his determination to
learn what all these midnight and all-night absences did mean.
As the Lady Fenwick came out from the Pochaug River into the Sound,
the south-west wind brought crested waves to shore. The wind was
increasing, and, to the great relief of David and Ezra, Mr. Bushnell
gave the order to turn back into the river.
The next day David Bushnell asked his mother whether or not she knew
the reason his father had proposed to go out with them the night
Yes, David, was the reply, I do.
Will you tell me?
He does not believe that you and Ezra go fishing at all.
What do you believe about it, mother?
I believe in you, David, and that when you have anything to
tell to me, I shall be glad to listen.
And father does not trust me yet; I am sorry, said David, turning
away. And then, as by a sudden impulse, he returned and said:
If you can trust me so entirely, mother, we can trust
you. To-day, two gentlemen will be here. You will please be ready
to go out in the boat with us whenever they come.
To my fishing ground, mother.
The strangers arrived, and were presented to Mrs. Bushnell as Dr.
Gale and his friend, Mr. Franklin.
At three of the clock the little family set off in the row-boat.
Down at Pochaug harbor, there was Mr. Bushnell hallooing to them to be
taken on board.
I saw my family starting on an unknown voyage, he remarked, as the
boat approached the shore as nearly as it could, while he waded out to
Ah, Friend Gale, is that you? he said, as with dripping feet he
stepped in. And whither bound? he added, dropping into a seat.
For the far and distant land of the unknown, Mr. Bushnell. Permit
me to introduce you to my friend, Mr. Franklin.
Franklin! Franklin! exclaimed Mr. Bushnell, eyeing the stranger a
little rudely. Doctor Benjamin Franklin, if you please,
Benjamin Gale! he corrected, to the utter amazement of the party.
The oars missed the stroke, caught it again, and, for a minute, poor
Dr. Franklin was confused by the sudden announcement that he existed at
all, and, in particular, in that small boat on the sea.
Yes, sir, even so, responded Dr. Gale, cheerfully adding, and
we're going down to see the new fishing tackle your son is going to
catch the enemy's ships with.
Fishing tackle! Enemy's ships! Why, David is the laziest man
in all Saybrook town. He does nothing with his first summer but fish,
fish all night long! The only stroke of honest work I've ever
known him to do was to build this boat we're in.
During this time the brothers were pulling with a will for the
Arrived there, the boat was drawn up on the sand, the seine-house
unlocked, and, when the light of day had been let into it, fishing-reel
and seine had disappeared, and, in the language of Doctor Benjamin
Gale, this is what they found therein:
THE AMERICAN TURTLE.
The body, when standing upright, in the position in which it is
navigated, has the nearest resemblance to the two upper shells of
the tortoise, joined together. It is seven and a half feet long,
and six feet high. The person who navigates it enters at the top.
It has a brass top or cover which receives the person's head, as
he sits on a seat, and is fastened on the inside by screws.
On this brass head are fixed eight glasses, viz: two before, two
on each side, one behind, and one to look out upwards. On the
brass head are fixed two brass tubes to admit fresh air when
requisite, and a ventilator at the side, to free the machine from
the air rendered unfit for respiration.
On the inside is fixed a barometer, by which he can tell the
depth he is under water; a compass by which he knows the course
steers. In the barometer, and on the needles of the compass, is
fixed fox-firethat is, wood that gives light in the dark. His
ballast consists of about nine hundred-weight of lead, which he
carries at the bottom and on the outside of the machine, part of
which is so fixed as he can let run down to the bottom, and
as an anchor by which he can ride ad libitum.
He has a sounding lead fixed at the bow, by which he can take the
depth of water under him, and a forcing-pump by which he can free
the machine at pleasure, and can rise above water, and again
immerge, as occasion requires.
In the bow he has a pair of oars fixed like the two opposite arms
of a windmill, with which he can row forward, and, turning them
the opposite way, row the machine backward; another pair, fixed
upon the same model, with which he can row the machine round,
either to the right or left; and a third by which he can row the
machine either up or down; all of which are turned by foot, like
spinning wheel. The rudder by which he steers he manages by hand,
All these shafts which pass through the machine are so curiously
fixed as not to admit any water.
The magazine for the powder is carried on the hinder part of the
machine, without-board, and so contrived that, when he comes
the side of a ship, he rubs down the side until he comes to the
keel, and a hook so fixed as that when it touches the keel it
raises a spring which frees the magazine from the machine, and
fastens it to the side of the ship; at the same time it draws a
pin, which sets the watch-work a-going, which, at a given time,
springs the lock, and an explosion ensues.
Thus wrote Dr. Benjamin Gale to Silas Deane, member of Congress at
Philadelphia. His letter bears the date November 9, 1775, and, after
describing the wonderful machine, he adds:
I well know the man. Lately he has conducted matters with the
greatest secrecy, both for the personal safety of the navigator,
and to produce the greater astonishment to those against whom it
is designed; and, you may call me a visionary, an enthusiast, or
what you please, I do insist upon it that I believe the
inspiration of the Almighty has given him understanding for this
very purpose and design.
When the seine-house door had been fastened open, when Dr. Franklin
and Dr. Gale had gone within, followed by the two brothers, Mr.
Bushnell and his wife stood without looking in, and wondering in their
hearts what the sight they saw could mean; for, of the intent or
purpose of the curious, oaken, iron-bound, many-paddled, brass-headed,
window-lighted thing, they, it must be remembered, knew nothing. It
must mean something extraordinary, of course, or Doctor Franklin would
never have thought it worth his while to come out of his way to behold
Father, whispered Mrs. Bushnell, it's the fish David has
been all summer catching.
Fish! ejaculated Mr. Bushnell, it's more like a turtle.
That's good! spoke up Dr. Gale, from within. Turtle it shall be.
It is the first submarine boat ever madea grand idea,
wrought into substance, slowly pronounced Dr. Franklin; let us have
it forth into the river.
And run the risk of discovery? suggested David, pleased that his
work approved itself to the man of science.
We meant to try it last night, but failed, said Ezra Bushnell.
There, now, father, don't you wish we had staid at home? whispered
No! growled the father. They would have killed themselves getting
it down alone.
He stepped within and laid his hand on the machine, saying:
Anna, you keep watch, and, if any boat heaves in sight, let us
know. Does the Turtle snap, David? he questioned, putting forth his
hand and laying it cautiously upon the animal.
Never, until the word is given, replied the son, and then ten
strong hands applied the strength within them to lift the curious piece
of mechanism and carry it without.
The seine-house was close to the river-bank, and in a half-hour's
time the American Turtle was in its native element.
Madam Anna Bushnell kept strict watch over the shores and the river,
but not a sail slid into sight, not an oar troubled the waters of the
tide, as it tossed back the tumble of the down-flowing river.
It was a hard duty for the mother to perform; for, at a glance
toward the bank, she saw David step into the machine, and the brass
cover close down over his head. She felt suffocating fears for him, as,
at last, the thing began to move into the stream. She saw it go out,
she saw it slowly sinking, going down out of sight, until even the
brass head was submerged.
Then she forsook her post, and hastened to the bank to keep watch
with the rest.
One, two, three minutes went by. The men looked at the surface of
the waters, at each other, grew thoughtful, pale; the mother gasped and
dropped on the salt grass, fainting; the brother gave to Lady Fenwick a
running push, bounded on board, and clutched the oars to row swiftly to
the spot where David went down.
Mr. Bushnell filled his hat with water, and sprinkled the pale face
in the sedge.
There! there! cried Dr. Franklin, with distended eyes and
Where? where? ejaculated Dr. Gale, striving to take into
vision the whole surface of the river, at a glance.
It's all right! He's coming up plump! shouted Ezra, from
his boat, as he rowed with speed for the spot where a brass tube was
rising, sun-burnished, from the Connecticut.
Presently the brass head, with its very small windows, emerged, even
the oaken sides were rising,and Mr. Bushnell was greeting the
returning consciousness of his wife with the words:
It's all right, mother. David is safe.
Don't let him know, were the first words she spoke, that his own
mother was so faithless as to doubt!
And now, paddle, paddle, toward the river-bank came the Turtle,
David Bushnell's head rising out of its shell, proud confidence shining
forth from his eyes, as feet and hands busied themselves in navigating
the boat that had lived for months in his brain, and now was living, in
very substance, under his control.
As he neared the bank a shout of acclamation greeted him.
He reached the island, was fairly dragged forth from his seat, and
carried up to the spot where his mother sat, trying to overcome every
trace of past doubt and fear.
Now, said Dr. Gale, let us give thanks unto Him who hath given
this youth understanding to do this great work.
With bared heads and devout hearts the thanksgiving went upward, and
thereafter a perfect shower of questions pelted David Bushnell
concerning his device to blow up ships: how he came to think of
it at allwhere he got this idea and that as to its
constructionto all of which he simply said:
You'll find your answer in the prayer you've just offered!
But, said practical Mr. Bushnell, the Lord did not send you money
to buy oak and iron and brass, did he?
Yes, returned David, by the hand of my good friend, Dr. Gale. To
him belongs half the victory.
Pshaw! pshaw! impatiently uttered the doctor. I tell you it is
no such thing! I only advanced My Lady here, turning to Madam
Bushnell, a little money, on her promise to pay me at some future
time. I'm mightily ashamed now that I took the promise at all.
Madam Bushnell, I'll never take a penny of it back again, never,
as long as I live. I will have a little of the credit of this
achievement, and no one shall hinder me.
How is that, mother? questioned Mr. Bushnell. You borrow
money and not tell me! and David and Ezra looked at her.
II stammered forth the woman, I only guessed that
David was doing something that he wanted money for, and told Dr. Gale
if he gave it to him I would repay it. Do you care, father?
Before he had a chance to get an answer in, David Bushnell stepped
forward, and, taking the little figure of his mother in his arms,
kissed her sharply, and walked away, to give some imaginary attention
to the Turtle at the bank.
It is a fair land to work for! spoke up Doctor Franklin, looking
about upon river and earth and sea; worthy it is of our highest
efforts; of our lives, even, if need be. God give us strength as our
need shall be.
With many a tug and pull and hearty heave-ho, the Turtle was hoisted
up the bank and safely drawn into the seine-house. The door was locked,
and Lady Fenwick's tomb gave forth no sound that night.
Doctor Franklin went his way to Boston. Doctor Gale returned to
Killingworth and his waiting patients, and the Bushnells, father,
mother and sons, having put the two gentlemen on the Saybrook shore,
went down the river into the Sound, along its edge, and up the small
Pochaug to their own home by the sycamore tree.
Mr. Bushnell and Ezra did the rowing that night. David's white hands
had, somehow, a new radiance in them for his father's eyes, and did not
seem exactly fitted for rowing just a common boat and every-day oars.
The young man sat in the stern, beside his mother, one arm around
her waist, and the other clasped closely between her little palms,
while, now and then, her finding eyes would penetrate his consciousness
with a glance that seemed to say, I always believed in you, David.
* * * * *
If you go to-day and stand upon the site of the old fort, built at
the mouth of the Connecticut River, in the year 1635, by Lion Gardiner,
once engineer in the service of the Prince of Orange, and search the
waters up and down for the island on which David Bushnell built the
American Turtle in 1775, you will not find it.
If you seek the oldest inhabitant of Saybrook, and ask him to point
out its locality, he will say, with boyhood's fondness for olden
play-grounds in his tone:
Ah, yes! It is Poverty Island that you mean. It used to be
there, but spring freshets and beating storms have washed it away.
The unexpected visit of Dr. Benjamin Franklin, to see the machine
David Bushnell was building, gave new force to that young gentleman's
confidence in his own powers of invention.
He worked with increased energy and hope to perfect boat and
magazine, that he might do good service with them before winter should
fall on the waters of the Massachusetts Bay, where the hostile ships
At last came the day wherein the final trial-trip should be made.
The pumps built by Mr. Doolittle, but not according to order, had
failed once, but new ones had been supplied, and everything seemed
propitious. David and Ezra, with their mother in the boat, rowed once
more to Poverty Island. On the morrow the great venture should begin,
The time was mid-October. The forests had wrapped the cooling coast
in warmth of coloring that was soft and many-hued as the shawls of
Cashmere, while the sun-made fringe of goldenrod fell along the shores
of river and island and sea.
Mrs. Bushnell's heart beat proudly above the fond affection that
could not suppress a shiver, as the Turtle was pushed into the stream.
She could not help seeing that David made a line fast from the
seine-house to his boat ere he went down. They watched many minutes to
see him rise to the surface, but he did not.
Mother, said Ezra, the pump for forcing water out when he wants
to rise don't work, and we must pull him in. He feared it.
As he spoke the words he laid hold on the line, and began gently to
draw on it.
Hurry! hurry! do! cried Mrs. Bushnell, seizing the same
line close to the water's edge, and drawing on it with all her
strength. She was vexed that Ezra had not told her the danger in the
beginning, and she knew very well that SHE would not have stood
there and let David die of suffocation, in that horrid, brass-topped
Hold, mother! cried Ezra; pull gently, or the line may part on
some barnacled rock if it gets caught.
Nevertheless, Mrs. Bushnell pulled in as fast as she could.
The tide was sweeping up the river, and a shark, in hard chase after
a school of menhaden, swam steadily up, with fin out of water.
Just as the shark reached the place, he made a dive, and the rope
Mrs. Bushnell screamed a word or two of the terror that had seized
her. Ezra looked up, amazed to find the rope coming in so readily, hand
over hand. He cast it down, sprang to the boat, and pushed off to the
possible rescue, only to find that the Turtle was making for the
river-bank instead of the island.
He rowed to the spot. His brother, for the first time in his life,
was overcome with disappointment and disinclined to talk.
II, said David, wiping his forehead. I grew tired, and made for
shore. The tide was taking me up fast.
Did you let go the line? questioned Ezra.
The pump works all right, then?
You've frightened mother terribly.
Have I? I never thought. I forgot she was here. Let us get
back, then; and the two brothers, without speaking a word, rowed down
against the sweep of tide, the great Turtle in tow.
The three went home, still keeping a silence broken only by briefest
possible question and answer.
The golden October night fell upon the old town. Pochaug River, its
lone line of silver gathered in many a stretch of interval into which
the moon looked calmly down, lay on the land for many a mile.
Again and again, during the evening, David Bushnell went out from
the house and stood silently on the rough bridge that crossed the river
by the door.
Let David alone, mother, urged Ezra, as she was about to follow
him on one occasion. He is thinking out something, and is better
That which the young man was thinking at the moment was, that he
wished the moon would hurry and go down. He longed for darkness.
The night was growing cold. Frost was in the air.
As he stood on the rough logs, a post-rider, hurrying by with
letters, came up.
Holloa there! he called aloud, not liking the looks of the man on
It's I,David Bushnell, Joe Downs! You can ride by in safety, he
responded, ringing out one of his merriest chimes of laughter at the
very idea of being taken for a highwayman.
I've news, said Joe; want it?
Joe Downs opened his pocket, and, by the light of the moon, found
the letter he had referred to.
Dr. Gale told me not to fail to put this into your hands as I came
by. I should kind o' judge, by the way he spoke, that the
continent couldn't get along very well 'thout you, if I hadn't known a
thing or two. Howsomever, here's the letter, and I've to jog on to
Guilford afore the moon goes down. So good-night.
Good night, Joe. Thank you for stopping, said David, going into
Were you expecting that letter, David? questioned Mr. Bushnell,
when it had been read.
No, sir. It is from Dr. Gale. He asks me to hasten matters as far
as possible, but a new contrivance will have to go in before I am
There! That's what troubles him, thought both Mrs. Bushnell
and Ezra, and they exchanged glances of sympathy and satisfactionand
the little household went to sleep, quite care-free that night.
At two of the clock, with nearly noiseless tread, David Bushnell
left the house.
As the door closed his mother moved uneasily in her sleep, and awoke
with the sudden consciousness that something uncanny had happened. She
looked from a window and saw, by the light of a low-lying moon, that
David had gone out.
Without awakening her husband she protected herself with needful
clothing, and, wrapped about in one of the curious plaid blankets of
mingled blue and white, adorned with white fringe, that are yet to be
found in the land, she followed into the night.
Save for the sleepy tinkle of the water over the stones in the
Pochaug River, and an occasional cry of a night-bird still lingering by
the sea, the air was very still.
With light tread across the bridge she ran a little way, and then
ventured a timid cry of her own into the night:
Now David Bushnell hoped to escape without awakening his mother. He
was lingering near, to learn whether his going had disturbed anyone,
and he was quite prepared for the call.
Turning back to meet her he thought: What a mother mine
is. And he said, Well, mother, what is it? I was afraid I might
O David! was all that she could utter in response.
And so you are troubled about me, are you? I'm only going to
chase the will-o'-the-wisp a little while, and I could not do it, you
know, until moon-down.
O David! and this time with emphatic pressure on his arm,
David, come home. I can't let you go off alone.
Come with me, then. You're well blanketed, I see. I'd much rather
have some one with me, only Ezra was tired and sleepy.
He said this with so much of his accustomed manner that Mrs.
Bushnell put her hand within his arm and went on, quite content now,
and willing that he should speak when it pleased him to do so, and it
pleased him very soon.
Little mother, he said, I am afraid you are losing faith in me.
Never! David; onlyI was a little afraid that you were
losing your own head, or faith in yourself.
No; but I am afraid I've lost my faith in something else. I
showed you the two bits of fox-fire that were crossed on one end of the
needle in the compass, and the one bit made fast to the other? Well,
to-day, when I went to the bottom of the river, the fox-fire gave no
light, and the compass was useless. Can you understand how bad that
would be under an enemy's ship, not to know in which direction to
You must have fresh fire, then.
That is just what I am out for to-night. I had to wait till
the moon was gone.
Oh! is that all? How foolish I have been! but you ought to
tell me some things, sometimes, David.
And so I will. I tell you now that it will be well for you to go
home and go to sleep. I may have to go deep into the woods to find the
fire I want.
But his mother only walked by his side a little faster than before,
and on they went to a place where a bit of woodland had grown up above
They searched in places wherein both had seen the fire of decaying
wood a hundred times, but not one gleam of phosphorescence could be
found anywhere. At last they turned to go homeward.
What will you do, David? Go and search in the Killingworth woods
to-morrow night? she asked, as they drew near home.
It is of no use, he said, with a sigh. It must be that the
frost destroys the fox-fire. Unless Dr. Franklin knows of a light that
will not eat up the air, everything must be put off until spring.
The next day David Bushnell went to Killingworth, to tell the story
to Dr. Gale, and Dr. Gale wrote to Silas Deane (Conn. Historical Col.,
Vol. 2), begging him to inquire of Dr. Franklin concerning the
possibility of using the Philosopher's Lantern, but no light was found,
and the poor Turtle was housed in the seine-house on Poverty Island
during the long winter, which proved to be one of great mildness from
late December to mid-February.
In February we find David Bushnell before Governor Jonathan Trumbull
and his Council at Lebanon, to tell about and illustrate the marvels of
his wonderful machine.
During this time the whole affair had been kept a profound secret
from all but the faithful few surrounding the inventor. And now, if
ever, the time was drawing near wherein the labor and outlay must
either repay laborer and lender, or give to both great trouble and
I cannot tell you with what trepidation the young man walked into
the War Office at Lebanon, with a very small Turtle under his arm.
You will please remember the situation of the colonists at that
moment. On the land they feared not to contend with Englishmen. Love of
liberty in the Provincials was strong enough, when united with a trusty
musket and a fair supply of powder, to encounter red-coated regulars of
the British army; but on the ocean, and in every bay, harbor and river,
they were powerless. The enemy's ships had kept Boston in siege for
nearly two years, the Americans having no opposing force to contend
Could this little Turtle, which David Bushnell carried under his
arm, do the work he wished it to, why, every ship of the line could be
blown into the air!
The inventor had faith in his invention, but he feared, when he
looked into the faces of the grave Governor and his Council of War,
that he could never impart his own belief to them.
I cannot tell you with what trust of heart and faith of soul Mrs.
Bushnell kept the February day in the house by the bridge at Pochaug.
Even the strong-minded, sturdy-nerved Mr. Bushnell looked often up the
road by which David and Ezra would approach from Lebanon, with a keen
interest in his eyes; but he would not let any word escape him, until
darkness had fallen and they were not come.
He said he would be here at eight, at the very latest, said the
mother at length, and she went to the fire and placed before the
burning coals two chickens to broil.
I'm afraid David won't have much appetite, unless his model
should be approved, and money is too precious to spend on
experiments, said Mr. Bushnell, as she returned to his side.
Do you mean to tell me you doubt?
Of course I doubt. Jonathan Trumbull is a man not at all likely to
give his consent to anything that does not commend itself to common
Mr. Bushnell was saved the pain of saying his thought, that he was
afraid, if David's plan was a good one, somebody would have
thought of it long ago, for vigorous knuckles were at work upon the
As soon as it was opened the genial form of good Dr. Gale stood
Are the boys back yet? he asked, stepping within.
No, but we expect them every minute, said Mr. Bushnell.
Well, friends, I had a patient within three miles of you to visit,
and I thought I'd come on and hear the news.
Ere he was fully made welcome to hearth and home, in walked David,
with the little Turtle under his arm. Without ado he went up to his
mother and said:
Madam, I present this to you, with Governor Trumbull's compliments.
He has ordered your boy money, men, metals and powder without stint to
work with. Wish me joy, won't you?
I do not anywhere find a record of the words in which the joy was
wished, on that 2nd of February, a hundred years ago, but it is easy to
imagine the very tones in which the good, God-loving Dr. Gale gave
thanks for the new blessing that had that day fallen on his friend's
It is impossible to follow David Bushnell in his many journeys to
the iron furnaces of Salisbury, in the spring and early summer of 1776,
during which time the entire country was aroused and astir from the
removal of the American army from Boston to New York; and our friends
at Saybrook were busy as bees from morning till night, in getting ready
perfect machines for duty.
David Bushnell's strength proved insufficient to navigate one of his
Turtles in the tidal waters of the Sound, and his brother Ezra learned
to do it most perfectly.
In the latter end of June, the British fleet, which had sailed out
of Boston harbor so ingloriously on the 17th of March, for Halifax,
there to await re-inforcements, appeared in waters adjacent to New
The signal of their approach was gladly hailed by the inventor and
by the navigator of the American Turtle.
A whale-boat from New London, her seamen sworn to inviolable
secrecy, was ordered to be in the river at a given point, on a given
night, for a service of which the men were utterly ignorant.
On the evening previous, Ezra Bushnell, overworn by many attempts at
navigating the machine, was taken seriously ill. At midnight he was
deliriousat day-dawn Dr. Gale was sent for.
When night fell he was in a raging fever, with no prospect of rapid
David set off alone, and with a heavy heart, to meet the boatmen. In
the seine-house on Poverty Island the brothers had stored provisions
for a cruise of several days. To this spot David Bushnell went alone,
and with a saddened heart, for he knew that it must be many days ere he
could learn of his brother's condition.
The New London boatmen were promptly at the appointed place of
When they saw the curious thing they were told to take in tow, their
curiosity knew no bounds; and it was only when assured that it was
dangerous to examine it, that they desisted from their determination to
know all about it, and consented to obey orders.
When, at last, a departure was made, the hour was midnight, the tide
served, and no ill-timed discovery was made of the deed.
The strong-armed boatmen rowed well and long, and, as daylight
dawned, they were directed to keep a look-out for Faulkner's Island, a
small bit of land in the Sound, nearly five miles from the Connecticut
The flashing light that illumines the waters at night for us, did
not gleam on them, but nevertheless, the high brown bank and the little
slope of land looked inviting to weary men, as they cautiously rowed
near to it, not knowing whom they might meet there.
They landed, made a fire, cooked their food, ate of it, and lay down
to sleep until night should come again.
They set out early in the ensuing twilight, and rowed westward all
night, in the face of a gentle wind.
If there were only another Faulkner's Island to flee to, said Mr.
Bushnell, as morning drew near. Do you know (to one of the men) a safe
place to hide in on this coast?
They were then off Merwin's Point, and between West Haven and
There's Poquahaug, was the reply, with a momentary catch of the
oar, and incline of the head toward the south-west.
What is Poquahaug?
A little island, pretty well in, close to shore, as it were, and,
After deliberate council had been held it was resolved to examine
A few years after New Haven and Milford churches were formed under
the oak-tree at New Haven, this little island, to which they were
fleeing to hide the Turtle from daylight, was granted to Charles Deal
for a tobacco plantation, provided that he would not trade with the
Dutch or Indians; but now Indians, Dutch and Charles Deal alike had
left it, the latter with a rude, sheltering building in place of
Ansantawae's big summer wigwam that used to adorn its crest.
To this spot, bright with grass, and green with full-foliaged trees
of oak on its eastern shore, the weary boatmen, who had had a long,
hard pull of twenty miles to make, came, just as the longest day's sun
was at its rising.
They were so glad and relieved and satisfied to find no one
The Turtle was left at anchor near the shore; the whale-boat gave up
of its provisions, and presently the little camp was in the enjoyment
of a long day of rest and refreshment.
Should anyone approach from the seaward or from the mainland, it was
determined that the party should resolve itself into a band of
fishermen, fishing for striped bass, for which the locality was well
As the day wore on, and the falling tide revealed a line of stones
that gradually increased, as the water fell, to a bar a hundred feet
wide, stretching from the island to the sands of the Connecticut shore,
David Bushnell perceived that the locality was just the proper place in
which to learn and teach the art of navigating the Turtle. He examined
the region well, and then called the men together.
They were staunch, good-hearted fellows, accustomed to long pulls in
northern seas after whales, and that they were patriotic he fully
believed. The Turtle was drawn up under the grassy bank, where the long
sedge half hid, and bushels of rock-weed and sea-drift wholly concealed
it, and then, in a few carefully-chosen words, David Bushnell entrusted
it to the watch and care of the boatmen.
I am going to leave it here, and you with it, until I return, he
said. Guard it with your lives if need be. If you handle it, it will
be at the risk of life. If you keep it well, Congress will
The mystery of the whole affair enchanted the men. They made
faithful promises, and, in the glorious twilight of the evening, rowed
David Bushnell across the beautiful stretch of Sound that to-day
separates Charles Island from the comely old town of Milford.
As the whale-boat went up the harbor, a sailing vessel was getting
ready to depart.
Finding that it was bound to New York, David Bushnell took passage
in it the same night.
Two days later, with a letter from Governor Trumbull to General
Washington as his introduction, the young man, by command of the
latter, sought out General Parsons, and requested him to furnish him
with two or three men to learn the navigation of his new machine.
General Parsons immediately sent for Ezra Lee, then a sergeant, and two
others, who had offered their services to go on board a
fireship; and, on Bushnell's request being made known to them, they
enlisted themselves under him for this novel piece of service.
Returning to Poquahaug (the Indian name of Charles Island), the
American Turtle was found safe and sound. Here the little party spent
many days in experimenting with it in the waters about the island; and
in the Housatonic River.
During this time the enemy had got possession of a portion of Long
Island, and of Governor's Island in the harborthus preventing the
approach to New York by the East River.
When the appalling news of the battle of Long Island reached David
Bushnell, he resolved, cost what it might of danger to himself, or
hazard to the Turtle, to get it to New York with all speed.
To that end he had it conveyed by water to New Rochelle, there
landed and carried across the country to the Hudson River, and
presently we hear of it as being on a certain night, late in August,
ready to start on its perilous enterprise.
If you will go to-day and stand where the Turtle floated that night
(for the land has since that time grown outward into the sea), on your
right hand across the Hudson River, you will see New Jersey. At your
left, across the East River, Long Island begins, with the beautiful
Governor's Island in the bay just before you, and, looking to the
southward, in the distance, you will discern Staten Island.
Let us go back to that day and hour.
The precise date of the Turtle's voyage down the bay is not given,
but the time must have been on the night of either the thirtieth or
thirty-first of August. We will choose the thirtieth, and imagine
ourselves standing in the crowd by the side of Generals Washington and
Putnam, to see the machine start.
Remember, now, where we stand. It is only last night that
our army, defeated, dispirited, exhausted by battle, lay across the
river on Brooklyn Heights. Behind it, busy with pickaxe and shovel, the
victorious troops of Mother England were making ready to finish the
Americans on the morrow.
There were supposed to be twenty-four thousand of the enemy, only
nine thousand Continentals; and, just ready to enter East River and cut
them off from New York, lay the British fleet to the north of Staten
As happened at Boston in March, so happened it last night in New
York, a friendly fog held the heights of Brooklyn in its grasp, while
at New York all was clear.
Under cover of this fog General Washington withdrew across the
river, a mile or more in width, nine thousand men, with all
their baggage, stores, provisions, horses, and munitions of war, and
not a man of the enemy knew that they were gone until the fog lifted.
Now, as we stand, Long Island, Governor's Island, Staten Island, one
and all are under the control of Britons.
David Bushnell is in a whale-boat, down close to the Turtle, giving
some last important words of direction to brave Ezra Lee, who has
stepped within it. David Bushnell could not help wishing, as he did so,
that he could take his place and guide the spirit of the child of his
own creation, in its first great encounter with the world.
The word is given. The brass top of the Turtle is shut down.
Watchful eyes and swift rowers belonging to the enemy are keeping guard
on Governor's Island, by which Ezra Lee must row, and it is safer to go
under water. How crowded this little pier would be, did the inhabitants
but know what is going on!
The whale-boats start out, David Bushnell in one of them. They mean
to take the Turtle in tow the minute it is safe to do so and save Ezra
Lee the labor of rowing it until the last minute.
It is eleven o'clock. All silently they dip the oars, and hear the
sentinels cry from camp and shore.
Past the island, in safety, at last. They look for the Turtle. Up it
comes, a distant watch-light gleaming across its brass head disclosing
its presence. Once more it is in tow, and Lee is in the whale-boat.
Down the bay they go, until the lights from the fleet grow
On the wide, wind-stirred waters of New York Bay, Ezra Lee gets into
the Turtle, and is cast off, and left alone, for the whale-boats return
to New York.
With the rudder in his hand, and his feet upon the oars, he
pursues his way. The strong ebb tide flows fast, and, before he is
aware of it, it has drifted him down past the men-of-war.
However, he immediately gets the machine about, and, by hard
labor at the crank for the space of five glasses by the ships' bells,
or two and a half hours, he arrives under the stern of one of the ships
at about slack water.
Day is now beginning to dawn. He can see the people on board, and
hear them talk.
The moment has come for diving. He closes up quickly overhead, lets
in the water, and goes down under the ship's bottom.
He now applies the screw and does all in his power to make it enter,
but in vain; it will not pierce the ship's copper. Undaunted, he
paddles along to a different part, hoping to find a softer place; but,
in doing this, in his hurry and excitement, he manages the mechanism so
that the Turtle instantly arises to the surface on the east side of the
ship, and is at once exposed to the piercing light of day.
Again he goes under, hoping that he has not been seen.
This time his courage fails. It is getting to be day. If the ship's
boats are sent after him his escape will be very difficult, well-nigh
impossible, and, if he saves himself at all, it must be by rowing more
than four miles.
He gives up the enterprise with reluctance, and starts for New York.
Governor's Island must be passed by. He draws near to it, as
near as he can venture, and then submerges the Turtle. Alas! something
has befallen the compass. It will not guide the rowing under the sea.
Every few minutes he is compelled to rise to the surface to look out
from the top of the machine to guide his course, and his track grows
very zig-zag through the waters.
Ah! the soldiers at Governor's Island see the Turtle! Hundreds are
gathering upon the parapet to watch its motions, such a curious boat as
it is, with turret of brass bobbing up and down, sinking,
disappearingcoming to the surface again in a manner wholly
Brave Lee knows his danger, and paddles away for dear life and love
of family up in Lyme, eating breakfast quietly now he remembers, not
knowing his peril.
Once more he goes up to take a lookout, to see where White-hall slip
A glance at Governor's Island, and he sees a barge shove off laden
with his enemies.
Down again, and up, and he sees it making for him. There is no
escape! What can he do!
If I must die, he thinks, they shall die with me! and he lets go
Nearer and nearerthe barge is very close. If they pick me
up they will pick that up, thinks Lee, and we shall all be blown to
They are now within a hundred and fifty feet of the Turtle and they
see the magazine that he has detached.
Some horrible Yankee trick! cries a British soldier. Beware!
And they do beware by turning and rowing with all speed for the island
whence they came.
Poor Lee looks out with amazement to see them go. He is well-nigh
exhausted, and the magazine, with its dreadful clock-work going on
within it, and its hundred and fifty pounds of powder, ready to go off
at a given moment, is floating on behind him, borne by the tide.
He strains every muscle to near New York. He signals the shore.
Since daylight Putnam has been there keeping watch. David Bushnell
has paced up and down all night, in keen anxiety.
The friendly whale-boats put out to meet him.
Meanwhile, slowly borne by the coming tide, the magazine floats into
the East River.
It will blow up in five minutes now, says Bushnell, looking at his
watch, and he goes to welcome Ezra Lee.
The five minutes go by.
Suddenly, with tremendous voice, and awful uproar of the sea, the
Columns of water toss high in air, mingled with the oaken ribs that
held the powder but a minute ago.
Consternation seizes British troops on Long Island. The brave
soldiers on the parapet at Governor's Island quake with fear. All New
York rushes to the river-side to find out what it can mean. Nothing, on
all the face of the earth, ever happened like it before, one and
Opinion varies concerning it, from bomb to earthquake, from meteor
to water-spout, and settles down on neither.
Poor Ezra Lee feels that he meant well, but did not act
wisely. David Bushnell praises the sergeant, and takes all the want of
success to himself, in not going to do his own work.
Meanwhile, with astonishment, Generals Washington and Putnam and
David Bushnell himself behold, as did the Provincials, after the
battle of Bunker-Breed's Hill, victory in defeat, for lo!
no British ship sails up the East River, or appears to bombard New
Silently they weigh anchor and drop down the bay. The little
American Turtle gained a bloodless victory that day.
NOTE.The writer has carefully followed, in the account of the
Turtle's attempt upon the Eagle, the statement of Ezra Lee, made
to Mr. Charles Griswold of Lyme, more than forty years after the
occurrence, and by him communicated to the American Journal of
Science and Arts in 1820. For the description of the
mechanism of the machine, the account given at the time by
Gale in his letters to Silas Deane has been chosen, as probably
more accurate than one made from memory after forty years had
* * * * *
David Bushnell was appointed from civil life Captain-Lieutenant of a
Corps of Sappers and Minersrecommended for the position by Governor
Trumbull, General Parsons and others. June 8, 1781, he was promoted
full Captain. He was present at the siege of Yorktown and commanded the
Corps in 1783.
He was also a member of the Society of the Cincinnati.
THE BIRTHDAY OF OUR NATION.
Bellman Grey and Blue-Eyed Boy were hurrying up Chestnut street; the
man carried a large key, the boy a new broom.
It was a very warm morning in a very warm month of a very warm year;
in fact it may as well be stated at once that it was the Fourth day of
July, 1776, and that Bellman Grey and Blue-Eyed Boy were in haste to
make ready the State House of Pennsylvania for the birth of the United
States of America. No wonder they were in a hurry.
In fact, everybody seemed in a hurry that day; for before Bellman
Grey had whisked that new broom over the floor of Congress Hall, in
walked, arm-in-arm, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.
Good morning, gentlemen, said Bellman Grey. You'll find the dust
settled in the committee-room. I'm cleaning house a little extra to-day
for the expected visitor.
For the coming heir? said Mr. Adams.
When Liberty comes, She comes to stay, said Mr. Jefferson,
half-suffocated with the dust; and the two retreated to the
Blue-Eyed Boy was polishing with his silken duster the red morocco
of a chair as the gentlemen opened the door. He heard one of them say,
If Cæsar Rodney gets here, it will be done.
If it's done, said the boy, won't you, please, Mr. Adams, won't
you, please, Mr. Jefferson, let me carry the news to General
The two gentlemen looked either at the other, and both at the lad,
in smiling wonder.
If what is done? asked Mr. Adams.
If the thing is voted and signed and made sure, (just here
Blue-Eyed Boy waved his duster of a flag and stood himself as erect as
a flagpole;) if the tree's transplanted, if the ship gets off the
ways, if we run clear away from King George, sir; so far away that
he'll never catch us.
And why do you, my lad, wish to carry the news to General
Washington? asked Mr. Jefferson.
Because, said the boy, whywouldn't you? It'll be jolly work for
the soldiers when they know they can fight for themselves.
Just here Bellman Grey shouted for Blue-Eyed Boy, bidding him come
quick and be spry with his dusting, too.
Before the hall was cleared of the accumulated dust of State-rooms
above and Congress-rooms below, in came members of the Congress,
one-by-one and two-by-two, and in groups. The doors were locked, and
the solemn deliberations began. Within that room, now known as
Independence Hall, sat, in solemn conclave, half a hundred men, each
and every one of whom knew full well that the deed about to be done
would endanger his own life.
On a table lay a paper, awaiting signatures. A silver ink-stand held
the ink that trembled and wavered to the sound and stir of John Adams's
voice, as he stated once more the why and the wherefore of the step
America was about to take.
This final statement was made for the especial enlightenment of
three gentlemen, new members of the Congress from New Jersey, and in
reply to the reasons given by Mr. Dickinson why the Declaration of
Independence should not be made.
In the meantime Bellman Grey was up in the steeple, seeing what he
could see, and Blue-Eyed Boy was answering knocks at the entrance
doors; then running up the stairs to tell the scraps of news that he
had gleaned through open door, or crack, or key-hole.
The day wore on; outside a great and greater crowd surged every
moment against the walls; but the walls of the State House were thick,
and the crowd was hushed to silence, with intense longing to hear what
was going on inside.
From his high-up place in the belfry, where he had been on watch,
Bellman Grey espied a figure on horseback, hurrying toward the scene;
the horse was white with heat and hurry; the rider's face was no
bigger than an apple, but it was a face of importance that day.
Run! shouted Bellman Grey from the belfry. Run and tell them that
Mr. Rodney comes.
The boy descended the staircase with a bound and a leap and a thump
against the door, and announced Cæsar Rodney's approach.
In he came, weary with his eighty miles in the saddle, through heat
and hunger and dust, for Delaware had sent her son in haste to the
The door closed behind him and all was as still and solemn as
Up in the belfry the old man stroked fondly the tongue of the bell,
and softly said under his breath again and again as the hours went:
They will never do it; they will never do it.
The boy sat on the lowest step of the staircase, alternately peeping
through the key-hole with eye to see and with ear to hear. At last,
came a stir within the room. He peeped again. He saw Mr. Hancock, with
white and solemn face, bend over the paper on the table, stretch forth
his hand, and dip the pen in the ink. He watched that hand and arm
curve the pen to and fro over the paper, and then he was away up the
stairs like a cat.
Breathless with haste, he cried up the belfry: He's a doing it,
he is! I saw him through the key-hole. Mr. Hancock has put his name
to that big paper on the table.
Go back! go back! you young fool, and keep watch, and tell me quick
when to ring! cried down the voice of Bellman Grey, as he wiped for
the hundredth time the damp heat from his forehead and the dust from
the iron tongue beside him.
Blue-Eyed Boy went back and peeped again just in time to see Mr.
Samuel Adams in the chair, pen in hand.
One by one, in solemn silence all, the members wrote their names,
each one knowing full well, that unless the Colonists could fight
longer and stronger than Great Britain, that signature would prove his
It was fitting that the men who wrote their names that day should
write with solemn deliberation.
Blue-Eyed Boy peeped again. I hope they're almost done, he sighed;
and I reckon they are, for Mr. Rodney has the pen now. My! how tired
and hot his face looks! I don't believe he has had any more dinner
to-day than I have, and I feel most awful empty. It's almost night by
this time, too.
At length the long list was complete. Every man then present had
signed the Declaration of Independence, except Mr. Dickinson of
And now came the moment wherein the news should begin its journey
around the world. The Speaker, Mr. Thompson, arose and made the
announcement to the very men who already knew it.
Blue-Eyed Boy peeped with his ear and heard the words through the
With a shout and a cry of Ring! ring! and a clapping of hands, he
rushed upward to the belfry. The words, springing from his lips like
arrows, sped their way into the ears and hands of Bellman Grey.
Grasping the iron tongue of the old bell, backward and forward he
hurled it a hundred times, its loud voice proclaiming to all the people
that down in Independence Hall a new nation was born to the earth that
When the members heard its tones swinging out the joyous notes they
marvelled, because no one had authorized the announcement. When the key
was turned from within, and the door opened, there stood the mystery
facing them, in the person of Blue-Eyed Boy.
I told him to ring; I heard the news! he shouted, and opened the
State House doors to let the Congress out and all the world in.
You know the rest; the acclamation of the multitude, the common
peals (they forgot to be careful of powder that night in the staid old
city), the big bonfires, and the illuminations that rang and roared and
boomed and burned from Delaware to Schuylkill.
In the waning light of the latest bonfire, up from the city of Penn,
rode our Blue-Eyed Boytrue to his purpose to be the first to carry
the glad news to General Washington.
It will be like meeting an old friend, he thought; for had he not
seen the commander-in-chief every day going in and out of the Congress
Hall during his visit to Philadelphia only a month ago?
The self-appointed courier never deemed other evidence of the truth
of his news needful than his own word of mouth. He rode a strong
young horse, which, early in the year, had been left in his care by a
southern officer when on his way to the camp at Cambridge; and that no
one might worry about him, he had taken the precaution to intrust his
secret to a neighbor lad to tell at the home-door in the light of early
The journey was long, too long to write of here. Suffice it to say,
that on Sunday morning Blue-Eyed Boy reached the ferry at the Hudson
river. The old ferryman hesitated to cross with the lad.
Wait at my house until the cool of the evening, he urged.
But Blue-Eyed Boy said, No, I must cross this morning, and my pony:
I'll pay for two if you'll take me.
The ferryman crossed the river with the boy, who, on the other side,
inquired his way to the headquarters of the general.
Warm, tired, hungry, and dusty, he urged his pony forward to the
place, only to find that he whom he sought had gone to divine service
at St. Paul's church.
Blue-Eyed Boy rode to St. Paul's. In the Fields (now City Hall Park)
he tied his faithful horse, and went his way to the church.
Gently and with reverent mien, he entered the open door, and
listened to the closing words of the sermon. At length the service was
over and the congregation turned toward the entrance where stood the
young traveler, his heart beating with exultant pride at the glorious
news he had to tell to the glorious commander.
How grand the General looked to the boy, as, with stately step, he
trod slowly the church aisle accompanied by his officers.
Now he was come to the vestibule. It was Blue-Eyed Boy's chance at
last. The great, dancing, gleeful eyes, that have outlived in fame the
very name of the lad, were fixed on Washington, as he stepped forward
to accost him.
Out of the way! exclaimed a guard, and thrust him aside.
I will speak! General Washington! screamed Blue-Eyed Boy,
in sudden excitement. The idea of anybody who had seen, even through a
key-hole, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, being thrust
General Washington stayed his steps and ordered, Let the lad come
I've good news for you, said the youth.
Officers stood aroundeven the congregation paused, having heard
It's for you alone, General Washington.
The lad's eyes were ablaze now. All the light of Philadelphia's late
illuminations burned in them. General Washington bade the youth follow
But my pony is tied yonder, said he, and he's hungry and tired
too. I can't leave him.
Come hither, then, and the Commander-in-chief withdrew with the
lad within the sacred edifice.
General Washington, said Blue-Eyed Boy, on Thursday Congress
declared us free and independent.
Where are your dispatches? leaped from the General's lips, his
Whywhy, I haven't any, but it's all true, sir, faltered the boy.
How did you find it out?
I was right there, sir. Don't you remember me? I help Bellman Grey
take care of the State House at Philadelphia, and I run on errands for
the Congress folks, too, sometimes.
Did Congress send you on this errand?
No, General Washington; I can't tell a lie, I came myself.
How did you know me?
Blue-Eyed Boy was ready to cry now. To be sure he was sturdy and
strong, and nearly fourteen, too; but to be doubted, after all his
long, tiresome journey, was hard. However, he winked once or twice
violently, and then he looked his very soul into the General's face,
and said: Why, I saw you every day you went to Congress, only a month
ago, I did.
I believe you, my lad. Get your horse and follow me.
Blue-Eyed Boy followed on, and waited in camp until the tardy
despatches came in on Tuesday morning, confirming every word that he
The same evening all the brigades in and around New York were
ordered to their respective parade-grounds.
Blue-Eyed Boy was admitted within the hollow square formed by the
brigades on the spot where stands the City Hall. Within the same square
was General Washington, sitting on horseback, and the great Declaration
was read by one of his aids.
It is needless to tell how it was received by the eager men who
listened to the mighty truths with reverent, uncovered heads.
Henceforth every man felt that he had a banner under which to fight, as
broad as the sky above him, as sheltering as the homely roof of home.
THE OVERTHROW OF THE STATUE OF KING
If, on the evening of July 9, 1876, at six of the clock, you go and
stand where the shadow of the steeple of St. Paul's church in New York
is falling, you will occupy the space General Washington occupied, just
one hundred years ago, when with uncovered head and reverent mien, he,
in the presence of and surrounded by a brigade of noble soldiers,
listened to the reading of the Declaration of Independence.
You will remember that at the church door on Sunday, Blue-Eyed Boy
brought to him, by word of mouth, the great news that a nation was born
This news was now, for the first time, announced to the men of New
York and New England.
No wonder that their military caps came off on Tuesday, that their
arms swung in the air, and their voices burst forth into one loud
acclaim that might have been heard by the British foe then landing on
As you stand there, and the shadow of old St. Paul swings around and
covers you, shut your eyes and listen. Something of the olden music, of
the loud acclaim, may swing around with the shadow and fall on your
ears, since no motion is ever spent, no sound ever still.
On that night, when the grand burst of enthusiasm had arisen,
Blue-Eyed Boy said to General Washington: I am afraid, sir, if
Congress had known, they never would have done it, never! It seemed
easy to do it in Philadelphia, where everything is just as it used to
be; but here, with all the British ships riding in, full of soldiers,
and guns enough in them to smash the old State House where they did it!
If they'd only known about the ships!
Ah! Blue-Eyed Boy. You didn't keep your eye very close to Congress
Hall in the morning of last Thursday, or you would have heard Mr.
Hancock or Mr. Thompson read to Congress a letter from General
Washington, announcing the arrival of General Howe at Sandy Hook with
one hundred and ten ships of war.
No, no! Blue-Eyed Boy and every other boy; the men who dared to say,
and sign their names to the assertion, A nation is born to-day, did
not do it under the rosy flush of glorious victory, but in the
fast-coming shadow of mighty Britain, strong in all the power and
radiant with all the pomp of war.
And what had a few little colonies to meet them with? They had, it
is true, a new name, that of States; but cannon and camp-kettles
alike were wanting; the small powder mills in the Connecticut hive
could yield them only a fragment of the black honey General Washington
cried for, day and night, from Cambridge to New York; the houses of the
inhabitants, diligently searched for fragments of lead, gave them not
enough; and you know how every homestead in New England was besieged
for the last yard of homespun cloth, that the country's soldiers might
not go coatless by day and tentless at night.
Brave men and women good!
Let us hurrah for them all, if it is a hundred years too late for
them to hear. The men of a hundred years to come will remember our
huzzas of this year, and grow, it may be, the braver and the better for
But now General Washington has ridden away to his home at Number One
in the Broadway; the brigade has moved on, and even Blue-Eyed Boy is
hastening after General Washington, intent on taking a farewell glance,
from the rampart of Fort George, at the far-away English ships.
To-morrow he will begin his homeward journey through the Jerseys.
His pass is in his pocket, and as he quickens his steps, he sees groups
gathering here and there, and knows that some excitement is astir in
the public mind, but thinks it is all about the great Declaration.
He reaches Wall street, and the sun is at its going down. Up from
the East river come the sounds of orderly drummers drumming, of
regimental fifers fifing. He stays his steps, and stands listening: he
sees a brigade marching the grand parade at sunset.
Up it comes from Wall street to Smith street; (I am sure I do not
know what Smith street is lost into now, but the orderly-book of Major
Phineas Porter of Waterbury, one hundred years old to-morrow morning,
has it Smith street"); from the upper end of Smith street back to Wall
street, and the young Philadelphian follows it, marching to sound of
fife and drum.
As it turns towards the East river, he remembers whither he was
bound and starts off with speed for the Grand Battery.
As he goes, glancing backward, he sees that all the town is at his
He begins to run. All the town begins to run. He runs faster: the
crowd runs faster. It is shouting now. He tries to listen; but his feet
are flying, his head is bobbing, his hat is falling, and this is what
he thinks he hears in the midst of all: Down with him! Down with the
Tory! It is tyrant that they cry, but he hears it as tory, and he
knows full well how Governor Franklin of New Jersey and Mayor Matthews
of New York have just been sent off to Connecticut for safer keeping,
and he does not care to go into New England just now, so he flies
faster than ever, fully believing that the crowd pursues him, as a
Just before him opens the Bowling Green. Into it he darts, hoping to
find covert, but there is none at hand.
Right in the midst of the enclosure stands an equestrian statue of
King George the Third.
It is high; it looks safe. Blue-Eyed Boy makes for it, utterly
ignorant of what it is.
The crowd surges on. It is now at the gate. The young martyr makes a
spring at the leg and tail of the horse; he swings himself aloft, he
catches and clutches and climbs, and in the midst of ringing shouts of
Down with him! Down with horse and king! Blue-Eyed Boy gets over King
George and clings to the up-reared neck of the leaden horse; thence he
turns his wild-eyed face to the throng below. Down with him! He don't
hear! He won't hear! cry the populace.
I do hear! in wild afright, shrieks Blue-Eyed Boy, and I'm not a
Shut your eyes again, and see the picture as it stands there in the
waning light of the ninth of July, 1776.
Four years ago, over the ocean, borne by loyal subjects to a loyal
colony, it came, this statue, that you shall see. It is a noble horse,
though made of lead, that stands there, poised on its hinder legs, its
neck in air. King George sits erect, the crown of Great Britain on his
head, a sword in his left hand, his right grasping the bridle-lines,
and over all, a sheen of gold, for horse and king were gilded.
King George faces the bay, and looks vainly down. All his brave
ships and eight thousand Red Coats, yesterday landed on yonder island,
cannot save him now. Had he listened to the petitions of his children
it might have been, but he would not hear their just plaints, and now
his statue, standing so firm against storm, wind and time, trembles
before the sea of wrath surging at its base.
Come down, come down, you young rascal! cries a strong voice to
Blue-Eyed Boy, but his hands grasped at either ear of the horse, and he
clings with all his strength to resist the pull of a dozen hands at his
Come down, you rogue, or we'll topple you over with his majesty,
King George, greets the lad's ears, and opens them to his situation.
King George! cried Blue-Eyed Boy with a sudden sense of his
ridiculous fear and panic, and he yields to the stronger influence
exerted on his right leg, and so comes to earth with emotions of relief
and mortification curiously mingled in his young mind.
To think that he had had the vanity to imagine the crowd pursued
him, and so has flown from his own friends to the statue of King George
I won't tell, thinks the lad, a word about this to anyone at
home, and then he falls to pushing the men who are pushing the statue,
and over it topples, horse and rider, down upon the sod of the little
United States, just five days old.
How they hew it! How they hack it! How they saw at it with saw and
penknife! Blue-Eyed Boy himself cuts off the king's ear, that will not
hear the petitions of people or Congress, proudly pockets it, and walks
off, thankful because he carries his own on his head.
Would you like to know what General Washington thought about the
overthrow of the statue in Bowling Green?
We will turn to Phineas Porter's orderly-book, and copy from the
general orders for July 10, 1776, what he said to the soldiers about
The General doubts not the persons who pulled down and mutilated
the statue in the Broad-way last night were actuated by zeal in the
public cause, yet it has so much the appearance of riot and want of
order in the army, that he disapproves the manner and directs that in
future such things shall be avoided by the soldiers, and be left to be
executed by proper authority.
The same morning, the heavy ear of the king in his pocket, Blue-Eyed
Boy, once more on his pony, sets off to cross the ferry on his way to
Philadelphia. We leave him caught in the mazes of the Flying Camp
gathering at Amboy; whither by day and by night have been ferried over
from Staten Island, all the flocks of sheep and herds of cattle that
could be gotten awaylest the hungry men in red coats, coming up the
bay, seize upon and destroy them.
Ah! what days, what days and nights too were those for the young
United States to pass through!
To-day, we echo what somebody wrote somewhere, even then, amid all
the darknesswords we would gladly see on our banner's top-most fold:
The United States! Bounded by the ocean and backed by the forest.
Whom hath she to fear but her God?
SLEET AND SNOW.
Fourth of July, 1776.Troublous times, that day? Valentine Kull
thought so, as he stood in a barn-yard, with a portion of his mother's
clothes line tied as tightly as he dared to tie it around the neck of a
calf. He was waiting for the bars to be let down by his sister. Anna
Kull thought the times decidedly troublous, as she pulled and pushed
and lifted to get the bars down.
I can't do it, Valentine, she cried, her half-child face thrust
between the rails.
She tried. Result as before.
Come over, then, and hold Snow.
Anna went over, rending gown and apron on the roughnesses of rails
and haste. Never mind. She was over, and could, she thought, hold the
Barn-yard, cow (I forgot to mention that there was a cow); calf, and
children, one and all, were on Staten Island in the Bay and Province of
New York. Beside these, there was a house. It was so small, so queer,
so old-fashioned, so Amsterdam Dutchy, that, for all that I know to the
contrary, Achter Kull may have built it as a play-house for his
children when first he came to America and took up his abode by the
Kill van Kull. The Kill van Kull is that curious little slice of sea
pinched in by a finger of New Jersey thrust hard against Staten Island,
as though trying its best to push the island off to sea. However it may
have been, there was the house, and from the very roof of it arose a
head, neck, two shoulders and one arm; the same being the property of
the mother of Valentine and Anna. The said mother was keeping watch
from the scuttle.
Be quick, my children, she cried. The Continentals are now
driving off Abraham Rycker's cattle and the boat isn't full yet.
They'll be here next.
Anna seized the clothes line; Valentine made for the bars. Down they
came, the one after the other, and out over the lower one went calf,
Anna and cow. Valentine made a dive for Snow's leading string. He
missed it. Away went the calf, poor Anna clutching at the rope, into
green lane, through tall grass, tangle and thicket. She caught her foot
in her torn gown and was falling, when a sudden holding up of the rope
assisted by Valentine's clutch at her arm set her on her feet again.
During this slight respite from the chase, the cow (Sleet, by name,
because not quite so white as Snow) took a bite of grass and wondered
what all this unaccustomed fuss did mean.
Snow has pulled my arm out of joint, said Anna, holding fast to
Never mind your arm, now, returned Valentine. We must get
to the marsh. It's the only place. You get a switch, and if Sleet won't
follow Snow in, you drive her. I wish the critters wasn't white;
they show up so; but Washington sha'n't have this calf and cow,
From Newark Bay to Old Blazing Star Ferry stretched the marsh, deep,
dense, well-nigh impassable. Under the orders of General Washington,
supported by the approval of the Provincial Congress in session at
White Plains, the live stock was being driven from the island, and
ferried across Staten Island Sound to New Jersey. At the same moment
the grand fleet of armed ships from Halifax, England, and elsewhere,
was sailing in with General Howe on board and Red Coats enough to eat,
at a supper and a dinner, all the live stock on a five-by-seventeen
Now the Commander-in-chief of the Continental forces at New York did
not wish to afford the aid and comfort to the enemy of furnishing
horses to draw cannon, or fresh meat wherewith to satisfy the hunger of
British soldier and sailor. Oh no! On Manhattan Island were bravesfor
freedom toiling day and night; building earthwork, redoubt and battery
with never a luxury from morning to morning, except the luxury of
fighting for Liberty. Soldiers from camp, light-horse and militia from
New Jersey, had gathered on the island, and had been at work a day and
a night when the news came to the Kull cottage that in a few minutes
its cow and calf would be called for. Hence the sudden watch from the
roof, and the escapade from the barn-yard.
The Kull father, I regret to write, because it seems highly
unpatriotic, had gone forth to catch fish that day, hugging up the
thought close to his pocket of a heart, that the English fleet would
pay well for fresh fish.
Now Sleet and Snow were treasures untold to Valentine and Anna Kull.
Anna's pocket-money, stored up to be spent once-a-year in New York,
came to her hands by the sale of butter to oystermen; and the calf,
Snow, was the exclusive property of her brother Valentine. No wonder
they were striving to save their possessionsignorant, children as
they were, of every good which they could not see and feel.
Cow and calf, or rather calf and cow, never before were given such a
race. Highways were ignored. There were not many beaten tracks at that
time on Staten Island. Daisied and clovered fields the calf was dragged
through; young corn and potato lots suffered alike by the pressure of
hoof and foot. Anna nearly forgot her out-of-joint arm when the four
reached the marsh. Its friendly-looking shelter was hailed with
Said Valentine, tugging the tired calf, to Anna, switching forward
the anxious cow: I should like to see the riflemen from Pennsylvania
and the Yankeys from Doodle or Dandy either, chase Sleet and
Snow through this marsh.
It's been awful work though to get 'em here, said Anna,
wiping her face with a pink handkerchief suddenly detached for use from
In plunged the boy and up s-s-cissed a cloud of mosquitoes, humming
at the sound of the new-come feast; fresh flesh and blood from the
uplands was desirable.
The grass was green, very greenlovely, bright, light
green; the July sun shone down untiringly; the tide rushing up from
Raritan Bay met the tide rolling over from Newark Bay, and the cool,
sweet swash of water snaked along the stout sedge, making it sway and
bend as though the wind were sweeping its tops.
When within the queer infolding, boy, cow, and calf had disappeared,
Anna called: I'll run now and keep watch and tell you when the
soldiers are gone.
No, you won't! shrieked back her brother; you'll stay
here, and help me, or the skeeters will kill the critters. Bring me
the biggest bush you can find, and fetch one for yourself.
Anna always obeyed Valentine. It was a way she had. He liked it,
and, generally speaking, she didn't greatly dislike it, but her dress
was thinner than his coat, and the happy mosquitoes knew she was fairer
and sweeter than her Dutch brother, and didn't mind telling her so in
the most insinuating fashion possible. On this occasion, as she had in
so many other unlike instances, she acceded to his request; toiling
backward up the ascent and fetching thence an armful of the stoutest
boughs she could twist from branches.
She neared the marsh on her return. All that she could discern was a
straw hat bobbing hither and thither; the horns of a cow tossing to and
fro; the tail of a cow lashing the air.
A voice she heard, shouting forth in impatient bursts of sound,
Anna, Anna Kull!
Here! I'm coming, she responded.
Hurry up! I'm eaten alive. Snow's crazy and Sleet's a lunatic,
shouted her brother, jerking the words forth between the vain dives his
hand made into the cloud of wings in the air.
Sakes alive! said poor Anna, toiling from sedge bog to sedge bog
with her burden of bushes and striving to hide her face from the
mosquitoes as she went.
It was nearly noon-day then, and the Fourth of July too, but neither
Valentine nor Anna thought of the day of the month. Why should they?
The Nation wasn't born yet whose hundredth birthday we keep this year.
The solemn assembly of earnest mendebating the to be or not to be
of the United Stateswas over there at work in Congress Hall in the
old State House. They were heated with sun and brick and argument; a
hundred and ten British ships of war were anchoring and at anchor over
on the ocean side of Staten Island. Up the bay, seven or eight thousand
troops in ragged regimentals were working to make ready for battle;
but not one of them all suffered more from sun and toil and anxiety and
greed of blood than did the lad and the lass in the marsh.
They fought it out, with many a sting and smart, another hour, and
then declaring that cow or no cow they couldn't stay another minute,
they strove to work their way out of the beautiful green of the sedge.
On the meadow-land stood their mother. She had brought dinner for
her hungry children,moreover, she had brought news.
The Yankee troopsthe Jersey militiahad gone, but the British
soldiers had arrived and demanded beefbeef raw, beef roasted, beef in
The tears that the fiercest mosquito had failed to extort from Anna
came now. I wish I'd let her go, she cried, fondly stroking Sleet.
At least she wouldn't have been killed, and we'd had her again
sometime, maybe; but nowI say, Valentine, are you going to
give up Snow?
No, I ain't, stoutly persisted the lad, slapping with his
broad palm the panting side of the calf, where mosquitoes still clung.
But, my poor children, said Mother Kull, you will have to.
It can't be helped. If we refuse them, don't you know, they will
burn our house down.
If they do, I'll kill them! The words shot out from the
gunpowdery temper of Anna Kull. Poor innocent girl of thirteen! She
never in her life had seen an act of cruelty greater than the taking of
a fish or the death of a chicken; but the impotent impulse of revenge
arose within her at the bare idea of having her pet, her pretty Sleet,
taken from her and eaten by soldiers.
You'd better keep still, Anna Kull, said Valentine. Mother, don't
you think we might hide the animals somewhere?
Where? echoed the poor woman, looking up and looking down.
Truly there seemed to be no place. Already six thousand British
soldiers had landed and taken possession of the island. Hills and
forests were not high enough nor deep enough; and now the very marsh
had cast them out by its army of winged stingersmore dreadful than
I just wish, ejaculated the poor sunburned, mosquito-tortured,
hungry girl, who stood between marsh and meadow,I wish I had
'em every one tied hand and foot and dumped into the sedge where we've
been. Mother, I wouldn't use Sleet's milk to-night, not a drop of
it,it's crazy milk, I know: she's been tortured so. Poor cow! poor
creature! poor, dear, nice, honest Sleet! And Anna patted the cow with
loving stroke and laid her head on its neck.
Well, children, eat something, and then we'll all go home
together,if they haven't carried off our cot already, said the
They sat down under a tree and ate with the eager, wholesome
appetite of children. Mrs. Kull kept watch that the cow did not wander
far from the place.
As they were eating, Valentine said to Anna, nodding his head in the
direction of his mother: I've thought of something. We must manage to
send her home without us.
I've thought of something, responded Anna. Yes, we must
I should like to know what you could think of, sister.
Should you? Why, think of saving the cow and calf, of course;
though, if you're very particular, you can leave the calf here.
And what will you do with the cow?
Put her in the boat
Whew! interrupted Valentine.
And ferry her over the sound, continued Anna.
You and me.
Do you think we could?
We can try.
That's brave! How's your arm?
All right! I jerked it back, slapping mosquitoes.
Give us another hunkey piece of bread and butter. Honey's good
to-day. I wonder mother thought about it.
I s'pose, said Anna, she'd as leave we had it as soldiers.
Wouldn't it be jolly if we could make 'em steal the bees?
The wind blew east. Up came martial sounds mingled with the break
and the roar of the ocean.
Oh, dear! They're a coming, gasped Mrs. Kull, running to the spot.
They're coming, and your father is not here.
Hide, hide, my children! Never mind the cow now, she almost
shrieked; her mind was running wild with all the scenes of terror she
had ever heard of.
Pshaw! pshaw! Mother Kull, said her boy, assuringly. They won't
come down here. Somebody's guiding them around who knows just where
every house is. You and Anna get into that thicket yonder and keep,
whatever happens, as still as mice.
What'll you do, bub? questioned Anna, her sunburned face
brown-pale with affright.
Oh, I'll take care of myself. Boys always do.
As soon as Mrs. Kull and her daughter were well concealed in the
thicket, the sounds began to die away. They waited half an hour. All
was still. They crept out, gazing the country over. No soldier in
sight. Down in the marsh again were boy and cow.
I'll run home now, said Mrs. Kull. I dare say 'twas all a trick
of my ears.
But I heard it, too, Mother Kull.
Your ears serve you tricks, too, Anna. You wait and help Valentine
home with the animals.
Anna was glad to have her mother gone. She sped to the marsh. She
threaded it, until by sundry signs she found the trio and summoned them
The old Blazing Star Ferry was seldom used. A boat lay there. It was
staunch. The tide with them, they might get it across. Had they
been older, wiser, they would never have made the attempt.
A fresh water stream ran down to the sea. They passed it on their
way thither. In it Sleet drank deep, and soothed for a moment the bites
that tormented her; the children kneeled on the grassy bank, and drank
from their palms; the calf frolicked in it, till driven out. An hour
went by. They reached the ferry. It was deserted. Somebody had used the
boat that day. It was at the shore. Grass was yet in it.
Come along, Snow, said Valentine, urging with the rope. Go along,
Snow, said Anna, helping it on with a stout twig she had picked up.
The calf pranced and ran, and before it knew its whereabouts was in the
broad-bottomed boat. Sleet stood on the shore, and saw her baby tied
fast. One poor cry the calf uttered. It went home to the motherly heart
of the dumb creature. She went down the sand, over the side, and began,
in her own way, to comfort Snow.
Now we are all right! cried Valentine, delighted with the success
of his ruse; for he had slyly, lest Anna should see the deed, thrust a
pin in Snow to call forth the cry and win the cow over to his side.
Take an oar quick! commanded the young captain.
His mate obeyed. They pushed the boat out, unfastened it from the
pier. Before anybody concerned had time to realize the situation the
boat was adrift, and they were whirling in the tide.
Now, sis, said Valentine, a big lump in his throat, we're in for
it. It is sink or swim. It's not much use to row. You steer and I'll
Sleet looked wildly around. She tossed her head, sniffed the salt,
oystery air, and seemed about to plunge overboard.
Anna screamed. Valentine threw down his paddle and dashed himself on
the boat's outermost edge just in time to save it from overturning.
Mistress Sleet, disgusted with Fourth of July, had made up her mind to
lie down and take a nap. The boat righted and they were safe. Staten
Island Sound at this point was narrow, scarcely more than a quarter of
a mile in width, and the tide was fast bearing them out.
Such uncommon good sense in Sleet, exclaimed the boy. That
cow is worth saving.
At that moment a dozen Red Coats were at the ferry they had just
left. The imperious gentlemen were in a fine frenzy at finding the boat
They shouted to the children to return.
Steady, steady now, cried the young captain. His mate was steady
at the helm until a musket ball or two ran past them.
Let go! shouted the captain. Swing your bonnet. Let them know
you're a woman and they won't fire on you.
The little mate stood erect. She waved her pink flag of a
sun-bonnet. Distinctly the soldiers saw the pink frock of Anna Kull;
they saw her long hair as the sea breeze lifted it when she shook her
A second, two, three went by as the girl stood there, and then a
flash was seen on the bank, a musket-ball ran through the bonnet of the
little mate, and the waves of air rattled along the shore.
The bonnet was in the sea; Anna had dropped to her seat and caught
the helm in her left hand.
Cowards! cried Valentine, for want of a stronger word, and then he
fell to working the boat on its way. The tide helped them now; it swung
the boat over toward the Jersey shore.
The firing from Staten Island called out the inhabitants on the
Jersey coast. They watched the approaching boat with interest.
Everything depended now on the cow's lying still, on the boy's
strength, on the meeting of the tides. If he could reach there before
the tide came up all would be well; otherwise it would sweep him off
again toward the island.
Can't you row? asked Valentine, at length.
Bub, I can't, said Anna, her voice shaking out the words. It was
the first time she had spoken since she sat down.
Are you hurt? he questioned.
I tremble so, she answered, and turned her face away.
I reckon we'd better help that boy in, said a Jersey fisherman as
he watched, and he put off in a small boat.
Don't come near! Keep off! keep off! called Valentine, as he saw
him approach. I've a cow in here.
The fisherman threw him a rope, and that rope saved them. The dewy
smell of the grassy banks had aroused the cow. She was stirring.
The land was very near now; close at hand. Hurry! hurry! urged the
lad, as they were drawing him in. Before the cow had time to rise, the
boat touched land.
You'd better look after that girl, said the fisherman, who had
towed the boat. The poor child was holding, fast wrapped in the
remnants of her pink frock, her bleeding hand. The musket ball that
shot away her bonnet grazed her wrist.
Never mind me, she said, when they were pitying her. The cow is
The same evening, while, in Philadelphia, bonfires were blazing,
bells ringing, cannon booming, because, that day, a new nation was
born; over Staten Island Sound, by the light of the moon, strong-armed
men were ferrying home the girl and the boy, who that day had
fought a good fight and gained the victory.
At home, in the Kull cottage, the mother waited long for the coming
of the children. She said; Poor young things! Mine own children
they shall have a nice supper. She made it ready and they were
Farmer Rycker's wife and daughter came over to tell and hear the
news, and yet they were not come.
Sundown. No children. The Kull father came up from his fishing and
heard the story.
The Red Coats have taken them, he said, and down came the musket
from against the wall, and out the father marched and made straightway
for the headquarters of General Howe, over at the present Quarantine.
Then the mother, left alone in the soft summer gloaming, fell on her
knees and told her story in her own plain speech to her good Father in
It was a long story. She had much to say to Heaven that night. The
mothers and wives of 1776 in our land spake often unto God. This mother
listened and prayed, and prayed and listened.
The fishermen had left Valentine and Anna on the shore and gone
home. Tired, but happy, the brother and sister went up, over sand and
field and slope, and so came at length within sight of the trees that
towered near home.
Whistle now! whispered Anna, afraid yet to speak aloud. Mother
will hear and answer.
Up jumped the mother Kull. She ran to the door and tried to answer.
There was no whistle in her lips. Joy choked it.
Mother, are you there? cried the children.
No! I'm here, was the answer, and she had them safe in her
PATTY RUTTER: THE QUAKER DOLL WHO
SLEPT IN INDEPENDENCE HALL.
Patty Rutter had fallen asleep with her bonnet on, and had been
lying there, fast asleep, nobody knew just how long; for, somehowit
happened sothere was nobody in particular to awaken her; that is to
say, no one had seemed to care though she slept on all day and all
night, without ever waking up at all.
But then, there never had been another life quite like Patty
Rutter's life. In the first place, it had a curious reason for
beginning at all; and nearly everything about it had been as unlike
your life and mine as possible.
In her very baby days, before she walked or talked, she had been
sent away to live with strangers, and no real, warm kiss of true love
had ever fallen on her little lips.
It all came about in this way: Mrs. Sarah Rutter, a lady living in
Philadelphiaexactly what relation she bore to Patty it is a little
difficult to determinedecided to send the little one to live with a
certain Mrs. Adams, at Quincy, in Massachusetts, and she particularly
desired that the child should go dressed in a style fitting an
inhabitant of the proud city of Philadelphia.
Now, at that time Philadelphia was very much elated because of
several things that had happened to her; but the biggest pride of all
was, that once upon a time the Continental Congress had met there,
andand most wonderful thinghad made a Nation!
Well, to be sure, that was something to be proud of; though
Patty didn't understand, a bit more than you do, what it meant.
However, the glory of it all was talked about so much that she couldn't
help knowing that, when this nation, with its fifty-six Fathers, and
thirteen Mothers, was born one day in July, 1776, at Philadelphia, all
the city rang with a sweet jangle, and called to all the people,
through the tongue of its Liberty bell, to come up and greet the
newcomer with a great shout of welcome.
But that had been long ago, before Mrs. Sarah Rutter was grown up,
or Patty Rutter began to be dressed for her trip to Quincy.
As I wrote, Mrs. Rutter wished that Patty should go attired in a
manner to do honor to the city of Philadelphia; therefore she was not
permitted to depart in her baby clothes, but her little figure was
arrayed in a long, prim gown of soft drab silk, while a kerchief of
purest mull was crossed upon her breast; and, depending from her waist,
like the fashion of to-day, were pincushion and watch. Upon her
youthful head was a bonnet, crowned and trimmed in true Quaker fashion;
and her infantile feet were securely tied within shapely slippers of
kid. Thus equipped, Miss Patty was sent forth upon her journey.
Ah! that journey began a long time agofifty-eight, yes, fifty-nine
years have gone by, and Patty Rutter is quite an aged little lady now,
as she lies asleep, with her bonnet on.
It is time, says somebody, to close.
No one seems to take notice that Patty Rutter does not get up and
depart with the rest of the visitors, that she only stirs her eyelids
and turns her head on the silken quilt where she is lying.
The little woman who keeps house in the Hall locks it up and goes
away, and there is little Patty Rutter shut in for the night. As the
key turns in the old-time lock, the Lady Rutter winks hard and sits up.
Well, I've been patient, anyhow, and Mrs. Samuel Adams herself
couldn't wish me to do more, she said, with a comforting yawn and a
delightful stretch, and then she began to stare in blank bewilderment.
I should like to know what this all means, she whispered,
and where I am. I've heard enough to-day to turn my head. How
very queer folks are, and they talk such jargon now-a-days. Centennial
and Corliss Engine; Woman's Pavilion and Memorial Hall; Main Building
and the Trois Freres; Hydraulic Annex, railroads and what-nots.
I never heard of such things. I don't think it is proper to
speak of them, or the Adamses would have told me. No more intelligent
folks in the land than the Adamses, and I guess they know what
belongs to good society and polite conversation. I declare I blushed so
in my sleep that I was quite ashamed. I'll get up and look about now.
I'm sure this isn't any one of the houses where we visit, or folks
wouldn't talk so.
Patty Rutter straightened her bonnet on her head, smoothed down her
robe of silken drab, adjusted her kerchief, looked at her watch to
learn how long she had been sleeping, and found, to her surprise, that
it had run down. Right over her head hung two watches.
Why, how thoughtful folks are in this house, she exclaimed in a
timid voice, reaching up and taking one of the two time-pieces in her
hand. Why, here's a name; let me see.
Reading slowly, she announced that the watch belonged to Wil-liam
Wil-liamsworn when he signed the Declaration of Independence. Ah!
she cried, with pathetic tone, this watch is run down too, at
four minutes after five. I remember! This William Williams was
one of the fifty-six Fathers. I guess I must be in Lebanonhe lived
there and his folks would have his watch of course. Here's another,
taking down a watch and reading, Colonel John Trumbull. Run down,
too! and at twenty-three minutes after six. He was the son
of Brother Jonathan, Governor of one of the Mothers, when the Nation
was born. Yes, yes, I must be in Lebanon. Well, it's a comfort, at
least, to know that I'm in company the Adamses would approve of, though
how I came here is a mystery.
She hung the watches in place, stepped out of the glass room, in
which she had slept, into a hall, and with a slight exclamation of
delicious approval, stopped short before a number of chairs, and
clasped her little fingers tightly together.
You must remember that Patty Rutter was a Friend, a Quaker, perhaps
a descendant of William Penn, but then, in her baby days, having been
transplanted to the rugged soil and outspoken ways of Massachusetts,
she could not keep silence altogether, in view of that which greeted
She was in the very midst of old friends. Chairs in which she had
sat in her young days stood about the grand hall. On the walls hung
portraits of the ancestor kings of the nation born at Philadelphia in
In royal robes and with careless grace, lounged King George III.,
the nation's grandfather, angry no longer at his thirteen daughters who
strayed from home with the Sons of Liberty.
Her feet made haste and her eyes opened wider, as her swift hands
seized relic after relic. She sat in chairs that Washington had rested
in; she caught up camp-kettles used on every field where warriors of
the Revolution had tarried; she patted softly La Fayette's camp
bedstead; and wondered at the taste that had put into the hall two old,
time-worn, battered doors, but soon found out that they had gone
through all the storm of balls that fell upon the Chew House during the
battle of Germantown.
She read the wonderful prayer that once was prayed in Carpenter's
Hall, and about which every member of Congress wrote home to his wife.
On a small stand, encased in glass, she came upon a portrait of
Washington, painted during the time he waited for powder at Cambridge.
Patty Rutter had seen it often, with its halo of the General's own hair
about it. She turned from it, and beheld (why, yes, surely she had
seen that, but not here; it was, why long ago, in her baby days
in Philadelphia, that Mrs. Rutter had taken her up into a tower to see
it), a bellLiberty Bell, that rang above the heads of the Fathers
when the Nation was born.
Poor little Patty began to cry. Where could she be? She reached out
her hand, and climbed the huge beams that encased the bell, and tried
to touch the tongue. She wanted to hear it ring again, but could not
It's curious, curious, she sobbed, wiping her eyes and turning
them with a thrill of delight upon a beloved name that greeted her
vision. It was growing dark, and she might be wrong. But no, it
was the dear name of Adams; and she saw, in a basket, a little pile of
baby raiment. There were dainty caps and tiny shirts of cambric, whose
linen was like a gossamer web, and whose delicate lines of hem-stitch
were scarcely discernible; there were small dresses, yellow with the
sun color that time had poured over them, and they hung with pathetic
crease and tender fold over the sides of the basket.
The little woman paused and peered to read these words,
Baby-clothes, made by Mrs. John Adams for her son, John Quincy Adams.
Little John Quincy! she cried, A baby so long ago! She took the
little caps in her hands, she pulled out the crumpled lace that edged
them. She said, through the swift-falling tears:
Oh, I remember when he was brought home dead, and how, in
the Independence Hall of the State House at Philadelphia, he lay in
state, that the inhabitants who knew his deeds, and those of his
father, John, and his uncle, Samuel, might see his face. I love the
Adamses every one, and she softly pressed the baby-caps that had been
wrought by a mother, ere the country began, to her small Quaker lips,
with real New England fervor for its very own. Tenderly she laid them
down, to see, while the light was fading, a huge picture on the wall.
She studied it long, trying to discern the faces, with their savage
beauty; the sturdy right-doing men who stood before them; and then her
eyes began to glisten, and gather light from the picture; her lips
parted, her breath quickened; for Patty Rutter had gone beyond her life
associations in Massachusetts, back to the times in which her Quaker
ancestors had make treaty with the native Indians.
It is! she cried with a shout; It is Penn's treaty! Patty gazed
at it until she could see no longer. I'm glad it is the last thing my
eyes will remember, she said sorrowfully, when in the gloom she turned
away, went down the hall, and entered her glass chamber.
Never mind my watch, she said softly. When I waken it will be
daylight, and I need not wind it. It will be so sweet to lie here
through the night in such grand and goodly company. I only wish Mrs.
Samuel Adams could come and kiss me good night.
With these words, Patty Rutter laid herself to rest upon the silken
quilt from Gardiner's Island; and if you look within the Relic Room,
opposite to Independence Hall, in the old State House at Philadelphia,
in this Centennial summer, you will find her there, still taking her
long nap, fully indorsed by Miss Adams, and in Independence
Hall, across the passage way, you will see the portraits of more than
fifty of the Fathers of the nation, but the Mothers abide at home.
BECCA BLACKSTONE'S TURKEYS AT VALLEY
Turkeys, little girl and apple-tree lived in Pennsylvania, a hundred
years ago. The turkeyseleven of themwent to bed in the apple-tree,
one night in December.
After it was dark, the little girl stood under the tree and peered
up through the boughs and began to count. She numbered them from one up
to eleven. Addressing the turkeys, she said: You're all up there, I
see, and if you only knew enough; if you weren't the dear, old, wise,
stupid things that you are, I'll tell you what you would do. After I'm
gone in the house, and the door is shut, and nobody here to see, you'd
get right down, and you'd fly off in a hurry to the deepest part of the
wood to spent your Thanksgiving, you would. The cold of the woods isn't
half as bad for you as the fire of the oven will be.
Becca finished her speech; the turkeys rustled in their feathers and
doubtless wondered what it all meant, while she stood thinking. One
poor fellow lost his balance and came fluttering down to the ground,
just as she had decided what to do. As soon as he was safely reset on
his perch, Becca made a second little speech to her audience, in which
she declared that they, the dear turkeys, were her own; that she had a
right to do with them just as she pleased, and that it was her good
pleasure that not one single one of the eleven should make a part of
anybody's Thanksgiving dinner.
Heigh-ho, whistles Jack, Becca's ten-year-old brother: that you,
Bec? High time you were in the house.
S'pose I frightened you, said Becca. Where have you been gone all
the afternoon, I'd like to know? stealin' home too, across lots.
I'll tell, if you won't let on a mite.
Do I ever, Jack? reproachfully.
He did not deign to answer, but in confidential whispers breathed it
into her ears that he had been down to the Forge. Down to the Valley
Forge, where General Washington was going to fetch down lots and lots
of soldiers, and build log huts, and stay all Winter. He ended his
breathless narration with an allusion that made Becca jump as though
she had seen a snake. He said: It will be bad for your turkeys.
Why, Jack? General Washington won't steal them.
Soldiers eat turkey whenever they can get it; and, Bec, this
apple-tree isn't above three miles from the Forge. You'd better have
'em all killed for Thanksgiving. Come, I'm hungry as a bear.
But, said Becca, grasping his jacket sleeve as they went, I've
just promised 'em that they shall not be touched.
Jack's laugh set every turkey into motion, until the tree was all in
a flutter of excitement. He laughed again and again, before he could
say What a little goose you are! Just as if turkeys understood a word
But I understood if they didn't, and I should be telling my own
self a lie. No, not a turkey shall die. They shall all have a real good
Thanksgiving once in their lives.
Two days later, on the 18th of December, Thanksgiving Day came, the
turkeys were yet alive, and Becca Blackstone was happy.
The next day General Washington's eleven thousand men marched into
Valley Forge, and went out upon the cold, bleak hillsides, carrying
with them almost three thousand poor fellows, too ill to march, too ill
to build log huts, ill enough to lie down and die. Such a busy time as
there was for days and days. Farmer Blackstone felt a little toryish in
his thoughts, but the chance to sell logs and split slabs so near home
as Valley Forge was not likely to happen again, and he worked away with
strong good will to furnish building material. Jack went every day to
the encampment, and grew quite learned in the ways of warlike men.
Becca staid at home with her mother, but secretly wished to see what
the great army looked like.
At last the final load of chestnut and walnut and oaken logs went up
to the hills from Mr. Blackstone's farm, and a great white snow fell
down over all Pennsylvania, covering the mountains and hills, the
soldiers' log huts, and the turkeys in the apple-tree. January came and
went, and every day affairs at the camp grew worse. Men were dying of
hunger and cold and disease. Stories of the sufferings of the men grew
strangely familiar to the inhabitants. Affairs that Winter would not
have been quite so hard at Valley Forge if the neighbors for miles
around had not been Tories. Now Becca Blackstone's mother was a New
England women, and in secret she bestowed many a comfort upon one after
another of her countrymen at the encampment. Her husband was willing to
sell logs and slabs and clay from his pits, but not a farthing or a
splinter of wood had he to bestow on the rebels.
At last, one January day, when Mr. Blackstone had gone to
Philadelphia, permission was given to Becca to accompany her mother and
Jack to the village. Into the rear of the sleigh a big basket was
packed. Becca was told that she must not ask any questions nor peep, so
she neither questioned nor looked in, but found out, after all, for
when they were come to the camp, she saw her mother take out loaves of
rye bread and a jug, into which she knew nothing but milk ever was put,
and carry them into a hut which had the sign of a hospital over it.
Every third cabin was a hospital, and each and every one held within it
men that were always hungry and in suffering.
In all her life Becca had never seen so much to make her feel sorry,
as she saw when she followed her mother to the door of the
log-hospital, into which she was forbidden to enter.
There large-eyed, hungry men lay on the cold ground, with only poor,
wretched blankets to cover them. She caught a glimpse of a youthhe
did not seem much older than her own Jackwith light, fair hair, such
big blue eyes, and the thinnest, whitest hands, reaching up for the mug
of milk her mother was offering to him.
Then, when Jack came to her, he was wiping his eyes on his jacket
sleeve. He said If I was a soldier, and my country didn't care any
more for me than Congress does, I'd go home and leave the Red Coats to
carry off Congress. It's too bad, and he's a jolly good fellow. Wish we
could take him home and get him well.
Who is he, Jack?
O, a soldier-boy from one of the New England colonies. He's got a
brother with himthat's good.
The drive home, over the crisp snow, was a very silent one. More
than one tear froze on Mrs. Blackstone's cheek, as she remembered the
misery her eyes had beheld, and her hands could do so little to
The next day Mr. Blackstone reached home from Philadelphia. He had
seen the Britons in all the glory and pomp of plenty and red
regimentals in a prosperous city. He returned a confirmed Tory, and
wishednever mind what he did wish, since his unkind wish never came
to passbut this is that which he did, he forbade Mrs. Blackstone to
give anything that belonged to him to a soldier of General Washington's
What will you do now, mamma, with all the stockings and mittens you
are knitting? questioned Becca.
Don't ask me, child, was the tearful answer that mother made, for
her whole heart was with her countrymen in their brave struggle.
Three nights after that time Mr. Blackstone entered his house,
I caught a ragged, bare-footed tatterdemalion hanging around, and I
warned him off; told him he'd better go home, if he'd got one anywhere,
and if not to join the army, of his king at Philadelphia.
What did he say, pa? asked Jack.
O some tomfoolery or other about the man having nothing to eat but
hay for two days, and his brother dying over at the Forge. I didn't
stop to listen to the fellow, but sent him flying.
Jack touched his mother's toe in passing, and gave Becca a
mysterious nod of the head, as much as to say:
He's the soldier from our hospital over there, but nobody made
answer to Mr. Blackstone.
Becca's eyes filled with tears as she sat down at the tea-table, and
sturdy Jack staid away until the last minute, taking all the time he
could at washing his hands, that he might get as many looks as possible
through the window in the hope that the bare-footed soldier might be
lingering about, but he gained no glimpse of him.
Farmer Blackstone had the rheumatism sometimes, and that night he
had it worse than ever, so that an hour after tea-time he was quite
ready to go to bed, and his wife was quite ready to have him go, also
to give him the soothing, quieting remedies he called for.
Becca was to sit up that night until eight-of-the-clock, if she made
no noise to disturb her father.
While her mother was busied in getting her father comfortable, she
thought, as it was such bright moonlight, she would go out to give her
turkeys a count, it having been two or three nights since she had
Slipping a shawl of her mother's over her head, she opened softly
the kitchen door to steal out. The lowest possible whistle from Jack
accosted her at the house corner. That lad intercepted her course, drew
her back into the shadow, and bade her Look!
She looked across the snow, over the garden wall, into the orchard,
and there, beneath her apple-tree, stood something between a man and a
scarecrow, and it appeared to be looking up at the sleeping turkeys.
Both arms were uplifted.
O dear! what shall we do? whispered Becca, all in a shiver of cold
Let's go and speak to him. Maybe it is our hospital man, said
Jack, with a great appearance of courage.
The two children started, hand in hand, and approached the soldier
so quietly that he did not hear the sound of their coming.
As they went, Becca squeezed her brother's fingers and pointing to
the snow over which they walked, whispered the word Blood!
From his feet, responded Jack, shutting his teeth tightly
Yes, there it lay in bright drops on the glistening snow, showing
where the feet of the patriot had trod. The children stood still when
they were come near to the tree. At the instant their mother appeared
in the kitchen doorway and called Jack!
The ragged soldier of the United American States lost his courage at
the instant and began to retire in confusion; but Becca summoned him to
Wait a minute! He waited.
Did you want one of my turkeys? she asked.
I was going to steal one, to save my brother's life, he
Is he only a boy, and has he light hair and blue eyes, and does he
lie on the wet ground?
That's Joseph, he groaned.
Then take a good, big, fat turkeythat one there, if you can get
him, said Becca. They are all mine.
The turkey was quietly secured.
Now take one for yourself, said Becca.
Number two came down from the perch.
How many men are there in your hospital? asked Jack, who had
responded to his mother's summons, and was holding a pair of warm
stockings in his hand.
Give him another, Becthere's a good girl; three turkeys ain't a
bone too many for twelve hungry men, prompted Jack.
Take three! said Becca. My pa never counts my turkeys.
The third turkey joined his fellows.
Better put these stockings on before you start, or father will
track you to the camp, said Jack. And pa told ma never to give you
anything of his any more.
Never was weighty burden more cheerfully borne than the bag Jack
helped to hoist over the soldier's shoulder as soon as the stockings
had been drawn over the bleeding feet.
Now I'm going. Thank you, and good night. If you, little girl,
would give me a kiss, I'd take itas from my little Bessy in
That's for Bessy in Connecticut, said the little girl, giving him
one kiss, and now I'll give you one for Becca in Pennsylvania. Hurry
home and roast the turkeys quick.
They watched him go over the hill.
Jack, said Becca, if I'd told a lie to the turkeys where would
they have been to-night, and Joseph? There are eight more. I wish I'd
told him to come again. Pa's rheumatism came just right to-night,
I reckon next year you won't have all the turkeys to give away to
the soldiers, said Jack, adding quite loftily, I shall go to raising
turkeys in the Spring myself, and when Winter comes we shall see.
Now, Jacky, said Becca, half-crying, there are eight left, and
you take half.
No, I won't, rejoined Jack. I'd just like to walk over to Valley
Forge and see the soldiers enjoy turkey. Won't they have a feast! I
shouldn't wonder if they'd eat one raw.
Soldiers do eat dreadful things sometimes, he assured her with a
lofty air. And then they went into the house, and the door was shut.
The next year there was not a soldier left above the sod at Valley
Now the soldiers are gone, the camp is not, the little girl has
passed away, the apple-tree is dead, and only the hills at Valley Forge
are left to tell the story, bitter with suffering, eloquent with
praise, of the men who had a hundred years ago toiled for Freedom
there, and are gone home to God.
HOW TWO LITTLE STOCKINGS SAVED FORT
A story, children; so soon after Christmas, too! Let me think, what
shall it be?
O yes, mamma, uttered three children in chorus.
Mrs. Livingston sat looking into the fire that flamed on the broad
hearth so long, that Carl said, by way of reminder that time was
passing: An uncommon story.
Then up spoke Bessie: Mamma, something, please, out of the real old
time before much of anybody 'round here was born.
As long off as the Indians, assisted young Dot.
Ah yes; that will do, children. I will tell you a story that
happened in this very house almost a hundred years ago. It was told to
me by my grandmother when she was very old.
There was a grand old lady, Mrs. Livingston, at the head of this
house then. She loved her country very much indeed, and was willing to
do anything she could to help it, in the time of great trouble, during
the war for independence. My grandmother was a little girl, not so old
as you, Bessie. Her name was Lorinda Grey, and her home was in Boston.
The year before, when British soldiers kept close watch to see that
nothing to eat, or wear, or burn, was carried into Boston, Mr. Grey
contrived to get his family out of the city, and Lorinda, with her
brother Otis, was sent here. Afterward, when Boston was free again, the
two children were left because the father was too busy to make the long
journey after them.
Altogether, more than a dozen children belonging in some way to the
Livingstons had been sent to the old house. The family friends and
relatives gave the place the name Fort Safety, because it lay far
away from the enemy's ships, and quite out of the line where the
soldiers of either army marched or camped.
The year had been very full of sorrow and care and trouble and hard
work; but when the time for Christmas drew near, this grand old Mrs.
Livingston said it should be the happiest Christmas that the old house
had ever known. She would make the children happy once, whatever might
come afterward, and so she set about it quite early in the fall. One
day the children (there were more than a dozen of them in the house at
the time) found out that the great room at the end of the hall was
locked. They asked Mrs. Livingston many times when it meant, and at
last she told them that one night after they were in bed and asleep,
Santa Claus appeared at her door and asked if he might occupy that room
until the night before Christmas. She told him he might, and he had
locked the door himself, and said if any child so much as looked
through a crack in the door that child would find nothing but chestnut
burs in his stocking. Well, the children knew that Santa Claus meant
what he said, always, so they used to run past the door every day as
fast as they could go and keep their eyes the other way, lest something
should be seen that ought not to. Before the day came every wide
chimney in the house was swept bright and clean for Santa Claus.
Aunt Elise, a sweet young lady, lived here then. She was old Mrs.
Livingston's daughter, and she told the children that she had seen
Santa Claus with her own eyes when he locked the door, and he said that
every room must be made as fine as fine could be.
After that Tom and Richard and Will and Philip worked away as hard
as they could. They gathered bushels and bushels of ivy, and a mile or
two of ground-pine, and eight or ten pecks of bitter-sweet, and stored
them all in the corn granary, and waited for the day. Then, when Aunt
Elise set to work to adorn the house, she had twenty-four willing hands
to help, beside her own two.
When all was made ready, and it was getting near to night in the
afternoon before Christmas, Mrs. Livingston sent a messenger for three
men from the farm. When they were come, she called in three African
servants, and she said to the six men, Saddle horses and ride away,
each one of you in a different direction, and go to every house within
five miles of here, and ask: 'Are any children in this habitation?'
Then say that you are sent to fetch the children's stockings, that
Santa Claus wants them, and take special care to bring me two
stockings from each child, whose father or brother is away fighting for
So the six men set forth on their queer errand, after stockings, and
they rode up hill and down, and to the great river's bank, and wherever
the message was given at a house door, if a child was within hearing,
off flew a stocking, and sometimes two, as the case might be about
father and brother.
Now, in a deep little dell, about five miles away, there was a
small, old brown house, and in it lived Mixie Brownson with her mother
and brother, but this night Mixie was all alone. When one of the six
horsemen rode up to the door, and without getting down from his horse,
thumped away on it with his riding-whip handle, Mixie thought, Like as
not it is an Indian, but she straightway lifted the wooden latch and
opened the door.
There's one child here, I see, said the black man. Any more?
I'm all alone, trembled forth poor Mixie.
More's the pity, said the man. I want one of your stockings; two
of 'em, if you're a soldier's little girl. I'm taking stockings to
O take both mine, then, please, said Mixie with delight, and she
drew off two warm woolen stockings and made them into a little bundle,
which he thrust into a bag, and off he rode. Mixie's father was a
Royalist, fighting with the Indians for the British, but then Mrs.
Livingston knew nothing about that.
It was nearly midnight when the stockings reached Fort Safety. It
was in this very room that Mrs. Livingston and Aunt Elise received
them. Some were sweet and clean, and some were not; some were new and
some were old. So they looked them over, and made two little piles, the
one to be filled, the other to be washed.
About this time Santa Claus came down from his locked-up room, with
pack after pack, and began to fill stockings. There were ninety-seven
of them, beside sixteen more that were hung on a line stretched across
the fire-place by the children before they went to bed, so as to be
very handy for Santa Claus when he should enter by the chimney.
What an awful rich lady my fine old Grandmother Livingston must
have been, to have goodies enough to fill 113 stockings! said Carl,
his red hair fairly glistening with interest and pride; while Bessie
and Dot looked eagerly at the fire-place and around the room, to see if
any fragment of a stocking might, by any chance, be about anywhere.
Well, at last the stockings were full. I cannot tell you exactly
what was in them. I remember that my grandmother said, that in every
stocking went, first of all, a nice, pretty pair of new ones, just the
size of the old ones; and next, a pair of mittens to fit hands
belonging with feet that could wear the stockings. I know there were
oranges and some kind of candy, too.
At last the stockings were all hung on a line extending along two
sides of the room, and Mrs. Livingston and Aunt Elise locked the room,
and being very tired, went to bed. The next morning, bright and early,
there was a great pattering of bare feet and a flitting of night-gowns
down the staircase, past the evergreen trees in the hall, and a little
host of twelve children stood at that door, trying to get in; but it
was all of no use, and they had to march back to bed again.
As for Otis Grey, he was a real Boston boy, full of the spirit of a
Liberty Rebel. He dressed himself slyly, slipped down on the great
stair-rail, so as to make no noise, opened softly the hall-door, went
outside, climbed up, and looked into the room. When he peeped, he was
so frightened at the long line of fat stockings that he made haste
down, and never said a word to anybody, except my grandmother (Lorinda
Grey, his sister); and they two kept the secret.
Breakfast time came, and not a child of the dozen had heard a word
from Santa Claus that morning.
Mrs. Livingston said a very long grace, and after that she said to
the children: I have disappointed you this morning, but you will all
have your stockings as soon as a little company I have invited to spend
the day with you, is come.
Bless me! whispered Otis Grey to his sister, are all them
Otis, said Mrs. Livingston, you may leave the table.
Otis obeyed silently, and lost his Christmas breakfast for the time.
Mrs. Livingston had strict laws in her house, and punishment always
The morning was long to the children, but it was a busy time in the
winter kitchen, and even the summer kitchen was alive with cookery; and
at just mid-day Philip cried out Company's come, grandma!
A dozen or more of the stocking-owners were at the door. In they
trooped, bright and laughing and happy. Before they were fairly inside,
more came, and more, and still more, until full sixty boys and girls
were gathered up and down the great hall and parlors. Mixie Brownson
came on the last sled-load. Now Mrs. Livingston did not know, even by
name, more than one-half of the young folks she had undertaken to make
happy that day; but that made no manner of difference, and the children
had not the least idea that Santa Claus had their stockings all hung up
in this room, until suddenly the doors were opened, and there was the
great hickory-wood fire, and the sunlight streaming in, and the
stockings, fat and bulging, hanging in rows. Some were red, and some
were blue, and some were white, and some were mixed. Grand old Mrs.
Livingston stood within the room, her white curls shining and her stiff
Come in, children, she said, and in they trooped, silent with awe
and wonder at the sight they saw. The lady arranged them side by side,
in lines, on the two sides of the room where the stockings were not,
and then she said:
Santa Claus, come forth!
In yonder corner there began a motion in the branches of the
evergreen tree, and such a Santa Claus as crept forth was never seen
before. He was bulgy with furs from crown to foot, but he made a low
curve over toward Mrs. Livingston, and then nodded his head about the
lines of children.
Good day to you, this Christmas, he said.
Wish you Merry Christmas, Santa Claus, said Philip, with a bow.
Here's business, said Santa Claus. Stockings, let me see. Whoever
owns the stocking that I take down from the line, will step forward and
Every single one of the children knew his or her own property, at a
glance. Santa Claus had a busy time of it handing down stockings, and a
few minutes later he escaped without notice, and was seen no more that
year, in Fort Safety.
After the stockings came dinner, and such a dinner as it was!
Whatever there was not, I remember that it was told to me that there
was great abundance of English plum-pudding. After dinner came games
and more happiness, and after the last game, came time to go home. The
sweet clear afternoon suddenly became dark with clouds, and it began to
snow soon after the first load set off. One or two followed, and by the
time the last one was ready to start, Mrs. Livingston looked forth and
said not another child should leave her roof that night in such a
Eight little hands clapped their new mittens together in token of
joy, but poor little Mixie Brownson began to cry. She had never in her
life been away from the brown house.
Tea was served, and Mixie was comforted for a short time. After that
came games again, until all were weary with play; and Otis Grey begged
Mrs. Livingston for a story.
Mixie was tearful still, and she crept shyly to the lady's side and
sobbed forth: I wish you was my grandma and would take me in your
Mrs. Livingston stooped and kissed Mixie's cheek, then lifted her on
her knees and began to tell the children a story. It must have been a
very pretty picture that the old, blowing snowstorm looked in upon that
night, in this very room: twenty or more children seated around the
fire-circle, with stately Mrs. Livingston and pretty Aunt Elise in
Whilst all this was going on within, outside a band of Indians, led
by a white man, was approaching Fort Safety to burn it down.
Step by step, the savages crept nearer and nearer, until they were
standing in the very light that streamed out from the Christmas
The white man who led them was in the service of the English, and
knew every step of the way, and just who lived in the great house.
He ordered them to stand back while he looked in. Creeping closer
and closer, he climbed, as Otis Grey had done, and put his face to the
window-pane. He saw Mrs. Livingston and Miss Elise, and the great
circle of eager, interested faces, all looking at the story-teller, and
he wiped his eyes in order to get one more good look, for he could not
believe the story they told to him: that his own poor little Mixie was
in there, sitting in proud Mrs. Livingston's lap, looking happier than
he had ever seen her. He stayed so long, peering in, that the savages
grew impatient. One or two of their chief men crept up and put their
swarthy faces beside his own.
It so happened that at that moment Aunt Elise glanced toward the
window. She did not scream, she uttered no word; but she fell from her
chair to the floor.
[Illustration: His own poor little Mixie was there, sitting in
proud Mrs. Livingston's lap.]
Mixie's father, for it was he who led the savages, saw what was
happening within, and ordered the Indians to march away and leave the
big house unhurt. They grunted and grumbled, and refused to go until
they had been told that the little girl on the lady's knee was his
He not going to burn his own papoose, explained the Indian chief
to his red men; and then the evil band went groping away through the
The story to the children was not finished that night, for on the
floor lay pretty Aunt Elise, as white as white could be; and it was a
long time before she was able to speak. As soon as she could sit up,
she wished to get out into the open air.
Mrs. Livingston went with her, and when she was told what had been
seen at the window, they together examined the freshly fallen snow and
found traces of moccasined feet.
With fear and trembling, the two ladies entered the house. Not a
word of what had been seen was spoken to servant or child. Aunt Elise
from an upper window kept watch during the time that Mrs. Livingston
returned thanks to God for the happy day the children had passed, and
asked His love and protecting care during the silent hours of sleep.
Then the sleepy, happy throng climbed the wide staircase to the
rooms above, went to bed and slept until morning.
Not a red face approached Fort Safety that night. The two ladies,
letting the Christmas fires go down, kept watch from the windows until
the day dawned.
I'm so glad, exclaimed Carl, that my fine, old, greatest of
grandmothers thought of having that good time at Christmas.
Dear me! sighed Bessie, if she hadn't, we wouldn't have this nice
Mamma, said Dot, let's have a good stocking-time next Christmas;
just like that one, all but the Indians.
O, mamma, will you? cried Bessie, jumping with glee.
Where would we get the soldiers' children, though,
Lots of 'em in Russia and Turkey, if we only lived there, observed
Bessie. But there's always plenty of children that want
a good time and never get it, just as much as the soldiers' children
did. Will you, mamma?
When Christmas comes again, I will try to make just as many little
folks happy as I can, said Mrs. Livingston.
And we'll begin now, said Carl, so as to be all ready. I
shall saw all summer, so as to make lots of pretty brackets and
And I s'pose I shall have to dress about five hundred dolls to go
'round, sighed Bessie, there are so many children now-a-days.
A DAY AND A NIGHT IN THE OLD PORTER
Monday morning, July 5th, 1779, was oppressively warm and sultry in
the Naugatuck Valley. Great Hill, that rises so grandly to the
northward of Union City, and at whose base the red house still nestles
that was built either by Daniel Porter or his son Thomas before or as
early as 1735, was bathed in the full sunlight, for it was past eight
of the clock. Up the hill had just passed a herd of cows owned by Mr.
Thomas Porter and driven by his son Ethel, a lad of fourteen, and
Ethel's sister Polly, aged twelve years.
It's awful hot to-day! said Ethel, as he threw himself on the
grass at the hill-topthe cows having been duly cared for.
[Illustration: The Old Porter House]
You'd better not lose time lying here, said Polly. There's
altogether too much going on uptown to-day, and there's lots to do
before we go up to celebrate.
One thing at a time, replied Ethel, and this is my time to rest.
I never knew a hill to grow so much in one night before.
Well! you can rest, but I'm going to find out what that fellow is
riding his poor horse so fast for this hot morningsomebody must be
dying! Just see that line of dust a mile away! and Polly started down
Great Hill to meet the rider.
The horseman stayed his horse at Fulling Mill Brook to give him a
drink, and Polly reached the brook just at the instant the horse buried
his nose in the cool stream.
Do you live near here? questioned the rider.
My father, Mr. Thomas Porter, keeps the inn yonder, said Polly.
I can't stop, said the horseman, though I've ridden from New
Haven without breakfast, and I must get up to the Center; but you tell
your father the British are landing at West Haven. They have
more that forty vessels! The new president was on the tower of the
College when I came by, watching with his spy-glass, and he shouted
down that he could see them, landing.
At that instant, Ethel reached the brook. What's going on? he
You're a likely looking boyyou'll do! said the horseman, with a
glance at Ethel, cutting off at the same instant the draught his horse
was enjoying, by a sudden pull at the bridle lines. You go tell the
news! Get out the militia! Don't lose a minute.
What news? What for? asked Ethel, but the rider was flying onward.
A pretty time we'll have celebrating to-day, said Polly, to
herself, dipping the corner of her apron into the brook and wiping her
heated face with it, as she hurried to the house. Meanwhile, her
brother was running and shouting after the man who had ridden off in
As Polly entered the house the big brick oven stood wide open, and
it was filled to the door with a roaring fire. On the long table stood
loaves of bread almost ready for the oven. Her sister Sybil was putting
apple pies on the same table. Sybil was a beautiful girl of twenty
years, much admired and greatly beloved in the region.
What is Ethel about so long this morning, that I have his work to
do, I wonder! exclaimed Mr. Thomas Porter, as he lifted himself from
the capacious fire-place in which he had been piling birch-wood under
the cranefrom which hung in a row three big iron pots.
It is a pretty hot morning, and the sun is powerful on the hill,
father, said Mrs. Mehitable Porter in replynot seeing Polly, who
stood panting and glowing with all the importance of having great news
Father, cried Polly, where is Truman and the men? Send 'em! send
What's the matter? what's the matter, child? exclaimed Mr. Porter,
while his wife and Sybil stood in alarm.
At that instant Ethel sprang in, crying out, The militia! The
militia! They want the militia.
What for, and who wants the men? asked his father.
I don't know. He didn't stop to tell. He said: 'Get out the
militia! Don't lose a minute!' and then rode on.
Father, I know, said Polly. He told me. The British
ships, more than forty of them, are landing soldiers at New Haven.
President Stiles saw them at daybreak from the college tower with his
Before Polly had ceased to speak, Ethel was off. Within the next ten
minutes six horses had set forth from the Porter houseeach rider for
a special destination.
I'll give the alarm to the Hopkinses, cried back Polly from her
pony, as she disappeared in the direction of Hopkins Hill.
And I'll stir up Deacon Gideon and all the Hotchkisses from the
Captain over and down, said ten-year-old Stephen, as he mounted.
You'd better make sure that Sergeant Calkins and Roswell hear the
news. Tell Captain Terrell to get out his Ring-bone company, and don't
forget Captain John and Abraham Lewis, Lieutenant Beebe, and all the
rest. It isn't much use to go over the rivernot much help we'd
get, however much the British might, on that side, advised Mr. Porter,
as the fourth messenger departed.
When the last courier had set forth, leaving only Mr. and Mrs.
Porter, Sybil and two servants in the house, Mr. Porter said to his
wife: I believe, mother, that I'll go up town and see what I can do
for Colonel Baldwin and Phineas. Major Phineas Porter was his brother,
who six months earlier had married Melicent, daughter of Colonel
Baldwin and widow of Isaac Booth Lewis (the lady whose name has been
chosen for the Waterbury, Connecticut, Chapter of Daughters of the
After Mr. Porter's departure Mrs. Porter said to Sybil, You
remember how it was two years ago at the Danbury alarm, how we were
left without a crumb in the house and fairly went hungry to bed. I
think I'd better stir up a few extra loaves of rye bread and make some
more cake. You'd better call up Phyllis and Nancy and tell them to let
the washing go and help me.
Phyllis and Nancy were filled with astonishment and awe at the
command to leave the washing and bake, for, during their twenty years'
service in the house, nothing had ever been allowed to stay the
progress of Monday's washing.
Before mid-day another messenger came tearing up the New Haven road
and demanded a fresh horse in order to continue the journey to arouse
help and demand haste. He brought the half-past nine news from New
Haven that fifteen hundred men were marching from West Haven Green to
the bridge, that women and children were escaping to the northward and
westward with all the treasure that they could carry, or bury on the
way, because every horse in the town had been taken for the defence.
He had not finished his story, when from the northward the hastily
equipped militia came hurrying down the road. It was reported that
messengers had been posted from Waterbury Centre to Westbury and to
Northbury; to West Farms and to Farmingburyall parts of ancient
Waterburyand soon The City, as it was called in 1779, now Union City,
would be filled with militiamen.
The messenger from New Haven grew impatient for the fresh horse he
had asked for. While he waited on the porch, Cato, son of Phyllis,
whose duty it was to make ready his steed, sought Mrs. Porter in the
Where that New Haven fellow, he asked, get Massa's horse. He say
he come from New Haven, and he got the horse Ethel went away on.
Are you sure, Cato?
Sure's I know Cato, said the boy, and the horse he knew mebe a
fool if he didn't.
Mrs. Porter immediately summoned the rider to her presence and
learned from him that about four miles down the road his pony had given
out under haste and heat; that he had met a boy who, pitying its
condition, had offered an exchange of animals, provided the courier
would promise to leave his pony at the Porter Inn and get a fresh horse
Just like Ethel! said Polly. He'll dally all day now, while that
horse gets rested and fed, or else he'll go on foot. I wonder if I
couldn't catch him!
Polly, said Mrs. Porter, don't you leave this house to-day
without my permission.
Poor Mrs. Porter! Truman, her eldest son, had gone. He was sixteen
and had been a trained soldier for more than six months; that, the
mother expected; but Ethel, only fourteen, and full of daring and
boyish zeal! Stephen also, the youngest, and the baby, being but ten
years oldhe had not yet returned from stirring up the Hotchkisses.
Had he followed Captain Gideon?
Ethel is too far ahead, sighed Polly. I couldn't catch him now,
even if mother would let me; but here comes Uncle Phineas in his
regimentals, and Aunt Melicent and Polly and little Melicent, and O!
what a crowd! I can't see for the dust! It's better than the
celebration. It's so real, so 'strue as you live and breathe and
Polly ran to the front door. At that day it opened upon a porch that
extended across the house front. This porch was supported by a line of
white pillars, and a rail along its front had rings inserted in it to
which a horseman could, after dismounting beneath its shelter, secure
his steed. Long ago, this porch was removed and the house itself was
taken from the roadside on the plain below, because of a great freshet,
and removed to its present location. The history of that porch, of the
men and women who dismounted beneath its shelter, or who, footsore and
weary, mounted its steps, would be the history of the country for more
than a century, for the men of Waterbury were in every enterprise in
which the colonies were engaged; but this is the record of a single day
in its eventful life, and we must return to the porch, where Polly is
welcoming Mrs. Melicent Porter with the words: Mother will be so glad
you have come, Aunt Melicent, for Ethel has gone off to New Haven and
he's miles ahead of catching, and Stephen hasn't got back yet from
'rousing the Alarm company. Mother wouldn't say a word, but she
has got her mouth fixed and I know she's afraid he's gone, too. I don't
know what father will do when he finds it out.
You go, now, said Mrs. Porter, and tell your mother that your
father staid to go to the mill. He will not be here for some time.
While Polly went to the kitchen with the message, Mrs. Melicent
alighted from her horse and, assisting her little daughter Melicent
from the saddle, said: You are heavier to-day, Milly, than you were
when I threw you to the bank from my horse when it was floating down
the river. I couldn't do it now.
The instant Major Porter had set little Polly Lewis on the porch
Mrs. Porter was beside him, begging that he would look for Ethel and
care for the boy if he found him. The promise was given, and looking
well despite the uncommon heat, the Major, in all the glory of his
military equipment, set forth.
From that moment all was noise and call and confusion without. Men
went by singly, in groups, in squads, in companies, mounted and on
foot. It is a matter of public record that twelve militia companies,
with their respective captains, went from Waterbury alone to assist New
Haven in the day of its peril. It is no marvel that they set off with
speed, for the horrors of the Danbury burning was yet fresh in memory.
In the long kitchen, as the heated hours went by, the brick oven was
fired again and again until the very stones of the chimney expanded
with glowing heat, and the last swallow forsook its ancient nest in
despair. The sun was in the west when Mr. Porter, with a bag of wheat
on one side of the saddle and a bag of rye on the other, appeared at
the kitchen entrance and summoned help to unload, but his accustomed
helpers were gone. Even Cato, the reliable, was missing. Phyllis and
Nancy received the wheat and the rye.
Mother, said Mr. Porter, I had to do the grinding
myselfcouldn't find a man to do it, and I knew it couldn't be done
here to-day, water's too low. Where are the boys? he questioned, as he
entered and looked around. When informed, his sole ejaculation was, I
ought to have known that boys always have gone and always will go after
Don't worry, mother, he added to his wife, as she stood looking
wistfully down the road.
There were tears in her eyes as she said: Not a boy left.
Why yes, mother, here comes Stephen and Stiles Hotchkiss up the
road. My! how tired and hot the boys and the horses do look! exclaimed
Stephen waited for no reprimand. He forestalled it by saying:
Captain Hotchkiss let Stiles and me go far enough to see the
British troopsway off, ever so farbut we saw 'em, we did, didn't
Come! come! said Mr. Porter, while the lad's mother stood with her
hand on his head. Stephen, tell us all about it!
Captain Hotchkiss said he was a boy once, and if we'd promise him
to go home the minute he told us to, he'd take us along. Well! we kept
meeting folks running away from New Haven, with everything on 'em but
their heads. One woman was lugging a lot of salt pork, 'because she
couldn't bear to have the Britishers eat it all up;' and another woman
was carrying away a lot of candles hanging by a string, and the sun had
melted the last drop of tallow, leaving the wicks dangling against the
tallow on her dress, but she didn't know it; and mother, would you
believe itMr. Timothy Atwater told Captain Hotchkiss that he met a
woman whom he knew hurrying out of town with a cat in her arms. When he
asked her where her children were, she said, 'Why, at home I suppose.'
'Well,' said Mr. Atwater, 'hadn't you better leave the cat and go back
and get them?' And she said, 'Perhaps she had,' and went back for 'em.
What became of the cat? asked Mrs. Melicent Porter.
Why, Aunt Melicent, how nice! cried Stephen, running back to the
porch and returning with a cat in his arms.
I've fetched her to you. I knew you loved cats so! Here she
is, black as ink, and she stuck to the saddle every step of the way
like a true soldier's cat. I was afraid she'd run away when I took her
off the saddle, and I hid her. You know mother don't like cats around
under her feet.
In a minute pussy was on the floor, and the last drop of milk in the
house was set before her by little Polly Lewis. Little Melicent cooed
softly to her, while Stephen and Stiles went on with their story,from
which it was learned that the boys had gone within a mile of
Hotchkisstown (now Westville), where, from a height, they had a view of
the British troops. The lads were filled with admiration of the
marching, as though it was all one motion, of the mingling colors of
the uniforms worn, as the bright red of the English Foot Guards blended
with the graver hues of the dress worn by the German mercenaries, and
of the waving line of glittering bayonets.
We didn't see, said Stephen, but just one flash of musketry,
because Stiles's father said we must start that instant for home, and
he told Stiles to stay here until morning, and we haven't had a
mouthful to eat since breakfast, and its been the hottest day that ever
was, and I'm tired to death.
And the cows are on the hill and nobody here to fetch them down,
sighed Mr. Porter.
Such a lot of captains waiting to see you, father! announced
Polly. There's Captain Woodruff and Captain Castle and Captain
Richards and a Fenn captain and a Garnsey captain. I forget the rest.
The captains invaded the kitchen itself, declaring that it being Monday
in the week, every householder had been short of provisions for the
emergencythat every inn on the way and many a private house had been
unable to provide enough for so many men, and what could they have at
the Porter Inn?
Polly disappeared. Before her father had considered the matter she
had, assisted by her Aunt Melicent and Polly Lewis, seized from the
pantry shelves all that they could carry, and going by a rear way, had
hidden on the garret stairs a big roast of veal, one of lamb, and
enough bread and pies for family requirements, and still the pantry
shelves seemed amply filled. I'm not going to have Ethel come home in
the night and find nothing left for him I know, and the hungry boys
fast asleep and tired out on the kitchen settle will come to life
ravenous. Wonder if I hadn't better be missing just now and go fetch
the cows down. Father would have asthma all night if he tried it, said
Polly to her aunt; and up the hill Polly went accompanied by little
Pollywhile Mrs. Porter stood by and saw the fruits of her hard day's
work vanish out of sight.
Pray leave something for your own household, she ventured to
intercede at last. Don't forget that we have four guests of our own
for the night; but Mr. Porter, rather proud to show that, however
remiss others had been, the Porter Inn was prepared for emergencies,
had already bidden Nancy and Phyllis fetch forth the last loaf.
Like one for supper, ventured Nancy, as her master carefully
examined the empty larder, hoping to find something more. As the last
captain from Northbury started on the night journey for New Haven, Mr.
Porter faced his wife. Now Thomas Porter, she said, you can go
hungry to bed, but what can I do for my guests and the children and the
rest of the household?
Mr. Porter scratched his heada habit when profoundly in doubtand
said: I must fetch the cows! It's most dark now, and set forth, to
find that Polly had them all safely in the cattle yard.
I suppose, father, said Polly, that we've got to live on milk
to-night. I thought so when I heard you parleying with the captains. So
I thought I'd get the cows down. As Polly entered the house, she saw a
lady and two girls of about her own age, to whom her mother was saying:
We will give you shelter, gladly, but my husband has just let the
militia you met just below have the last morsel of cooked food in our
house, and we've nothing left for ourselves but milk for supper.
Mother, said Polly, stepping to the front; we have plenty! I
looked out for you before father got to the pantry. I made journeys to
the garret stairs, several of them, and Aunt Melicent and Polly Lewis
helped me. It is all right for the lady to stay.
The lady in question was Mrs. Thankful Punderson and her twin
daughters, girls of twelve years, who had escaped from New Haven just
as the British troops reached Broadway, and the riot and plunder and
killing began. I hoped, she said, to reach the house of my husband's
sister, Mrs. Zachariah Thompson, in Westbury, but Anna and Thankful are
too tired to walk further to-night, and the horse can carry but two. It
is getting late, and I am so thankful to stay.
As Mr. Porter stood on the porch looking down the road for the next
arrival, hoping to learn some later news and perhaps to hear Ethel's
cheery call in the distance, Polly said: Father, will you let me be
Gladly, Polly, with nothing to keep and not a room to spare, was
Then I'll invite you to supper, and mind, if the ministers
themselves come, they can't have a bite to-night, for I'm the keeper.
I suppose you've made us some hasty pudding while the milking was
going on, he said, as Polly, preceding her father for once, went
before, and opened the door upon a table abundantly supplied, and laid
At the table Mr. Porter told, for the benefit of Mrs. Melicent
Porter and Mrs. Punderson, some of the events, both pathetic and
tragic, that had occurred in the old house during his boyhood and
youth, and Mrs. Melicent Porter told again the events of the day in
Juneonly a year beforewherein the battle of Monmouth had been
fought near her New Jersey home, and she had spent the day in doing
what she could to relieve the sufferings of men so spent with battle
and heat and wounds that they panted to her door with tongues hanging
from their mouths; also of her perilous journey from New Jersey to
Connecticut on horseback, accompanied by Lieutenant-Colonel Baldwin,
her fatherduring which journey it was, that she had thrown her
daughter Melicent in safety from her horse to the bank of the river
they were fording, while the animal, having lost its footing, was going
down the current.
While these things had been in the telling, Polly had slipped from
the table unnoticed, and had lighted every lamp that could brighten the
house front and serve to guide to its porch. The last lamp was just
alight when Polly's guests began to arrive. She half expected soldiers,
and refugees came. It seemed to her that every family in New Haven must
be related to every family in Waterburyso many women and children
came in to rest themselves before continuing the journey and to wait
until the moon should rise, for the evening was very dark, and oh! the
stories that each fresh arrival brought! They filled the group that
came in to listen with fear and agony. New Haven was very near to
Waterbury in that day. The inhabitants there were closely connected
with the inhabitants here, and their peril and distress was a common
woe. Little Stiles Hotchkiss cried himself to sleep that night, fearing
that one of the three Hotchkisses, reported killed, might be his
Polly acted well her part. To the children she gave fresh milk; to
their elders she explained that the militia had taken their supplies,
while she made place to receive two or three invalids who could go no
further, by giving up her own room.
You'll let me lie on the floor in your room, Aunt Melicent, I
know, she said, for the poor lady is so old and so feeble; I'm most
sure she is a hundred. She came in a chaise and wanted to get up to
Parson Leavenworth's, but she just can't. She can't hold up her head.
It was near midnight when the refugees set forth for the Center, Mr.
Porter himself acting as guide. After that time, the sleepy boys and
the entire household having taken themselves to bed, the old house was
left to the night, with its silence and its chill dampness that always
comes up from the river, that goes on singing to us the same bonny
nonsense, despite our cheer or our sorrow. Again, and yet again
through the night, doors opened and two mothers stepped out in the
moonlight to listen, hopinghoping to hear sound of the coming of the
boys, but only the lone cry of the whippoorwill was borne on the air.
'Pears like, said Phyllis to Mrs. Porter in the morning, the
whippoorwills had lots to say last night; talked all night so's you
couldn't hear nothing 'tall.
Phyllis, said Mrs. Porter, there was nothing else to hear, but we
shall know soon.
Polly came down, bringing her checked linen apron full of eggs for
breakfast. I thought, mother, she said, that you'd leave yourself
without an egg yesterday, so I looked out. Isn't it handy to have them
in the house? Haven't heard a single cackle this morning yet, but
yesterday was a remarkable day everyway. I believe the hens knew the
British were coming. Did you ever see such eggs? Wonder if my old lady
is awake yet! Guess I'll carry up some hot water for her and find out.
Polly poured the water deftly from the big iron tea-kettle hanging
from the crane and hurried away with it, only to return with such haste
that she tripped on the threshold, broke the pitcher and sent the water
over everything it could reach. Mother, she said, recovering herself,
Parson Leavenworth will be here to breakfast. He's coming down the
road with father. My old lady will feel honored, won't she? I know he's
come for her. Phyllis, any more hot water to spare? It's so good to
take out wrinkles; she'll miss it, I know.
The sun had not climbed over Great Hill when breakfast was over, and
the last guest of the night had gone. Mrs. Punderson's daughter Anna
rode behind the Rev. Mark Leavenworth on his horse, Thankful with Mrs.
Punderson, the old lady in the chaise, and even Stiles had galloped
away toward the east, and yet not a traveler on the road had brought
tidings from New Haven. The group on the porch watching the departure
had not dispersed when Polly's ears caught a strain floating up the
river valley. She listened. She ran. She clasped her mother in her
arms. She kissed her. She whispered in her ear, I hear him! He's
coming! Ethel is; and Cato is with him! she cried out, embracing
Phyllis in her joy. The two mothersthe one white, the other black;
the one free, the other in bondswent to listen. They stood side by
side on the porch; tears fell from their eyes, tears that through all
the years science has failed to distinguish, the one from the other.
Ethel's cheery call rang clear and clearer. Cato's wild cadence grew
near and nearer, but when the boys rode up beside the porch, Mrs.
Porter was on her knees in the little bed-room off the parlor, and
Phyllis was in the kitchen. New England mothers, both of them! Their
sorrows they could bear; their joys they hid from sight.
WATERBURY, CONN., September, 1898.