Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The American Spy:
or Freedom's Early Sacrifice.
A Revolutionary Tale of New England,
Founded upon Fact.
by J. R Simms.
Albany: J. Munselll 78 State Street 1857.

Donated by Willis Barshied, Jr.


"And yet I find no words` to tell
The shape of her I loved so well."-Byron.

" Samuel, I spent the last vacation of old Yale with you, and trusting you will fulfill one of the many promises you have made to visit our family, I shall expect you to spend the approaching classic holidays with me. I much regret that the illness of my sister prevents me from staying out the last week of this term-but, as fate orders, I submit, and shall hasten home to unite my prayers with those of fond parents, for the recovery of one whose life is dearer to me than my own." At the close of the above sentence, a tear moistened the eye of the speaker, and seizing the hand of his friend, he added in a low voice, in which sympathy and reproof were mingled-" You have so often expressed a determination to visit me without doing so, that I could wish for once you would bear in mind my simple motto, and-"

" Now cousin Nate," interrupted Samuel, " pardon past shortcomings, and I promise to render myself more deserving of your friendship. I have quite too long deprived myself of the pleasures in store for me in Coventry, and shall, if possible, visit you within a fortnight. You will carry my regards to all the family, and write me the state of Elizabeth's health on your arrival at home. But I had nearly forgotten, my dear fellow, that you was about to tell your own motto, which must be a fastidious morsel-pray what is it?"

"Never lie!"

" Well Nate, you have indeed adopted a very conscientious one, and were I a prophet I would predict that it is broken more than once before you shake off flesh and blood; why, it's shorter than the shortest of rebel mottoes now going the rounds. The one originated in Rhode Island the other day by a sprig of wisdom, and mooted for its brevity, has three ominous words-Join or die! and were I to correct it, it would read, Disjoin and live! But I am about to dash off into politics I see, which we will discuss hereafter. Here's the hand of true friendship, and as that clumsy old wagon is now waiting for you with your classmate, Newton, already in, a match to your motto in brevity is-goodbye.'"

Reader, the young friends to whom we have thus unceremoniously introduced you, were cousins, as you may have inferred.

Samuel was the only son of John Hale, of New Bedford, Massachusetts; and Nathan was the fifth son of Deacon Richard Hale, of South Coventry, Connecticut. The Hale brothers, for such were Richard and John, were descended from respectable ancestry, and were noble specimens of New England men in the middle of the eighteenth century. John, the elder of the brothers, was a lawyer of some repute, and early in life established himself in business at New Bedford, where he subsequently became a colonial officer of some kind under pay of the British government. Richard, having married Elizabeth Strong, a meritorious young lady of his own town, settled down upon the homestead, and proved himself a good practical farmer. The beginning of difficulties between England and her American colonies, found the Hale brothers entertaining different opinions respecting the policy their own country should pursue. In other words John was a Royalist, and Richard a Republican. Newton, mentioned as the classmate of Nathan Hale, was a son of Erastus Fitch, of Windham, Connecticut; the latter being a descendant of James Fitch, one of the founders of that town.

Between Nathan Hale and Newton Fitch a warm friendship existed, which had been nourished by the sports of youth. They had often met in Thanksgiving and other visits of the Hale and Fitch families, which had for generations reciprocated kindly feelings. As students, the young friends received their academic acquirements at the same school; and having entered Yale College together, were in one class. They usually rode to and from college in the same conveyance; and although the present term lacked a few days of its completion, still Newton would not consent to remain and task his friends to send for him-or what is quite as likely, his desire again to behold in life one with whom he had frolicked in childhood, induced his return. Two young men more alike in their dispositions and habits, were probably not to be found in all New England. Manly excellence and dignity were personified in the personal appearance of Nathan Hale. His figure was tall and commanding, his jetty hair curled in profusion around a brow of intellectual mould, his countenance ever beaming with mildness, was illumined by the fire of a dark and penetrating eye, while his uniform deportment was truly prepossessing. Young Fitch could not boast of as genteel a form as that of his chum, nor had nature given him as florid a complexion; yet his was a keen black eye, glossy black hair, and a visage in which frankness and affection were happily delineated; and if less admired for manly beauty than young Hale, he was no less esteemed for his urbanity of manners, and no less respected for the proper cultivation of his intellect.

The wagon bearing the students and drawn by two horses, though an uncouth, was a very rare vehicle for the times in any part of New England, and as there were at that period no post-coaches for the conveyance of travelers, any conveyance furnished with a driver was thought by the quiet inhabitants along the road, who seldom journeyed much distance from home, a very luxurious-indeed, almost aristocratic mode of traveling. The spires of the public edifices of New Haven were seen in the distance, and yet the classmates had scarcely exchanged a word since they had started-Nathan evidently buried in deep study, and his friend unwilling from delicacy to break the reverie. But they had long been confidents, and Nathan ended the irksome silence by expressing his surprise at his cousin's suggested amendment of a then popular motto, relating the latter part of his conversation with his kinsman; when, as if a new thought had crossed his mind, he added-"Ah, I have the secret! his father is a government officer, and cousin Samuel is inclined to favor royalty." The two then exchanged views on several important subjects which were agitating the country, and coincided in opinion. Both the young patriots, for such in truth they were, manifested deep sympathy for their country under her continued oppression; and after naming several causes of grievance, among which were the Stamp and Tea Acts, the quartering of soldiers in seaport towns, and the massacre of several Bostonians by the troops under Captain Preston, they again fell into a studious silence which was seldom broken until they arrived near Connecticut river, when an unexpected incident sent their thoughts into a new channel.

In a by place, at a little distance from the road and the river, a solitary individual was seen with a shovel digging up the ground. The attention of the passengers was directed to this object by the exclamation of the driver-"See that old fool of a money digger!"

As they arrived opposite the stranger, Nathan, rather more inquisitive than his companion, requested the driver to rein up. Leaping from the wagon, the high box of which made the feat one of some danger, he ran towards the man who he discovered had a foreign appearance, and was about to enquire if he was digging a grave; but observing that several holes had been dug in a soil not as stony as that of some other parts of the state, consequently not unfavorable for sinking a grave, he civilly accosted him, and enquired in true Yankee style," My friend, what are you searching for?"

The digger, who had not ceased his avocation on hearing the wagon stop, now did so; and after thrusting his nether garment beneath the waistband of his breeches-a liberal portion of which garment, for the want of braces, protruded beneath his jacket and cramming into one corner of his mouth a leaf of tobacco of fearful dimensions, he drew his shovel before him, and placing both hands upon it leaned forward, and for some moments continued to eye the student without speaking. Having finished a very scrutinizing gaze, he thus responded: " Now, ash I likesh yoor looksh, I schall shpeak zo ash I doon't ouften shpeak mit sthrangers. Yoo poorhaps heert von Hans Casper Shtaudt-vell, dat ish my naume. I kumd vrom Sharmany in dish coonthree look for mindsh: veil, I looks droo N00 Inglandt, finds note manne-den zoombody saysh to me, von Kit ash vas a birat hides moonish in dis blace, zo I kums to fint um."

" Then your name in plain English," said the student, "is John Casper Staudt; you are a German chemist who came to New England to examine mines, and are now searching for Captain Kidd's money?"

Shifting the contents of his mouth to the opposite side with an ease of contortion, that would quite astonish modern tobacco-chewers, he quickly responded-"Yah, yah, eekzactly zo. Mynheer."

"Well, Mr. Staudt," said the student, " I am truly gratified to meet a German mineralogist in Connecticut, and hope you may be successful in obtaining some of Captain Kidd's gold, yet I fear the chances for it are small, as numerous places of its supposed secretion, some an hundred miles distant, where that freebooter was supposed to have landed, have already been dug over without finding any. Two or three miles from my father's house, under the bank of a small river, a spring issues, which appears to flow from a mine, as it holds mineral properties of some kind in solution; and if ever you come into our neighborhood, I will visit the locality with you."

" I danks yoo mooch-vot ish yoor naume, den?"

" Nathan Hale; and should you ever go to Coventry, enquire for the Hale family, to the hospitality of which you shall be made welcome."

" I danks yoo moor ash mooch, Misthur Ale-I vill gall onto yoo ash I goesh dat vay."

Taking a hasty survey-of the manifest labor of the honest dupe-he having dug over several rods of ground-and bidding him a kind farewell, young Hale again seated himself beside his companion, to whom he related the above adventure.

" Do you expect to see your German friend again?" enquired Fitch.

" I should not be surprised to," said the former. "We are approaching a period in the history of this country deeply interesting; one in which men of his character will be called in requisition in most of the colonies."

" Pray, for what purpose?"

" To look up iron to be manufactured into cannon, to find lead for bullets, and sulphur for powder."

"And do you then suppose a general war of the colonies with England, is to follow the disturbances in the Bay colony?"

"As surely," was the earnest reply, "as we ever possess the privilege of free thinking and free acting again ! Do you not perceive that so long as the principle of right to tax the colonies is maintained, the breach is widened, confidence impaired, and owe are farther from effecting a reconciliation? And believe me, the principle of right to tax the American colonies will never be given up! Had you attended the spirited meeting in New Haven last evening at which were assembled a large number of THE SONS OF LIBERTY, some of whom were pretty old sons, you would have heard some animated and able reasoning-some patriotic views worth remembering."

" And was such a sentiment advanced at that meeting?"

" Not in so many words; but opinions were expressed which, squinted bravely that way."

The students had repeated occasion to observe the industrious habits of their countrymen, so justly proverbial; but little else-of importance to this narrative occurred during their journey to Windham, where they arrived on the afternoon of the second day.

Young Hale halted at Fitch's to rest his team, and there learned, to his gratification, that Lucy Ripley, a step-sister of his friend Newton, was then in Coventry with his own sister. Another ride of ten miles brought the students near the close of a sultry day to the foot of Prospect Hill, on which stood the Hale mansion. The horses had ascended but a few rods, when a large dog which lay beside the road unnoticed, sprang impetuously at their heads. At his sudden and furious yelping, they were frightened, sprang aside, and so quickly as to jerk the reins from the hand of the driver, who was unprepared for the movement, and in another instant they had wheeled about-upset the wagon in a ditch, and with the fore wheels of it went dashing down the road with a speed only rivaled by that of Morse's telegraph. By the accident, which came with the suddenness of a thunder-clap, the driver was landed upon a stone wall and his passenger by the roadside beneath the wagon box. Both were a little bruised and still more frightened, but soon had regained their senses and their feet, and were in pursuit of the horses. The runaways were a fine span of mettlesome blacks, and now supposed to be ruined, but as good luck would have it, they ran but a short distance, entered a gateway which chanced to be open, brought up in a neighbor's barn-yard, and there stood, trembling like a cedar-top in a hurricane. Meeting a messenger with an assurance that the horses were uninjured and already secured, Nathan left the driver to procure them, and just at twilight, limping a little and covered with dust, he reached home on foot, and learning with thankfulness of heart that a favorable change in his sister's health had taken place, and that although a burning fever had left her much reduced, she was exercised with no pain, and only required prudent care and good nursing to restore her to health.

The meeting of Nathan with his sister was an affecting one. They were devotedly attached; their souls being drawn together by a love no sensual desire had fostered-by chords no sinister motives had braided.

After Nathan had been for some minutes leaning over the sickly form of his sister, regardless of another inmate of the room, she feebly articulated the name of her female friend, who, on hearing Nathan's name announced, had retired to a shaded part of the room-and in an instant she was at the bedside to tender, as she supposed, some needed cordial.

" What wil you have, dear?" was the earnest inquiry of Miss Lucy, in a voice of tenderness and spirit of love.

" Nathan," said the invalid reprovingly to her brother, who had stepped back from the bed as the nurse approached, " do you not remember Lucy Ripley"? do not for the world neglect one so kind, so devoted." At the recollection of her almost constant attention and watchfulness for the last ten days, the feeling heart of the speaker yielded to nature; she sobbed audibly, while tears of gratitude trickled fast through her transparent fingers; and for a little time her emotions threatened the separation of her gentle spirit from its enfeebled tenement. But proper restoratives were applied-her nerves were quieted, and she sunk into a gentle slumber, which proved the most salutary rest she had experienced during her sickness.

After Nathan saw his sister quiet, taking the soft hand of Lucy in his own, he led her to a seat across the room; and, as a tear glistened in his manly eye-offering an apology for not sooner inquiring after her, he expressed his thankfulness for her solicitous attentions to his sister, for which he trusted Heaven would some day reward her. They conversed a few moments in a low tone of voice, and he could not fail to notice, as he spoke of her growth since they last met, (which had been nearly two years,) the motion communicated to the bosom of her white muslin dress, as she attempted to withdraw her hand from his, which still held it in durance. Imprinting a kiss upon the prisoner, he obeyed a summons to supper.

Several young ladies residing in the neighborhood had called at Deacon Hale's in the afternoon, among whom was Julia Rose, a genteel girl of some eighteen summers, and had kindly offered to watch with Miss Hale that night, but Lucy, her bosom friend would not consent that any hand but her own should smooth the patient's pillow that night-so full of hopes and fears. The family retired early, so as not to disturb the invalid, who was left with her faithful attendant.

At dawn of day Nathan relieved the watcher, who had been acting the midnight angel at the bedside of his sister, who seemed much improved by her night's rest. Seeing only her brother in the room, she turned her lustrous brown eye upon him and with a look of anxiety inquired for her female friend.

" She has laid down to rest," replied Nathan, " shall I call her?"

" Not for the world," said the invalid, " my prayer is that her watchful care over me may not task her strength to illness. Oh, my dear brother! I can not tell you in words, how kind-how angelic a creature she has been to me, anticipating my most trifling wants."

Seeing grateful tears again filling those beautiful orbs, her brother took her hand and begged other to be quiet.

" I am much better this morning," said the fair sufferer, "and can now control my nerves; fear not my feminine weakness, it will not again get the mastery."

As Nathan walked across the room to procure some article for his sister, she discovered that he walked lame, and then first learned the nature of the accident he met with the previous evening, the matter having been studiously kept from her knowledge. Clasping her hands upon her breast, she feebly articulated a prayer of thankfulness to HIM who "notes the sparrow's fall," for the providential termination of an accident which endangered the lives of two persons, one of whom was so dear to herself.

Miss Hale was some eighteen months the senior of her confident, Miss Ripley, who was then not quite seventeen. The former was the tallest, and, in health, was by some persons denominated the prettiest; while others, admired the fullness of contour which the latter possessed, accorded to her pre-eminence in figure and feature. Elizabeth had glossy black hair and black eyes, while to her friend nature had given tresses of richest brown, and eyes of mildest blue; they both had very fair skin.

But, kind reader, I do not conceive it very important minutely to describe the personal appearance of those young ladies; let it suffice when I assure you, without speaking of their dimpled cheeks and cherry lips, that they were both denominated handsome at the period in which they lived-would be so pronounced if maidens of the present generation-and probably would be of the generations inhabiting this goodly heritage a thousand, or ten thousands years hence, unless perchance Galvanism, Mesmerism, or some other ism, is to communicate new charms to the daughters of mother Eve.

On the day after young Fitch returned home, he rode up on horseback to inquire after the health of Miss Hale and meet his sister. He was much gratified to find his young friend, the invalid, convalescing, and remained during the day. On the following morning, having left her patient with Miss Rose and the family, Lucy, mounted on a pillion behind her brother, as was the New England custom of riding at that period, returned home, promising, however, to see her bosom companion within a week. At the earliest practicable moment, Nathan penned a letter to his cousin Samuel, telling him in all sincerity, the joy with which he communicated the improving state of Elizabeth's health, reminding him of his promised visit, and urging him by several pleasing allurements to remember his own motto.

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