History From America's Most Famous Valleys
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.
" Pale, silent, and unruffled lake,
Tell me a tale of other times."
Within a fortnight after Nathan Hale returned home from college, his cousin Samuel arrived at his uncle's in Coventry. Deacon Hale's dwelling, which was a large white house of two stories, was delightfully situated on Prospect Hill. It fronted nearly north, and was approached from the King's highway through a grove of graceful populars. The prospect from the Hale dwelling was one of the richest in New England; hence the appropriate name given to the eminence on which it stood. Fertile dales circumscribed by distant hills, all covered by the green velvet mantle of nature, met the wandering eye of the visitor, while his ear was greeted, if not by the shrill voice of the loon from the shores of lake Wangombaug, by the murmers of the more distant Willimantic.
On the same day that Samuel arrived at his uncle's, young Fitch and his amiable sister, each mounted upon a fine horse, reined up on Prospect Hill, to increase the joy of its inmates. Samuel had never before seen his charming Cousin, -with whom he was much pleased; but he was still more charmed with Miss Ripley, and most of all with Miss Rose, who made one of their afternoon party. Julia was rightly named; for the rose, fit emblem of purity and love, was happily blended in the color of her cheeks, while her gentle, fawn-like nature seemed to impart fragrance to every object around.
Although Elizabeth was yet feeble, she could sit up and enjoy her full share of the pleasantry of the afternoon; and never, perhaps, was an afternoon more satisfactorily enjoyed by Deacon Hale and his virtuous wife. When parents see their children and friends happy, they are seldom otherwise themselves. Perhaps I should here state that Deacon Hale became a widower in 1767, and afterwards married the widow of Capt. Samuel Adams, and I may add, his children were more fortunate in the possession of a step-mother than is at all times the case.*
Young Fitch and his sister had intended to remain only" a day in Coventry, but as there was no urgent necessity for their return sooner,they were persuaded, on Samuel Hale's account, to extend their visit two days longer. A fishing excursion on lake Wangombaug, distant perhaps two miles, was proposed for the morrow; and, as riding and other moderate exercise had been recommended her by Elizabeth's physician, it was understood that she was to be one of the water party if the weather was propitious. The morning betokened one of those lovely days in June, peculiar to a New England sky. After some bustle in preparing refreshments, etc., the party, consisting of Nathan, his sister and cousin Samuel, Fitch and his sister, and Miss Rose, were ready for a start. A faithful slave, then an appendage to most of the wealthy families in New England, belonging to the Hale family, who answered to the cognomen of Job, and often figured as waiter in good company, -was caterer on the occasion. Job was ready betimes with a wagon to carry the ladies, while the young men prepared, as the weather was fine, to walk to the landing on the east side of the lake, or pond, as all such bodies of water (four or five miles in circuit) are denominated in Connecticut, which landing was near a burying-ground, dating its antiquity with the first settlement of the town.
The Hale family owned a commodious and fine sailing skiff,
*In a public resting place for the dead, in Canterbury, Ct., is a stone bearing the following inscription: "Capt. Samuel Adams died, Dec. 29, 1760; aged, 31. Also Abigail Hale, his wife, the late wife of Dea. Richard Hale of Coventry, died, Aug. 31, 1809, aged 89."
and Job had been sent the evening before to bail it perfectly dry; -which he declared on his return he had performed, " so as not to wet de foot ob his darlin missus." The faithful domestic had not only cleansed the boat, but of his own accord had provided and arranged a row of evergreens so as completely to shade one side of it.
In the neighborhood of the lake dwelt a young man named John Coleman, who, when & boy some ten years old, was one of the most promising lads in the town; but a severe fit of sickness, with his case badly managed by a quack physician, left him a little shattered in the garret; about which time he heard some person remark, in a conversation respecting the motion of the earth, that the world went round. The sentence, which seemed so well to accord with his own senses, fastened upon his mind, and long after, many times in a day, he might have been heard to exclaim: " I tell you the world goes round," especially if the word round, or any word rhyming with it was uttered in his presence. Crazy John, as was often remarked by his neighbors, " was nobody's fool." He was kind-hearted, and often seeking an opportunity to run an errand or do a kind act. During the summer months he spent much of his time about the lake, either in fishing or skipping flat stones upon the water. Whenever he uttered his favorite maxim, and any one choose to take exceptions to it, which was not unfrequently done by the malicious, his pugnacious organs were excited; but one kind word, or the admission of his truism, always brought back his good nature.
When Job was preparing his boat for the party, crazy John, who was a particular friend of his, was curious to know the object, and being told, he assisted the former in arranging his evergreens. Seeing the preparation completed, he resolved to be at the landing next morning when the party should arrive. He was quite particular about his personal appearance, and consequently was never avoided as some idiots are, because an object of lothing
The wagon containing the ladies, and driven by Job, arrived at the landing a little in advance of the footmen, where stood crazy John drawing imaginary circles with his hand, as if repeating his stale maxim. He had received many little tokens of regard from Miss Hale, and when the wagon stopped he ran forward to claim her notice. In fact, he had not let a single day pass during her illness, without calling at her father's to inquire about the state of her health. The ladies remained in the wagon until the gentlemen came up, and crazy John, who had climbed upon a wheel to receive the hand of the invalid extended to him in kindness, could not refrain from tears of joy at seeing her so far recovered.
Job knew that his young master would be pleased with his foretaught in preparing the shade, which he had done by riddling a narrow plank with auger holes, into each of which he had placed green boughs festooned with blooming sweet-briar-and standing at his horses' heads, he watched the approach of young Hale. On his arrival, seeing the fine condition of the fishing tackle and the boat, he exclaimed, "Job, my faithful old boy, what have you been about? Why, the little ' Rover' is transformed into a Mayflower."
" O, massa, I only shade 'em for Missus," replied the kind negro, showing the white of his eye as he looked to see what effect his words might have on the invalid. Sensible of his intended kindness, she remarked: " I shall never be without a friend while Job lives; nor will he while I live! Besides," she added, turning her speaking eyes upon another who could appreciate a kind look and a kind word, " I have a pretty good friend in you John, have I not ?"
The words of the speaker, uttered in a feeling manner, to which crazy John replied, " Guess pretty Miss Libby won't get a better friend nor I while the world goes round-ha, ha, ha, ha," drew a grateful tear into the eye of the slave, who felt himself already compensated for his previous pains taken. The truth is, he had been fondly attached not only to Elizabeth, but also to Nathan from their infancy, and would never hear a word spoken disparagingly of either of them, which was sometimes done by their friends to tease him, without manifesting warm resentment.
The party seated themselves in the boat, which was designed to carry six persons besides the oarsman, and Job, having properly secured his team, was called in to row it, a task which uncommon strength and much experience enabled him to perform to the entire satisfaction of its inmates. The party would cheerfully have admitted crazy John, had not all the seats been filled without him, seeing which he expressed a willingness to stay on shore and look to the horses, which, since their affright, it was thought well to keep an eye upon.
The friends were seated, young Fitch in the bow of the boat, Nathan and Samuel on the seat back of Job, Miss Rose and Miss Ripley in front of him, with the invalid bundled up in the stern seat. When all were ready, Nathan required the oarsman to turn the boat round and row to "The Deep Hole," as a certain part of the lake was denominated.
When Nathan uttered the word round, in his instructions to Job, a response came from the shore, with-"I tell you the world goes round, ha, ha, ha, ha."
" I believe that, John."
" Do you, Mister Nathan?-ha, ha, ha, ha."
"Well, my good fellow, what if the world does go round'?" asked Miss Rose.
" Oh, nothin much Julie, ony as sartain as it goes round that way, (throwing his hand in a circle,) aunt Debby's pot will spill all the beans out, pork'n all, if it aint kivered up darned tight, ha, ha, ha, ha."
Crazy John had composed a song, two simple stanzas, which he often sung for his friends, in a tune borrowed from several others. Apprized of the fact, young Fitch, as the boat shot off from the shore, desired him to favor the party -with a song; and in a clear, musical voice came the following:
" The world goes round the world goes round,
Just so, I tell you't goes (describing a circle with his hand);
It keeps going round and round,
Just as I turn my toes" (marking a circle with them on the sandy beach).
world goes round and hack again, [of the lake);
Just like a water wheel (pointing in the direction of a mill on the outlet
Or like a pig outside its pen,
How loud I hear it squeal" (assuming the position of a listener).
"This is indeed romance in real life," said Miss Ripley, as crazy John ended his song, " a vocal serenade upon the water, beneath the shade of an evergreen."
The Deep Hole had never been satisfactorily fathomed, and the students had prepared a line one hundred and twenty-five feet long, for the purpose. Job knew where it was, but in his fishing excursions he usually avoided it, having an aversion as he expressed it, " to rowing in de blade water." Propelling the little craft for a few minutes, which seemed to fly before his athletic arm, he lifted his oars from the water with the exclamation,
" Gosh Massa Nat'n, Job wouldn't fall in dis fountum for all Cobentry and de world besides!"
" My old boy, how deep do you think this fountain is ?" asked Samuel familiarly, as he was aiding his cousin to attach a weight to the line for sounding.
" Now Massa Hale, Job couldn't make no speclemation bout de matter, cause you see he's got no book larnin. But it must Toe mighty deep! Why I spose-"
" Spose what ? interrogated Samuel, as the honest old slave hesitated.
" Why, dat him deep as de Bay State water, where de British peace makers is!"
To the inmates of the boat, a crimson tinge might have been seen mantling the cheek of Samuel, at the answer of Job, but suppressing his political emotions, he continued to assist Nathan as though he heeded not the negro's voice. Many a pleasing joke was enjoyed by the party in this water excursion, not exacty at Job's expense, for his lantern jaws were constantly spread whenever his passengers were convulsed with laughter, although his own simple words may have originated it. This Negro was rather a privileged person in South Coventry; being allowed, as were many New England slaves, that freedom of speech which only can develop the African's true character and incite his shrewdness and cunning. As more than once observed by the party to encourage his mirth-giving speeches, he had never been frightned by an owl. In fact, he was one of the most cautious, trusty and witty servants that ever lived in New England.
The cousins began their sounding in the black water, and incredible as it may seem, their lines could not fathom it. Curiosity being satisfied for the present, Job sent the boat where soundings were not difficult, and where, to use his own words, " de parch liked angle-dogs, as well as he did bacon and eggs."
Many a silvery fish fatally lured by the bait, was hooked on that morning by Lucy (to whom the amusement was novel,) and Miss Rose, to the great delight of Job, whose sole duty it became to bait their hooks and take the fish from them. As they caught more than all the gentlemen, Job claimed to understand the art of angling better than they did, the ladies being under his instruction; and as he loosened one of the finy tribe and adjusted the bait, he ever and anon spit upon it, and exclaimed as he cast it over the boat's side, "dar's for nuther, right off."
Although Elizabeth was too feeble to enjoy with her friends the pleasure of drawing the fish from the water, a sport of which she was fond, still she participated in the general joy of the party, seated in the midst of Job's artificial grove.
After the amusement had been indulged in for some time, it was thought prudent on Miss Hale's account to return home; besides; the western horizon indicated a shower. Job rowed the boat to the landing, where crazy John was waiting to render his assistance, who received from the ladies a fine mess of fish for his attentions. As they were still alive and flouncing, the idiot was reminded of his favorite maxim, which he more than once repeated.
The aquatic party with as little delay as possible, hurried back and was sheltered within the Hale dwelling; the well members of it just sipping each other's health in a glass of good Madeira, a fashionable custom at that period, either on the arrival of friends, or after a pleasure excursion, when the portending thunder-gust came whistling through the poplars, and soon burst in wild fury.
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