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.
" The strife is done, the vanquish'd had their doom."-Byron.
Dinner having been announced by Mrs. Hale, her guests surrounded the table, and after a blessing had been asked by Deacon H , upon the bounty spread before them, they seated themselves and satiated an appetite-sharpened as is that of all good fishermen-with an excellent dinner. The events of the morning passed in review, when ample justice was done the character of Job and crazy John in their absence by the charming invalid, who, in an old-fashioned rocker, was bolstered up at the table. Indeed, the sayings and doings of the old slave were a source of no little merriment on the occasion.
When the party were in the boat, Nathan and his sister, as did Newton and his sister, previously apprised of Samuel's royalty, readily divined the cause of his silence as Job alluded to the British troops at Boston; but Miss Rose, ignorant of his politics, repeated that part of the conversation, and inclined to rally him for dropping the subject without comment. The other girls both sought to give her some token for silence, but without effect, and as she continued her pleasantry, the young royalist, evidently confused, was compelled- to parry her jokes with any thing but ease. He felt sensibly the delicacy of his situation. He knew how unpopular his real views would be in that circle; in fact his father had cautioned him before leaving home, to avoid, if possible, any political discussion-especially among the Hales and Fitches, whom he expected to meet.
"In reply to Miss Rose," said Samuel, " I was afraid Job might play the politician if further questioned, and-would -might-prove to be-a son of liberty."
"Indeed!" and pray, what would you have him prove?', continued his unsuspicious tormentor, little thinking that his hesitancy in a reply was attributable to a cause, which, if known, could not fail to lessen him in her estimation, or that he fairly despised the title by which patriots were proud of being distinguished.
" Why," continued Samuel, driven to the wall with the blood mounting to his temples, " I would have not only Job, but every one else to be a real friend of his country; one who could not be moved by trifles to forget his duty, either to his Maker or his King!"
The last sentence had hardly closed, when Miss Hale, to arrest the conversation at this point, and spare the feelings of her cousin, turned to Miss Rose and in a soft voice enquired, whether she or Miss Ripley had caught the greatest number of fishes in their late excursion? So unexpected a question caused Miss Rose to look at the speaker, when she received a significant look, which, in connexion with Samuel's last sentence, she rightly construed, and in turn deeply blushed for having pursued her sallies to so unpleasant an issue.
The lovely Lucy, with the quickness of female perception, partially relieved Miss Rose from her dilemma by happy reply to the invalid; confessing herself beaten by her fair competitor, which she attributed to former practice in angling and Job's partiality in baiting her hook; and then adroitly shitting the subject to one more foreign, enquired of Deacon Hale if he had ever heard of the battle of the frogs in tier own town.
He replied that he had not only heard all the circumstances related when the occurrence transpired, but that he knew all of the men actors of the conflict: adding, that even at that late period he never passed the pond along the King's highway, without imagining he saw the deadly fight.
Miss Rose, happy at being relieved from her temporary embarrassment, requested the Deacon to relate the circumstances, as she had never heard them in detail, to which he consented. The party-having finished their dinner, thanks having been returned as they had arisen from the table, retired to another room to hear the Deacon's narrative, which ran much as follows:
On a very warm sultry night, about the middle of July, 1758, when a thick cloud veiled every star, the good people of Windham were alarmed about midnight by the most terrifying sounds they had ever heard, which sound?, a density of the atmosphere and the intervention of a hill between the village and source of sound, caused to appear overhead. Many threw up their windows and attempted to descry objects in the surrounding darkness, but they might as well have sought for the elixir-of-life on a huckleberry mountain. The more superstitious were ready to anticipate the noctural visit of a host of witches, for such bipeds were still known to the aged in them days, not only in our own but in the Bay colony. Some thought the judgment-day had arrived; and others supposed the town infested with hostile Indians, as we were then in the midst of that horrid strife called the French and Indian war; all, to say the least, were greatly terrified. The fears of several citizens were not a little increased, by hearing their own names echoed in the surrounding gloom, among whom were Colonels Dyer and Elderkin, men of legal renown, and Flint and Fitch, two other noted citizens-the latter the grandfather of Newton. As a gruff voice was heard exclaiming. Col. Dyer! Col. Dyer! another more shrill but equally unearthly ejaculated, Elderkin too! Elderkin too!-while others in a sharp tone chimed in, Flint! Flint! Filch! Fitch! The military chieftains, their fear yielding at length to pride, imagining themselves dared to combat, sallied forth, got a drummer and beat up for volunteers to repeal an invasion, while other citizens, confiding m faith without works, fell upon their knees and implored Almighty protection. At the head of a respectable number of volunteers with hunting guns of fearful length well loaded, Col. Dyer marched up the hill east of the village; and becoming too well satisfied from the increase of noise, that the enemy were not only in that direction but on terra firma, his courage failed him, and when he would have advanced eastward, his knees smote their fellows with dangerous collision.
At this juncture, Jack, a sprightly young slave owned by Col. Dyer, who had been to visit his lady-love and was then returning home, passed near the pond. He heard the name of his master repeated with astonishment, and halted supposing, in a darkness would prove a perfect leveler, some person had mistaken him for his master, whose old clothes he chanced to have on; but hearing a guttural voice from almost beneath his feet shout Elderkin too ! which his dilated organs of hearing readily converted into catch-a-nigger-too ! he fled toward the village at the top of his speed, mumbling over to himself to increase his courage, "You no ketch de nigger in dese breches-darn your eyes!" After running nearly three-fourths of a mile he came upon the top of the hill when his heavy footsteps being heard by his master who had just arrived in that vicinity, a few shots were directed that way and a hasty retreat ordered by the Colonel. The flash and report which followed, with the whistling of several balls just over his head, brought Jack to a dead stand, who began most vehemently to pray for the assistance of good old parson White, and beg for Quarters.
The retreating Windhamites did not linger to hear the slave's unique petition, but made (he best of their way down the bill, while he, with hair electrified, sought by a circuitous route his master's kitchen. Jack stepped cautiously as he neared the village, and emerging- in the light reflected from a back window of his home, which was then in the possession of armed men, he was recognized and spared the chance of a second volley. When questioned by the Colonel as to where he had been, he replied trembling from head to foot-"Massa, Jack must always tell de truth; he been to see de Lilly ob de valley," a name by which he chose to designate his sweet-heart.
"Wha-what makes you tre-tremble so7" asked his master, whose own knees were still quite friendly.
I down the woolly locks upon his pate Jack responded with emphasis, "Oh gosh, Massa Dyer.' Ingens! Ingens! dey try for ketch dis nigger too-he run-dey get a fore em-shoot-he dodge de ball-take de bush-run by Tainted s grape vine-round Larabie's garden-over Swift's 'fatoe patch, and, get home safe!"
" Did you see the Indians'?" demanded several voices at once.
"Yes, by de light ob dar own powder-hill all cohered wid em!"
From this moment a more vigilant watch was kept out for the foe. The fearful sounds, however, gradually died away in the distance, and before day-light had ceased altogether, the affrighted inhabitants supposing their foes dared not attack them in their dwellings. Early on the following morning some of the most courageous ventured, well armed, to proceed in a body over the hill, to discover some evidence of a meditated invasion, when lo! the road along the mill-pond, now known as Frog-pond, was literally covered with dead bull-frogs.
" What was it supposed at the time had caused the frogs to fight?" asked Miss Rose, seemingly much pleased with the narrative, and not aware that frogs were such pugnacious animals.
This frog-fight took place, said Deacon Hale, at an unusually dry time. A millpond situated some distance above and not dissimilar to the one near the road, was drawn off to repair the dam, and its frogs, unwilling to lose the beverage they so scantily enjoyed, floated down with its current to the pond below; the waters of both ponds united were however a scant pattern for milling privileges. As the frogs were exceedingly numerous, and without a formal introduction were thus unceremoniously thrust upon each other's acquaintance, they fell to fighting; and like the battle of the Kilkenny cats, this ended only in extermination.
" Well if they were exterminated then," said Samuel, " there has been a fresh importation to the lower pond long since, for they almost deafened me with their croaking when I came by it yesterday. Uncle Richard, were there as many frogs killed in that most singular of all battles, as the old people tell for?"
" Yes," responded the Deacon, " many thousands were supposed to have been killed, and bushels of them were lying upon the ground afterwards, to be fed upon by hogs and crows, two animals which I rather guess will eat almost any thing."
After a little pleasantry which Deacon Hale's historical facts had called forth, the conversation of the party glided off into a pleasing channel, corresponding with the reappearance of the sun's golden rays, and any allusion to matters of a political cast were studiously avoided. When Samuel parted with his cousin at New Haven scarcely two weeks before, he longed for an opportunity to convince him of the charms and claims of royalty, but a sensible caution from his father, and possibly the smiles of Miss Julia, who, from her own blushes at the dinner table, he suspected of rebellion, led him to believe that an expose of his sentiments would prove neither very agreeable to the company or creditable to himself.
After the guests at Deacon Hale's had tasted the luxuries of a New England tea-table, and washed down several dainties-among which was a dish of strawberries done up with cream and sugar, with a decoction of the aromatic root of the sassafras, the sipping of which beverage caused Samuel some blushes, independent of those occasioned in attempting to parry the witty sallies of Mrs. Hale, who kept the whole company merry; Miss Julia returned home accompanied by him, yet what tender expressions were uttered on the way can be better imagined than repeated at this late day. We may very reasonably suppose from appearances, however-although aware they sometimes deceive us-that the young royalist had now found a bud he might some day desire to see blooming a bridal-rose.
Samuel, who had made the journey to his uncle's on horseback with a part of his wardrobe deposited in a good-sized pair of saddle-bags, (for Sir Dederick Knickerbocker was not the only personage of olden time who traveled with such a convenience,) after spending a week very pleasantly returned home, tarrying with young Fitch and the beautiful Miss Ripley over night. Having examined with some care several files of newspapers at his uncle's, filled with rebellious sentiments, such as he had not before taken pains to read, and from his observation on the road, he carried home a belief that opposition to British ministerial oppression was becoming a settled principle throughout his native colony.
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