MERRY'S ADVENTURES, by Samuel Goodrich (from Robert Merry's Museum, January 1842, pp. 12-16)
Emigration to Utica.--An expedition.--The salamander hat.--A terrible threat.--A Dutchman's hunt for the embargo on the ships.--Utica long ago.--Interesting story of the Seneca chief.
I have now reached a point when the events of my life became more adventurous. From this time forward, at least for the space of several years, my history is crowded with incidents; and some of them are not only interesting to myself, but I trust their narration may prove so to my readers.
When I was about eighteen years of age, I left Salem for the first time since my arrival in the village. At that period there were a good many people removing from the place where I lived, and the vicinity, to seek a settlement at Utica. That place is now a large city, but at the time I speak of, about five and thirty years ago, it was a small settlement, and surrounded with forests. The soil in that quarter was, however, reputed to be very rich, and crowds of people were flocking to the land of promise.
Among others who had made up their minds to follow the fashion of that day, was a family by the name of Stebbins, consisting of seven persons. In order to convey these, with their furniture, it was necessary to have two wagons, one of which was to be driven by Mat Olmsted, and, at my earnest solicitation, my uncle consented that I should conduct the other.
After a preparation of a week, and having bade farewell to all my friends, Raymond, Bill Keeler, and my kind old uncle, and all the rest, we departed. Those who are ignorant of the state of things at that day, and regard only the present means of travelling, can hardly conceive how great the enterprise was esteemed, in which I was now engaged. It must be remembered that no man had then even dreamed of a rail-road or a steamboat. The great canal, which now connects Albany with Buffalo, was not commenced. The common roads were rough and devious, and instead of leading through numerous towns and villages, as at the present day, many of them were only ill-worked passages through swamps and forests. The distance was about two hundred miles--and though it may now be travelled in twenty hours, it was esteemed, for our loaded wagons, a journey of two weeks. Such is the mighty change which has taken place, in our country, in the brief period of thirty-five years.
I have already said that Mat Olmsted was somewhat of a wag; he was, also, a cheerful, shrewd, industrious fellow, and well suited to such an expedition. He encountered every difficulty with energy, and enlivened the way by his jokes and his pleasant observations.
It was in the autumn when we began our journey, and I remember one evening, as we had stopped at a tavern, and were sitting by a blazing fire, a young fellow came in with a new hat on. It was very glossy, and the youth seemed not a little proud of it. He appeared also to be in excellent humor with himself, and had, withal, a presuming and conceited air. Approaching where Mat was sitting, warming himself by the fire, the young man shoved him a little aside, saying, "Come, old codger, can't you make room for your betters?"
"To be sure I can for such a handsome gentleman as yourself," said Mat, good naturedly; he then added, "That's a beautiful hat you 've got on, mister; it looks like a real salamander!"
"Well," said the youth, "it 's a pretty good hat, I believe; but whether it 's a salamander, or not, I can't say."
"Let me see it," said Olmsted; and,
taking it in his hand, he felt of it with his thumb and finger, smelt of it, and smoothed down the fur with his sleeve. "Yes," said he, at length, "I 'll bet that 's a real salamander hat; and if it is you may put it under that forestick, and it won't burn any more than a witch's broomstick."
"Did you say you would bet that it 's a salamander hat?" said the young man.
"To be sure I will," said Mat; "I 'll bet you a mug of flip of it; for if there ever was a salamander hat, that 's one. Now I 'll lay that if you put it under the forestick, it won't singe a hair of it."
"Done!" said the youth, and the two having shaken hands in token of mutual agreement, the youth gave his hat to Olmsted, who thrust it under the forestick. The fire was of the olden fashion, and consisted of almost a cartload of hickory logs, and they were now in full blast. The people in the bar-room, attracted by the singular wager, had gathered round the fire, tos ee the result of the experiment. In an instant the hat was enveloped by the flames, and in the course of a few seconds it began to bend and writhe, and then curled into a scorched and blackened cinder.
"Hulloo!" said Mat Olmsted, seizing the tongs and poking out the crumpled relic from the bed of coals, at the same time adding, with well-feigned astonishment, "Who ever did see the like of that! it was n't a salamander, arter all! Well, mister, you 've won the bet. Hulloo, landlord, give us a mug of flip."
The force of the joke soon fell upon the conceited young man. He had indeed won the wager--but he had lost his hat! At first he was angry, and seemed disposed to make a personal attack upon the cause of his mortification; but Matthew soon cooled him down. "Don't mind it, my lad," said he; "it will do you good in the long run. You are like a young cockerel, that is tickled with his tall red comb, and having had it pecked off, is ever after a wiser fowl. Take my advice, and if you have a better hat than your neighbors, don't think that it renders you better than they. It 's not the hat, but the head under it, that makes the man. At all events, don't be proud of your hat till you get a real salamander!"
This speech produced a laugh at the expense of the coxcomb, and he soon left the room. He had suffered a severe rebuke, and I could hardly think that my companion had done altogether right; and when I spoke to him afterward, he seemed to think so himself. He, however, excused what he had done, by saying that the fellow was insolent, and he hoped the lesson would be useful to him.
We plodded along upon our journey, meeting with no serious accident, and in the course of five or six days we were approaching Albany. Within the distance of a few miles, Matthew encountered a surly fellow, in a wagon. The path was rather narrow, and the man refused to turn out and give half the road. High words ensued, and, finally, my friend, brandishing his whip, called out aloud, "Turn out, mister; if you don't, I 'll sarve you as I did the man back!"
The wagoner was alarmed at this threat, and turning out, gave half the road. As he was passing by, he had some curiosity to know what the threat protended; so he said, "Well, sir, how did you serve the man back?" "Why," said Matthew, smiling, "I turned out myself!" This was answered by a hearty laugh, and after a few pleasant words between the belligerent parties, they separated, and we pursued our journey.
Albany is now a large and handsome
city; but at the time I speak of, it contained but about three thousand people, a very large part of whom were Dutch, and who could not speak much English. None of the fine streets and splendid public buildings, which you see there now, were in existence then. The streets were narrow and dirty, and most of the houses were low and irregular, with steep roofs, and of a dingy color. Some were built of tiles, some of rough stones, some of wood, and some of brick. But it was, altogether, one ofthe most disagreeable looking places I ever saw.
We remained there but a few hours. Proceeding on our journey, we soon reached Schenectady, which we found to be a poor, ill-built, Dutch village, though it is a handsome town now. We stopped here for the night; and, a little while after we arrived, a man with a wagon, his wife and three children, arrived also at the tavern. He was a Dutchman, and seemed to be in a very ill-humor. I could hardly understand what he said, but by a little help from Matthew, I was able to make out his story.
You must know that Congress had passed a law forbidding any ships to go to sea; and this was called an embargo. The reason of it was, that England had treated this country very ill; and so, to punish her, this embargo was laid on the ships, to prevent people from carrying flour and other things to her, which she wanted very much; for many of her people were then engaged in war, and they could not raise as much grain as they needed.
Well, the old Dutchman had heard a great deal about the embargo onthe ships; for the two parties, the democrats and federalists, were divided in opinion about it, and accordingly it was the subject of constant discussion. I remember that wherever we went, all the people seemed to be talking about the embargo. The democrats praised it as the salvation of the country, and the federalists denounced it as the country's ruin. Among these divided opinions, the Dutchman was unable to make uphis mind about it, accordingly, he hit upon an admirable method to ascertain the truth, and satisfy his doubts. He tackled his best horses to the family wagon, and, taking his wife and three children, travelled to Albany to see the embargo on the ships!
Wel, he drove down to the water's edge, and there were the vessels, sure enough; but where was the embargo? He inquired first of one man, and thenof another, "Vare is de embargo? I vish to see de embargo vat is on de ships!" What he expected to see I cannot tell; but he had heard so much said about it, and it was esteemed, by one party at least, the cause of such multiplied evils, that he, no doubt, supposed the embargo must be something that could be seen and felt. But all his inquiries were vain. One person laughed at him, another snubbed him as an old fool, and others treated him as a maniac. At last he set out to return, and when he arrived at the tavern in Schenectady, he was not only bewildered in his mind, but he was sorely vexed in spirit. His conclusion was, that the embargo was a political bugbear, and that no such creature actually existed!
We set out early the next morning, and by dint of plodding steadily on through mud and mire, we at last reached the town of Utica, having been fourteen days in performing the journey from Salem. We found the place to contain about a thousand people, all the houses being of wood, and most of them built of logs, in the fashion of the log cabin. The town, however, had a bustling and thriving appearance, notwithstanding that the stumps of the forest were still standing in the streets.
I noticed a great many Indians about the town, and soon learned that they consisted of the famous tribes called the Six Nations. Some of these are still left in the state of New York, but they have dwindled down to a very small number. But at the time I speak of, they consisted of several thousands, and were still a formidable race. They were at peace with the White people, and seemed to see their hunting grounds turned into meadows and wheat fields, with a kind of sullen and despairing submission.
One of the first settlers in this vicinity was Judge W., who established himself at Whitestown--about four miles from Utica. This took place nearly a dozen years before my visit. He brought his family with him, among whom was a widowed daughter with an only child--a fine boy of four years old. You will recollect that the country around was an unbroken forest, and that this was the domain of the savage tribes.
Judge W. saw the necessity of keeping on good terms with the Indians, for as he was nearly alone, he was completely at their mercy. Accordingly he took every opportunity to assure them of his kindly feelings, and to secure good-will in return. Several of the chiefs came to see him, and all appeared pacific. But there was one thing that troubled him; an aged chief of the Seneca tribe, and one of great influence, who resided at the distance of half a dozen miles, had not yet been to see him; nor could he, by any means, ascertain the views and feelings ofthe sachem, in respect to his settlement in that region. At last he sent him a message, and the answer was, that the chief would visit him on the morrow.
True to his appointment, the sachem came. Judge W. received him with marks of respect, and introduced his wife, his daughter, and the little boy. The interview that followed was deeply interesting. Upon its result, the judge conceived that his security might depend, and he was, therefore, exceedingly anxious to make a favorable impression upon the distinguished chief. He expressed to him his desire to settle the country; to live on terms of amity and good fellowship with the Indians; and to be useful to them by introducing among them the arts of civilization.
The chief heard him out, and then said, "Brother, you ask much, and you promise much. What pledge can you give me of your good faith?"
"The honor of a man that never knew deception," was the reply.
"The white man's word may be good to the white man, yet it is but wind when spoken to the Indian," said the sachem.
"I have put my life into your hands," said the judge; ["]is not this an evidence of my good intentions? I have placed confidence in the Indian, and I will not believe that he will abuse or betray the trust that is thus reposed."
"So much is well," replied the chief; "the Indian will repay confidence with confidence; if you will trust him he will trust you. But I must have a pledge. Let this boy go with me to my wigwam; I will bring him back in three days with my answer!"
If an arrow had pierced the bosom of the mother, she could not have felt a keener pang than went to her heart, as the Indian made this proposal. She sprung from her seat, and rushing to the boy, who stood at the side of the sachem, looking into his face with pleased wonder and admiration; she encircled him in her arms, and presing him close to her bosom, was about to fly from the room. A gloomy and ominous frown came over the sachem's brow, but he did not speak.
But not so with Judge W. He knew
that the success of their enterprise, the very lives of his family, depended upon the decision of the moment. "Stay, stay, my daughter!" said he. "Bring back the boy, I beseech you. He is not more dear to you than to me. I would not risk the hair of his head. But, my child, he must go with the chief. God will watch over him! He will be as safe in the sachem's wigwam as beneath our roof and in your arms."
The agonized mother hesitated for a moment; she then slowly returned, placed the boy on the knee of the chief, and, kneeling at his feet, burst into a flood of tears. The gloom passed from the sachem's brow, but he said not a word. He arose, took the boy in his arms and departed.
I shall not attempt to describe the agony of the mother for the three ensuing days. She was agitated by contending hopes and fears. In the night she awoke from sleep, seeming to hear the screams of her child calling upon its mother for help! But the time wore away--and the third day came. How slowly did the hours pass! The morning waned away; noon arrived; and the afternoon was now far advanced; yet the sachem came not. There was gloom over the whole household. The mother was pale and silent, as if despair was settling coldly around her heart. Judge W. walked to and fro, going every few minutes to the door, and looking through the opening in the forest toward the sachem's abode.
At last, as the rays of the setting sun were thrown upon the tops of the forest around, the eagle feathers of the chieftain were seen dancing above the bushes in the distance. He advanced rapidly, and the little boy was at his side. He was gaily attired as a young chief--his feet being dressed in moccasins; a fine beaver skin was over his shoulders, and eagles' feathers were stuck into his hair. He was in excellent spirits, and so proud was he of his honors, that he seemed two inches taller than before. He was soon in his mother's arms, and in that brief minute, she seemed to pass from death to life. It was a happy meeting--too happy for me to describe.
"The white man has conquered!" said the sachem; "hereafter let us be friends. You have trusted the Indian; he will repay you with confidence and friendship." He was as good as his word; and Judge W. lived for many years in peace with the Indian tribes, and succeeded in laying the foundation of a flourishing and prosperous community.
MERRY'S ADVENTURES, by Samuel Goodrich (from Robert Merry's Museum, February 1842, pp. 36-38)
We set out to return.--The woods.--A fierce animal.--A wild adventure.--Repose in the forest.
The horses and waggons with which we had travelled to Utica, belonging to Mr. Stebbins, he concluded to sell them, as he was offered a much greater price for them than he could have obtained in Salem. This arrangement left Mat O[l]msted and myself to find our way back on foot, for there were no stages, canal-boats, or rail-roads then.
I did not myself dislike the plan, for I was fond of a tramp, especially with so cheerful a companion as Matthew. It had an air of adventure, and so I set off for our return, with as buoyant a feeling as if I had been about to accomplish some great enterprise.
We had each provided ourselves with a bear-skin, which was rolled up and strapped upon the shoulder. Matthew had also obtained a tinder-box, with flint and steel; these precautions being necessary, as it was likely that we might occasionally be obliged to find our lodgings in the forest.
It was a bright morning in the latter part of November, when we departed, and the cheerfulness of the weather found its way to our bosoms. My friend, though not a talkative man, made an occasional sally of wit, and wore a smile upon his face. I was so light of heart as hardly to feel the ground upon which I trod. We marched rapidly on, and in a few hours were several miles from the town, and winding along the devious road that led through the tall forest.
Although the leaves were stripped from the trees, and the flowers were sleeping in their tombs--though the birds had fled, and their happy minstrelsy was heard no more, still there were signs of cheerfulness around us. The little woodpeckers were creeping up and down the hoary oaks, seeking for the worms that had taken winter quarters in the bark; the partridges were calling their mates by flapping their wings upon some rotten log, thus producing a sound like the roll of a distant drum; the black and gray squirrels, in vast numbers, were holding their revel upon the walnut and chestnut trees, occasionally chasing each other, like birds, among the branches. Small flocks of wild turkeys frequently crossed our path; and now and then a deer bounded before us, gazed backward for a moment, and then, with his tail and antlered head erect, plunged into the wood. We frequently saw racoons amidst the trees, moving about with a kind of gallop, or sitting upon their haunches like monkeys, and using their paws as if they were hands. Sometimes, as we approached them, they sprang up the trees, and having gained a secure elevation, would look down upon us,--their sharp black features assuming almost a smile of derision, and seeming to say, "If you want me, mister, come and get me!"
We marched on, amused by a multitude of little incidents, and as evening approached, had proceeded about five and twenty miles. It was our expectation to spend this night in the woods, and we were beginning to think of seeking a place for repose, when we heard a cry in the distance, like that of a child in distress. We listened for a moment, and then both of us plunged into the forest to seek the cause of this lamentation, and offer relief, if it should be needed. It grew more and more distinct as we proceeded, until at last, when we had reached the spot, beneath a lofty hemlock, whence the sounds seem-
ed to issue, it suddenly ceased. We looked around in every direction, and were not a little astonished that no human being was there. The space beneath the tree was open; not a bush or shrub was near to obstruct our sight, or afford concealment to any object that might have been the occasion of the thrilling cries we had heard.
While Matthew and myself stood looking at each other in amazement, I heard a slight rustling in the boughs of the hemlock, over our heads. I turned my eyes instantly in that direction, and met the gaze of the fiercest looking animal I had ever beheld. It was of the size of a large dog, with the figure of a cat, and was crouching as if to spring upon its prey. I had not time for reflection, for it leaped like an arrow from the bow, making me the object of its aim. Down came the formidable beast, its jaws expanded, its legs stretched out, and its claws displayed, ready to grapple me as it fell.
By instinct, rather than reason, I bent forward, and the creature passed over my head, striking directly against the foot of a sapling that stood in the way. My friend had seen the whole manuvre, and was ready, with his uplifted cane, to give him battle. Though stunned, the creature turned upon me, but he received from Matthew a rap over the skull that made him reel. At the same time my friend caught hold of his long tail, and drew him back, for he was at the instant about to fix his fangs upon me. Thus insulted, the enraged brute turned upon his enemy behind; but Mat held on to the tail with one hand, and pummelled him with the other. At the same time, in order to secure his advantage and keep off the teeth and claws of the monster, he gave him a whirling motion. So, round and round they went, the cudgel flying like a flail, and the beast leaping, scratching and howling, till the woods echoed with the sound. There was an odd mixture of sublimity and fun in the affair, that even then, in the moment of peril, I could not fail to feel. Mat's hat had flown off, his hair streamed in the wind, and his glaring eyeballs watching every twist and turn of his enemy; his cane went raidly up and down; and all the while he was twitched and jerked about in a circle, by the struggles of the beast.
This passed in the space of a few seconds, and I had hardly time to recover my self-possession, before Matthew and the monster were both getting out of breath. I thought it was now time for me to join in the fight, and, approaching the beast, I laid my cane, with the full weight of both hands, over his head. It was a lucky blow, for he instantly staggered and fell upon the ground. Matthew let go his hold, and there lay the beast prostrate before us!
"Better late than never!" said Matthew, puffing like a porpoise. "Better late than never. Whew! I'm as hot as a flap-jack on a griddle,--whew! The unmannerly beast!--whew! So! this is the way of the woods, is it?--whew! You pretend to be a child in distress--whew! and then you expect to make a supper of us!--whew! The infarnal hyppecrite!--whew!"
"Well, what sort of beast do you call it?" said I.
"Why," said my friend, "it 's a catamount, or a wild-cat, or a panther--the varmint! It 's just like all other scamps; it 's got a long parcel of names; in one place it goes by one name, and in another place it goes by another. But it 's the most rebellious critter that ever I met with! He came plaguy nigh givin' your hair a combing."
"That he did," said I; "and if you hadn't been here to comb his, I should have had a hard time of it."
"Like as not--like as not," was the
reply. "But, arter all," said Matthew, looking at the panther, now lying outstretched upon the ground, and bearing all the marks of great agility and power, "arter all, it 's a pity that such a fine fellow hadn't better manners. It 's one of God's critters, and I expect that he loved life as well as his betters. He 's a noble brute--though I can't commend his tricks upon travellers. Poor beast! I'm sorry for you; howsomdever, accidents will happen: it 's all luck and chance; it might have been Bob, or it might have been me. Well, it can't be helped--what 's done is done."
Matthew having settled the matter in this speech, we left the place, and at a little distance, beneath the partial shelter of a rock, we struck up a fire and made preparations for our repose, for it was already night.
MERRY'S ADVENTURES, by Samuel Goodrich (from Robert Merry's Museum, March 1842, pp. 79-83)
I cannot easily make my readers, who have always lived in cities or towns, understand the pleasure of sleeping in the woods, with no roof but the sky. Perhaps most persons would think this a hardship, and so it would be, if we had to do it always: but by way of adventure now and then, and particularly when one is about seventeen, with such a clever fellow as Mat Olmsted for a companion and a guide, the thing is quite delightful.
The affair with the panther had excited my fancy, and filled my bosom with a deep sense of my own importance. It seemed to me that the famous exploits of Hercules, in Greece, which are told by the old poets, were, after all,
such thing as I could myself achieve, if the opportunity only should offer.
Occupied with these thoughts, I assisted Mat in collecting some fagots for our night fire--but every moment kept looking around, expecting to see some wild animal peeping his face between the trunks of the gray old oaks. In one instance I mistook a stump for a bear's head, and in another I thought a bush at a little distance, was some huge monster, crouching as if to spring upon us.
The night stole on apace, and soon we were surrounded with darkness, which was rendered deeper by the fire we had kindled. The scene was now, even more wild than before; the trees that stood around, had the aspect of giants, lifting their arms to the sky;--and their limb often assumed the appearance of serpents, or demons, goggling at us from the midnight darkness. Around us was a seeming tent, curtained with blackness, through which not a ray of light could penetrate.
I amused myself for a long time, in looking at these objects, and I remarked that they assumed different aspects at different times--a thing which taught me a useful lesson, and which I will give, gratis, to my young readers. It is this, that fancy, when indulged, has the power to change objects to suit its own wayward humor. Whoever wishes to be guided right, ought, therefore, to beware how he takes fancy for a guide.
When our fire had been burning for about half an hour, Matthew having unbuckled his pack, took out some dried deer's flesh, upon which we made a hearty supper; we then began to talk about one thing and another, and, finally, I spoke of the Indians, expressing my curiosity to know more about them. Upon this, Mat said he would tell an Indian story, and accordingly, he proceeded nearly as follows:
These six nations, you must know, were not originally confined to this small tract of country, but they were spread far and wide over the land. Nor were they always united, but in former days they waged fierce wars with one another. It was the custom among all the tribes to put captives to death, by burning them, inflicting at the same time the most fearful tortures upon the victims. Sometimes, however, they adopted the captive, if he shows extraordinary fortitude, into the tribe, and gave him all the privileges of the brotherhood.
An instance of this sort occurred with the Senecas. They had been at war with the Chippewas, who lived to the north. Two small bands of these rival tribes met, and every one of the Chippewas was slain, save only a young chief named Hourka. He was taken, and carried to the village of the victorious Senecas. Expecting nothing but torture and death, he awaited his fate, without a question, or a murmur. In a day or two, he saw the preparations making for his sacrifice: a circular heap of dried fagots was erected, and near it a stake was driven in the ground.
To this he was tied, and the fagots were set on fire. The scorching blaze soon flashed near his limbs, but he shrunk not. An Indian then took a sharp piece of stone, and cut a gash in Hourka's side, and inserted in it a glazing knot of pine. This burned down to the flesh, but still the sufferer showed no signs of distress. The people of the tribe, came around him, and jeered at him, calling him coward, and every other offensive name: but they extorted not from him an impatient word. The boys and the women seemed to be foremost in taunting him; they caught up blazing pieces of the fagots, and thrust them against his naked flesh; but yet, he stood unmoved, and his face was serene
showing, however, a slight look of disdain. There was something in his air which seemed to say, "I despise all your arts--I am an Indian chief, and beyond your power."
Now it chanced that a daughter of an old chief of the Senecas, was there, and her heart was touched with the courage and manly beauty of the youthful Chippewa; so she determined to save his life if she could: and knowing that a crazy person is thought by the Indians to be inspired, she immediately pretended to be insane. She took a large fragment of the burning fagot in her hand, and circling around Hourka, screamed in the most fearful manner. She ran among the wom[e]n and the boys, scattering the fire on all sides, and at the same time exclaiming, "Set the captive free,--it is the will of Manitto, the Great Spirit!"
This manoeuvre of the Indian maiden was so sudden, and her manner was so striking, that the Indians around were taken by a momentary impulse, and rushing to the captive, sundered the strings of bark that tied him to the stake, and, having set him at liberty, greeted him as a brother. From this time, Hourka became a member of the tribe into which he was thus adopted, and none treated him otherwise than as a chief, in whose veins the blood of the Senecas was flowing, save only a huge chief, called Abomico.
This Indian was of gigantic size, and proportionate power. He had taken more scalps in fight, than any other young chief, and was, therefore, the proudest of all the Senecas. He was looked upon by the girls of the tribe, very much as a young man is among us, who is worth a hundred thousand dollars. When, therefore, he said to Meena--the daughter of the chief who saved the life of Hourka--that he wanted her for his wife, he was greatly amazed to find that she did not fancy him. He went away wondering that he could be refused, but determining to try again. Now the long, dangling soaplocks, and filthy patches of beard, worn by our modern dandies, who desire to dazzle the eyes of silly girls--were not in vogue among the Senecas: but foppery is a thing known among savages as well as civilized people.
Accordingly, Abomico, when he had determined to push his suit with Meena, covered himself entirely over with a thick coat of bear's grease; he then painted one side of his face yellow, the other blue; his arms he painted red; on his breast he drew the figure of a snake; on one leg he painted a skunk; on the other a bear. Around his neck he hung a necklace of bears' claws, and on his arm he bore forty bloody scalps, which he had taken from the heads of enemies slain in battle; at his back was a quiver of arrows, and in his left hand was a bow. In his hair was stuck a bunch of eagles' feathers; from his right ear swung the skin of a racoon; in his right hand he bore the wing of a crow.
Thus attired, Abomico marched toward the tent, where Meena dwelt with her father. Never was a beau of one of our cities, new from the hands of the tailor, more delighted with his appearance, than was this Indian dandy, as he drew near to the tent, and waited at the door for the maiden to appear. "If she can resist my charms now,"--thought Abomico,--"she must be bewitched indeed!"
Meena soon appeared--and the chief spoke to her again, begging her to become his wife. "Come!" said he--"go with me, and be the singing-bird in my nest. I am a great warrior. I have slain forty brave men in battle. I have feasted on the flesh, and drunk the warm blood, of my enemies. I have the
strongest arm, the truest hand, the swiftest foot, the keenest eye, of any chief in the mighty tribe of the Senecas."
"It is not true!" said Meena.
"Not true?" said the chief, in great anger and astonishment. "Who dares to match himself with Abomico? Who can vie with him in the race? Who can shoot with him at the mark? Who can leap with him at the bar?"
"Hourka!" said Meena.
"It is a lie," said Abomico; though I must say, that he meant no offence--because, among the Indians, such a speech was not a discourtesy.
"Nay--nay," said Meena--"I speak the truth; you have come to ask me to be your wife. Hourka has made the same request. You shall both try your power in the race and the leap, and at the bow. He who shall be the master in the trial, may claim Meena for his slave."
This proposition was gladly accepted, and Hourka being informed of it, a time for the trial was appointed. The people of the village soon heard what was going on; and, as the Indians are always fond of shows and holidays, they rejoiced to hear of the promised sport.
The day of the trial arrived. In a grassy lawn, the sport was to be held; and here the throng assembled. It was decreed by the chiefs that the first trial should be with the bow. A large leaf was spread out upon a forked branch of a tree, and this was set in the ground, at the distance of about fifty yards. Abomico shot first, and his arrow pierced the leaf, within half an inch of the centre. Hourka followed, and his arrow flew wide from the mark, not even touching the leaf. But, as he turned his eye upon Meena, he saw a shade of sorrow come over her face.
In an instant the manner of the young chief changed. He said to himself,--"I have been mistaken: I thought the maiden slighted me and preferred by rival: but now I know that she loves me, and I can now beat Abomico."
There were to be three trials of the bow. In the two which followed the first, which we have described, Hourka had the advantage and was pronounced the victor. And now came the leap. A pole was set horizontally upon stakes, to the height of about five feet, and Hourka, running a little distance, cleared it easily. Abomico followed, and he also leaped over it with facility. It was then raised about a foot, and Hourka, bounding like a deer of the wood, sprang over the pole, amid the admiring shouts of the multitude. Abomico made a great effort, and he too went over, but his foot grazed the piece of wood, and the victory here again was awarded to Hourka.
The face of the haughty Abomico, now grew dark as the thunder-cloud. He could bear to be rejected by Meena; but to be thus vanquished before the whole tribe, and that too by one who had not the real blood fo a Seneca, was more than his pride could bear. He was, therefore, plotting some scheme of revenge, when the race was marked out by the chiefs. It was decreed that they should run side by side to a broad river which was near; that they should swim across; ascend on the opposite bank to a place above a lofty cataract in the river, and recrossing the river there, return to the point of their departure.
The place occupied by the spectators, was so elevated as to command a fine view of the entire race-ground; and the interest was intense, as the two chiefs departed, bounding along, side by side, like two coursers. The race was long nearly equal. They came to the river, and at the same moment both plunged into the water. They swam across, and at the same moment clambered up the
rocky bank on the other shore. Side by side they ran, straining every muscle. They ascended to the spot above the roaring cataract, and plunged into the river; then drew near the place where the water broke over the rocks in a mighty sheet, making the earth tremble with the shock of their fall. Still the brave swimmers heeded not the swift current that drew them toward the precipice. Onward they pressed, cutting the element like ducks, and still side by side.
Intense was the interest of the spectators, as they witnessed the strife. But what was their amazement, when they saw Abomico rise above the wave, grapple Hourka and drag him directly toward the edge of the cataract. There was a shout of horror, through the tribe, and then a deathlike silence. The struggle of the two rivals was fearful, but in a short space, clinging to each other, they rolled over the precipice, and disappeared among the mass of foam, far and deep below!
Killed, by falling on the rocks, and gashed by many a ghastly wound, the huge form of Abomico was soon seen drifting down the stream; while Hourka swam to the shore, and claimed his willing bride, amid the applauses of men, women and children.
MERRY'S ADVENTURES, by Samuel Goodrich (from Robert Merry's Museum, May 1842, pp. 150-154)
We are told that the wandering Arabs, after the day's march over the desert which they love to inhabit, gather in groups at night and amuse each other by telling tales. It always seemed to me that a story under these circumstances would be more interesting than if told in the house, by the quiet fireside; for the feelings and fancy are apt to be excited when there is nothing but the heavens above us and the wide landscape around us. Certain I am that Mat Olmsted's story of the Chippewa Chief and his bride Meena, seemed far more interesting from the fact that it was related in the woods, by the side of a watch-fire. It must be understood that my friend was no scholar; and, though I have amended his language as to the grammar, I have not added to its point or significance. His Yankee phrases and tone gave additional force to his narrative; and, owing to this and the circumstances under which he told his tale, it made such an impression on my mind, that I remember it better than anything else which has lain so long in memory.
I slept pretty well during the night, though I waked up several times, and saw Mat with one eye open, at my side. Feeling that I had a faithful sentinel to keep guard, I fell back into my repose. The sun rose at last. It was a beautiful frosty morning, and the black and gray squirrels were enlivening the woods with their merry gambols. I should gladly have stayed in the place for a long time, and really began to feel that I should like to turn Indian and make the forest my dwelling-place. But this was momentary: we soon began our march, and entering the high road, proceeded on our way to Albany.
I have not time or space to tell all the little adventures we met with--all the good jokes Mat uttered, or the smart speeches he made. I must hurry on in my story, for I am afraid that, if I do not, my readers will think it like the old woman's stocking--the more she knit, the further she got from the end of it.
We reached Albany in a few days, and finding a sloop about departing for New York, we concluded to take passage in her and go to that city. This was a little out of our way, but we did not mind that. The captain of the vessel was a Dutchman, and his name was Dyke. He was a short, stout, broad-shouldered man, and his pantaloons were made somewhat like petticoats hitched up between his legs. He had a pipe in his mouth nearly the whole time; and such clouds of smoke as he did send forth! Puff, puff, puff! Mat Olmsted called him Captain Volcano, more than half the time. However, he
was a good sailor, and he managed the sloop very well.
Beside Mat and myself, there was a young man on board, who had been collecting furs from the Indians, and was now proceeding to sell them at New York. He was a pleasant fellow, and such lots of stories as he and Mat and the Dutch captain told, I never heard before. I could fill a book with them; but I shall only give a sample from each of the narrators.
One moonlight evening, as we were gliding down the Hudson river, its broad bosom seeming like a sea of silver, we were all seated on the deck of the vessel, the captain, as usual, puffing at his pipe as if he was carrying on a manufactory of clouds, and was paid by the hogshead. For some time there was a dead silence; when at last the captain took his pipe from his mouth, and gravely remarked that his father was the bravest man that ever lived.
"How so?" says Matthew.
"Look here," said Captain Dyke, pointing to a little island in the river which we were then passing. "That island," he continued, "was once the resort of Captain Kid, the famous pirate, who had a fine ship in which he sailed over the world, and, robbing every vessel he met of its money, collected a vast deal of gold and silver. After a long voyage, he used to sail up this river and bury his money on this island. When I was a boy, there was a hut still standing there, which was said to have been built by Kid himself.
"There were a great many wild stories told about this hut; for it was said that the captain and his crew used to hold their revels there. Long after the famous freebooter was hung, and his companions were dead, it was maintained that strange noises were heard in the hut, and several persons who had peeped in at night declared that they had seen Kid there in the midst of his jolly sailors, all of them drinking, singing, and telling wild tales of the sea.
"Now my father, as I have said, was a brave man, and he offered to sleep in the hut one night for a bottle of brandy. This banter was accepted, and my father was put over to the island in a boat and left to himself. He had taken care to have the bottle of brandy with him. He repaired to the hut, and sat himself down upon a sailor's chest which chanced to be there.
"There was no furniture in the room, save a rough table which stood int he centre, and an old-fashioned high-backed chair. My father placed the bottle on the table, and which, by the way, was one of your deep craft, with a long neck, and holding somewhere about half a gallon.
"After sitting nearly an hour upon the chest, all the while looking at the bottle, which glimmered in the moonlight that stole between the rafters of the hut, my father laid himself down on the floor and tried to go to sleep. He had not lain long, however, before the bottle slid gently off the table, and then began to lengthen, till it grew up as tall as a woman. Pretty soon it assumed the shape of one of my father's sweethearts, and beckoned to him to come and kiss her! With this request he complied, of course, and then they fell to dancing in a very merry style. As they were whirling round and round, the old chair began to bob about, and at the same moment the rickety table rocked to and fro, then whirled round and performed a pirouette upon one of its legs. A moment after, these two joined hand in hand with my father and his sweetheart, and round and round they flew. Everything went on like a regular cotillon. It was back to back, cross over, right and left, chassez, and balance to partners! My father was in great spirits, and he performed the
double shuffle to admiration. The old table did the same, the high-backed chair followed, and Miss Bottle beat them all. Such pigeon-wings as she executed never were seen before! The whole party caught the spirit of the moment, and it now seemed to be a strife to see which would surpass the rest in feats of grace and agility.
"My father had seen many a frolic, but never such a one as that; and, what was remarkable, the dance seemed constantly to increase in quickness and merriment. The top of the table looked like the jolly face of a Dutchman, the mouth stretched wide, and the eyes goggling with laughter. The old chair seemed to nod and wink with elvish mirth; and the maiden, who all the time appeared to have a queer resemblance to a bottle, frisked and flirted the gayest of the party. On went the dance, until my father was entirely out of breath; but there was no cessation to the sport. There seemed to be an old fiddler standing in one corner, but nothing save two eyes and his elbow were distinctly visible. The latter flew more rapidly every moment, the music quickened, and the dancers kept time. For seven hours my father performed his part in the dance, until, at last, he reeled, and, falling forward, knocked the table, the chair, and the bottle all into a heap. The vision immediately vanished, and soon after there was a rapping at the door. The people had come over to the island, for it was now morning. They found my father in a swoon, lying across the table, the chair crushed, and the bottle broken in a hundred fragments, which lay scattered on the floor."
"A strange story that," says Matthew, as the Dutchman paused; "but I wish to ask one question. Was there any liquor upon the floor where the bottle was broken?"
"Not a drop," said the Dutchman; "and that 's a good proof that old Nick himself was there to drink the liquor."
"No, no," said Matthew, significantly; "it only proves that your father kissed Miss Bottle a little too often; so he got drunk and had the nightmare, and all this scene was a vision of his brain! This proves that your father could drink two quarts of brandy in a single night. I had an uncle who performed a greater feat than that in the revolutionary war, for he captured a British officer with a sausage!"
"Indeed!" said the captain and the fur-trader both at once; "let us hear the story."
"Well," said Matthew; "it happened thus. At one time during the war, as you all know, Washington was situated with his little army at Tappan, near the North river, while Sir Harry Clinton, the British commander, with his troops, were at New York. The space between the two armies was called the Neutral Ground, and it was chiefly occupied by a set of people called Cow-boys. These fellows went back and forth, trading with both parties, and cheating everybody, as they could get a chance.
"Now my uncle, whose name was Darby, was a Cow-boy by profession, but he was a patriot in disguise, as you shall hear. One cold winter's night he was trudging along over the road with a bag of sausages on his back, going to sell them to General Putnam, whose quarters were at the distance of three or four miles. As he was walking along over a lonely part of the road, it being a little after sunset and already growing dark, he heard a horse's gallop at no great distance. He was at the bottom of a hill, and in the midst of a thick wood. Looking to the top of the hill, he saw a man on horseback, who now began gently to come down the descent. My uncle was not only made for a patriot, but also for a great general. Believing that the man
on horseback was a British officer, the idea suddenly entered his head that he would capture him, if it should appear that he was unarmed. Accordingly, he thrust his hand hastily into his wallet, took out one of the frozen sausages, crooked it in the shape of a pistol, and stood still on the middle of the road. The stranger soon approached, and my uncle Darby called out, 'Who goes there?' 'You must first tell me who you are!' said the person on horseback. 'That's as we can agree,' said my uncle; 'for it takes two to make a bargain in these parts.' All this time, he was looking very sharp to see if the man had any weapons about him, and perceiving that he was unarmed, he sprang upon him like a tiger, seized the horse by the bridle, and thrust the muzzle of the seeming pistol in the face of the rider.
"'Dismount, or I'll blow your brains out!' said Darby. My uncle had a voice of thunder, and the astonished traveller expected every moment to be shot through the body. It was no time for parley; so the man dismounted, and my uncle, putting his foot in the stirrup, sprung to the saddle in an instant. 'Now,' said he, 'my pretty fellow, you must go and see old Put. To the right about face, forward, march!' The man hesitated, but my uncle pretended to cock his pistol, and pointed it at the man's breast. This settled the question, and the poor fellow began doggedly to ascend the hill. Following him close behind, and keeping his weapon in a threatening attitude, he conducted the man along the road, and in the space of about an hour ushered him into the presence of General Putnam. On examination, he proved to be a British sergeant, who was out upon a frolic, and, wishing to pass as an American, had left his weapons behind. The story made a vast deal of fun in the camp, and my uncle acquired great renown for his exploit. But patriotism is often rewarded with ingratitude. My uncle received the sergeant's horse, it is true, as a recompense, but he was called 'Sassage Darby' during the remainder of his life."
When Matthew had done, the captain turned to the fur-trader, and said, 'We have each of us told our story; it is now your turn to tell one." "Well," said the young man in reply; "you have related an adventure of your father; our friend Matthew has told one of his uncle; I will now relate one of myself."
"When I was a boy, I read Robinson Crusoe, and so I had a great fancy for going to sea. Nothing would do, but I must be a sailor. My father and mother were both opposed to it; and, finding it impossible to obtain their consent, I resolved to run away. Getting together a little money, I packed up my clothes, and one night set off for New London in Connecticut, a distance of about twenty miles from where I lived. I there entered on board a schooner bound for Boston, which sailed the next day. There were but five persons on board,--the captain, his two sons, one sixteen and the other seventeen years old,--and old sailor, and myself.
"It was the beginning of winter, but the weather was uncommonly fine, and in a short time we were out upon the sea. We scudded along with a light wind for a couple of days, when there was a sudden change of weather. It first blew from the southeast, and rained smartly. I was a little sea-sick, but still able to keep upon the deck. The storm increased, and the wind shifting to the northeast, it began to snow. At the same time it grew cold, and in a very short space everything about the vessel was sheeted with ice and snow. She became perfectly unmanageable, and was now drifting before the gale towards the island of Nantucket, which was at our lee. We put out our anchor, but it was
not of sufficient length to reach the bottom.
"Believing that she must inevitably go ashore, the captain loosed his boat, and getting into it himself, directed us to follow him. His two sons obeyed; but the old sailor, conceiving that the boat must be swamped in the raging sea, chose to continue in the vessel and persuaded me to remain with him. The captain departed, and proceeded toward the shore. But it was now evening, and we soon lost sight of him.
"We continued to drift along for a couple of hours, when the anchor suddenly took effect, and we rode out the night in safety. In the morning, the storm had abated, but everything was so covered with ice that it was impossible for us to get up a sail. In this condition we remained for four days, when a spell of milder weather set in, and we were able to get the little schooner under way. In about a week we reached Boston, where we learned the fate of the captain and his two sons. He reached the shore in safety, but at the distance of nearly of nearly three miles from any house. Both of his sons were chilled with the intense cold, and the younger was in a short time unable to walk. Yielding to his fate, the poor fellow lay down upon the beach and begged his father to leave him to die, as the only means of saving his own life and that of his brother. The father would not listen to this. So he took the young man upon his back, and proceeded on his way. He had not gone more than half a mile, when the elder son sunk to the earth, incapable of proceeding farther.
"The storm still continued to rage, and for a moment the old man gave way to despair; but soon recovering, he set forward, with the younger son upon his back. Having proceeded a quarter of a mile, he laid him down upon the beach, and returned to the elder boy, whom he found almost in a state of insensibility. Taking him upon his shoulders, he carried him to the spot where he had left his younger son. What was his agony to discover that the boy was cold and lifeless! He now proceeded with the one upon his back, but in a short time his foot faltered, and he fell to the earth. There was no way, but to leave his children, and reach the house, if possible, for aid. Faint and exhausted, he proceeded with a staggering step, and when at last he reached the house, his mind was so bewildered, that he could scarcely tell his piteous tale. He said enough, however, to give the people some intimation of the truth, and two men immediately set out to scour the beach. They were not long in discovering the bodies of the two boys, who were covered with the spray of the sea, thickly frozen to their garments. Everything was done to for them that kindness could suggest, and all had the happiness of soon discovering signs of life. Gradually, both recovered, and the anguish of the father gave way to joy. In four days they were all able to leave the place, and soon after our arrival with the little schooner they came on board. I had, however, seen enough of the sea, and resolved in my heart never to trust myself upon its treacherous bosom again. I made my way back to my home; and, thoroughly penitent for my disobedience, resolved never again to disobey my parents; for during the storm, and especially that fearful night when the old sailor and myself were alone in the vessel, the thought of my misconduct weighted heavily upon my heart, and took away from me the power of providing against the danger that beset me."
As the young man finished his story, the captain puffed forth an enormous quantity of smoke, and the rest of our party retired to bed!
MERRY'S ADVENTURES, by Samuel Goodrich (from Robert Merry's Museum, June 1842, pp. 177-181)
The next morning was fair, and we glided rapidly down the river. The banks of each side were hilly, and presented several small towns to our view. At length we noticed on the western border a tall blue mountain, which seemed to rise up like a vast thunder-cloud. This I was told was called the Kattskill. It consists of many peaks, with deep ravines, and beautiful waterfalls between them. The scenery among these mountains is so wild and interesting that many people visit them every year. Opposite to these mountains is the city of Hudson. We stopped there about an hour. I found it quite a small place then, but now it has seven thousand inhabitants.
Having taken on board three or four persons, with a quantity of butter, cheese, and other articles for New York, we departed and proceeded down the river. The scenery was still very beautiful. The river wound between tall mountains, which came down to the water's edge, and seemed sometimes to encircle it, so
as to make it appear like a lake. But, as we proceeded, the vast mountains appeared to recede, and open a passage for us. Frequently we passed close to the shore, and I could not but admire the wonderful beauty of the trees that clothes the sides of the mountain. It was autumn, you remember, and the leaves were of many colors; some were yellow, some red, some purple, and some green. There was something sad about all this; for we knew that these bright hues are but the signs of coming death. We knew that this coat of many colors which is thrown over the mountain, making it appear so gay, is but a gaudy mantle that will soon give place to the winter winding-sheet of snow. But still, even though the woods in autumn may be a little melancholy, I do not like them the less for that. As I passed along the mountain slopes, catching glimpses between the trees into the valleys, or far away between the tops of the peaks, seeming to float in a sea of azure, I felt as if I could make the woods my home forever!
The next day we passed by a lofty cliff, called West Point, where old Fort Putnam is situated, and where there is now an academy in which young men receive a military education. This was a famous place in the revolutionary war. Here was the scene of Benedict Arnold's treachery. He was entrusted with the command of this fort by Washington, who had great confidence in him; but Arnold was a bad man, and he secretly agreed to give up the fort to the British, if they would pay him a large sum of money, and give him a command in their army. Major André, a British officer, came up the river from New York, and met Arnold one night to arrange the scheme.
On his return, André was taken by some Americans, and brought before Washington. He was tried as a spy, and, being convicted, was sentenced to death, this being according to the usages of war. André was a fine young officer, and Washington wished very much to save his life. But this he could not accomplish consistently with his duty to his country.
André was confined at a house in the town of Bedford, next to Salem, and my friend Mat Olmsted recollected perfectly well to have seen him there. He described him as a tall young man, with blue eyes, his hair powdered white, and wearing a red coat. Matthew told me a great many stories about him. He said all the people were very sorry to have him executed. When he passed along between the files of soldiers to the scaffold, there was scarcely an individual who did not weep. Tears even rolled down the rugged cheeks of the soldiers, who had been accustomed to scenes of battle and bloodshed.
André alone seemed firm and collected. He walked erect, and such was his presence of mind when he ascended the scaffold, that happening to soil his coat by pressing against one of the posts, he calmly took out his handkerchief and brushed the dust away. This was a kind of sign and illustration of his life and character. Though he was a spy, he did not die dishonored; but the dignity of his bearing brushed away the soil upon the soldier, and he perished amid the regrets of those whom war had made his enemies, leaving behind him thousands of hearts to mourn his untimely fate.
The day after we passed West Point we saw something coming up the river, paddling through the water, and smoking away at a great rate. Mat said it must be a Dutchman, and a cousin to our Captain Volcano; but we were told it was a steamboat! I had heard of such a thing, but had never seen one. There had been a good deal said in the news-
papers about one Robert Fulton, who was trying to make vessels go by fire and water, instead of wind. Most people thought Fulton either crazy or a fool, to attempt so hopeless a task. He was laughed at and ridiculed, particularly by that class of people who think themselves the wisest, and who imagine that the only way to live is to make money and keep it.
But Fulton was a great man, whose mind was above all this littleness. So, letting the world make itself merry at his expense, he went calmly and patiently on. If he met with a difficulty he labored till he overcame it; sneers, scoffs, gibes, could not turn him from his purpose. He persevered, and at last he triumphed. The engine began to turn the crank, the wheels went round, the paddles took hold of the wave, the boat moved forward, and steam navigation was accomplished!
This was the greatest invention of modern times. I am speaking of what happened in 1808, only thirty-four years ago. There are now many thousand steamboats throughout the world. The great rivers are navigated by them, and even the Atlantic is now traversed by steam power. The journey of a week is at present but the trip of a day--a voyage of two months is but the passage of a fortnight. This very Hudson river, upon which Fulton achieved his noble invention, before but a pathway for a few straggling vessels, is now the thoroughfare of millions. It is a literal fact that millions of persons pass up and down this river every year, where before only a few hundred annually performed the trip. Before, it was often a fortnight's work to get a vessel from New York to Albany; now a steamboat with five hundred passengers will accomplish it in twelve hours!
Such are the mighty results, proceeding from one man's labors. Let us all reflect a moment upon this. what a great blessing is a great man who devotes himself to the good of his country! How ought such a man to be honored! How paltry, how base is that littleness of soul which leads some persons to run down the great and the good--the public benefactor!
Let the story of Fulton teach us all another lesson, which is this--When we feel that we are right in our devotion to any cause, let not the scoffs of the world move us. Even though there may be dark days, when we seem given up to ridicule by the world around; when even friends desert us, and poverty besets us, and slander assails us, and sorrow and gloom seem gathering around our path, let us look to the beautiful example of Fulton and be comforted. Let us say to ourselves, "Fulton persevered, and we will persevere. Fulton met with difficulties and suffered from poverty; but he met them patiently, and at last he triumphed." Let us imitate his steadfastness, and gather confidence from his success.
The little steamboat approached us rapidly. Never in my life have I felt a deeper excitement than at that moment1 All the people on board our little sloop were leaning over the side, straining their eyes to watch this wonder of the water. On she came, cutting the current and seeming like a thing of life, moving by her own power. She came nearer and more near. I have seen other steamboats since; those that were ten times as large; but never one that touched my imagination like that. We passed close to her side. There was a tall, slender man standing upon her deck. His face was dark, and care-worn; his eye black, deep-set, and sparkling; his hair black and curling--though perchance a little grizzled. It was Robert Fulton! His name was spoken by our captain, and instantly [a]
cheer broke from every man on board our little vessel. "Fulton! Fulton!" was the cry; and the name was echoed a hundred times among the hills. This was a bright spot in my life. I shall never forget it--I could not tell my feelings then--I cannot express them now. I have often thought of this scene: the image of Fulton, calm, thoughtful and modest in that day of triumph, always comes back as distinctly to my memory, as when he stood before me then. It has not been to me a barren incident; for in my humble career, I too have had difficulties, cares, sorrows; and Ihave drawn comfort, I trust composure, from his example. The humblest plant may extract beams from the sun--and Robert Merry would say to his readers, that he, poor as he is, humble as he is, has a sort of feeling that Robert Fulton, though dead and departed, comes to cheer him in his lonely journey through life. Often, in some dark hour, has his image broke in upon him like a ray of light; thus converting gloom into sunshine. I know that this may seem to be a mere fancy, yet there is reason in it, or, if not, there is comfort in it.
In a day or two after meeting the steamboat, we arrived at the city of New York. Nearly ten years had elapsed since I left it. I recollected very little of it. It was indeed like a new place to me at first. I felt as if I had never seen it before, until, after a day or two, it became familiar to me as if I had once seen it in a dream. Though it was then a great city, New York was much smaller than it is now. It had not more than one fourth part as many inhabitants.
Nothing of importance occurred here, and after three days, Matthew and I entered a sloop and sailed to Norwalk, in Connecticut. Having landed, we immediately set out on foot for Salem, which is a distance of about twenty miles. I had now been gone a month, and was exceedingly anxious to get home. I had a great desire to see my uncle; for although I had not much intercourse with him when at home, still he was always kind to me, and I was so accustomed to his good-humored face, that I seemed solitary and homesick without it.
As I began to approach the village, my heart beat quick at the idea of getting home, of meeting my uncle, and seeing my friends and companions once more. Not a thought of evil fortune crossed my mind. I expected to see them all well and happy as when I left them. When we reached the village, it was night. We met no one in the street--all was still and solitary. We came to the tavern. There was a bright light in the bar-room, and it looked as cheerful as ever. I was about to enter, when a dusky figure took hold of my arm and said, "Go not in there. Come with me." I perceived in a moment that it was old Sarah of the mountain. She led me to the front door, and as we passed along, she said, in a low, but solemn tone, "He is gone, lad, he is gone. There is trouble for you here. When it is all over, come and see me in the mountain."
I was struck with horror, and stood still for a moment. I was alone, for Matthew had gone into the bar-room. I was convinced that my uncle was dead. I grew giddy, and the dim objects that were near me seemed to swim around. I recovered, however, lifted the latch and went in. The entry was dark, and I was obliged to grope my way to the stairs. I ascended and approached my uncle's chamber. It was partly open and there was a dim light within. I was about to enter, but paused a moment at the threshold and looked round. On a low couch lay the lifeless form of my uncle, and at a little distance sat Raymond, pale as marble, and wrapped
in profound meditation. My step was so light that he did not hear my approach, but my quick and convulsed breath roused him. He instantly came to me, but spoke not. Words were indeed vain. Nothing could break the force of the stern reality. My uncle, my kind-hearted uncle, my only relative,--he who had been to me as father and mother, was no more.
I cannot dwell upon the scene, nor could I describe my feelings, should I attempt it. For nearly an hour my heart was stunned, my mind bewildered. But tears at length came to my relief, band after a time I was able to hear from Raymond the sad story of my uncle's death. He had died in a fit, cut down without a moment's warning, and, as I afterwards learned, in consequence of his intemperate habits.
The funeral took place the next day. I walked in the procession to the burial ground, but I was so completely overwhelmed with my loss as scarcely to notice anything around me. But when the coffin was let down into the ground and the earth was thrown upon it, I felt such a pang at the idea of being forever separated from my uncle, as almost to distract me. For a moment, I was on the point of leaping into the grave and asking to be buried with him; but it was closed, and the procession moved away. I returned, and i was then alone, without a relative in the world, so far as I knew.
A few days after these events, an examination of my uncle's affairs was made, and it was discovered that his estate was insolvent. Every dollar of my own property was gone, and I was now a beggar! These facts were told me by Raymond; they did not, however, immediately make a deep impression upon me; but I soon learned what it is to be without parents, without money, and without a home.
MERRY'S ADVENTURES, by Samuel Goodrich (from Robert Merry's Museum, July 1842, pp. 26-29)
A month passed away after my uncle's death, during which I was in a sort of maze; I did not know what to do, and now, after many years are gone, I can hardly recollect anything that occurred during that period. I only know that I wandered over the house, from one room to another; I then went into the fields; rambled about the farm, and seeming by a sort of instinct to avoid everybody. I did not wish to speak to any one. I seemed lost, and it was not till the day came when the tavern was to be sold, with all its furniture, that I was fully recalled to consciousness.
I remember that day well. The sale was by auction, and the place which had been a home to me for years, was knocked off to the highest bidder. The purchaser was a stranger to me, and took immediate possession. I still remained in the house; and it was not till three or four days after he and his household had come, that the idea entered my head that I was to leave it. The man said to me one day--"Well, Mr. Merry--when do you intend to go?" I did not understand him at first, but a moment it rushed into my mind, that this was a hint for me to depart.
I felt a sense of mingled insult and shame; for it seemed that it was almost turning me out of doors, and that by my stupidity, I had subjected myself to such an indignity. I made no reply--but took my hat and left the house. I wandered forth, hardly knowing which way I went. In a short time I found myself ascending the mountain, toward old Sarah's cave. It now came suddenly to my recollection that the hermitess had invited me to come and see her, if at any time I was in trouble.
Although she was not, perhaps, the wisest of counsellors, yet, in my present disturbed state of mind, it suited me well enough to go to her. Indeed, I felt so miserable, so lonely from the loss of my uncle, so helpless from the loss of my property, that I thought of taking up my abode with the gray old dame of the rock, and living there the rest of my life. With these strange notions running in my head, I approached her den.
It was a chill December evening, and I found her in her cave. She bade me welcome, and I sat down. "I knew it would come to this," said she: "I knew it long ago. Your uncle was kind-hearted, as the world say; but is it kind to spend what is not one's own? Is it kind to waste the property of the orphan, and leave one's sister's child to beggary? Is it kind to eat, drink, and be merry, when another's tears must pay the reckoning?"
"Nay, nay;" said I. "You must not speak in this way. My uncle is dead, and I will not hear his name mentioned, but in words of kindness and charity. Oh, do not blame him; it was his misfortune, not his fault, to lose my property, as well as his own. At all events, he loved me; he ever spake kindly to me; he was to me as a father; he could not have done more for a son than he did for me."
I could say no more, for tears and sobs choked my utterance, and old Sarah then went on. "Well, well; let it be so, let it be so. But I must tell you, Master Merry, hat I knew your mother well. We were both of the same country, both natives of England, and we came to America in the same ship. She was a good woman, and in the dark days of my life, she was kind to me. I will repay it to her child." Saying this, she went to the end of the cave, and took a small wooden box from a crevice in the rock. This she opened, and handed a parcel to me, adding; "this will repair your loss." I looked at her in some doubt. "Exam-
ine what I give you," said she, "and you will understand me."
I opened the parcel, which consisted of a roll, with a covering of silk. I found in it several thin pieces of paper, resembling bank notes, and reading them as well as I could by the dim light which came in at the entrance of the cave, I perceived that they were government bills, of a thousand dollars each. "I am glad for your sake," said I, handing back the parcel to Sarah--"that you have so much money, but I cannot consent to take it from you."
"And what do I want of it?" said she, quickly. "It has been in my possession for forty years, yet I have never seen the need of it. This rock has been my shelter--this rock is my bed. The forest yields me food, and charity gives me raiment. Oh no; that money can never be used by me. It would feed my pride and tempt me back into the paths of folly. I have sworn never more to use it, and if you do not take it, it will perish with me."
I endeavored to persuade the hermitess to change her views and her mode of life. I urged her, as she had so much money, to leave her cave, and procure the comforts and luxuries which her age and infirmities required. But she was fixed in her purpose, and my reasoning was without effect. We talked till the night was nearly gone. At last I consented to take a part of the cash, but she insisted that I should take the whole; and believing that she would never use it, I received it, intending to reserve, at least a portion of it for her use, in case of need. The kind-hearted old creature seemed much delighted, and my own heart was lightened of a heavy burthen. I felt, not only that I had again the means of independence, but that I had also a sure and steadfast friend.
It did not diminish my pleasure that this friend was a gray old dame, clothed in rags and regarded with contempt by the world; poor as she seemed, she had done for me what no rich person would ever have done. The rich will seldom give away their money, or if they do, it is sparingly and with reluctance. The song says--
"'Tis the poor man alone, When he hears the poor's moan, Of his morsel a morsel will give."
My own experience has verified the truth of these touching words. The rich consist usually of those who have a supreme love of wealth, and who sacrifice everything else to obtain it, or keep it. A person who eagerly pursues riches all his life time; who gives nothing away; who turns a deaf ear to the calls of charity; who never opens his purse to a friend; who never feels the appeals of society to his liberality--or if he does these things, does them narrowly and selfishly--and in his charities regards himself alone; such a one is almost sure to be rich in purse, though he is more certain to be poor in soul. Such a person may live and die, rich in this world, but he goes a pauper into the other--
But poor Sarah parted with the good things of this life, and no doubt, she laid up riches in that world where neither moth nor rust can corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal.
I left her the next morning, with many thanks, and a heart overflowing with gratitude. I descended the mountain, and entered the high- road. It was about three miles to the village, and feeling fatigued from my imperfect repose upon Sarah's bed of rock, I asked a fat gentleman, who was riding along luxuriously in a coach, drawn by two sleek horses, to let me ride. He did not deign to open his lips, but shook his head, and the coach rolled on. I had not gone far before a poor man, with an old wagon and
a thin, raw-boned horse overtook me. The whole establishment bespoke poverty; yet, when I asked the man to grant me a ride, he cheerfully complied with my request, as if it gave him real satisfaction to do an act of kindness. "Here it is again," thought I; "if you want a favor, ask it of the poor. The rich man, in his easy coach, and with his fat horses that have hardly enough to do to keep them from apoplexy, possesses a heart as hard as flint; while the humble wagoner, with a beast that drags one leg painfully after another, is ready to slave himself and his horse, out of mere good nature. Thus it is that riches turn the soul to stone; thus it is that poverty keeps the heart soft, and, like a generous, well cultivated soil, ever prepared to yield good fruits."
I soon reached the village, and immediately went to see Raymond, to tell him of my interview with the hermitess. Having related what had happened, I took out the money, and placed it in his hands. Guess my surprise and disappointment, when he told me that the ten bills of a thousand dollars each, were "Continental notes," and were not worth a farthing! They had been issued by the government during the war of the revolution, but had depreciated, so that a thousand dollars of this paper, were sold for a single dollar in silver! The government had, indeed, made some provision for the payment of such notes as were brought forward before a certain time, but these had been withheld beyond the period, and were now utterly without value.
I had, of course, no suspicion that Sarah was aware of this fact. The money was once good; and having lived apart from the world, she had not known the change that had come over the currency. Having no want of money, it was all the same to her, whatever might be its worth; and it was only till she desired to do an act of kindness to the child of an early friend, that what was once a fortune to her, came into her mind.
I therefore felt no diminution of my gratitude to the poor old woman, when I learnt that her gift was all in vain, and that it still left me a beggar. Concealing the fact from her, I took counsel of Raymond as to what I must do. I was perfectly helpless; it was my misfortune that I had been brought up to think myself rich, beyond the need of effort, and in fact, above work. This silly idea had been rather encouraged by my uncle, who, being an Englishman, had a little aristocratic pride in me as a member of the family, and one born to be a gentleman, or, in other words, to lead an idle and useless life. His feelings, and purposes were kind, but short- sighted. He had not foreseen the destruction of my property; and, besides, he had not learned that, whether rich or poor, every person, for his own comfort and respectability, should be educated in habits of industry and in some useful trade or profession.
After a good deal of reflection, Raymond advised me to go to New York, and get a situation as a clerk in a store. This suited my taste better than any other scheme that could be suggested, and I made immediate preparations to depart. I went to take leave of Bill Keeler, who was now a thriving shoe-maker, with a charming wife, and two bright-eyed laughing children. I bade them good-bye, with many tears, and carrying with me their kindest wishes. How little did I then think of the blight that would come over that cheerful group and happy home! It is true I had some fears for Bill, for I knew that he loved the bar-room; but it did not enter my imagination that there was a thing abroad in society so nearly akin to the Evil Spirit, as to be able to convert his good nature into brutality, and
change an earthly paradise into a scene of indescribable misery.
Having taken leave of all my friends--and now it seemed that I had many--I set out on my journey to New York on foot, provided with two or three letters of introduction, furnished by Raymond and his brother, the minister, and with about five dollars in my pocket; the whole amount of my earthly portion!
MERRY'S ADVENTURES, by Samuel Goodrich (from Robert Merry's Museum, August 1842, pp. 34-37)
With a heavy and doubting heart, I proceeded on my way to New York. My situation was, in every respect, gloomy and depressing. I was alone in the world, and utterly unpractised in taking care of myself. I was cast forth to work my way in the rough voyage of life. I was like a person, who, while sailing confidently upon a raft, sees it suddenly sink in the waves, leaving him no other resource than to swim for his life, and that too, without preparation or practice.
It is, however, true, that necessity is, not only the mother of invention, but of exertion also, and by degrees I began to brace myself up to the emergency in which I was placed. It is a great thing--it is, indeed, the first requisite in order to obtain success--to have the mind and feelings prepared. I saw and felt that I had no other dependence now, than myself; that even my food, my clothing, my shelter, must henceforth, be the fruit of my own toil. It was a strange and startling position; and it was necessary for me to go over the events which had recently transpired, again and again, before I could realize a state of things so utterly at variance with the whole tenor of my life, my education, and my habits of thought.
It was long before, I could bring my pride down to my humble condition; it was long before I could resolve to grapple earnestly and heartily with the burthen which a life of toil presented to my imagination. I had heard of a punishment of criminals in Holland, in which they were obliged to work at a pump incessantly, to save themselves from being drowned; if they relaxed for a moment, the fatal element would rise over their heads and they would be lost forever. In my hour of distress, I looked upon my condition as little better than this. But necessity, necessity, that stern teacher, admonished me hour by hour, and at last its lesson was indelibly written on my heart. From that moment, fully estimating my dependence, I felt assured, and with a firmly step pushed on toward the place of my destination.
The day after my departure from Salem, as I was passing through the town of Bedford, I came to a handsome white house, the grounds of which seemed to bespeak wealth and taste on the part of its owner. It was at this moment beginning to snow the flakes falling so thickly as to obscure the air. It was evidently setting in for a severe storm, and I was casting about for some place of shelter, when a tall, thin gentleman, of a very dignified appearance, approached me. There was that air of kindness about him, which emboldened me to inquire if he could tell me where I could get shelter till the storm was over.
"Come in with me, my friend," said he kindly; at the same time opening the gate, and walking up the yard toward the house I have mentioned. I did not hesitate, but followed on, and soon found myself in a large room, richly carpeted, bearing every aspect of ease and luxury.
Being desired to take a seat, I placed myself by the cheerful fire, and waited to be addressed by the hospitable host.
"It is a stormy day," said the old gentleman; "have you far to travel?"
"I am on my way to New York, sir;" said I.
"Indeed! and on foot!" was his reply; "then you had better stay here till the storm is past." He then proceeded to make some inquiries, and soon learnt my story. He had known my uncle well, and seemed on his account to take some interest in my behalf. The day passed pleasantly, and when evening came, there was quite a circle, consisting of the members of a large family, gathered around the fireside. The conversation was lively and entertaining. the host appeared to be about sixty years of age, but he had a look of calm dignity, an aspect of mingled simplicity and refinement, which made a strong impression on my mind. I had never seen any one who so much excited the feeling of reverence. I did not know his name, but I had a feeling that I was in the presence of a great man. The deference paid him by all around, tended to heighten this impression.
About ten o'clock in the evening, the servants of the family were called in, and all kneeling, the aged man offered up a simple, but fervent prayer to heaven. It seemed like the earnest request of a child to a father; a child that felt as if he had offended a parent whom he loved, and in whom he confided. The scene to me was very striking. To see a man so revered by his fellow-men--a man of such wisdom and knowledge--kneeling in humiliation, like a very child, and pouring out his soul in tears of supplication before the Father of the Universe, affected me deeply. It was one of those things which was calculated to have a decisive and abiding effect. I had then heard little of religion, except as a matter of ridicule. I have since met with the scoffer and the unbeliever; but the scene I have just described, taught me that the truly great man may be a sincere, meek, pious Christian; it taught me that the loftiest intellect, the most just powers of reasoning, may lead to that simple faith which brings the learned and the great to the same level as the unlettered and the humble--submission to God. If, in after days, I have ever doubted the truth of the bible; if I have ever felt contempt for the Christian, that good man's prayer, that great man's example, have speedily rebuked my folly. These things have led me to frequent and serious reflection, and, during the subsequent stages of my life, have induced me to remark, that the unbeliever, the scoffer, is usuallly a person of weak mind, or ill-balanced judgment. I have met many great men, who were Christians. I never had met a great man who was a doubter.
In the morning the storm had abated, and after breakfast, I took my leave, having offered sincere thanks for the hospitality I had shared. As I was departing, the gentleman put into my hands a letter, addressed to a friend of his in New York; and which he requested me to deliver in person, on my arrival. This I promised to do; but candor compels me to say that I did not keep my promise; and bitterly have I had occasion to repent it. It is true, I sent the letter to the gentleman, but I did not deliver it myself. I had not yet learned the importance of a precise and accurate fulfilment of duty, and performance of promises. Had I done as I was directed, it would, no doubt, have altered the whole tenor of my life. I afterwards learned, but all too late to be of avail, that the letter was to an eminent merchant of New York; commended me warmly to him, and requesting him to take me into his counting-room; and this letter was from a
man of such distinction,* that his request would not have been slighted. Yet, through my carelessness, I missed this excellent chance for getting forward in life.
I proceeded on my journey, but although I travelled very industriously, the snow was so deep, that at night I had made little progress. The fourth day after my departure, however, just at evening, I entered the city of New York, and took up my lodgings at a small tavern in Pearl street. Having taken supper, I went to the bar-room, where were about a dozen men, drinking and smoking. One of them, rather genteelly dressed, came and sat by me, and we fell dressed, came and sat by me, and we fell into conversation. After a little while, he ordered some flip, and we drank it. I felt my heart warmed, and my tongue loosed, and I told the stranger my story. He appeared to take great interest in me and pretty soon proposed to go into another room. Here were two other persons; and we sat down--my new friend ordering more liquor, and introducing me to the strangers. The liquor was brought, and also a pack of cards. In an easy way my companion began to shuffle the pack, and handed them to me to cut; seeming to take it as a matter of course that I would play. I had not the courage to refuse, and drew up to the table. The game went on, and in a very short time, I had lost every dollar in my pocket!
"Wit that is bought, is worth twice as much as wit that is taught," says the proverb. We have good counsels bestowed upon us, but words make a faint impression. It is only when these counsels have been despised, and we are made actually to suffer, that we obtain lessons which stick by us, and influence us. A father once warned his son against certain evil ways. "Why do you counsel me, thus?" said the boy. "Because I have tried these things and seen the folly of them," said the parent. "Well, father," replied the inexperienced youth, "I want to see the folly of them too!" Thus it is that we will not take the experience of others; we will not heed the warnings of wisdom; we must needs taste of evil, and then, but not till then, do we bear in mind the bitterness that is in the cup of indulgence.
So it was with me; I had heard the dangers of gambling, but I had not seen and felt the folly of it. But now the lesson of experience had come, and it was deep and bitter. I went to bed with a heavy heart. Sleep came not to my eyelids that long, long night. My fancy was filled with real and imaginary evils. The death of my uncle; the loss of my fortune; the desolation of my condition; my visit to old Sarah's cave; the bitter disappointment connected with the continental notes; my farewell to friends; my launching forth upon the sea of adventure;--all, came again and again to mind, each thought with oppressive force and distinctness. Ideas seeled like living images marching and
*I suppose that Robert Merry here refers to John Jay, one of the greatest and best men who ever lived; for about this period he dwelt in the town of Bedford, and was such a person as is described. He had filled many important offices; had been a member of congress, governor of New York, ambassador to Spain and England, and chief justice of the United States. At the period of Merry's journey from Salem to New York, he had retired to private life, devoting himself to religious and philosophical inquiries. In 1798, he negotiated a famous treaty with England, which was the subject of much discussion. there is a simple anecdote which shows the excitement on this subject, and exhibits Governor Jay in a pleasing light. One day being at market, the butcher said to him, "there is a great pother about this treaty of yours, governor; pray what sort of a treaty is it?" "Well, my friend," said Mr. Jay, "there is some good and some bad in it; but, on the whole, I think it a pretty good treaty: it is much like your beef--there's a streak of fat and a streak of lean--but it's very good beef after all."
countermarching in fearful procession, through the grisly shadows of the night. Nor was this all. To these realities, were added the fantasies suggested by apprehension, the painful emotions of an offended conscience, and the bitter self-distrust, which a conviction of my weakness and folly, at the very threshold of active and responsible life, forced upon me. All these came in to increase my misery. In vain did I try to close my eyes in repose; in vain did I seek to shut out the truth from my mind. The more I courted sleep, the more wakeful I became; the more I tried not to think, the more bright and vivid were my conceptions. My soul was like an illuminated house, filled with bustle and noise, when the proprietor would fain have sought the silence and repose of the pillow.
Morning at last came, and with it something like comfort. "I have learnt a lesson," said I, "and will never gamble again." Such was the fruit of my experience, and it was worth all it cost me; for from that time I have kept my resolution. I went to deliver the letters which had been given me by Raymond and his brother. The persons to whom they were addressed, received me kindly, and one of them, a bookseller, took me into his shop as a clerk, on trial.
It is scarcely possible for any one to conceive of a youth so poorly qualified to be useful, as I was at this time. My education was very imperfect; I had no habits of industry; I was not accustomed to obey others; I had no experience in doing the thousand little things which are to be done, and which practice alone can render easy. On the contrary, I had grown up in idleness, or at least to work, or play, or do nothing, just as my humor might dictate.
Now those children who have had the guidance of parents, and who have been taught habits of industry and obedience, ought to be very thankful--for they will find it easy to get along in life; but, alas, I had grown up almost to manhood, and had been educated to none of these things; and now I was to reap the bitter fruits of my own neglect and the misfortune of having no parent and no friend, save a too indulgent uncle. How much I suffered, from these sources, I cannot express; but my experience may warn all children and youth against the foolish desire to being indulged in their wishes and humors. 'T is far better that they should learn to perform their duties, to help themselves, to be industrious, and to obey those in whose charge they are placed.
The bookseller with whom I was now placed, was named Cooke--a large man, with red hair standing out like bristles, and staring, fiery eyes. When he first spoke to me, he was soft as cream in his tones, but I soon learnt that when roused, he was hot as a volcano. For two or three days he was, indeed, very gentle, and I fancied that I should get along very well. But soon the fair sky was overcast with clouds, and a terrible tempest followed.
MERRY'S ADVENTURES, by Samuel Goodrich (from Robert Merry's Museum, September 1842, pp. 66-72)
The book shop in which I was now a clerk, was not like the present Broadway establishments of Appleton, or Wiley & Putnam--a vast hall, with almost endless successions of shelves, and these loaded with the rich and varied volumes of the American and English press. No indeed! it was a little shop in Pearl street, stocked with Webster's Spelling Books, Watts's Psalms and Hymns, Young's Night Thoughts, Webster's Third Part, the American Preceptor, and other works of a popular kind, and designed for general use. There were no Rollo works--there was no Peter Parley then!
Mr. Cooke was a very sharp man in trade. His whole soul was bent on making money. He cared nothing for books, except for the profit he made upon them. For a few days he left me to myself, but then he began to try to make me as much interested in the business as he was. But this was a vain attempt. My thoughts were always somewhere else, and often when he spoke to me I did not hear him. I was constantly making blunders. In casting accounts I got everything wrong; I credited Mr. Lightfoot with books that should have been charged; I sent off to a customer a lot of Peregrine Pickle, instead of Young's Night Thoughts; and at last, taking the inkstand for the sand-box, I dashed a puddle of ink over the ledger!
This was the crisis of my fate. Never in all my days have I seen such another sight as poor Mr. Cooke's face. Astonishment, indignation, fury, were in his countenance all at once. At last he broke out: "What have you done? Oh you unlucky dog! Get out of my house; get out of my sight! Oh my poor, dear ledger! Here's a pretty kettle of fish! Get out of my sight! Get a piece of newspaper; fetch some water; run to the house and get a cloth! Oh dear, dear, dear! what shall I do! Oh Robert Merry--Robert Merry!" Here the poor man was entirely out of breath. I got the things he wanted, took my hat and walked into the street.
I passed along quite rapidly for some time, hardly knowing what I was about. In the tempest of my mind I walked rapidly, and was soon in a remote part of the city. The time passed insensibly away, and it was evening before I was aware of it. As I was walking through a dark and narrow street, I heard a voice behind me, and a clatter as of many persons running with all their might. The din drew nearer and nearer, and soon I distinguished the cry of "Stop thief! stop thief!" In a moment a young man rushed by me, and at a little distance several men came pressing in hot pursuit. I was seized with a sudden impulse, whether of fright, I cannot say, but I ran with all my speed. I was, however, soon overtaken, and rudely seized by the collar by a man, who exclaimed, "Well, rascal, I have got you at last!"
"Let go of me," said I, "I am no rascal."
"Nay, nay," said the other; "not so soon, my boy!" at the same time he twisted my collar, till I was well-nigh
choked. Two other men came up, and each had some rude thing to say to me.
"Well, master Scapegrace," said one, "I guess you have seen Bridewell; so it will be as good as home to you."
"It 's the very fellow I saw prowling about the streets last night," said another: "his hang-dog look is enough to commit him."
"Really," said a third, "there's a touch of the gentleman about the fellow; but there 's no rogue so bad as one that 's seen better days, and had a neddicashun."
With this kind of conversation they amused themselves, while they pulled me rudely along, and at last lodged me in a watch-house. Here I was kept till morning, when I was taken to a prison called Bridewell, where were some fifty persons, of all ages and sexes, and wearing the various aspects of poverty, wretchedness, and crime. I could not endure to face them, so I slunk into a corner and sat down upon the floor. Burying my face in my hands, I gave myself up to despair.
I sat for two or three hours in utter desolation, thinking over my sad fortunes, and cut to the heart with a sense of the evils that surrounded me. At length a man came and told me that I was wanted. I followed him out, and was taken into a room full of people. I had never been in a court of justice before, and I certainly did not guess that this was a place that could bear such a title. I have seen a good deal of the world, and yet I am ready to declare that in no place, not even in the wilderness, among savages, is there a spot where men seem to me to rude, so ill-mannered, so unjust, so little humane, as in that place called a court of justice. The constable, the sheriff, the judge, and, above all, the lawyers, have the same heartlessness, the same disregard of the claims of one human being upon another.
I was hurried through the crowd, and placed in an elevated seat, surrounded with a railing, thus becoming the object upon which every eye was bent. The sense of my degradation, innocent as I was, overwhelmed me with confusion. One of the lawyers, called the city attorney, soon got up and stated to a sour and awful looking man, who it appeared was the judge, that the times were marked with fearful signs. "May it please your honor," said he, "the good old days of purity are past; no longer are the young brought up in the way in which they should go, but they are either instructed to ridicule every law of God and man, or left to work out their own destruction. It is a time for justice to do her work; for the judge to assert the majesty of the insulted law. I now bring before you, sir, a young man of genteel appearance; one who has evidently seen and known better things; but who yet, we have reason to believe, is a hardened and practised villain."
Having said this, the lawyer went on to state, that I entered a store the evening of the preceding day, and robbed the till or drawer of its money, amounting to several dollars; that I was soon pursued, and, while running, threw away the money; that I was speedily overtaken, lodged in the watch-house for the night, and then put in Bridewell. Here several witnesses were called, who testified to these facts. One of them, who had accompanied me to the watch-house, added, that he knew me perfectly well; that i ws a thief and gambler by profession; that he had seen me some days before at a little tavern, notorious as a gambling house, and that he had seen me playing at cards with two celebrated rogues. This he embellished with sundry particulars as to my looks and actions.
I was so unpractised in the ways of the world, so ignorant, and so utterly confounded at the strange events that
came hurrying one after another, that I sat still, and heard all this with a kind of stupid wonder. I did not attempt to explain or deny anything. It all looked to me like a conspiracy--the countenance of judge, lawyer, and witness, bore an aspect coinciding with this idea, and I felt it to be in vain to resist. Though the whole story, save only the gambling scene, and my being taken in the street, was false, yet I said nothing, and my silence was taken as admission of my crime.
This examination was followed by a speech on the part of the lawyer, who evidently wished to have me convicted. I could not imagine why this man, whom I had never seen before, whom I never injured or offended, should be so anxious to prove me a thief, and to have me shut up in prison. I did not then know that a lawyer always wishes to succeed in any case he undertakes, right or wrong, because he is thought a better lawyer if he is able to succeed. I did not then know that if a lawyer has a bad case, he is particularly anxious to gain it, and makes all the greater efforts because he thereby shows his ingenuity and his art, and thus increases his reputation and gains practice.
Well, the lawyer went on pleading very artfully, pretending all the time to be candid, and to pity me; but yet exaggerating the testimony, and making me out one of the blackest villains that ever lived. He was so eloquent and so artful, that I almost began to think that I was really a regular thief! I expected of course to be condemned, and was not disappointed when the judge sentenced me to three months' imprisonment in the city jail.
To this place I was taken the next day, and there shut up with about a hundred other convicts; thus becoming the regular companion of criminals; and denied the liberty of going forth to breathe the pure air, or to associate with my fellow-men because I was considered a dangerous person! At the time, this all seemed to me not only cruel and unjust, but unaccountable. I have since been able to see that it proceeded from weakness of character on my part, owing to my faulty education. My playing at cards at the tavern; my inattentive negligence at the bookstore; my want of all habits of taking care of myself, had thus led me on from one step to another, till I was now an outcast from society and the world. I had been brought up to think myself rich; this was the first great evil. I had never had that constant admonition which parents bestow, and which, though children often resist and reject it, is the greatest good that Providence can send to young persons. It was owing to these defects in my education, that I had grown up in ignorance and imbecility; and now that I was left to take care of myself, I found that I was incompetent to the task. Ha;ving committed no serious fault, and utterly innocent of all crime, I was still a convicted felon. Let this part of my story teach children to prize the advantages of a good education; to prize the admonitions of parents; and to prize the protection and guidance of father and mother, when danger and difficulty gather around the path of youthful life.
I saw no one with whom I had the least desire to form an acquaintance, and therefore kept aloof from all around me. Food was brought in, but I had lost all appetite, and could not eat. A bed was assigned me in a long room, where were about twenty other beds. It was a mere mattr[e]ss of straw upon the floor; and though not inviting, at an early hour I retired and lay down upon it. I was revolving my own fate in my mind, when some one in the bed next to me, spoke. I looked up, and by the dim light, I saw there a young man, thin and pale, and apparently unable to rise. "Get me
some water! for God's sake get me some water!" said he. The tones were husky, but earnest, and I sprung up instantly. "Who are you?" said I.
"Oh, never mind who I am, but get me some water," was the reply.
I went instantly, and procured some water and brought it to the bed-side. The young man raised himself with great difficulty. He was wasted to a skeleton; his hair was long and nearly covered his face. His eye was deep blue, and large, and the expression was exceedingly soft, though now very bright. He took a long draught of the water, and then sunk heavily upon the bed, saying, as if it was all he had strength to say, "Thank you!"
This scene interested me, and called my thoughts away from myself. I sat by the side of the young man, looking intently upon his pale face. In a short time he opened his eyes, and saw me looking at him. He started a little, and then said--"What do you look at me so for?" "I hardly know," said I, "except that you are sick. Can I aid you--can I do anything for you?"
"No--no," replied he: "no--and yet you can. Come near; I am very feeble and cannot talk loud. What brought you here? You do not talk like one of us?" I here told the young man my story, very briefly. At first he seemed to doubt my veracity--but he soon dismissed his suspicions, and went on as follows:
"You think that your misfortunes are the result of an imperfect education, and the want of the care, teaching, and protection of parents. My story will show you that all these advantages may be thrown away, if the heart is wrong. My story will tell you the dangers that lie in the first fault!
"My parents were respectable and religious people. They took great pains with my education, for I was their only child. They not only sent me to school, and provided me with good books, but they gave me good advice, required me to go to church, and took care that I should not fall into evil company. It was impossible not to love such parents, and therefore I entertained for them the strongest affection. I also placed the most perfect confidence in them: I told them all my wishes, and if reasonable, they were granted; I told them my troubles, and then was sure to receive sympathy, and, if possible, relief.
"But this happy state of things did not continue. One of my companions had a watch, which he wished to sell for ten dollars. It was very pretty, and I desired exceedingly to possess it. I asked my father for ten dollars to buy it; but he thought it an idle expense, and refused. I then went to my mother, and tried to get her to persuade my father to buy the watch for me; but this was unavailing.
"About this time, I saw a ten dollar bill, lying, as if left by some accident, in one of my father's desk drawers. The thought of taking it, came suddenly into my mind. I took it and put it into my pocket, and went away. It was the first thing of the kind I had ever done, but a first step in guilt once taken, others soon become matters of course. I had no great fear of detection, for I believed that the bill would not be missed, and if it were, no one was likely to suspect me of taking it. The money was soon missed, however, and some inquiry was made about it. I was asked if I had seen it: to which I answered, 'No!' This lie, the first I had ever told, was the direct consequence of my first fault.
"The loss of the money passed by; nothing more was said of it for some time. After waiting a few days, I took the bill and purchased the watch of my young friend, telling him to say that he had given it to me, if any inquiry was
made about it. I then took it home and told my mother that John Staples had given me the watch. Thus I went on, not only telling falsehoods myself, but also leading my companion into falsehood: so sure it is that one crime leads to another.
["]My mother seemed very thoughtful when I showed her the watch; and pretty soon after, my father called me to him, and began to inquire about it. He was evidently a little suspicious that I had come by it unfairly, and suspected that, somehow or other, the affair was connected with the lost ten dollar bill. I parried all his enquiries; denied plumply and roundly all knowledge of the missing money; and at last, with tears and a look of honest indignation, protested my innocence.
"From this time, my feelings towards my parents began to alter, and especially towards my father. I could not bear to see him look at me. Ever before, I had loved his look, as if it were summer's sunshine; but now it seemed to me to be full of suspicion and reproach. I felt as if his eye penetrated into my very bosom; and it stung me with remorse. My confidence in him was gone; my affection flown; I even disliked to be in his presence, and I was constantly devising the means of cheating and deceiving him!
"So things went on for two or three weeks, when at last my father claled me to his study, and I saw by his look that something serious was coming. He proceeded at once to tell me that a shopkeeper in the village, in paying him some money, had given, among other bills, the lost ten dollar note! He added further, that, on inquiry, he found that it had been received of John Staples. My father's inference was, that I had taken the money, and bought the watch with it, and had resorted to a series of falsehoods to cover up my guilt. Short as had been my apprenticeship in crime, I met this charge with steadiness; and still protested my innocence, and insinuated that suspicion ought rather to fall upon Staples, than upon myself.
"Upon this hint, my father sent for John, who, true to his promise, said that he had given me the watch. When asked about the money, he denied all knowledge of it. My father told him of getting the identical bill he had lost, at the merchant's store; he took it out of his pocket, and deliberately showed it to Staples. The fellow seemed to feel that he was caught; that further evasion was vain. The truth trembled upon his lips, but before he spoke, he looked at me. I gave him such a frown as to decide his course. He instantly changed his mind, and resolutely denied ever having seen the money before!
"This was decisive: Staples was proved a liar, and it was readily inferred that he was also a thief. The matter was told to his father, who paid the ten dollars in order to hush the matter up. thus the affair seemed to end, and my first enterprise in guilt was successful. But alas, there is no end to crime! and our success in error is but success in misery. I had obtained the watch--but at what a cost! I had made me a liar; it had deprived me of that love of my parents which had been my greatest source of happiness; it had made me dread event he look and presence of my kind father; it had led me, in order to save myself, to sacrifice my friend and companion; and, finally, it had made me look upon all these things with satisfaction and relief, because they had been connected with my escape from detection and punishment. Thus it is that we learn not only to practise wickedness, but to love it!
"From this time, my course in the downward path was steady and rapid. I formed acquaintance with the vicious, and learned to prefer their society. I soon became wholly weaned from
my parents, and felt their society to be an irksome restraint, rather than a pleasure. From regarding my father as an object of affection, I learned now to look upon him with aversion. When he came into my presence, or I into his, his image produced a painful emotion in my mind. Thus I got at length to feel toward him something like hatred. I spent a great deal of money for him, and kept constantly asking for more. I knew that he was in straightened [sic] circumstances, and tha[t] he could ill afford to supply me--but this did not weigh a feather in my hardened mind.
"I went on from one step to another, till at last I agreed to unite with my companions in a regular system of roguery. We formed a kind of society, and robbed hen-roosts and melon-patches by the score. We obtained entrance to houses and stores, and plundered them of many watches and silver spoons. I was the youngest of the party, and did not always take a very active part in their enterprises--but I loved the sport and did what I could. At last, as we were returning from an excursion one very dark night--there being four of us--we heard a horse's trot behind us. We waited a little, and soon a gentleman, well mounted, came up. In an instant two of the gang rushed upon him; one seized the horse's bridle, and the other pulled the man to the ground. We all fell upon him and began to rifle his pockets. He made some resistance, and I was about to strike him on the head--when, think of my horror!--I perceived that it was my father! I staggered back and fell senseless upon the ground. No one saw me, and how long I remained insensible, I cannot say.
"When I came to myself, I was alone. My companions had gone away, not noticing me, and my father, after being rifled of his watch and money, had escaped. What should I do? I could not return home; the thought of meeting the parent, in whose robbery I had been an abettor, and against whose life I had prepared to strike a ruffian blow--was too horrible! I fled to this city--I allied myself to rogues and scoundrels. I lived a life of crime; for nothing else was left to me. I drank deeply; for drunkenness is necessary to one who pursues a life of vice and crime. The mind gets full of horros at last, and brandy only can allay them; beside, brandy is often necessary to nerve the head and strengthen the arm, so as to give the needed daring and power. If you could annihilate liquors, it seems to me that you would annihilate the whole profession of thieves, blacklegs, burglars, robbers and counterfeiters. Get rid of those who sell liquors, and you get rid of these felons; for they could not endure such lives as they lead, unless braced up by the stimulus of strong drink.
"Well--my story is now told. I have only to say, that I was taken at last, for one of my crimes, tried, convicted, and sent to this place. But I shall stay here a short time only. My health is gone--though scarce eighteen years of age; my constitution is wasted away, and the lamp of life is near going out forever!"
Here the poor youth sunk down upon his bed, completely exhausted. He closed his eyes, and by the flickering light of a remote lamp, his face seemed as pallid as marble. It looked like the very image of death, and I felt a sort of awe creeping over me, as if a corpse was at my side. At last I could hear him breathe, and then I went to bed. I reflected long upon what had happened. "I have thought," said I, mentally, "that I was most unhappy, in being destitute of the care and instruction of parents; but there is a poor youth who is still more wretched, and who yet has enjoyed the blessing denied to me. The truth is, that after all, good or ill fortune, is usually
the result of our own conduct. Even if Providence grants us blessings, we may neglect or abuse them; if they are denied to us, we may, by a steady pursuit of the right path, still be successful in gaining happiness." With this reflection, I fell asleep; but when I awoke in the morning, the young man at my side was sleeping in the repose of death!
MERRY'S ADVENTURES, by Samuel Goodrich (from Robert Merry's Museum, October 1842, pp. 104-107)
About a week after my imprisonment, as I was sitting in the large room of the jail, occupied in observing the several persons around me, the door of the prison opened, and a well-known face presented itself to my view: it was that of Bill Keeler! He did not immediately see me, for I was at a distance from him, and there were several persons between us: he, however, looked around, evidently seeking some one. I could not doubt that this was myself, and my first impulse was to rush into his arms; but a sense of shame--a feeling of degradation--at being found in such a place with-held me. I therefore, kept my seat on the floor, and buried my face between my knees.
I sat in this position for some time, when at last I felt a hand laid on my
shoulder, and the familiar voice of Bill, half whispering, said, close to my ear, "Robert--Bob--look up--I'm here!" I could not resist this, but sprang to my feet, and clasped Bill to my bosom. My feeling of shame vanished, my humiliation was forgotten for the moment, and I fully indulged the warm emotions of friendship.
Having talked over a great many things, Bill at length said, "Well, now as to this being in the jug--how do you like it?" The tears came to my eyes--my lip trembled, and I could not speak. "Oh, don't mind it," said he, "we 'll get you out, somehow or other."
"Get me out--how is that to be done?" said I.
"Why, we must first know how you got in," he replied.
"They put me in!" was my answer.
"Yes, yes," said my friend, "but for what?"
I here related the whole story; how my negligence at the shop had brought down the fury of the old bookseller upon my head; how I had wandered forth in a state of distraction; how a thief, pursued, slipped by me, and how I was taken to be the rogue, and condemned as such. Bill listened attentively, and after I had done, looked me steadily in the face for a moment. He then clasped his hands firmly together, and said, with deep emotion, "Thank Heaven, you are innocent! I knew it was so: I told 'em it was so." He could say no more--for his breast heaved, and the tears ran down his cheeks. He turned away as if ashamed and hastily effacing the traces of his emotion, shook me by the hand--said he would see me again soon, and, giving me no opportunity to detain him, went away.
I did not then guess the meaning of this, or conjecture the plan he had in view; but I afterwards learned that he went straight to the city attorney, who had conducted the prosecution against me, and sought an interview. He told the lawyer his errand, and stated that as he knew I was innocent, he hoped I might be released.
"How do you know he is innocent?" said the lawyer.
"He says he is innocent!" said Bill.
The lawyer smiled--but did not speak.
"You think he is not innocent?" said my friend. "I know he is--Bob Merry could not steal, any more than a cow could climb a tree; he wan't brought up to 't, and he han't got a turn for it. Why, Robert was eddicated a gentleman, and he never could draw a mug of cider without spillin' half on 't! And now, arter he's bin in New York less than a fortnit, you make him out an accomplished rogue. I ax your pardon, mister, but it don't stand to reason, that an honest boy becomes a thief just as a pollywog turns into a frog."
"Can you prove his innocence?" said the lawyer, dryly.
"Prove it!" said Bill, indignantly: "hav 'nt I proved it? Don't he say he's innocent? Don't I know he's innocent? Prove it, to be sure! Pray, mister, what do you take me for?"
"I take you to be a very honest fellow but very ignorant of these matters," said the lawyer. "The question is not whether your friend is innocent,"--
Here Bill opened his eyes, and drew the edges of his lips into a circle. The lawyer proceeded,--
"The question is not whether your friend is innocent; but, it is whether you can prove him to be so. If you can bring forward witnesses to swear that he was in another place, and, therefore, could not have committed the crime charged; and, if you can make the judge believe this, and if you can pay the expenses of the court, and the fees of the lawyers we can get him out--not otherwise."
This was said in a manner so cold and yet so decisive, as to discourage Bill; so he took his hat and went away. But he did not abandon his project here. After walking about for some time, considering what was to be done, he went to the court-room, with the intention of appealing to the judge. When he got there, however, he was abashed by the imposing aspect of the scene. The judge, sitting upon his bench, high above the rest, appearing to be regarded with awe by the lawyers, and other persons around, was too formidable a personage to be readily approached, even by one who paid so little respect to outward circumstances as Bill Keeler. He therefore paused, and his attention was soon absorbed by the trial that was going forward.
A young man was before the court, charged with theft. the evidence was clear and conclusive; and his lawyer had, therefore, advised him to plead guilty: to tell the truth, and throw himself upon the mercy of the judge. He was just about to commence his confession, when Bill's attention was drawn to him. He went on to say that he had been for some time connected with a gang of thieves, and proceeded to state some of his exploits. In the course of his narrative, he said that, three weeks before, he had stolen some money and other articles from a house, and being discovered, was pursued; but escaped, as another young man whom he passed in his flight, was apprehended in his place.
"You say," said the judge, "that another young man was apprehended in your place"--
"Yes, sir!"--said Bill Keeler--who had watched the scene with intense interest--and who had gradually sidled through the crowd, and now stood close to the prisoner--"Yes, sir--another young man was apprehended in his place, and that's Robert Merry, as honest as the cooper's cow--and you sent him to jail, Mr. Judge, and he's there now."
"Order--order!" said the constable.
"Who is this fellow?" said the judge.
"It 's me[,] sir," said Bill, nothing daunted, now that he had opened his tips; and, brave as a soldier after the first fire, he went on. "It 's me, sir, Bill Keeler, of Salem. I 'm a shoemaker, sir, and don't know nothing about law in York. But, sir, if a feller 's innocent, we don't put him in the jug, up our way."
"Hold your tongue!" said the officer.
"I'm going to," said Bill--"so as to have it ready!"
The prisoner went on with his confession, and all he said tended to confirm the fact, that he was the thief for whose crime I was imprisoned. Bill waited till the case was closed; he then left the court-room, and again went to the lawyer whom he had before visited. As this man had witnessed the scene at the court-room, and of course now understood the mistake by which I had been imprisoned, Bill expected to find him prepared to set about my release.
"You see, sir," said he, "that I was right."
"Right! About what?"
"Oh, you know well enough--you was at the court to-day, and you heard that gallows-bird tell how it happened that he stole the money and spoons, and left Bob merry to go to jail for 't."
"Well; what is all this to me?"
"Why, ain't you a lawyer?"
"Well, ain't it the business of a lawyer to see that justice is done?"
"Not at all; a lawyer has nothing to do with justice."
"Indeed! What is his business then?"
"To serve his client. I am the city lawyer, and the city is my client; it is my duty to try persons charged with of-
fences, and get them committed, if I can. What have I to do with justice?"
"Why," said Bill, scratching his head--"all this kind o' bothers me, for I'm just from the country, where we have a notion that there 's such a thing as justice and law, and that it is designed to protect the innocent and punish the guilty: but it seems that I 'm rather green here at York! Howsomdever, I should like to ax one question."
"Certainly," said the lawyer.
"Well," said Bill, casting his eyes knowingly at the attorney--"you got Bob into the pound, and you know how to get him out: set a thief to ketch a thief, as we say--no offence, Mister. 'The hair of the same dog'-- you understand! Now, as I said, you got Robert into the jug, and you know how to get him out. You was the lawyer of the city to get him into prison-- will you be my lawyer to get him out of the prison?"
"Of course, if I am paid."
"And what is your fee?"
"Whew! what did you charge for getting Bob into jail?"
"Well, what a queer trade this of yours is! Twenty dollars for a job, whether it 's to imprison the innocent, or to release the innocent! It 's a beautiful trade--an honest trade--and, besides, it 's profitable! It works both ways; twenty dollars for doing wrong, twenty dollars for doing right! twenty dollars for justice, twenty dollars for injustice! Fegs! I should like to be a lawyer myself! But to business. I will pay you what you ax, if you 'll get Robert out of jail."
"You must pay down!"
"No, no; he 's a good customer that pays when the work is done."
"That may be; but I must have my money before I begin."
"Well, here it is; though it 's the last dollar I 've got. I wish you 'd take ten, and let me have the rest to get back to Salem with."
"I can't take less than twenty."
"Not a cent less than twenty."
"Well--then, take it! Now, when 'll you have Bob out?"
Here Bill left the lawyer, who was as good as his word, and that very day I was released.
MERRY'S ADVENTURES, by Samuel Goodrich (from Robert Merry's Museum, November 1842, pp. 132-134)
Although i did not know what was before me, and had no scheme even for providing myself with bread for a single day, I felt an indescribable degree of delight at my release from prison. To be shut up by our fellow- men, as if unworthy of enjoying light and liberty, is very hard to bear: to know that one is innocent of crime--and yet to be cast into a dungeon, and made the companion of the wicked and the degraded--is calculated to beget a deep sense of injustice. Such, indeed, was my feeling while in prison; and even when I was free, it still mingled with my joy, impressing me with a sad consciousness that even in society, and surrounded by laws designed to protect us from wrong, we are not wholly secure, and may be called upon, through the weakness of wickedness of our fellow-men, to suffer the most bitter pangs.
I, however, resisted these feelings and poured out my gratitude to Bill Keeler--my deliverer. On inquiry, I learned of him, that while at Salem, he had accidentally heard of my imprisonment; and though he supposed me guilty of some misdemeanor, he still gathered all the money he could, and pushed off on foot to New York, to obtain my release. The success of his endeavors has already been detailed.
Having talked over the events already laid before the reader, Bill asked me what I intended to do. I told him that I had formed no plan. He then urged em to go back with him to Salem; but as I seemed very reluctant to do so, his mind appeared to be turned to some other project. We walked along the street for a considerable distance in silence, and with an uncertain and sauntering gait--my companion evidently
in great perplexity. At last his countenance brightened, and turning round on his heel, he led me on, with a decided step, in a direction opposite to that which we had pursued.
"Well, well," said Bill, cheerfully, "when one door shuts, another opens: if the mountain does n't come to you, you must go to the mountain. How would you like to become a traveller, Bob?"
"I should like it of all things."
"So I thought--and I'll get it all fixed."
"But how am I to pay the expenses?"
"I brought a couple of friends with me, who 'll do that for you: they 'r queer chaps, but you 'll learn to like 'em. You remember old Sarah's cave? well, as I was climbing among the rocks just below it, a few days ago, in search of a woodchuk that had just duv into his burrow, a large stone gave way under my feet, and down the ledge I went, for more than three rod. A great mass of rubbish came down with me, and it's a kind of miracle I wan't smashed. I was a little stunned, but by-and-by I came to myself. There I lay, half covered with stones, leaves and gravel. Thinks I, what's this all about? Just then I put out my hand to get up, and I felt something mighty cold. Well, what do you think it was? Why, 'twas a rattle-snake, and just by his side lay seven others! It was cold weather, and they were as straight and stiff as bean poles. Well, says I, there's nothin made in vain--so I took tew on 'em, and doubled 'em up and put 'em into one of my stockins, and carried 'em home.
"When I got there, I took 'em out and laid 'em on the harth, and when they got warm they began to squirm. Well--my wife--Hepsey--(you remember Hepsy?--by the way--she sent her love to you, Bob--though I'd forgot that)--she made a dreadful screechin about it, and little Rob, he set up his pipes, and the cat stuck up her back, and Jehu barked as if there 'd been an attack of the Indians!
"Well, pretty soon the two critters began to stick out their tongues and their eyes grew as bright as a couple of lightnin-bugs in a foggy night. They then put their tails this way and that, and finally rolled themselves into a heap, and set up such a rattlein as I never heard afore. It was as much as to say--let every man, look out for his own shins! Everybody cleared--wife, baby, cat and dog--except myself. Takin' the varmin in the tongs, one by one, I threw 'em out the winder, into a snow-bank, just to keep 'em cool and civil. I then made a box, and put 'em in, and fitted a pane of glass in the top, so you could look in and see 'em. Well, I brought the box and the two sarpints along with me, thinkin that when you got out of prison, they might be of sarvice."
"What do you mean?" said I, in the greatest wonder.
"Mean? why, that you should take this box under your arm, and travel over the world, as independent as a lord. The sarpints will be meat and drink and clothin and lodgin, and a welcome to boot. I thought it likely, when I set out, from what I heerd, that you 'd got into some scrape, and that it might be necessary for you to be scace in these parts; so I thought the snakes would suit your case exactly. You need n't look so sour, fir I don't expect you to eat 'em. But hear my story. I was three days in going from Salem to York, and when I got there, I had tew dollars more in my pocket than when I set out, and I lived like a prince all the time! And how do you think 'twas done? Why, by the sarpints, to besure! When I put up at the tavern at night, I set the box down by my side in the bar-room, and took my fife, and began to play Yankee Doodle.
"Pretty soon everybody got round
me, and then I teld 'em about the sarpints, and how they might see 'em for sixpence apiece. Well, I got sixpences as thick as nuts in November. Now, Bob, you've had a good eddication, and can tell all about sarpints, and make up a good story, and you can travel all over the world, and come home as rich as a Jew. So you may have 'em, and I shall be happy to think that you're travelling like a gentleman, while I go home to pound my lapstone and take care of my family.
"I thank you a thousand times, my dear Bill," said I; "but I fear this will not do for me. You can turn your hand to anything, but I am a helpless creature, compared with yourself!"
"No, no," said my friend earnestly. "You'll do well enough when you get your hand in. You must try, at least. Here, take my penknife, if you haint got one. A penknife 's a mighty good thing--no man need to feel low- sperited with a penknife in his pocket. When I'm away and feel kind o' humsick, I take out my penknife, and get a stick and go to cuttin on't, and it turns out a whistle, or a walkin-sick, or somethin else, and all the time I am as contented as a cow a stealin corn-stalks. A penknife's a friend in need, and no man should ever be without one. You must take my fife, too, Bob, for you can play it well. It will make you welcome everywhere--as we catch flies with molasses, you can catch customers with music."
To all this, I still replied that I doubted my success, and feared to undertake the scheme. "Faint heart never won fair lady," said Bill. "Nothing venture, nothing have. You won't succeed if you don't try: a man never fails, when success is matter o' life and death. If you set out, you won't starve. You 'll be like Seth Folet's eel--you must go ahead."
"Well, tell me the story of the eel."
"Why, did n't you never hear of Seth Follet's eel? Seth had a long acquduct, made of logs, with an auger-hole bored thro' 'em, to carry the water from a spring on a hill, to his house. After a while the water would n't run, because the hole in the logs had got filled up with mud. Well, Seth was a queer genius; so he got an eel and put into the hole in the logs at one end. The critter went along pretty well for a time, but by-and-by he came to the mud. He then thought he 'd turn about, but he could n't do that, for he just fitted the hole, you know! Then he thought he 'd back out, but he could n't do that nother, for an eel 's a thing that can't work both ways. Well now, what should he do? why, there was only one thing to be done--to go ahead; and ahead he went--and cleared out the aqueduct!"
I could not help laughing heartily at this anecdote, and I confess that the reasoning of Bill seemed to be fraught with good sense. We spent the night together at the little tavern where he had left his box, and in the morning I concluded to adopt his scheme. Bill departed, the tears standing in his eyes--and taking the serpents, strapped across my shoulders, I set out on my adventures.
I am not going to give a detail of my travels, at present. I am afraid my readers are weary of my long story; and beside, I have promised to bring my narrative to a close in my next number. I must, therefore, pass lightly over my adventures as a showman; I must say little of my experiences as a travelling merchant, and come down to a period several years subsequent to my parting with Bill Keeler, as just related. The war with England, declared by the United States in 1812, was then raging, and circumstances led me to take a part in it. The events to which I allude, will be given in the next chapter.
MERRY'S ADVENTURES, by Samuel Goodrich (from Robert Merry's Museum, December 1842, pp. 161-165)
Leaving New York with my "two friends," as Bill called them, I proceeded to New Jersey, and thence I travelled to Washington. I was well received wherever I went, and through I did not get rich, still I procured money enough to pay my expenses. Having spent some time at Washington, and having seen the President, Mr. Jefferson, and several other famous men, I departed, and travelled through the southern states, and in about a year reached New Orleans.
During the expedition, I saw many new things, and acquired a good deal of information. I also met with many curious adventures; but I cannot stop to tell them here. Having spent several weeks at New Orleans, I set my face northward; and proceeding along the banks of the Mississippi, one day, as I was approaching the town of Natchez, in descending a steep bank, I stumbled and fell, and my box was thrown violently to the foot of the hill. The glass at the top of the box was entirely broken out, and my travelling companions, seeing that they could secure their liberty if they chose, gradually slid out of their confinement, and brandishing their tongues, and rattling their tails, they glided away into a neighboring thicket. In vain did I coax and threaten: neither fear nor affection could stop their progress, and thus suddenly I took leave of them forever. It might seem that a couple of serpents were not the objects upon which the heart is likely to fix its affection--yet I felt a sort of desolation when they were gone, and calling to mind the friend who had bestowed them upon me, and my helpless condition, now that they were departed, I sat down by the road- side, and indulged myself in a hearty fit of tears.
In a short time, however, I recovered my spirits, and entered the town of Natchez. I here took passage on board a small sloop, and in five weeks reached St. Louis--a voyage which is now made, in steamboats, in four or five days. Here I found myself nearly out of money--and seeing that it was necessary to do something, I purchased a small stock of beads and other trinkets, and set off on foot to trade with the Indians, of which there were several tribes in that region. My business was to exchange the goods I carried, for furs. In the first trip, I succeeded so well as to try it again, and finally I became a regular fur dealer, and carried on a considerable trade.
In my excursions, I met with many incidents that might be worth telling,
but I can only stop to relate one of them. On a certain occasion I had penetrated into the Indian territory, to a considerable distance from any white man's settlement. Having learned something of the Indian manners and customs, and a few words of their language, I almost felt myself at home among them, particularly as some of the men spoke English. It was not, therefore, a cause of any anxiety, at the time to which I refer, that I was obliged to seek lodging in one of their villages.
It was a beautiful summer night, and I slept alone beneath a hut of skins. About midnight I was waked by a slight noise, and saw the dark figure of an Indian, about to enter the hut. I started in some alarm, but he put out his hand in token of peace, and begged that I would listen to a request which he had to make.
He sat down by my side, and stated that he loved a dark-eyed girl of the tribe, but that she would not return his affection. He was the bravest of the young chiefs in battle, as he said: the swiftest of foot in the race; the strongest in wrestling; the most successful in hunting--and yet the maiden, Zary, refused to become his wife. In this condition, he begged me to give him some charm by which he could conquer the heart of the girl, and persuade her to yield to his suit. I had, among my wares, a pair of ear-rings about three inches long, set with glass of various colors--green, red, and yellow. These I gave to the chief, and told him to present them to Zary. He thanked me after his Indian fashion, and went away. I did not know the result at the time, but I learned it at a subsequent period.
At last, the war with England broke out, and the Indians being incited to hostilities against us, there was no farther opportunity to venture among them. I therefore left St. Louis, and after a variety of incidents, reached New York. Here I spent a few days, and then set off for Salem, where I arrived without accident.
At first, the place seemed a good deal altered. Every house was in fact precisely as I left it, three years before--but still, all seemed on a smaller scale than I had fancied. The roads and lanes were narrower than they had once seemed; the old tavern of the Cock and Bull was not more than two thirds as large, and the meeting-house seemed to me to have shrunken to one half of its former dimensions. But my friends were still the same, at least so far as to be glad to see me. In some few cases, I could see the effect of habitual attendance upon the bar-room, which flourished much the same as ever. This was manifest, by an increased slovenliness of dress; a bloating of the face; a tottling step; an uncertain and staring look, as if the mind wandered; and, in short, a general aspect of degradation both of body and soul.
Raymond was perhaps a little thinner and paler than when I left him; Matt Olmsted seemed absolutely unchanged; but as to my best friend--Bill Keeler--alas! my heart bled to look at him. It was of an afternoon that I reached the village, in the stage-coach. Without making myself known at the tavern to a single individual, I walked to Bill's house, which was at a short distance, and standing by itself. As I approached it, I remarked with pain, that it had a shabby, neglected, and desolate appearance. The garden by its side was overgrown with weeds--the fence was broken down in several places: the gate of the little door-yard was laying flat by the road-side. All had on the appearance of waste and neglect, as if the proprietor cared not for the place.
I was on the point of turning back, but seeing a child at the door, I went up and spoke to it. It looked me in the
face, and I could see, even in the soft features of infancy, the semblance of my friend. I could not help smiling to note in a child, the features which were so associated in my own mind with the boyish tricks, youthful frolics, and Yankee shrewdness of the father. In a few moments, the mother came to the door, and asked me to walk in. I did so, but she did not recognise me for some time. When I left Salem, she was the picture of ruddy health, and light-hearted happiness; she was now thin and pale, and her countenance told of sorrow. Her house was ill furnished, and had a comfortless appearance.
We went on conversing for some time; at last I enquired for her husband, and thus she recognised me. Soon after, Bill came in. He knew me instantly--but I thought the meeting gave him pain, rather than pleasure. I noticed that he looked poor and shabby, and he seemed to be oppressed with the consciousness of it. However, he soon rallied, and went on talking in his usual way, putting a great many questions, and much faster than I could answer them. "Where's the box and the two sucking doves, Bob?--Mr. Merry--I beg your pardon!--How you have altered! Why, you 're grown up complete. Where have you been all this time? let me see--it 's better 'n four years since you left us, aint it? I dare say you 've been all over the world. Did you go to China, where they have houses made of crockery? Come, tell us all about it."
Thus Bill rattled on, for a time, and at last I left him. The next day at early dawn, I took my way to the mountain. It was autumn, and the leaves had already fallen from the trees. The chilly winds sighed through the branches of the forests that clothed the shaggy cliffs, and seemed to speak of coming winter. The birds had fled, the insects were hushed, the flowers had gone down to their tombs. I could not but feel a sort of melancholy, which in some degree prepared me for the scene which followed.
As I approached old Sarah's cave, I saw her sitting at the door. I went nearer and spoke to her--but she answered me not. I looked again, and perceived that her head was leaning against the rock--her white hair hanging loose upon her shoulders. She seemed asleep, and I spoke again--and again. I took hold of her arm to awake her--but she awoke no more. Alone--with no friend at her side--no one to hear her parting words, no one to say a last prayer--she had departed, and doubtless her spirit had gone to a better world.
I returned to the village and told what I had seen. Some of the inhabitants went to the mountain with me, and we buried the hermitess near the cave which she had chosen as her home. If the reader should ever be passing through the little town of Salem, let him obtain a guide to the mountain, and if he cannot show him the exact site of old Sarah's grave, he will still point out the ruins of the cave, and the shelving rock, beneath which it was built.
After remaining a few months at Salem, finding it necessary to engage in some business in order to obtain the means of living, I again went to New York. But business of every kind was greatly depressed, and finding nothing to do, I turned my attention to the seat of war, along the line that divides the United States from Canada. Setting out on foot, I soon made my way to Fort Niagara, and afterwards to Cleveland, on the southern border of Lake Erie.
About this time, a company of riflemen was raised, chiefly to operate against the Indians, who were very troublesome along the borders of the lake. In this I enlisted, and we were soon marched into the quarter where
our services were needed. Here we joined a small detachment of American troops, and set out with them to march northward to join the army of General Winchester, then in the vicinity of the river Raizin.
Our route lay through a country consisting alternately of prairies and forests; and as we were passing through one of the latter, we were suddenly attacked by a party of Indians. A smart engagement followed, and several of our party were killed. I was myself wounded in the knee, by a bullet, and falling to the earth, fainted from loss of blood and the anguish of the wound. When I recovered my senses, I was alone, except that one of my dead companions was near me. I attempted to rise, but fell again to the earth.
At this moment, I saw a tall Indian peering through the woods. He saw me, and with some caution came to the spot. He lifted his scalping- knife over my head, and as my senses faded away, I supposed that my last hour had come.
It was long before I was conscious of existence. When my reason returned, I was on a straw bed in an English blockhouse, where I had been taken by the Indian who found me after I was wounded. It was the young chief whom I had supplied with a charm, some years before, by which, as he told me, he was able to win the heart of the beautiful Zary. As he was about to take my scalp, he recognised me, and with a heart full of gratitude, took me to the fort, and caused me to be attended with the utmost care. These things I learned by degrees, for it was several weeks before I was able to listen to the whole story. When I came fully to myself, I found what I had not before known, that the surgeon of the fort had amputated my leg, as the only means of saving my life. My recovery was slow, and when at last I was able to rise from my bed, it was with the sad consciousness that I was a cripple for the remainder of my days.
Months passed away, and I was again at Salem. There still swung the sign of the Cock and Bull, and there still flourished the tavern. It had lost, indeed, its former character; for the greater part of the travel had been directed from this route, and instead of being the local point for numerous lines of stages, it was now the stopping place of only a tri-weekly stage. But the bar-room was as well filled as ever; and when I returned, I found nearly the same set of persons there who had been accustomed to visit it before. A few indeed were missing; and, on enquiry, I learned that they ahd all gone down to their graves. Their place was however occupied by others, who bore the same general aspect.
The tavern-keeper who succeeded my uncle, followed his example, and shared his fate. He drank liberally, was called a clever fellow, and died early. His successor, so far as I could judge, was walking in their footsteps. Thus flourished the Cock and Bull. My readers may call it a sad place, but no one thought so then. It was esteemed a good tavern, and there were none to remark its deadly influence. It is true that it was a place where men went to get poison, which took away their reason, brutified their souls, and destroyed their bodies. It was a school where vice and crime were taught; a place which converted many a kind husband and good father into a ruthless savage--and sent down many a noble form to a premature grave. Yet in these days such things were deemed matters of course. Let us be thankful that the deadly influence of the tavern and the grog-shop is now understood.
But poor Bill Keeler--how shall I tell his story! Alas, he too was the victim of the village tavern! He was naturally a kind-hearted, generous fellow--quick-witted, active and ingenious. If any one
had met him on the highway, and struck him to the earth, and taken his life, he would have been called a murderer. But a tavern-keeper could not only take his life, but degrade his body and soul, and it was a very respectable business! So it was once--thank Heaven it is so no more!
I have not the heart to tell the details of my poor friend's downward steps in the path of ruin. It must be sufficient to say that when I returned to Salem, I found his widow with a large family, struggling against poverty, but with cheerfulness and success. It was for some time a part of the care, as well as the pleasure of my life, to do something for the education of these children. In this occupation I forgot my own sorrows, and I became contented, I may almost say, happy. It is a curious fact that cripples are generally cheerful, and I really believe, that, in spite of what may seem the frown of fortune, their lot is generally brighter than that of the average of mankind. I can at least say, that, though I have seen what is called hard luck in life, it has generally been the result of my own weakness or folly. At all events, I hope my story will show my young readers how many evils flow from the neglect of early advantages; and that a man with a wooden leg, may still be