Some Three Hundred Years Ago
BY EDITH GILMAN BREWSTER
The W. B. Ranney Company, Printers, Concord, New Hampshire Copyright 1922, by Edith Gilman Brewster
To the children of Portsmouth this book is dedicated.
DEAR BOYS AND GIRLS:
Because so little is told of the children who lived on our shores when forests were cleared for home-making, I have tried to picture here what they might have done in the midst of the true and thrilling happenings you will some day read of in our history.
I hope these tales will help you to love the more our Granite State.
Yours with much affection,
EDITH GILMAN BREWSTER.
1 NONOWIT'S HOME 1603
2 THE NEW WORLD 1605
3 VISITORS FROM ENGLAND 1614
4 THE SETTLEMENT 1623
5 DANGER FOR THE COLONISTS 1628
6 [A]STRAWBERRY BANK 1631
7 THE BOYS' CATCH 1632
8 THE FOREST GARDEN 1633
9 THE FUR TRADE 1634
10 COATS, SHIRTS, AND KETTLES 1638
11 WINNICUNNET 1638
12 THE CRYSTAL HILLS 1642
13 THE DENMARK CATTLE 1643
14 THE CUT OF THE HAIR 1649
15 [A]CYNTHIA'S BEAR 1653
16 THE WITCHES OF 1656 1656
17 THE WOLVES OF PORTSMOUTH 1662
18 THE KING'S FORT 1666
19 [A]LITTLE JANE'S GENTIANS 1671
20 THE CHURCH LAW 1675
21 PEACE OR WARFARE 1675
22 SUSANNA'S RESCUE 1675
23 TO THE GARRISON HOUSE! 1675
24 MY NEW HAMPSHIRE 1680
25 THE BOWL OF BROTH 1689
26 THOMAS TOOGOOD OUTWITS AN INDIAN 1690
27 THE ESCAPE 1694
28 THE DEFENSE AT OYSTER RIVER 1694
29 [A]THE ATTACK AT THE PLAINS 1696
30 THE STRAWBERRY FIELDS OF EXETER 1697
[Footnote A: Courtesy of W. A. Wilde Company]
Long before New Hampshire found its name, the deep river at its southeast was known as the Piscataqua by the Indians who could stem its strong currents, even in bark canoes.
Perhaps it was because of the fresh spring close to its salty shores, some three miles from the sea, that the red men made their encampment on the spot that was later equally attractive to men of white skins.
Nonowit, like his people, was glad to see the snows melt away during that spring of 1603. The bare branches of the oak and maple showed tufts of browns, reds, and greens. The fish stirred in the streams, and by the time that Nonowit's forest home had its roof of thick green foliage the Indians themselves were astir. For far up the river at the falls fish could be found in plenty, and that was a welcome change from the game of the winter food.
The men of the tribe were the first to start afoot for the fishing spot, while the squaws broke camp, gathered their belongings, and herded the children.
Nonowit suddenly recalled some sturdy reeds growing by the salt marsh which he thought would make fine arrow shafts. It had occurred to the boy that he might stand by the falls and shoot his fish as they bounded over. That is why he was not on the spot when the children were started on the march, and the last camp fire had been covered.
Even though he was an Indian boy, his heart thumped with fear, when at the end of the day he returned from his hunt on the marsh to a deserted camp. No answer came to his long shrill call. The sun was setting, and it was of no use to follow the trail that night, even though he had known just where his people were to go.
He munched some scraps that had been left behind and sought the shelter of a hollow oak which had been the playhouse of the Indian girls and boys. An old owl hooted and flew from a hole above, but Nonowit had no fear of him, though he was glad the hole by which he had crawled into the oak was far above the ground. This was some protection from the wolves, which he could even then hear howling in the distance.
All night there was a beating rain, which washed away the last trace of the carefully hidden trail of the Indian travelers. When Nonowit crawled out into the sunshine the following morning, he could learn nothing of their direction. To get a wider view, he wandered through the thick forest to the river's edge, but there discovered no signs of his people. "There are so many children in the camp I might not be missed," he thought and dropped upon a rock in one little heap of loneliness.
Suddenly he sat very straight, for there beyond the Narrows he saw a monstrous thing. Could it be a huge bird with white wings spread? Over the water it seemed to be coming nearer. Instinctively he slid into a crevice between the rocks, yet without moving his gaze. Through the Narrows, under full sail, came the first ship. Nonowit seemed to become a part of the brown earth as he wriggled back into the undergrowth, never moving his wide-open eyes from this strange sight.
Then came the rattle of chains and the voices of men. A boat was lowered, and Nonowit, safe under the cover of the low branches, saw it headed for his shore. Men with white skin and hair growing on their faces landed on the very rock on which he had been sitting. Their clothes were unlike any he had ever seen before, and their speech could not be understood. Cautiously he backed into the forest until he gained the branches of the oak in which he had slept. Yet that was unsafe, for the white men looked up into every tree, breaking the branches and tasting the sap.
In his fright, Nonowit wriggled for safety through the very hole from which the owl had flown the night before. There from the dark hollows he watched the white men as they studied each tree. They came at last to the old oak and shook its branches. When one man even climbed far enough to look deep into the trunk, Nonowit crouched to the very ground, holding his breath. The shadows protected him and the men passed on. "Worse than wolves," thought the boy as he ventured again to his peep-hole. The white men lingered about for an hour or more, until the imprisoned little Indian felt that he might never see his people again. He would starve rather than face such creatures.
At last, there came the sound of oars on the water. Creeping from the tree, Nonowit pushed aside the low branches to see the boatful of strangers depart. Suddenly a strong hand was clapped on his shoulder. He jumped with fear only to find himself in the grasp of his own father. Nonowit pointed hastily through the thick growth to the river, and the two watched the English vessel sail up the stream, but history reports that Martin Pring saw no Indians when he searched the Piscataqua shores for a sassafras tree, which, he believed, held the "Elixir of Life."
THE NEW WORLD
Far away on the shores of France, in a little cobbled lane by the water front, Jacques swung into the rhythm of the Sailor's Hornpipe. Raoul stood in the doorway of his low-roofed house, with his violin, directing the tune and swings until he pronounced the dance correctly learned.
Just then three well-dressed gentlemen turned into the narrow way and passed on to the vessel at the wharf below. The raising of sails and shouting of orders suggested an immediate start.
Jacques' father hurried around the corner and motioned to his boy. As Jacques followed, he called back to Raoul, "I'll bring you an Indian scalp when I come home!"
The father and son then crossed the narrow plank to the deck and went below, for their business was to cook for the crew.
The distinguished-looking gentlemen, however, talked earnestly on the shore until the last sail was spread. Then one of them, no other than Monsieur Champlain, stepped aboard, and, as the gang-plank was drawn, called to his friends, "We will also mark the rivers."
And so, long ago in 1605, the French sailed to the Northwest with new hopes. The Spanish and Portuguese had returned with wonderful tales of the mines of South America. Perhaps even greater things might be found on the Northern shores.
It happened one day when the sea was smooth and the well-fed sailors had little to do, that a group of them gathered on deck with tales of the Americas: the shining gold to be found there, the wild beasts, and the wilder Indians. Jacques felt that if he had but a knife, he could conquer the whole country. In the meantime his eye rested on a sharp and ugly-looking one thrust into the belt of a rough old salt who sat astride the deck rail.
Just then there came a lull in the tales and the old fellow, to urge on the flagging spirits, brandished his dirk and pledged it to "The best fellow yet!"
Fierce and impossible yarns followed until Jacques, as if to work off his excitement, jumped into the circle with the swing and the stamp of his newly-learned hornpipe. He danced it well and responded repeatedly to the sailors' applause. It pleased them better than any tale told, and they voted Jacques, "The best fellow yet!" True to his pledge, the old salt presented the knife with a sweeping bow. Jacques, overjoyed, at once cut his mark on the handle, and he dreamed that night of his attack on the New World. He awoke to make plans for the Indian scalps he should take to Raoul, for Indians seemed only as beasts to be slaughtered.
Days and nights of sailing passed, as well as storms and fogs. When the sun at last brought clear horizons, the shout of "Land head!" thrilled captain, mates, and crew. No one knew just where they were, but shining peaks could be seen in the distance. At last they came to anchor, and small boats carried the men ashore. Jacques, too, was allowed to go. He clutched his knife, expecting to plunge it into the head of the first red-skin.
A group of Indians stood on the rocks. Monsieur Champlain, the first to step ashore, greeted them with friendly signs. Jacques caught sight of an Indian boy of his own size, lurking behind. He held a bow in his hand, and a quiver of arrows was slung across his back. It was Nonowit, for they had landed on the Piscataqua shores.
The Indian boy gathered wood for the fire, and Jacques eagerly joined in the search. Soon the older folk sat about the blaze. The white men tried to ask where they had landed and what was the nature of the coast. Jacques, in his desire to learn, drew in the sand for Nonowit the picture of the ship, the point of rocks, and the coast. The Indian boy understood and added the river to the map. That aroused Monsieur Champlain, who sent an order to the ship and soon received brilliant beads and various knives from the stores on board. These he laid at the feet of the Indians and pointed to the boy's map on the sand. The red men pulled charred sticks from the fire and drew on the paper offered the full coast line, so far as they knew, even to the Merrimac River with its impeding sandbars, then not even heard of by white men.
By the time the French had started for their vessel Jacques had become sure that the many stories he had heard of the fierceness of the Indians were not entirely true, for already he had found an Indian boy a good companion. Instead of thrusting his knife into his scalp, he followed the example of his leaders and laid it at Nonowit's feet. The little red-skin, pleased with his gift, instinctively offered to Jacques his bow and arrows. These the French lad safely tucked away for Raoul, now thinking it a much finer gift than many scalps.
Monsieur Champlain was even more pleased than Jacques to carry to his countrymen so true a map of the coast of the New World, though at that time he did not know it was to be the map of New England, nor that he had landed on the New Hampshire shore.
VISITORS FROM ENGLAND.
Eleven years passed and Nonowit was a grown Indian who knew the forest lands along the Piscataqua and the rocky turns of the coast. But in all this time he had not forgotten the two strange experiences of his boyhood: a sailing vessel, seen in the river, and later the meeting of white men face to face. Never did his eye run along the ocean horizon without thought of those white-winged sails.
One morning in May, 1614, Nonowit paddled miles from the shore and pulled his canoe upon the rocks of a small island, the largest of a group that could be seen from the coast. Leaving his bark in safety, he crossed to the opposite shore of the island, where he first laid sticks for a fire and then threw out his line for a fish. A full catch held his attention until the tide had risen to an unusual height. Suddenly he thought of his canoe. He hastened over the rocks to find it far afloat. There he was left alone on the island with only the fish of the ocean for food and the sky to cover his head. That day and the next he watched for a stray canoe. On the morning of the third day, as he scanned the ocean to the East, he discerned a distant white speck.
Slowly it shaped itself, and he realized that once again he was watching the approach of a white man's vessel. It seemed to be heading for his very island. Nonowit watched cautiously, ready to find safety in the rocky caves in case these proved unfriendly people.
The vessel dropped anchor and a small boat brought eight men ashore. The leader was Capt. John Smith, who had sailed from England to learn what he could of the New World, and whether it was a desirable place for colonists. As this group of small islands attracted him, he had landed to see what could be found.
Nonowit, from his hiding place, watched the astonishment of the white men when they came upon the burning coals of his fire. Then his turn of surprise came, for one face of that group was familiar to him. The features of Jacques had been stamped upon his boyhood mind, never to be erased. He now recognized the French boy who, since that first trip across the ocean, had learned his father's art of cooking and had hired out as steward to this English captain.
Springing from his cave, Nonowit appeared before the wondering men, who drew back, fearing him one of a band of hidden Indians. Suddenly, Jacques caught a glimpse of the knife, cut with his own mark, thrust into the Indian's belt. It was the very dirk he had won by his well-danced hornpipe on his voyage with M. Champlain.
After an exchange of friendly greetings, the Indian led the English party about and visited with them the smaller islands of the group. The low green bushes and bold rocky shores surrounded by the sparkling ocean so pleased Captain Smith that he gave the group his own name, calling Smith's Isles what later have been known as the Isles of Shoals.
The seamen learned of Nonowit's lost canoe and offered to take him ashore. As they approached the mainland, the wooded coast with its lone mountain and later the safe harbor and rocky shores were most attractive to these Englishmen.
On through the Narrows they sailed, as did Martin Pring many years before. This time, Nonowit was aboard the vessel that his people watched from the bank by the fresh spring where they had made their encampment. It is near the spot where Portsmouth markets now stand. Perhaps the first marketing was done that day, for Captain Smith was ready to trade knives, beads, fish lines, and hooks for the furs the Indians offered. Jacques prepared stews and porridge for these new friends, and in turn the Indians feasted the sailors upon maize and bear meat.
After Nonowit had well described the coast lines to Captain Smith, he presented dried fish and deer meat for the journey, and to Jacques, for his own use, the skin of a bear. Although Nonowit was urged to sail with the party, he refused.
Captain Smith continued along the coast to the point now known as Cape Cod and then, returning, found others of his party whom he had left fishing at the mouth of the Penobscot River.
With salted fish and furs from Indian trading, Captain Smith returned to England, elated with the charm of the New Land. He published a map of the seacoast with a vivid description of the country and presented it to Prince Charles who named the region New England, and so, ever since, it has been called.
In a little thatched cottage in old Portsmouth of Hampshire, England, Roger Low sat on a stool by his father's knee, while the light of the fire flickered over the heavy settles and on the rafters above. The man was still in his working clothes, with his hammer and saw at his side.
"This new world they tell me of, my boy, must be a wonderful place. Those Puritan leaders, Bradford and Standish three years ago, in 1620, took their followers to New England to worship as they pleased. And now the Laconia Company, of which our own Governor, John Mason, is a member, has been given a grant of land there."
"What can he do with it, father?" Roger asked.
"They say, lad, the furs of those forests and the fish of those waters would make a big business for England."
A knock at the door brought the man to his feet. On opening it, he bowed low to the gentleman waiting.
"Come in, sir, and be seated."
David Thompson took the opposite settle, quite ignoring Roger, who had risen in respect. Absorbed in his own plans this Scotchman, Thompson, broke out at once, "Low, I want you to pick up your tools and come to America with me this spring. Governor Mason wishes to make a settlement and proposes to establish a Manor on his new grant. We will pursue fur trade and fishing, and even hope to cultivate vines and discover mines."
It was an astonishing thought to this carpenter, whose son was his only companion.
"I should have to take the boy with me," was his first remark, after some thoughtful moments.
"Certainly," replied David Thompson, who knew that the good workmanship of this man was worth an extra passenger. "We shall need the boys in a year or two," he added.
Final arrangements were completed, and in the spring of 1623, Roger and his father sailed with the party for New England.
Edward Hilton and his brother William, who had been fish dealers in London, were on board with equipment for one settlement, while David Thompson had charge of the other.
From the map which Captain John Smith had made, the Piscataqua River was found. Here the coast was thoroughly studied. Thompson selected for building the very point at which Monsieur Champlain once stopped. But the Hilton brothers preferred river fishing and continued some eight miles up stream to a point of land called by the Indians, Winnichannat. It later became a part of Dover.
Thompson's location was at the mouth of a small stream, which led to the main river. He called it Little Harbor. The hillock on which he planned to build gave a commanding view of the ocean. At the west stretched a salt marsh, of great value to a plantation.
Small log cabins were quickly constructed, and also a secure building for the abundant provisions. Roger worked with the men in landing barrels of pork, kegs of molasses, sacks of oats, and boxes of candles. A securely fastened door not only protected these supplies from the weather, but also kept off the prowling beasts that might find comfortable living on such food.
When the excitement of landing and the newness of this life began to wear away, the days seemed much alike. Roger asked one morning, "Father, shall we see no one but each other again today?"
"That is all, my boy, for the Plymouth Colony is many miles to the south, and there are only a few people between that settlement and our own. The Indians are probably up river now for their spring fishing."
Roger had been eager to see an Indian, though he had hoped he might not be alone, for he rather feared them.
The days wore on with much monotony. The carpenters were busy building the Manor-house. A few men were planting only the most necessary crops. Others were making arrangements for the manufacture of salt, which was of first importance. Otherwise fish could not be preserved for the markets of England.
One day something did happen. At dusk Roger passed the cabin where provisions were stored and found the door wide open. It was a law of the settlement that that door be kept closed and barred.
The boy darted in to see if any one was there. Peering about the kegs and boxes he met a pair of glaring, fiery eyes that glowed through the gloom between himself and the doorway. He screamed. The creature crouched. An added horror came when Roger glanced at the door and saw there the dark, stern face of a tall Indian with arrow poised. It was aimed not at Roger, but at the springing lynx. The whirr of that arrow lived in Roger's mind the rest of his days. The boy himself was almost as limp with fright as the creature that was carried by Nonowit to the main cabin. For this Indian had heard of the new settlement and had travelled miles through the forest to make friends with the white men. He was close behind Roger and heard his scream of fright when he ran into the store-house.
The settlers, resting from the day's work, were surprised at the appearance of the Indian, but still more astonished by Roger's story. John, the cook, then confessed that he had come out of the store-house with his arms full, and had forgotten to go back and close the door.
The day's excitement was not over, for that night David Thompson led into camp Captain Miles Standish of the Plymouth colony. He had a hard story to tell of the starving condition of his people. They had compared themselves with the Israelites during the famine of Egypt, yet the Hebrews had their flocks and herds left to them. "However," continued the captain, "the Lord has been good to give us the abundant fish of the sea and the spring water, which is all we have, save a few dried peas." He then added that Governor Bradford had urged him to go even as far as Piscataqua to search for food.
"And little could we have offered him," spoke up the cook, "if the old lynx and his friends had had a night in our store-house!"
Much was then given from the ample supply of the settlement, and Captain Standish returned to Plymouth well repaid for his journey.
DANGER FOR THE COLONISTS.
Five years had passed since Roger Low and his father had come to America to help establish the Mason Manor. Although David Thompson, the leader, had found an island in Massachusetts Bay more to his liking, still enough settlers remained at Piscataqua to make the Lower Plantation one of importance. Edward Hilton yet held what was called the Upper Plantation at Dover.
One morning, early in the summer of 1628, the Mason settlers were disturbed to find that John, the cook, had disappeared. Whether the days had become too monotonous for him and he had gone in search of adventure, or had been lost by wandering too far into the woods, no one knew. Finally Nonowit, who had become fond of Roger and had spent much time in teaching him the ways of the woods, was sent with the boy in search of the lost cook.
The two started in the direction of the Upper Plantation. Not far from the Hilton Settlement, the sound of a shot in the woods brought them to a standstill and then to the ground, where they hid in the underbrush. Through the clearing they saw a deer fall. They waited breathlessly, expecting next to see the bulky form of John shoulder his game. To their surprise, a Tarateen Indian glided over the ground to the fallen deer. As he was an enemy, Nonowit and Roger remained in hiding until they could safely continue their journey. They then carried to the plantation not only news of a lost man, but also the astonishing word that Indians were using guns in the woods.
Such a thing was unheard of. It was against the law of the settlers to trade firearms or ammunition with the Indians. How it had been done, or by whom, was a matter that must be looked into at once. The people of the Upper Plantation had seen nothing of the cook, though that was of small moment now.
Edward Hilton felt it was of utmost importance to return at once with Roger and Nonowit to the Lower Plantation.
On arriving there, a leader from Naumkeag was found who had brought the same disastrous word that the Indians were armed. He had received a message to the same effect from Weesagascusatt. It threatened serious danger for the colonists. Just at dusk a messenger from Winnisimmet arrived at Piscataqua with the same rumor. By candle light that night a conference of grave importance was held. The Naumkeag leader reported that a man named Morton had opened his settlement at Mount Wollaston, Mass. to all discontented servants and lawless people. He had changed the name to Merrie Mount and there he allowed reckless, dissolute living. Upon hearing of the loss of the cook, he suggested that he might be found among the merrymakers.
Worst of all, Morton had established a trade of firearms with the Indians in order to obtain a greater number of furs. With guns in such skilled and treacherous hands, the white settlers stood in great danger.
The discussion that night resulted in an agreement to send letters, pleading for help, to Plymouth, which, though it stood in less danger, was a colony stronger than all the rest together. It was also near enough for an approach to Morton at Merrie Mount.
Roger was asked to carry the letters. With Nonowit as his guide, he started out on the following day. It was an adventurous trip, partly by land and partly by sea, for the man from Naumkeag was returning by water and carried the two along with him.
When well underway by boat, a darkened sky and wild wind drove the small vessel to the Isle of Shoals for shelter, where they found at anchor "The Whale," an English ship soon to cross the ocean. The hurricane was of short duration, and the messengers continued their journey.
Traveling afoot from Naumkeag, they soon noticed fresh footprints on the path, which suggested that someone was not far ahead of them. They continued with increased haste and added caution. Nonowit suddenly gave the signal for silence when, not far from the path, they saw through the thicket the broad shoulders of a white man eating by his camp fire. They remained silent until he turned and the jolly face of John was visible. He was doubtless on his way to Merrie Mount but allowed them to think he was merely off for a change. On learning what had happened and the message they carried, John allied himself to the two and begged to continue with them.
After a rough journey, the three arrived at Plymouth and delivered the letters, which were most carefully considered by the men of that colony. Realizing the serious danger such a center as Merrie Mount could be to all the settlements, it was decided to send a note of warning to Morton. He, however, treated it with scorn and in the same spirit rejected a second appeal. Then, with stern determination to take the man by force, Captain Miles Standish started with his company of soldiers. He returned with Morton, who was sent as a prisoner to England on "The Whale," the very ship the travelers had found about to sail from the Isles of Shoals. The various colonies shared the expense.
Roger, Nonowit, and John finally arrived home, triumphant with the news of success. But the wrong Morton had already done the settlers was never rectified, for the Indians had learned the value and power of a gun and never again were content without firearms.
"Couldn't he find one anywhere, Mother?" asked Samuel.
"Why didn't he keep on looking?" persisted Richard, as the two boys braced themselves for the lurch of the vessel which was tossing on a choppy sea. Mrs. Chadborn steadied herself and continued the story they so loved.
"It was almost thirty years ago that Martin Pring sailed up the river to which we are now going. He searched the forests on either bank for a certain tree which he believed had the power to give people health and happiness. He found the deserted camp fires of the Indians, but, even though no savages disturbed his hunt, he sailed away disappointed because he could not find a sassafras tree."
"I believe I could find one there," boasted Richard, with a secret determination to do so, "for I know how they look."
This was in the early summer of 1631. It was a happy day when they landed on the New England shore close by the Mason Manor House, which had been built eight years before. Then it was the only one for many miles. Now some eighty men and women of many trades had come to settle about it and to build another which they would call the Great House.
There was much to interest Samuel and Richard in the salt works and the flakes where fish were dried, and in the fort which was built on the hillock between the Manor-house and the ocean.
But a few days after landing, Richard, much troubled, hunted for Samuel, whom he found fishing from the rocks.
"Sam, Mother's almost sick. Father says the voyage has tired her. He thinks she's homesick, too. What can we do about it?"
Samuel dropped his pole and sighed, "I wish we could find a sassafras tree."
"We will," cried Richard, jumping to his feet. "Father will let us go with him to the place where they are working on the Great House. It is several miles away, but we can hunt the woods there and camp with the men until they come back."
Mr. Chadborn readily consented, not knowing what plan the boys had in mind. But he warned them not to stray far, for, once lost, they were at the mercy of the Indians and the wild beasts.
They made a long search always keeping within the sound of hammers.
"I'll keep the path while you examine that tree off there," they constantly agreed, but never did they find one of the right kind. For two days they searched diligently, glad to get back to the cornmeal cakes and pea-porridge, and at night, quite as disappointed as Pring and doubtless more tired, they fell upon the bed of boughs their father had laid for them.
On the third morning Mr. Chadborn told them to keep within call, for they were to return to the Manor that day.
Samuel thought quite seriously, while Richard lay on the ground discouraged.
"What is it, Sam?" cried Richard, catching a gleam in his brother's eye, and ready always to grasp at a suggestion.
"Let's make baskets out of bark from a birch tree and fill them with these strawberries for Mother."
They went to work with much energy, surprised to find how abundantly the berries grew along the banks, and returned to the Manor so full of the account of that strawberry patch that their disappointment was almost forgotten.
"Oh, Mother, see what we have found! The bank was covered with berries, even after we had picked all these!"
"Why, boys, it is just like the home-land! Surely Captain John Smith had described this Place well for Prince Charles to name it New England. Already I feel better, for this land is not so strange since home things grow here."
The boys found that even the sassafras could not have given her more pleasure. They went to bed that night before dark, contented with their search and anxious to return to the strawberry field.
For twenty years the land about the Great House was called Strawberry Bank. Though that was almost three hundred years ago and the name was afterward changed to Portsmouth, there are now many people in New England, and some outside, who know just what spot is meant when they hear of Strawberry Bank.
THE BOYS' CATCH.
"Get off that boat! We can't be bothered by boys on this trip!"
Edward Godfrie, who had charge of the fisheries at Mason Manor, shouted with stern authority.
It was scarcely daybreak on a May morning in 1632. Six great shallops lay at anchor off the rocks. Five fishing boats were in readiness, while several skiffs were conveying fishermen and equipment for the day's work.
Godfrie's own boy, Hugh, and James Williams, regretfully climbed ashore.
"Leave that seine behind!" was the next order to the boatmen. The stretch of net was pitched out upon the rocks.
Every available worker at the Manor was ready to cast a line or haul a net on this trip, for the biggest catch possible was to be made that day. The Warwick, an English trading vessel of the Laconia Company, had already gone up the Piscataqua River and on her return would take a cargo of fish back to England. No later catch could be sufficiently salted and dried.
"To feed eighty people every day," grumbled Godfrie, "and keep a cargo on hand, can't be done even in these waters."
There had been little planting on this shore; so the fish already prepared for market had been eaten by the hungry settlers because of the delayed arrival of the Warwick with food supplies. Perhaps this accounts for Godfrie's irritation and anxiety for a good catch. When the last boat had started, he stepped into a skiff, picked up the oars, and pulled for the fishing fleet.
Four forlorn boys, for Samuel and Richard Chadborn had joined the others, stood on the shore and watched the sails against the pink of the morning sky. The glorious air and strong salt breeze made the land seem unbearable to them. They wandered to the flakes and on to the salt works. Francis Williams, James's father, manufactured the salt.
"Get away from there, boys," he shouted, as they appeared. "A big catch comes in tonight, and we need every grain!"
Log cabins were scattered about the estate for those who did not live in the Hall. Horses, cows, pigs, sheep, and goats had their sheds or wandered about at will. However, there was no interest in them for the boys, who sauntered back to the shore from which the boats had started.
"There are two skiffs left," suggested Hugh. "Let's go fishing for ourselves!"
"Yes!" exclaimed Sam, with a new idea. "And why not take that net and stretch it across the narrows in the little harbor? I saw the men do that one day."
It was a thought that aroused them all, perhaps because it required both daring and pluck. The net was a weighty one for their muscles, although they were stout, strong fellows for their years.
James's father felt relieved as he saw them start. At least the flakes and the salt would be unmolested. However, his attitude changed at sundown when the boys had not returned.
The fishing fleet brought back a set of disappointed men, for the catch had not been what was hoped for by many pounds. Godfrie's grumbling could be heard before he landed, nor was it lessened when he reached shore to find that his boy, with the others, was missing.
The sun set and the moon rose, yet nothing had been seen of the boys. An hour later the distant splash of oars on the quiet waters and excited boy voices brought all the Manor folk to the shore. The approach was so slow that there was great fear that some one had been hurt. Yet there was an elated tone as the voices came nearer. When they were within shouting distance there came a call for help.
A half-dozen strong men jumped into their skiffs and pulled with speed. In a half-hour's time two great boat-loads of fish were pulled ashore. The boys had stretched their net at low water across a narrow part of the stream. As the tide rushed in, it brought fish in a school of unusual size, which, caught by the current, had entered the little harbor instead of the main river.
This catch made up for the loss in the day's fishing. Men and boys set to work in the moonlight to clean the fish. They then spread them on the flakes for salting and drying.
Godfrie started a good cargo to the English markets, and each of the four boys carried the title of Captain for weeks to come.
THE FOREST GARDEN.
It was the spring of 1633. Richard and Samuel had watched the distant horizon for many days. At last came the shout, "A sail! A sail!"
Later, the Warwick dropped anchor. The boys soon climbed aboard, and there they found Rebecca Gibbons, an English girl, who had started with her mother to join her father, Ambrose Gibbons, who was helping establish the New Hampshire Colony for the Mason grant. John Mason had given the name because of his home in Hampshire, England.
"Then you are going on to Newichewannock," explained Richard. "Your father has built a house there for you. At the falls they have a saw-mill. It is the only one in New England."
Samuel, who had gone ashore, then returned with a package, which he tucked into Rebecca's hands with a whisper. She secretly hid this strange parcel as the vessel started.
The Warwick left its passengers and supplies at the Great House on Strawberry Bank, and continued up the winding Piscataqua, which seemed endlessly long to Rebecca. At last a final turn brought to sight the new home, and, best of all, her father, followed by his four helpers, hurrying down to the shore.
The house was a substantial one. There were also a barn, other small buildings, and a fine well, all surrounded by a palisade which protected the family from wild animals and hostile Indians.
The saw-mill kept a busy hum on the logs, making boards for immediate use. Many were also to be shipped to England on the returning vessel. Ambrose Gibbons and his men spent their time otherwise: in search for useful ores or minerals, or trading for furs to be sent back to the Laconia Company, who, in turn, kept the colonists supplied from English stores. Perhaps for these reasons the gardens were quite neglected, and so Rebecca's strange little parcel proved a double treasure.
Her spinning done with the spirit of a true pioneer, Rebecca explored the surrounding woods and soon knew them quite as well as the nooks and corners of her own dooryard. In one spot there grew a thick undergrowth, through which she crept and discovered a small clearing so closely shut in that it would never have been suspected.
"This is the spot for my secret," she declared and began to pull the grass by the roots. The next day she returned with spade and rake, and her mysterious package. It was to be a buried treasure, for here she opened her bundle and planted in various holes the kernels of yellow Indian corn which Samuel had given her.
"There!" she exclaimed, as she patted the loose earth. "This is to be my own secret, till I am quite ready to tell. Then I will surprise them."
The home people were too much occupied with their own interests to give attention to Rebecca's play-time. The Newichewannock Indians, whose settlement was near by, were camping elsewhere for the summer, so that no one even guessed the garden, or knew how well it was growing.
Some struggling grape vines and a few vegetables had been planted within the palisade, but small attention had been given to them. In fact, so little gardening had been done that the Autumn brought anxious days. No English vessel had come in, nor had the grain from Virginia arrived in Boston, where it was to be ground at the wind-mill and sent on to Strawberry Bank.
The meal-chest at the Newichewannock home was almost empty, and except for fish and game the food supply was low. The situation became serious. Ambrose Gibbons started, one crisp fall morning, for the Bank, hoping to obtain food of some sort. He took one man with him, while the other three with their axes started for a distant point to fell trees, not returning until night.
Rebecca ran off for awhile that afternoon to inspect her garden, which was now filled with a surprising growth of ripening corn.
"It might be picked at once," she whispered to herself. "But I think I will leave it for a big surprise. Father may not be able to get us food."
Quite elated over her splendid crop, she hastened back to the house. She was surprised to find the gate of the palisade open and still more astonished to see a tall figure in the kitchen.
Her frightened mother was showing the empty meal-chest to a fierce looking Indian. Rebecca did not then know it was Rowls, the Sagamore of the Newichewannock Camp. He had returned ahead of his people with a small but hungry band of Indians.
"He has come for food, dearie, but I cannot make him understand that we have nothing."
Rowls straightened himself and by motions again ordered Mrs. Gibbons to get him food. At the same time he showed a fine beaver skin for exchange. Empty cupboards and barrels were opened, but the fierce creature believed the food was hidden and raised his knife as a threat. At this a sudden thought struck Rebecca. With energy she motioned for him to wait. Then she darted to her secret garden, where she tore the precious ears from the stalks until her arms were full. Fearing for her mother in the meantime, she flew back to the house to find that Rowls had patiently waited.
It was what he wanted. With a satisfied grunt, he took the corn and presented Rebecca with the most beautiful beaver skin she had ever seen. After the Sagamore had gone and the palisade gate was bolted, Rebecca explained her secret garden to her surprised mother.
She then for the first time realized the disappointment of not bringing in her own crop, should her father return without food. But just then a whistle was heard outside the gate, and Ambrose Gibbons was admitted, bowed over with a heavy sack of grain, for the Virginia supply had that morning reached Strawberry Bank.
Soon after these events a grist-mill was established at Newichewannock, and gardens became a matter of more careful consideration.
THE FUR TRADE
The winter had passed since Rebecca Gibbons had traded her corn crop for a beaver skin. That piece of fur had become a much-beloved treasure to Becky. It covered her rag dolls in the daytime and served her as a blanket many a cold night.
The winter had been a rough one, filled with severe hardships. In spite of their knowledge of New England winters, even the Indians in their encampment close at hand suffered. Hostile tribes had at times surrounded the house a hundred strong. Added to these troubles there was a great scarcity of provisions, so that a longing for warmer days was coupled with an anxious hope for the returning English vessel. Supplies of all kinds were sadly needed.
One cold raw day in May, Rebecca wandered into the woods to gather early spring flowers. She suddenly realized that, in spite of her usual care, she had strayed beyond the sound of the buzzing mill. Searching in vain for a familiar spot, she at last shouted for help. No sound was heard in reply. She dropped to the ground, frightened by the thought of the many awful things that might happen. Was that a shadow at her feet? She started suddenly to find standing behind her a silent Indian squaw, with a pappoose strapped to her back. Without a word the woman turned and Rebecca followed, for she had recognized a squaw of the neighboring camp. It was a long walk home. As they passed the Newichewannock Camp, four forlorn shivering little Indians who had been huddling over the dying coals caught her attention.
Rebecca was stirred by the misery of their cold and hunger, quite forgetting how near her own household were to this same misery. On reaching home, determined to show her thanks for this safe return, the little girl hunted out her fishing pole and started for the river. She hoped to make a catch for these hungry people. She reached the rocks and cast her line like a true fisherman.
"Captain Neal will feel mean enough when he gets here and finds us all starved to death," she murmured as she jerked her pole only to find her line had caught and broken. Finally, with the disappointment of no fish, she was turning toward the house when a white gleam on the water caught her eye. It was from the sail of the Pide-Cowe, the English vessel just rounding the bend.
Rebecca dashed home with the news. That afternoon cornmeal, salt, beef, butter, sweet oil, oatmeal, and candles were landed within the palisade. There were men's coats, waistcoats, and children's coats, stockings, blankets, rugs, flannel and cotton cloth, as well as fish hooks and lines, lead, hammers, pewter dishes, and iron kettles.
Indians, gay in fringes and beads, arrived on the scene with loads of fur: otter, mink, fox, and beaver for trade. Ragged squaws and shivering pappooses followed. Captain Neal and his sailors mingled with hearty good cheer among them, while the white settlers acted as tradesmen, happy in the relief which this vessel had brought them.
Rebecca was wild with excitement. She knew this meant food for everybody. Each box and barrel was turned and inspected by Miss Becky. She poked over the piles of clothing and tried on the children's coats and even the men's coats, anything in fact that struck her fancy. Some bright beaded things caught her eye. Pulling at the English shag, she drew from the bottom of a pile a queer little garment labeled "Pappoose coat." After searching and tugging, she produced five of different sizes. Then her eye fell on the group of timid little creatures still clinging to their mother.
Rebecca knew that at this trading all the furs would go to buy food. Her wise little head thought, "These coats would make them so comfortable!" Perched on a salt-cask close to the pile she was soon absorbed in her own plans, which were quickly completed. Jumping down she excitedly ran to explain them to her mother, who had been watching the trading from the doorway of their home. Becky stood on tip-toe, awaiting her mother's decision. After a moment's thought, it came. The child rushed indoors and soon returned with her still beautiful beaver-skin.
"Captain Neal," she cried, before she had fairly reached him. "How many of these pappoose coats will you trade for this beaver?"
"You may have all for such a skin as that," he exclaimed as he stroked the soft fur.
With the five coats in her own possession, proud little Becky begged her mother's help. Together they fitted them to the five smallest Indian children. Trading ceased for a moment, while all eyes turned to the funny sight of these wild little creatures in English clothing. The settlers and seamen laughed aloud, while even the stolid faces of the old warriors looked pleased.
COATS, SHIRTS, AND KETTLES.
During the winter of 1637-8, at least three feet of snow remained on the ground from November 4th until March 5th. Broken ice was still in the rivers, when in March a coaster started from Boston with Mrs. Wheelwright and her five children and also friends of hers with their children.
Little Thomas, quite as round as the small iron kettle which he carried under his plump arm, trudged up the plank to the deck.
"Mother, see what Tom has!" exclaimed Susan with some disgust.
"Never mind, child," came the tired reply. "That kettle was forgotten in packing, and, if it pleases him, do let him keep it."
There were children enough on board to make the party a merry one in spite of the sharp cold winds. The vessel turned northward, rounded the coast to the Piscataqua River, and pushed its way among the ice chunks even into Great Bay, not stopping until it came to the foot of the falls in Squamscot River.
The Rev. John Wheelwright and several of his followers had already spent the winter about Piscataqua. The rough cabins, now built for their families, were not so comfortable nor so well furnished as the home Rebecca Gibbons had found at Newichewannock.
The children were delighted with the wild woods. The month gave them some warm spring-like days, and they soon established a play camp for themselves not far from the cabins. Edward and Joseph built a wigwam pointed at the top like those of the Squamscot Indians who camped along the river.
"Look," cried Susan with delight as she rested three poles together at the top, "this will stand over our fire, and we can swing Tom's kettle from it."
But Tom and the kettle were missing. At last he was found in the curled roots of an old oak, scratching the picture of an Indian on the rough surface of his treasured kettle, which he was persuaded to use for the new play. The fun went with zest until Susan was called into the house.
"There, dear," explained her mother, passing her an armful of woolen stuff, "you must take my needle and finish this seam, while I prepare these birds for a stew. This is the last of six shirts your father wished completed soon."
Susan seated herself by the fireside on a stool, which was merely a tree stump, for their furniture was of the roughest kind. Her mother quickly plucked the feathers from the wild fowl that had just been brought in and prepared them for the kettle that hung on the crane over the hearth fire.
"Oh, may we have that little one, Mother, for our camp?" begged Susan. "We want to make a stew out there in Tom's kettle."
Her mother consented and laid the bird aside, while Susan watched carefully to see just how the stew was made. When it began to boil, her mother picked up the sewing and told her to run and play again.
The children soon had a fire crackling and the fowl stewing. They sat delightedly about it, planning many fine uses for the little black kettle with its three short legs. Then Edward and Joseph started on a scouting trip, but returned later with eyes that told of something more real than play.
"We've found an Indian boy, a real one, Susan, lying on the ground as if he were sick."
"Then," replied Susan quickly, "take him some of our broth. I am sure it will help him. There it is, just as good as mother's," she exclaimed, as she gave a final taste and poured out a bowlful.
Some half dozen children followed the boys and soon circled about a frightened Indian lad stretched on the ground. In a trice, Susan had propped him up and was feeding him with the stew, which seemed to revive him. Soon he allowed the children to lead him back to their wigwam, where he dropped again to the ground. They brought him food from the house, and then to amuse him they showed their black kettle and pointed out the Indian Tom had scratched on its side. Though the lad said nothing, his fear was gone, and his eyes were wide with interest. Suddenly a shadow fell across the path, and the little Indian's face brightened. There stood a full-grown Indian of the Piscataqua tribe. It was Nonowit, though these children did not know him. The little fellow was his son, Assacon, who had lost his father on this hunting trip and had become exhausted for want of food.
Not only Nonowit, but other Indians began to arrive at the new settlement. White men landed on the shore with loads of woolen shirts and heavy coats like those sent on the English vessels; even iron kettles were lifted from their boats.
The next day, which was April 3rd, 1638, Wehanownowit, Sagamore of the Piscataquas, Pummadockyon, his son, and Aspamabough arrived with many of their tribe. The Squamscot Indians and others gathered together with the white men in their clearing by the river.
The questioning children begged of their fathers to know what it all meant. They were told that, as the men of the Plymouth colony had thought it just and kind to pay the Indians for the use of their lands, so Mr. Wheelright had urged the men of the New Hampshire settlement to do the same.
A deed was made out to the Indians, promising the land of a certain district for settlement by the white men, but reserving the privilege for the Indians to hunt and fish there. Payment was to be made in money as well as coats, shirts, and kettles. The white men signed their names, but the Indians could not write. The children then saw Wehanownowit with the point of a wild goose quill make his mark of a man holding a tomahawk. Pummadockyon drew a man with a bow and arrow, and Aspamabough, who also signed the deed, drew for his mark an arrow and bow. And thus a friendly feeling was established between the natives and the colonists at the time of this settlement, which grew to be the town of Exeter, named for the one in England.
When the coats, the shirts, and the kettles of varying sizes were shouldered, the Indians started homeward. The children then hurried back to their camp and soon found that their own play-kettle was gone. After many inquiries it was learned that in the confusion of things someone had caught it up and tossed it upon the pile of kettles offered to the Indians. The children were bitterly disappointed and sorely missed the loved plaything. Nor could another be spared from the limited home supply.
Weeks went by, and the children still played in their camp. One day, while all were gone on a play-search for food, Joseph was left on guard in a hollow tree with merely a peep-hole through which to watch. He heard the cracking of a twig; to his surprise, something moved cautiously through the bushes. It was a real Indian boy. He crept to the wigwam door, peeped in, and then thrust in his arm. Joseph could not tell whether it was to take or to leave something. As the lad turned, he proved to be Assacon. Before Joseph could scramble from the tree, the Indian was gone, frightened perhaps by the voices of the returning children. Together they hurried to the wigwam, and there in the center stood the little black kettle with the same picture that Tom had scratched upon it. Assacon had found it in his own camp. In some way he had secured it and, in appreciation of their goodness to him, had traveled some ten miles to return it.
In the days when no lines were drawn between Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the General Court of Massachusetts had an eye open for a stretch of salt-marsh a few miles north of the Merrimac River, near the sea. The forests were so thick that feeding places for the cattle were difficult to find. Here on these marshes salt was added to the food, which in those days was considered a most valuable possession. For that reason it was agreed that three men from Newbury and Ipswich should build a house on the edge of the marsh.
So on an October day in 1638 they went in a shallop up the winding Winnicunnet River. Where Hampton now stands, they built of logs the Bound House, to make good the claim of Massachusetts to the marsh.
Soon others followed, and the little settlement of Winnicunnet grew up in the wilderness, miles from other neighbors, except the Indians who had pitched their wigwams in the vicinity. Their trails along the river and over the marshes to the sea were used by the white men in hunting and fishing.
In this same wilderness Elizabeth dwelt in a cabin of logs, yet not without playmates or playthings. Chewannick, an Indian boy who lived in a wigwam, came often to play with her, and the little black lamb that was born in the spring was given to Elizabeth for her very own. As soon as she found it was hers, she called Chewannick within the palisade to see the little black thing with legs like sticks.
"When it is old enough to be sheared," she explained, "I shall help to do that myself. Then my mother will help me to card its nice black wool, and we will spin it into long threads. I shall then weave a thick cloth, which will make me a warm winter cloak."
Chewannick stood with wide-open eyes understanding by Elizabeth's motions much of what she was telling him. Together they made the little creature a comfortable bed in the big yard outside the cabin.
It was most necessary to have the high fence built about the house to protect the garden from foxes and other prowling creatures, and to keep the wolves and the bears away from the cattle and sheep at night. Through the day, the gate stood open. The cows and sheep wandered off to the marsh grass, and the children came and went as they wished, but before the sun went down, every creature was driven home, and the children were safely inside when the gate was barred. When Elizabeth petted her little black lamb at night, she could hear the howl of the wolves through the woods and often the growl of a bear just outside the enclosure.
One day when the children were outside the palisade, Chewannick attempted to climb it. Elizabeth laughed and declared he could not do it. He then fastened a prop between the closely planted posts and tried again, but he could not spring with enough force to get over. Again and again on succeeding days he tried, determined at every failure to reach the top some day.
Late one afternoon as the cows came wandering in at their usual hour, the children watched the sheep huddle together. Elizabeth noticed that the little black lamb was not with them.
"And the sheep came from the woods, not the marsh," she added after her first word of surprise.
"Come, Chewannick, we must find my lamb!"
Unnoticed by her mother, who was busy in the yard, Elizabeth led the Indian boy over the well trodden path to the woods. Already the sun had dropped, but on and on the children went until they paused to listen. From the far-distance came a faint cry like that of a child.
"It is my precious, black woolly lamb!" cried Elizabeth, frantically. "It is in the thorn bushes!"
Farther still they pushed into the woods, hardly noticing how dark the shadows were growing. The cry seemed close at hand.
"Yes, here's my darling lamb!" Elizabeth tugged at the poor little thing, caught by its woolly fleece in the long sharp thorns of a bush.
"Help, Chewannick, pull hard!"
Great tufts of black wool were left on the bush, but the frightened little creature was freed at last.
The woods seemed very dark by that time, as they half pulled, half carried the lamb homeward. Darker still it grew. Howls could be heard in the distance. The children hurried on. Suddenly a wolf barked on their very trail. They were then within sight of the house, but with horror they saw that the gate was closed. The hastening wolf had caught the scent of the lamb. The children tried to shout, but they could make no sound.
Chewannick bounded ahead. With desperate force he sprang upon the fence, grasped the top, and fairly fell over the other side. He had the door unbarred for Elizabeth and the lamb, as the fiery eyes of the wolf could be seen but a few rods up the path. The gate was closed in time to shut the creature out, while Elizabeth's surprised mother caught up her little girl as if she feared the wolf might even then spring through the bolted door.
THE CRYSTAL HILLS.
Those who sailed the sea came always to these shores with accounts of the white and shining hills seen far back over the land. From other travelers were gathered wonderful tales of lakes stocked with delicate fish, fine forests rich in game, and fair valleys abounding in fruits, nuts, and vines.
The immediate needs of the settlements held most of the colonists close to their homes, but the spirit of adventure was too strong for Darby Field. It was soon reported among the few households of Exeter that he was going to explore the country to the North, an enterprise which was of great interest to them all. He hoped to find gold and precious stones added to all the other wonders. It was thought that a trip of a hundred miles might take him to the river of Canada, or perhaps to the Great Lakes.
Susan, Edward, Joseph, and all the other children stood about with wide-eyed wonder at the courage and daring that could carry one so far into an unknown wilderness. With two Indians as companions, and a pack strapped to his back, Darby Field waved his good-bye to the group of settlers and started off.
For some forty miles they traveled past lakes large and small, over Indian trails, and through pathless forests. From this time on they seemed to be tramping upward. Field felt sure that they had reached the lower slopes of the shining hills so often seen from the sea.
At last they climbed to a moss-grown level. Here they found an encampment of some two hundred Indians, who proved to be friendly. The travelers rested and looked about. Not far away appeared [A]"a rude heap of massive stones, piled upon one another a mile high, on which one might ascend from stone to stone, like a pair of winding stairs."
Darby Field was moved by the charm of that peak which seemed to be the highest of all. When he expressed a determination to climb to the top, the Indians, horrified at the thought, begged him for his life to refrain. It was, they assured him, Agiochook, the abode of the Great Spirit whom they could see in the clouds about the summit. His voice could be heard in the thunder of the storms from cliff to cliff. The winds were manifestations of His power. His gentleness was revealed through the sunset colors that lingered on the slopes. This sacred mountain had never been climbed by an Indian. Now they begged the white man not to risk his life.
In spite of this warning, Darby Field persisted in his plan. A group of Indians accompanied him to within eight miles of the top. There they waited for his return, for this daring act was of great concern to them. The two Indians who had followed Field from home took courage by his example and held to the party, which was undoubtedly the first that ever climbed our Mount Washington.
From the summit they saw waters to the westward, which they thought to be the great lake from which the Canada river flows. To the North, the country was said to be [A]"daunting terrible, full of rocky hills as thick as mole hills in a meadow, and clothed with infinite thick woods." Perhaps the outlook was too terrible for adventure, for after they had picked up clear shining stones which proved to be crystals, they descended the mountain and presented themselves safe to the waiting Indians. Then instead of continuing their explorations, they decided to return home.
After an absence of eighteen days, they reached home. On a cold night in June of 1642, the grown folk and children gathered about a blazing hearth to hear of the country that lay to the North.
The travelers reported a wonderful trip of at least a hundred miles from home. They felt sure that their discovery of the Great Lakes [A]"wanted but one day's journey of being finished," but for lack of sufficient provisions they had been obliged to return. The glistening stones were passed on to the wondering children, and Field announced that he had gone as far as the Crystal Hills,—the name at one time of the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
[Footnote A: Quoted from Jeremy Belknap's History of New Hampshire, Chapter I.]
THE DENMARK CATTLE.
The thread dropped from the spinning wheel as Elizabeth earnestly leaned forward in the firelight, that late afternoon of May in 1643.
"Uncle Richard, is there any school for boys—"
"Sh! here comes your father!" whispered her uncle.
Francis Norton, absorbed in thought, entered the large east room of Mason Manor house and wandered to the window, where he scanned the ocean distance for a sail. Elizabeth silently picked up her thread.
"Things have become serious, Richard," exclaimed Norton. "Since Mason's death, few supplies have come from England, as you know, and the amounts due the workers here have long been unpaid. I am here to manage the Mason affairs and consequently get the blame, yet my own interests are at stake. My boy must be educated—"
"Oh, I say, Father, six cows are missing!" It was a rugged, healthy boy who burst into the room. "They have wandered off somewhere, and now it's milking time. Shall I hunt them up?"
Norton continued his conversation, quite ignoring his son, who respectfully awaited his father's reply.
"There is a school at Cambridge, near Boston. The only one I know of in New England. A Charlestown minister, John Harvard, left eight hundred pounds for it a few years ago—"
"Don't lose those cows, Francis," interrupted his brother-in-law. "They are a valuable lot, a Denmark breed sent over by Mason, while I was a boy."
Jacob then caught a nod of assent from his father and cast a quick glance at his sister, Elizabeth, whose wheel was again whirring busily. She jumped to her feet.
"May I go too, father?" she cried.
He gave his consent absent-mindedly and then turned to the subject in question.
Meantime the girl and boy chased off together.
"I believe the cows have wandered through the woods to the salt-marsh," declared Elizabeth; so they turned in that direction, following a crooked path for a long time. At last a breaking of the bushes opened a way to the discovery of five of the cows. The children were pushing on for the sixth, when a distant shout was heard on the opposite shore of the marshy stream. There in the mud and mire stood a horse and rider. Each step plunged them deeper and brought them nearer to the stream.
"Is this the ford?" the stranger called.
Jacob at once saw he had mistaken a cow-path for a trail.
"Back, quick!" cried the frightened children. "You cannot cross there!"
The horse, about to plunge again, turned suddenly, while the children shouted the direction to the ford, much farther up the stream.
The last cow had by that time appeared. Driving the six ahead, Jacob and Elizabeth wondered together who the strange rider might be, and then turned their discussion to family affairs which kept the home atmosphere constantly clouded.
"Elizabeth, I must find some way to go to school," declared Jacob, "but I know father cannot send me now. They say all the furs, lumber, and fish that have been sent from here to England cannot cover the expense of these people. What can be done?"
"We must find a way, Jacob," replied Elizabeth thoughtfully, "for you to go to that Cambridge school called Harvard College. All boys ought to be educated." She gave no thought to herself, for in those days girls were taught only home interests.
Still deep in conversation, the children reached home to find that the same stranger, caught so dangerously on the marshes, had arrived at the Manor. He brought Francis Norton a written message, which had come by way of Boston from a newly-arrived English ship.
Norton, standing at the door while the rider waited, read the word and exclaimed—
"So we're to shift for ourselves! The owners of the Mason property can no longer be responsible for their New Hampshire estate."
Many settlers who had come for the purpose of furthering the interests of this estate were involved in this crisis. With no returns from England and back dues long unpaid, the situation seemed hard and serious. Some of the occupants claimed the land they lived upon; some the creatures they cared for; but the most daring of all was the plan of Francis Norton.
Jacob heard it first and hurried the astonishing news to Elizabeth, whom he found at the well.
"Beth, father is going to drive a hundred oxen to Boston, almost sixty miles! He is to sell them there! What is more, we are all to go with him!"
This crafty plan was actually carried out. It was a long, slow journey, but successfully made. The cattle sold in Boston at twenty pounds sterling a head, the current price of that day, which brought Norton a snug little sum. He did not return to Strawberry Bank, but established a home in Charlestown. He was then able to give Jacob an education.
THE CUT OF THE HAIR.
So many settlers had come to New Hampshire that, as early as 1641, the need of a government was felt, and therefore Massachusetts was asked to extend her law to this colony. It was then arranged for two deputies to represent New Hampshire life in the General Court of Massachusetts.
On a summer's day in 1649, at the boat-landing not far from the Great House, the power of this General Court was under discussion by Jonathan Low and Thomas Berry, as they threw their lines into the river and waited for the fish to bite.
"The Court can make a man do anything!" remarked Jonathan. Thomas seemed to doubt it.
"My father has told me," continued Jonathan, "that not more than four years ago Mr. Williams bought an African slave from Captain Smith. The General Court considered it wrong for a man to own a slave and made Mr. Williams give him up. Then they sent the black man home to Africa."
"Hush, here comes Mr. Williams now! Who is that with him?"
"That," replied Jonathan, "is Ambrose Gibbons. They are both magistrates."
Evidently the men were talking on the same subject that was interesting the boys, for, as Ambrose Gibbons stepped into his boat, he remarked emphatically, "The Court has the power to control this evil. Hugh Peters returned to England a few years ago and announced before Parliament that he had not seen a drunken man, nor heard a profane oath during the six years he had spent in the colonies. We can surely then control this ungodly habit that is threatening to corrupt us."
The boys were alert to find out what the evil might be.
"As magistrates," replied Williams, "we control undue pride and levity of behavior. We oblige the women to wear their sleeves to their wrists and close their gowns about their throats. Our men must now overcome this sinful habit of wearing the hair long."
Gibbons picked up his oars, remarking, "We will enforce the law after we have met the governor and deputies, as is planned." He pushed off his boat, and Williams walked thoughtfully away, while the boys agreed that the Court was a power.
For several days the matter remained in Jonathan's mind. He noticed as never before the trig little cuffs about his mother's wrists, and the narrow collar that enclosed her throat. He was so troubled by the long hair that swept his father's shoulders that, at last, one afternoon he talked the matter over with his mother as she sat by the open door. They both knew Roger Low to be a determined man and slow to accept new customs.
Little Mary was playing with her dolls under the spreading lilac bushes. She glanced at the two as they talked earnestly together and caught bits of the conversation, but continued with her play. After an early tea Jonathan and his mother wandered down by the river, while Roger Low, the father, weary with a hard day's work, settled himself in his big chair and soon dropped to sleep.
Little Mary had put her dolls to bed and, feeling much alone, snuggled close to her sleeping father. Looking at the long locks as they hung from his bent head, she recalled the afternoon's conversation.
"His hair is too long," she thought. "Jonathan says it is not right to wear long hair."
Stepping to the shelf she took down the scissors and quickly gave a delicious snip to her father's thick locks. Another snip-snap and more hair fell. The sleeping man roused a little, but finding only his little Mary playing about him, nodded off again. His head this time fell in a more favorable position for Mary to continue the clipping, which she did most thoroughly.
It was dark when her mother returned and passed her sleeping husband to put Mary to bed.
Just what happened in that home the next day I cannot tell you, but Roger Low appeared to the towns-people with closely cut hair, an astonishing example, just as the proclamation of the magistrates was announced.
It read as follows:
[A]"For as much as the wearing of long hair, after the manner of ruffians and barbarous Indians, has begun to invade New England, we, the magistrates do declare and manifest our dislike and detestation against the wearing of such long hair, as against a thing uncivil, and unmanly, whereby men do deform themselves and do corrupt good manners. We do, therefore, earnestly entreat all elders of this jurisdiction to manifest their zeal against it, that such as shall prove obstinate and will not reform themselves, may have God and man to witness against them."
[Footnote A: Adams, Annals of Portsmouth. Page 34.]
"Yes, we have given up the name of Strawberry Bank," exclaimed Richard Chadborn, as he settled back before the bright firelight on a sharp October evening in 1653. His brother Samuel had just returned from his clearing in Rhode Island, and was eager to know all that had happened in the years of absence.
"The townsmen petitioned the General Court of Massachusetts," Richard continued, "to change the name to Portsmouth, 'it being the river's mouth and good as any in the land'."
But the name of Strawberry Bank had caught the ears of Hannah and small Sam, who rushed to the spot begging for the story of the first berries picked there by these very men when they were boys.
Uncle Samuel pulled the two children to his knees, offering instead a true bear story.
"Now, all this happened," he explained, "to my Cynthia and John, your cousins, way down in Rhode Island. They had been to the edge of the clearing and had gathered a basket of fine blackberries for their mother.
"'Just what I want for a pasty,' she told them, 'and so well picked that I will make you a gingerbread man for dinner.'
"Their eyes shone like the berries, as their mother pulled the molasses pitcher from the shelf. But there was not a drop in it.
"'Our very last,' she reported, as she looked into the keg in the corner.
"The shine went out of their eyes until Cynthia suggested that she and John go to the neighbors and borrow some. Their mother hesitated, for the children had never been there alone, but those little things looked so disappointed that she let them go.
"Well, they got there all right, I suppose, and had the pitcher filled. They started home, probably talking about their gingerbread dolls, when little John called out eagerly, 'See the big dog, sister; he is coming right to us!'
"Cynthia knew that the creature was a bear. The sight of him so startled her that she jerked the pitcher and spilled a great spot of molasses on the ground.
"The bear was very near by that time and ran for the molasses.
"'Run, Johnny, run!' Cynthia cried, pulling him on. She stopped a moment later to pour out more molasses for the hungry bear, who was already chasing after them.
"'Run, Johnny, run!' she cried again, anxious not to lose a moment for those little short legs, and so the two kept on. When the last drop of molasses was poured out, and Cynthia had dropped the pitcher for the bear, little John stubbed his toe and fell just before the turn of the path to the cabin.
"Now it happened," explained Uncle Samuel, "that a few minutes before this accident word had reached me that two bears had been seen in the woods that morning, and I had rushed home to say that the children must not go out. Before I had finished speaking, their mother had grabbed the gun from the wall and had dashed down the path.
"I tore ahead with my musket. We made the turn as the bear was bounding away from the well-licked pitcher after the children.
"They had no gingerbread dolls that day, but later I brought them home a fine bearskin rug, on which they now sit for their bedtime stories."
THE WITCHES OF 1656.
Strawberry Bank had not only taken the name of Portsmouth, but other changes had also crept in. In place of logs, houses were built of bricks burned in the dooryard; or else were constructed of frames of oak, often with pitched roofs that sloped to the ground.
It was in such a house as this that Hannah Puddington lived. Old Buff, her large, yellow cat, would sometimes run to the ridgepole and from there watch for the river boats as they returned with fresh fish.
One April morning Old Buff hungrily followed little Hannah to the landing, where she went with her mother to secure a fresh supply of fish to salt and dry, as well as some to cook at once.
As they returned, Goodman Trimmings stopped them to tell of the sad condition of his wife. "She has surely been bewitched by Goody Walford, whom she met in the woods. When she first came home, she could not speak. Her breathing troubled her, but later she complained that her back was as a flame of fire and her limbs numb with cold. Goody Walford told her that she would take a long journey but would never return, and then the witch seemed to vanish in the shape of a cat. My wife has since been very ill."
Goodwife Puddington listened with alarm. "How frightful to find witchcraft on our own shores! Charlestown and Salem have been so invaded by it. There even children have been accused." Fearfully she grasped little Hannah by the hand and hurried home.
When the fish were well cooked, Mrs. Puddington laid one temptingly on a hot pewter plate and covered it.
"There, Hannah, take this to Goodwife Trimmings. It may tempt her appetite. Yes, little Jacob may go with you."
Old Buff followed the two children down the grassy path and through a short stretch of woods to the neighbor's. As they returned, Hannah saw a queer looking figure digging roots in the woods. Her waistcoat and petticoat were red; her old apron green. She wore a black hat over a white linen hood tied under her chin. It was Goody Walford. Friendly Old Bluff darted to her side, while Hannah seized Jacob's hand and ran for home. Her haste and fright moved the little fellow to howls and tears.
"Stop," commanded Hannah, "you must not cry, for then they will say that I have bewitched you, and may be they will hang me as they do the Salem witches."
He caught her meaning, though he did not fully understand, and manfully gulped back his sobs.
Another fear came. Hannah had seen the old witch stretch out her hand and stroke the soft, yellow fur of Old Buff.
"She might have bewitched him," thought the little girl, "but I'll tell no one."
At noon Hannah's father came in with more trouble to tell of Goody Walford. Her husband would not let her feed his cattle for fear she would bewitch them.
After sunset Goodwife Evans, frightened by the reports, came to the Puddington house and begged that she might stay for the night.
"I am followed by a yellowish cat wherever I go. I am sure 'tis the witch work of Goody Walford. Oh, don't open that door!" she cried. "It will come in." She dropped trembling to the settle.
Little Hannah's fright was quite as great in her secret fear that Old Buff might be the witch-cat. She gasped when she saw her father take his gun from the wall.
"We'll put an end to these witch-cats," he declared, and stalked out.
Hannah held her breath in fear. She heard no shot, however. At last her father came in and looked over his gun.
"It wouldn't work," he muttered.
"There is more witchwork going on inside this house," his wife remarked as she looked over his shoulder at the gun. "Your new stockings that I finished last week have holes in them already."
When on the following morning a large hole was found under the door that led to the shed, the family blame was directed to Old Buff. He was without doubt the yellowish cat that had followed Goodwife Evans. Hannah had not seen her dearly loved pet since she had left him in the woods the day before. She feared to have him come home, yet her heart yearned for Old Buff.
That day it was discovered that much of the homemade soap stored under the pitch of the roof had disappeared.
"Cat-witchery it surely is!" declared Mrs. Puddington.
Little Hannah, miserably unhappy, tossed in her bed that night. Perhaps she slept a little. She was, however, quick to awake upon hearing a cry at her window. Like a flash she bounded out of bed, pushed up the sash, and pulled in her own dear Buff.
"You're not bewitched, I know you're not, my dear Old Buff. You wouldn't cry in that same old way if you were! Come quick and let me hide you so you won't get shot!"
She pushed the cat under the bedclothes and in her happy relief dropped to sleep.
In the morning Old Buff, proud and dignified, sat like a king before the kitchen fire, while at his feet lay the body of the huge rat he had killed. It was the rat that had eaten the stockings, had gnawed the door, and had carried off the soap, afterward found in the walls. Old Buff was the hero of the house.
This strange experience of the Puddington household was told throughout the village. Some were satisfied that witchery was no longer to be feared, but others still held their belief. In course of time, however, the witch acts believed of Jane Walford were forgotten.
THE WOLVES OF PORTSMOUTH.
John Hinkson led his saddled horse from the stable one September morning in 1662. Things had gone hard with John, for taxes were due, and bills were demanding immediate payment. As he needed money at once, he was now starting for Exeter to borrow, if possible, from his brother Peter, until his grist-mill should bring him the fall returns.
As he mounted the horse, his wife opened the door.
"John," she asked, "if you go to Peter's home, do not fail to ask Miranda for a bottle of her pine syrup. I ought not to be without it, for already little Anthony has a heavy cold. When shall you be back?"
"I must return on Wednesday," John replied, "for there is to be a town-meeting that afternoon." Then, adjusting his gun, he called, "Good-bye," and was off.
When Wednesday came, and the townsmen had gathered at their meeting, John Hinkson was not there. Thomas Keats, whose home was on the outskirts of Portsmouth, reported that Hinkson had passed his house on the way to Exeter a day or two before, but had not yet returned. Richard Webster remarked that he had just spoken with Mrs. Hinkson at her gate. She was looking anxiously for John. Their boy was seriously ill, and she needed the medicine John would bring. She was equally worried lest in his delay night should overtake him, when there was grave danger of attack by wolves. Another townsman emphatically declared:
"It seems as if measures should be taken immediately to overcome this pest of wolves. There is no safety in the woods after dark, and even our door-yards are in danger from straggling beasts. Since Portsmouth has grown to be a town of a hundred inhabitants, though we are widely scattered, we ought to be able to make some headway against them."
The meeting was then called to order, and that very question was placed under formal discussion.
Meanwhile, John Hinkson had reached Exeter, only to find that his brother was crippled for funds and could give him no help. He obtained the syrup that his sister-in-law had made from the pine sap and, after indulging in a short visit, made an early start for home.
The roads were very rough, and the horse loosened a shoe on the way. His progress was so slow that darkness had overtaken Hinkson by the time he had reached the isolated home of Thomas Keats on the edge of Portsmouth.
The rider kept on his way, hoping that the distant cries he heard might not come nearer. He was less than half a mile from Keats' home when the howl of the wolves became more distinct. Soon he knew that a pack was on his trail. The horse seemed to sense his master's fear and dashed forward. At a bend in the path Hinkson turned and caught the gleam of the fiery eyes in full speed behind him. He fired, and the pack stopped to devour the fallen leader, while the horse plunged on. Again Hinkson's good aim brought another wolf to the ground, but a few of the pack, mad with the taste of blood, kept on in hot pursuit. Hinkson brought down a third and dodged a fourth that sprang at the horse's flanks. Again the wolf jumped and would have crippled horse and rider had not the crack of another gun sounded upon the frosty air. It belonged to Thomas Keats, then on his way home from town meeting. The wolves, frightened by the double-attack and weakened in numbers, slunk away into the woods.
"This is a lucky shot for you, Hinkson," called Keats. "The town today voted a bounty of five pounds for every head, provided the nearest neighbor would stand witness that they were shot within the town's boundaries. I'm that neighbor, and I'll stand witness for you." Then, as John Hinkson fastened his bloody trophies to the saddle, Keats added, "The heads must be nailed to the meeting-house door."
The two men parted and later Hinkson rode into his own dooryard, where he found an anxious little wife.
She begged for the pine syrup, for her little Anthony was choking with croup. One glance at the saddle told of the story yet to be heard, but not until an hour of troubled watching had passed could she listen. The little boy then rested in comfortable sleep, and John related to his wife his exciting adventure with the wolves, adding, "I have brought home four heads, which give me twenty pounds bounty. With my good eye and my steady gun, I can yet relieve the town of an even greater number, and taxes at least will be paid."
THE KING'S FORT.
Little Peter White was so filled with the pride he took in his older brother Thomas that he had no thought for himself.
Thomas was just sixteen years old, which was a very important matter that June of 1666, when King Charles the Second of England ordered the harbors of the New England colonies fortified.
Although the King's Commissioners had had some trouble with the General Court, nevertheless, the Governor and Council of Massachusetts had appointed a committee to visit the New Hampshire settlements and determine upon the most suitable place for a fort. The eastern point of Great Island, now known as New Castle, had been the spot selected. The matter of building had been left to the decision of the townsmen of Portsmouth.
Now it happened that little Peter was feeding his pet rabbits with plantain just outside the doors of the town-meeting that afternoon of June 19th. As the dignified men adjourned from the gathering, they still discussed the measures adopted for the erection of the fort. Peter's sharp ears overheard the mystic words "sixteen years." Had not his Thomas reached that wonderful age? They must be speaking of him. Peter caught every word that followed, and although the conversation was not about his Thomas, it was of utmost interest to Peter.
With a white rabbit under one arm and a brown bunny bulging from the other, Peter ran full tilt down the beaten path to his snug home on the river bank, where Thomas was weeding the garden.
"Oh, Tom," cried the little fellow excitedly, "you are to help build the King's Fort at Great Island, because you are sixteen years old." This surprising news was explained a few minutes later when the boys' father returned from the meeting.
Eager to learn what was meant, Tom rested on his rake with an inquiring look in his eyes. Mrs. White, who from within the house had caught Peter's words, had come to the rose-arbored doorway, while Peter, still hugging his rabbits, called, "Tell them, father."
"It has been voted," explained Abram White, "that every dweller in this town, above the age of sixteen years, shall promise a week's work on the new fort before next October. He must be there from seven in the morning until six at night and will be paid three shillings a day. The King has sent eleven guns, six pounders, to defend the fort."
"Just think, Tom, you're to work on the King's fort!" exclaimed little Peter, fairly bursting with brotherly pride, for a direct order from the King seemed to the little boy a great honor.
"That will mean another pound for Harvard," replied practical Tom as he bent again to the rake.
Harvard College, the only institution of learning in the country at that time, was the ambition of many a growing lad in the remote districts.
When the call actually came for Tom to work on the fort, Peter announced, "I'll do the home work while Tom's away. I'll weed the gardens and drive the cows to pasture."
"You'll be my right-hand man," declared his father with a gentle slap on the little fellow's back.
For six days Tom had taken the early start, rowing down the river to Great Island and then at a brisk pace crossing it to the ocean side, where fortifications were being erected for protection from attack by sea. On the last morning his father, whose week was just beginning, accompanied him.
Peter in consequence felt himself doubly important as the only man at home. In the forenoon as he was passing the boat-landing, he chanced to see the basket containing the dinners which had been forgotten.