Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 129


For years after Bellamy's pirate ship was wrecked at Wellfleet, by false pilotage on the part of one of his captives, a strange-looking man used to travel up and down the cape, who was believed to be one of the few survivors of that night of storm, and of the hanging that others underwent after getting ashore. The pirates had money when the ship struck; it was found in the pockets of a hundred drowned who were cast on the beach, as well as among the sands of the cape, for coin was gathered there long after. They supposed the stranger had his share, or more, and that he secreted a quantity of specie near his cabin. After his death gold was found under his clothing in a girdle. He was often received at the houses of the fishermen, both because the people were hospitable and because they feared harm if they refused to feed or shelter him; but if his company grew wearisome he was exorcised by reading aloud a portion of the Bible. When he heard the holy words he invariably departed.

And it was said that fiends came to him at night, for in his room, whether he appeared to sleep or wake, there were groans and blasphemy, uncanny words and sounds that stirred the hair of listeners on their scalps. The unhappy creature cried to be delivered from his tormenters and begged to be spared from seeing a rehearsal of the murders he had committed. For some time he was missed from his haunts, and it was thought that he had secured a ship and set to sea again; but a traveller on the sands, while passing his cabin in the small hours, had heard a more than usual commotion, and could distinguish the voice of the wild man raised in frantic appeal to somebody, or something; still, knowing that it was his habit to cry out so, and having misgivings about approaching the house, the traveller only hurried past. A few neighbors went to the lonely cabin and looked through the windows, which, as well as the doors, were locked on the inside. The wild man lay still and white on the floor, with the furniture upset and pieces of gold clutched in his fingers and scattered about him. There were marks of claws about his neck.


Among the venerable relics of Newbury few are better known and more prized than the old elm. It is a stout tree, with a girth of twenty-four and a half feet, and is said to have been standing since 1713. In that year it was planted by Richard Jacques, then a youthful rustic, who had a sweetheart, as all rustics have, and adored her as rustics and other men should do. On one of his visits he stayed uncommonly late. It was nearly ten o'clock when he set off for home. The town had been abed an hour or more; the night was murky and oppressively still, and corpse-candles were dancing in the graveyard. Witch times had not been so far agone that he felt comfortable, and, lest some sprite, bogie, troll, or goblin should waylay him, he tore an elm branch from a tree that grew before his sweetheart's house, and flourished it as he walked. He reached home without experiencing any of the troubles that a superstitious fancy had conjured. As he was about to cast the branch away a comforting vision of his loved one came into his mind, and he determined to plant the branch at his own door, that in the hours of their separation he might be reminded of her who dwelt beneath the parent tree. He did so. It rooted and grew, and when the youth and maid had long been married, their children and grandchildren sported beneath its branches.


The peace of Newbury is deemed to be permanently secured by the prophecy of Samuel Sewall, the young man who married the buxom daughter of Mint-Master John Hull, and received, as wedding portion, her weight in fresh-coined pine-tree shillings. He afterward became notorious as one of the witchcraft judges. The prophecy has not been countervailed, nor is it likely to be, whether the conditions are kept or not. It runs in this wise:

"As long as Plum island shall faithfully keep the commanded Post, Notwithstanding the hectoring words and hard blows of the proud and boisterous ocean; As long as any Salmon or Sturgeon shall swim in the streams of Merrimack, or any Perch or Pickeril in Crane Pond; As long as the Sea Fowl shall know the time of their coming, and not neglect seasonably to visit the places of their acquaintance; As long as any Cattel shall be fed with Grass growing in the meadows which doe humbly bow themselves before Turkie Hill; As long as any Sheep shall walk upon Old town Hills, and shall from thence look pleasantly down upon the River Parker and the fruitful Marishes lying beneath; As long as any free and harmless Doves shall find a White Oak or other Tree within the township to perch or feed, or build a careless Nest upon, and shall voluntarily present themselves to perform the office of Gleaners after Barley Harvest; As long as Nature shall not grow old and dote, but shall constantly remember to give the rows of Indian Corn their education by Pairs; So long shall Christians be born there and being first made meet, shall from thence be translated to be made partakers of the Saints of Light."


During the latter part of the seventeenth century a Spanish ship, richly laden, was beset off Marblehead by English pirates, who killed every person on board, at the time of the capture, except a beautiful English lady, a passenger on the ship, who was brought ashore at night and brutally murdered at a ledge of rocks near Oakum Bay. As the fishermen who lived near were absent in their boats, the women and children, who were startled from their sleep by her piercing shrieks, dared not attempt a rescue. Taking her a little way from shore in their boat, the pirates flung her into the sea, and as she came to the surface and clutched the gunwale they hewed at her hands with cutlasses. She was heard to cry, "Lord, save me! Mercy! O, Lord Jesus, save me!" Next day the people found her mangled body on the rocks, and, with bitter imprecations at the worse than beasts that had done this wrong, they prepared it for burial. It was interred where it was found, but, although it was committed to the earth with Christian forms, for one hundred and fifty years the victim's cries and appeals were repeated, on each anniversary of the crime, with such distinctness as to affright all who heard them—and most of the citizens of Marblehead claimed to be of that number.


When, in 1742,