Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete
THE LAMB OF SACRIFICE
The Revolution was beginning, homes were empty, farms were deserted, industries were checked, and the levies of a foreign army had consumed the stores of the people. A messenger rode into the Connecticut Valley with tidings of the distress that was in the coast towns, and begged the farmer folk to spare some of their cattle and the millers some of their flour for the relief of Boston. On reaching Windham he was received with good will by Parson White, who summoned his flock by peal of bell, and from the steps of his church urged the needs of his brethren with such eloquence that by nightfall the messenger had in his charge a flock of sheep, a herd of cattle, and a load of grain, with which he was to set off in the morning. The parson's daughter, a shy maid of nine or ten, went to her father, with her pet lamb, and said to him, "I must give this, too, for there are little children who are crying for bread and meat."
"No, no," answered the pastor, patting her head and smiling upon her. "They do not ask help from babes. Run to bed and you shall play with your lamb to-morrow."
But in the red of the morning, as he drove his herd through the village street, the messenger turned at the hail of a childish voice, and looking over a stone wall he saw the little one with her snow-white lamb beside her.
"Wait," she cried, "for my lamb must go to the hungry children of Boston. It is so small, please to carry it for some of the way, and let it have fresh grass and water. It is all I have."
So saying, she kissed the innocent face of her pet, gave it into the arms of the young man, and ran away, her cheeks shining with tears. Folding the little creature to his breast, the messenger looked admiringly after the girl: he felt a glow of pride and hope for the country whose very children responded to the call of patriotism. "Now, God help me, I will carry this lamb to the city as a sacrifice." So saying, he set his face to the east and vigorously strode forward.
The village of Moodus, Connecticut, was troubled with noises. There is no question as to that. In fact, Machimoodus, the Indian name of the spot, means Place of Noises. As early as 1700, and for thirty years after, there were crackings and rumblings that were variously compared to fusillades, to thunder, to roaring in the air, to the breaking of rocks, to reports of cannon. A man who was on Mount Tom while the noises were violent describes the sound as that of rocks falling into immense caverns beneath his feet and striking against cliffs as they fell. Houses shook and people feared.
Rev. Mr. Hosmer, in a letter written to a friend in Boston in 1729, says that before white settlers appeared there was a large Indian population, that powwows were frequent, and that the natives "drove a prodigious trade at worshipping the devil." He adds:—"An old Indian was asked what was the reason of the noises in this place, to which he replied that the Indian's god was angry because Englishman's god was come here. Now, whether there be anything diabolical in these things I know not, but this I know, that God Almighty is to be seen and trembled at in what has been often heard among us. Whether it be fire or air distressed in the subterranean caverns of the earth cannot be known for there is no eruption, no explosion perceptible but by sounds and tremors which are sometimes very fearful and dreadful."
It was finally understood that Haddam witches, who practised black magic, met the Moodus witches, who used white magic, in a cave beneath Mount Tom, and fought them in the light of a great carbuncle that was fastened to the roof. The noises recurred in 1888, when houses rattled in witch-haunted Salem, eight miles away, and the bell on the village church "sung like a tuning-fork." The noises have occurred simultaneously with earthquakes in other parts of the country, and afterward rocks have been found moved from their bases and cracks have been discovered in the earth. One sapient editor said that the pearls in the mussels in Salmon and Connecticut Rivers caused the disturbance.
If the witch-fights were continued too long the king of Machimoddi, who sat on a throne of solid sapphire in the cave whence the noises came, raised his wand: then the light of the carbuncle went out, peals of thunder rolled through the rocky chambers, and the witches rushed into the air. Dr. Steele, a learned and aged man from England, built a crazy-looking house in a lonely spot on Mount Tom, and was soon as much a mystery as the noises, for it was known that he had come to this country to stop them by magic and to seize the great carbuncle in the cave—if he could find it. Every window, crack, and keyhole was closed, and nobody was admitted while he stayed there, but the clang of hammers was heard in his house all night, sparks shot from his chimney, and strange odors were diffused. When all was ready for his adventure he set forth, his path marked by a faint light that moved before him and stopped at the closed entrance to the cavern.