Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete
Page: 146At Chapman Falls, where the attrition of a stream had worn pot-holes in the rocks, there were meetings of Haddam witches, to the number of a dozen. They brewed poisons in those holes, cast spells, and talked in harsh tongues with the arch fiend, who sat on the brink of the ravine with his tail laid against his shoulder, like a sceptre, and a red glow emanating from his body.
In Devils' Hop Yard was a massive oak that never bears leaves or acorns, for it has been enchanted since the time that one of the witches, in the form of a crow, perched on the topmost branch, looked to the four points of the compass, and flew away. That night the leaves fell off, the twigs shrivelled, sap ceased to run, and moss began to beard its skeleton limbs.
The appearance of witches in the guise of birds was no unusual thing, indeed, and a farmer named Blakesley shot one of them in that form. He was hunting in a meadow when a rush of wings was heard and he saw pass overhead a bird with long neck, blue feathers, and feet like scrawny hands. It uttered a cry so weird, so shrill, so like mocking laughter that it made him shudder. This bird alighted on a dead tree and he shot at it. With another laughing yell it circled around his head. Three times he fired with the same result. Then he resolved to see if it were uncanny, for nothing evil can withstand silver—except Congress. Having no bullets of that metal he cut two silver buttons from his shirt and rammed them home with a piece of cloth and a prayer. This time the bird screamed in terror, and tried, but vainly, to rise from the limb. He fired. The creature dropped, with a button in its body, and fell on its right side. At that moment an old woman living in a cabin five miles distant arose from her spinning-wheel, gasped, and fell on her right side-dead.
BLOCK ISLAND AND THE PALATINE
Block Island, or Manisees, is an uplift of clayey moorland between Montauk and Gay Head. It was for sailors an evil place and "bad medicine" for Indians, for men who had been wrecked there had been likewise robbed and ill treated—though the honest islanders of to-day deny it—while the Indians had been driven from their birthright after hundreds of their number had fallen in its defence. In the winter of 1750-51 the ship Palatine set forth over the seas with thrifty Dutch merchants and emigrants, bound for Philadelphia, with all their goods. A gale delayed them and kept them beating to and fro on the icy seas, unable to reach land. The captain died—it was thought that he was murdered—and the sailors, a brutal set even for those days, threw off all discipline, seized the stores and arms, and starved the passengers into giving up their money.