Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete
Page: 250Michael Pauw, brave fisherman of Paterson, New Jersey, hero of the fight with the biggest snapping-turtle in Dover Slank, wearer of a scar on his seat of honor as memento of the conflict, member of the Kersey Reds—he whose presence of mind was shown in holding out a chip of St. Nicholas's staff when he met the nine witches of the rocks capering in the mists of Passaic Falls—gave battle from a boat to a monster that had ascended to the cataract. One of the Kersey Reds, leaning out too far, fell astride of the horny beast, and was carried at express speed, roaring with fright, until unhorsed by a projecting rock, up which he scrambled to safety. Falling to work with bayonets and staves, the company despatched the creature and dragged it to shore. One Dutchman—who was quite a traveller, having been as far from home as Albany—said that the thing was what the Van Rensselaers cut up for beef, and that he believed they called it a sturgeon.
There is an odd recurrence among American legends of tales relating to assaults of people or their houses by imps of darkness. The shadowy leaguers of Gloucester, Massachusetts, kept the garrison of that place in a state of fright until they were expelled from the neighborhood by a silver bullet and a chaplain's prayers. Witchcraft was sometimes manifested in Salem by the hurling of missiles from unseen hands. The "stone-throwing devil" of Portsmouth is the subject of a tradition more than two centuries of age, but, as the stone-thrower appears rather as an avenger than as a gratuitously malignant spirit, he is ill treated in having the name of devil applied to him. In this New Hampshire port lived a widow who had a cabin and a bit of land of her own. George Walton, a neighbor, wanted her land, for its situation pleased him, and as the old woman had neither money nor influential friends he charged her with witchcraft, and, whether by legal chicanery or mere force is not recorded, he got his hands upon her property.
The charge of witchcraft was not pressed, because the man had obtained what he wanted, but the poor, houseless creature laid a ban on the place and told the thief that he would never have pleasure nor profit out of it. Walton laughed at her, bade her go her way, and moved his family into the widow's house. It was Sunday night, and the family had gone to bed, when at ten o'clock there came a fierce shock of stones against the roof and doors. All were awake in a moment. A first thought was that Indians were making an assault, but when the occupants peered cautiously into the moonlight the fields were seen to be deserted. Yet, even as they looked, a gate was lifted from its hinges and thrown through the air.
Walton ventured out, but a volley of stones, seemingly from a hundred hands, was delivered at his head, and he ran back to shelter. Doors and windows were barred and shuttered, but it made no difference. Stones, too hot to hold a hand upon, were hurled through glass and down the chimney, objects in the rooms themselves were picked up and flung at Walton, candles were blown out, a hand without a body tapped at the window, locks and bars and keys were bent as if by hammer-blows, a cheese-press was smashed against the wall and the cheese spoiled, hay-stacks in the field were broken up and the hay tossed into branches of trees. For a long time Walton could not go out at night without being assailed with stones. Bell, book, candle, and witch-broth availed nothing, and it was many a day before peace came to the Walton household.