Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete
Page: 252The men of Sharon, Connecticut, having wheedled their town-site from the Indians in 1754, were plagued thereafter by whoops and whistlings and the throwing of stones. Men were seen in the starlight and were fired upon, but without effect, and the disturbances were not ended until the Indians had received a sum of money.
Without presuming to doubt the veracity of tradition in these matters, an incident from the writer's boyhood in New England may be instanced. The house of an unpopular gentleman was assailed—not in the ostentatious manner just described, yet in a way that gave him a good deal of trouble. Dead cats appeared mysteriously in his neighborhood; weird noises arose under his windows; he tried to pick up letters from his doorstep that became mere chalk-marks at his touch, so that he took up only splinters under his nails. One night, as a seance was about beginning in his yard, he emerged from a clump of bushes, flew in the direction of the disturbance, laid violent hands on the writer's collar, and bumped his nose on a paving-stone. Then the manifestations were discontinued, for several nights, for repairs.
Like the Greeks, the red men endowed the woods and waters with tutelary sprites, and many of the springs that are now resorted to as fountains of healing were known long before the settlement of Europeans here, the gains from drinking of them being ascribed to the beneficence of spirit guardians. The earliest comers to these shores—or, rather, the earliest of those who entertained such beliefs—fancied that the fabled fountain of eternal youth would be found among the other blessings of the land. To the Spaniards Florida was a land of promise and mystery. Somewhere in its interior was fabled to stand a golden city ruled by a king whose robes sparkled with precious dust, and this city was named for the adventurer—El Dorado, or the Place of the Gilded One. Here, they said, would be found the elixir of life. The beautiful Silver Spring, near the head of the Ocklawaha, with its sandy bottom plainly visible at the depth of eighty feet, was thought to be the source of the life-giving waters, but, though Ponce de Leon heard of this, he never succeeded in fighting his way to it through the jungle.
In Georgia, in the reputed land of Chicora, were a sacred stream that made all young again who bathed there, and a spring so delectable that a band of red men, chancing on it in a journey, could not leave it, and are there forever.
In the island of "Bimini," one of the Lucayos (Bahamas), was another such a fountain.
Between the Flint and Ocmulgee Rivers the Creeks declared was a spring of life, on an island in a marsh, defended from approach by almost impenetrable labyrinths,—a heaven where the women were fairer than any other on earth.
The romantic and superstitious Spaniards believed these legends, and spent years and treasure in searching for these springs. And, surely, if the new and striking scenes of this Western world caused Columbus to "boast that he had found the seat of paradise, it will not appear strange that Ponce de Leon should dream of discovering the fountain of youth."