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Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 52

At her eager signal he ran forward with a light ladder, planted it against the window-sill, and in less than a minute the twain were running toward the beach; but the creak of the ladder had been heard, and grasping their muskets two of the men hurried out. In the track of the moon the pursuers descried a moving form, and, without waiting to challenge, they levelled the guns and fired. A woman's cry followed the report; then a dip of oars was heard that fast grew fainter until it faded from hearing. On returning to the house they found the girl's room empty, and next morning her slipper was brought in from the mud at the landing. Nobody inside of the American lines ever learned what that shot had done, but if it failed to take a life it robbed Cortelyou of his mind. He spent the rest of his days in a single room, chained to a staple in the floor, tramping around and around, muttering and gesturing, and sometimes startling the passer-by as he showed his white face and ragged beard at the window.





VAN WEMPEL'S GOOSE

Allow us to introduce Nicholas Van Wempel, of Flatbush: fat, phlegmatic, rich, and henpecked. He would like to be drunk because he is henpecked, but the wife holds the purse-strings and only doles out money to him when she wants groceries or he needs clothes. It was New Year's eve, the eve of 1739, when Vrouw Van Wempel gave to her lord ten English shillings and bade him hasten to Dr. Beck's for the fat goose that had been bespoken. "And mind you do not stop at the tavern," she screamed after him in her shrillest tone. But poor Nicholas! As he went waddling down the road, snapping through an ice-crust at every step, a roguish wind—or perhaps it was one of the bugaboos that were known to haunt the shores of Gravesend Bay—snatched off his hat and rolled it into the very doorway of the tavern that he had been warned, under terrible penalties, to avoid.

As he bent to pick it up the door fell ajar, and a pungency of schnapps and tobacco went into his nostrils. His resolution, if he had one, vanished. He ordered one glass of schnapps; friends came in and treated him to another; he was bound to do as much for them; shilling by shilling the goose money passed into the till of the landlord. Nicholas was heard to make a muttered assertion that it was his own money anyhow, and that while he lived he would be the head of his own house; then the mutterings grew faint and merged into snores. When he awoke it was at the low sound of voices in the next room, and drowsily turning his head he saw there two strangers,—sailors, he thought, from their leather jackets, black beards, and the rings in their ears. What was that they said? Gold? On the marshes? At the old Flatlands tide-mill? The talkers had gone before his slow and foggy brain could grasp it all, but when the idea had fairly eaten its way into his intellect, he arose with the nearest approach to alacrity that he had exhibited in years, and left the place. He crunched back to his home, and seeing nobody astir went softly into his shed, where he secured a shovel and lantern, and thence continued with all consistent speed to the tumbledown tide-mill on the marsh,—a trying journey for his fat legs on a sharp night, but hope and schnapps impelled him.


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