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Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 59





DELAWARE WATER GAP

The Indian name of this beautiful region, Minisink, "the water is gone," agrees with the belief of geologists that a lake once existed behind the Blue Ridge, and that it burst its way through the hills at this point. Similar results were produced by a cataclysm on the Connecticut at Mount Holyoke, on the Lehigh at Mauch Chunk, and Runaway Pond, New Hampshire, got its name by a like performance. The aborigines, whatever may be said against them, enjoyed natural beauty, and their habitations were often made in this delightful region, their councils being attended by chief Tamanend, or Tammany, a Delaware, whose wisdom and virtues were such as to raise him to the place of patron saint of America. The notorious Tammany Society of New York is named for him. When this chief became old and feeble his tribe abandoned him in a hut at New Britain, Pennsylvania, and there he tried to kill himself by stabbing, but failing in that, he flung burning leaves over himself, and so perished. He was buried where he died. It was a princess of his tribe that gave the name of Lover's Leap to a cliff on Mount Tammany, by leaping from it to her death, because her love for a young European was not reciprocated.

There is a silver-mine somewhere on the opposite mountain of Minsi, the knowledge of its location having perished with the death of a recluse, who coined the metal he took from it into valuable though illegal dollars, going townward every winter to squander his earnings. During the Revolution "Oran the Hawk," a Tory and renegade, was vexatious to the people of Delaware Valley, and a detachment of colonial troops was sent in pursuit of him. They overtook him at the Gap and chased him up the slopes of Tammany, though he checked their progress by rolling stones among them. One rock struck a trooper, crushed him, and bore him down to the base of a cliff, his blood smearing it in his descent. But though he seemed to have eluded his pursuers, Oran was shot in several places during his flight, and when at last he cast himself into a thicket, to rest and get breath, it was never to rise again. His bones, cracked by bullets and gnawed by beasts, were found there when the leaves fell.





THE PHANTOM DRUMMER

Colonel Howell, of the king's troops, was a gay fellow, framed to make women false; but when he met the rosy, sweet-natured daughter of farmer Jarrett, near Valley Forge, he attempted no dalliance, for he fell too seriously in love. He might not venture into the old man's presence, for Jarrett had a son with Washington, and he hated a red-coat as he did the devil; but the young officer met the girl in secret, and they plighted troth beneath the garden trees, hidden in gray mist. As Howell bent to take his first kiss that night, a rising wind went past, bringing from afar the roll of a drum, and as they talked the drum kept drawing nearer, until it seemed at hand. The officer peered across the wall, then hurried to his mistress' side, as pale as death. The fields outside were empty of life.

Louder came the rattling drum; it seemed to enter the gate, pass but a yard away, go through the wall, and die in the distance. When it ceased, Howell started as if a spell had been lifted, laxed his grip on the maiden's hand, then drew her to his breast convulsively. Ruth's terror was more vague but no less genuine than his own, and some moments passed before she could summon voice to ask him what this visitation meant. He answered, "Something is about to change my fortunes for good or ill; probably for ill. Important events in my family for the past three generations have been heralded by that drum, and those events were disasters oftener than benefits." Few more words passed, and with another kiss the soldier scaled the wall and galloped away, the triple beat of his charger's hoofs sounding back into the maiden's ears like drum-taps. In a skirmish next day Colonel Howell was shot. He was carried to farmer Jarrett's house and left there, in spite of the old man's protest, for he was willing to give no shelter to his country's enemies. When Ruth saw her lover in this strait she was like to have fallen, but when she learned that it would take but a few days of quiet and care to restore him to health, she was ready to forgive her fellow-countrymen for inflicting an injury that might result in happiness for both of them.

It took a great deal of teasing to overcome the scruples of the farmer, but he gruffly consented to receive the young man until his hurt should heal. Ruth attended him faithfully, and the cheerful, manly nature of the officer so won the farmer's heart that he soon forgot the color of Howell's coat. Nor was he surprised when Howell told him that he loved his daughter and asked for her hand; indeed, it had been easy to guess their affection, and the old man declared that but for his allegiance to a tyrant he would gladly own him as a son-in-law. It was a long struggle between love and duty that ensued in Howell's breast, and love was victor. If he might marry Ruth he would leave the army. The old man gave prompt consent, and a secret marriage was arranged. Howell had been ordered to rejoin his regiment; he could not honorably resign on the eve of an impending battle, and, even had he done so, a long delay must have preceded his release. He would marry the girl, go to the country, live there quietly until the British evacuated Philadelphia, when he would return and cast his lot with the Jarrett household.


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