Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 98

Stones were thrown, barns were beaten with clubs, the marching of unseen hosts was heard after dark, the mockers grew so bold that they ventured close to the redoubtable Babson, gazed scornfully down the barrel of his gun, and laid a charm on the weapon, so that, no matter how often he snapped it at them, it flashed in the pan. Neighboring garrisons were summoned, but all battling with goblins was fruitless. One night a dark and hostile throng emerged from the wood and moved toward the blockhouse, where twenty musketeers were keeping guard. "If you be ghosts or devils I will foil you," cried the captain, and tearing a silver button from his doublet he rammed it into his gun and fired on the advancing host. Even as the smoke of his musket was blown on the wind, so did the beleaguering army vanish, the silver bullet proving that they were not of human kind. The night was wearing on when a cry went out that the devils were coming again. Arms were laid aside this time, and the watchers sank to their knees in prayer. Directly that the name of God was uttered the marching ceased and heaven rang with the howls of the angry fiends. Never again were leaguers seen in Gloucester.


Satan appears to have troubled the early settlers in America almost as grievously as he did the German students. He came in many shapes to many people, and sometimes he met his match. Did he not try to stop old Peter Stuyvesant from rowing through Hell Gate one moonlight night, and did not that tough old soldier put something at his shoulder that Satan thought must be his wooden leg? But it wasn't a leg: it was a gun, loaded with a silver bullet that had been charged home with prayer. Peter fired and the missile whistled off to Ward's Island, where three boys found it afterward and swapped it for double handfuls of doughnuts and bulls' eyes. Incidentally it passed between the devil's ribs and the fiend exploded with a yell and a smell, the latter of sulphur, to Peter's blended satisfaction and alarm. And did not the same spirit of evil plague the old women of Massachusetts Bay and craze the French and Spaniards in the South? At Hog Rock, west of Milford, Connecticut, he broke up a pleasant diversion:

     "Once four young men upon ye rock
     Sate down at chuffle board to play
     When ye Deuill appearde in shape of a hogg
     And frightend ym so they scampered away
     And left Old Nick to finish ye play."

One of the first buildings to be put up in Ipswich, Massachusetts, was a church built on a ledge above the river, and in that church Satan tried to conceal himself for purposes of mischief. For this act he was hurled from the steeple-top by some unseen instrument of righteousness with such force that his hoofmark was stamped into a solid stone near by. This did not deter him from mounting to the ridge-pole and assuming a defiant air, with folded arms, when Whitefield began to preach, but when that clergyman's tremendous voice was loosed below him he bounced into the air in terror and disappeared.