There were hurry and disorder in the public
square of Catesby, confusion and terror in its dwellings. The
morning meal was either unprepared, in the confusion of the hour,
or if spread, was untasted by those who had mingled with the multitude
around the court house. Women with disheveled hair and garments
all disarranged, men half clad, barefoot and laden heavily with
the weight of children, children snatched from their little beds
and screaming at the top of their voices at the unaccustomed bustle
such were the objects that filled the western roads to Catesby
and spread consternation, right and left, as they came.
Every few minutes some horseman would dash furiously by, scattering the mud in the faces of pedestrians, and almost breaking his heart with shouts of Indians, Indians, as he came to the suburbs of the town. The great bell in the Presbyterian Church was rolling and plunging, and rocking about in a most unheard of manner, confounding all its voices into one stunning din of alarm. The old Sexton, Waifer, whose soul had been buried for many long years in the concavity of that bell, and whose boast it was that it made no signals without a rational explanation (he was tyler of the masons' lodge in Catesby, which fully accounts for his stubbornness in this particular) had just been carried home a cripple for life, from a fall got by holding on spasmodically to the big rope, as the heavy bell made a sudden gyration. Evidences of terror and the effects of fright, in many instances ludicrous enough, were visible all around. The bank clerk, Mr. Shaw, had left his desk with untold bills lying within the vault, and the vault unlocked. The county recorder, Esq. Williams, whose book cases contained the land titles of the whole county, and whose boast it was that he lived, ate, slept and would die in the apartment which contained them, ran thoughtlessly out, the room all unfastened and the records exposed. Boyett, whose livery stable was the pride of the place, permitted his horses to gnaw the manger, unprecedented neglect, and to whinney unnoticed for better food, while he the negligent, stood with open mouth drinking in the frightful news as water. And truly the news were frightful, sufficiently so to justify any amount of consternation.
For the Indians, who were in pay of those liberal employers, the British, had made a sudden foray across the river the night before, and not only captured much valuable property and destroyed much more, but left fearful evidences of their blood thirst in the show of eleven corpses, parents, grand parents, and seven children of the Colter family, all slain and scalped by their infernal hands. And all this had happened since the going down of yesterday's sun, and within five miles of the town of Catesby! Various reports, some of them highly exaggerated and absurd, were brought in by the country people. Those who lived farthest from the scene of action, and consequently knew the least of the matter, made up in ingenuity what they wanted in fact. The most reliable information was from old widow Bruson, (commonly called styled Granny Grunt) who, living near neighbor to the Colters, was the first to discover the savages, and to look at this display of their ferocity. She described it as a piteous spectacle. "The allduman (old woman) had never crawled out of her bed for seven long year with the roomatty (rheumatism,)" she said, "and the tarnal fants (phantoms) had skulped her as she lay, arter they'd knocked the leetle sense the poor creetur had all outener (out of her). Miss (Mrs.) Coulter had fout the devils like a she painter (panther) twell (until) all the meat was hacked offen her arms. The broom she'd cotched up was whopped in two with their cussed tomahawks. The old man lay outen (outside) the door with his head clean off. They'd called him outen his bed, seems like, and when he poked his head out to see who was there, they tuck it smack off at the neck. But the most dismallest thing ever you seen, since the Lord made you, was the childer, (children). Seven sweet, precious." Here the old lady's withered cheeks were bathed in a torrent of tears, answered by hundreds of those who stood around. "Seven sweet, precious babies, who'd come to my cabin only yesterday, to bring poor old granny a gourd of milk all of'em dead in a row close by the fire place scalped? little Mary's arms round her twin brother's neck." Such a tale as this, told in the public square of Catesby to five hundred people, was no everyday affair. But now a more cheerful cry was heard, "Major Hiodges is coming," and upon the back of it, the noise of bugle and drum and the clattering of a troop of horse gave stirring token that something beyond groans and tears might be anticipated.
The doughty Major had received intelligence of the massacre a little after sunrise, and so quick were his movements that within two hours, he had collected about thirty of his neighbors, mounted them, called out the drummer and bugler of his regiment and was here at Catesby, equipped and provisioned for marching against the savages. A tremendous shout from the crowd acknowledged his alacrity, and his zeal that morning was remembered afterwards at the polls when the Major changed the color of his feather and donned a general's uniform. In war time, and especially upon the frontiers, no man waits for orders or a commission. A very short period sufficed for the Major to open a rendezvous for volunteers and to arrange a plan by which four scouting parties of twenty-five men each should follow up the Indian trail.
The Major himself headed one of the parties and the number of his mess was soon filled up. Archimedes Dobrot the town tailor, a famous Indian fighter who had been at the River Raisin, and nearly lost his scalp with the rest, headed the second; and he too was fortunate enough to fill the ranks without difficulty. The third and fourth companies were not so successful, although an abundance of patriotic speeches were made, enough one would have thought to put the war spirit into a snail. Kruptos, the attorney, a splendid speaker, a ten hour man, mounted the stump in person and was fast inclining public opinion towards the volunteering point, when his eloquence was suddenly checked by the proposition of an impertinent fellow in the crowd, an enemy of his, who offered to go as volunteer and take his three sons with him, if he, Kruptos, would go too. This disgusting proposal was unworthy of reply, and Kruptos retired amidst the jeers, it must be confessed, of the whole square. The first and second parties got off shortly after noon. The third contrived to fill its ranks by help of certain spirituous stimuli well known to all recruiting sergeants, and that also dashed off in the direction of the river anxious to compensate for the delay. The fourth company had scarcely a half a dozen members by sundown, and so much coolness in volunteering was evident, that there was even a talk of desisting from farther trial. But this was not so to be. The cowardly determination was changed by the timely arrival of Robert Carnarson who had heard, late in the day, of the danger, and hastened to town on the wings of the intelligence.
This young gentleman was familiar with everybody in Catesby, as appeared by his shaking hands with one half the crowd, and calling the others by name. He was a stout, well built individual, of some five and twenty years of age, possessing a bland look and one of those fortunate voices, that, without being absolutely musical, pleases every ear, and makes its possessor popular, if only for his tongue's sake. He was well bred, and moved amongst the crowd as first among his equals, using such language as betokened a polished education, although not untinctured with the localisms of the borders. His dress like his manners was gentlemanly but not finical; the material being costly, while the make was countryfied and plain. He was furnished with an elegant sword, holster pistols, and gun, and rode the best horse so said Boyett, and he ought to know for he had owned him three times the best horse in the country, by twenty dollars. That he had come fully bent upon volunteering, could be known by his preparations, and the first words he uttered, "Keep a vacancy for me, Captain Webster, for I am going with you, if you will take me." Accompanying him were two others, Mr. Socrates Ely and Tim, whose surname no mortal being knew. The former had graduated in the same college class with Robert Carnarson, and being disposed to literary pursuits had gone west and offered his services in various quarters as a school teacher. Strange to say, he had failed in every application, and always on account of the same cause, his hand writing. It must be confessed that his pen marks were mysterious ones, and might, some of them, have puzzled Champollion himself, had it been in his day, to solve them. But it certainly argued a poor appreciation of literary valor, on the part of school trustees, to reject a polished scholar, (a curiously wrought stone) and an estimable gentleman, merely on the account of his penmanship. But so they did, and Socrates Ely, A. M., after spending all his loose change in a vain search for employment, gladly accepted Robert's invitation to come and live with him, and there he had remained ever since, studying Euclid by day, and Homer by night, and laying a thousand plans for immortality.
Mr. Ely had volunteered merely to accompany his college chum, and knowing so little of sword and gun, he might as well have brought a deacon's rod from the Lodge room, as the old Queen's arm musket that he had balanced painfully upon his shoulder, to the great detriment of his overcoat. Tim, the nameless, was a block altogether of a different pattern, being to trades and callings what Socrates Ely, A. M., was to science a universal adept. It was said, that he became a Freemason to find out something about Hiram, the widow's son, who, the Bible informs us, was a goldsmith, silversmith, iron founder, brass founder, stone mason, carpenter, spinner, weaver, dyer, tailor, and last of all, engraver.
Tim was born with a jack knife in his hand, He had served apprentice to nine trades (three months to each), and in every instance, excelled his master in practical skill before his time was out. He had made a fiddle at twelve years old; a copper bugle at fifteen: a wagon, out and out, wood and iron, at twenty; taken out eleven patents; dug wells; built chimneys; erected houses; soldered tin ware; shod horses; mended clocks; painted signs, and baked confectionery. He had shaped a perfect model of King Solomon's temple, according to the best authorities and presented it to De Witt Clinton, who pronounced it the most ingenious work of art he had ever seen.
Tim had enlisted in the present call for volunteers merely because he had never helped to kill a man, and he felt that his education would not be completed until he did. The accession of these three, and the spirit stirring oration made by Mr. Carnarson, from the court house steps, soon revived the spirit of patriotism, and filled up the quarter hundred by dusk. As it had become so late in the day, it was agreed upon, by all hands, that the company should now separate, to meet again promptly at sunrise, armed and equipped for marching: and so the multitude broke up, exhausted by the day's excitement Let us follow Robert Carnarson, whom we have installed as the hero of our tale.
After a supper hastily eaten at the public inn, he might have been seen immediately afterward, wending his way to the well known residence of Mr. Baldridge, father of Miss Josephine Baldridge, whose hand Robert had bespoken for the dance of life some months before. This announcement will convince our readers, at the very outset, that we have no love tale for their amusement; the love scenes, the tender question, the blushing reply, the extatic thanks, the sighs, the smiles, and the grips all these time honored landmarks in love's Freemasonry, had been carefully preserved, and the parties had made suitable proficiency in this first degree of the mysteries preparatory to that of the second, or the marrying degree. Among that cool and deliberate portion of our population that live nearest the North pole, it is maintained, that at least six months ought to elapse between these two degrees; nature herself has pointed out the interval to the third.
The love affair, then, between Robert and Josephine, will not detain us long in the recital. The former, after a rapid walk to Mr. Baldridge's dwelling, if the reader ever visits Catesby, he will recognize it by the green posts in the portico rapped at the door with love's own signal, the latter kindly acting as his conductor, answered it, and admitted him; a certain ceremony of reception was gone through with, only understood by the initiated, and they never, never reveal it, and then the applicant was led to the very sanctum of the dwelling the parlor and into the presence of the family.
When Mr. Carnarson stated the object of
his visit to Catesby, there was, at first, a profound silence.
Josephine turned pale, and looked as though she would like to
dissuade her lover from his warlike purpose. If this were her
intention, however, it was forestalled by an encouraging remark
from her father, who congratulated Robert on his intention. "It
was the duty of every young man," he said, "to come
forward at such a crisis as this. Had his knee suffered him to
mount a horse, the cowardly youngsters who filled the square today,
might have clung to their mothers' petticoats, and he would have
volunteered himself. He would have been half way to the river
with that brave Major Hodges. The trashy boys, the chuckle headed
babies" and here a sudden cough intervened to close the sentence.
Much judicious advice was then added, as to the best course for
a scouting party to pursue; for the old gentleman had been a volunteer
under Mad Anthony Wayne, and he knew all about it: and then the
family retired, leaving Josephine and her lover to the uninterrupted
use of the parlor.
A lover's lodge, in the first degree, was opened forthwith. But it is improper to make a written record of the proceedings. It is enough for the reader to know that these two lovers had been well instructed to keep the work of each degree to itself, and they governed themselves accordingly. Being about to part, the young lady, with many a sigh, and tear, presented a token to her lover, and bade him wear it for her sake. She said: "It was the property of poor Aleck (her deceased brother), and was taken from his body after that horrid accident. I know that you were members of the same Lodge, and I feel that this circumstance will impart to it a double value in your eyes. You are going upon a dangerous service, dear Robert, and must take good care of yourself on my account." Remember, you are not your own, for I have accepted you a poor bargain, I am sure "the young lady was making a hysteric attempt at wit" a poor bargain and but never mind my nonsense, dear Robert, only take good care of yourself, for you are all" here the prepositions and conjunctions were strangely neglected. "I shall expect to see you back in a week or two; and whenever you look at poor Aleck's breastpin, think of think of no matter for the rest." The breastpin was simply a golden square and compass, manufactured by that Tubal Cain of a fellow, Tim, who had made it for Alexander Baldridge, while the latter was Worshipful Master of the Catesby Lodge.
To his hotel, Robert now returned, to find Mr. Socrates Ely still sitting up, poring over his Homer, although the hour was the very earliest in the morning, and Tim, who had just finished a handsome lion headed riding whip, expressly for the campaign. Promptly at sunrise, the cavalcade assembled and set forth. The day's hard riding took them more than forty miles from Catesby, and to the camp of Major Hodges' party, who had preceded them on the march the day before. Here they learned that the Indians, under a noted chief, had crossed the river in much greater force than had been at first supposed, and had done immense mischief in various settlements on the route. Many parties of the whites had been formed to reconnoiter, and, if prudent, to attack them; and nearly half the regiment of the Blues was out endeavoring to intercept them in their return route. The news were stirring, indeed; and the Catesby companies joined camps together that night, fully anticipating, before another, to meet the savages in battle. It is a thrilling scene one of these military encampments. The large fires, whose scarlet hue contrasts forcibly with the thick shade of the forest, rendering it even more profoundly black in the comparison, presents one of the most brilliant displays of coloring imaginable. The cheerful jest, unrestrained by the presence of stranger, or woman; the broad opening of heart to heart, by the social influences of the occasion; the symbolic groupings of stars over head; the mysterious voices of the night around; nothing in life's memory dwells longer on the mind of a child than an encampment scene; nothing is so pleasantly recalled to memory, by the retired soldier, as his bivouac in the forest, when comrades were cheerful, and good cheer abundant.
The mess which Robert Carnarson had formed for his own special accommodation, consisted of Tim, the artificer, Ely, his old college comrade, and the two brothers, Ellison, his neighbors, sons of a widow woman widowed by the pestilence of intemperance. These five had built a fire at a little distance from the rest, or rather, Tim had built it, while the others looked on his handy way with stares of admiration; had cooked a bountiful supper, or rather, Tim had cooked it, while they assisted him with epithets commendatory; and they were now cosily sitting upon some seats that ingenious Tim had fabricated out of the limbs of the oaks that were melting into ashes before them. The conversation started with a jocular remark from one of the Ellisons, who had observed the square and compass on Robert's bosom. He thought that Bob was determinated that folks should know he was a Mason anyhow, for he carried his jewel on his breast. "And where else would you have a jewel worn?" responded the indefatigable Tim, who was fitting a spare spring into the lock of Ely's musket that essential portion of the mechanism having been abstracted from it years before. "Where else but on his breast should a Freemason wear his jewels? Next to the heart is the place, and if I ain't mistaken, that's the very jewel that Aleck Baldridge had in his shirt bosom at the time the coach load of passengers was drowned in Secon's river. I ought to know that jewel, seeing as how I made it; and if you'll press the lower part of the square hard, you'll learn something about it, Bob, that Josephine herself didn't know of when she gave it to you." His directions were followed by Robert, the others crowding around to see the result; and, to the astonishment of everybody, the square flew apart, and was transformed into a perfect double triangle, on one side of which was engraved, in microscopic characters, the name, age, and Masonic standing of the owner, and this passage of Scripture from 2 Chronicles II, 14: "To find out every device which shall be put to him." On the other side, a number of Masonic symbols, exquisitely executed; the most prominent of which, was the Mark Master's mark of the fabricator. "Yes," pursued Tim, when the murmurs of surprise were hushed, "I made that breast pin and intended it for Dewitt Clinton, but when Aleck waited on me day and night, time I broke my arm, I gave it to him and fixed one up afterwards for Clinton of another pattern. Aleck never knew of that secret spring at all, for I meant to have my own fun out of him some day about it. But poor fellow, he was hurried away to his last account without a moment's warning.
We discovered the bodies of the seven passengers in a drift below the ford, more than two weeks after the accident. You couldn't have told your father from your mother, the bodies were so decayed. But I pointed out Aleck's from the rest, for on his breast was this jewel, and I knew it to be the jewel which I had given him as a token of gratitude." "Tell us, Bob," inquired one of the Ellisons," what's the rule for trying men who want to be Masons? Father used to say before he took to drink, that the Masons rejected him because he was one legged." "Ha, ha, ha," roared Tim," a one legged man a Mason! why how on earth could he ha, ha, ha, how could such a man that's too good a joke! ha, ha, ha! I think I see him" "Every person desiring admission," said Ely, quoting from memory out of the ancient constitution of Masonry, "every person desiring admission must be upright in body, not deformed or dismembered at the time of making, but of hale and entire limbs, as a man ought to be." "If you really wish to know our rule," replied Robert, "our published books give it clearly enough. The ancient writer, who spoke of a sound mind in a sound body, gave our Masonic model with great exactness. Many a fine house has a despicable tenant, while many a noble soul dwells in a hovel. Now, while Masonry is too much of the building art to endure the shabby cabin for a dwelling, she is quite too nice to accept the finest temple unless the god therein dwells." "Fact," pursued Tim, speaking with his mouth full of gun screws, fact, I knowed a man once down on the Olean who was said to have been rejected nine times because he had such a bit of a temper.
The Masons didn't believe they could control him and yet he was the richest man in the place. I'm told he swore he'd get up a political party some day a purpose to break down Masonry and have his revenge; but he can no more injure it than this rotten old lock can injure my new spring." At the word snap went the steel, affording a most unfortunate point to his illustration and occupying all his attention for the remainder of the sitting to remedy it.' In another hour all was still in the soldiers' camp.
The sentinels walked drowsily to and fro in the paths or paused to lean against some favoring tree, and snatched a hasty doze. The sky began to change. Mutterings of distant thunder might have been heard in the region of the south. The wind arose. The voices of the night were all absorbed in the roarings of the blast that portended a storm. The sentinels, widely wakened by the disagreeable prospect, roused up the whole This anecdote and Tim's prophetic omen will recall to the mind of the informed reader the circumstances that led to the anti-Masonic warfare of 1826 33. Many a threat of extermination preceded the baleful attack. He ordered the camp to prepare for it.
There were no tents, it being a cavalry
scout, and the only thing that could be done was to stake down
the blankets in the best position to afford a shelter, heap heavy
wood on the fires, and await the result. But this preparation
was in vain. The gusts increased in violence, tearing away the
frail shelters and bearing them far above the tree tops, and scattering
the fire brands as chaff. Then the heavy fall of decaying trunks
shook the ground, and the volunteers felt that a hurricane was
approaching them dry shod. All around was as the darkness of the
land of Egypt, a thick darkness that might be felt. The pitying
stars had withdrawn their rays, unwilling to look down upon such
a scene of devastation. The weaker branches from the forest trees
fell thickly on every side, threatening both limb and life. A
minute longer and the tempest broke in its fury.
Fortunately for the safety of the encampment, the center of the gale passed a few hundred yards below them, but the elemental force on the edge of the current was a fearful index to the whole. Those who had not taken the precaution to shelter themselves behind the larger trees were dashed violently to the ground and grievously stunned. The horses suffered severely from the fall of boughs, and several were so mangled that their owners in mercy dispatched them. Major Hodges had a leg broken, others were hurt but in a lesser degree. The duration of a hurricane on land is rarely long. In another hour the frightened party had collected again to compare their losses and as far as possible repair damages. Tim, who amidst his other amusements had practiced surgery, proceeded briskly to set the broken bones, and then manufactured for himself a blanket cap in place of a hat blown clear away. Fires were rekindled, wet garments dried, and by daylight the encampment was again lost in sleep.
Back to Lights and shadows of Freemasonry Previous Next