|Publisher:||Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)|
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By Van Reid
Copyright © 2002 Van Reid.
All rights reserved.
How Ezekiel Peter Black Came to Sheepscott Great
Pond and How His Young Daughter Was Courted
IN THE FOURTH YEAR OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, A MAN NAMED Ezekiel Peter Black came to the settlement of Sheepscott Great Pond, in the District of Maine, with his daughter Rosemund. There was a great deal of speculation regarding Black and his daughter, these stories being fed by the appearance of the man himself, who was taller than other men and powerfully built; he was swarthy skinned and his beard and his long hair, worn in a queue, were blue-black. It was rumored that his father was Black Peter himself, the African slave who rose up against his tormentors and became a pirate, and that this Ezekiel Black had himself harried the southern coasts and got his daughter by the kidnapped wife of a plantation owner in South Carolina.
Rosemund was twelve years of age when she was brought to Sheepscott Great Pond, and people thereabouts had never seen beauty like hers. Her hair was not as black as her father's, but it was long and thick, and her eyes were almost black and her lips (even when she was a child) were full and red. She considered her neighbors with a certain unmasked sense of superiority, and even her father, who himself walked like a king among other men, treated her always as his equal.
Adding to the speculation about Black's past was the amount of coin in hand he carried to Sheepscott Great Pond, and his neighbors were greatly encouraged to accept him on his own silent terms when he purchased their labor in the clearing of his acres and the raising of his home. Two young men in particular were furthered in their own substance by the wages they earned in working for Ezekiel Black. Silas Loon and Obed Winslow were fast friends who all but lived on the Black homestead while it was yarded, raised, and planted.
Silas and Obed were not the only young men to pine after Rosemund as she thrived from child to girl, but they were of an age with one another and only a year or two older than Rosemund herself, and from the moment they both saw her, which was the same moment, they could see the blossom inside the bud. They ingratiated themselves with her father with honesty and hard work, and Rosemund would sometimes allow them to speak to her at the end of the day.
Homesteading in the Maine wilderness was a hard bargain, however you looked at it. The ground was stony, the summers were humid and filled with storm, the winters were deep with snow, and perhaps worst of all were the black flies in spring, and the mosquitoes in warmer monthshorrible swarms, huge and hungry that made work bitter and defense useless. But as a rule, those who came stayed, and the children of those who stayed cut new farms and new settlements out of the deeper precincts of the forest.
When Silas and Obed were seventeen and Rosemund was fifteen, the two young men struck out on their ownone to the north and one to the westand began to clear the land they would lay claim to. This was in a season when the agents of Henry Knox and the other proprietors were increasing their presence in the wilderness and demanding payment for land that the backcountry folk had settled. Undeterred by the presence of land agents and surveyors, the young men went to Ezekiel Black and spoke to him, taking turns.
"We both flatter ourselves in thinking we have your regard, Mr. Black," they said to Ezekiel Black.
The father said directly, "Honest labor, even when recompensed, merits regard."
Then the young men said, "And we further flatter ourselves, that your daughter thinks none too poorly of us."
Mr. Black might have expected this, for his expression never altered. His arms were crossed before him. "l believe she finds your company tolerable," he replied.
"We both of us love your daughter, Mr. Black," they told him.
He said nothing.
"We are friends to the end of our days, and will not fall out, even for love," they continued. "So it is that we come to you, each begging your Rosemund's hand, and if you discover virtue in us and if you choose one of us for your daughter's husband, the other will quietly abide."
"I will not drive you away," said Mr. Black, "but I would not presume to choose a husband for Rosemund. She is too young besides, but when she is of age I will not refuse her if she chooses one of you. Go back and work your own land. Her love may not take the form of the biggest house or the most acres, but it would not hurt your suit, either of you, to have them when the time comes."
With that, they parted amicably and no more was said on the subject between them for some months.
In the late summer of the following year, Ezekiel Peter Black was countenanced with less agreeable company in the form of a surveyor working for Henry Knox. Surveyors were not well-liked in those parts; they were considered heralds to the official claims of the proprietors, and since one could not claim what one hadn't measured, they were more than usually driven off. Black discovered this surveyor at the eastern extremity of his own claim. The border between Sheepscott Great Pond and Davistown was in some dispute and the man was laying lines in preparation of an agreement between the two representative patents.
Black was mounted on a big black horse and must have made an impression upon the surveyor. "If you're dividing my land from that of Henry Knox," said Black, "or any other man, you have your stakes too far west."
"I'm dividing what belongs to Henry Knox from the Plymouth Patent," said the man.
"Your stakes need be further east," said Black, "and what lies west of them from here to that hill yonder is mine." He pointed over a recent deadfall at a green ridge.
"The Patent will soon take it up with you, once matters with England are solved," said the surveyor, and he did his best to appear careless by returning to his work.
Black replied "And if Henry Knox claims an inch that I consider mine, I will take it up with him, and the Patent soon after. So if you would save your master large grief for little gain, you'll move those stakes."
"Are you threatening me?" said the surveyor, bristling suddenly with all the office he imagined he possessed.
"I wouldn't threaten you, but I might climb down from this horse and pound you if I didn't want you to go back and tell Henry Knox and whoever else you serve that any claim to my land will rally my presence at their door."
"I shouldn't worry they'd be frightened."
"I shouldn't worry I'd give them a moment to think on it."
The surveyor was aghast that bald threats could be levied against men such as Henry Knox and the Great Proprietors. "While you're safe in your little house in the woods, men like Henry Knox are fighting the British for your rights!" he declared.
"Men fight the same battle for separate reasons," said Black, "and I am sure that Henry Knox has had little thought for me in his war. If he is willing to fight the British for this land, I am willing to fight him for it."
The conversation did not go on much longer, but the end of it was that the surveyor was allowed to gather his gear and leave in peace, if not peace of mind. Black did not dignify the man's work by pulling his stakes. "Any thief can drive a stick in the ground," he would say.
There was a story people told, years later, that Ezekiel Peter Black paid a visit to Henry Knox, though the truth was that the Plymouth Patent claimed the land Black had settled. The story told better with Knox in it, howeverthe hero of Dorchester Heights and Washington's Secretary of State.
Knox came into his own parlor one day, it was said, (there in his mansion in Thomaston), and Black was waiting for him, unbidden. Knox's favorite dog was lying at Black's feet like a best friend, and Black offered Knox the view of a pistol, muzzle first, as evidence of his claim. "I just wanted you to know," Black was to have said, "that you will have less warning of my presence in your home, than I will of your presence within ten miles of mine." Then Black got up and left, and by the time Knox had shaken himself from his apoplectic state, the settler had made good his escape. Knox, people said, had shot the dog.
But Ezekiel Peter Black was dead before he might have performed such a feat, despite what people said. Several days after his encounter with the surveyor, he collapsed in his own rough parlor and Rosemund was only barely able to drag him into bed. He shivered, as from ague, and sucked in his breath like a drowning man. Rosemund took horse to the nearest neighbor and soon the Black's homestead was scene to a deathwatch.
Silas Loon and Obed Winslow came, of course, and got nearly the last mortal words from Ezekiel Black. "You will marry my daughter, and be honorable," he said, but there was no clue in his words or his gestures, which one of them he thought he was speaking to. Try as they might, they could not bring the man's mind back to the question of his daughter's hand. Rosemund was called in, and she was left alone with her father, and soon he was dead.
Some said the surveyor had poisoned Black somehow, and there were tales that the conversation between the two had been a deal more friendly and that the surveyor had offered a jar of rum, from which he himself did not drink. But Rosemund had heard the true story of the encounter from her father's lips and she said it wasn't so.
Silas and Obed fretted what to do, and days later, they went to the farm nearest the Black homestead, where Rosemund was staying for a while, and told her that her father wanted her to marry one of them. "We give you to choose," they told her, "assuring you that you will do nothing to our friendship, however you decide."
Rosemund was overwhelmed, and could say nothing, and her courting fell out in this way: Silas and Obed gave thought to what chore they were pretty equal at, and took themselves out to the woods and felled a straight pine. Then, with a belt, they measured the trunk in two places, and at two points where the tree equaled itself in girth they commenced to drive their axes. Obed, it happened, fell upon a knot, where an old broken branch had healed over years before, but Silas's portion was clean as threshed hay. So Silas won and, half in delight and half in sorrow, he took Rosemund to wife when she was yet sixteen years of age, and Obed, who found circumstance harder to bear than he could have imagined, said goodbye to Silas with a shake of the hand and a tear in his eye, and left Sheepscott Great Pond.
In later days, many in the settlement were sure that, had Rosemund found courage to speak, she would have married Obed. It may be that some decisions in life should not be left to chance, or a strong arm.
Of Rosemund Loon's Strangeness, and Silas Loon's
in Search of an Uncle "By Marriage"
ROSEMUND WAS ONLY JUST SEVENTEEN WHEN HER AND SILAS'S FIRST child was born. It was a difficult confinement, and the neighbor-wives attending thought she might die. One of them wetnursed the child, who was named Peter, while Rosemund hovered in and out of the grave for three days. She did recover, but seemed more puzzled than pleased with the baby.
Silas Loon, despite pride in his own claim of land, had never been able to ask his wife to leave the Black homestead, and so had sold his own place for livestock and feed and commenced married life on his wife's property. Despite his presence, and his improvements, Silas's new home was always known as the Black place. Obed Winslow's cleared land and cabin were squatted by a new family soon after Obed left Sheepscott Great Pond.
It seemed as if Obed had never left, his continued presence at the Black homestead was so real to Silas. It might have been as real to Rosemund, but she never spoke of it; she never spoke Obed's name once he was gone, and rarely spoke Silas's name as long as they were married.
Excerpted from PETER LOON by Van Reid. Copyright © 2002 by Van Reid. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Table of ContentsChapter 1. How Ezekiel Peter Black Came to Sheepscott Great Pond and How His Young Daughter Was Courted.
Chapter 2. Of Rosemund Loon's Strangeness, and Silas Loon's Death, and How Their Son Peter Was Sent in Search of an Uncle "By Marriage".
Chapter 3. Of Peter Loon's First Night in the Forest.
Chapter 4. How Peter Loon Conjured Himself from a Felled Buck, and How He Met Two Woodsmen and a Parson.
Chapter 5. How Peter Fell in with Parson Leach.
Chapter 6. Of the March to Plymouth Gore, and of the Place They Went Instead.
Chapter 7. How Peter Loon and Parson Leach Were Received at the Ale Wife's Tavern, Who They Met, and What They Learned There.
Chapter 8. Concerning a Conversation on the Beach, and the Consequences of Mr. Tillage's Peep of Heaven.
Chapter 9. Concerning Antinomianism and Other Matters.
Chapter 10. Of the Road to New Milford, Unexpected Meetings, and How a Peaceful Man Might Be Driven to Anger.
Chapter 11. Concerning a Change in Plans, a Parting of the Ways, as Well as an Introduction to the Busy Abode of Captain Clayden as Governed by Mrs. Magnanimous.
Chapter 12. Concerning an Interview with Captain Clayden.
Chapter 13. How Peter Spent His First Night on Clayden Point, and How He Was Perceived by Young Women There.
Chapter 14. Of What It Meant to Pique-Nique and the Inevitability of Certain Failures.
Chapter 15. Concerning New Visitors to Captain Clayden and Their Opinions.
Chapter 16. Of the Road to New Milford, and What They Discovered at Great Meadow Copse.
Chapter 17. Concerning the Encounter at Benjamin Brook.
Chapter 18. How Opinion Differed over the Course of a Few Hours and a Few Miles, and What Was Said at the Sign of the Star and Sturgeon.
Chapter 19. Concerning Matters with Elspeth Gray and Gray Farm.
Chapter 20. How the Parson Was Accused byand Peter Attached toNathan Barrow.
Chapter 21. Concerning the Disposition of Two Hundred.
Chapter 22. Concerning the March to Wicasset.
Chapter 23. How Peter Came to His Third Tavern, and How He Put the Night's Adventures into Motion.
Chapter 24. How Peter Loon Came to the Jail at Wicasset and What Happened There.
Chapter 25. How Peter Loon Returned to New Milford and How He Left There Again.
Chapter 26. How Peter Journeyed Home and What He Found There.
Chapter 27. Concerning Peter Loon's Decisions and also What Was Decided for Him.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Van Reid is one of the few author whose hardcover books I collect. Although this stand-alone isn't as good as his Moosepath League books, it is still a very good book.
In 1801 in the District of Maine of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, recently widowed Rosemund Loon sends her teenage son Peter to find an uncle he has never met. Peter has never left his home in Sheepscott Great Pond so with trepidation and anticipation, the teenage begins a trek to locate Obed Winslow, not realizing that the target of his quest is not blood, but the suitor his mother did not marry. The journey proves dangerous and distracting as seventeen year old Peter meets various people. He encounters females that divert his attention from his goal and learns that though the American Revolution ended two decades ago, many of the farmers wonder why they revolted as the wealth remains with the privileged few in Boston and New York. Peter is discovering a vast world made up of different people in his quest through New England. No one does the late eighteenth country early nineteenth century like Van Reid does. His latest tale, PETER LOON, brings to life a side of America rarely found in the textbooks as the author vividly describes people not harmoniously monolithic in support of the Founding Fathers. The story line is loaded with vivid descriptions and plenty of action with Peter obviously the focus, but also contains too many subplots as if Mr. Reid wanted to get as many of his thoughts into the novel as he could. Still, Mr. Reid¿s coming of age Americana historical tale remains top notch and worth reading just as the author¿s Moosepath Adventures prove he is the fictional chronicler of the early years of the United States. Harriet Klausner