Page images

from this afternoon. They say he's got a number of excellent farms in Monson, and I'll warrant he's got some deeds of sônre more of 'em with him, now, that he's going to carry to Norridgewock tonight, to put on record.'

I bade the landlord good evening, and proceeded on my journey. What I had seen and heard of Colonel Kingston, had made an unwonted impression on my mind; and as Monson lay in my route, and I was expecting to stop there a few days, my curiosity was naturally a little excited, to learn something more of his history. The next day I reached Monson ; and as I rode over its many hills, and along its fine ridges of arable land, I was struck with the number of fine farms which I passed, and the evidences of thrift and good husbandry that surrounded me. As this town was at that time almost on the extreme verge of the settlements in that part of the state, I was surprised to find it so well settled, and under such good cultivation. My surprise was increased, on arriving at the centre of the town, to find a fourishing and bright-looking village, with two or three stores, a variety of mechanics' shops, a school-house, and a neat little church, painted white, with green blinds, and surmounted by a bell. A little to the westward of the village, was one of those clear and beautiful ponds, that greet the eye of the traveller in almost every hour's ride in that section of the country; and on its outlet, which ran through the village, stood a mill, and some small manufacturing establishments, that served to fill up the picture.

*Happy town!' thought I, “that has such a delightful village for its centre of attraction, and happy village that is supported by surrounding farmers of such thrift and industry as those of Monson !' All this, too, I had found within a dozen or fifteen miles of Moosehead Lake, the noblest and most extensive sheet of water in New-England, which I had hitherto considered so far embosomed in the deep, trackless forest, as to be almost unapproachable, save by the wild Indian or the daring hunter. A new light seemed to burst upon me; and it was a pleasant thought that led me to look forward but a few years, when the rugged and wild shores of the great Moosehead should resound with the hum and the song of the husbandman, and on every side rich farms and lively villages should be reflected on its bosom.

I had been quietly seated in the village inn but-a short time, in a room that served both for bar and sitting-room, when a small man, with a flapped hat, an old brown 'wrapper,' a leather strap buckl round his waist, and holding a goad-stick in his hand, entered the room, and took a seat on a bench in the corner. His bright, restless eye glanced round the room, and then seemed to be bent thoughtfully toward the fire, while in the arch expression of his countenance, I thought I beheld the prelude to some important piece of intelligence, that was struggling for utterance. At last, said he, addressing the landlord, 'I guess the colonel ain't about home to-day, is he?

• No,' replied Boniface, he's been gone since yesterday morning; he said he was going up into your neighborhood Hav n't you seen any thing of him?

Yes,' said the little man wito the goad-stick; 'I see him yesterday afternoon, about two o'clock, starting off like a streak, to go to Norridgewock,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]

Gone to Norridgewock !' said the landlord ; . what for? He did n't say nothing about going, when he went away.'

· More deeds, I guess,' said the little teamster. He's worried Deacon Stone out of his farm, at last.'

• He has n't got Deacon Stone's farm, has he ?' exclaimed the landlord.

· Deacon Stone's farm !' reiterated an elderly, sober-looking man, drawing a long pipe from his mouth, which he had until now been quietly smoking in the opposite corner.

• Deacon Stone's farm ! uttered the landlady, with upraised hands, as she entered the room just in season to hear the announcement.

Deacon Stone's farm!' exclaimed three or four others, in different parts of the room, all turning an eager look toward the little man with the goad-stick. As soon as there was a sufficient pause in these exclamations, to allow the teamster to put in another word, he repeated :

· Yes, he 's worried the deacon out, at last, and got hold of his farm, as slick as a whistle. He's been kind o' edging round the

. deacon, this three weeks, a little to a time; jest enough to find out how to get the right side of him; for the deacon was a good deal offish, and yesterday morning the colonel was up there by the time the deacon had done breakfast; and he got them into the deacon's fore room, and shet the door; and there they staid till dinner was ready, and had waited for them an hour, before they would come out. And when they did come out, the job was all done; the deed was signed, sealed, and delivered. I'd been in there about eleven o'clock, and the deacon's wife and the gals were in terrible fidgets for fear of what was going on in t’ other room. They started to go in, two or three times, but the door was fastened, so they had to keep out. After dinner, I went over again, and got there just before they were out of the fore room. The deacon asked the colonel to stop to din

guess the colonel see so many sour looks about the house, that he was afraid of a storm a-brewing ; so he only ketched up a piece of bread-and-cheese, and said he must be a-goin'. He jumped into his wagon, and give his mare a cut, and was out of sight in two minutes.'

• How did poor Mrs. Stone feel ?? asked the landlady; •I should thought she would ’a died.'

She looked as if she'd turn milk sour quicker than a thundershower,' said the teamster; and Jane went into the bed-room, and cried as if her heart would break. I believe they did ’nt any

of 'em make out to eat any dinner, and I thought the deacon felt about as bad as any of 'em, after all; for I never see him look so kind o' riled, in my life. Now, Mrs. Stone,' said he to his wife, you think I 've done wrong, but after talking along with Colonel Kingston, I made up my mind it would be for the best. She did n't make him any answer, but begun to cry, and went out of the room. The deacon looked as if he would sink into the 'arth. He stood a minute or two, as if he was n't looking at nothing, and then he took down his pipe off the mantel, and set down in the corner, and went to smoking as hard as he could smoke.

After a while, he turned round to me, and says he, · Neighbor, I do n't know but I 've done wrong. Well,” says I, in my opinion,

ner, but I



[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

that depends upon what sort of a bargain you've made. If you 've got a good bargain out of the colonel, I do n't see why his money is n't worth as much as any body's, or why another farm as good as your 'n is n't worth as much.' Yes,' said the deacon, so it seems to me. I've got a good bargain, I know ; it's more than the farm is worth. I never considered it worth more than two thousand dollars, stock, and hay, and all; and he takes the whole, jest as 't is, and gives me three thousand dollars. "Is it pay down ? says I. *Yes,' says he, ‘it 's all pay down. He gives me three hundred dollars in cash; I've got it in my pocket; and then he gives me an order on Saunders' store for two hundred dollars ; that 's as good as money, you know; for we are always wanting one thing or another out of his store. Then he gives me a deed of five hundred acres of land, in the upper part of Vermont, at five dollars an acre.

That makes up three thousand dollars. But that is n't all; he says this land is richly worth seven dollars an acre ; well timbered, and a good chance to get the timber down; and he showed me certificates of several respectable men, that had been all over it, and they said it was well worth seven dollars. That gives me two dollars clear profit on an acre, which on five hundred acres, makes a thousand dollars. So that instead of three thousand dollars, I s'pose I've really got four thousand for the farm. But then it seems to work up the feelings of the women folks so, to think of leaving it, after we've got it so well under

way, that I do n't know but I've done wrong.' And his feelings come over him so, that he begun to smoke away again, as hard as he could draw. I did n't know what to say to him, for I did n't believe he would ever get five hundred dollars for his whole five hundred acres of land, so I got up and went home.'

As my little goad-stick teamster made a pause here, the elderly man in the opposite corner, who had sat all this time knocking his pipe-bowl on the thumb-nail of his left hand, took up the thread of the discourse.

I'm afraid,' says he, looking up at the landlord, “I'm afraid Deacon Stone has got tricked out of his farm for a mere song. That Colonel Kingston, in my opinion, is a dangerous man, and ought to be looked after.'

Well, I declare !' said the landlord, 'I'd no idee he would get hold of Deacon Stone's farm. That 's one of the best farms in town.'

“Yes,' replied the man with the pipe, and that makes seven of the 'best farms in town' that he's got hold of already; and what 'll be the end of it, I do n't know; but I think something ought to be done about it.'

• Well, there,' said the landlady, 'I do pity Mrs. Stone, from the bottom of my heart; she 'll never get over it, the longest day she lives.'

Here the little man with the goad-stick, looking at the window, saw his team starting off up the road, and he flew out of the door, screaming Hush ! whoa ! hush !' and that was the last I saw of him. But my curiosity was now too much excited, with regard to Colonel Kingston's mysterious operations, and my sympathies for good Deacon Stone, and his fellow-sufferers, were too thoroughly awakened, to allow me to rest without farther inquiries.



[ocr errors]


During the few days that I remained in the neighborhood, I learned that he came from Vermont; that he had visited Monson several times, within a year or two, and had made it his home there for the last few months. During that time, he had exercised an influence over some of the honest and sober-minded farmers of Monson, that was perfectly unaccountable. He was supposed to be a man of wealth, for he never seemed to lack money for any operation he chose to undertake. He had a bold, dashing air, and rather fascinating manners, and his power over those with whom he conversed, had become 80 conspicuous, that it was regarded as an inevitable consequence in Monson, if a farmer chanced to get shut up in a room with Colonel Kingston, he was 'a gone goose,' and sure to come out well stripped of his feathers. He had actually got possession of seven or eight of the best farms in the town, for about one quarter part of their real value.

It may be thought unaccountable, that thriving, sensible farmers could in so many instances be duped ; but there were some extraneous circumstances, that helped to produce the result. The wild spirit of speculation, which had raged throughout the country for two or three years, had pervaded almost every mind, and rendered it restless, and desirous of change. And then the seasons, for a few years past, had been cold and unfavorable. The farmer had sowed and had not reaped, and he was discouraged. If he could sell, he would go to a warmer climate. These influences, added to his own powers of adroitness and skill in making the worse appear the better reason,' had enabled Colonel Kingston to inveigle the farmers of Monson out of their hard-earned property, and turn them, houseless and poor, upon the world.

The public mind had bcome much excited on the subject, and the case of Deacon Stone added fresh fuel to the fire. It was in this state of affairs, that I left Monson, and heard no more of Colonel Kingston, until the following summer, when another journey called me into that neighborhood, and I learned the sequel to his fortunes. The colonel made but few more conquests, after his victory over Deacon Stone; and the experience of a cold and cheerless winter, which soon overtook them, brought the deluded farmers to their

The trifling sums of money which they had received in hand, were soon exhausted in providing necessary supplies for their families; and the property which they had obtained, as principal payment for their farms, turned out to be of little value, or was so situated, that they could turn it to no profitable account. Day after day, through the winter, the excitement increased, and spread, and waxed more intense, as the unfortunate condition of the sufferers became more generally known. 'Colonel Kingston' was the great and absorbing topic of discussion, at the stores, at the tavern, at evening parties, and sleigh-rides, and even during intermission at church, on the Sabbath.

The indignation of the people had reached that pitch which usually leads to acts of violence. Colonel Kingston was now regarded as a monster, preying upon the peace and happiness of society, and various were the expedients proposed, to rid the town of him. The schoolboys, in the several districts, discussed the matter, and resolved to


form a grand company, to snow-ball him out of town, and only waited a nod of approbation from some of their parents or teachers, to carry their resolutions into effect. Some reckless young men were for seizing him, and giving him a public horse-whipping, in front of the tavern, at mid-day, and in presence of the whole village. Others, equally violent, but less daring, proposed catching him out, some dark evening, giving him a good coat of tar-and-feathers, and riding him out of town on a rail. But the older, more experienced, and sober-minded men, shook their heads at these rash projects, and said: • It is a bad plan for people to take the law into their own hands; as long as we live under good laws, it is best to be governed by them. Such kind of squabbles as you young folks want to get into, most always turn out bad, in the end.'

So reasoned the old folks ; but they were nevertheless as eager and as determined to get rid of Colonel Kingston, as were the young ones, though more cautious and circumspect as to the means. At last, after many consultations, and much perplexity, Deacon Stone declared one day, with much earnestness, to his neighbors and townsmen, who were assembled at the village, that' for his part, he believed it was best to appeal at once to the laws of the land; and if they would n't give protection to the citizen, he did n't know what would. For himself, he verily beliered Colonel Kingston might be charged with swindling, and if a complaint was to be made to the grand jury, he did n't believe but they would have him indicted and tried in court, and give back the people their farms again. The deacon spoke feelingly on the subject, and his words found a ready response in the hearts of all present. It was at once agreed to present Colonel Kingston to the grand jury, when the court should next be in session at Norridgewock. Accordingly, when the next court was held, Monson was duly represented before the grand inquest for the county of Somerset, and such an array of facts and evidence was exhibited, that the jury, without hesitation, found a bill against the colonel for swindling, and a warrant was immediately issued for his apprehension.

This crisis had been some months maturing, and the warm summer had now commenced. The forest trees were in leaf; and though the ground was yet wet and muddy, the days began to be hot and uncomfortable. It was a warm moonlight evening, when the officer arrived at Monson, with the warrant. He had taken two assistants with him, mounted on fleet horses, and about a dozen stout young men of the village were in his train as volunteers. They approached the tavern where Colonel Kingston boarded, and just as they were turning from the road up to the house, the form of a tall, slim person was seen in the bright moonlight, gliding from the back-door, and crossing the garden.

* There he goes !' exclaimed a dozen Monson voices at once; that's he!- there he goes !

And sure enough, it was he! Whether he had been notified of his danger, by some traitor, or had seen from the window the approach of the party, and suspected mischief was at hand, was never known. But the moment he heard these exclamations, he sprang from the ground, as if a bullet had pierced his heart. He darted

« PreviousContinue »