This is a story of fiction based on many local myths and legends in my area. The time frame, towns, roads, rivers and likewise the relationship to the names and actions of the old Bergen County names used in this story are purely factitious. I am, through my mother’s side of the family, related to most of the Colonial families of Bergen Count, so indeed do them no discredit. This is a story.
– Bradley Shane
Rain dripped from the front peak of his tri corner hat, the shawl like collar of his great coat was turned up yet still rivulets of water ran down his neck and his queued dark hair hung heavy from the base of his skull. His horse was wet and no doubt tired so he did not hurry the beast along but let it walk at its own pace.
He dug his fingers into the thick wool of the great coat to grab the leather strap of the mailbag that hung over his shoulder and under the coat that for a long time now was digging into his neck. As he did this he reached with his left hand beneath the coat and lifted the leather mailbag he was trying his best to keep try and to relive some of the pressure on his neck.
Looking for the New Jersey Devil – Photo by Wireguy
He knew it was going to rain. In Elizabethtown he was told that it was going to rain and to spend the night there, that the mail could wait another day. But his choice was to ride on. He had friends just before the Delaware and was sure he would make it there to spend the night before crossing at Coryell’s Ferry and into Pennsylvania. Once ferried across he’d travel on to Philadelphia where he would deliver the mail, spend a day or two resting and then with new letters return to Elizabethtown and then to New York.
He knew the York Road well, and knew too that the small town of Larison’s Corner was not far. If he chose not to push on in the storm to his friend’s home he would stay in Larison’s Corner. Here he knew of an inn where he could find hot food, dark ale and a warm enough bed with a corn shuck mattress and maybe a feathered pillow. Another mile or two and he would be there he thought.
It was a dreary night for the last day of October. The day had started out that way too; a gray sky with strong winds that had the remaining leaves being torn from their branches. As for the nights rain it was a rain that seemed more as a prank at times, as if someone was tossing a bucket of water at you. The rain switched at the whim of the wind, one time it was a driving rain on your back at another it was buffering you from one side and then the other. The lighting split the sky and the thunder rumbled like a new wooden cogwheel in an old mill that had to learn to settle in. He wished now he did spend another night in Old Elizabethtown.
It wasn’t long until he could see a glimmer of gold light a head of him. It was blocked from his sight at times by the trees or a turn of the road but he knew Eerie Tom’s Inn was just up ahead and it made him feel warm just knowing that.
Eerie Tom’s Inn was run by Tom Eerie but everyone who had ever known Tom called him Eerie Tom; the name fit him too. Tom was a little man almost goblin like who always walked with a limp. He had a tuff of gray hair that ran above each ear and a brow that was deeply lined. He was thin boned with curving shoulders that added to his over all smallness but his hands were large and strong.
Lighting flashed again and silhouetting the man at the doorway of the inn. He turned to close the door but the wind the very storm he sought shelter from seemed to fight with him to hold the door open a little longer. He shook his hands dry then took the tri corner hat from his head, water poured from its up turned brim upon the wood floor of the inn. He shook the hat then hung it upon one of the wooden pegs that ran along the wall beside the door. He then removed his soaked great coat and added it to the dozen or so coat, capes and blankets that also hung on the pegs.
For a minute or two the inn was silent as all eyes watched the actions of the tall man, but then the hum of voices and the occasional laughter returned.
“William? William Reyerson is that you?” called out a voice over the inns chatter.
William Reyerson turned upon hearing his name. John Van Riper razed a hand from a small table across the dimly lit inn to catch Williams’s attention. William gave John Van Riper a wave back and headed a cross the inn to where John sat. He carried the mailbag with him setting it on the floor beside the small round table that was just large enough for drink a plate or two and a slender candle. Eerie Tom knew everyone by name that had ever stopped at his inn and he knew the mail rider William well. With his shuffling limp Tom approached the table were the two men sat and said.
“Where is you horse Will, out front?”
William nodded yes.
“I’ll have the boy tend it.”
Eerier Tom snapped his thick fingers and a young lad who sat crossed legged at the fire jumped up and came over to Tom.
“There is a horse out front, tend to it quickly now. Put it in the barn with some good hay.” The lad didn’t speak just nodded. At the door he stopped and put a dirty looking blanket about his shoulders a blanket that lay like a heap on the floor besides the inn door; he put it on and went out into the night and rain. Eerie Tom poured dark ale into a thick pewter mug for William and as he set it upon the table he said,
“He’s’ a good boy, even though he doesn’t speak.”
“Kin of the Jersey Devil.” said Van Riper cutting another slice of meat from his plate. Eerie Tom waved a hand at John’s words and walked back to the hearth where he swung a large kettle forwards. Grabbing his cloth apron with his hand he used it as a potholder and took the heavy lid off the stout round kettle. With his other hand he picked up a long wooden spoon stirred the kettle and tasted what was probably stew cooking.
“I know that story,” said William. “Never thought all of it true.”
“It’s true! I knew the mother well, well enough,” said John. “Old woman Depister it was. She use to cures that child.” John pointed with his knife to the boy who was tending Williams’s horse as if he was still standing there at the table. “From morning tonight always calling him the devil because he wouldn’t work much, rather spend the day fishing.”
“So did we all as a kid,” said William. “So would I today,” he added.
“True enough,” said John taking a sip of his ale and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “But Depister didn’t see it that way. She expected her son to fill her husband shoes you remember Richard don’t you? Richard Depister?” John Van Riper interrupted his own story. Will nodded saying, “A big man wasn’t he?”
“That was him,” said John. “Never thought anything would kill a big man like that but he took ill working in the rain, winter came on and next thing he was dead. That spring that other was born.” John didn’t even refer to the other child born to Hester Depister as even being human just as “that other.”
“You could hear the screams of the midwife. The other women who came to help said it was just as bad. They sent for Reverend Bogart but he didn’t come quick enough never saw that thing for himself. But from what I heard when it was birthed it was red some say blue but I was told by a woman who was there it was red.
“First she thought it was just a dead child as happens but she said the little thing razed its head and bare teeth like you never saw and made a hiss like a snake. Next it opened wings on its back stood on the mattress and then flew out the door as the midwife ran out. Everyone said it came from a life time of calling her own son the devil.”
John when he was finished speaking took another drink of his ale setting the mug down hard on the dark table.
William had heard most of the stories; it was said after that that Hester was never the same. Gave her son to Eerie Tom and took off to live in the swamps by herself.
The boy, who also was named Richard never, spoke a word again. The Reverend Bogart prayed over the boy but he just never spoke another word. Even a surgeon from Hackensack looked the boy over but saw nothing wrong. Some took it as a sign of end times that if the boy did speak the end of the world would be coming.
But Eerie Tom and the boy got along fine. Tom’s wife had died of fever and never having a child the young Richard filled that void. He was young 11 or 12 then or as close as any could figure out, maybe older, maybe younger, now he was near on twenty. He wasn’t baptized until he came to live with Tom. But even the Reverend Bogart didn’t know if the boy fully understood why he was being baptized, but it seemed the right thing to do. He was a good boy, he slept beside the hearth in the inn, it was warm and dry and the lad had a dog he loved for company. He was a skinny wimp of a dog that would never stand up in a fight to any of the other dogs. But the boy Richard feed him scraps from the kitchen and the two seemed happy enough with life.
William shook his head not in disbelief just in shock of the story. He had heard some of the story over the years a bit here and a bit there.. Some says it spoke a few words cursing Hester before it flew off. Some said it had a tail and some said it was covered in dark long hair or fur.
“It’s still out there,” said John. “That’s what those people see, The Jersey Devil is what its come to be called.”
Every thing was blamed on the Jersey Devil from torn up roofing to a dead cow or even a dead dog or cat found in the lane. Tracks were found everywhere too in the mud on wet grass and even on a rooftop. True in some ways they looked nothing more than the hoof prints of a deer, be it a very large deer! And the local boys (no matter what their age) always thought it fun to spoof someone making mischief and saying it was the work of the Jersey Devil. But hoof prints on the roof in the snow? William could think of no answer to that. Either way it was something William didn’t want to meet on the roads of Jersey as many had claimed they had.
As for Hester Depister her home was in the swamp. Some called her a witch, others just called her crazy, either way most people rarely if ever saw her. From time to time some one would come back with a story saying they were riding along Meadow Road and saw and old woman who looked like Hester. They tried to talk with her but before they could she would dart back into the woods. Others said they knew where she lived in the swamp where her cabin was, that they would be hunting and see the smoke from its chimney. They wouldn’t go near though, there were stories about her too, stories of evil.
Hester’s house the one where the devil was supposedly born was a small one-room house. Now it was just a crumbling pile of red sand stone. Whether this was really Hester’s home no one knew; legend and story built up fast in the Dutch mind. Either way the local children would go to this site and call and make fun of Hester and the Jersey Devil. They would pitch pebbles into the pile of rocks taunting and teasing. Of course any sound that followed be it a bird in the trees or a rabbit in the brush was thought the Jersey Devil and send all the children running.
Hester and the Jersey Devil wasn’t the only thing that haunted the woods or minds of the locals. From the beginning of the Dutch, to the coming of the English, Irish, Scottish, German and others came stories too. There were the slaves of old who treated cruelly by their master knew cunning ways taught to them by their ancestors on their island homes far far away. A dead chicken was a dead chicken to some but to the ones who knew and understood the way that fowl was killed and saw the small droplets of wax from tallow candle knew better. There was always the solider who lost and arm, leg or even a head and was always on the outlook for it. There were the lovers separated by class who taking their own young lives because they could not live together in life yet in death the brambles of their graves entwined bringing them together forever. A rusted flintlock found in the woods would awaken a story about alone outpost guarding the edge of the once hostile wilderness, over run and taken by Indians his scream by torture could be heard on a still dark night. To the Scottish, Highlanders roamed the misty hills, fallen in battle they played their pipes searching for their dead comrades. The Irish had their banshees but it was their wee folk mischief elves that did the most harm. And the English, the English had their ghost too, specters often warring of grave things to come.
“Have you ever seen the devil John?” William asked.
“I haven’t but Hans has seem him, more than once too!”
“Hans Brinkerman,” called out John. “Come over here if you don’t mind. William wants to hear your tell of the Jersey Devil.”
A man at another small table turned at John Van Ripers words, his sandy shoulder length hair swung as he did. He took a few more gulps from the mug he was drinking from said something to the men he was talking with at the table then stood pulled his weskit down and walked over to the table where John and William sat. John pulled an empty chair over and Hans Brinkerman sat.
“You’ve see the Jersey Devil,” said John. “Tell Reyerson your story.” Hans motioned to Eerie Tom for more ale and then began his tale.
“The devil it was,” said Hans. “I was walking home from here one night,” Hans swayed a little in his chair as he told his story. William put his hand out thinking he might have to catch him should he fall.
“You know my place isn’t that far just a tad up the road and next to the river,” he continued. Eerie Tom set a mug down on the small table and quietly walked away. Hans took a drink.
“It was a hot summer night. I was walking when suddenly I heard what I thought was hoof beats coming fast behind me. I turned to see who was riding so hard.” Hans took a large drink from the pewter mug spilling some of the ale down upon the striped ticking of his weskit and wiped at it with his hand, then continued with his story.
“And what the alarm might be. But when I turned I didn’t see a horse but and animal that I thought a deer at first for it had antlers.” Tom but this thumbs to his head fingers spread wide showing what the antlers may have looked like.
“Now I’ve hunter all me life.” Hans razed his hand to show he was telling the truth. “But never, never did I see a deer run as fast and as hard.” Hans sway a bit again.
“That’s when I saw what it wasn’t a deer but a beast, the devil himself as big as I or bigger! Cloven hoofs it had on its hindquarter and it was covered in fur but the hands the hands were that of a man. Its face looked like a skinned deer all red with a hideous row of white teeth. It ran past me paying no heed to me at all and I was glad for it. That was the first time.” Hans ended his story by taking another large drink.
“Tell him of the second time,” coaxed John.
Hans took some more drink then rapped the empty mug on the dark table letting Eerie Tom know he wanted more ale.
“The second time I was hunting a ways out.” Hans motioned again with his hands and arms showing the distant but looking more as if he was waving to someone.
“I was by a small stream when I saw something brown with fur. I thought it to be a bear so I stopped to check my powder. I was resting a shoulder against a tree,” Hans leaned against the back of the high ladder back chair he was sitting in to show how he rested against the tree, “To get a better sight of it to plan my shot. That’s when I saw it wasn’t a bear. It was leaning over on its forearms as it lapped water out of that stream with a very long tongue. Suddenly it saw me, it stood up and open great wings upon its back.”
Hans spread his arms wide making John and William lean back in their seats as not to get hit by Han’s hands as he showed the size of the beasts’ wings.
“It jumped that stream and took off into the deep woods. But the jump, the jump wasn’t that of a man or a deer. It’s a small stream but wide, wide enough but it jumped clear across sailing on those wings, far enough on the other side to not even come down close to its bank.
“I had no reason to go after it so I turned for home.”
William Reyerson smiled to him self thinking as if Hans the mighty hunter would have gone after such a beast. Eerie Tom carried over a large red wear pitcher with a bright yellow design on it and filled the mugs on the table. Hans picked up the mug with two hands and drank nearly all of it. Eerie Tom also brought a plate of steaming stew and bread for William. William thanked Tom as he picked up the bread and dipped it into the hot stew.
William shook his head and said.
“Not something I want to meet.”
“These woods are full of ghost,” said Hans when he finished drinking. “Full,” he added. “Just ask Dan Perry he can tell you a story or two.. Dan, Dan” called out Hans. “Come here me boy.” Another man at the table where Hans was sitting earlier turned in his char.
“Come over hear and tell some of your stories,” shouted Hans beckoning with his hand. The noise of the inn quieted as Hans spoke loudly. Daniel Perry a young man in his mid thirties came over to the three men.
“You talking about the ghost?” said Daniel as he set his chair and mug down and smoothed back his dark queued hair as he sat.
“We are,” said John. “Hester and that devil son of hers. Hans seen him,” added John.
“That I have,” said Hans as he put his head on his forearms and rested them on the table, his hair almost covering his face.
“I too,” said Dan. “I have had the devils foot prints all over my land right up to my door and windows as if he must have been looking in!” Another man hearing the conversation came near smoking a long thin clay pipe and said, “Taking of ghost?” He puffed a mouth of smoke with each word.
“We be indeed Tice,” said John. Roy Tice drew another mouth of smoke as he pulled a chair closer to the men at the table. Roy was a lean thin man in fact every thing about Roy was thin even his tri corner hat was dawn together in a long thin point, his nose was long and his chin was long too.
“Look at Ben Cross,” said Roy taking deep breaths on his pipe. He was a solider of the 35th Regiment Afoot.
“Aye Benjamin Cross,” mumbled Hans who still had his head down upon his arms on the table.
“He still roams these woods,” continued Roy Tice. “Lost both legs to cannon ball. I heard he dragged himself back to camp begged to be buried with his legs. They never found his legs never could blown too bits they were. Now he roams the woods and the church graveyard looking for his legs. The women see him often. My own wife tells the tale of seeing him sitting atop his tombstone in the old churchyard. Sitting their bloody stumps and all crying he was saying have you see my legs!”
Tice breathed deeply on his pipe then said, “These parts seem to be full of ghost.” The smoke from his pipe hung thickly in the air.
William Reyerson noticed the inn was quite all seemed to be listening to the tales being told. The rain outside picked up and the wind blew strong but the stone inn seemed to fear nothing.
The mellow glow of the fire bathed all in its orange light and smoke from the many pipes hung like ghost about it dark hewn beams. Eerie Tom and the boy went on about their work. When they weren’t refilling tankers with ale they were putting pewter plates and mugs back in cupboards. Roy Tice pulled from his sleeved weskit pockets a pinch of tobacco and refilled the clay bowel of his pipe. He pressed the tobacco firm with his thumb. Suddenly the boy Richard was next to him holding a lit twig from the fire. Startled for a moment Tice smiled at the lad taking the twig from him and lit his pipe. The boy sheepishly smiled then hurried back next to Eerie Tom.
“There’s that river down by Stagg farms,” said Daniel Perry. “It’s not a big river but I’ve been there on a night like this when the water is high and running fast, it’s then you can just hear a voice above it a voice saying I’m going to kill you.”
“I’ve heard that voice too,” said John van Riper. Dan nodded and said,
“Some say it is Sarah Mayers and her lover Jacob Stone being chased by her father trying to kill Jacob before they could get away and marry. They say old Joost even though he’s dead now is still searching the river for Jacob to kill. The kids use to say that if you said Joost it’s me Jacob that Joost would suddenly appear before you. That’s what the kids say, but still I wouldn’t be trying it,” Dan leaned forward in his chair setting his elbows on his knees and said,
“They stole an Indian dig out and tried to run away together. No one could ever blame Joost Mayers for their deaths but they said he was searching the riverbanks for them, to stop them. I don’t know if old Joost was really set on killing Jacob or just trying to stop them, either way if it wasn’t raining so and if old Joost just let them marry they wouldn’t have been trying to make their get-a-way in such bad weather. That river is not wide but the current swift even on a good day.
“With the storm that was blowing that night not many would have even set out on that water. In the morning they found their bodies. Joost stayed out all night looking for them. I think as many people came out looking for Joost, as did they for Sarah and Jacob. The dug out capsized and end up down river. Sarah and Jacob either tried to wait out the storm on a fallen tree that was in the river or that tree fell and is what did them in.
“Either way they were both found in each other arms and in the arms of the tree. That’s their graves in the old graveyard the ones with the vines all intertwined on that old oak.. The families wanted to burry them close to each other but old Joost wouldn’t hear it. So they buried them about twenty feet apart with that big oak between them. That’s, as close Joost would allow. It wasn’t long after their burial that those vines came up by their graves and met on that big oak. Joost still mad cut the vines back, pulled them out by the roots and all. Yet by next spring the vines were back clinging to that oak and cling to each other.”
“What God has brought together,” remarked Tice. The others gathered at the table nodded their heads.
“What happened to Joost?” asked William.
Dan Perry sat back in his chair. “Joost didn’t live long after that maybe a year or two. He knew he did wrong. He’s buried in that graveyard too not far from his daughter Sarah. Funny thing is while her gave and Jacob Stones’ grave are covered with green grass and little flowers in the spring, Joost grave is bear, some rocks here and there, but not a blade of grass on it. You know of the ghost at the old mill don’t you?” Dan asked almost eager to tell another tale.
“The Zerbriskie mill?” William Reyerson responded. “That ones a ways north from here, up in Arcola. Never heard anything about it though. ”
“That’s the one,” said Dan going right on with the tale. “It seems this little boy was playing on its water wheel. The mill wasn’t running at that time but with him climbing all over it he must have shaken something lose because some how the flu opened and the water started the wheel turning. The boy was carried under the water by the wheel and drowned.. Now some say on some nights you can see a boy all in white almost as if he is glowing play and climbing all over that wheel.”
Suddenly a strong gust of wind blew, so strong that it blew open the inns door, the wood and glass sided barn lanterns that hung from the inns dark beams swayed and rocked while the candle that was set upon the inns window sill toppled to the floor. The thin candle that was upon the table were the men sat was blown out too. Eerie Tom carried another lit candle over to their table cupping the flame with his large hand while young Richard ran to close the inns’ door and pick up the fallen candle. William watched Tom as he relit the candle.
“As I rode in,” began William as the inn came back to light, “Just as it was getting dark I saw Francs McKearny had pumpkins set in his windows. He put candles in them to light them up.”
“The Irish,” said Roy Tice repacking and lighting his pipe again. “They say it will keep away the dead that will walk tonight. They think by carving those evil looking faces in those pumpkins that the dead will be frightened off and not come into their homes.” Reyerson nodded they did look evil seeing those glowing faces in the windows of homes set back a cross fields now dead with dried corn storks.
“Any one see the dead walking this night?” asked William.
The men at the table shook their heads no.
“Maybe they work then,” laughed William.
“Terhune did,” said Roy Tice suddenly.
“John Terhune?” John Van Riper asked.
Roy nodded puffing on his pipe and said,
“Not tonight, but last year this night. He’s got that field next to mine. He said he was done for the day, the moon was up and he was waking back to his barn when he saw someone in his fields. He walked out towards him. He said he thought it was me or one of my boys needing to talk with him. When he got closer he saw it was an Indian. Terhune didn’t have his musket with him that he usually plows with but he did have his ax and was glad he did even though the Indian didn’t seem like he wanted trouble.
“As John got closer he said he could see right through the Indians’ body, his body was there but John could still see his fields behind him. He said the Indian just waved one hand out in front of him saying ‘My land my land,’ over and over.
“John said he looked at the Indians head as he turned and pointed to his fields still saying my land. As he did could see that half his head was blown away, you know the way a musket ball can do. John said no body could live after a wound like that, not be standing they’re talking with him. John said he shut his eyes to rub them for moment and when he looked again the Indian was gone.”
The men at the table were silent.
“That whole field he plants on they say was and Indian burial ground. Who knows what Terhune churned up with that plow and ox of his. You know Terhune he wouldn’t care, would have just kept plowing.”
“You’ve got Schuylers’ copper mines up north too,” said John Van Riper. “I hear they’re full of ghost.”
“I heard that too,” said William. “With those cave-ins from time to time. Sometimes they never get those bodies out. And if they’re slaves they don’t even bother.”
“Digging into the belly of the earth,” said Roy Tice. “That can’t be good..”
“You need ore,” said William.
Tice didn’t answer just pulled deeply on his pipe.
“I hear after some of those cave-ins they only find pieces, heads or arms or legs,” said Dan Perry. Tice shook his head.
“Bring that back to your family to burry? How are you supposed to tell one hand or foot from the next person? No wonder these ghosts walk among us. You don’t have a body to give back to the earth, or burry a part with the wrong name,” Tice shook his head again then said. “I’d wander too.”
William Reyerson finished his stew and bread then sat back saying
“I heard from some of the miners at that mine that at night they’ve seen dead miners still working the mine, pushing ore carts. Candles whether in lanterns or not are always going out, and they always hearing the swinging of pick ax and shovels when they know no one is working! A lot of the men won’t go down, back down in the mine after hearing that.”
“Can’t say I would,” said Dan Perry.
“I may have been out by that shack,” said a voice over he din of the inn. The men gathered at the small table turned as a young man a hunter by looks razed from his chair and walked over. It seemed another man was listing to the tales told this stormy night.
“Hester is that the hags name?” said he.
“Bromcombes son aren’t you?” asked Roy Tice.
“That’s right,” said the hunter. “Samuel’s’ my father, and I’m Sam too. If that is she and that’s her cabin it’s a ways out there. Not likely she’d be coming back into town for anything being that far out.
“A woman with piercing blue eyes?” asked John Van Riper who then said, “Small frame, plan but pretty?”
The tall hunter made a face. “Maybe at one time,” said he. “Hard to tell on a face that wrinkled by time. But she did have blue eyes.” They turned to Van Riper the only one of them who seemed to know Hester well.
“That is she,” said Van Riper nodding. “How’d you happen out her way? Hunting?
“I was,” said Sam. “I was gutting a rabbit when I slipped with my knife.” Sam turned the palm of his hand up so that the group of men could the deep scar running a cross his palm. “I was looking for a stream to wash the cut. I thought I was near by one. I must have made a few wrong turns but did find a stream; but not the one I was looking for.
“I was leaning down washing it out when I heard what I thought might be a bear. I grabbed my horn and powered my rifle when a voice said ‘I hope you’re not going to shoot me with that’. I never expected to hear a voice this far out let alone a woman’s.
“I set my rifle down then she came into view on the other side of the small stream. I was losing a lot of blood and she saw that and said you better tend that. I nodded and knelled back down by the stream but the blood was coming fast. She then said my cabins not far why don’t you come back and I’ll fix that up for you.
“I was a bit lost and knew I had no way of stopping the bleeding quickly so I tied some rag about it and followed her. Not more than a half a mile was her cabin. If it wasn’t for the smoke coming from its chimney I would have hunted all of a stones throw from it and never have seen it. Logs mostly but with hides on the outer walls and not chinking to keep out the wind. Even the roof that looked like at one time to be thatched but now that too covered with hides. Like I said would have just about walked right past it.
“Out front she was boiling something maybe hides in huge kettles.” Sam circled his arms in front to himself to show the size of the kettles. “Hanging from try-pods of saplings they were. How she got those big kettle pots out there is anyone’s guess.”
“She didn’t cause you no trouble boy did she?” asked Tice.
Sam shook his head. “No sir,” said he. “She was as nice as any. She took me into her cabin, I almost feel bad calling it a shack, being that she was so nice, but that’s what it was.” Sam took a large drink from the tankard he held, wiped his mouth with his sleeve and continued on. “The cabin was a sight, very dark except for the open door and the one open shutter window. Smelled of flesh, human and animal. The rafters were covered with drying herbs and such, the place even had two or thee big spider weds.” Again Sam used his hands to show their diameter. “Furniture was nothing, a log or two for a chair, a plank over more logs for a table. The bed if that is even what you could call it was a few dark wool blankets and what looked like a bearskin on top. Can’t imagine that was none to warm on a really cold night.
“But like I say I do feel bad talking like this because she did fix my hand up fine. She got some of those herbs down and washed it well. Then put a large amount of spider’s webs over the deepest part of the cut then wrapped it with a strip of cloth. She told me to hold it up like this.” Sam razed his hand above his head. He then lowered his hand and rubbed at the old scar. “In and hour or two the bleeding had stopped. Hurt like the devil and took a long time for the cut to close but it did,” said Sam flexing his hand. “I thanked her. She would take no coin what little I had on me, but she did ask for some of my powder.”
“They use it in a poultice,” said John Tice. “They say the sulfur and saltpeter is good for deep cuts.”
“I gave her what I had,” said Sam. “She thanked me and I her. She then told me to follow the stream west and that would lead me to the stream I was first looking for. I could probably find her cabin again, but like I said she is a ways out there.”
Sam kind of nodded when he finished rubbed the side of his tankard and walked back to the table where he was sitting with some others. Roy Tice pulled on his pipe it was getting low on tobacco. John raised his own tankard and took a long slow drink.
Roy walked over to the large hearth. There on the wall was fastened a narrow box holding five or six white clay pipes, their bowls brown with the stain of tobacco. Next to it hung another wooden box with a lid. Roy opened this box and took out a pinch of damp tobacco and pressed it into his pipe. He checked its draw then took a twig from the fire and lit the pipe. He puffed deeply and any could see that it brought him joy. He stood there a moment filling his small tobacco tin and slipped it back into his pocket.
“Well,” said William standing. “I think I’m going to be needing bed about now.” He rubbed his eyes with two fingers then leaned down and picked up the large and heavy mailbag. As he did the other men who had gathered to hear the tales drifted back to other tables in the inn. Thin Roy Tice had returned to the table and stood there stroking his chin his mind thinking of the stories told and perhaps more.
“It’s been good talking with you Will,” said John as they shook hands.
“You have a bed Tom?” asked William.
“I do indeed,” he answered. He called young Richard over and told him to fetch a candle and show Mr. Reyerson to the room atop the stairs. The boy nodded his unkempt hair swing as he did. The boy quickly returned with a small tallow candle in a tin candleholder. He cupped the flame as William followed him up the narrow step that went up behind the encaged bar of the inn. The boy lifted the wooden latch on a door atop the stairs, the room looked darker than the night outside as William entered. The boy pushed past him and set the candle on a small candle stand.
In the darken room the merger light started to glow though never reaching the still dark corners. William set the mailbag on the floor besides the rope bed. He pushed on the roping; it needed to be tightened, but not tonight.. He smiled to himself and thought of the saying sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite. Tonight he didn’t care about a tight bed just as long as there were no bedbugs. He scratched his arm just thinking of them and how no matter what you did or how many layers of clothing you wore they found their way to your skin. As he sat on the bed the corn shuck mattress rustled beneath him. He breathed deep as he took from his own weskit pocket a silver coin and handed it to Richard. The boy’s young eyes lit up at the sight of the coin.
“Spend it well laddie,” said William. “Spend it well.”