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Jacob Abbott
Marco Paul's Voyages and Travels; Vermont

Preface

The design of the series of volumes, entitled Marco Paul's Adventures in the Pursuit of Knowledge, is not merely to entertain the reader with a narrative of juvenile adventures, but also to communicate, in connection with them, as extensive and varied information as possible, in respect to the geography, the scenery, the customs and the institutions of this country, as they present themselves to the observation of the little traveler, who makes his excursions under the guidance of an intelligent and well-informed companion, qualified to assist him in the acquisition of knowledge and in the formation of character. The author has endeavored to enliven his narrative, and to infuse into it elements of a salutary moral influence, by means of personal incidents befalling the actors in the story. These incidents are, of course, imaginary–but the reader may rely upon the strict and exact truth and fidelity of all the descriptions of places, institutions and scenes, which are brought before his mind in the progress of the narrative. Thus, though the author hopes that the readers who may honor these volumes with their perusal, will be amused and interested by them, his design throughout will be to instruct rather than to entertain.

Chapter I.
Journeying

When Mr. Baron, Marco's father, put Marco under his cousin Forester's care, it was his intention that he should spend a considerable part of his time in traveling, and in out-of-door exercises, such as might tend to re-establish his health and strengthen his constitution. He did not, however, intend to have him give up the study of books altogether. Accordingly, at one time, for nearly three months, Marco remained at Forester's home, among the Green Mountains of Vermont, where he studied several hours every day.

It was in the early part of the autumn, that he and Forester went to Vermont. They traveled in the stage-coach. Vermont lies upon one side of the Connecticut river, and New Hampshire upon the other side. The Green Mountains extend up and down, through the middle of Vermont, from north to south, and beyond these mountains, on the western side of the state, is lake Champlain, which extends from north to south also, and forms the western boundary. Thus, the Green Mountains divide the state into two great portions, one descending to the eastward, toward Connecticut river, and the other to the westward, toward lake Champlain. There are, therefore, two great ways of access to Vermont from the states south of it; one up the Connecticut river on the eastern side, and the other along the shores of lake George and lake Champlain on the western side. There are roads across the Green Mountains also, leading from the eastern portion of the state to the western. All this can be seen by looking upon any map of Vermont.

Marco and Forester went up by the Connecticut river. The road lay along upon the bank of the river, and the scenery was very pleasant. They traveled in the stage-coach; for there were very few railroads in those days.

The country was cultivated and fertile, and the prospect from the windows of the coach was very fine. Sometimes wide meadows and intervales extended along the river,–and at other places, high hills, covered with trees, advanced close to the stream. They could see, too, the farms, and villages, and green hills, across the river, on the New Hampshire side.

On the second day of their journey, they turned off from the river by a road which led into the interior of the country; for the village where Forester's father resided was back among the mountains. They had new companions in the coach too, on this second day, as well as a new route; for the company which had been in the coach the day before were to separate in the morning, to go off in different directions. Several stage-coaches drove up to the door of the tavern in the morning, just after breakfast, with the names of the places where they were going to, upon their sides. One was marked, "Haverhill and Lancaster;" another, "Middlebury;" and a third, "Concord and Boston;" and there was one odd-looking vehicle, a sort of carryall, open in front, and drawn by two horses, which had no name upon it, and so Marco could not tell where it was going. As these several coaches and carriages drove up to the door, the hostlers and drivers put on the baggage and bound it down with great straps, and then handed in the passengers;–and thus the coaches, one after another, drove away. The whole movement formed a very busy scene, and Marco, standing upon the piazza in front of the tavern, enjoyed it very much.

There was a very large elm-tree before the door, with steps to climb up, and seats among the branches. Marco went up there and sat some time, looking down upon the coaches as they wheeled round the tree, in coming up to the door. Then he went down to the piazza again.

The Great Elm


There was a neatly-dressed young woman, with a little flower-pot in her hand, standing near him, waiting for her turn. There was a small orange-tree in her flower-pot. It was about six inches high. The sight of this orange-tree interested Marco very much, for it reminded him of home. He had often seen orange-trees growing in the parlors and green-houses in New York.

"What a pretty little orange-tree!" said Marco. "Where did you get it?"

"How did you know it was an orange-tree?" said the girl.

"O, I know an orange-tree well enough," replied Marco. "I have seen them many a time."

"Where?" asked, the girl.

"In New York," said Marco. "Did your orange-tree come from New York?"

"No," said the girl. "I planted an orange-seed, and it grew from that. I've got a lemon-tree, too," she added, "but it is a great deal larger. The lemon-tree grows faster than the orange. My lemon-tree is so large that I couldn't bring it home very well, so I left it in the mill."

"In the mill?" said Marco. "Are you a miller?"

The girl laughed. She was a very good-humored girl, and did not appear to be displeased, though it certainly was not quite proper for Marco to speak in that manner to a stranger. She did not, however, reply to his question, but said, after a pause,

"Do you know where the Montpelier stage is?"

The proper English meaning of the word stage is a portion of the road, traveled between one resting-place and another. But in the United States it is used to mean the carriage,–being a sort of contraction for stage-coach.

"No," said Marco, "we are going in that stage."

"I wish it would come along," said the girl, "for I'm tired of watching my trunk."

"Where is your trunk?" said Marco.

So the girl pointed out her trunk. It was upon the platform of the piazza, near those belonging to Forester and Marco. The girl showed Marco her name, which was Mary Williams, written on a card upon the end of it.

"I'll watch your trunk," said Marco, "and you can go in and sit down until the stage comes."

Mary thanked him and went in. She was not, however, quite sure that her baggage was safe, intrusted thus to the charge of a strange boy, and so she took a seat near the window, where she could keep an eye upon it. There was a blue chest near these trunks, which looked like a sailor's chest, and Marco, being tired of standing, sat down upon this chest. He had, however, scarcely taken his seat, when he saw a coach with four horses, coming round a corner. It was driven by a small boy not larger than Marco. It wheeled up toward the door, and came to a stand. Some men then put on the sailor's chest and the trunks. Mary Williams came out and got into the coach. She sat on the back seat. Forester and Marco got in, and took their places on the middle seat. A young man, dressed like a sailor, took the front seat, at one corner of the coach. These were all the passengers that were to get in here. When every thing was ready, they drove away.

The stage stopped, however, in a few minutes at the door of a handsome house in the town, and took a gentleman and lady in. These new passengers took places on the back seat, with Mary Williams.

This company rode in perfect silence for some time. Forester took out a book and began to read. The gentleman on the back seat went to sleep. Mary Williams and Marco looked out at the windows, watching the changing scenery. The sailor rode in silence; moving his lips now and then, as if he were talking to himself, but taking no notice of any of the company. The coach stopped at the villages which they passed through, to exchange the mail, and sometimes to take in new passengers. In the course of these changes Marco got his place shifted to the forward seat by the side of the sailor, and he gradually got into conversation with him. Marco introduced the conversation, by asking the sailor if he knew how far it was to Montpelier.

"No," said the sailor, "I don't keep any reckoning, but I wish we were there."

"Why?" asked Marco.

"O, I expect the old cart will capsize somewhere among these mountains, and break our necks for us."

Marco had observed, all the morning, that when the coach canted to one side or the other, on account of the unevenness of the road, the sailor always started and looked anxious, as if afraid it was going to be upset. He wondered that a man who had been apparently accustomed to the terrible dangers of the seas, should be alarmed at the gentle oscillations of a stage-coach.

"Are you afraid that we shall upset?" asked Marco.

"Yes," said the sailor, "over some of these precipices and mountains; and then there'll be an end of us."

The sailor said this in an easy and careless manner, as if, after all, he was not much concerned about the danger. Still, Marco was surprised that he should fear it at all. He was not aware how much the fears which people feel, are occasioned by the mere novelty of the danger which they incur. A stage-driver, who is calm and composed on his box, in a dark night, and upon dangerous roads, will be alarmed by the careening of a ship under a gentle breeze at sea,–while the sailor who laughs at a gale of wind on the ocean, is afraid to ride in a carriage on land.

"An't you a sailor?" asked Marco.

"Yes," replied his companion.

"I shouldn't think that a man that had been used to the sea, would be afraid of upsetting in a coach."

"I'm not a man" said the sailor.

"What are you?" said Marco.

"I'm a boy. I'm only nineteen years old; though I'm going to be rated seaman next voyage."

"Have you just got back from a voyage?" asked Marco.

"Yes," said the sailor. "I've been round the Horn in a whaler, from old Nantuck. And now I'm going home to see my mother."

"How long since you've seen her?" asked Marco.

"O, it's four years since I ran away."

Here the sailor began to speak in rather a lower tone than he had done before, so that Marco only could hear. This was not difficult, as the other passengers were at this time engaged in conversation.

"I ran away," continued the sailor, "and went to sea about four years ago."

"What made you run away?" asked Marco.

"O, I didn't want to stay at home and be abused. My father used to abuse me; but my mother took my part, and now I want to go and see her."

"And to see your father too," said Marco.

"No," said the sailor. "I don't care for him. I hope he's gone off somewhere. But I want to see my mother. I have got a shawl for her in my chest."

Marco was shocked to hear a young man speak in such a manner of his father. Still there was something in the frankness and openness of the sailor's manner, which pleased him very much. He liked to hear his odd and sailor-like language too, and he accordingly entered into a long conversation with him. The sailor gave him an account of his adventures on the voyage; how he was drawn off from the ship one day, several miles, by a whale which they had harpooned;–how they caught a shark, and hauled him in on deck by means of a pulley at the end of the yard-arm;–and how, on the voyage home, the ship was driven before an awful gale of wind for five days, under bare poles, with terrific seas roaring after them all the way. These descriptions took a strong hold of Marco's imagination. His eye brightened up, and he became restless on his seat, and thought that he would give the world for a chance to stand up in the bow of a boat, and put a harpoon into the neck of a whale.

In the mean time, the day wore away, and the road led into a more and more mountainous country. The hills were longer and steeper, and the tracts of forest more frequent and solitary. The number of passengers increased too, until the coach was pretty heavily loaded; and sometimes all but the female passengers would get out and walk up the hills. On these occasions Forester and Marco would generally walk together, talking about the incidents of their journey, or the occupations and amusements which they expected to engage in when they arrived at Forester's home. About the middle of the afternoon the coach stopped at the foot of a long winding ascent, steep and stony, and several of the passengers got out. Forester, however, remained in, as he was tired of walking, and so Marco and the sailor walked together. The sailor, finding how much Marco was interested in his stories, liked his company, and at length he asked Marco where he was going. Marco told him.

"Ah, if you were only going on a voyage with me," said the sailor, "that would make a man of you. I wouldn't go and be shut up with that old prig, poring over books forever."

Marco was displeased to hear the sailor call his cousin an old prig, and he felt some compunctions of conscience about forming and continuing an intimacy with such a person. Still he was so much interested in hearing him talk, that he continued to walk with him up the hill. Finally, the sailor fairly proposed to him to run away and go to sea with him.

"O no," said Marco, "I wouldn't do such a thing for the world. Besides," said he, "they would be after us, and carry me back."

"No," said the sailor; "we would cut across the country, traveling in the night and laying to by day, till we got to another stage route, and then make a straight wake, till we got to New Bedford, and there we could get a good voyage. Come," said he, "let's go to-night. I'll turn right about. I don't care a great deal about seeing my mother."

Though Marco was a very bold and adventurous sort of a boy, still he was not quite prepared for such a proposal as this. In the course of the conversation the sailor used improper and violent language too, which Marco did not like to hear; and, in fact, Marco began to be a little afraid of his new acquaintance. He determined, as soon as he got back to the coach to keep near Forester all the time, so as not to be left alone again with the sailor. He tried to hasten on, so as to overtake the coach, but the sailor told him not to walk so fast; and, being unwilling to offend him, he was obliged to go slowly, and keep with him; and thus protracted the conversation.


The Hill.


About half-way up the hill there was a small tavern, and the sailor wanted Marco to go in with him and get a drink. Marco thought that he meant a drink of water, but it was really a drink of spirits which was intended. Marco, however, refused to go, saying that he was not thirsty; and so they went on up the hill. At the top of the hill, the stage-coach stopped for the pedestrians to come up. There was also another passenger there to get in,–a woman, who came out from a farm-house near by. The driver asked the sailor if he was not willing to ride outside, in order to make room for the new passenger. But he would not. He was afraid. He said he would not ride five miles outside for a month's wages. Marco laughed at the sailor's fears, and he immediately asked Forester to let him ride outside. Forester hesitated, but on looking up, and seeing that there was a secure seat, with a good place to hold on, he consented. So Marco clambered up and took his seat with the driver, while the other passengers re-established themselves in the stage.

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