| Boys and Girls of Colonial Days|
|by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey|
|An engaging collection of stories for the younger child, introducing him to activities and occupations of boys and girls in the colonial era. Focuses on children who responded with courage and resourcefulness when faced with unexpected circumstances and whose efforts played a key role in the safeguarding of their families and their communities. Famous personages of the time, including Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, figure in several of the stories. Dozens of detailed black and white illustrations complement the text. Ages 7-9 |
BIG HAWK'S DECORATION
EE to it, Preserve, that you win a colored ribbon from the
schoolmaster to-day," Mistress Edwards said as she
turned from her task of polishing the pewter platter to
look at the boy who stood in the doorway of the log
"This is the day, I hear, on which the good-conduct
ribbons are given out for the month, brightly dyed ones
for the boys and girls whose lessons have been well
learned, and black for the dunces. There is no chance
of your coming home to me to-night without a ribbon of
merit, it there?" The Colonial mother crossed the room
and put her hands on her lad's shoulder, looking
anxiously into his honest brown eyes.
"No, mother," Preserve answered. "At least I have hopes
of winning a ribbon. Not once this month have I failed
in my sums, and I can read
 my chapters in the Bible as well as any child in
"That is good!" Mistress Edwards said, pulling the
boy's long, dark cloak more closely about him and
smoothing the cloth of his tall hat.
Preserve Edwards was a Puritan lad of many years ago.
The log cabin that he was leaving to walk two miles
through the clearing and across the woods to school was
but a rough home. A few straight chairs and a hard
settle, made of logs and standing by the fireplace, a
deal table and the few pewter utensils, were almost the
only furnishings of the living room. In one corner
stood an old musket. Mistress Edwards looked toward it
now in fear.
"Do you come home as soon as school is out, Preserve. I
pray you do not linger on the way to play hare and
hounds with the other boys and girls of the village.
Remember, my boy, that your father is away with the
horse these two days to fetch back a piece of
linsey-woolsey cloth and some flour from Boston for me.
He is not likely to come home for some days yet, and I
am full of strange dread at what I saw in the cornfield
"What did you see, mother?" Preserve's eyes opened wide
"It was not so much what I saw, but what it portended
for us," Mistress Edwards said. "It
 was only a flash of color, like painted feathers, among
the withered stalks of corn. It minded me of Big Hawk's
headdress. If he were to find out that we were alone,
one helpless woman and a boy of twelve here, I think it
would go badly with us."
Preserve laughed bravely. Then he reached up to kiss
his mother good-bye.
"It was no more than a red-winged blackbird that you
saw," he said, "or perhaps it was a bright tanager. The
birds are getting ready to flock now, for they feel the
autumn chill in the air. But I will hurry
home—with my ribbon," Preserve added.
Then he ran down the little path to the gate in the
paling that surrounded the cabin, his speller under his
arm, and his high-heeled, buckled shoes making the dry
leaves scatter as he went.
It was a long road and a lonely one to the log
schoolhouse. Preserve took his way through the
cornfield where the dried stalks, rattling in the cold
wind, made him think of the songs that he had heard Big
Hawk and his tribe sing the last time they attacked the
little Colonial settlement. That had been some months
since, now, and Preserve could find no traces of
footprints or any other marks of Indians in the
"My mother had a fear for nothing," Preserve said to
himself. He went through a bit of woods, next, and
pulled a small square of bark from one of
 the many birch trees that stood there, so white and
still. It was for Preserve to write his sums upon in
school, and as he hurried on he repeated his tables
over and over to be sure that he knew them well.
There were log cabins scattered here and there, and
from these came other boys and girls who followed
Preserve on the way to school. Deliverance Baxter
joined Preserve. She wore a long, scant, gray frock,
and her yellow hair was tucked tightly inside a close,
white cap. A white kerchief was folded neatly around
her neck, and she also, wore big buckles on her black
slippers. Her eyes twinkled roguishly, though, as she
chatted to Preserve.
"There is no doubt at all, Preserve, but that you will
wear home the long streamers of red ribbon on your cape
this afternoon. I have been quite as perfect as you in
my lessons for the last month, but, woe is me, I did a
great wrong yesterday. You know that Master Biddle, our
schoolmaster, has just purchased a big wig from Boston
town. The queue in the back is unusually long and tied
with such a large bow that it caught my eye when I was
getting a pile of copy books from behind his desk. I
know not, Preserve, what witchery was in my fingers,
but I tied Master Biddle's queue to his chair. When he
stood up, why, his wig was greatly disarranged; and I
must needs stay after school until dusk, sitting on the
dunce's stool. I am most sorry,
 and will never be so witch-like again. You see I stand
small chance of the ribbon, now, Preserve."
The boy laughed, but he took the little girl's hand
comfortingly in his. Reaching in his lunch bag, he took
out a red apple and slipped it into the big pocket that
hung at her side.
"You were always a bit roguish in spite of your Puritan
dress and sober living, Deliverance," he said. "Never
mind about the ribbon. If I should win it, why there is
all the more chance of its being yours the next time.
Here we are! See to it, Deliverance, that you tie no
more queues to-day.
 Oh, see how finely Master Biddle is dressed for giving
out the prizes!" Preserve said as they reached the
schoolhouse door and took their places behind the rude
desks, built of boards and resting on pegs in the
Other children were quietly taking their places in the
little schoolroom, the smaller ones perched on hard
benches made of logs. They all looked in awe at the
schoolmaster who stood on a platform facing them. He
wore a smart velvet coat with long tails, and inside it
could be seen a waist coat which was very long and a
fine white shirt with stiffly-starched ruffles. His
knee breeches were of velvet like his coat, and there
were silver buckles at the knees as well as on his
shoes. A stiffly-ironed stock was wound about his neck,
and worn to keep his head stiff and straight as became
the dignity of the times. Above all was his white
powdered wig, neatly braided in the back.
Looking at Master Biddle alone was enough to make the
children of the Colonies sit up very straight and
recite their lessons as well as they could. There was a
prayer first, and then the boys and girls recited their
reading, spelling, and arithmetic. Their pencils were
thick plummets of lead and their copy books were made
of foolscap paper, sewed in the shape of books and
carefully ruled by hand. At eleven o'clock came recess,
and at the end of the
 afternoon the awarding of the good-conduct ribbons.
"For perfect deportment," Master Biddle announced as he
pinned a bow of blue ribbon to one boy's cape.
"For poor lessons!" he said, sadly, as he fastened a
black bow to another. Then he held up a red bow with
especially long, streaming ends.
"For perfect deportment, and for perfect lessons," he
said, as he fastened the red ribbon bow to Preserve
To-day it would seem but a small prize, but in the eyes
of those Puritan boys and girls of so many years ago,
the bow of ribbon, its streamers of red gayly flying
over the long cape of a boy or the dull linsey-woolsey
frock of a little girl, was a mark of great honor
indeed. Ribbons were scarce and high in price in those
days. Colors for children were almost forbidden, and
for their elders as well. So Preserve walked out of the
school door at the end of the day with his head very
high and started home as proudly as any soldier wearing
a decoration for bravery.
He did not notice how the dusk was settling down all
about him. The trees on either side made dark shadows
and there was no sound except the whir of a partridge's
wing or the rattle of a falling nut. He did not hear
the soft footfall behind him until Deliverance,
breathless and her face white with
 fear, was upon him. She laid a soft hand on his
shoulder and whispered in his ear:
"I beg you, Preserve, to let me walk with you. I know
that it is not far to my cabin, but all the way through
these woods I have heard strange sounds and I fancy,
even now, that I see shapes behind the trees and
Preserve took the timid little girl's hand and tried to
laugh away her fears.
"So was my mother afraid this morning, at nothing," he
said. "She was of a mind that she saw
Indians—Oh!" the boy's voice was suddenly hushed.
Towering in the path in front of the children like a
great forest tree dressed in its gorgeous cloak of
gaudy autumn leaves, stood the Indian chief, Big Hawk.
He wore his war paint and his festival headdress of
hawk's feathers. Slung over his blanket were his bow
and a quiver full of new arrows. It seemed little more
than a second before the edges of the path and the deep
places among the trees on either side were alive with
the Indians of Big Hawk's tribe.
Big Hawk looked at the frightened children, indicating
with gestures what was his plan. He pushed back the
white cap from Deliverance's pale forehead and laid his
hand on the little girl's sunny hair. Then he pointed
toward his tribe's camping
 place in the west. He wanted to take Deliverance there
and hold her for a ransom. To Preserve he made gestures
showing that he wished him to lead the way to the
Edwards' cabin that they might plunder it before going
back that night.
Deliverance clung, crying, to Preserve. He tried to be
brave, but it was a test for a man's courage, and he
was only a boy.
It was a second's thought and a strange whim of a
savage that saved the two. The wind of the fall blowing
through the trees caught the ends of Preserve's ribbon
of honor and sent them, fluttering like tongues of
flame, against the dark of the tree trunks. The color
caught Big Hawk's eye, and he touched the bow on
Preserve's cloak with one hand.
Quick as a flash a thought came to Preserve. He drew
back from Big Hawk's touch and put his own hands over
the ribbon as if to guard it.
"Heap big chief!" Preserve's voice rang out, brave and
clear. Then, after waiting a second, he unpinned the
red bow and held it, high, before Big Hawk's face.
"Big Hawk, heap bigger chief!" he said, as he went
boldly up to the Indian and fastened the ribbon on his
blanket. Then he motioned to Big Hawk to return to his
camp and show the rest of the tribe his new decoration.
A slow smile overspread Big Hawk's painted face. Then
he turned and,
motion-  ing to his braves to follow him, went silently back
through the woods, leaving Preserve and Deliverance
alone, and safe.
Deliverance was the first to speak.
"My heart does beat so fast I can scarcely breathe,
Preserve. Oh, but you are a brave boy! What shall we do
now?" the little girl asked.
"Run!" said Preserve, without a moment's hesitation.
"We had best run like rabbits, Deliverance!"
Hand in hand, the two scampered along, Preserve helping
the little girl over the rough places, until the light
from a candle in Deliverance's cabin was in sight. Her
father had come home early, and when the children told
him of their adventure, he set out to warn the rest of
the settlers of the danger so bravely averted, and put
them on guard against the Indians.
Preserve went on home, alone. His mother stood in the
cabin door, anxious because he was so late.
"No ribbon? Oh, my lad, why have you disappointed me?"
she said when she saw him.
"Big Hawk wears my decoration," Preserve said, as he
told his story. "But I think that Master Biddle would
have rather that little Mistress Deliverance, for all
her witching, had his red bow," he finished, laughing.
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