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living thing, Stephen having obtained leave of absence on the day before, and after preparing an accomplice to do the above errand, had gone to his father's.
About this time the Indians had destroyed some of the frontier settlements; and Hanover being in a similarly exposed position, the people were easily roused by any alarm. Stephen and others, having robbed a watermelon patch in the vicinity, taking the melons to a rendezvous half a mile away for eating, afterward separated, in order to return with less danger of discovery, to college. Stephen, with a companion, Paine, had nearly reached their rooms when they discovered a person walking before Burroughs' door; they turned back, rolling up their gowns like packs upon their backs; but the watchman had seen them, and gave chase; yet, by turning a short corner, Stephen escaped to his room undiscovered; the watchman, Higgins, ran on calling for help; amid this outcry, students ran out, Burroughs among them; Higgins reported two men whom he supposed to be Indians; the town was alarmed, the militia turned out, the boats on the river stopped, and the woods scoured; a search, fruitless, of course, continued all night.
But Higgins proved not to be the only one who had seen the boys; a Captain Storrs had seen and recognized both Burroughs and Paine; and instructor Wood getting hold of the story, by cajoling and threatening obtained from Paine a confession as to Burroughs; the latter, however, took time by the forelock, and as it was now sunrise, went to the owner of the watermelons with the story, that knowing he had watermelons for sale (which was true) he had come on the previous night to buy twelve; but finding the owner in bed, and needing the watermelons immediately had taken this early opportunity to pay him for them; the owner finding only twelve melons missing, accepted the story and the money, and gave a receipt; fortified with which Burroughs returned to college; where at ten o'clock he was summoned before the college authorities, and charged with the theft, and with the disgrace to his family and to the college, and told that probably he would be expelled from college. When this charge was finished, Burroughs boldly countercharged that the college had condemned him without any evidence that he was guilty; that he had merely bought watermelons and paid for them; in proof of which he produced the receipt; the owner being called, corroborated this, and so ended the proceedings. His escape from punishment by quick wit, here, as at Dr. Huntington's gave opportunity
only for a completer downfall; for his deficiency in his studies, added to his unsatisfactory conduct, brought about his explusion from Dartmouth in his second college year; and he was again thrown back upon his bitterly-disappointed father, whose great desire was that his only living son should be educated for and occupy an honorable position.
His father now endeavored to persuade him to enter some business; but he was determined to go to sea; seeing this, his father fitted him out with a horse, saddle, bridle, and about twenty dollars in money to set out, at the age of seventeen, for Newburyport, Mass.; where Stephen intended to ship on one of the privateering vessels, which were often fitted out there. Starting on the 20th of November, he was caught at evening in a snowstorm in the woods; and wading on in the darkness till midnight, at last found a log hut, where himself and his horse obtained food, and after a sleep at a tavern five miles farther on, reached Londonderry, N. H., the next day, and in due time arrived at Newburyport; and finding no privateers ready, he sailed January 1, 1783, in a packet bound for France, undertaking to act as its doctor, having obtained assistance, and medicines, each parcel labeled, from an old physician. On the eighth day out, a merchant brig, bound for London, was captured as a prize; but on nearing the coast of France, they found their ship pursued by an English lugger, which they engaged; but after a short but sharp engagement, each vessel proceeded on its way. The prize being sold, each man received forty-two guineas prize money; the vessel returned to Newburyport, and Burroughs to his father's house, where he remained for about a year without any employment. He then engaged to teach a school at Haverhill, thirty miles from Hanover; but Prof. Ripley, who was in authority at the time of his explusion, had influence here which nullified his efforts, the parents being afraid to send their children to a person of his reputation. Hence he proceeded to Orford, twelve miles from Hanover, where he taught from November to the following February, and also became acquainted with an attractive woman. Thence he returned to his father's where he was soon visited by his former comrade Joseph Huntington, now in Dartmouth College. He brought with him in his sleigh a classmate whom they put up to carry off a beehive with honey, from a farmer about two miles distant; the owner suspected that this was the work of students, and on inquiry, the immediate perpetrator was discovered, and with Huntington settled for the honey, but implicated Burroughs; who, by the advice of the college authorities was not to be let off so
easily. At about the same time, Burroughs returning one day to Orford to prosecute his courtship, saw a stranger standing in the door of the lady's house, who he was informed was her husband, lately returned home. At thus finding the trick turned upon himself, Burroughs exclaims, "The blood curdled in my veins
God of Nature! what greater scenes of distress are reserved in store May I hide my self with a mantle of darkness, and retire from the stage of action, into eternal obscurity.”
To contribute to this obscurity, Burroughs borrowed the name of Davis, and taking a horse from home, proceeded down the Connecticut River about one hundred and fifty miles to Ludlow, Mass.; where he arrived on a Saturday, having heard that the church there needed a clergyman; having provided himself for such a contingency by taking ten written sermons of his father's on leaving home. He put up at the house of Mr. Fuller, the leading man of the ecclesiastical society, introducing himself as a clergyman; and received an invitation to spend the Sabbath with them and to preach. With all his boldness, he, on thinking over the matter felt some misgivings as to so formidable an undertaking; but the hard necessity of getting a livelihood determined him to attempt this hitherto untried employment. On reaching the pulpit he found his voice at command, and went through the exercises of the forenoon, as well as those of the afternoon, without difficulty; and though he was not hired longer, his service brought him an introduction, through Mr. Fuller, to the minister at Palmer who had charge of ministerial supply in that region; who examined him as to education, tenets, and knowledge of divinity; and satisfied as to his orthodoxy, recommended him to the church in Pelham, with an introductory letter to its deacon; on this recommendation he was hired for four Sabbaths, at five dollars each, then re-engaged for sixteen more. However, being suddenly called to preach a funeral sermon at a private house, a sharp hearer, who had begun to wonder how a youth of nineteen could preach sermons so mature, had an opportunity to see the manuscript, which showed signs of age; and suspicion being aroused, the people proposed that he prove his ability the next Sunday by preaching from the text “old shoes and clouted upon their feet.' Joshua 9:5. Having observed for so long the sermonizing of his father, who had special power as an extemporaneous preacher, he was able to satisfy his hearers' idea of sermonizing.
At Pelham he obtained the seed-thought which led to his future occupation, by falling in with one Phillips, a pupil of Glazier Wheeler, famed for his supposed power of transmuting copper into good silver. But when he was well nigh at the end of his engagement, one Sunday only remaining, his posing under a false name was unwittingly exposed by a former acquaintance, who on arriving where he was, accosted him by the name Burroughs by which he had always known him. Afraid to face the reputation attached to that name, he took his horse and filed by night to Rutland, Mass., notwithstanding he had been paid in advance for one more Sunday. The people of Pelham were not only angry with themselves for being imposed upon, but also, being poor, doubly angered at Burroughs, on the ground both of imposition and cheating; and several of the men took horse and pursued after Burroughs, finding him in a shop; he, struck with fear, sprang to the back door, and with a blow of his cane broke the arm of a man who prevented his flight, threatening to kill on the spot the first who approached him; one Hind, who dared it, he struck senseless with a stone; and the end was, as might he expected, that he had to flee far beyond the reach of the Pelham people; yet after some weeks ventured there by night to see his closest acquaintance, who like himself was much tempted to embark in Phillips' schemes the real object being the coinage of base or counterfeit money; and when Burroughs left his friend's house, he had engaged to pass twenty dollars said to be of Wheeler's coinage, at Springfield, in purchasing articles at a designated apothecary's shop for his friend, who had not ventured to pass any of this coinage himself. The apothecary detected the counterfeit before Burroughs had time to get out of reach, and he found himself under arrest; and as at that time there was much trouble with counterfeits, the governor of Massachusetts had offered a reward of £25 to any person who should detect another in making or passing counterfeit money, knowing it to be such; a strong incentive for the apothecary to make out his case; Wheeler himself, an aged man who had the art of mixing metal to pass the test of silver, as almost his only art, was also held to trial for this mixing, for it does not appear that he attempted to pass base coins; and a man named Jones, implicated in making or passing counterfeits, was also on trial at this court. Burroughs, not knowing that he had a right to counsel even though he had no money, it took the jury but an hour to bring in a verdict of guilty against him; and he was sentenced to stand one hour in the pillory, and to remain three years confined in the house of correction; Wheeler had added to this, the infliction of twenty stripes, and to be cropped. Jones was sentenced to two years in the house of correction, with twenty stripes; and the prisoners were carried to the jail in Northampton, as more secure than that at Springfield where the trial was held. Burroughs soon had as a roommate a Lieutenant Rood;
. they soon made friends with a third prisoner, held for passing counterfeit bank bills; with this last Burroughs formed a plan of escape; but being caught in the attempt, they received ten lashes each, on the bare back, followed by two days in a dungeon; after which Burroughs was fastened by a chain ten feet long, to the floor of his room; desperate, he succeeded in setting the floor on fire; for which the sheriff whipped him for five minutes, then gave his accomplice twenty lashes, and put both men into the dungeon; Burroughs' feet and waist were fastened by irons to the floor, and he was handcuffed, being kept in this condition for thirty-two days; yet for the first fortnight he says he suffered most from hunger. At the end of thirty-two days, he was visited by his mother's eldest brother, who gave him two dollars; and next by the jailor's wife, who furnished him and his companion with a supply of food in addition to their scanty rations; then the men who had fastened Burroughs down freed him, and removed him to an upper room.
After several more attempts to break jail, in which Phillips, who had been imprisoned, showed his remarkable knowledge of mechanical principles, but which attempts were always discovered before the prisoners had escaped, all in the prison were removed to Castle Island in Boston harbor, to put them to labor, under a guard of fifty soldiers, Burroughs being placed in a lower room of the brick prison, with seven others, who went out to work in the blacksmith's shop, while he was left alone, and soon searched the walls of his room for a place to dig out. Deciding upon a place above the fireplace in the back of the chimney, he dug in the bricks for some days with a large nail, when he obtained from one of the prisoners working in the blacksmith shop, a sharpened crowbar about a foot long; the broken brick being carried out by another prisoner in the bottom of the slop-tub which it was his duty to empty every morning. In two months, Burroughs had pierced the wall, the hole opening under a covered walk leading out into the open, and guarded only by a sentry, on account of the fact that the prison rooms were in what was called the bomb-proof, underground. Through this hole the eight prisoners escaped one stormy night when the sentry had retired to shelter. Avoiding the east shore of the island, which was the only part