Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Black Swamp of Chepachet: Part 7

Sorry to make this a travelogue, but this story is too interesting to pass up. Lovecraft, who knew nearly all folklore of Providence, would surely have heard of this. Surely.

No history of the village of Chepachet would be complete without, at least, a brief mention of 'The Scouts of Glocester, or the Elephant Hunt in the Jungles of Chepachet'. It was in the summer of 1825, {1825 is stated, but unsure if it is the correct date ... CP} when Messrs. June, Titus, & Englebourne, three 'gripers of the people's cash', were perambulating the State, exhibiting a wonderful quadrupled for the amusement of the people, and the replenishing of their 'once fat pocket-books'. It was a large elephant, and the value of the aforesaid animile, trunk and all, was set down at the remarkably low figure of $16,000. On a beautiful day in June, this rich-caparisoned cavalcade, bedecked with all the paraphernalia of Eastern custom, might have been seen wending its 'slow length along' into the suburban precincts of Chepachet, or the 'Devil's Bag', in disguise. Soon a white canvas arose, like Aladdin's palace, an addition to the gable-end of a barn, and into this shelter from the gaping gaze of a motley crowd, the wonderful quadruped was thrust, and soon, at the half-concealed entrance, appeared the crier of the merits of the show: 'Pass right up on the inside, and see the greatest wonder of the age!' Not all, however were prepared with the necessary scrip to indulge their desire, or feast their eyes in wonderment upon this huge monster of the tropics. 'But where there's a will there's a way', and soon several parties were safely secreted within the aforesaid barn, and before the managers of the hippodrome were aware of their design, they had effected an aperture in the side of the barn against which the tent rested, and were enjoying the exhibition with as much zest of their more favored neighbors. This, of course, aroused the righteous indignation of the bosses of the show, and the landlord was persuaded to vacate the stable of its intruders. This was accordingly done, and the insatiate greediness of the 'Scouts' found expression in a determination to deprive the managers of the show of further livelihood, by killing the elephant. Threats of this character were made during the remainder of the day, but the proprietors gave it but a passing thought, and kept up the exaltation of the entertainment, and passing patrons upon the inside to see the wonders of the show.

At last the day was spent, and preparations were being made to pull up and move toward Woonsocket, where they were to open on the following day. Everything being in readiness, the elephant's trunk packed, tent safely secured, and bills paid, the unsuspecting showmen started, about twelve o'clock at night, for their morrow's field of action. Slowly, but bravely, they took up their line of march, and all 'went merry as a marriage-bell'. Meanwhile, the 'Scouts of the Jungle' had secretly concealed themselves in a building that stood near the bridge, and patiently awaited the approach of the huge monster of the glen. Stealthily the prey approaches, and, as the bridge is reached, the quick, red glare of the hunter's unerring rifle is seen, a volley of leaden hail pierces the brain of this 'greatest wonder of the age', and when the dense, dark cloud of smoke ascends, the writhing monster was seen in the last agonies of death. The indignation of the showmen knew no bounds, and the 'expletives their feeble aid to join' made 'night hideous', as they witnessed the last throbbing pulsations of that noble beast, and saw their avocation vanish in that last expiring breath. Morn came at last, and o'er the scene the sun poured his lurid rays, and the bending heavens hung with ghastly broodings. The owners of the defunct elephant set about the task of skinning the monster, while the vultures of the jungle hovered near,ready to pounce upon the mangled carcass. The 'Scouts' were subsequently apprehended, tried, and a verdict of heavy damages obtained against them.

This is an event to be remembered by the generations of Chepachet, and she claims to-day the honor of 'bagging the biggest game ever killed in the State of Rhode Island.'

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