Arthur L. Meserve, much more important as a writer for Munro than for Beadle, wrote only one story for the latter under his own name, but it was reprinted several times. Meserve was one of seven children but the only son of Isaac Meserve and his wife Louisa Garland, both of whom had been schoolteachers, and was born in Bartleft, New Hampshire, April 18, 1838. The Meserve family came originally to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1638, from the Isle of Jersey, and were active in the border wars of New England. Arthur was educated at home and in the common schools. His first publication was a sketch written when he was fifteen and published in the Olive Branch, a Boston weekly.
He wrote poems for the Brooklyn Standard and short sketches for Gleason's Literary Companion as early as 1860. He was a prolific writer, and later, for a time, turned out a new novel of fifty thousand words every other month for George Munro's Ten Cent Novels. How he found time to do this is a mystery, for he was one of the leading grocers of Bartlett, was in the State Legislature in 1873-74, had been a county commissioner in 1875-78, and served on the staffs of Governors Weston and Bell—hence his title of Colonel. George Waldo Browne said of him: "He was one of the handsomest men I ever met, tall and superb in figure." In his later years, however, like Pliny, he became very fat, so fat that he was confined to his chair. He belonged to the Masons, the Odd Fellows, and the Sons of the American Revolution.
Browne said that Meserve used more than a dozen pen names, among others "Burke Brentford," "Captain L. C. Carleton," and "L. Augustus Jones." Browne errs, however, for "Burke Brentford" was a pen name of Nathan D. Urner, and "Captain Latham C. Carleton" was one of Ellis'. I have not looked for Jones, for he was not a writer for Beadle. "Saco" was used by Meserve for some of his short stories in periodicals.(1) and "Duke Cuyler" for some of his stories in the New York Weekly.(2)
Meserve was never married, but lived with a, sister in Bartlett, New Hampshire, where he died December 13, 1896.
REFERENCES; G. Waldo Browne, "Pioneers of Popular Literature," Granite State Magazine, III, 1907, 56, with portrait: obituary in Granite Monthly, XXII, 1897, 64; George H. Moses, New Hampshire Men, Concord, 1893, 109, with portrait; G. D, Merrill, History of Carroll County, Boston, 1889, 914, 925, 930.
Starr's American Novels. No. 95
Pocket Novels. No. 81
Boy's Library (octavo). No. 240
SPECIMEN OF ARTHUR L. MESERVE'S STYLE
"Death-Dealer, the Shawnee Scourge; or, The Wizard of the Cliffs." Starr's American Novels No. 95, chap. iii. July 9, 1872.
"Do you think that they are close at hand?" asked Ned, as he took his rifle from the corner of the room and carefully examined the priming.
"Yes, I expect 'em any moment. It was a wonder that they didn't get here afore me. I guess they hunted longer for my trail than I thought they would. But they had ought to know better by this time than to think they could catch me arter I've got wind of what they're up to."
"What had we better do?" asked the settler, anxiously. "Stick by the cabin, hadn't we?"
"Yes. It's all the sight we've got. If we run for the woods, like as not we shall stumble right into their clutches. The walls of the cabin ar' thick, and we've got three rifles to help ourselves with. We're safer here than we should be anywhere else."
"But there is another one to help us," said Ruth. "The man up in the loft. He must be sound asleep not to hear us. Had we not better call him?"
"I'm a-coming," cried a voice, overhead. "I'll be down thar jest as soon as I can get my legs into my trowsers. Rot the luck, that ain't the right hole anyway. I never could get on my fixin's in the dark. Jerusalem! there goes a gallows-button! Right down through a crack in the floor as sure as preaching. Say, below there! Ye didn't hear it drop, did ye?"
No answer was made to this inquiry, while the scout stared upward for a moment, as if in astonishment, and then turned his inquiring gaze into the faces of those about him, as though mutely demanding who the stranger was.
But they had no chance to answer him, before a huge pair of feet appeared upon the upper round of the ladder, followed by a pair of legs so long that Dick began to wonder if any body would follow at all. But it did at length, crowned by a head, and the whole of the stranger was revealed to his wondering gaze.
Long and lank, it seemed to Dick as though he much be at least seven feet in height. He had only stopped to half-clothe himself, and the rest of his garments he carried upon his arm. His face was sharp and thin, and the lower part of it was covered with a long, thin beard, which stuck out in every direction like the quills of a porcupine. His eyes, which were small and restless, had a sharp look about them, and his tone and twang proclaimed him at once to be a Yankee.
If Daring Dick gazed upon him curiously, the newcomer returned it with interest. Evidently he had never seen such an extraordinary figure as that presented by the scout. Evidently he wished to make some remarks upon him, but he contented himself with a single exclamation. "Whew!"
"Who are you?" demanded Dick, a little impatient of the scrutiny the other had bestowed upon him, forgetting that he himself had been guilty of the same.
"Wal, I don't mind telling ye," answered the Yankee, as he went on with his toilet. "My name is Peleg Parker, and I hail from New Hampshire. I was raised in Pigwaket, right up under the shadder of the White Mountains. I couldn't make money fast enough up there, and so I took to peddling, and so wandered away out into these 'ere parts. My pack is up in the garret, and I've got as good an assortment in it as ever was seen this side of the mountains. Perhaps I can trade a little with ye in the morning! Will sell cheaper than dirt. There didn't any of you see that button drop down here, did ye? I wouldn't lose it for a fourpence, for I couldn't match it out in these parts."
Mrs. Wilson replied in the negative, and then Ned Tapely said:
"You don't know, perhaps, the danger we're in. We're expecting every moment that the savages will attack the cabin."
"I know it, and I'm worried nigh about to death about my pack. If the red-skins get hold on it I'm ruined. My hull fortin' is in it—every darned cent I'm worth. Say, mister, you don't think they can break in here, do you?"
This was addressed to Dick, who replied, somewhat angrily:
"I wouldn't wonder if they did. They'll do their best to, at any rate. You had better worry about yer scalp than about that 'ere pack o' yourn. If we can't keep the redskins out of here you've taken your last nap and cheated the last one you ever will."
The Yankee was about to make some rejoinder to this, when Sam Wilson broke in:
"This won't do for us to stand talking here. We must keep a watch without. I will go up into the loft and station myself at one of the loopholes there. We mustn't let the red-skins get up under the walls of the cabin unless we want to be smoked out."
"I will go," said Ned, making a move toward the ladder. "Do you stay here and make ready for their coming. I'll keep my eyes open and give the alarm the first glimpse I get of them."
"I swan, I wish I was in New Hampshire," exclaimed Peleg. "I'll bet a dollar that 'ere pack will go afore I get out of this scrape."
"What have you got for weapons?" demanded the scout, sharply. "We shall have need of everything in that line afore morning. Have you got a rifle?"
"How in the name of Jerusalem do you think I can carry a rifle along with a pack?" I guess you never was in the peddling line, was ye?"
"So I thought. And jest at this time I wish I wa'n't neither. I guess it would be money in my pocket if I was out of this scrape."
"But what have you got?" demanded the scout impatiently. "Any pistols?"
"Yes, a pair of beauties up in my pack. But I don't want to dirt 'em up in this scrape if I can help it. I calculated to make a good thing out of 'em when I found the right customer."
Daring Dick gave utterance to something which sounded very much like an oath.
"You've got a customer for 'em now, and if you save yer scalp in the trade you'll make the best bargain you ever did. Bring them down and load them up at once. We ain't got a moment to lose in getting ready."
With evident reluctance the Yankee turned away and clambered once more up to the loft. It took him some little time to search them out in the dark, but when he returned he had them in his hands.
The scout took them from him, for the purpose of examining them to see if they were properly loaded and in good order.
"Come," said Peleg. "What will you give me for 'em? I'll sell 'em 'tarnal cheap. Speak out. I stump you to make me an offer."
The sound of footsteps was heard above their heads, and the next moment the excited face of Ned was thrust down through the opening.
"They are coming; a half-score of them at least are crossing the clearing."
Mrs. Wilson and Ruth grew paler if possible than before, while Sam and the scout exchanged glances, which told of the apprehension they felt. As for the Yankee, he only muttered:
"Darn it, why couldn't they have waited a minute longer. They've sp'iled a trade."
|1||The two names are connected thus "Arthur L. Meserve (Saco)" in the by-line or a short story "Doomed" in the New York Weekly, XVII, March 13, 1862.|
|2||"Long Abel, the Scout," appeared in the New York Weekly XXXVI, August 15, 1881, as by Arthur L. Meserve, author of "Coonskin, the Scout," "Dick Garland," etc. But "Coonskin, the Scout" had appeared previously in the same story paper XXX, February 1, 1875, as by "Duke Cuyler." Confirming this is the fact that "Dick Garland," credited to Meserve, was the name of Dick, the Ranger, in "Duke Cuyler's" story "The Wood Giant; or, Spotted Dick, the Ranger," which appeared in the New York Weekly, XXVI.|